Natasha Romanoff has never been particularly good with kids, Barnes knows this.
But this person— this girl beside her isn’t a kid. He can’t figure out her age, but she’s young and her hair is messy and her eyes are red because she’s clearly been crying for quite a long time. Romanoff gently pushes her inside the apartment, Wilson’s one, and Barnes allows her to do so, without too much complaining.
“Who is that?” Barnes asks, following her into the other living room. He has an inkling of an idea, but he doesn’t want to guess.
“She was involved with HYDRA,” she says, pulling out her phone. “Unwillingly,” Romanoff adds, but it’s kind of unnecessary. “I’ll send you the details of it, but I didn’t want to send her to SHIELD, naturally, because we just got rid of most of the Nazis and I don’t trust them with something as,” she tosses a glance at the kid, “delicate as this.”
He doesn’t take his eyes off the kid. “Where did you even find her?”
“She came to me,” She says. “Good at tracking people. It’s fascinating, watching her work.” The kid averts her gaze pointedly, and resumes her staring, but this time it’s directed at a chipped coffee mug on the table.
“I’m not great with kids,” Bucky says, “And you know that. So, why me?”
Romanoff laughs, and the girl momentarily shrinks away at the noise. “Wilson has experience with children and teenagers. You’ll be able to keep her away from physical harm,” the girl looks at him hard, “Steve will handle whatever happens if someone on our side discovers her.”
“You’ve got this all worked out,” he muses, “So, Romanoff, please tell me this is some sort of freaky thought experiment for me, and I’m not going to take care of a traumatised ex-HYDRA member.”
The girl giggles and they both fall silent for a few seconds.
“It’s not only you,” Romanoff says. She isn’t pleading with him, but he can tell that she’s close. “And it’s only for a month, tops. Until we can figure out what to do.”
“Sam and Steve are on a run,” he responds. “And once they come back, they’re killing both of us.”
She pats his shoulder, laughs. “They’ll never be able to find me.” She then stands up and walks away from his line of vision. As he hears the front door shut, he closes his eyes, takes a deep breath.
He opens it, and tries to smile at the girl. From the way she slowly backs away from him, he can tell that he’s failing. “So, what’s your name?”
She frowns. “Nora.”
“Hi, Nora,” he says, voice pitched high and free from his usual gruffness. It doesn’t soothe her nervous, though. “I’m Bucky.”
“I know who you are.” She says shortly, brown eyes narrowed at him. She doesn’t speak for the rest of the day.
“You are so stupid,” Sam mutters sleepily into his shoulder. They usually aren’t so physically close with each other, but they’ve had to share a room and a bed since Nora arrived hours ago. She has taken to screaming her head off during the nighttime, and every time they attempt to intervene, she tries to kill them. “You are so, so, stupid.”
“Hey,” he starts, and he sits up. Sam whines lowly and the noise causes Barnes to have a minor laughing fit. “I can speak more than six languages.”
“Williams can speak French, English and German but he’s still dumb as shit,” Sam shoots back, “What caused you to illegally adopt a kid?”
“I’ve done no such thing,” Barnes argues. Nora’s screams increase in sound and he adjusts his earbuds.
“You know, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Nora before.” Sam says casually.
He blinks at him. “What?”
“She was holding a squirrel in a mall,” Sam continued. “I was with my sister. We both made a few comments about it, because, you know. It was a squirrel. It had a harness and a little backpack.”
“And no one said anything?”
He frowns. “Why?”
“We were in Atlanta,” Sam says with a wave of his hand, as if that comment explained all the questions he had about a squirrel in a mall. “I’ve seen people keep the roaches they find in their kitchens as pets.”
After a few minutes of trying to memorise each other’s facial features, (at least that’s what Barnes is doing) they have a petty argument just for old times’ sake, and when they’re in the throngs of it, when Barnes is just so close to proving that strawberries are inferior, Nora’s yells cut off sharply.
They exchange a glance.
Sam worries at his lower lip. “Should we… do something?”
Barnes sighs. He knows what he has to do, and he’s not particularly enthusiastic about it. “You know what?” He demands, standing up. “Fuck this. We are two grown men—”
“Actually, you’re a senior citizen—”
“We have no reason to be scared of a girl that can move things with her mind.”
“We have some reasons.” Sam offers helpfully from below them.
He grins at him. “Get up, bird boy.”
When they enter the room (the one that Barnes used to sleep in), they discover Nora sitting in the corner, facing the back wall. The twitch of her fingers is the only thing that indicates her being aware of their presence. Barnes tilts his head and Sam clears his throat.
“Nightmares?” Sam asks kindly.
Nora turns around, scowls at both of them. She doesn’t seem afraid of them anymore. “No, I scream for hours in the middle of the night for pure fun. The rush is like cocaine to me.” She really does not seem afraid of them. Barnes laughs.
Sam sighs. “It’s just a month. I think we’re going to do just fine.”
He was wrong. A few things go awry— Nova smashes a wine bottle over Barnes’ head. It spooks him for a few days, because she doesn’t have to touch objects to hit him with it. Nova questions whether she had only been put with Sam because they were both black and doesn’t speak for a few hours. They both rush to tell her otherwise, but she doesn’t believe them.
On her fifteenth birthday, she doesn’t get frightened by the amount of people that show up. She stops throwing things at Barnes’ head whenever he moves too quickly. She also stops snapping at Sam whenever he offers help. Barnes becomes Bucky— not the old one, but his own version of it— she fucking hugs him.
And when Sam and Bucky kiss in the kitchen, surrounded by flour and sugar and love, she screams so loudly Bucky could swear he heard some windows break upstairs.
The month’s over and they both sign the adoption papers— so now, Nova’s legally theirs.