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The sinkhole

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It's not that he's actively sabotaging himself. He's not. Not really, anyway. It's just that... It's hard, sometimes, remembering to be a person. Especially when he's alone. And it's not like he's doing it on purpose. It's just that sometimes he goes blank and forgets to eat or change his clothes or take showers regularly or even at all and sometimes he'll just end up sitting. That's it. Just... sitting. For hours. There's some days he really couldn't recall if he'd done anything at all, instead just getting lost in the silence. There's even (mercifully) silence in his head, and while that should be concerning, for now it's a comfort. He's just numb.

He knows, distantly, that he should eat, probably should shower and get changed and go for a walk or something, get some sunlight, but he feels simultaneously heavy and light and he really can't just bring himself to care enough to do anything about the things he should be doing. That seems to be a common theme these days. This is the worst (best?) it's been, the feeling like everything's been scooped out (ha...) and replaced with something like... carbon fiber. Light and rigid and unyielding.

It's a weird, funny sort of feeling. He could probably move and eat and do all those things right now if he was prompted to (and that tought does cause a creeping, crawling tendril of fear to wrap around his spine and dissolve, because if he's like this now then HYDRA didn't have to do very much at all, and then a small part of him wants to laugh and cry and scream because they did far more than was necessary to turn James Buchanan Barnes into the Winter Soldier when all that was needed apparently was just to get him not to care and - the thought train derails and falls into a ravine and explodes because he is just so morbidly poetic) but he's not prompted to do anything, so he doesn't. He just sits.

Maybe he actually blanks out, or he just sits there for so long that he doesn't bother keeping track, or he fades in and out of it, or something, because the next thing he cares to notice is Steve sitting next to him. Not too close, just close enough for Bucky to know that he's there. It should be comforting, and normally it is, but right now there's this uncomfortable feeling in his gut that's turning his skin into static and it's weighing on Steve. He can tell because Steve's got that damn constipated look on his face again and it's pissing Bucky the fuck off only words aren't working for him right now so he can't exactly say that. He settles for looking entirely unimpressed, because arranging his face into "pissed off" is more energy than he has right now. Maybe then Steve will take the damn hint. What hint? Who fucking knows.

Steve picks up on something, anyway, becauae who-knows-how-long later, Steve pats him on the thigh and gets up off the couch. 

He comes back with a sandwich. For some reason, this is what sets him off. Steve didn't do anything but hand him a damn sandwich and that is what gets him angry enough to scream and throw things.

This is the worst part of the numb apathetic state, getting pulled out of it. At least then everything was quiet, but now? Oh no. Now he's getting irritated by people so much as breathing around him, the sound of food being chewed makes him want to hit things, and even the stuff he enjoyed before gets a very firm "fuck this" before getting thrown against the wall/bed/whatever surface is deemed the most destructive and satisfying. It's not, though. No matter how much he throws or punches shit or screams (internally, externally, eternally, whatever) it never fucking goes away, and that just gets him more worked up until he's both pissed off AND exhausted. If tears were possible, he'd be crying out of frustration right now but the only thing that's left welling up to the surface right now is the slow-simmering steaming hot anger that's been pressure cooking for those six months of fuzzy haze and it's bullshit.

He can't even get his exhaustion to be productive. Like, if he could work himself into exhaustion thoroughly enough to get some sleep that'd be fuckin DANDY but he can't. He just lays there in bed tossing and turning and punching his pillow into something mildly comfortable but once he gets that in the right spot then the blanket is too hot or the sheet under him has become uncomfortably warm. (He's a damn furnace, and his arm is a furnace, and if he wasn't irritated by that before, he is now. Fuck, he just wants to fucking sleep.) Eventually he either blanks out again or he manages to catch some semblance of sleep and this is the worst damn feedback loop ever because it's a never-ending piece of shit cycle of exhaustion and anger and irritability with absolutely nothing useful coming out of it and NO end in sight Jesus FUCKING Christ. It's the absolute fucking worst.

This continues for a whole week and it's not like he can help it. He tries not to be an absolute asshole but then something really gets under his skin and he's off again. Really, he just wants it to stop. It's hard to make it stop, and it's exhausting going from 0 to 70 and maintaining 70 and then downshifting back to 40 and going back up to 80 at the drop of a pin. He almost wants the numbness back.

Of course, because that's not how life goes for him, he's channeling his frustration into attempting something useful when he's slapped in the face by a full on crying fit. He mistakenly grabbed a clamp when he needed a 3/8 wrench and suddenly nothing is going right in his life at all so there he is, covered in grease and sweat and curling into a ball and crying at 3 AM because he grabbed the wrong fucking tool and he cries and cries and cries and it feels like he's been blubbering for hours and then... it stops. He passes out on the cold, grimy concrete floor next to an old oil stain on the floor, and and he's drenched in sweat and covered in dirt and grease and he's wearing a dingy old hoodie and sweats that have been a part of his ensemble for the last four days and just... sleeps.

When he next wakes up, he's incredibly disoriented. He doesn't remember getting to bed at any point, but that's where he's woken up and for a second he thinks he's blacked out and what if he lost control and did something horrible what if he's been recaptured and this is some twisted new reprogramming bullshit what if he's trapped oh fuck he is going to fucking die he can't breathe and the walls are closing in and nothing looks familiar and he is lost and trapped and suffocating and going to die. He can't move his arms or his legs and he can't breathe and he is so incredibly fucked.

"Bucky?" Someone's talking, but he can't see. Who's talking? Who's Bucky? "James, can you hear me?" He thinks he knows a James. Maybe this James can get his heart to stop pounding through his ribcage. Maybe James can stop his throat from closing up like a damn vice. "James, it's me, it's Steve. Look at me. Can you tell me where we are right now?" Asshole, he can't even open his eyes right now how the hell would he know? 'Steve' apparently knows where they are, and he rattles off their location with a trembling voice. Either this guy is some rookie in HYDRA's ranks or he's the worst damn assist ever. The guy works his voice into some semblance of calm. Ok. Great. Maybe he can figure out how to get these invisible restraints off James's limbs and chest. "Shit, right, ok." Steve sighs, probably running his hand through his hair. He used to do that a lot. "I need you to match my breathing, can you do that?" No, dickbrains, he can't breathe AT ALL. He feels more than sees the hand gripping his wrist, moving it up against Steve's chest. It's supposed to help. "On my count..." Steve's voice gets steadier as he counts out a rhythm, and James tries breathing. It's still coming out as gasps, he's trying to find the rhythm, but the vice grip is still there. "Let's try again. You're doing real good. In slow..."

He doesn't know how many times they repeat that, the counting and the breathing, but at one point he could move again so now he's sitting up and his chest isn't heaving and something feels like it's stuck in his throat but it doesn't feel tight and he can breathe, so... he guesses this is progress.

"Steve?" His voice sounds terrible, and his throat is like sand. He wonders if at any point he was screaming. 

"Yeah?" Steve sounds unsteady, like he's not on solid ground.

Bucky would know how to fix that. James doesn't. James just has a dry throat and shaky hands and clammy skin and dark circles under his eyes. James just has the ever-present and constantly growing urge to cry for no reason. James can't do much of anything right now. "I'm thirsty."

Must've been the right thing to say. Steve cracks this little smile and lets out an amused puff of air through his nose, and he goes to get James some water while James figures out what to do next. He decides on getting out of bed, so he does. His body goes on autopilot again and before he's even aware of it, he's put all his clothes in the hamper and made his bed with military precision and set his shoes up at the foot of his bed. On impulse, he picked out some clean clothes and set those down on the bed with still-trembling hands. 

Steve comes back and presses a cool glass of water into his palm, encouraging him to take small sips because his arm is still jerking too much to hold the glass up for longer than that. The feeling of drinking the water is helpful in getting his breathing steadier, and the static feeling under his skin quiets a bit. "Thanks." He says, and he sets the glass down on the nightstand, next to the clock. It feels a little stiff, but he really does mean it. Or, he thinks he does. He should, anyway. Steve gives him a sad little smile, and James tries to return it before grabbing a wash cloth and a towel from the linen closet. (Natasha taped a picture of Lenin to the inside, and it's still kind of funny.)

James strips himself down and turns on the sink, filling it with warm water so he can get the washcloth damp. He rubs himself down with the soft cloth, and then the unscented bar of soap, and it helps him get back into his own skin a bit. He rinses the cloth off in the sink, and then himself again, and the temperature contrast gets him more steady, more present.

He's still got this lingering feeling of nausea and something else that he can only describe as 'not right', but it's mixing with this sadness that he's been wearing like a heavy cloak since longer than he's been coherent. All of these sensations and feelings, the nausea cloying in his throat, the tension in the back of his head, weighing on his shoulders, it's all so familiar that if it wasn't there he'd feel weird. Sam says it's his baseline. He thinks that makes sense. He can work with that. 

It takes a while for his racing thoughts to get wrangled back behind the floodgates, and he's still a little more jumpy and hyper-vigilant than usual bit he's feeling better now, maybe. Hopefully.