It wasn’t unusual for Sam to wake to an empty bed. Bucky never stayed the whole night through, usually getting up and going back to his own room after Sam had fallen asleep. But Sam was used to hearing Bucky’s gentle snores from across the hall in the middle of the night, so when he woke at four in the morning to silence, it drove him from his room in search of Bucky.
Not that Bucky ever went far. If he left the apartment in the middle of the night, it was for a quick run - three miles, tops, and he was always back in under half an hour. Sometimes he went up to the roof. Sam even found him asleep up there on occasion. After decades spent in small cells or the tank where he was kept frozen, Bucky wasn’t good with confined spaces, and Sam’s apartment wasn’t exactly large. He could barely afford what he had, in all honesty. Two bedrooms was a luxury in D.C. on his paycheck.
Bucky hadn’t gone more than a few steps away tonight, though. Sam found him in the living room, staring out the window.
“I’ll be honest, man,” Sam said. He folded his arms and leaned against the doorway. “You’re starting to scare the shit out of me.”
He saw Bucky’s hands curl into loose fists. “Then how the fuck do you think I feel?”
“I don’t know how you feel. You won’t talk to me.”
Bucky’s fingers loosened, and his shoulders slumped.
“I don’t want to talk about it, Sam,” he said quietly.
“I’m not gonna apologize for refusing to let them put you on ice,” Sam said.
“I know you aren’t,” Bucky said “So there’s nothing for us to discuss.”
“Going on ice wouldn’t have solved anything,” Sam said. The words were worn and familiar; he’d said them a hundred times already. “You can’t keep running away from your problems.”
“Running away from my problems?” Bucky repeated in disbelief. He turned from the window to face Sam. “Spending decades as an assassin who now can’t trust his own mind is just a problem now, is it? Just a little inconvenience?”
Sam wasn’t going to be pulled into this argument, not again. Not at this hour of the night. Morning, whatever.
“You’re the only one who seems to feel he needs to be on ice,” Sam said with finality. “No one else wants that.”
No one in their circle, at least. The same couldn’t be said for the rest of the world. There was a small but growing movement of those who wanted the Winter Soldier to atone for his crimes. To be brought to justice and punished. The only problem was, the Winter Soldier no longer existed. It was impossible to put a phantom on trial, so they called for the blood of the man who shared his face instead. To them, he was one and the same.
Sam went into the kitchen and fixed two cups of hot chocolate. He put Bucky’s in a styrofoam cup so that he could hold it in his metal hand without the hand taking on the scalding temperature of the drink. He then added two shots from the closest bottle in reach.
“Here,” he said when he went back into the living room and handed Bucky his cup. “Drink.”
Bucky sniffed the cup cautiously, then took a sip. He grimaced.
“What the hell did you put in this?”
“No idea,” Sam said. He sat down on the sofa, cradling his own mug in two hands. After a beat, Bucky crossed the room to join him. “But you look like you needed it.”
“What are you doing?” Bucky asked.
“Drinking hot chocolate,” Sam said.
“No.” Bucky shook his head. “What are you doing awake? You should go back to bed. Don’t you have to be up in a few hours?”
“Two,” Sam said. “But it’s fine.”
“Go back to bed, Sam,” Bucky said, his voice firmer this time.
“You can’t sleep,” Sam said. “So neither will I.”
Bucky gave a frustrated huff. “That makes no goddamn sense.”
Sam shrugged. “I don’t want to sleep if you can’t.”
“So now it’s a threat?” Bucky’s face was pinched; angry. “If I don’t sleep, you won’t, except that I can’t sleep and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it!”
“I’m not blackmailing you into sleeping,” Sam said, holding up a hand to prevent the onslaught of words. “I just don’t want you to be alone.”
“Because you don’t have to be.”
That disarmed him. They stared at one another for a long moment. Bucky finally turned back to his cup and took a long swallow of the hot liquid.
“Not so bad,” he decided grudgingly.
“Thanks. It was my mom’s recipe. Her own cure for everything that ailed us.”
“Without the alcohol, I assume,” Bucky said. “Did it ever work?”
Sam noted a small smile tugging at the corner of Bucky’s mouth, and felt a responding smile spread across his own face. “Well, it certainly made us feel better. Whether or not it actually cured anything is up for debate.”
Bucky leaned back against the couch and tilted his head toward the ceiling. Sam laid an arm across the back of the couch, his fingertips brushing against Bucky’s hair. It was still long, down to Bucky’s chin, and most days he wore it pulled back. Tonight, though, he had it loose. Sam resisted an urge to run his fingers through it. Bucky wasn’t much for physical contact. Hell, neither was he.
It surprised him, then, when Bucky shifted closer so that they were pressed together, hips to thighs to knees. He rested his head against Sam’s shoulder.
“M’so fucking tired,” he muttered.
Sam gave in to the urge then and carded his fingers through Bucky’s hair.
“Yeah, I know,” he said softly. “Sucks, doesn’t it?”
They lapsed into silence. Sam’s hot chocolate, forgotten, cooled to room temperature. Bucky’s eyes closed, but by his breathing Sam knew he wasn’t asleep.
Turned out, Sam couldn’t exactly follow through with his grand gesture. He must have nodded off at some point, because he woke to his alarm blaring from his room with a crick in his neck and a dead weight against his side. Bucky lifted his head from Sam’s shoulder and gave him an amused look.
“You snore,” he said.
“So do you,” Sam muttered. “Get up, you’re heavy.”
Bucky obligingly peeled himself away from Sam’s side. Sam rubbed his face and pinched the bridge of his nose. God, he already hated today and it wasn’t even six in the morning yet.
“I’m working until seven today,” he said. “You gonna be all right?”
That question used to infuriate Bucky. Now, he just shrugged.
“Steve’s back,” he said. “Might go see him.”
“Okay.” Sam brushed his knuckles against Bucky’s jaw. “This’ll pass, you know.”
“Right.” Sam pushed himself to his feet and stretched, his spine cracking pleasantly. He padded off towards the shower. “See you tonight.”
Sam turned. “Yeah?”