“You nearly killed me! Tell me that’s not a big deal,” Sam demanded.
Bucky had the good grace to look somewhat ashamed but Sam could tell his heart wasn’t really in it. Sam had wanted Bucky to be a part of their group. Had wanted him rehabilitate, for himself and for Steve’s sake. He knew of too many “broken” soldiers who thought themselves beyond repair. He proved each and every one of them wrong because, in some way, there was always a way to heal. And until he met James Buchanan Barnes he held onto that ideal.
But after watching him get chased through the streets, fling himself out windows, down stairs and full-on into people, he wasn’t so sure. Bucky was different from every released soldier he had ever met.
Probably because he was never officially released.
The man was madder than a sack of wet cats and he couldn’t fault the man. He couldn’t be sure he would fare any better than Bucky had if he had endured the kind of torture and conditioning he had. He pitied the man, even if pity was a dirty word to most veterans.
But his laissez faire attitude to the well-being of everyone around him, except for Steve, had him on edge. Sam knew when to follow Steve, what to stand up for, who needed a good ass-kicking. He wasn’t a dumb man and he knew who the enemy was pure and simple, even if some good people often got chewed up in the process of defeating it. Price of war. He would follow his Captain “til the end of the line”, as Steve liked to say. But he didn’t know how much longer he could physically be around the feral badger that had become Bucky Barnes. Sam was used to callousness and brutality and unabashed cruelty. Bucky didn’t seem to fit the bill but he still proved himself to be a dangerous man.
“You nearly threw me out the goddamn window!” He pointed to the cracked window as evidence.
Bucky shrugged, “you snuck up behind me.” He sat, curled in on himself against a wall, eyes darting between him, Steve, and the door, obviously weighing the possibilities and planning ahead for an escape. The man was used to playing life like a chessboard, keeping multiple moves ready to play. It was a testament to his desire to try to regain an ounce of normalcy that he hadn’t darted off right away.
“So you throw a man across a room?” Bucky shifted uncomfortably.
“That’s not how you go about dealing with people,” Sam countered, even knowing full well Bucky’s past.
Bucky shrugged again, uninterested in defending himself. “Old habits die hard, I suppose.”
“Old habits,” Sam chuckled mirthlessly.
“Easy, Sam,” Steve tried, soothingly. “You know he-”
“No, Steve, I don’t know,” Sam shouted. “I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me!” He glared at Bucky ducked his face, anticipating more verbal abuse. He was so fucking angry. If he had had his wings on he’d be less so. As it was, he didn’t and they were up ten stories and the ground does not make for a soft landing. If Steve hadn’t grabbed him at the right moment he would have gone down and that’d be the end of poor ol’ Sam Wilson.
He opened his mouth to start another round of cathartic yelling. But then watching the complacent, resigned look on Bucky’s face, a face that spoke of so much past abuse that nothing registered as pain anymore, he couldn’t hold onto his ire. He felt himself deflate, inwardly cursing himself for yelling at him. Yelling at Bucky for his defensive behavior was like yelling at a kicked puppy for piddling on the floor. Behavior can be unlearned but shouting was not the way to do it effectively.
Exhaling long and hard through his nose, he crouched down so he was eye level with Bucky and said. “Listen man, I’m sorry I yelled. But you realized you could have killed me, right?”
Without meeting his eyes Bucky responded, “you wouldn’t be the first.” Sam felt the anger grow in him once more at the flippant answer but Bucky’s next words brought it back down. “But I can try not aiming at a window, next time.” He finally raised his head and gave Sam the smallest hint, the palest shadow of a grin.
In that small grin, Sam could see the potential for hope for him. Humor was a popular deflector, crutch and balm. It was a way to disguise a problem or to heal one. If you’re not laughing you’re crying, his mom used to say. Bucky looked like a man who had dealt with enough tears and was ready to laugh again. There was hope in him, yet.
Eventually. Sam held out a hand to shake and seal the deal, chuckling, “deal. I’ll hold you to it.”
Bucky clasped Sam’s extended hand with his own and pumped it twice amicably. He watched as Bucky flicked his eyes up to something behind Sam. His smile deepened a fraction, so small that you might’ve missed it if you weren’t looking, and Sam could tell Steve had approved of their deal.
He may not like the man that Bucky had become, fuck you very much Hydra, but he hoped sincerely that the new Bucky, the no-longer-Winter-Soldier-Bucky, could be a man he could call a friend.
And that was worth sticking it out for.