January 25, 2017
Sam pinched the bridge of his nose and leaned back in the co-pilot’s seat with a sigh. The most recent call to assemble had been a false alarm. Darcy, he was certain, was having severe words with the Chilean government regarding jumping to conclusions and securing their own military stockpiles. While he loved not being shot or maimed, he did not enjoy the long-ass flight.
Especially as that had him sitting in the cockpit with Steve while Wanda and Vision played footsie in the back. He almost wished Barnes had been along on this one, just so someone could supervise the most painfully obtuse wooing of the century. Barnes would hate it too, which would have been a bonus.
“I’m not asking you to break a confidence – I would never ask that, Sam.” Steve was frowning – damn near pouting with hurt. Just a few years ago Sam would have never guessed that a grown man could pout and actually look sincere. Sam could feel the guilt swarming up that he had questioned Captain America’s honor and ruthlessly repressed it with the reminder that Captain America had short-sheeted Clint’s bed in Uzbekistan, and then had pointed the blame at Wanda without batting an eye.
“Actually, you kind of are, man. You want to know what Barnes is thinking? You ask him.” Steve was a great friend. A good man. But he and Barnes had what amounted to a platonic love affair complete with secrets, private codes, and weird crossed boundaries. Some days, it was the best thing keeping either of them from taking a long walk off a short pier. Other days, it made Sam want to strangle them both.
Well, Barnes anyway.
“I don’t want to know what he’s thinking,” Steve explained while he adjusted course and flipped on the autopilot. “I’ve known that since about two seconds after he did. And then I also knew when he decided to bury it and pretend it never happened. What I want to know is if you would advise against pushing the issue. I’m looking for an opinion on my behavior, so it doesn’t negatively impact him.”
“Have you ever considered just passing notes to each other? Or maybe drafting one for him and slipping into a locker somewhere? Check yes or no. Just so you know, I hated junior high the first time I was there. This isn’t better.”
Steve crossed his arms over his chest and furrowed his brow. Sam purposefully took the opposite position, sprawling in his seat and smiling. It wasn’t like the question didn’t have merit, it was more that discussing Barnes’ mental state was a fine line. On the one hand, he had no qualms about explaining triggers, coping mechanisms, and some cognitive therapies to Steve – Barnes had cleared all of that. On the other hand, Barnes occasionally…rarely…three times since the Raft, had confided genuine fears to Sam that he hadn’t shared with Steve.
I dream that I’m falling again. But that isn’t the worst of it. The worst is…is, sometimes, when I wake up, I’m not scared. I’m angry. Furious at Steve for not pushing that stupid new body far enough to reach me. So angry at him for getting into so much fuckin’ trouble all the time and angry at myself for feeling like I got ta bail him out. Fuckin’ angry that it was me, coulda been him, and maybe he would have been strong enough to get out of it instead of bein’ taken. But it was me that fell and I’m mad at him for it. Those are the nights I throw up til I can’t see straight.
HYDRA wasn’t interested in me for that. They tried it once…I think just once, wanted to scare a target into talking. Wanted me to hurt his wife to do it. I don’t remember the details, just that when they finally shocked me down and shackled me, everybody in that room was dead. HYDRA handler, soldiers, the target. Everybody. Including the wife. I snapped her neck clean. She didn’t even have a chance to be scared.
Why’d he put that plane down? Why not jump? Why not swim? What kind of selfish asshole kills himself just because he’s fuckin’ sad, huh? He was the lucky one, but he tried to give it all up. Makes me want to knock his teeth in, sometimes.
Sam would never, never break that trust.
But he was also Steve’s friend. And he didn’t hate Barnes.
But he really loved yanking that guy’s chain.
Sam sighed again, knowing he was going to have regrets. “How about this? I’ll make some observations, see what I think, and then if he can handle a push I’ll do it. You stay out of it until he says something about it. No more trying to read his mind and fix things for him before he gets the chance to make his own mistakes.”
Steve grinned. “You’re a good friend, Sam. The best.”
“Yeah, yeah,” He waved Steve off and closed his eyes to try and get some sleep. Not everyone on the quinjet was fueled by serum or universe-creation-whois. They could chauffeur his un-enhanced handsome ass around for a while. “Needlepoint that on a pillow, ‘Captain America’s Best Friend’. I’ll use it to reel in all the hot nurses after Barnes beats me up for messing in his love life.”
“Don’t worry. I have a good feeling about this plan.”
Sam groaned. For some reason, that wasn’t comforting.