I've been thinking a lot about post WS Bucky, and how when he recovers and eventually moves in with Steve, he'll have trouble falling asleep laying down, in a bed, when he's spent the past 70 years in and out of standing frozen stasis. I wonder how many nights he wakes up gasping, sweating through his clothes, yet somehow unable to shake the cold from his bones. I wonder how many blankets Steve brings him to stave this feeling. And I bet Steve understands. I bet he still deals with it, himself.
Hey, thanks for leaving yet another haunting headcanon in my inbox, especially considering that horrible thing I did to your last one. ^^;;;
I feel like some of this has been covered in my fridge comic, but I’m a big sucker for Winter Soldier sleep issues and Steve also dealing with stuff, so here goes — a quick drabble.
Bucky didn’t know how to sleep. At all. He could doze off a bit — 10, 15 minutes, maybe 30 if he’s lucky, but anything longer he’s jolted awake, panicked and in pain, as if he’d just received an electric shock. The file on the Winter Soldier has very specific documentation on why — sleep led to dreams led to confusion and disobedience, so the Winter Soldier was kept either on ice or awake. Measures were taken to guarantee that. It’s rare he was needed for more than a day or two anyway.
Knowing that didn’t help the sleep issue.
At first Bucky didn’t want to worry Steve. Sure, Steve read the same file as he did, so when he first returned, Steve insisted on keeping Bucky company at night, sitting by his bedside as he dozed and jolted awake in a cold sweat, over and over and over. Every 30 minutes like clockwork. But that meant Steve didn’t sleep, either, and that was more important. So by the third night Bucky started pretending to sleep. He’d close his eyes, slow his breathing and heart rate, thoroughly relaxed his muscles, and then start counting the seconds in his head. Three hours is ten thousand eight hundred, six hours is twenty-one thousand six hundred. Sometimes he counted in Russian. Other times, French. On rare occasions, Chinese or Korean. It meant he actually got less sleep, but it meant Steve got more, so Bucky called it a win.
Steve confronted him about it a week later, when they were making dinner. “Bucky, you haven’t been sleeping.”
“What do you mean? I’ve been sleeping like a babe the whole week." Bucky tried to keep his tone neutral as he sliced the carrots into thin slivers.
"Your arm — it makes a lower-pitched noise when you’re actually asleep." Steve stated matter-of-factly. Bucky silently cursed that super-soldier enhanced hearing. Then Steve did that thing where he looked down and smiled. "I prefer if you didn’t pretend with me, Buck.”
Maybe it was Steve’s disappointed and resigned smile, maybe it was because Bucky hadn’t slept a wink in a week, but he blew up at Steve. His left hand darted out and pushed Steve against the refrigerator. “Look, Steve, stop it. Don’t stay up with me. Just accept that they broke that part of me and let me figure it out.” Bucky felt angry, but he wasn’t sure who the anger was directed towards. Not Steve. Never Steve. He forced his heart rate and breathing to slow, then, more calmly, “You still need to take down more HYDRA bases and save the planet from aliens, and you can’t do that on 2 hours of sleep, super serum or no.” Somewhere in the process his knife got embedded in a cabinet door.
Steve just stare at him, then past him and out the window.
“Bucky, if I slept in my own bed I’d sleep even less." Steve said, quietly. "I close my eyes and all I can think about is the look on your face as you fell. My brain runs through all the ways I could have saved you, all the decisions I could have made differently." Steve smiled. "Last night I came up with the two thousand thirty-first while I waited for your arm to calm down.”
“Wait, you… you were faking it too?" Bucky didn’t know what was worse — that all his effort had gone to waste, or that he didn’t figure it out. The old Bucky would have figured it out. He wasn’t ready to be here with Steve. He needed to re-calibrate… Steve grabbed him before he could turn and run, and pulled Bucky in, tight.
"BUCKY,” Steve whispered, voice tight with urgency. “Stay. Don’t leave me again." Bucky looked at Steve, not quite registering his words. "But when I’m around, you…."
"I sleep *better.” Steve said firmly. “When you’re here. When you’re not pretending.”
Bucky put his head down on Steve’s shoulder, all tension gone and feeling just so tired. “Steve. You shouldn’t… I don’t…I still can’t…”
“It’s all right, Bucky." Steve held him close. "We have a better chance of figuring it out together." And Bucky believed him.
ETA: hey this went past 50 notes, so I’ve added it to my Captain America Stuff master post.