Sam didn't have a lot of attachment to Thomas Raymond. He had plenty of stories from Steve, and later from Bucky, to know that he'd been a good man. During the time that Bucky had been "dead," Sam'd even received letters addressed to both Sam and "Toro," updating them both on such vital facts as the quality of pancakes in Seattle. But Raymond had apparently been battling his own demons, and had never responded to any invitations from Steve to show up and actually read them.
But despite the fact that Sam had no real attachment to the man, he opened his door one morning to find Bucky standing there, with his arms full of a newly de-aged Thomas Raymond.
"It's Steve's date night with Sharon," Bucky explained helplessly, over the cries of the baby in question. "And Natasha told me that we were way past taking care of a baby together."
Sam privately thought that Sharon would have agreed with Natasha's assessment, possibly with her fist, but with a crying baby between them, there was no reason to discuss the ongoing Romanova-Carter-Rogers arrangement.
"Plus, you like kids!" Bucky added a little more desperately, and definitely more loudly, than was strictly necessary.
"You should know I'm taking far more pity on the kid and my neighbors than I am on you," Sam told him, before stepping back and allowing him to come in.
It was a good thing that Sam really did like kids, because otherwise, he would have to regret that decision.
The first instance for the type of regret Sam might have had, if he didn't like kids quite so much, was when Bucky announced that he really had to go to to the bathroom, and "Can you hold Toro for a minute?"
Which wasn't so bad by itself. But then a baby screaming at the top of his lungs was thrust into Sam's arms and it became immediately apparently why he was so fussy.
"Did you even think to stop on your way here and get some diapers?" Sam called, and after a moment of silence in which Bucky didn't answer him, Sam added, "So help me, if you took the coward's way out and slipped out the bathroom window, I will leave the kid with another Avenger and I will find you."
"As long as it's not Tony Stark," Bucky answered as he came out of the bathroom. "No, I was just ... letting it all out. He's been crying for ever and I've had to pee since the middle of the battle."
If Steve was here, he'd be asking all sorts of questions about the battle in question. Namely, he'd be wanting to know how the battle had contributed to the tiny urine factory in Sam's arms.
But right now, Sam had more immediate priorities.
"Thank you for this update on your bladder," Sam responded. "Unfortunately, Thomas hasn't quite learned the valuable lesson of 'holding it in', so again I am compelled to ask you why he doesn't have a diaper."
"I didn't think to check that?" Bucky asked sheepishly.
"Your shirt is as wet as mine."
"Yeah, but ... " Bucky shrugged. "I tried to give him something to drink, but I didn't have a bottle, so I kind of got it all over my shirt. I didn't notice ..." He trailed off and gave a sheepish shrug.
"This is why Natasha kicked you out of the Romanova-Carter-Rogers apartment."
"What do I know about babies?" Bucky demanded.
"Civilians. World War II. I know you encountered some. I've been on the other side of the room listening to Steve have nightmares about them."
"And the other side of the bed."
Sam rolled his eyes. "This is the least appropriate conversation to have while a baby is needing a fresh diaper that I can think of. I am seconds away from delivering you both to Tony Stark."
The baby's face grew even more red, and he started to have the kind of temper tantrum where his breathing came in gasps and hiccups.
"Hey is he okay?" Bucky asked worriedly. "I mean, I'd cry at a threat like that, too, but he looks like he can't breathe."
"Your civilians didn't have temper tantrums?"
"Our civilians were trying not to alert the enemy?"
"Even the babies?"
"Babies were smarter in the 40s!"
Sam rolled his eyes again and thrust the baby into Bucky's arms. "It's just a temper tantrum. Unless he can do the fire trick, you're safe."
Bucky blinked at him and then down at the baby. "Wow, I didn't even think about that."
"Don't worry," Sam said as he took off the soaked shirt. "He's a mutant, right? Usually they don't manifest their powers until their teenage years. Though sometimes there are exceptions."
"Well," Bucky said a little softly. "Toro always was pretty exceptional, so we should both be worried."
The exasperation in his voice was gone entirely, and had Sam been worried about more than getting dressed so he could go to the store and buy some diapers, he might have paid some actual attention to that warning sign.
Sam left Bucky with the crying baby while he made the run to the store. Most of the essentials were easy, though he had to guess the age and weight of baby Raymond. He would have called Bucky, but Sam was willing to bet that Bucky wouldn't have picked up and wouldn't have had any clue if he had.
Sam had to give a rough estimate on clothes, too, but a few pairs of onesies in different sizes wasn't all that expensive, especially since he was going to be billing the Avengers for this mess anyway. Blankets, bottles, diaper rash ointment for the rash that the kid was likely to have thanks to being carried around in urine, a bassinet to sleep in, diaper wipes, and a couple of small toys were also easy enough to pick out.
But when Sam got the formula aisle, he had to admit that he was in over his head.
He made a mental list of people he could call. He could call his sister or even his brother, but Sam's relationships with both of them had been rocky for a while now.
He wouldn't ask any of the current Avengers advice about child-rearing even if he suddenly found himself in the possession of a baby Red Skull.
The Fantastic Four had managed to have two children, neither of whom had exploded or starved to death yet, and in fact, Reed Richards might be in on the case eventually anyway. So they seemed like safe enough of a bet.
But when the phone rang, it wasn't Mister Fantastic, the Invisible Woman, The Thing, or the Human Torch who answered.
"Yeah, long story, we're kind of the replacements," Scott Lang told him. "What can I help you with, Falcon?"
Sam could have asked. Scott Lang was perfectly qualified to give advice on baby formula. He'd raised a healthy, great kid.
But it hadn't been that long since they'd lost Cassie Lang, and if Steve was still smarting over that loss - and he was - there was no way that Cassie's father was ready to have that conversation.
"Uh, never mind? It's pretty Richards specific, so I'll just let you get back to sleep."
"You sure? I'm not Reed Richards, but I am pretty smart. I worked with Tony for a while, you know."
"Yeah, but nobody holds that against you," Sam promised, and there was a soft chuckle on the other line, before he added, "I'll talk to you later, Ant-Man. Gotta hunt down Stark or Pym."
Of course, both of those options were out.
Fortunately, there was an 42 year old mother of three living two blocks from Sam's office, who Sam knew would be getting home from her third shift at the hospital right about now. Sam knew Irene through her oldest son, a 13-year-old handful, but right now, he was more interested in Zack's four-month-old baby sister and the fact that Irene knew baby formula like Sam knew not to feed Redwing birdseed.
"I'm sorry to be calling so late at night, Mrs. Owens."
"I haven't even had dinner yet, so you're fine, Mister Wilson. What can I help you with?"
"I need you to tell me about infant formula."
"Is this a happy surprise or an unhappy work related incident?"
Sam took a moment to digest her words and then had a good laugh. "A work related incident, definitely."
Because sometimes, Sam liked to tempt fate.
"These diapers aren't like the ones Rebecca used to have," Bucky mused. "I remember Rebecca's diapers being washed. I'm not sure I trust disposable diapers."
"You want reusable cloth diapers, you can go back to the store and get them. And is this the guy who tried to tell me he knew nothing about babies?" Sam reminded him.
Bucky shrugged and gave the kind of smirk that Steve used to detail in everything but sonnets back when Bucky had been "dead." "Hey, I'd just watched some wizard turn one of my best friends into a baby while he was in the middle of lecturing me about pretending to be dead. I was clearly very traumatized. Give me some slack, Sam."
"Giving Captain Americas slack is not what I do. Speaking of Captain America, I look forward to you explaining to Steve that when this happened, you were in the middle of arguing with your teammate in battle."
"We were multi-tasking, Sam. The twenty-first century loves that. So the Internet tells me."
"The Internet lies. During your big fight that allowed the evil wizard to get in a good shot, did you tell Toro that if he wasn't off brooding on his own, he would have known that you weren't dead?"
"I was working up to that!" The baby in question reached forward and grabbed a handful of Bucky's hair and tugged roughly. "Ow! Toro, no. Bad Toro."
"The child is far too young to be called Toro," Sam insisted.
"I've called him 'Thomas' maybe five times in his life, Sam."
"Was he a baby any of those times?"
Bucky stuck out his tongue, something that Thomas instantly mimicked. "See, that's far more fun than you were as a teenager, Toro. How old do you think he is, anyway, Sam?"
Sam shrugged and ruffled the kid's hair which earned him a tongue too. "I don't know. I'd estimate younger than one. Maybe about six months? But we won't know for sure until one of the brains check him out."
"Hey, that means that he should sleep through the night, right?" Bucky asked, because he liked to tempt fate, too.
Newly de-aged Thomas Raymond did not, in fact, sleep through the night.He woke up no less than three times, and the third time was a charm. No amount of singing, cajoling, or pleading would get him to go back to sleep. At least this time he wasn't quite loud enough to wake everyone in the apartment building, but he was loud enough to made Redwing annoyed, which, in turn, was enough to wake up Sam.
"Maybe the bassinet is just uncomfortable," Bucky said with a sigh as the clearly awake baby chewed contentedly on the stuffed dragon that Sam had purchased.
"He's just about too old for a bassinet anyway, I think. If the brains can't figure out a way to reverse this, you'll need to get a crib."
Bucky glanced around the spare bedroom. "We'll have to rearrange some furniture to make a crib fit in here."
"Oh, we will? Last I checked, this was your best friend - "
"One of," Bucky corrected, as if it was important, and Sam supposed that it was his curse to live with sentimental Captain Americas who would make such distinctions. "And c'mon, Sam. You know I don't really have a place - "
"Too busy wanderin' around, pretending to be dead."
"Right." There was that damn smirk again, and apparently, it weakened Sam's resolve almost as pathetically as it weakened Steve's. "And Steve's place is pretty full ... "
"Let's just wait and see what Steve has to say about it before we start making plans to have you move in, alright?"
"Who said I was moving in? I wasn't talking about moving in."
"Well, I'm not doing the single dad thing to some guy who didn't even show up to read our letters with me. So you damn well aren't going to drop the kid in a crib and take off on another Dead Across America Tour."
To Bucky's credit, when Steve's group of brains and wizards announced that they didn't have a way to fix Thomas, Bucky didn't try to take off, nor did he try to pawn Thomas off on someone else - though Sam suspected that Steve could have been convinced, with not even a large amount of arm twisting.
Instead, Bucky shifted Thomas to the other knee, continued to bounce him, and said, as nonchalantly as possible, "I think it's time to go shopping for that crib, Sam."
Sam ignored Steve's questioning look entirely.
Sam thought of Steve's look, and the answer Sam hadn't given, later.
But first, there was shopping to do.
"Same day delivery and you can order it without ever actually talking to anyone? This website is either designed by geniuses or sociopaths," Bucky said enthusiastically while Sam let Thomas gnaw on his fist with the teeth he didn't quite have yet.
"I'm barely restraining myself from making a crack about Tony Stark right now. A shame Steve isn't here to appreciate my restraint."
"Toro and I are here. That's all you need. Jesus, how complicated does the 21st century need to make cribs, anyway?"
"Wait until you get to carseats."
"Why didn't you just buy this stuff when you were out buying diapers?"
"I'm going to pretend you didn't ask that, so I don't have to kick you out."
Bucky laughed and leaned backwards to pinch the baby's nose, something that made Thomas decide to try to eat Bucky's fingers instead of Sam's fist. "C'mon, Sam, you'd never do that to Toro."
"Yeah, yeah, just order the crib," Sam instructed.
Four hours later, when the crib was in their possession, Thomas played peekaboo with Redwing using Sam's shoulder while Bucky tried to assemble the crib. Sam watched him work, thought of Steve's questioning look, and realized rather abruptly that he couldn't pretend that any of this was entirely about the baby.
"Hard to believe that I fought through a war, was a spy, and escaped a Russian prison alive, and yet, I still can't figure out how to put together a damn crib," Bucky grumbled, completely oblivious to Sam's epiphany.
"Nah, it's pretty expected really."
Bucky looked up at him. "You want to switch me spots? I'll take Toro and you put this thing together?"
"We're happy where we are," Sam answered.
Which was true enough, and besides, both Sam and Bucky had their hands full right now. Which meant that any changes in their relationship could be handled later.
Or, at least, wait until after Bucky had figured out the crib.