Sam knew he was getting back in for the long run when he helped Captain America take down a super-secret terrorist organization hiding inside a top secret government organization. He was prepared for some pretty weird shit – super soldiers and alien invasions and the rampant Norse god trying to take over the world now and again.
One thing he hadn't prepared for was an amnesiac super assassin covered in blood knocking on his door at three in the morning. Sam's not sure whether he should be flattered or scared out of his mind, but he's pretty sure if the Winter Soldier was here to kill him he wouldn't have knocked on the front door.
Of course, customs in Russia could be different, he supposed.
They stand there staring at each other for a few long moments before Sam manages to mutter, "I guess you better come in," and stands back to let him limp into the apartment.
"Please don't tell Steve," Barnes says, quietly, after he's tracked mud and blood and God knows what else through Sam's living room.
Sam is about to open his mouth to protest, of course he has to tell Steve, he wants to say, telling Steve that Bucky's here would be the smart (and loyal) thing to do, but something in Barnes's face makes him swallow down his objections and just nod his agreement.
It's not until after Barnes has showered and changed and is sitting on Sam's couch with an untouched cup of tea in front of him that he speaks again. "Thanks," Barnes mutters, in a voice that sounds surprisingly sincere.
"Anytime, man," Sam says, watching him from the kitchen. "Why me, though? Not that I'm not flattered and all, but I'm sure Steve would have been happy to help, too."
Barnes takes a long time before he says, quietly, "I can't let Steve see me like this."
Sam doesn't sleep well on an average night, but going to sleep when an assassin of questionable sanity is in the next room doesn't seem very responsible, so he brews a cup of coffee and pretends to read a book while lying in bed.
He really isn't all that surprised when he hears screaming coming from the other room, but he still jumps so violently he nearly falls of the bed. He detangles himself less-than-gracefully from the bed sheets, grabbing his sidearm as he hurries into the living room, ready to shoot.
There's nothing out of the ordinary in the living room except for the clearly terrified man thrashing and screaming on his couch, eyes still closed.
Sam puts his gun away and cautiously approaches the couch, prepared to jump back if necessary. Enemies you can shoot are a lot easier to deal with than the ones in a guy's head, he knows, and he doesn't even want to think about what kind of demons are lurking around in Barnes's brain.
"Hey," Sam says, as soothingly as possible. "It's just a dream." He gets his hands on Barnes's shoulders and pushes him onto his back, shaking him roughly while Barnes thrashes against his hold. "You need to wake up," Sam says loudly, to little effect. "Hey! It's a nightmare! Wake up!" Barnes just struggles more, fighting against Sam's grip. "Wake up, Bucky!"
Suddenly his thrashing renews with increase strength, and Sam sees his eyes open. Sam jumps back just in time to avoid a flying metal hand that just barely grazes his cheek as Barnes sits up, looking wildly around the room.
"It's okay," Sam says, holding his hands up in what he hopes is a gesture of nonaggression. "You're in my apartment. In D.C. You came here last night for help."
Bucky looks at Sam, wide eyed, processing the words. He's shaking, shoulders heaving, as he fights away whatever images are flashing behind his eyes.
"Here," Sam tries, stepping a little closer. Bucky just watches him wearily as he shakes, a small whimper escaping him now and again. Sam puts a hands on his shoulder. "Why don't you just rest?" he suggests. Bucky's eyes squeeze shut tight at that, so Sam adds, "You don't have to sleep. Just rest." Sam sits down next to Bucky on the couch, coaxing him into lying down Somehow in the process Bucky's hand finds his and holds on tightly. Sam can feel trembling against him.
Bucky tentatively settles his head in Sam's lap, still holding tight to his hand, which Sam squeezes gently. "It's over," Sam says quietly. "Whatever it is, it can't hurt you anymore."
Sam keeps talking until Bucky's trembling has almost stopped, and his breathing calms down. Bucky's hand stays tight around his, and despite himself, Sam finds himself dozing off on the couch.
When he wakes up the next morning, he's alone. The only sign that Barnes was ever there at all is a still full cup of tea on the coffee table and a few mud stains on the carpet.