He follows Steve Rogers for a day. He says to himself that he will do no more than that, that chasing after ghosts is for those who are not already ghosts themselves.
Steve Rogers runs in the early morning with Sam Wilson. He eats breakfast on Sam Wilson’s stoop afterward. They trade sections of the newspaper. Steve Rogers leaves and walks slowly back to midtown.
He re-emerges a few hours later, no longer in running clothes. The jeans are not completely clean and not new. The shirt is a cheap cotton t-shirt, the kind Bucky knows come in packs.
He walks to a building three miles away. Bucky follows.
He re-emerges behind the building with a medium-sized dog. It canters happily around Steve Rogers, looking up with unadulterated delight. Steve Rogers walks with the dog for a while in a meandering route, aiming apparently for green spaces and nothing more specific. He returns the dog and appears with another one. It is larger and walks with a limp. They take more pauses in this walk.
When Steve leaves a couple hours later, Bucky walks in the front.
He volunteers. They ask him to clean the shit off the floor.
Animals in cages with no where to expel their waste but where they sleep. Yes, Bucky knew something about that. He cleaned it for them.
When he got to the dog with the limp, he realized that the dog’s front leg was splinted. He pulled the chart off the wall and read: “damaged beyond repair.” There were other words, but those stood out.
He sat on the floor with the dog and it curled up beside him. It didn’t press too close or infringe on his comfort. It just pressed a line of mutual warmth against his thigh.
He came back the next day and they let him take the dog out for a walk. Her name, it turned out, was Minnie and it was an absurd name for a big, haunted dog. Again, Bucky knew something about that.
He came back the next day too. Minnie had the surgery to remove the infected leg.
He came every day for three weeks. They asked him if he wanted to adopt Minnie. He tried to explain that he had nothing to offer, but they just looked sadly at him and the older woman who worked behind the front desk patted his cheek.
The shelter needed the space, they told him finally. They explained euthanasia.
He took Minnie.
He walked the three miles to Steve Rogers. He waited with his hood pulled up and Minnie sitting patiently pressed against his calf.
Steve Rogers came out soon enough. He stopped when he saw Bucky.
"Bucky," breathed out Steve Rogers (Stevie said Bucky’s ghosts).
"She needs a home," said Bucky. "They gave her a stupid name and she lost her leg and she needs a home."
Steve closed his mouth. Then he opened it again. Then he closed it.
"We got room for both of you," he said finally.
“I don’t need—”
"Sure, sure. But for her, right?” said Steve, hands up in surrender. “She seems to really like you. It’d be hard for her if you weren’t with her, right?”
Bucky sighed. She was just a dumb dog, anyway. She looked at him like he was good and it was just because she was a dumb dog who couldn’t know better.
"Clint has a dog with one eye," said Steve. "He named it Pizza Dog, I think."
"OK," said Bucky.
Probably my favorite out of any and all “Bucky gets a therapy dog/cat/whatever” ficlets. (And I’ve read a bunch.)