Bucky doesn’t think he’s been this nervous since he got his draft card.
“It’s just my mom, my sister and my niece, Buck. And my niece can’t even talk yet.”
Bucky put a pillow over his head to hide his face from the man lying next to him.
“It’s still going to be a disaster.” He says, muffled.
“Don’t worry, they’ll love you.” Sam tries to reassure.
“A hundred-something year old brain damaged assassin isn’t exactly a mother’s dream, Wilson.”
“As long as you compliment the cooking you’ll be fine.”
Bucky throws the pillow at Sam’s head. He stands up and gets ready to face his doom.
“Sam!” Darlene Wilson greets her son with a hug. After her long embrace she looks behind him towards Bucky, who’s currently holding a sweet potato casserole. She moves out of the doorway and beckons them both inside. “Hello! I’m Darlene. Do you prefer James or Bucky?”
Bucky isn’t sure how much Sam has told his family or how much they know from the news. Darlene must know he has a body count in the three digit range. She shouldn’t be welcoming him into her home, shouldn’t politely ask what name he prefers. She shouldn’t be smiling kindly at him.
Darlene leads them through the living room and into the kitchen of the Harlem home. Sam’s sister Sarah and her daughter Pauline are already sitting at the table. The baby looks the same as in all the photos Sam is constantly showing off, almost too precious for words.
“Look what the cat dragged in.” Sarah greets, getting up with the baby on her hip and hugging her brother. “Hello, Bucky.” Sarah says out stretching a hand. Bucky shakes it with his vibranium arm very carefully.
“Nice to meet you.” Bucky says, nervousness leaking into his voice.
Darlene takes the sweet potato dish from his hands, which is unfortunate because now he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. He tries putting them in his bomber jacket pockets. He watches Sam coo over his niece and wishes desperately he was the kind of man Sam deserved. Sarah looks away from her brother and baby and gives him a reassuring smile. The look is so like something Sam would give that Bucky feels as if he’s seeing double for a second.
“Sit down, Bucky” Darlene says and Bucky does immediately, happy for the guidance. Then something terrible happens.
“Do want to hold her, Buck?” Sam asks.
“Oh! I don’t think that’s a good idea.” Bucky says, all the children he left fatherless or motherless flashing before his eyes.
Sarah looks at him steadily, the same way Sam sometimes does, like she can tell exactly what he’s thinking. “Go ahead and hold her.” She says.
Sam hands the baby to Sarah and Sarah places the infant gently in Bucky’s hands. Automatically Bucky cradles her in his arms, the way he did with his little sisters. He remembers the first time he held Rebecca, the way he had been nervous then too.
The baby, Pauline, looks up at him and smiles a little baby smile. Bucky smiles back, feeling lighter yet more whole. He doesn’t notice Sam, Sarah and Darlene smiling at him with the understanding smile they share.
It’s a good thanksgiving, and not just because the food is delicious (“Wow, Mrs. Wilson, This pie’s the best I’ve had since 1935!”)