Sam was not trained for this. He was ex-air force, current support group leader at the VA. He was not a licensed therapist. But he was the closet thing they had and the 90-year-old master assassin most wanted person in the world couldn’t exactly go to a normal therapist. And Steve really hadn’t planned far enough ahead for this. He had been so focused on finding Bucky he hadn’t thought what it would be like when they found him. Tony wasn’t super enthusiastic about having his parent’s killer in the compound but he caught on pretty quickly that wasn’t staying after he found Bucky unless Bucky also stayed. So Tony promised Bucky could stay after he went through about a thousand checkpoints, including Sam, who had to give him either therapy sessions or mental health clear. And for some reason, Sam felt it was going to lean slightly to the former.
So Sam had been sitting in his “office” (office here meaning an empty room that had a chair and desk moved in) for an hour waiting for Bucky to be cleared for everything else since Sam was the final checkpoint. And it was boring but Sam was passing the time reading the file that had been provided for him and Jesus Christ this guy had been through a lot. As Sam was thinking that, there was a sharp knock on the door and Steve popped his head in.
“No. I am not trained for this. He needs an actual therapist. I’ll barely make a dent on all of this. Not to mention last time I saw this guy he was actively trying to kill me”
“I know. But… “
“Yeah yeah. Send him in.”
Steve nodded, muttered something, and then started to walk down the hall.
Bucky stepped through the door walking silently despite his heavy boots. A skill Sam wished nobody knew how to do but an unfortunate number of people in the compound could.
“Hey man. Quick disclaimer. I am not licensed but I’m still going to do my best to help you out okay?”
Bucky nodded but didn’t move from the doorway.
“For this to work, you’re going to have to trust me. Can you do that?” Sam said in a gentle voice praying Bucky wouldn’t randomly attack him.
Bucky didn’t say anything but he moved closer to the desk.
“Okay. Good. Do you want to sit down?” Sam asked.
He had planned this far ahead as he had put a chair in the corner so that Bucky could see all the entrances but have his back to a wall. Sam remembered that from when he came back. It was a little thing but it made him like his therapist a little more.
“So… how’s the modern world treating you?”
“I mean I’m the most wanted assassin in the world so I’m going to go with not great.”
Sam barked out a little laugh that stopped when he saw Bucky’s face. It wasn’t hurt or sad, it was more confused. Confused and guarded. As if he hadn’t heard someone laugh before. He decided to try to switch the topic and see if Bucky might loosen up a little bit.
“How are you finding the compound?”
“Big. Lots of rooms. Lots of people. And it has too many windows. Very easy to attack. I haven’t seen much of it. But it looks confusing. By any chance, do you have a map?”
“Can’t say that I do. But I’m sure Steve can show you around if you ask.”
“Yeah…” Bucky said looking down at his feet. It was a strange show of emotion as he was leaving his neck very unguarded although Sam was pretty sure if he tried to attack him, Bucky could still snap his neck.
“Is something wrong with Steve?”
“I mean… he seems really nice but people aren’t just nice for no reason. He has to want something. But I don’t know what it is. Besides, I remember him. I think. I’m not really sure. It’s kinda blurry. But maybe? Except it wasn’t quite him. Except maybe it was. I’m not really sure. And if I do know him that means he knew me. When I was… ya know back then. And that means either I killed someone he knew or he worked for Hydra.”
Bucky looked up for just a second before tilting his head to Sam.
“Do you trust him? Cause I wouldn’t. The people you trust the most have the most power to hurt you. It’s better to just leave them alone. Otherwise, you have a weakness. Or worse, you become their weakness.”
His words stopped coming as fast as they had started and he sat completely still not moving a muscle. Something that would have taken years to train into him and probably many injuries and pain. But if someone looked in right now they wouldn’t notice him or if they did, they would probably just think he was dead. You couldn’t even see him breathing.
“Well… would you want someone else to give you a tour of the compound then? I’m sure Natasha or Clint could. Maybe if you’re really lucky Bruce might. Who knows?”
“Yeah. Maybe. I dunno. If that’s what you think best. I don’t want to inconvenience anyone. I’m sure they’re all really busy.”
“Nah. We don’t actually do that much here. Just look cool unless some aliens show up. Then we fight them. It works out okay.”
“Oh well if you’re sure it won’t bother anyone.”
“Nope. I’ll call Natasha.”
“Thank you so much. Like a lot. This will be useful. Thank you.”
“No problem. Anything for my favourite patient.” Sam said winking. It was mostly a joke to see if Bucky was physically able to smile. The opposite happened.
Bucky’s eyes started darting around, taking everything in but not focusing on anything. His breathing slipped into irregularity and panting. The loud breaths were a contrast to the rest of the room where there was no sound. He balling his hands into fists and then flicking his hands out and back in. His leg was bouncing. Sam knew what this was. This was something Sam was familiar with. This was something anyone that came back knew. He could help with this. Maybe. He hadn’t done enough talking to Bucky to know what would help but similar things tended to help.
“Hey. It’s okay. You’re safe. You’re in the Avengers compound. You’re in New York. It’s September 3, 2014. You’re safe. Your name is James Buchannon Barnes but everyone calls you Bucky. You’re safe. You’re not with Hydra anymore. You are safe.”
Well, he was saying all of this, he slowly moved over and down to be sitting next to Bucky’s knee. Bucky’s eyes were still panicked but his movements were slightly less jerky. Less robotic more man. Sam carefully placed a hand on Bucky’s shoulder making sure not to touch his metal arm. That often just made these things worse. Bucky seemed to relax under his hand for a second before he surged again. His breath came out loud and sharp and tears started forming in his eyes. He stumbled out of the chair towards one of the windows. Sam couldn’t do anything but watch before Bucky moved with surprising ease and punched right through the window. His breath was ragged and then he almost seemed to snap into himself becoming silent.
Sam slowly walked towards him. Every reasonable urge in him screamed to fight but that would only make everything worse. Instead, Sam moved to Bucky’s side.
“It’s okay. You’re safe. You are James Buchannon Barnes, not the Winter Soldier. You are with the Avengers, not Hydra anymore.”
“James. Buchannon. Barnes. My name is James Buchannon Barnes. I’m… safe. Sergeant James Barnes. From Brooklyn.”
His breathing finally settled. Sam slowly moved back towards his seat. Bucky swirled around on his foot and started heading towards the door. Not quite a run but not a walk either.
“So I guess you’re gonna pass on the tour?”
Bucky scoffed as he passed through the doorway.
Sam settled back in his seat.
“I think that was a smashing success,” Natasha said from the hallway. “Get it? Smashing. Man. Tough audience.”
“So don’t call him a patient. And this is gonna be much harder than I thought.”