between relearning how to interact with other people, how to let himself have nice things, how to let himself feel, bucky wants to give up. he wants to collapse under the weight, because everyone seems so intent in teaching him, spoon feeding him knowledge like his body and mind were really a hundred years old and he couldn't process too much of substance. he wants to collapse under the weight because despite the patience, he still lies awake at night ruminating on the knowledge that it'd be so, so easy to choke himself with his metal hand and lock the plates into place so that he'd suffocate to death. he still gets nightmares and panic attacks and still ends up lying half dead in random alleys after self-destructive benders that still don't make him feel anything but tired.
he is so goddamned tired.
the first time he ends up in hospital it's because he gets so malnourished that he would've died if steve hadn't carried his limp body to the medbay when he did. the doctor doesn't tell him much, but he gathers that he's lucky to be alive. when she finally leaves his bed side, he cries. the tears start off as leaks, unobtrusively trickling out of the corners of his eyes and down the sides of his face until they end up in his ears. after a few minutes, what little personal pride he has left absolutely shatters. his face crumples like a drawing that a little kid discarded and he curls on his left side, because they had to stick a tube into his right arm to keep him alive.
despite having the most people he's had in seventy years, bucky has never felt so alone.
sam visits every other day but bucky never speaks to him. usually he pretends he's asleep unless he doesn't have the energy to even do that. sam never minds, though. he doesn't push, and doesn't hope that bucky will one day return to normal because sam has never seen bucky be normal. he's grateful, but trying to say it out loud feels like he's vomiting thick alphabet soup words one letter at a time. he hopes that sam knows, though.
each day fades into the next. bucky stops measuring time in the morning sun and midnight moon and instead runs by his internal climate. blind rage so viscerally present that he struggles to breathe gives way to sadness so deep that he fears he will never claw his way out gives way to mind numbing apathy that leaves him either sleeping his days away or watching the ceiling tiles until he's tired enough that his eyes ache every time he blinks. it's exhausting, but steve tells him that his life is a miracle, and that he's so glad bucky's still breathing, so it all has to be worth something.
he gets out of hospital and the doctors tell steve that bucky needs to eat and drink and not take part in any strenuous activity and watch out for seizures. he nods along to every word spoken to him, and bucky cannot believe that america's golden boy is currently learning what a "safe food" is and that he should ask bucky if he has any when he feels more up to communicating with the wider world outside of his own mind. steve looks not-angry-but-disappointed when bucky stares at the sandwich steve puts in front of him when they get home without making any indication that he wants to eat it.
he knows he needs to eat to survive, but there's a void in his chest that's spreading up his body to his brain and it is telling him that he's not hungry and he believes it because he doesn't know what else to place his ever fragile faith in. he refuses to have faith in himself and placing his fragile heart into the hands of anyone or anything else sounds as appealing as falling off another train. steve sighs but drops it and switches on a film so they can cuddle on the sofa like the good old days when bucky had just been deprogrammed and followed along with steve's every domestic whim because he was too afraid to do anything else.
the blond opens his arms and bucky folds himself into them, trying to make himself smaller, perhaps. maybe he could be more convenient, if only he remained small and afraid.