If it had just been Captain America and Black Widow at your door, or hell, even Sam in his Falcon get-up, you would have slammed the door in their faces. But Sam had come to you as just Sam, your old friend, Sam, the man you trusted, Sam, who thought more of you than you did yourself sometimes. And he was with people he trusted that could use your help. Damn that man for knowing you all too well, for knowing that you were a sucker for a tragic tale.
"James Buchanan Barnes," Natasha informed when the scruffy-haired man with the metal arm was ushered quickly into your living room to sit on your couch.
"Bucky," Steve corrected solemnly and you suddenly saw a war going on in the broody blue eyes of your new acquaintance. One war or a hundred or a thousand, all because of a word that was said more like a quiet plea than a nickname.
They'd barely finished telling you all they knew before you gave them your answer.
He didn't say a word to you those first few days. His eyes would just follow you, watching, calculating, as you showed him how to use the TV, the computer, the microwave. You pointed out the pantry for snacks and the linen closet for towels. When you made food, he'd sit at the table patiently and would eat with a practiced rigidity. Once finished, he'd immediately wash the plate and utensils and put them in your dish rack to dry.
You made up a room for him, but he was a ghost haunting your hallways at night for a while, even the warped old floorboards of your house too afraid to make a sound under the weight of him. Only the gliding of his shadow under your bedroom door gave an indication of his passing, and you were certain that was only a courtesy he gave you. If he had truly wanted to go unnoticed, you wouldn't have seen even that.
His fourth night, your curiosity got the better of you, and you padded out of your room to investigate. You discovered him sitting on your couch in silence. When you rounded the armrest, you were surprised to find your cat sitting in his lap, purring contently. His fingers were buried in her fur as they both looked up at you.
"Is she bothering you?"
"No." His voice was calm and even, but still it startled you enough to make you jump a bit.
As if trying to demonstrate, the cat got to her feet and stretched, making a round of his lap before butting her head against his metal arm, rubbing her cheek against its ridged surface. He glanced down at her as she curled into a ball of fluff in the crook of his elbow.
Shouting woke you late one night and you were on your feet and headed down the hallway on autopilot. From what Sam and the others said, you'd been expecting this to happen. Nightmares. There were always nightmares. You had seen so many of your friends go through this, had been a victim of them yourself so many times. It came with the territory.
You were barely in the door when something flashed through your line of sight, a searing heat etched its way across your right cheekbone, accompanied by a thud next to your ear. Bucky was sitting up in his bed, shirtless, with his prosthetic arm extended in your direction, eyes wide in near terror. Turning, you saw a throwing dagger embedded in the doorframe beside your face. Pressing your fingers to your cheek, wincing from the pain, you pulled them back to see blood. With an annoyed grunt, you pulled the knife from the wood. "Didn't know you had this. Though I should've guessed."
"I'm sorry," he finally said, tossing his feet over the edge of the bed and staring at the floor.
You sighed heavily. "It's alright. I've had worse things happen."
His eyes shot up to you then, staring at you from between tendrils of sweaty hair. "I could've killed you."
"And I should've knocked," you replied, moving to sit at the edge of the mattress. His gaze followed you, silent and confused. "You were having a nightmare. Do you want to talk about it?"
He shook his head, finally looking away. You'd seen this before too, and it always broke your heart a little. But pushing would do no good, so you just reached out and balanced the flat of the dagger on his knee, pressing your palm to his shoulder for a fraction of a second. "Well, you know where to find me if you change your mind."
You were almost to the door when he spoke again. "Why are you letting me stay here?"
"Because Sam asked," you replied as though that was the most obvious thing in the world. "You've never had a friend you trusted enough to do what they ask?"
That war was in his eyes again, lost memories trying to fight their way to the surface. "I think so. I can't..."
"You will," was your soft response. A gentle reassurance. "You'll remember."
"Why you," he asked, trying to push away troubling thoughts. You smiled, trying your damnedest to hold back your laugh as you left, offering back over your shoulder "I ask myself that all the time."