Trouble is a Friend of Mine

by Tenshi

So don't be alarmed
If he takes you by the arm
I won't let him win
But I'm a sucker for his charm
- Lenka - Trouble is a Friend

When Sam arrived at Steve's apartment he came prepared: with one egg mcmuffin for himself and three for Steve. After that first morning when Steve and Natasha had appeared on his doorstep and he had watched Steve put away two huge plates of eggs and bacon and still have a lean and hungry look about him, Sam had learned not to underestimate Captain America's capacity for food.

"His metabolism is off the charts because of the soldier-serum," Natasha had explained at the time, over her coffee. "Every mission we go on I've got to keep a one-pound bag of peanut M&Ms in the chopper."

"That's because those bar things you tried to pawn off on me tasted like roofing shingles," Steve countered, chasing a bit of egg around his plate with the last corner of his toast.

"They were chocolate chip cookie flavor!"

"Made by someone who had never eaten one. Or possibly ever heard of them."

And that was when Sam Wilson had discovered that you don't learn everything about superheroes just by visiting their Smithsonian exhibit. Still, even after working with Steve and fighting alongside him and helping him get to the hospital bathroom when he still had IVs and tubes coming out every which way, he couldn't deny there was still a little bit of a fanboy flutter down inside. Steve was Captain Goddamn America, and Sam was only human.

But when Steve opened the door, and Sam got a good look at his hollow-eyed, sleep-deprived face, Sam remembered that Captain America was human, too.

"You look like hell," he said, and handed the bag of sandwiches to Steve. He might want to eat all four of them, actually. "What's the deal with calling me this early?"

Steve didn't answer, not even a wry thank-you in response to the comment about his appearance. Instead he put a finger to his lips to warn Sam to be quiet, and shut and locked the door with military-grade caution. Sam's nerves immediately sang with warning, and he tensed in expectation of attack from some unknown quarter. Steve waved him into the apartment, crooking one finger to get Sam to follow him to the bedroom, where he tilted his head at the bed in a deliberate kind of way.

Several things crossed Sam's mind while this was going on. One, that this was the single weirdest hook-up scenario he'd ever heard of, but who knows, maybe that's how they did it in the 40's, when being gay was punishable by burning at the stake or thumbscrews or something. Two, that he had expected Steve to make his bed every morning without fail, hospital-corners and all, especially if he was inviting someone over for some weird no-talking-allowed liaison, and the sight of the rumpled sheets and pillows was almost indecent. Three, that someone was already in the bed, a someone that had a metal arm emblazoned with a crimson star, and the last time Sam had seen him he was doing his level best to murder Sam and all his friends. (There was also a number four, which was the realization that Steve wasn't actually hitting on him after all, and that was surprisingly disappointing. Compared to the fact that the Winter Soldier was out cold in Steve's bed, however, that thought arrived well to the rear of the rest of the pack.)

Steve eased the bedroom door to, and nodded his head back to the kitchen.

"He just got to sleep a few hours ago," Steve said, when they were safely back. "I don't want to wake him up."

"Steve, that's the Winter Soldier you're talking about, not a fussy baby." Sam fought to keep his voice low. "You're not even allowed to have pets in these apartments, man! Soviet assassins are right out."

"He's not a Soviet assassin any more," Steve answered, with quiet firmness. "He's my friend, and I'm going to do whatever it takes to get him back together."

Sam deflated into the nearest chair, wasted adrenaline leaving him limp. "So what you're saying is I should have brought five sandwiches."

"What I'm saying is I'm going to need is some medicine--antibiotics and painkillers, but I wouldn't say no to some sedatives either--an arm splint, a replacement social security card and driver's license, and some groceries, because I was planning on going out today, and I've got nothing in the house except coffee creamer and half a jar of spaghetti sauce."

Sam folded his arms. "Well, you talk to your spy-friends about all that paperwork stuff, but the meds I can do."

"I'm out of spy-friends," Steve said, smiling. "Except for the one in the bedroom. All I've got is you and Stark."

"And Stark's not gonna come down here just to buy you your Cheerios."

"Corn flakes."

"Whatever." Sam sighed, stood up, and stared up at a faint water stain on Steve's ceiling. "Where did you find him?"

"I didn't." Steve was investigating the squishy contents of one of the sandwich wrappers, unenthusiastically. "He found me."

Sam watched Steve eat half the sandwich before asking, "What are you going to do with him?"

"I'm not going to do anything with him, Sam. I'm going to take care of him as long as he needs me to, and if he wants to go after Hydra with us, then I'll be glad to have him along." He unwrapped the second sandwich without even noticing it. "If he's done with fighting, I can't blame him. But something tells me he's not going to just bow out. Not after what they did to him." The wrapper crinkled in protest as his fist clenched.

Sam shifted his weight, his jaw, and his intended questions around before asking the one that was most obvious. "...Can we trust him?"

Steve looked up at him, and the hurt on his face made Sam wish he was a little better with words. But he knew, from Steve's expression, that he had only asked the question Steve had been asking himself. "I trust Bucky with my life."

"I'm not talking about the guy you went to war with--and yeah, I've been to the exhibit down at Air & Space. How do you know he's not going to just snap on us without warning? One minute he's fine and then boom--" The boom was emphasized more forcefully than Sam intended, as he swung out an arm and it collided, noisily, with the pile of dishes in the strainer. There was a horrible clamor of pots and pans and Sam's audible dismay, but he never had a chance to apologize. A blur of silent motion, a hard impact of a body against his own, and Sam Wilson had a steel arm wrapped around his neck before he could even react.

"Bucky!" Steve shouted, but the pressure on Sam's windpipe did not relent.

"Кто ты?" the Winter Soldier demanded, and while Sam wasn't up on his Russian, he knew the question wasn't friendly.

"Rogers!" he gasped, his fingers trying and failing to get any purchase on the slick metal arm. "Call off your dog!"

"Bucky!" Steve said again, with more force, and Bucky's head jerked back slightly as though it was on a string. Through the black splodges in his vision, Sam could see Steve holding up both his hands.

"It's okay, Bucky," Steve said, in calming tones. "It's okay. He's on our side. You can let him go."

For a terrible moment Sam was afraid it wasn't going to work, and then without any other warning he was released. Bucky's switch from aggression to passivity was jarring; he circled around beside Steve and glared at Sam through red-rimmed, hostile eyes.

"Jesus," Sam wheezed, leaning on the edge of the sink and massaging his throat. "That's just the kind of thing I'm talking about, man!"

"You might want to try and keep your voice down," Steve said, in something like a monotone, as Bucky went taut beside him. "Just a suggestion."

" Является ли он друг?" The Winter Soldier had not so much as twitched, still staring at Sam as though he expected him to attack at any second.

" Да." It was Steve who answered, and somehow that response was the one that made Bucky blink and uncoil, looking at Steve in mild confusion.

"Your accent's gotten better," he said, and Steve's face lit up in a way that Sam could only call heartbreaking.

"Natasha's been on me about it for the past two years," Steve said, while Bucky frowned around the kitchenette as though unsure how he'd gotten there.

"Natasha." Bucky said. "The woman with you on the bridge. The redhead."

Steve broke into a smile. "That's right." Bucky looked pleased with himself, and Steve just looked at Bucky looking pleased with himself, and they might well have done it all day before Sam coughed.

"Still standing here, guys."

Bucky's expression as he studied Sam was no longer murderous, only curious. "I know you," he said, and then nodded, as though he had confirmed it. "I tore off your wing."

"Oh, now he remembers," Sam said to Steve, with an exasperated--but restrained--gesture in Bucky's direction. "Well, that's a relief. I'm sure he won't try to attack anybody else now."

"I assumed there was a hostile in play," Bucky folded one metal arm over his bruised human one, and surveyed Sam from toes to forehead. "Making all that noise."

"Well, I'm not sticking around, so you can go back to getting your beauty sleep." Sam turned to Steve, who was still watching Bucky as though he was some endangered bird about to fly away. "Meds, groceries. You need anything else? New toothbrush--" He glanced back at Bucky, and raised his eyebrows at his left arm. "--WD-40?"

Bucky's eyes flashed, and Sam couldn't help but inch back a little towards the sink. That guy had very recently ripped the wheel out of his car, after all.

"Civilian clothes," he said, and the way he locked eyes with Sam made it sound like a threat. "Carbon fiber knives, at least three. Night vision goggles. C-4 and blasting supplies. A smartphone I can jailbreak. A complete map of the DC Metro with accurate track layout and service tunnels. Black leather gloves, fingerless, padded palm. A long range rifle with a good sight. Two handguns, unregistered, with ammo."

Silence in the little kitchenette. Steve had his hand over his mouth, and Sam had the distinct feeling that Captain America was doing his damn best not to laugh out loud.

"Something I can get at Safeway," Sam clarified.

The Winter Solder took only a few seconds to process this new requirement. "Hairties," he said, and walked out of the kitchen, back into Steve's room. There was a creak of mattress springs as he lay down again.

"You did ask--" Steve began, at the same time Sam said, "Yeah I asked, I asked."

Sam sighed, and shook his head. "You sure about this?"

Steve carefully laced his fingers together on the table. "I'm sure."

"Yeah, I was afraid you'd say that." Sam scooped up his car keys from the counter. "All right. I'll be back in a couple of hours. If you get murdered in the meantime, my eulogy is going to center on the theme of I-told-you-so."

"Fair enough," Steve answered. "Thanks for breakfast. Oh, and Sam?"

Sam hesitated, half-in and half-out the door. "Yeah?"

"We're probably going to need all of that stuff Bucky asked for, too."

Sam slipped his sunglasses on, already thinking about surplus stores, firing ranges, and all the many favors he was going to be calling in. "Baby, I am already on it."


Note: "Кто ты" = Who are you
"Является ли он друг" = Is he a friend
"Да" = yes
(Thanks to my Russian friends and google translate!)

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