When Sam died, it stunned the world. It stunned the Avengers. It stunned everyone. But most importantly, it stunned Bucky Barnes.
When Sam died, it was an honourable death. Sure, the reason he may have died because he had convinced Bucky to let him fight, even when he was sick, even when he was still recovering from their previous mission. Even when he had a concussion, even when he had bruised ribs, he still wanted to fight. It reminded Bucky of Steve, in a way.
“I absolutely refuse to let you have all the fun,” Sam had argued. Even when he was in pain, even when he told Bucky himself that it hurt to even stand up, he still had the stupid grin on his face that he always wore. Bucky let it happen.
"Hey, if I die, tell Figaro I love him," Sam had said in a joking manner, and Bucky rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, yeah. You're not going to die. Not on my watch. I'll kill myself before I let that happen."
"You're the best boyfriend ever."
They had kissed one last time that day, and if Bucky had known, he'd never had let Sam go with him.
"Careful, you might get sick too."
"You're forgetting that I'm a super soldier."
"They can get sick too, can't they?"
Bucky had laughed, "sure, sure."
He saw it happen. Like it was slow motion. It put him through shock, a sort of flashback that reminded him back when it was the forties, when he had been trying to reach for Steve’s hand in a desperate attempt to not fall off. He didn’t have enough time, didn’t have enough time to fully comprehend the situation, not enough focus. When he reached out his hand, he was too late.
Always too late, and that’s when he heard Sam scream, scream as his wings stopped working, scream when he couldn’t reach the ledge in time to hold on. He screamed as he fell, and his voice would forever be stuck in Bucky’s mind, no matter how much he tried to forget.
He was there, he could’ve stopped, but he had frozen in his spot because of his own memories, because of something he’d remembered, and now Sam was dead.
He was dead.
Because of him.
When Sam died, Bucky realized what Steve must've felt when he had fallen off the train. When Sam died, Bucky went ballistic, knocking out or killing the rest of their enemies' goons, throwing them off the ledge, so that they could feel the pain that Sam had felt.
When Sam died, Bucky knocked out Zemo, and the world went quiet. He would've killed him, and maybe he should have, but he was pulled away, a hushed voice whispering in his ear as he was held close. At first, he didn't pull away. Why would he? Sam had done this. He'd hug him like this whenever he had nightmares. He'd hug him like this too, because Sam had always been the little spoon.
But as soon as he saw the blonde hair that he'd always recognize, he went feral, prying her arms off of him and choking out a sob. He was pulled into another hug, her arms now fully wrapped around him. Bucky shook his head continuously, refusing to listen to her words, refusing to even look at her, but she talked anyways.
"You're okay, Bucky, cmon, you're okay."
"Sam- Sam. Sam, Sam, is he-" Bucky stumbled over his words, forcing back tears as Sharon finally let him go. She followed him when he headed back down into the streets, a distressed look on his face as he looked for Sam.
"Sam- Sam, please, please, please."
Bucky almost broke down when he saw Sam's crippled body laying in the middle of the road, the cars stopped around him. People went out, filled with curiosity before they saw what had happened to Captain America. Bucky pushed people out of the way, kneeling down in front of him, feeling his neck and his wrist in an attempt to find a heartbeat.
He never did.
When Sam died, the world was in constant debate on whether or not he had been a good Captain America. Bucky took it upon himself to tell everyone about how great he was, how well he took on the responsibility of being the new Captain America. He argued with people until he was close to tears, but it was worth it.
It was all worth it.
"You don't need to do that," Sam had once said quietly when they exited a bar. They were having drinks as a celebration, it had been officially two months since they had gotten together.
"Do what?" Bucky had asked in a curious voice, pulling his jacket on and handing Sam his own.
"Defend me. I get it a lot, it's no big deal."
"No big deal?" Bucky had looked at Sam in bewilderment, before he interlocked their hands together. "It's not okay."
Sam had smiled at him, a gentle sad smile, and they stayed like that, even when they reached their car. He had rested his head on Bucky's shoulder when they got inside, just their presence keeping each other company.
"You know it's not, right?" Bucky had asked him quietly after a while, rubbing small circles on the back of Sam's hand.
"I can't do jack about it, why even bother?"
"Because you're The Falcon and Captain America. It's like a buy one get one free deal. Or whatever it's called."
"That's a good way to think about it. I just… don't want to disappoint Steve."
"You're not disappointing him. You're making him proud, he'd want you to stand up to racists, to be Captain America. Back then? People didn't give a shit whether or not you were racist, they wouldn't even allow coloured people in the military. Now? There's still some bigoted people."
"Not as bad."
"True. It's less than before, but it's still not good. Don't just take it, do something about it. Educate them. I don't want you going through that."
Sam had looked at him for a long time, something in his eyes that Bucky couldn't quite place, before he laughed, his eyes twinkling with mischievousness. "You're such a sap, kiss me."
"You started it," Bucky replied back, but he'd kissed him nonetheless; a long, gentle kiss that made the world fade away. It was moments like these when he had been thankful for someone like him, someone who was there, someone who cared.
Someone who appreciated him. Someone who didn't leave.
When Sam died, Bucky cut off all ties with the Avengers. He refused to see Fury, let alone even talk to him on the phone, so he let his phone ring, every day. Day in, day out, he just kept his phone on silent mode and let it ring.
He refused to talk to anyone, not even T'Challa or Shuri. He stayed home, or at bars, because he couldn't handle staying at the house any longer. It reminded him too much of Sam, it smelled too strongly of him. It was like he could hear his voice, whenever he tried to close his eyes and sleep.
He tried to recover. He really did. He tried getting a therapist, but it would never work, no matter how much pills he was prescribed. He quit going weeks later and stayed in bars at night, to try and forget, to convince himself that Sam was just at another stakeout, or another mission. He tried to somehow convince himself that Sam was alive, but it never worked.
Nothing worked. He stayed inside the house, staring at the walls or petting the cats. He fed the cats and cleaned up after them, but he never fed himself. The fridge was never really full since the beginning, but it was now filled with expired food, and Bucky couldn't care less.
Sharon came over sometimes, to try and convince Bucky to eat. He had lost a dangerous amount of weight over the course of two months, and she hoped with all her heart that he would get better. She brought him over to group therapy sessions, to rehab, whatever she thought that might be able to help him. Nothing worked. He remained as he was, cold and silent.
One day, when Sharon was visiting, she noticed that Bucky wasn't in his room. She frowned at this and looked around before seeing him hunched over on Sam's bed, holding one of his shirts close to him.
"Buck?" She asked quietly, knocking on the door. He didn't answer, shaking his head.
"Bucky, hey…" Sharon sat beside him, putting an arm around him and pulling him close, and Bucky shook his head again. Unfortunately, his tears betrayed him as they started falling onto Sam's shirt.
It was a grey shirt with the Captain America logo printed on it, one that Sam wore ironically whenever they went out to eat. Bucky always pretended to hate it, but he loved his dork of a boyfriend anyways.
Now, he was gone, and he only held the shirt tightly in his hands as he cried, his throat raw from the lack of water, and he let himself be hugged by Sharon. "I... I miss him…"
Sharon sighed sadly, gently running her fingers in his hair in an attempt to calm him down. "I know…"
"I miss him, I hear him everyday, but he's never here."
"I'm sorry, Bucky…"
"I miss him, Sharon, I…"
"Easy, get some rest, okay? You look terrible."
When Sam died, Bucky gave away the cats to some kind old ladies that Peter had saved a few days ago. They thanked him and cooed about them as they started their trek home, and Alpine looked over at him as they walked away.
It was those eyes, the look of betrayal that hurt him the most. Bucky had went home that day and cried again, burying his face in hands and shaking his head.
When they had gotten Figaro, Sam's first reaction when he saw him was, "You really got me my very own bratty cat?"
Bucky had laughed, watching Sam as he petted the cat in his arm, silently humming in his ear. "You know it, he's all yours."
The grin that was placed on Sam's face had been irreplaceable, and he thought for a minute before saying, "hm… Figaro."
"That's a beautiful name."
It got worse. Memories came back to him, memories of Hydra's torture slowly came back and he woke up screaming at night, asking for Sam before realizing that he wasn't there. He had nightmares, and relived the same memory of Sam falling to his death over and over again.
Steve died a while later, three months after Sam's death. Bucky didn't go, he couldn't bring himself to get out of the house. It slowly clicked with him, that everyone he's loved, everyone's he's cared about has died.
All of them. Sam, Steve, even his teammates back in World War II. They were all gone. All of them.
He remembered their first kiss, when they were celebrating the defeat of one of their villains. They had gone out for drinks, and Bucky finally confessed, "I love you, Sam. Did I ever tell you that?"
He had sworn he saw a light tint of blush shine on his cheeks as he awkwardly smiled, avoiding his gaze. "You're drunk."
"I'm not," Bucky had said in a serious expression. He had waited anxiously watching Sam's face before he was pulled into a kiss by the man himself. He found himself relaxing in his arms as they kissed for the first time, gentle bar music playing in the background.
Now, Bucky looked at Sam's Captain America shirt, which sat beside him as his back went against the wall. He took a deep, shaking breath and closed his eyes. He opened and closed his fist, stopping it from shaking before he pressed the barrel against his chin. His lip quivered but he continued squeezing his eyes shut, before a final thought came to him.
I love you too.
When Sharon came to visit Bucky two days later, something felt different. She entered the door with a key that Sam had given her at one point, and she gasped, dropping the Chinese takeout that she had brought for him. She let out a choked sob and ran out of the house, calling Fury before emptying her stomach under a tree.