When Bucky loses track of himself in public spaces, Steve’s instinct is to guide, shelter, and nearly smother him with care. Bucky has to shake him off afterward, spend all of his remaining energy convincing Steve he’s alright.
He’s jogging with Steve and Sam when it happens one morning. He can smell some family setting out butterbrots and kasha and for a second he can’t remember—or maybe it is remembering, but it ties up his feet and he stumbles. He can’t remember whether he speaks Russian or English—no, it’s definitely Russian, he’s definitely speaking in Russian.
Steve gasps and rushes to his side, but Sam cuts him off, gets in his way.
"Hey, comrade," said Sam, holding out a hand to Bucky, "thought you were on my right."
Bucky takes the hand.
“На правой стороне. Да.”
Sam nods and takes off again, pulling Steve by the elbow. Bucky keeps pace easily.
He can’t sleep. The bed’s too soft, everyone told him that, but also the apartment was too close, too filled with Steve. It made his head hurt like trying to speak a language he doesn’t know, always throbbing in his brain.
He sits outside of Sam’s window in Harlem on the fire escape one morning just before dawn. There’s a nest of pigeons on the roof of the next building and he just watches them coo and rustle for a couple of hours.
He falls asleep with his head tilted against the window pane.
He wakes before noon and finds a paper bag next to him. He opens it and finds two donuts inside. One is topped with pink frosting and sprinkles. It makes him smile and tastes of nothing but sugar.
Sam leaves the window open when it gets warmer. Bucky sits on the window sill and listens when Sam explains why Marvin Gaye is all you need to know about the twentieth century and how his grandmother used to make rye bread from scratch.
Bucky doesn’t loop around Sam the way Steve does. Steve always has a route and a goal and a purpose, but Bucky never does. Sometimes he runs backwards, just to face Sam and to make him smile when he knocks into the inevitable obstacle.
Steve comes around again. Bucky tries to trip him, Steve leapfrogs over Bucky’s shoulders.
Bucky bites his lip when his own grin gets too big, but likes the way it lingers on Sam’s face.
Bucky cooks in Sam’s apartment and Sam leaves the baseball game on in the living room. Bucky doesn’t remember much about baseball, but he likes the crack of the bat when it hits the ball.
Sam meets him in a field with two catcher’s mitts and a baseball. Bucky throws with his right-hand even though it feels unnatural. Steve told him he was a righty, but he doesn’t remember it. He doesn’t feel like a righty.
Just to see, Sam runs down the field and Bucky lobs one with his left. Sam has to run even farther, his eyes squinting up into the sunlight.
Bucky runs after him.
That feels right.
Bucky watches TV with Sam on his couch until Sam falls asleep on his shoulder. Bucky doesn’t sleep easily and envies the ability to lean up against another person and forget that they could kill you.
He shifts his arm so that flesh-and-blood tucks around Sam and pulls him slightly closer. He can feel Sam’s warm breath on the joint between neck and shoulder.
Sam wakes up slowly an hour later and smiles at Bucky.
And Bucky may not be the man he once was—or even the man he was after that—but Sam’s too good, it fills him up to think about how good Sam is and how little he asks of Bucky.
"Hey, comrade," said Sam, sleep-rough and deep, "is something gonna happen here?"
So Bucky leaned in and kissed him.