He gasps back to consciousness when his back thumps down on something solid, and he has a half second of looking up at the sky, gasping for breath through still water logged lungs, to see a dark shape hovering above him, just as familiar as it was foreign, before he’s trying to cough up the water in his lungs. He needs to roll over to his side, to recovery position, but his muscles aren’t co-operating.
Probably doesn’t help he’s trying to speak through his coughs, to talk to Bucky, but all he’s managing is to choke himself. His vision starts to go dotty again, the lack of oxygen so soon after almost drowning just about knocking him out again.
But there’s a large hand on his shoulder, and he’s being turned onto his side. A firm hand patting his back, right between his lungs, right in the place that always helped most with his asthma, and he starts coughing up the water, finally. He gets enough air, briefly, to say most of Bucky’s name - gets cut off after a gasped Buc- because there’s no room between coughing and struggling to breath for talking.
“Shh, buddy, I’m here.” Buckys voice is still rough, no where near the soft, soothing voice he used to say that in, when Steve still got asthma attacks, but it’s the most comforting thing Steve’s heard since everything blew up in his face a few days ago.
“Breathe, Stevie. Come on, in and out, match me.” Bucky says lowly, leant over Steve close enough that he can hear his friend breathing, feel the carefully measured rise and fall of his chest the way he used to. Bucky’s still patting his back, the slow, familiar rhythm reminding Steve of years ago, before any of this, when it was just the pair of them and the rattle and wheeze of Steves failing lungs. Steve stops coughing up water after a few minutes, feels his lungs clear in a way he’d almost stopped appreciating, and just takes deep breaths.
He doesn’t move from where Bucky’s positioned him, on his side even though his ribs ache and he’s lying on one of gun shot wounds, the angle meaning he can feel the where the bullet’s pressing against his muscles and tissue; just lays there and breathes and hopes Bucky doesn’t stand up and walk away.
He doesn’t, just rubs a soothing hand up and down Steves back, and keeps saying, over and over again, like he can’t stop, like he doesn’t know how to say anything else,