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Hope and wishes for all that delights will sour in the midst of action not taken and words unsaid.
Maximillian Degenerez

By the end of the third day, Sam's neck is aching from staring up and up. The towers of Asgard are like nothing he's ever seen, shining and sleek and rising apparently endlessly into the sky. Hence the neck strain. Totally worth it.

It makes a change to look down as he jogs out along the rainbow bridge, watching the darting lights under his feet. He doesn't know if they're some kind of advanced technology or just there for decoration, and he stops about halfway out, running his fingers over the almost invisible surface to see if the lights will react. They don't, but that might just be because he's the wrong species.

And yeah, there's that. He'd known in theory that Thor and his people weren't from Earth, but actually standing on another planet is stranger than he'd expected. Not that he would have said no, whether the trip had been to Mars or the moon or just out to Queens. When it comes to Steve Rogers, Sam has a terrible track record of shaking his head and saying yet.

Give sanctuary to the two most wanted people on the planet? Sure, want some breakfast?

Take down the world's biggest, best and nastiest security agency? Where do I sign?

Fancy a trip to another galaxy? Just let me pack my case.

Sam shakes his head at the sheer, overwhelming, "how is this my life" sensation and sets off at a faster pace, pushing himself a little. It feels like the bridge stretches out forever, although when he glances over his shoulder, the city is smaller - not small, nothing on Asgard is small - behind him. Maybe. And maybe the dome in front of him is a little bigger, even if he still has a long way to go.

He's sweating by the time he gets out there, slowing as he approaches the golden walls. Thor had said that he was free to roam as he liked, and that if there was any area he wasn't allowed in, someone would let him know. Still, they way they'd stop him hadn't been specified, and most of the palace guards seem to carry some pretty vicious looking swords.

"Hello?" Sam's out of breath enough that the word comes out a little strained, and he has to take a few deep breaths to try again. "Anyone there?" The doorway into the dome is open, no sign of a door, and its too gloomy inside for him to see properly.

"I am always here." The voice from the darkness makes Sam jump enough for him to lose all the breath he'd just got back. It takes him another moment of blinking to find the speaker, standing on the opposite side of the central dais, his back to Sam.

Damn, Asgardians are tall.

He resists the urge to draw himself up a little as he enters the chamber. The guy's got four inches on him, minimum, and there's nothing Sam can do about that. He nods, instead, trying for a smile and hoping it doesn't break some alien etiquette no one warned him about.

"Nice to meet you. Mind if I come in?"

The slight turn of the man's head seems to be the equivalent of a shrug. "You appear to have already done so."

"Yeah." Coughing a little, Sam lets his smile turn sheepish. "Thanks. I'm Sam Wilson."

"You are one of Thor's friends."

"More like friend of a friend. Captain Rogers asked me along." Well, he'd actually turned a plaintive look on Sam and asked if he'd mind riding shotgun to this place where he thought Bucky might actually be able to get some help. The whole 'out of this world' thing had only come up later.

The man nods, turning back to stare out of the window again. "You brought a wounded comrade in search of healing."

Sam's getting pretty good at translating from Asgardian to regular speech, so just says, "Something like that." He's across the room now, and he thinks he understands why the man is so captivated by the view. "That's a lot of stars."

This seems to amuse his companion. "It is all of them."

He turns to Sam, then, and despite himself, Sam jumps a little. The man is smiling, just a little, in a way that's unnerving enough all on its own, but underneath those clear yellow eyes, it's downright unsettling.

As though sensing his discomfort, the man smiles wider in a gesture that's probably meant to more friendly and mostly just shows more teeth.

"I am Heimdall," he says. "Guardian of Asgard."

"Good to meet you." It's entirely possible that Sam's voice shakes a bit, and he gives himself a pat on the back that his knees don't just give out under that unearthly stare. He's more or less got used to the general strangeness of Asgardians. Looks like he needs to up the weirdness bar a little.

If Heimdall notices, he's polite enough not to say so. "And you. I have spent much time watching Earth, but it is rare now that we are able to interact with your people."

"I see how that might be," Sam says, letting his smile fall to a frown as the words sink in. "Wait a minute, watching Earth? From here?" He glances around, not seeing any computer monitors or screens. Of course, what an Asgardian computer screen looks like is anyone's guess, and he doesn't suppose he'd know it if he saw it. Still, he doesn't think that's what Heimdall meant.

When he meets Heimdall's eyes again, he sees the amusement still there, probably at Sam's confusion.

"I see all," he says simply, turning back to the window.

Sam swallows. Okay, he's got used to Thor and the fact that his hammer just comes when he thinks about it, and he's almost got his head around the idea that Loki had been able to make people see what wasn't there. Asgardians are superheroes in a way that boggles the tiny human mind, Sam gets that. But this? The idea that one person, standing in one place, can see through to another world? Somehow that feels even more alien.

"Well ain't that a trip?" he mutters, blowing out a long breath.

The rumbling is hopefully a stifled laugh, because when Sam looks over, Heimdall is still smiling. "And what do you think of Asgard, Sam Wilson?"

"Big." The word is out really before he's had a chance to think about it, and while he feels like an idiot for a second, he shakes his head and presses on. "I mean, you guys are so far ahead of us in so many ways. The city's- Well. There are no words for that really, not in my vocabulary. And your people are stronger, physically I mean."

"But none of that is what you really meant." When Heimdall looks at him, Sam wonders if those all-seeing eyes can look into his head as well. Or maybe all that time spent looking out at the galaxy has taught him a thing or two about reading people. Sam should probably ask for lessons.

He shakes his head again. "No, it wasn't." Beyond the window, the blackness of space is cut through with swirls of colour and light, every tiny white spot a star, and every star could be someone's sun. "It's more of a perspective thing, you know? You guys live so much longer, see so much more. Everything feels bigger here, like humans barely register in your grand scheme of things. Kind of makes a guy feel small."

Heimdall nods, his expression thoughtful. "And yet our Prince refused the throne only after his time with one of your people. I believe she taught him-" He hesitates, considering. "Perspective."

Sam's never met Jane Foster, but from the wistful look on Thor's face every time he mentions her, it's easy to see what Heimdall means. Before he can come up with some kind of reply to that, Heimdall is speaking again.

"And so Odin must remain on the throne that he would have surrendered, and he must do so without his queen."

There's an undertone to the words, and Sam frowns. "You think he should have stepped down?"

"It is not for me to question the king of Asgard."

And that's definitely the sort of thing Sam's heard before. I was given my orders, is too-often code for my CO is a moron. And it's too-often right. Sam spends a lot of time listening to soldiers talk, and he knows the signs.

"Whose job is it, then?" he asks, trying to sound curious rather than challenging. "I mean, if he doesn't have anyone questioning him any more, who makes sure he's doing the right thing?"

"He does," Heimdall says simply. "He is Odin All-Father."

"Right." That sort of statement is right up there with I was only following orders, and Sam knows it. Instead of commenting further, he lets the silence hang, both of them just watching the stars turn slowly. At least, they both are looking out the window. What Heimdall is looking at, Sam can only guess.

Silence is incredibly effective. When Bucky's having one of his really bad days, when just looking at Steve makes his face twist and his fingers clench, Sam shoves him into his room, shuts the door, and they both just sit there, Sam flicking through the news on his phone, Bucky curled into the corner and staring at the wall. Silence works then, the way it worked for Sam when he lost Riley and Berkowitz just sat with him for three days and nights, not talking, just being. It's not complicated, but it is effective.

Eventually, Heimdall stirs. "Odin has been king of Asgard for so long that humans do not have a word for such a span of time. His wisdom is ageless and his word is law. I do not think any on Asgard can imagine a time when Odin would not be our king. And yet for all that." He stopped and Sam had the feeling that when an Asgardian weighed their words, it was a heavier burden than most. "For all that, the death of his queen has been a source of great sorrow. No one could be the same after that."

Sam nods. "Grief does strange things to people, that's for sure."

"Indeed."

There is a finality to the word, as though Heimdall has said all he means to. There is silence again, more awkward this time, since Sam isn't sure whether he's supposed to ask more or change the subject or what. He settles for gazing out at the stars, letting some of the tension bleed out of the air.

He's felt the same tension in the palace, how stiffly the guards stand and how carefully the courtiers talk. Thor hasn't missed it either, his eyes darting to his father and back whenever Odin is in the room. Sam knows an atmosphere when he sees one, and for all that Asgard has opened its healing halls to Bucky, it's hard to miss the fact that the humans are not entirely welcome.

Sam is so lost in his own thoughts that he actually jumps when Heimdall speaks again.

"Tell me, Sam Wilson, do you like to fly?"

Okay, that's different. "Just Sam is fine, thanks. And if you watch Earth, you know that I do." His wings are rebuilt, better than the last, but it's been too long since he's had the chance to get out there.

" I think there is someone you would like to meet, but it is something of a long journey. Are you willing to undertake it." Turning, Heimdall strides over to the central dais, reaching out for his sword.

"Uh, sure, okay." Oh yeah, sparkling wit there, Wilson. Definitely on form today.

It's only when the whole chamber begins to move, astral gears rotating and aligning, that Sam figures out what's going on. And yeah, okay, he'd be up for a trip to yet another world, but he hadn't really thought about doing it in his sweats and sneakers.

"Maybe I could come back later," he says, starting towards Heimdall. "I'm sure Steve would want to-"

"Your friend has his own responsibilities," Heimdall says over the rushing sound that's filling the chamber. "I am sure he will not miss you for a few hours."

Which sounds kind of ominous. Light bursts into life around the room, and Sam turns to face its source, lifting his arm against the glare. "How do I get back?" he asks, still not sure this is a good idea.

"Call for me and I will find you," comes the cryptic reply, then the light is flowing over Sam, surrounding him with a glare so blinding that he has to close his eyes against it.

Heimdall isn't kidding about the long journey. Getting from Asgard to Earth had been weird enough. One minute they'd been standing in a derelict lot in New Jersey, the next they'd been on what felt like the roughest elevator ride of Sam's life. The whole thing had taken nearly a minute, and Sam had stepped onto Asgard with his heart racing and knees shaking. Still, it had been a hell of a way to travel.

Wherever Heimdall's sending him, it's further than Earth, and this time Sam opens his eyes a crack, watching the universe race past him. In all honesty, it's not that much like flying, not really. This is being moved at unimaginable speeds by technology he can't begin to understand, and while it's incredible, it doesn't beat the feeling of open air underneath him and the sky stretching out above.

He lands with a thud, apparently not quite having got the hang of this bifrost thing yet, and he stumbles a few paces before falling over his own feet. The ground underneath him is dusty and charred, while the air feels hot and dry, quite the contrast to Asgard's cool climate.

When he lifts his head, he's looking up into a glare that startles him so much he almost lands flat on his back with the jolt of it. Swallowing, he catches his wobbling balance and just about manages to get his feet under him.

"Hi," he says, knowing how lame it must sound. "Uh, I'm Sam Wilson, a friend of Thor's." That's true enough. Thor's not exactly a friend, but around here, his name probably carries more weight than Steve Rogers' does. Belatedly, he holds out a hand, since most Asgardians he's met give some variation on a handshake.

The man folds his arms, the glare not softening even a little. It's going well so far.

Sam drops his hand and looks around. "I know this sounds like a stupid question, but where I am? Heimdall just sort of sent me here without really saying anything and-"

That gets him a response, the other man slowly uncrossing his arms and letting them fall to his sides. "Heimdall?" he says, and his accent sounds different to the other Asgardians. "He sent you?"

"Technically, I suppose," Sam says. It occurs to him that maybe he's meant to be doing something other than gawping, but if so, he has no idea what it is. "We were just talking and then he asked me if I liked flying."

Another response, this time in the barest twitch of a smile. "And did you?"

"I guess." This is definitely a test, Sam's decided. "Landing was a little rough, but my instructor always said any landing you could walk away from was a good one." It's too old a joke for most humans to do anything but eyeroll at, but apparently they don't tell it on Asgard.

Finally, the man smiles properly, huffing something that might be a hint of a laugh. "You are definitely a friend of Thor." He holds out his hand. "I am Hogun of Vanaheim."

Sam takes the offered hand, not surprised when Hogan grasps his wrist tightly. "Vanaheim? Is that where I am?"

"This is my home." With a slap to Sam's shoulder, Hogun releases him and gestures around them. "You are a long way from Asgard here."

"I kind of picked that up from the journey time. Still, I guess you guys don't have problems with traffic jams." Sam's mouth is working without his conscious input as he looks around at the small encampment. It couldn't really be more different from Asgard's gleaming towers, the low tents all covered in the same yellow dust, and none of the technology so advanced that it seems like magic. There are people milling around the camp wearing what look like homespun tunics and skirts, and a few maybe-horses are penned in a small enclosure. It looks like pictures he's seen of Mongolian herders out on the steppes.

Belatedly, he realises he's staring, and gives Hogun what he hopes is an apologetic smile. "Sorry," he says, "But most folks from my neighbourhood don't get out of the state, let alone off the planet. It's kind of a big deal."

"I understand. And we have nothing to compare with the great sights of Asgard." Hogun doesn't sound offended, which is good, because Sam has the feeling this is not a man he wants to annoy. "But I think you will find that the Vanir are as proud of their world as the Asgardians are of theirs. Come, I will show you our village."

It is a village, albeit one that feels decidedly temporary. People are coming and going, adults working and children playing. To Sam, it feels like a friendly version of a military camp, ordered and organised and ready to pick up and move at a few hours' notice.

Once they are among the tents, Hogun seems to relax a little, talking more freely, pointing out patterns in textiles and demonstrating a fierce looking bow that Sam just knows Clint would go nuts over. They walk past families and pens with livestock, everyone living on top of each other in a closeness that Sam belatedly realises had been missing in the grandeur of Asgard.

At the far side of the village, Hogun stops, surveying the land beyond as he speaks.

"As a young man, I wanted nothing more than to be part of Asgard, to fight glorious battles with my friends. To stand at the side of the prince of Asgard and fear nothing."

"If you don't mind my saying, doesn't seem you're the kind of man who fears much from anyone." Sam hasn't missed the long sword on Hogun's belt, or the way he carries himself, as though always ready for a fight.

"Perhaps not for myself. But after the breaking of the bifrost, there was chaos, and Vanaheim became the victim of raiders and pillagers. We were grateful to Asgard for their help in driving them out, but more will always come. People must have a leader they can respect, who they know will protect them."

And there it is again, the same edge that Sam had heard in Heimdall's voice. There's something going on with these people, and while he's not one to pry, he kind of feels like he's being invited to dig a little harder into this one.

"You can still ask Asgard for help, though?" he says, keeping it light. "I mean, if you need it."

"So we are told."

Right, that wasn't even convincing Sam. "Have you had to ask yet?"

"No. And I know that Thor would come if we were to call and if he were able."

"You think something might stop him?"

For answer, Hogun just looks away, gazing beyond the village to the distant horizon. "It is getting dark," he says. "Will you join us for food?"

Sam really wants to, wants to dig into whatever it is that's bothering Hogun, because maybe here, away from Asgard, he might get the answers that Heimdall will never tell him. But he didn't leave Earth for his own curiosity nor to get caught up in whatever weird politics they've got going on.

"I should get back," he says instead. "I promised Steve I'd help him out this evening, and believe it or not, I only meant to have a short run." He plucks at his grey sweatshirt, making Hogun frown.

"This is not the normal dress of your people?" he asks, making Sam laugh.

"Not really. Well, sometimes it is. We can't all go around in armour, you know."

That makes Hogun smile. "Would that we did not have to." He steps closer. "It will be some time before I can next visit Asgard. Please pass my regards to Thor and the others, and tell them that I think of them often."

That could be just a message from one friend to another, or it could be some weird alien code for something Sam has no idea about. With the day he's having, he doesn't want to make a bet either way.

"I'll tell them that," he says instead. "Anything else?"

There's something there, Sam knows it, from the guarded look in Hogun's eyes to the stiffness of his posture as he steps closer, voice not much more than a hoarse whisper. "Remind them that they owe their duty to each other still. That we swore it together."

Not getting any less weird, but Sam nods anyway. "I'll tell them," he promises, lifting his hand and offering it to Hogun again. "Now, if it's not too much trouble, mind telling me how I get back again?"

As it turns out, he gets back by shouting at the sky, trying not to think that if he tried this at home, it'd most likely get him locked up, or at least arrested. Out here, apparently, it gets him a ride on the flashiest roller coaster in the universe, stumbling out into Heimdall's chamber again and blinking to clear his eyes.

"I trust you had an interesting visit," Heimdall says, and Sam hears the rasp of his sword being pulled out of the mechanism again. "You are the first to visit from Asgard since the alignment."

That doesn't sound quite right. "Like, the first first? Thor, Sif, Fandrall, none of them?"

Heimdall sniffs. "The king has not encouraged anyone to leave Asgard while he still fears it may be vulnerable to attack." He turns, staring out the window again. "You should hurry if you wish to make the feast tonight. It is a long run back to the palace."

Knowing a dismissal when he hears one, Sam just nods. "Yeah, thanks, I will. And thanks for the, uh, field trip. Interesting place, Vanaheim."

"So I believe." Heimdall doesn't turn back to him, which Sam guesses is par for the course. Blood from a stone has got nothing on this guy.

With a last long look at the starry sky, Sam turns and starts the long jog back to the city, wondering if he's going to be able to walk tomorrow, and trying not to think too much about the cryptic messages he's been given. He's got enough on his plate without adding aliens who have apparently picked him as a confidant. His mother always said he had one of those faces.

Shaking his head and trying not to laugh at himself - he doesn't have the breath for it - Sam puts his head down and presses on to the city.

One thing Asgardians do know how to do is have a really good bath, and Sam is ready for one by the time he pants his way into the quarters he's sharing with Steve and Bucky. The palatial apartment is more than big enough for three of them, and while they could have had their own spaces, Steve won't leave Bucky and Sam won't leave Steve, so the sharing is working out not much different to how they manage it at home.

Except at home, Steve doesn't normally spend much time angrily throwing things into bags as though they've personally offended him. Sam resists the urge to duck as a t-shirt goes flying across the room.

"Did it insult your favourite band?" he asks, bending to pick it up as Steve turns to him.

"Sorry." It's automatic, Sam knows, because Steve doesn't look sorry. He looks as angry as Sam's ever seen him, and anyone who thinks Steve Rogers doesn't have a temper hasn't met him on one of Bucky's bad days. "We're leaving."

"Leaving?" A little stunned, Sam stares for a moment as Steve shoves the last of his clothes into a bag and wrestles with the zip. "Steve, what do you mean, leaving?"

"I mean we're leaving." The bag goes on the floor and Steve starts on the next one, not quite meeting Sam's eyes.

That's not really working for him. "Can I at least shower first?" Sam asks, raising his eyebrows at Steve when the other man looks up at him at last. "Steve," he says more gently, "what's going on?"

Steve wilts, sinking down onto the couch. "I'm sorry, Sam. Looks like it was a wasted trip."

"You brought me to another planet and you're saying it's a waste? Man, where do you take your vacations?"

It's a little better when Steve smiles, obviously despite himself. "Odin says they can't help Bucky. Whatever they did to him, it can't be fixed, not even by Asgardian medicine."

And ain't that a kick in the gut? Sam sinks onto the bed next to Steve, processing. "Okay," he says after a long moment. "What did the healers say?" When Steve frowns at him, Sam presses on, "I mean, I know he's called the All-Father, but he can't actually know everything, right? So was he passing on what the healers said or is that just his opinion?"

"I-" Steve sounds lost, and Sam hates pressing him like this, but there's a growing unease in his stomach that he knows better than to ignore. After a moment, Steve shakes his head. "I don't know. Odin just said they couldn't help and we needed to leave."

"What did Thor say?"

"What could he say?" Closing his eyes, Steve takes a long breath. "But they're both wrong. Bucky's going to be fine. He just needs time."

"Right." It's the same old discussion, where Steve tries to fix things, Bucky won't be fixed and Sam tries to keep Steve sane in the face of it all. He doesn't need to rehash it all again, not now. "Let me have a quick shower and we'll head off, okay?"

He doesn't expect a reply, which is just as well, because Steve's gone back to staring at the closed bedroom door, where Sam knows Bucky will be curled up on the bed - or maybe under it - trying to shut out the world as ever. Despite the truly amazing water pressure and perfect temperature, he showers as fast as he can, turning Steve's words over in his head, and hearing over and over a line from his 10th grade English class, the one where Mrs Heinlicker had them memorize lines for the tests.

Something rotten in the state of Asgard.

Well, the line didn't go exactly like that, but it feels like that right about now. Heavy hints from Heimdall, cryptic messages from Hogun, the apparent casual cruelty of turning away people in need. This is not the realm of gods that Sam expected from the pre-trip talk.

By the time he's dried off and dressed, he's made up his mind and seeing Steve sitting in the middle of the living room, jaw clenched and eyes dark just cements the decision.

"Can you hang on for, like, ten minutes? I forgot that I have a message for Thor that I need to pass on."

Steve frowns at that, but nods. "Of course. It's not like anything's going to happen in the next ten minutes."

He'll bounce back, Sam knows, but that doesn't mean that seeing Steve looking so defeated doesn't twist that knife in his gut again. Even if he can't do anything about it right now, there is something he can do. As long as he does it carefully.

The guards outside their rooms don't know where Thor is, but they do know where Sif, Fandral and Volstagg are hanging out, showing Steve into what feels like the plushest frat house in the galaxy.

All three of them look up when he comes in, and Sam has the distinct impression that he's interrupting something.

"Sorry," he says, holding up his hands. "I just wanted to say goodbye. Guess we'll be leaving soon."

"We have heard," Sif says. Her expression softening, she crosses the room to him. "I am truly sorry that we could not help your friend."

"Well, when the king of Asgard tells you there's nothing doing, I guess there's nothing doing." It's impossible to miss the look Fandral gives Volstagg, the brief glare that Sif throws over her shoulder at both of them. Under different circumstances, Sam would just let it go. Now, he says, "By the way, I saw Hogun today."

That gets a rise out of them, both Fandral and Volstagg jumping to their feet, and Sif looking at him as though seeing him for the first time.

"He gave me a message for you," Sam goes on, not letting them interrupt. "He said something about remembering the duty you swore to each other. I'm guessing that means something to you." It doesn't take much guessing from the looks on their faces.

"Thank you," Sif says once she has her face under control again, the surprise wiped from it. "It has been too long since we visited Vanaheim."

"So I gathered. I guess things are kind of busy here."

"Indeed."

It's hard not to hear an echo of Heimdall in the way Fandral says the word, in the stiffness of his shoulders and the wariness in his eyes. And just as then, Sam knows that his part in this conversation is over.

"Thanks for everything," he says, holding a hand out to Sif, who takes it and pulls him into a one-armed hug, her hair tickling the side of his neck.

"Thank you," she says, and her voice is little more than a breath in his ear. "We understand."

He's glad she does, because Sam's getting kind of annoyed with whatever it is they've got going on here. Maybe leaving won't be so awful for Bucky after all, not when everyone seems preoccupied with not saying what they're thinking while expecting him to understand what they're not saying. It's making his head hurt, and frankly, he has enough of his own crap to deal with without getting caught up in theirs.

Apparently their mess isn't quite done with him though, because he bumps into Thor as he's heading back to his quarters, almost literally.

When Thor has finished apologising and Sam has got his balance back (the man's like a brick wall, even without the armour), Thor says awkwardly, "I am sorry we were unable to help your friend any further."

"Me too." Sam shrugs. "Some things aren't meant to be, I guess. And if your father says no, then there's nothing you can do about it."

And there's the flinch that makes Sam think Thor must be the worst poker player in history.

"I wish it were different," Thor says softly. "But my father's will cannot be countered."

"I see how it is." Sam meets his eyes, and from the look on Thor's face, Thor sees how it is too. He swallows and looks away.

"Since my mother's death, my father has been different. Perhaps none of us truly realised how much she tempered him."

Sam's seen it, seen folks go rough or sad or just plain mean without their other halves to keep them in check. He guesses the same could apply to Asgardians, and all the whispering and general weirdness could just be no one quite knowing what to do with a grieving king.

"Must be hard for all of you," he says aloud.

"It is." Thor's voice isn't much more than a whisper, and his gaze is a long way away. "But there are times when I think-" He cuts himself off, shaking his head. "I am sorry, Sam Wilson. You should not have to concern yourself with our troubles as well, not when you are helping the good Captain to carry his."

"I got wide shoulders," Sam says to the man who's got at least eight inches and a couple hundred years on him. "Don't be a stranger, okay? Everything that's happened lately, Asgard and Earth aren't so far apart any more." However ridiculous the statement, it seems to be appreciated.

Thor nods, holding out his hand and gripping Sam's wrist in a bone-crushing hold. "Thank you, Sam Wilson. If you should wish to visit us again, you need only call."

It's a kind offer, kindly meant, but Sam's starting to think he'll be grateful to be back on Planet Earth where people don't keep trying to get him mixed up in what feels like a cross between the rumour mill and a galactic conspiracy.

All the same, he gives the city more than a few backward looks as the transport whisks them along the rainbow bridge. Enough that Steve notices.

"You sorry to be leaving?" he asks. "If you want to stay a few more days-"

"Nah, I'm cool. Sometimes it's just time to leave, you know?"

"I guess." Steve has gone back to watching Bucky, who is sitting ramrod straight in the front of the transport, apparently oblivious the world around him. "Seems like we were looking in the wrong place for a cure."

"Seems like," Sam agrees. "Look, man, I know you want to help him, but-"

"What he needs is time," Steve says. "I know."

The words don't need repeating, so Sam just lets his shoulder bump against Steve's as the transport slows to a stop. Inside the chamber, Heimdall is already on the dais, ready to send them home. He watches Sam as they enter, those golden eyes following him around the room. That look is going to stay with Sam a while, that's for sure. With all the other Asgardians around, Sam's pretty sure that nothing's going to be said, but maybe it doesn't need to be.

Because there's something close to fear in Heimdall's eyes, and it sends a shiver down Sam's back.

Turning, he takes one last, long look at the city, only dragging himself away when Steve calls his name. He'd wanted to fix the image of the place in his mind, remember what it looks like. He tells himself that it's because he's not likely to have the chance to come back any time soon, and tells himself that the prickling on the back of his neck is just the static from the bifrost opening. Heimdall's eyes only look like they can shoot lasers, no matter how hard he stares.

Yeah, he's definitely going to be glad to be back home where the only thing he has to worry about is a brainwashed super soldier who might try to kill them all in their sleep with his alien arm. Oh, and keeping a non-brainwashed and currently out of work super soldier sane while dealing with the occasional unannounced visits from various super-spies. Nothing much, really.

Shaking his head, Sam turns to give Heimdall a final goodbye salute, and then steps into the light, letting it take him back to his simpler world.


We are masters of the unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.
Winston Churchill