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Five minutes

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Sam is 20% peeved, 20% relieved and 110% confused. And yes he knows the logic behind percentages and how his maths just doesn’t add up at this point, but hey, he figures in this particular circumstance, he has every right to mess with arithmetic just a little bit (or a lot, really, but who’s actually counting?).

Because of all the scenarios that he’d concocted in his head regarding bringing one James Buchanan Barnes a.k.a Steven Grant Rogers’ childhood best friend presumed dead for 70 years, the Winter Soldier kicking the door of the apartment in and glaring at them all in the most ‘I am so done with your shit’ expression on his face was not one of them.

Naturally, such a dramatic entrance made all of them jump to defensive positions despite the fact that they were all nursing substantial injuries from a battle with not just mindless AIM robots, but dinosaurs as well. Seriously, what is Sam’s life, even?

Natasha is on her feet with both handguns already pointed at the door even before the door hits the wall with a loud crash. Sam hops off the couch, left hand dropping to the engage switch off his wings and right hand already bringing up a firearm. They’ve both got the intruder in their sights and ready to rain bullets down if necessary.

Clint just rolls to the ground considering he’s got one foot in a brace and one arm in a sling; being out of the line of fire is the safest place for him at this point.

Steve is crouched, reaching over his shoulder and flinging his shield. Only for the intruder to shift his stance sideways and catch it with his left hand.

Sam’s jaw drops. Natasha huffs. Clint murmurs “holy fuck”.

Their leather-clad guest adjusts his grip on the shield and tosses it lazily back at Steve, muttering “Jesus Christ, Rogers, I’m happy to see you, too.”

Steve almost doesn’t catch the shield because he’s gaping so hard. “Bucky?”

Sam snaps his gaze to Steve. What?

Apparently-but-really-couldn’t-possibly-be-Bucky steps from the shadows of the doorway and into the relative light of the living area. “That how you greet all your guests?” supposedly-Bucky asks sarcastically.

Natasha huffs again, then holsters her guns before flopping back onto the couch. Clint looks at possibly-Bucky, then at Natasha, shrugs, then yanks himself up onto the couch making himself comfortable.

“Bucky?” The way Steve says the name again is more commonly seen on a 13 year old fan meeting her celebrity crush than One Of The Greatest Tactical Minds In Modern History. Sam stares in disbelief.

Rather than answer Steve, the Guy We’ve Been Looking For But Couldn’t Find Who’s Now Found Us Surprise Surprise goes on what Sam would best describe as A Rant. Capital letters and everything. The next five minutes are taken up by Steve’s Not-Missing-BFF laying into Steve about Steve’s general recklessness and lack of self-preservation. It’s a very detailed rant; from what Sam can gather, mister Assassin and possibly Super Spy has managed to complain about something that Steve has done - or not done but should have - in possibly every mission they’d been on in the past eight months.

(Which, rude! If the Ghost Who Walks had known exactly where they all were for so long, why didn’t he just make himself known to Steve so that Steve would stop doing all this reckless shit? Seriously? Not that hard to figure out, Sergeant I Was The Common Sense Behind One Of The Greatest Tactical Minds In Modern History.)

And Steve. Steve is still looking at the scary not-Russian-but-actually-American assassin as though Barnes hung the sun, the moon and Rainbow fucking Bright in the sky.

Sam wants to puke. If spending nearly two years chasing after a ghost - who did not need to be found after all, thank you for nothing, Sergeant! - didn’t make him come to the slow and painful realisation that Captain Aw Shucks had more than platonic feelings for his BFF, then the disgustingly adoring expression on his face as previously-presumed-dead-but-obviously-alive childhood friend continued to rant at Steven Reckless is my middle name Rogers finally convinces him.

Sam is about 90% sure that Steve isn’t even listening to what Barnes is yelling. The other 10% that thinks Steven is listening is also 99.9% sure that all Steve can hear are choirs of angels and Barnes reciting some tragically romantic Keats at him, rather than Barnes try to tear him a new one for everything ranging from jumping out of a plane without a parachute, to showing up in the Siberian winter without a fur-coat to keep him warm.

One part of Sam actually finds himself agreeing with the brainwashed super-soldier, because Steve was a disaster waiting to happen and needed supervision. Constant supervision. If Captain I’m Fine But Thank You For Your Concern, Ma’am America was left to his own devices, he’d be going for his 6am jog the morning after having had major surgery to stop his internal organs from bleeding out. Sam starts nodding along while Barnes tells Steve this in no uncertain terms.

“Honestly, haven’t you learned anything? I can’t fucking leave you alone to your devices, can I?” Barnes says with maximum exasperation.

“No, you can’t,” Steve agrees.

“You obviously don’t know what the definition of personal safety is and if I wasn’t around you’d be shot at or slip on ice or something equally stupid within five minutes of leaving your house!”

“five minutes,” Steve nods.

“It’s like you went into that goddamn chamber and came out and lost what little sense of self-preservation you had left!”

“Nothing left!” Steve parrots back earnestly.

Sam resists the need to facepalm rather painfully, because was Steve actually agreeing with Barnes? Sam really wasn’t getting paid enough for this shit.

Barnes must have realised that all his yelling was having the same effect as a slap to Captain I’m The Definition Of Healthy, Sir, Despite All The Blood Rogers’ thick skull - being nothing at all - so he stops berating, runs a frustrated hand through his hair, and finally takes the time to give everyone else in the room more than a cursory glance.

Sam almost jumps out of skin when Barnes’ murder glare lands on him, finding himself the object of Barnes’s ire as the deadly former Asset points a metal finger at him.

“And you! I trusted you; I let him stay with you for two whole years. How could you let this happen?”

“Sorry?” he offers tentatively, not quite sure what he’s apologising for but instinctively knowing that begging for forgiveness is the correct path to take right now.

The Winter Soldier glares at him, but decides not to kill him, which Sam thinks is major win.

“You should be sorry,” Barnes half-growls. “Letting Steve get away with all this stuff. You’ve seen how reckless he can be, how he’s got no self-preservation whatsoever - why didn’t you try and stop him?”

Now that’s quite unfair, Sam now thinks, and against his own sense of self-preservation, decides to tell Barnes that. “I suppose you have a way of stopping him from jumping out of elevators - or a plane for that matter - that’s effective?”

Most Feared Assassin in the World growls, and this time, Sam’s survival instincts actually kick in and he steps back to give himself space to defend himself. But the the highly irate man in black just glares at him for another second, then stomps over to where Steven I am Fearless and Indestructible Rogers is gazing up at him like a Disney Princess who’s just met her Prince Charming, and takes Steve into a headlock.

“Do not be afraid to use force and point out rather bluntly how downright stupid what he’s about to do is,” Barnes all but snarls. “He’ll fight you about it, but if you just put your foot down and threaten to kick his ass, he’ll eventually agree with you; especially if you guilt him into doing what you say. He’s an idiot; but he’s an idiot who cares about other people and would hate to be the reason why they get hurt ‘coz of his stupidity.”

Heh. That. Actually made sense. Damn. Why didn’t Sam think of that before?

The scathing look Mr. Murder Eyes gives him tells Sam all he needs to know about Barnes’ opinion on why Sam hadn’t thought of that before. Sam concedes the loss and shrugs.

He is more than just a little bit surprised when Barnes turns to Natasha.

“And you, spiderling, I expected better from you, too.” Although the words are also scathing, the tone is tinged with affection that Sam thinks is very unfair - Natasha knew Steve for longer, how come she isn’t getting skinned alive as much as he is?

“Don’t give me that, James.” It comes out sounding like Djemz , but Sam is pretty sure she is pronouncing The Only Howling Commando To Lose His Life’s first name. “You of all people know Sam is right. Your boy doesn’t listen to anyone when he makes his mind up; he’s stubborn like that.”

The look Natasha is giving Barnes is a mix of amused and challenging, and Sam feels even more indignant when Sergeant I could Kill You Twenty Four different Ways With a Hairpin Barnes just sighs in agreement, because what else could he do?

“I never taught you to give up so easily.”

“You taught me to pick my battles.” Natasha nods at the completely smitten Steve still locked underneath Barnes’ arm. “And this one can be a hopeless case.”

To Sam’s everlasting surprise, Scary Motherfucker peers down at Steve - who’s now touching Barnes’ face and shoulders with a look of wonder on his face - and runs the knuckles of his metal hand across Captain I am have no feelings what are those? cheeks. How Steve hasn’t melted in a puddle of goo yet, Sam has no idea. “Yeah,” Barnes whispers, “he really is, isn’t he?”

The short exchange confuses the hell out of Sam, because A) Barnes trained Natasha?!?! and B) how the hell did they just go from being threatened to being treated to a short episode of Hallmark’s greatest love story? Because seriously, the way Barnes and Steve are looking at each other, Sam’s surprised birds chirping and choirs of angels haven’t spontaneously manifested themselves in their living room yet. Sam was seriously not getting paid enough for this shit.

“Listen, I hate to break up this touching reunion, but where the fuck have you been?” Sam asks, finally getting angry at the thought that Sgt. James B. Barnes had been leading them on a merry chase for so long. “I mean, he obviously needs you around to keep his ass in line, so why were you avoiding him?”

There is a long, heavy silence as Mr. I’m Hydra’s Greatest Nightmare Come To Life slowly lets go of Steve - who makes a strangled noise and tries to cling to Barnes in a panic - and takes a deep breath. Barnes gently tries to disentangle himself from Steve, who hisses at him like an angry kitten and clings even tighter. After five minutes of this, Barnes just sighs and gives up trying to get away from Captain Koala; it’s another five minutes of mostly silence with the only sound being Steve alternating between making crooning and whimpering sounds at his Long-Lost-But-Now-Am-Found best friend.

“Have you ever felt so lost from yourself that you don’t even know if the person you look in the mirror is even you?” Barnes asks softly, looking somewhere over Sam’s shoulder and petting Steve almost absent-mindedly. “Have you ever doubted your memories, wondering if they’re true, hoping to God it’s not because you hate that version of you? Have you ever wondered what it be like to be a real person? Someone normal, someone who could actually function in society? Someone who didn’t have a panic attack just because someone dropped their fucking fork in the middle of diner in the middle of fucking nowhere?”

“Yes,” Clint says softly, even as Natasha adds, “Too many times.”

Barnes looks at them with a gentleness and sadness that makes Sam feel like an absolute heel. Jesus, the amount of baggage they carried around would make an oil baron with an entire entourage traveling to the Bahamas envious. “Then you know why I had stay away until I figured out who I was.”

And yeah okay, maybe Barnes had a point there. “Well, welcome back then,” Sam says, because what else could he say? “Maybe now you’re here your boy will actually keep himself out of trouble.”

Barnes scoffs lightly but places an almost imperceptible kiss to the top of Steve’s head. “Yeah, for about five minutes.”

“Five minutes,” Steve murmurs in agreement, back to gazing up at Barnes with hearts-eyes.

Well, Sam thinks, five minutes is still better than nothing. He’ll take it.