And Forgotten Time Will Find Its Long Way Back
Warnings: Mention of panic attacks, nightmares and implied PTSD, nothing described in detail
Pairing: Bucky Barnes/Steve Rogers
Characters: Bucky Barnes, Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson (mentioned), Tony Stark (mentioned), Alpine
Tags: Post-Endgame, Light Angst w/ Happy Ending, Fluff and Angst, Bucky has Nightmares, Bucky rediscovering old hobbies
Word count: 2423
Summary: Bucky doesn't sleep well these days, but getting back into an old hobby helps keep him occupied when the nightmares get too much. Sometimes, though, all he needs is Steve. And sometimes Steve isn't home the one day Bucky really needs him to be.
Read on AO3
Sleeping was not something Bucky Barnes found easy these days.
In all honesty, he probably hadn’t consistently slept well since before the war — and even then he’d always been something of an insomniac, always worrying about his family and Steve, but at least he didn’t have horrible nightmares back then. After fighting in the war followed by well over seventy years of torture and other traumatising life events, there was a lot that made it difficult for him to switch off properly and actually rest now.
He knew Steve sometimes got nightmares and had bad nights, too. But Steve still managed to get eight hours of sleep almost every night — and while Bucky was glad someone in the house didn’t have such constant terrible trouble with the night, he just kinda wished he could get at least one good night himself every so often. Once a week would be more than acceptable, he thought.
Most nights, Bucky would just hang around in the living room, watching random movies and shows as background noise until he got tired enough to drag himself to the bedroom and quietly slip in next to Steve, where he would probably spend another solid hour awake with too many thoughts running through his mind before finally falling into restless sleep for a few hours. He’d wake up tired in the morning, drink too much coffee to get himself pepped up, and then repeat the whole process again come nightfall.
He knew Steve worried about him, so he’d been trying to at least get into bed earlier to alleviate his partner’s worries about what he was doing until three in the morning — he had been known to just go off walking around their property in the middle of the night to clear his head on occasion — but that still wasn’t helping the whole thing of trying to actually sleep. If they ever went to bed at the same time, Bucky would usually stay up and read in the lamplight with Steve fast asleep across his lap until the sun started peeking over the horizon.
More recently, he’d been trying to find old hobbies to get back into, as had actually been suggested by Sam a while back when Bucky had admitted to his continuing struggles with...well, everything. Bucky had insisted he had plenty of things to keep him occupied around the property — what with looking after the animals and doing gardening and tinkering with the motorbikes and whatnot — but Sam had pointed out that all of that wasn’t exactly helping, was it?
So Bucky had thought about some of the hobbies he’d had when he was younger, before the war and the Winter Soldier and everything else. Steve still had all of his art stuff that he did a lot of, and there were a lot of fond memories of the two of them sitting and drawing together in their apartment back in the day, but...Bucky never knew what to draw anymore. Everything that came to mind other than copying whatever was in front of him was just unpleasant, and he didn’t think sketching traumatic memories was going to be the best way to work through it.
Sport had always been fun for him — he remembered the thrill of winning boxing matches, and sliding around in the mud playing soccer or variations of American football on a rainy day, and even going out to watch baseball matches with Steve when they could. It was just...so many of the sports he’d liked playing back then were things he just couldn’t play anymore. He’d be at an unfair advantage, really, with the vibranium arm and enhanced super soldier abilities, nevermind the fact that it was pretty likely he could seriously injure someone without meaning to if he ever played like he used to before the serum.
The only other thing that really came to mind after all of that was one of the painfully few things he remembered his mom teaching him, and that was knitting. Bucky didn’t know when she’d taught him, honestly, it just felt like one of those things he’d grown up helping her with, because it seemed like she’d constantly been making clothes for him and his sisters, and the four of them had constantly wanted to get involved. Every winter they always had thick woolen socks, beanies and scarves to keep warm, and eventually Mama Barnes had started knitting for Steve as well.
It took a little while to relearn the basics, but once he’d gotten the hang of it again, Bucky was almost unstoppable with how many projects he planned to get working on. He’d never been one to care much for following patterns, so everything was an endeavour of guessing that generally ended up being surprisingly accurate, and soon enough he was confident that he could start giving the things he made to other people should he feel like doing so.
One particular day, for no particular reason, Bucky was having a horrible day. Well, he was pretty sure part of the reason was to do with the nightmares he’d had the previous night, but they seemed to be affecting him more than usual today. The Winter Soldier trigger words had been echoing in his mind since he’d opened his eyes this morning, and he couldn’t seem to shake them no matter how hard he tried.
The last time it had been this bad, Bucky had ended up having a panic attack in the bathroom at four in the morning, haphazardly chopping his long hair off with the kitchen scissors until Steve came in, calmed him down enough to help tidy up the mess he’d made of his hair, then brought him back to bed and held him until he felt somewhat like a person again.
But Steve wasn’t here today. Bucky had known for days now that Steve was going off to spend the day catching up with Tony, and he’d known for days that he wasn’t going because even after everything, even after making amends and crossing Stark’s name off in his book, he never felt quite right around him. He had no problem with Steve being friends with the man, he just knew he himself never could be. And that was fine.
Except maybe for today, because today he really could’ve used Steve’s company, even if he had to be around Stark as well. Because today he was suffering, and he already knew tonight was going to be another sleepless night in the living room, because how could he possibly think about going to sleep again after what he’d seen last night?
“Stop it.” Bucky hissed at himself, “They don’t work anymore and you know it.”
Except that he’d woken up this morning feeling like he’d forgotten himself for a moment. Ready to comply, had been poised on his lips until he remembered he was in his bed, in the house he shared with Steve, safe and far away from his old life with those words removed from his mind.
I’m James Bucky Barnes. I’m no longer the Winter Soldier.
I’m no longer the Winter Soldier.
“I’m not the Winter Soldier anymore!” He shouted, startling the chickens he was suddenly reminded he was supposed to be feeding. Letting out a long sigh, Bucky quickly dealt with that and headed out of the chickens’ area before he could upset them further. Dug was right on his heels, the dog keeping a concerned eye on him as he went about checking on the other animals and doing a couple of quick fix jobs on the fence as he went.
The fresh air had seemed to clear his head somewhat, but by the time Bucky went back into the house, it felt like everything had suddenly shrunk in around him again. Anxiety pressed in around his lungs to squeeze out the air, crept up to grab at his heart and make his chest ache, slipped poison into his stomach to cause an unpleasant roiling, all as vivid images from his nightmares played over and over in his mind with no ending promised soon.
But there were things that needed to be done around the house, so Bucky went and grabbed one of Steve’s sweaters to wear as a temporary substitute for actual comfort from his partner, and decided to get onto the laundry next. At least doing laundry was a lot of repetitive steps, so he hoped that would help distract him from whatever mess was going on inside himself.
“Dark, light, light, handwash, dark, light, dark…” Bucky mumbled as he tossed clothes into their respective piles, ignoring Alpine as she swatted at the underwear he’d just thrown into the dark pile. There were a bunch of socks in front of him now, and one very obvious common characteristic amongst a lot of them, “Why does Steve have so many socks with holes in them?”
Alpine meowed in response.
“I don’t know either,” Bucky mused, “He really hasn’t changed since we were young. But I guess I’ve just figured out a new project for myself.”
By the time Steve arrived home in the late afternoon, Bucky hadn’t long sat down from all of the odd jobs he’d been busying himself with all day, and he hastily put his new project aside when the front door opened and the dog ran to greet his favourite person. Bucky was quick to do the same — albeit not quite running, he did wrap his arms tightly around Steve’s middle as soon as he reached him, practically melting against him as he breathed in his comforting, familiar scent.
“Nice sweater,” Steve teased, pressing a light kiss to his cheek, “Did you do laundry?”
“Yeah. Not why I’m wearing this, though.” Bucky mumbled as he turned to kiss Steve properly.
“No? What’s the occasion, then?”
Steve’s face slipped into a much more serious expression with that comment, worry clouding his eyes as he leaned back somewhat to regard him properly. “How bad?”
“It...yeah, pretty bad. Scared the shit out of the chickens when I went to feed them.” Bucky winced, “But it’s kind of okay now. Well, not really. But better than it was.”
“Why didn’t you call me?”
“Didn’t wanna ruin your day over nothing. I know how much you’d been wanting to go and see the others.”
“That doesn’t mean you should be stuck having a bad day by yourself,” Steve said firmly, “Especially not your bad days, Buck.”
“It’s fine,” Bucky insisted, even though it was most definitely not fine, and he was sure Steve knew it, “I’m okay. You’re here now, that’s good.”
The other man sighed and tugged him flush against his chest again, “Just let me know next time, jerk. I can handle Tony whining for ten minutes about being bailed on if it means you’re not stuck here by yourself having a hard time.”
For the first time all day, Bucky managed a small smile, “Alright, alright. Fine. Sappy punk.”
“Love you too.”
Following their usual evening routine of watching a couple of episodes of some show after dinner, Steve had tried to insist on Bucky having an early night and coming to bed with him now, saying that it would probably be worse to stay up all night alone out in the other room than at least trying to get some sleep and at minimum just getting a bit of physical comfort until morning.
Bucky had sighed and pulled him in for a short, reassuring kiss. “It’s not that I don’t wanna cuddle all night, I’m just...not in the right kinda mind yet to lay down and do nothing, you know? I’ve gotta keep myself occupied a while longer, but I promise I’ll try to come in at some point.”
And yet now, here he was as the sky was beginning to lighten, finishing off the final touches on a nice new pair of knitted socks for Steve. The wool was a rich blend of red, blue and grey tones, which he’d bought as soon as he’d decided to try knitting again, intent on making these socks for Steve even if they were the only things he ended up making.
Of course, he’d already ended up doing a few other things before actually getting to these, but as soon as he’d seen the almost comically damaged socks in the laundry yesterday, his thoughts drifted to the wool he’d bought weeks ago. It was a similar colour scheme to a wool that his mom had dyed herself so many years ago to knit matching socks for Steve and Bucky, which they’d both worn until their moms had practically begged them to put on some new ones with how many holes they’d ended up with from wearing them so much.
With his mind feeling much clearer this morning, Bucky gave Steve a genuine grin when his partner came into the room, presumably intent on going to the kitchen to get breakfast. Steve looked like he was about to make some comment about him staying up all night, but Bucky beat him to the punch by striding over to him and holding out the new socks in offering.
“I noticed a lot of yours had holes in them yesterday. Plus with winter getting so close I didn’t want your feet getting cold and—”
Steve silenced him with a sweet kiss, pulling back after a long moment with an achingly loving smile tugging at his lips. “You are unbelievable.” He chuckled.
Bucky maintained his own smile, “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Good,” Steve ran his thumb down the middle of the socks, “These look just like the ones your mom made for us when we were kids.”
“Yeah, that was kinda the hope.”
“Do you have matching ones?”
“Not yet, I figured that could be tonight’s project.”
Steve frowned half-heartedly, “Hey, I don’t wanna go two nights without you. And you gotta sleep at some point.”
Bucky patted Steve on the cheek jokingly before turning towards the kitchen, “I don’t sleep, but I’ll knit my socks next to you if it makes you feel better.”
“It does, thanks.”
Realistically, Bucky knew he probably would crash at some point tonight, but knowing that Steve would be there when he woke up this time made the idea of sleeping at least a little more bearable. And on the other hand, if he didn’t get to sleep much?
At least he’d have a new pair of socks to match Steve’s.