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Behind Bars

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The clock on the wall is ticking way too loudly. It’s driving Bucky insane.

He closes his eyes, swallows hard and tries to ignore it. Breathes in and out through his mouth to try and keep calm, even though if ten is a full meltdown he’s probably been at nine and a half for the past six hours. Considering his lack of sleep and mild hangover and where he is right now, it’s definitely possible that something as simple as a clock could tip him that extra half point. Where the hell is Steve, anyway? He better not have landed himself in trouble. He’s been unattended in Latveria for - Bucky checks the clock for the eighth time that minute - seven hours and twenty-one minutes. That’s easily enough time for him to get himself in trouble.

You’re worrying about Steve getting in trouble? A voice in his head points out, slightly hysterical. You’re the one that’s in trouble!

He shakes his head, tries not to think about it. Reaches out with his cuffed hands to pick up the paper cup that’s on the table in front of him. The coffee inside it is lukewarm and truly awful. He’s not had coffee this bad since that day in Afghanistan where they tried to brew some using only the heat from the hood of the jeep. He just wishes his hands would stop shaking long enough for him to take a decent sip.

He wants a cigarette.

He takes another sip and grimaces. There is a circle of hell reserved for whoever handed him this cup of coffee, he's sure of it. Though maybe there's a circle of hell reserved for people who manage to kill other people with a single punch in a bar brawl. He swallows hard, cup trembling in his hand. He has to put it down, even though he's not actually sure that spilling coffee all over himself could make his night any worse, considering.

The door clicks open. In walks a woman in a pristine suit, one which is really at odds with the shabby surroundings. She drops a briefcase to the floor and sits in the chair on the opposite side of the table.

“So, Mister Barnes,” she says, voice unmistakably American. “You seem to have got yourself in a mighty fine mess.”

“Are you a lawyer?” Bucky asks, the words sticking in his throat. He tries to clear it. “I think I need a lawyer.”

“I'm Hill, and I’m from the American Embassy in Sokovia, do not tell me anything until you've spoken to your lawyer,” the woman says, looking harried. “Though currently, Americans are waiting six months for visas to Latveria, so let's hope we can find someone local to represent you.”

Bucky blanches. “Six months?”

“You boys should have stayed in Sokovia,” Hill sighs, pulling a face like Bucky’s plight is a mild inconvenience to her.  

“There wasn't even a hard border-”

“There will be now,” Hill says, with another of those wrinkled-nose, irritated expressions. “The Latverian news is very angry about the Americans who think they can just walk into their country to start fights.”

“I didn't-”

“You should have been in Sokovia, as per your travel documents, you were not in Sokovia as per your travel documents, and you put a man in the hospital.”

Bucky has to close his eyes for a moment, fighting against a heavy swell of vertigo. He can almost hear the sound his fist made.

“Is he…”

“Still in ICU. So we don't know if you're going to be charged with assault or if it's going to be manslaughter.”

Bucky swallows. “I only hit him once. He had a bottle, he was trying to hit Steve-”

“Stop talking,” Hill says.

Bucky clacks his jaw shut. He reaches up with his cuffed hands to rub at his eyes. “I need a cigarette.”

“No can do,” Hill says, though she sounds more sympathetic and less irritated now. She pauses, looks Bucky in the eye. “You’re not being granted bail. Your military history-”

“Yeah, yeah,” Bucky says, stomach sinking. “I’m high risk. They told me that last night.”

“And your court date isn’t set yet because we don’t know what's going to happen to the man you hit,” Hill says. “You’re being moved to Novi Osjek Correctional today, to await your court date and trial.”

Bucky looks away, stares down at the table. “I’m going to jail.”

Hill sighs. She’s already leaning down to pick up her briefcase. “Yes, Barnes. I’m afraid you are.”

 


 

An hour later, and he finds himself in the back of a prison van. There’s space for seven other people but he’s alone, sitting right in the back corner with his cuffed hands attached to a restraint bar on the seat back in front of him. The windows are blacked out so he can’t even see where they’re going.

He thinks he might be in some sort of shock. Understandable. It’s not every day you end up going to jail in a foreign country for something you really, really didn’t mean to do.

Well, at least it’s not out of character for him, he thinks blankly, staring at his knees. His life going down the shitter definitely seems to be a recurring theme.

 


 

He’s processed at the prison by a man scowling at a computer and smoking. He does at least speak a little English - more Latverian than Bucky speaks at any rate. “Name,” the man says. He shoves a pen and paper over at Bucky. “Name and date of birth and address.”

Bucky writes down his name and then after deliberating writes down the address of the apartment that he shares with Steve back in Brooklyn.

The man scowls. “America,” he says. “America think so big and clever.”

“No,” Bucky says quickly. “No, not clever at all.”

The man just makes an impatient noise in the back of his throat. He frowns at his computer some more. “No charge,” he says. “What did America do?”

“Look, can I call someone?” Bucky says.

“Now America wants to call,” the man says in disgust. “You are not in America now.”

“I know, but no-one knows where I am,” Bucky says, trying to keep a lid on his temper. He clenches his hands. “You can't just throw me in here and not let me call anyone.”

The man snorts again. “Change and cut hair,” he says. “Then you call.”

Bucky thinks he’s misheard. “What?”

The man twists around, opens a box and pulls out a set of orange scrubs wrapped in clear plastic. “Change,” he says slowly, like Bucky’s stupid. “Cut hair. Then call.”

Bucky stares at the orange fabric. “Fuck.”

The man points two fingers at Bucky, cigarette clamped between them. “America behave,” he says sternly. “Or America no call.”

Behave, Bucky thinks humorlessly. Could have done with that kind of thinking last night, pal.

 


 

Two guards stand and watch while he strips and changes into his new outfit. There is a brief moment of panic when they realise that his left arm is prosthetic, and they promptly call in backup in the form of more guards. They poke and prod him and one burly guard clicks his fingers in Bucky's face and says, “Remove.”

Bucky shakes his head. “No.”

The guard looks at him. “No?”

“No!” Bucky repeats, starting to feel more than slightly panicked. “It doesn't come off, it’s attached.”

They all stare blankly at him and Bucky holds his left arm protectively to his chest. They have a quick conversation in Latverian and then someone is sent to fetch a doctor. Well, the guy is wearing a white coat and has a stethoscope, so Bucky sure as hell hopes he's a qualified medical professional. Either way, he plays along as the man examines his arm, making him extend it out and tugging on Bucky’s wrist.

Apparently satisfied, he says something to the burly guard, who nods curtly and says to Bucky, “No remove.”

Bucky’s relief is short lived because next, he’s hustled barefoot down a corridor and into a small box room. There’s a single chair and a tired looking guard who is holding a pair of electric clippers. He waves them at Bucky, turning them on so the room fills with a menacing buzz.

Bucky takes an automatic step back. “No.”

Almost immediately, he’s shoved forwards and wrestled into the chair, his hands cuffed to the arms. There’s a mirror stuck to the wall in front of him so he can see the look of abject horror on his own face as the man takes scissors to his ponytail, then comes at him with the clippers.

 


 

 

An hour later, still barefoot and newly shorn, Bucky finds himself escorted to a phone. Hands still cuffed, he has to slot the handset between his shoulder and ear, not even hesitating before dialling the number of Steve’s cell. Fuck, he hopes to god that Steve’s got roaming on and has the damn thing charged-

The call connects.

“Hello?”

Bucky slumps forward, head resting on the whitewashed concrete of the wall. “Steve, it’s me.”

“Bucky?!”

“Yeah-”

Steve sounds positively frantic. “Oh my god, I’m outside the police station, they won’t let me in!”

“You’re outside?!”

“Yeah, I’ve been here all night! They said they were questioning you and I said they couldn’t because you didn’t have a lawyer and they laughed in my face and told me to leave! I’m gonna wait until the shift changes then come back in-”

“Steve, there’s no point-”

“What do you mean there’s no point?!” Steve snaps back, angry and indignant. “This wasn’t your fault, they can’t just-”

“I know, I know,” Bucky hisses at him before Steve can work himself up into an unstoppable rant. He doesn’t know how long he’s got. “I meant there’s no point because I’m not there. They’ve taken me to Novi Osjek Correctional.”

“You’re in jail?!

“Well I’m wearing an orange jumpsuit, have just had all my hair shaved off and there’s four fucking guards with guns watching me right now,” Bucky says. “Yeah, I’m in jail. They wouldn’t grant me bail because I’m ex-military.”

“They cannot do this,” Steve almost shouts. “You-”

“Steve,” Bucky interrupts, closing his eyes tight. “I’m gonna need you to not freak out, okay. We’re not in America. We broke the rules by crossing over into Latveria. We just - I’m in trouble here.”

There’s a long pause, and then Bucky hears Steve exhale. “Okay,” he says. “Novi Osjek Correctional, you said? I’m gonna get you some help. I’ll call in some favours.”

“Thanks,” Bucky says. “Are you - are you going to go back to the States?”

“No,” Steve says immediately, which fills Bucky with relief. “I’ll go back to Sokovia, talk to the embassy there.”

“Thanks,” Bucky says.

“Any time,” Steve says.

There’s a tap on Bucky’s shoulder. One of the guards. “Steve, I gotta go,” he says hurriedly. “I’ll call when I can.”

“I’ll keep my cell on, and I’ll-” Steve starts to say, but the guard leans over and simply presses down on the hook.

“What the hell?!” Bucky snaps. “I wasn't done.”

The guard replies by taking the phone out of Bucky’s hand and putting it back on the cradle. For a moment, Bucky wants to punch the guy right in his dumb fucking face, but he resists because there’s a power differential here that he’s definitely on the wrong end of. He just needs to keep his head down and wait for help to arrive.

“Move,” the guard says, and Bucky grits his teeth and does as he’s told.

 


 

 

He’s walked through the prison, flanked by two guards. There’s a whole lot of yelling and whistling and jeering. His long-unused military training has him wanting to observe and detail but he doesn’t want to push his luck by looking in the wrong way at the wrong person. He’s just gotta keep his head down and not cause or fuss or do anything to draw attention to himself. Basically, do the exact opposite of what Steve would do in this situation.

Finally, he’s stopped outside a cell. They open the barred door, take the cuffs from him and gesture for him to step inside. He really doesn’t want to but sensing literally no other options, he does as he’s told.

The door closes behind him with a very definite clank.

The guards walk away.

The jeering and shouting outside carries on.

A voice from inside says, “What the hell? Where’s Sergei?!”

Bucky wheels around in shock. Now sitting up on the top bunk of the tiny cell he’s found himself in, is a sandy haired man wearing bright purple prison scrubs. He looks less than impressed to find Bucky there.

“Uh, I just got here,” Bucky says.

“No shit, you look like you’re about to pass out,” the man says.

Bucky narrows his eyes at the guy. “You’re American?”

“Yep,” the man says. “New York.”

“Me too,” Bucky says. “Brooklyn.”

The man looks faintly surprised. “Well, what’re the odds,” he says, then slides off the top bunk, landing easily on bare feet. He edges past Bucky to go stand at the door, peering out between the bars. Bucky notices first just how close the man is to him - inevitable really, considering their cell is barely ten feet square and neither of them are small guys. Second, he notices the flashes of purple tucked behind the man’s ears - hearing aids.

“Why are you wearing purple?”

“Why’re you a nosey bitch?”

Bucky rears back in affront. “Hey, fuck you, pal.”

“You wish,” is the reply, and then he shouts something out in Latverian, something which is met with scattered laughter and a few shouts back.

“Great. Sergei’s been transferred,” the man says. He sighs, looping his forearms through the bars of the door. “Aw, Sergei. I miss him already.”

Bucky just stands there, feeling a little - okay, a lot - out of his depth. “I don’t know how long I’m going to be here.”

“Well good for you,” the man says. “You touch my bunk and you die.”

Hoping that his apparent cellmate is prone to hyperbole, Bucky steps back and ducks down to sit on the bottom bunk. He wriggles back so his back is against the cold concrete of the wall, pulling his knees up and wrapping his arms around them. The adrenaline and shock is fading, leaving him feeling sick and utterly dejected. He's supposed to be travelling the world, reclaiming his life and learning to enjoy himself again, and now here he is.

Rock. Meet bottom.

 


 

 

He sits there until a loud buzzing blares through the building. He jumps up so quickly that he hits his head on the metal frame of the bunk above him.

“Chill, it’s dinner time,” his cellmate says, slipping his arms free of the door as there’s a second, quieter buzz and then all the doors clunk open. “Man, you’re twitchy.”

And with that he’s gone. Bucky takes the opportunity to use the toilet in relative privacy - it’s honestly only having experienced the lack of privacy in the army which means he’s able to go at all - and then slowly heads out. He follows the general flow of people to the mess hall. No, not the mess hall. This isn’t basic training.

The canteen is loud and boisterous and he hates it. He spots his cellmate instantly; he’s a startling speck of purple in an otherwise orange and grey room. Maybe he’s maximum security or a lunatic or something. That seems like Bucky’s kind of luck, to land an American cellmate who’s gonna bite his fingers and toes off while he sleeps or some shit. Or maybe it’s the deaf thing?

“Hey, American!” a voice shouts. He ignores it, sits down alone with his tray.

“Hey sad American! Why so sad?”

There’s a gale of laughter. Bucky grits his teeth and ignores it. His heart rate is picking up and he’s starting to feel sick. If this comes to a fight, he can take care of himself against a couple of guys, though if they decide to gang up on him he's going to get his ass kicked.

He picks at his food, forcing it down. No one else shouts at him and he’s mercifully left alone. He watches the room as he eats and finds he can see some clear divisions within the room: a table of elder gentlemen by the door; an outnumbered group of black guys keeping to themselves in a corner; a table that has him confused until he spots the tattoos. He scowls, unable to help himself. Fucking neo-nazis. Steve would have picked a fight with them already, even though there's nine of them at the table and a couple are making Bucky suspect there's some serious steroid smuggling going on in the prison.

The other groups are less easy to work out. As he looks one guy catches his eye and openly leers at him. Great. Just what he needs.

He finishes his meal as quickly as possible and decides to get the hell out of dodge, heading back for his cell. He’s halfway there when he meets a roadblock in the form of four very burly guys standing right in his way.

Shit.

He doesn’t try and get past them, just stands there and waits. He can feel the servos in his metal arm whirring as he clenches his fists.

“Kas tai?” one of the guys says, nodding at Bucky’s arm.

Bucky stares back, nonplussed.

The man’s brows draw together. “Big guy American,” he sneers. “My friend says you are cop.”

“I’m not a fucking cop,” Bucky says. He goes to push past them, finds himself shoved up against the wall, two meaty hands on his collar.

“James Barnes,” the man says, his face inches from Bucky’s. “My friend says James Barnes is from New York and is cop.”

Bucky meets his eyes. “I am not a fucking cop,” he repeats. “Get your paws off me.”

There’s a shout from somewhere behind them: a guard. The guy lets Bucky go and he pushes past, stalking along back to his cell. When he gets inside, his cellmate is already there and the look on his face suggests he's got something to say.

Sure enough, he tips the rickety chair they have back onto two legs and says, “So, you're a cop.”

Bucky silently counts to five. “Where are you guys getting this from?”

The guy shrugs. “You can get anything in here, for a price. Including information about your new cellmate who is a fucking cop.”

He looks absolutely disgusted as he says it, spitting the word out like a slur. Well, he can go fuck himself. Bucky may have not made the best cop but Steve is a great guy and a great cop and Bucky’s not about to let some fucking idiot in a Latverian jail make him feel any other way about it.

“If I was a cop, it would just mean I’m able to beat your ass,” Bucky says.

The guys expression goes dark. “Spoken like a true officer of the law,” he says, letting the chair fall back onto all four legs with a bang. “You might wanna watch your back.”

“Right, because I didn’t think of that myself,” Bucky says coolly. He rolls his eyes, climbs into his bunk.

“You’re gonna get the shit kicked out of you with a pig attitude like that,” his cellmate tells him.

Bucky ignores him. He lays there on his bunk, staring at the underneath of the one above. A while later a loud buzz sounds and then the doors all slide closed a minute after, locking with already familiar clunks.

He wants out. He wants to go home.

But he may have killed a guy with his bare hands, so maybe this is exactly where he deserves to be.

 


 

He manages to sleep that night, despite his adrenaline being through the fucking roof from being on guard for the whole of dinner. No one says anything to him but there are some significant looks sent his way. Honestly, if they’re going to attack him he’d rather just get it over and done with. He tries to ask a guard about making phone calls but is shooed away like he’s a particularly annoying fly. He does get hooked up with a wash kit and a carton of smokes though, which he plans on guarding with his life. The guy in the commissary grins crookedly at him when he hands them over.

“One ration every month,” he says, in clearer English than Bucky was expecting, given the missing teeth. “The rest, you pay for.”

“Sure, you take MasterCard?” Bucky asks, and the guy laughs so hard that Bucky thinks he might pull something. When the guy has calmed down, Bucky gets his attention and nods at a box of matches. “What’ll that cost me?”

“You get them for the joke,” the guys beams, tossing over a box. “You’re a funny guy, American.”

“Bucky,” Bucky corrects him. “My name is Bucky.”

“Bucket?”

“Bucky.”

“Bucket,” the man says decisively and holds out a hand. “I am Vadik.”

“Nice to meet you Vadik,” Bucky says shaking his hand. He’s about to make his excuses and leave, but he’s suddenly struck with an idea. “Hey, the guy I share a cell with. The American in the purple?”

Vadik positively cackles. Evidently he’s a fan of the jackass. “Yes.”

“What’s his name?”

Vadik’s smile goes mischievous. “What is it worth?”

In the end, it costs Bucky three cigarettes and a comb, but he leaves with the name he wants: Clint Barton.

 


 

 

He stashes his cigarettes in his cell, takes one out and heads for the outdoor space. It’s depressing as shit: a gravel rectangle flanked by prison buildings on three sides with a twenty foot fence on the fourth. Guards stand around the perimeter and on a watchtower at the end. They’re all armed and Bucky doesn't think they’d have any reservations about shooting first and asking questions later. He finds a spot far enough away from the other groups of people. They’re all chatting and he’s hit with a sucker punch of loneliness as he listens to the conversations in a language he doesn’t understand. He recognises the odd word as being similar to Russian or Sokovian, but certainly not enough to get by. Christ, he’d give up his arm to be able to talk to Steve right now. Just to hear some friendly American words. Fuck. Will Steve have told his family yet? What about the rest of their friends in New York? Christ, Sam will never let him live this down. His Ma is going to kill him. She’ll actually lecture him to death, if the sheer weight of her disappointed face doesn't crush him first.

He takes a deep drag on his cigarette, holds it in his chest. Exhales and watches as a couple of people kick about a soccer ball, knocking it against the wall and catching it on the rebound. His heart sinks as a familiar group of figures walks out into the sun. It’s his friend from yesterday, the one who accused him of being a cop. Well, the first one who accused him of being a cop. They hover around for a while, then start to drift closer. They keep checking over their shoulders to see what the guards are doing. Fuck, they’re not even subtle about it.

Bucky drops his cigarette, grinds it out with his shoe. He takes a deep breath and waits for the inevitable.

 


 

Twenty minutes later and Bucky is being escorted back to his cell by the guards. Escorted is one word for it; carried is the other. He’s got a split lip and his eye feels swollen and tender already. His ears are ringing and he thinks that throwing up might be on his agenda in the near future. His only saving grace was that the guards rushed in and broke up the fight before he actually got stabbed or anything. And he did headbutt that one guy right in the face, and he’s pretty sure whoever’s hand he grabbed now has a couple of broken fingers.

“What the shit?!” a voice says, alarmed. Right, his cellmate who hates him. Clint Barton, the deaf American.

Bucky is dropped onto his bunk. He distantly hears the cell door being locked behind him.

“Well, you were right,” he slurs out. “Well done.”

“I had nothing to do with this,” Barton snaps. “You’re bleeding on the floor.”

“What, I deserve, right?” Bucky says, and that’s all he remembers before he passes out.

 


 

 

He wakes up to a person shining a light in his eyes. He bats the light away, screwing his face up. Christ, being beaten up by Latverian gangsters feels like being hit by a train.

“He’s awake,” his cellmate says.

“No shit,” he mutters. “I’m okay.”

He blinks hard and the same doctor guy who had confirmed that his arm is non-detachable swims into view. He nods and says something to Clint, who replies with a spread-arm ‘how the fuck should I know’ expression. The doctor turns and passes Bucky some pills and a plastic cup of water. He thinks about being suspicious and then decides fuck it and accepts both. He hears the doctor and Clint having a terse conversation in Latverian. When it’s over the doctor slaps some steristrips onto his eyebrow then leaves.

“He says you can get painkillers from the dispensary for the next five days,” Clint says. Bucky cracks an eye open to see him sitting backwards on the chair, arms folded along the back. His expression is very guarded, bright grey-blue eyes fixed on Bucky’s face.

“Quit staring, asshole,” Bucky says, rolling over onto his side with a grunt of pain. His ribs hurt and his jaw aches. At least he’s still got all his teeth.

He doesn’t know how long his cellmate sits there, staring at his back like some kind of weirdo. A while later, he does hear the scrape of the chair and the groan of the springs on the bunk as his cellmate climbs back up. Only then does Bucky cover his head with his pillow and lets himself silently cry.

 


 

 

He gets up the next day, deciding he’s going to pretend he’s not at all bothered by his beat down. He has a quick wash in a sink, entirely unwilling to strip off and have his prosthetic fully on show. A few people give him sideways looks but he amps up what Steve likes to call his ‘resting murder-face’ and people give him a wide berth.

He’s also entirely unwilling to look at his reflection too. He's got one spectacularly purple black eye and a split lip. Strangely, it’s his brutally short hair that’s more upsetting to look at. Having his shoulder-length hair taken away from him without his consent kinda feels worse than being beaten up. Oh well. Steve and Sam have been nagging him to get a haircut for months. Though the buzzcut is a far cry from the pictures of brunette models with artful bedhead that Sam keeps passive-aggressively sticking to the front of the refrigerator.

He spots both his cellmate and attackers in the dining hall for breakfast, and is unexpectedly relieved to find they’re not together. And he’s also grimly satisfied to see that the thug that he headbutted has two black eyes to his one. And the lead thug has two of his fingers splinted together. It’s a small victory, but he’ll take it.

He goes for a cigarette outside, not because he wants to tempt any more fights, but he knows he can’t appear to be hiding. He never really understood what Steve meant when he said that he couldn’t run away from a fight because if he ran, they’d never let him stop. He kind of does now.

The rest of the day is reserved for skulking around in his cell. Just before the buzzers sound for afternoon lock-in, Clint wanders back in with a book in one hand and an apple in the other. Bucky immediately feels a wave of irritation; he just wants to be left alone and that’s not gonna happen.

Clint takes one look at him and rolls his eyes. “Jesus, you look like a wet cat,” he says, screwing his face up. “Your miserable face is making me miserable.”

“So sorry,” Bucky snaps. “Just that my life has gone to shit so I don’t really have time to think about cheering you up.”

“You’re not the only one,” Clint says and climbs up onto his bunk. Bucky can see the indent where his weight is and he’s sorely tempted to lift a foot and kick him in the ass. “This is the ninth time I’ve been in jail.”

“Well then obviously you’re a dumbass who should get better at not getting caught.”

“Caught by people like you.”

“No, seeing as I got kicked out the NYPD around three years ago, so go fuck yourself.”

There’s some shuffling, then Clint's surprised-looking face appears, hanging upside down off the edge of his bunk. “You got kicked out of the NYPD?”

“Oh, now you wanna fuckin’ know?” Bucky snaps.

“Well, yeah!” Clint exclaims. “What did you do to get kicked out?”

Bucky scrapes a hand over his face, rubbing at his stubble. He hates this story. “A cop was beating down on some kid,” he says. “There was no need for it. I told him to stop and he didn’t, so I lost my temper.”

“What did you do?”

“Broke his jaw,” Bucky huffs. “Threw my second chance away like some sort of fucking idiot.”

“Sounds like you did the right thing,” Clint says. “What was your first chance?”

“Why’re you being a nosey bitch?” Bucky retorts, and Clint rears back.

“Well sorry, Grumpycat,” he says. Bucky sees him throw himself back onto the mattress. “You fucking stink, by the way.”

Bucky gives the Clint lump the finger, even though Clint can't see him. “You’re not so fresh either, pal,” he says.

“Yeah, well I can't get my hearing aids wet and I ain’t taking them out,” Clint replies. “What’s your fucking excuse?”

“I’ve got a metal arm, dumbass,” Bucky says, and does kick the underneath of Clint’s bunk. Clint makes an outraged noise but Bucky doesn’t give a shit. He’s already rolling over to face the wall, closing his eyes and praying that he can wake up and find this has all been a terrible dream.

 


 

 

The next day marks a distinct cooling in the air, enough so that Bucky finds himself issued with a matching orange jacket to wear outside. It’s pretty thin and its got no pockets, but it makes standing outside for a smoke much more bearable. He skulks on the edge of the quad, trying not to draw any attention to himself.

He’s about to duck back inside when one of the guards waves him over. Wary, he shoves his hands in his pockets and goes over.

“Sad American has visitor,” the guard says, and Bucky’s heart leaps up into his throat. He nods quickly and follows the guard through not one but two search points, then is led to a room with eight or nine tables in, a chair on each side.

And sitting on one of the chairs, looking really out of place, is Steve.

Bucky's throat goes tight and he has to try and swallow past the lump in it. He spots the exact moment that Steve spots him, watches the shock cross Steve’s face.

“What happened?” Steve asks, despairing. He glances around at the guards and then clearly thinks ‘fuck it,’ pulling Bucky into a hug. Bucky clings desperately to him for a moment before one of the guards shouts across at them.

They drop into their seats on opposite sides of the table.

“Nothing,” Bucky says. “Don’t worry, I gave as good as I got.”

Steve rubs at his mouth, unhappy. “Your hair.”

“I know, I know,” Bucky says quickly. He tries to smile, but it feels all bent out of shape. “You can tell Sam he finally got his own way.”

“This feels like some sort of bad dream,” Steve says. “We went from enjoying a beer to hell so damn quickly.”

“Tell me about it,” Bucky says wearily. “I’m sharing a cell with an American, believe it or not. Guy’s an asshole. In fact, everyone in here is an asshole.”

Steve shakes his head. “We’ll get you out,” he says. “I’ve called in some favours with Tony, he’s paying for a lawyer. We’re just waiting on the Latverians to give us permission to fly him in. They’re not being very helpful.”

Bucky groans. “I don’t want charity from Stark.”

“You accept the help or you stay in this delightful place,” Steve says. “Actually, I’m not giving you that choice. You’re accepting the help.”

“Sir, yes, Sir,” Bucky says, mostly because he knows arguing with Steve is pointless and he doesn’t have the energy for it. He swallows hard, twisting his fingers together. “Does...have you told my Ma?”

“Yeah,” Steve says gently. “Yeah, she knows, Buck.”

Now there’s no chance of Bucky even faking a smile. He can feel his face wanting to crumple. “Is she…?”

“She’s mad at me, mostly,” Steve says, smile understanding and sad. “She wants to fly out.”

“No,” Bucky says sharply. “She’s not flying her ass all the way out - she doesn’t even have a passport for Chrissakes. She hates leaving New York.” He blows out a breath, tilting his head back and pressing his lips together hard. “I don’t want her here. Not to see me in this place.”

“I think red tape will be on your side,” Steve says. “I’ll look after her.”

“She’ll beat your ass, she always blames you when we get into trouble.”

“Then I’ll take it like a man,” Steve says. “Don’t worry. Sam’s offered to go over and see her too, he’ll talk to her.”

Bucky nods, relieved. Sam is the sort of guy who everyone’s parents love. Not that Winifred Barnes doesn’t like Steve, but he bypassed ‘friend-of-son’ and went straight to ‘son’ after Steve’s ma died, so she will happily get mad as hell at Steve too.  

Christ. Talking about his ma is actually making him want to crawl under the table so he changes the subject, albeit not to one that makes him feel much better.

“How’s the guy I hit?”

“Still in ICU,” Steve admits. “Though the barkeeper that was there saw me out yesterday and said, hey, you’re the guy who got attacked, so from his point of view at least we were defending ourselves.”

“I’d do it again,” Bucky says abruptly. “Anyone comes for you and I’ll defend you.”

Steve’s chin trembles. “I’m not a scrawny little kid anymore,” he says. “I don’t need defending.”

“Yeah you do,” Bucky says quietly. “And I’d do it, every time.”

Steve’s eyes are suspiciously bright when he looks back up. He clears his throat, fingers picking at the edge of the table. “So, you made any friends in here?”

“Vadik the commissary guy seems to like me,” Bucky shrugs, and then the next twenty minutes are filled with chatter about Vadik and the food and how Bucky’s getting on without having his MP3 player or access to Netflix.

And when it's time to go, Steve pulls him into another hug and promises to be back as soon as he can, as long as Bucky promises to keep out of trouble. Bucky doesn’t know how that even made it past Steve’s goddamn teeth but he nods and agrees anyway.

 


 

 

He’s been back in his cell for all of two minutes when a shadow falls across the doorway. More accurately, four thug-shaped shadows who are scowling and cracking knuckles.

“What the fuck do you want?” he asks tiredly. He ducks into his bunk, sprawling back on an elbow.

The thug in front scowls. “You need lesson teaching, cop.”

“You taught me pretty well before,” Bucky says.

“You need lesson,” the man repeats and Bucky internally groans. Negotiating the terms of his beat downs would be easier in English.

He opts for universal language and gives the guy the finger.

Shock and outrage cross the guy’s face, but before he can make a move, there’s a commotion from outside and a familiar voice snapping something in Latverian. Bucky watches, poised and ready to start swinging, but to his surprise the four thugs back off, walking away as Clint enters the cell.

“Jesus, it’s like testosterone central in here,” Clint complains, looking at Bucky carefully. “Did they touch you?”

“Nope,” Bucky says. “What did you say to them?”

Clint shrugs, perches on the edge of their tiny table, his feet on the chair. “Not a lot,” he says. “They should leave you alone now. They proved their point by beating you up, no sense in dragging it out.”

Bucky’s pride wants to insist that he can manage himself, but he knows he’ll end up sounding a) ungrateful and b) like Steve if he does. So instead, he ducks his head and mutters, “Thanks.”

Clint looks surprised. He nods, scratches awkwardly at the back of his head. “So, you’re James, right?”

Bucky wrinkles his nose. “Bucky. Everyone calls me Bucky.”

“Sounds like a name for a dog.”

“I’d rather be called Bucky than Clinton Francis Barton,” Bucky counters. “It’s a nickname, I’ve had it since I can remember.”

“But Bucky,” Clint says, holding up his hands when Bucky scowls at him. “Okay, okay. Truce. Truce about our terrible names and maybe real truce, I’m sorry for being an asshole because I thought you were a cop.”

Bucky stares at him. “You need to stop blaming cops for all your terrible life choices.”

Clint pulls a face. “I’m trying to start a truce,” he says. “Wanna go play cards in the rec room? We’ve got an hour before lock in.”

Bucky weighs up his options. At the very least, Steve will be pleased that he’s got a not-enemy in here, even if the guy is irritating as all hell. “Alright,” he says. “As long as you’re not a baby about it when I win.”

Clint grins at him. “Big talk for someone who is about to lose all his possessions.”

“What, a carton of smokes and the clothes on my back?” He rolls his eyes. “Dream on, cowboy.”

 


 

 

“What, is your face made of stone,” Clint says in disgust, throwing his cards down. “Poker face to the max.”

“You now owe me twelve cigarettes and a pair of socks,” Bucky tells him, glancing up at the bored looking guard that’s by the door. “Not that we’re gambling.”

“Course not,” Clint says. “Gambling is wrong and against the rules.” He collects all the cards up, starts shuffling them with deft fingers.

“And we’re all in here because we follow the rules,” Bucky says.

Clint snorts with laughter. “You’re kind of funny when you’re not looking like someone pissed in your cornflakes,” he says, and then his eyes slide up to someone behind Bucky. “Hey Vadik. Wanna play? This guy will win the shirt off your back and still look miserable as fuck.”

Bucky twists around to see Vadik from the commissary standing behind him, grinning toothlessly. “I would like to play,” he says, patting Bucky’s shoulder, “but I cannot play with this guy, he is a cop and too many people would like to beat him up for being a cop. I don’t want to be associated with that. Careful, Purple, they may beat you up too. I know Juris will be looking to go for a round two.”

“Juris fucking walked away when I told him to do one earlier,” Clint says dismissively, and Bucky twigs that this Juris must be the thug that did a number on him, the one who is now sporting two broken fingers. He files the name away for later.

“Juris never walks away for long,” Vadik says. “And he hates cops.”

“No, see, the thing is that Bucket isn’t even a cop anymore, he got kicked out of the NYPD,” Clint tells Vadik. “The New York Police Department. He beat up a cop and- ow , motherfucker!”

Bucky kicks him hard under the table. “Shut up,” he hisses.

“You are not a cop?” Vadik asks, looking delighted. “Great, that means you probably maybe will not get stabbed.”

“What’s with the kicking?” Clint asks indignantly. “See, it’s a good thing that people know!”

“I’m not proud of getting kicked out the NYPD,” Bucky begins.

Clint shushes him, reaching out as if he’s going to put his hand over Bucky’s mouth. Bucky jerks back because he’s not a fan of unsolicited touch and being Clint’s cellmate means that he unfortunately knows how often Clint doesn’t wash his hands.

“Vadik, ignore him, he’s super proud of fucking up that cop, he’ll fuck up any cop he crosses,” Clint says, giving Bucky a meaningful glare. “Let everyone know he’s not a cop, yeah?”

“What’s it worth?” Vadik immediately asks.

“Nothing,” Bucky says.

“Three dollars,” Clint says.

Vadik points finger guns at Clint and then high fives him. “Easiest three dollars I have ever earned,” he beams. “American currency only, Purple!”

“Yeah yeah,” Clint grins, watching as Vadik walks away, chortling. “I love Vadik,” Clint props his chin on his hand, fondly watching him go. “He’s the best.”

“I should kick you again,” Bucky says. “That story wasn’t yours to share.”

“So, uh, you’re welcome?” Clint says, picking up two cards and leaning them together in the beginnings of a card tower. “If people know you’re not a cop-”

“Getting fired was one of the worst things that happened to me. My best pal is still a cop-”

“Pretend!” Clint exclaims. “Fuck, I’m trying to help you here.”

“I don’t need your help,” Bucky snaps, and gets up sharply enough to knock his thighs into the edge of the table, sending Clint’s card tower tumbling town.

“Asshole!”

Bucky grits his teeth and doesn’t look back.

 


 

He doesn’t expect to see Clint for quite some time, which is why he’s caught off guard when his view of the dining hall is abruptly and unexpectedly blocked by purple. It’s actually kind of welcome: his view up to this point has been either of the white supremacists’ table or Juris and his gang scowling at him intermittently.

“Hi,” Clint says, setting his tray down with a bang and slipping onto the bench opposite Bucky. “How grumpy are you still, on a scale of one to ten?”

“Grumpy? A three. Pissed? About an eight.”

Clint hums. “I can handle that. Hey, you know the reason I wear purple scrubs is because I’ve escaped twice so I’m a flight risk. I stick out like a sore thumb in purple, so the guards know if they can’t see me, then they’ve got a problem.”

Bucky puts his plastic fork down. “Why are you telling me this?”

“Truce two point oh?” Clint smiles crookedly at him. “I was an asshole about the not a cop thing again, so here. I’m offering you a tree branch.”

“A tree branch?”

“Yeah. When you make the move to extend a hand after a fight?”

“An olive branch, moron,” Bucky groans, rubbing his hands over his hair. “Look, I am clearly not your favourite person. You call me miserable twenty times a day. We irritate each other every time we talk. Why are you bothering?”

Clint shrugs. He reaches out to pick up the chocolate pudding from Bucky’s tray. Bucky smacks his hand out of the way with his metal one, knowing full well from Sam and Steve’s testimonials just how much it stings.

“I was just looking,” Clint says, put withdraws his hand, scowling down at his vanilla pudding cup. “Man, you piss off the servers one time and then it’s goodbye chocolate pudding.”

Clint.”

“I don’t know, okay?” Clint says. His eyes flick up to Bucky’s. “Yes you’ve got a face like a rainy day, and that scowl you’ve got going on could curdle milk. Oh, and you used to be a cop, which is like, ew, gross.”

“Do you have a fuckin’ point?”

“Well an American is a change to my usual schedule of arguing with Latverians and the occasional Sokovian. And you’re kind of funny, and I’m a sucker for helping people out, and I’m stubborn, and don’t know when to quit?”

Bucky sighs. “Sounds like someone else I know,” he mutters. “Alright. Fine. Tree branch accepted.”

Clint beams. “And I get the chocolate pudding?”

Bucky lifts an eyebrow. “You touch my pudding and you lose the hand, Purple.”

Clint sighs, stabs at his rice with his plastic fork. “Worth a shot,” he says. “If you didn’t have a robot arm I’d totally take it. Why do you have a robot arm, anyway?”

Bucky picks up his pudding. “Quiet time.”

“Aw no, we’re bonding! You can’t leave it there!”

“You shut up for two minutes and I will let you lick the lid of the pudding cup.”

Clint clacks his mouth shut and mimes zipping it it closed.

Bucky turns his attention back to his dinner, the faintest of smiles tugging at the corner of his mouth.

 


 

Bucky wakes up with a strangled gasp, sweating and shaking. He swallows convulsively, trying not to think about the fight. Great, as if he’s not thinking about it enough when he’s awake, he’s dreaming about it too.

He clambers out of bed, treading carefully in the dark. Goes to their tiny sink and splashes cold water on his face. The prison is quiet, save for the background of snores and sleepy breathing, the occasional footstep of a guard.

Bucky goes to stand at the cell door, looping his arms through the bars and watching the grey-hued world beyond. Even with being deployed to Afghanistan, even with doing special operations work out in Siberia...he’s never felt so far from home.

 


 

 

The next call he receives is not from Steve, but from a softly-spoken, calm sounding man named Phil Coulson. He introduces himself as a lawyer who specialises in complex extradition cases.

“Yours isn’t the worst case I’ve ever seen,” Coulson says. “But you’re lucky your friends can afford me. Latveria doesn't have the most open foreign policy, particularly towards the US.”

“So, can you get me out?” Bucky thinks, mentally cringing at the amount of money he’s going to owe Tony goddamn Stark. By his calculations, he’ll be paying it off until he’s eight hundred and ninety-two.

“I am fairly confident that with some hard work, we can have you extradited back to the US,” Coulson says. “But for now we’re still waiting to see what you’re going to be charged with.”

“Still?” Bucky complains. “Christ, I wish this guy would just decide if he’s going to die or not.”

“Yes, it would certainly get the ball rolling if he did die,” Coulson says. “But let’s keep hoping he doesn't, because with witness testimonials about how you didn’t start the fight, we can get you charged with some form of assault, or aggravated assault.”

“What am I looking at if it goes down as manslaughter?”

“Depends. If you’re tried by Latverian rules, you’ll get anywhere from twelve to twenty years.”

“What?!”

“In that case, we would hope to get you extradited to serve your sentence in the US,” Coulson says, still sounding completely chill. “The Latverians will probably be glad to be shot of you if they can have guarantees that you’ll serve you sentence.”

Bucky closes his eyes, tries not to grip too tightly to the receiver. “What do I get for assault?”

“Aggravated assault, or the equivalent, would be three to eight. Assault could be a deferred sentence or as little as twelve weeks. A year if the judge doesn't like you.”

“I’m American ex-military, ex-cop,” Bucky says. “Everyone here hates me.”

“Well, yes,” Coulson says. “Though it does put you on the right side of the concern in Washington. The government are quite concerned about you.”

“The government?”

“It helps having friends in high places,” Coulson says.

“Stark?”

“No. Steve,” Coulson says. “If I can get him to go to Washington and look sad about the tragic incarceration of his best friend who saved his life by intervening in a bar brawl, we’ll get quite a lot of political weight behind your case. I mean, he was awarded a Medal of Honour for coming to rescue you, right? I don’t think the brass will want the press to find out that they gave a soldier a commendation for going to rescue you while they’re leaving you to rot.”

For the first time, Bucky feels a glimmer of hope. “So having a dumbass best friend who can't ever leave a fight alone is actually going to work in my favour for once?”

Coulson chuckles. “We’ll see,” he says. “I’m still working on a lot of leads, but I want you to keep your chin up. And if you’re the praying type, pray that that guy you knocked out wakes up and apologises for attacking Steve first.”

Bucky would probably kiss Coulson if he were there. As such, he settles for a “yes sir,” that for once doesn't sound sarcastic.

“Next time I see you should be in person,” Coulson says. “I’m aiming to fly out next week so I’ll see you them. Oh, and Steve says that you have to behave.”

“Pot, kettle,” Bucky says indignantly.

“Yeah, that’s what I told him,” Coulson says. “Talk to you later, Barnes.”

The call disconnects and Bucky hangs up. He wants to take a moment to take it all in but there’s a gruff throat clearing from the next guy in line for the phone so Bucky walks away. He’s barely moved ten feet when he hears a shout of his name.

“Where you going?” Clint asks, sauntering up. He’s got a band-aid taped to the bridge of his nose.

“Thought I’d go catch a movie, maybe hop on a train to Paris, see the Louvre,” Bucky says. “What about you?”

“Ha, I’m actually going to see a movie, so jokes on you,” Clint says. “They’re playing Godzilla in the rec room. All dubbed in Latverian, obviously, but still.”

“Hard pass,” Bucky says.

“Incorrect,” Clint counters. “Come on. Giant dinosaur monsters trashing Manhattan on the big screen, that’s like A grade entertainment.” He pauses. “And I’ve got candy.”

Bucky feels his resolve crumbling in the face of sugar. “You’ve got candy?”

“I might even share,” Clint says, stepping backwards and almost walking right into someone carrying a pile of books. “Come on.”

And really, he’s got nothing better to do, so Bucky rolls his eyes to show that he still thinks Clint is ridiculous, but he follows.

 


 

“So, are you a sociopath or something?”

Bucky pauses in his reading, frowning down at the book he’s holding up above his face. He’s managed ten whole minutes of peace in which to start reading, but of course that’s practically a lifetime in Clint Barton attention-span years. All he can see of Clint is half of his leg, dangling off the edge of his bunk and swinging back and forth. “What?”

“You’ve been here ten days and you’re already super acclimatised. Like, one beat down and that’s it? You’ve not had any meltdowns or cried or anything.”

I cried once, Bucky thinks, but doesn’t say it out loud because unlike Clint, he’s not an idiot.

“Well, what am I meant to do? Panicking or crying isn’t gonna help me out here.”

“Yeah, but still,” Clint says around a yawn. “First time I was in jail I was a wreck for like a month.”

Bucky shrugs, goes back to reading. “I’ve been in the army,” he says. “Used to living in close quarters and being told what to do by assholes.”

“Yeah, but it’s not the same,” Clint says. There’s a creaking as he wriggles about, and then he slides off of the top bunk, landing soft on the balls of his feet. He holds onto the top bunk, swinging his body forwards.

Bucky gives up on his book, folding the corner down and setting it on his chest. Clint is clearly in a chatty mood and there’s pretty much no derailing that when it gets going.

“So you know we’ve got a truce,” Clint says, swaying forwards even further, his back an alarming arch.

Bucky narrows his eyes. “Get your bellybutton out of my personal space,” he complains, and Clint obediently rocks back so he’s bending the other way, butt sticking out into the space of their cell.

“I was thinking we could extend the truce to the showers.”

Bucky’s eyes narrow even further. “I’m not sucking your dick.”

Clint rolls his eyes. “Like I’d let you,” he says. “I mean, we both hate the showers. We both stink. This cell is probably going to be declared a biohazard. And last summer the guards got out the hoses for anyone ruining the delicate fragral balance of the place.”

“Fragral isn’t even a word.”

“But you know what I mean,” Clint says. “How about you come with me and hold my hearing aids for me while I shower?”

“And what do I get in return? I can't exactly remove my arm for you to hold.”

Clint cackles at that. “I’ll hold up a towel like a screen? Then no-one will see your robot arm.”

Now, on the one hand, a proper shower sounds dreamy. But that requires trusting Clint, a serial criminal, to help him out. And if he does help him out, that’s a whole new layer to their relationship. Bucky hasn’t bonded with anyone in years. Sam doesn’t count, because it's only proximity to Steve which meant they were forced to be friends.

“Why should I trust you?”

Clint shrugs. “I’ll go first. Let you hold my ears.”

“You’re that desperate for a shower?”

“I’m that desperate not to be hosed down again,” Clint says. “Please?”

Bucky sighs. “Fine,” he says. “Even though I’m sure I’m going to regret this in some way, shape or form.”

Clint beams at him. “Nah, it’ll be fine.”

 


 

 

Bucky regrets it immediately. The showers are lukewarm and not clean and Clint is taking his fuckin’ time. Three people have come and gone while he’s been dicking around in his cubicle - a cubicle, which like the others, doesn’t have a goddamn door on - and all three have given Bucky looks ranging from ‘you’re a weirdo’ to ‘you’re a complete fucking weirdo.’ Well, he supposes it could be worse; at least no-ones looked at him like they’re going to proposition him.

He stands there, leaning back against the damp yellow tiles. He keeps his gaze straight ahead, because to his left is Clint’s open door cubicle, and to his right is a row of sinks which have mirrors above them, allowing everyone to get a bonus reflection of whatever is going on in the not-really-cubicles. Whoever designed this place was either an idiot or a pervert.

Clint is being uncharacteristically quiet. It’s honestly a little unnerving, though Bucky concedes that being unable to hear would make him less prone to chattering too.

He sighs, looking down at the hearing aids in his palm. It feels strange, to have something that Clint depends on in his possession, completely at his mercy. Clint is so vulnerable right now, and not because he’s wet and naked. Don’t look, he tells himself firmly. Don’t do it. He’s lucky enough to not have a seriously high sex drive anyway, and the whole being incarcerated thing seems to have squashed it flat. Good, because he’s managed to dodge the whole ‘being stabbed because I’m a cop’ scenario, and it’d be just his luck to end up with ‘being stabbed because I’m queer’ instead.

He can’t even remember the last time he was naked with someone. Ugh. Now he’s just depressed; being near a naked guy in a prison shower block should not be the most action he’s got in the past three years.

The water shuts off with a clunk and rattle of pipes. Clint wanders out to retrieve his towel and Bucky resolutely does not look, apart from the part where he kind of does a little.

Well, goddamn, Barton.

Bucky doesn’t know if he should be jealous or congratulate the guy. Maybe both? Or neither. Keeping up the whole being straight act will probably go better if he doesn’t talk or think about another guy’s dick.

“Thanks,” Clint says, wrapping his towel around his waist and taking his hearing aids. He slips them back in and fiddles for a moment, and Bucky can see the relief flicker across his face as they’re switched back on.

“No problem,” Bucky says. His cheeks feel too warm. He better fucking not be blushing. “You know, I think I’m gonna skip it.”

“Incorrect,” Clint says, retrieving Bucky’s towel from the sinks and turning to carefully drape it over the mirror. “Look, I’ll stand in front of the cubicle and no-one will be able to see.”

And fuck. He’s actually being nice and helpful instead of an irritating asshole, so Bucky relents. He ducks into the cubicle and takes a deep breath before stripping, tossing his scrubs out at Clint who easily catches them.

“Whoa, do you work out like every day?” Clint says, staring at Bucky’s back. “You’re like a tank.”

“Clint!”

“Well, no homo,” Clint says like it’s obvious. “But damn.”

Face going warm, Bucky reaches for the taps. He can feel Clint’s eyes on him and call him old fashioned but he really doesn’t think a guy should be staring at his naked ass unless he’s planning to have some fun with it.

“Stop staring.”

“Oh, lighten up,” Clint says. “Prison life, bro.”

“I usually insist that a guy buys me dinner first, asshole.”

Clint laughs, and then there’s a pause. “You’re joking right?” he asks.

Bucky closes his eyes, sticks his face under the spray. Well done, Barnes. Couldn't keep your fucking mouth shut, could you. Christ, it’s like Steve is in charge of his brain, making him all shouty about his true self instead of temporarily repressing it.

“Wow, now this is awkward,” Clint says.

“Whatever,” Bucky huffs, reaching for his soap. “Not interested in you in the slightest if that makes you feel better.”

“What?” Clint asks, sounding somewhere between indignant or insulted. “Why not? Am I not your type or something?”

Bucky feels something ping in his brain, the fuse connected to the ‘control your temper’ bit blowing. He wheels around, faces Clint. “You really wanna play gay chicken or whatever the hell this is?” he says. Clint’s eyes drop and then immediately dart back up to Bucky’s face, his cheeks going pink. “Because I guarantee, any of your prison life bullshit will lose because I’m actually queer, alright?”

“Shhh,” Clint hisses, flapping a hand at Bucky. “Someone’ll hear. Oh god, it was bad enough when you were a cop.”

“You started it,” Bucky retorts, turning back to the shower. “Fuckin’ prison life , what the fuck is that supposed to mean.”

“It means that after long enough in here, people start to drop their standards. Shift their perspective, you know? It doesn’t count behind bars.” There’s some shuffling, awkward and restless.

“So let me get this straight, I could get my ass kicked for being queer, yet people can get away with pretending to be queer?”

“No, it’s not that simple,” Clint huffs. “Well, maybe it is. Just. If you’re gonna let that news out, you better be able to hold your own.”

“Or have someone else to hold my own.”

There’s a beat and then Clint starts to cackle. “That was awful,” he says. “Truly awful.”

“Inspired by your sense of humour,” Bucky says, working soap into what hair he’s got left. “You gonna rat me out?”

“No,” Clint says. “I don’t want drama in my cell.”

Bucky looks over his shoulder, catches Clint’s eye. “Thanks,” he says simply, and Clint gives him a crooked smile and a thumbs up in return.

 


 

Bucky has to give up on his book for the second time in a day when Clint actually drops in to sit on the end of his bed, leaning back against the post and making himself comfortable. The fucking audacity.

“Do any of your friends...know?” he says.

Bucky lifts an eyebrow. He’s tempted to lift a leg and kick Clint off of his bed, too. “What?”

“Know about…” Clint tails off and makes a series of vulgar hand gestures, which Bucky surmises mean he’s trying to ask about the whole queer thing.

“Yep,” Bucky says. “My best friend, Steve, he’s known since we were kids. Hell, he probably knew before I did.”

“Steve your cop friend?”

“Mhhm,” Bucky says.

“Is he a regular asshole cop or a you kind of cop?”

“What do you mean, a me kind of cop?”

“Well, you know,” Clint shrugs. “Normally when shit goes sideways, cops close ranks and just defend each other. You didn’t do that. What you told me, about when you saw that guy beating on that kid-”

“Hey, what that guy did was inexcusable-”

Clint holds up his hands. “Jeez, Terminator! Calm your tits, I’m agreeing with you. I’m saying you did the right thing.”

Bucky pauses, thinks about it. “When Steve is your best pal, you want to do the right thing. He’s a good guy. He makes you want to do good, you know?”

Clint considers that, then a slow grin spreads over his face. “What would Steve say about you headbutting a Latverian gangster?”

Bucky shrugs. “Lucky for me, he ain’t here right now.”

Clint laughs at that. “He sounds like a right pain in the ass.”

“Oh yeah, he really is,” Bucky says. “But he’s a good guy and he’s gonna make Captain one day and I’m proud of him for that.”

“That’s some serious faith in the guy,” Clint says, sounding doubtful. “I just can’t get over the whole do-gooder cop thing.”

“And he’s got a Medal of Honour,” Bucky says.

Clint’s mouth falls open. “What?!”

“You heard me,” Bucky says, leaning his head back against the wall and closing his eyes. “Honestly, for as shit a person as I am, Steve is a good guy and if you talk shit about him I’ll have to make you stop.”

“Sounds like someone has a crush on Steve.”

“Gross. You got a brother?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Would you fuck your brother?”

“No! That’s sick!”

“That’s how it is with me and Steve,” Bucky says.

“What did he get a Medal of Honour for?”

“Shush,” Bucky replies. “Quiet time.”

“Were you military too? Is that where your arm went?”

“Quiet time,” Bucky repeats.

“You’ll tell me sooner or later,” Clint says. “Or I’ll start telling everyone you lost your arm in a tragic elevator accident.”

I’d prefer that to the real story, Bucky privately thinks, but he doesn’t reply. Clint huffs at his silence but quiets down soon enough, lying down on his bunk with a leg dangling off the edge. It’d be so easy for Bucky to snag his ankle and yank him off of the bunk, but he decides to leave that particular move for when Clint is being especially annoying.

 


 

He lasts until later that night, when Clint starts up with the questions about his arm again when Bucky’s trying to sleep.

The noise Clint makes when he’s pulled off the bunk makes Bucky smile for the first time in days.

 


 

The shower truce seems to have evolved their relationship from unwilling, yet surprisingly tolerant cellmates into actual, well, friends. It’s obvious in the way they talk, sit together for meals, and how Clint decides to start following Bucky out into the yard. He doesn’t smoke but he seems content enough to hang out at Bucky’s side as Bucky does, shivering in his orange jacket. Apparently they don’t make them in purple, so Clint has to deal with being some sort of clashing tangerine-cadbury colored nightmare.

“So why are you actually in here?” Bucky asks, zipping his own jacket up. He’s not asked this question yet, mostly because it would come under the umbrella of ‘talking to people about things’ and he’s been avoiding that as much as he can. Eh,he can make an exception for Clint, he supposes. “What did you do?”

Clint shrugs. “Petty theft. Burglary. Pickpocketing,” he says. “But I only steal from rich people. And I only keep enough for me to get by. The last job I did, I sold a load of jewelry and gave most of it to these kids who had been living in a squat. They were so grateful they tackle-hugged me, almost knocked me out.”

“What, you robbed someone and gave it away? Like Robin Hood?”

Clint looks delighted. “Yeah! Exactly like Robin Hood! I can shoot, too. I coulda been an Olympian archer man, if it weren't for all the crime and shit.”

“Bullshit,” Bucky says. “Archery?”

“I’m great at archery,” Clint says. “I could whip a pea off the top of your head.”

“Uh, wasn't it an apple? William Tell or something?”

“Yeah, but I could do a pea, I’m better than William Tell,” Clint says. “I miss shooting.”

“I miss steak,” Bucky says. “I get out of here and I’m going to order the biggest steak I can find. And pancakes. Oh man, I’m going to eat I-Hop out of business.”

“When will you get out of here?”

Bucky shrugs, feeling his face shuttering. He doesn't want to talk about it. The bastard that attacked Steve still hasn’t committed to dying or living, so he still doesn’t know.  Clint looks at him carefully but before he can get any words out there’s a yell from across the yard, and they see a body go down in a blur of punches and kicks. Juris, he thinks immediately, but on second glance it’s not him or his group of thugs.

“Fuck,” Bucky says. It’s three on one and looks nasty.

“It’s the kid,” Clint says, watching intently. “The one from third wing, the Sokovian brat that just got here.”

“A kid?” Bucky says, already moving.

“We’re about to do something dumb, aren't we?” Clint asks, pushing away from the fence.

“Damn straight,” Bucky says. He doesn’t run because running is for athletes and losers like Steve - instead he strides across the yard with enough purpose and murder-eyes to make everyone between him and the fight get hastily out of his way.  The moment he’s close enough, he grabs one of the attackers by the shoulders, ripping him away and sending him sprawling across the dirt and gravel. He shoves another back just as Clint punches the third right in the nose. The first staggers to his feet, squaring up to Bucky.

“American.”

“Yeah, and the American will fuck you up if you touch that kid again,” Bucky says dangerously. “Three on one? Makes you feel big and tough, huh?”

“Kid rude,” the man spits. “He teach lesson.”

“Okay. Teach him a lesson if you like. You just gotta go through me,” Bucky says, bringing his face right up to the man’s. There’s a brief moment of drawn out tension and then the man spits on Bucky’s chest before walking away.

“Charming,” Bucky says. He turns to scowl at the kid. “Get up.”

The kid doesn’t move, so Clint speaks to him in what Bucky recognises as Sokovian. Whatever Clint says works, because he staggers to his feet, spitting blood out.

“Meg tudtam volna oldani.”

Clint starts to laugh. “He says he could have handled it.”

Bucky rolls his eyes, already walking away to retrieve his cigarettes and matches. Clint follows him, and then so does the kid. A lot of people in the yard are watching. A few even nod at Bucky, silent approval of his intervention. Wow, seems there really is honour among thieves. Or murderers, or drug dealers, or whatever the hell they all are.

He lights another cigarette, leans back against the fence. The kid wipes his mouth on his jacket, and starts talking in rapid Sokovian. Bucky wrinkles his nose, shakes his head. “I’m American, I don’t speak that much Sokovian.”

The kid stops talking, blinks at Bucky and then turns to Clint. Clint sighs, says something in Sokovian.

“Ahhhh,” the kid says, nodding. “Merry-can.”

Clint snorts. “He’s Pietro and he’s nineteen and he didn’t do anything wrong.”

Bucky rolls his eyes. “Of course he didn’t.”

The kid starts jabbering away again. Bucky catches Clint’s eye and shakes his head; Clint just shrugs in return. Ten minutes into the monologue and Bucky decides to call it a day, pushing away from the fence and walking back inside. Predictably, Clint follows. To Bucky’s consternation, so does the kid.

“So, he’s coming too,” Clint says casually, just incase Bucky had managed to miss the extra set of footsteps shadowing him.

“He is not,” Bucky says. “I’m not a babysitter.”

He ducks back into their cell, sitting on his bunk in his usual spot. Clint jumps up onto his bunk, legs dangling down and swinging because apparently he never learns. The kid halts outside, looking around and trying not to show how nervous and twitchy he is.

Oh, goddamn it.

Bucky catches his eye and jerks his head curtly. The kid doesn’t need telling twice, diving into the cell and sitting on the chair, backed up against the wall.

Above him, Clint starts to laugh. “You absolute pushover.”

Bucky leans back, kicks the underside of the bunk. “What am I supposed to do, leave him out there to get beaten up?”

“Uh, yeah?” Clint says. “Hey, get off - ne érintsd meg a dolgokat!”

At the table, the kid drops the magazine he'd been curiously lifting the cover off, holding his hands up. “Higadj le,” he says, and Bucky has no idea what he said but there's no mistaking the snottiness in the tone.

Well, fuck. Looks like he's landing himself with two irritating assholes to deal with.

Just his luck.

 


 

“Hey, Vadik,” Bucky yawns, scratching at his bellybutton. “I got anything in my account?”

Vadik peers at the ancient computer screen that’s on his side of the commissary window, hunting and pecking for keys with his forefinger.

“B - U - C - K - E - T… searching.”

“My name isn’t actually Bucket,” Bucky despairs. “James Barnes. B-A-R-N-E-S.”

Vadik looks at him curiously. “If you are James, why do you call yourself Bucket?”

“You know what, by this point I don’t even know,” Bucky sighs. “Just search Barnes, please.”

“What’s it worth?” Vadik grins, but he’s already typing again. “Bucket Barnes, you have nine thousand krev in your account! You are a rich man!”

“Thank you, Stevie,” Bucky breathes. “Okay, carton of cigarettes,” he says to Vadik. “A box of matches and....what’s that? Chocolate? Is that actually Cadbury’s chocolate?”

Vadik nods proudly. “Nothing but the best in Vadik’s shop,” he says. “Four hundred krev for a bar.”

“What? That’s more than the smokes!”

“Cadbury,” Vadik says, brows knotting. “High demand.”

Bucky huffs. “Fine, you extortionist. Smokes, matches, two bars of the world’s most expensive chocolate.”

Vadik grins, grabbing his stool and sliding it across the floor so he can get at the cartons of cigarettes. “One for you and one for the Sokovian duckling?”

Bucky blinks and him. “Excuse you?”

“The Sokovian boy? Skinny, grey eyes, white hair? Pyotr, I think his name. He follows you around,” Vadik says. “We call him the dangerous American’s Sokovian duckling. He is your little pet, no? And he follows you like a duckling.”

“I - you - what?” Bucky asks, resisting the urge to hit his head against the metal frame of the commissary window. “His name is Pietro and he is not.

“He is always in your cell,” Vadik says, hopping down off of his stool and passing over the cigarettes. “He is not...what is the American term? Not your bitch?”

Bucky doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Three weeks in and he’s already climbed the tough-guy ranks enough for people to believe he’s got his own prison bitch. God, Steve is going to piss himself laughing when he finds out. Or look horrified. Jury’s out on that one.

“No, he’s just a pain in the ass that follows me around!”

Vadik nods enthusiastically. “Yes! A duckling!”

“Whatever,” Bucky says wearily, stacking his chocolate on top of his carton of smokes and turning away. “Later, Vadik.”

“Goodbye Bucket!”

He gets to the end of the corridor and almost walks right into someone: just his luck, it’s fucking Juris. He’s alone though, so Bucky stands his ground and squares his shoulders, silently daring him to try it, motherfucker. Juris looks him up and down and stands there long enough that Bucky’s started to consider the logistics of ramming a carton of smokes down someone’s throat, but then he sneers and walks away. Bucky watches him go. Across the corridor an Asian guy grins and pops a lazy American salute at Bucky. He huffs out a laugh and nods in reply before continuing on his way. He’s barely halfway up the stairs when someone runs up behind him; his instinct has hims tensing and whipping around with his metal fist raised, but luckily he checks himself before anyone else gets a metal fist to the side of the head.

“Pietro! I thought you were- Don’t fucking make me jump!”

Pietro just grins at him. He says something and then reaches for one of the chocolate bars. Bucky makes an indignant noise and slaps Pietro's hand away. “No,” he says loudly. “Not for you.”

Pietro glares at him, predictably starts ranting at him in Sokovian. Bucky walks away but of course the ranting follows him all the way back up to his cell.

“Lock him out,” he says to Clint, who is busy doing pull-ups on the ceiling bar as Bucky steps in.  He heaves himself up and Bucky has to tell himself to not stare at his shoulders or the sheen of sweat along his collarbones. Damn, for as annoying as he can be, Barton is very easy on the eye. “Do what you need to do but lock him out.”

Clint drops down for the bar, waving at Pietro who is standing defiantly in the doorway. Bucky drops his carton onto his bed and tosses one of the chocolate bars to Clint, who catches it easily in one hand.

“For me? Thanks! What do I owe you?”

Bucky rolls his eyes. “I’m being nice.”

“No one in jail is nice. What do I owe you?”

“Fine, a blowjob,” Bucky says, and Clint throws his head back and cackles with laughter.

“Mit mondott?” Pietro chips in from the doorway.

“Enough of the Sokovian,” Bucky says irritably. “This is an American cell, pal.”

“Te barom,” Pietro says snottily.

“He says you’re an idiot,” Clint fills in.

“Tell him to go away,” Bucky insists. “People are starting to talk, he can’t be hanging around here all the time.”

“People are starting to talk?”

“Yeah, apparently I’m the dangerous American and he’s a duckling,” Bucky says. “People have noticed him following me around so now they think…”

Clint’s face breaks out in a gleeful smile. “They think he’s your bitch!”

Bucky sits down on his bed. “Yes,” he says wearily. “Which is why he needs to go away.”

Clint says something to Pietro, and whatever answer he gets must be pretty amusing if the look on his face is any indication. He’s literally shaking with barely restrained laughter. “He says he knows, and he doesn't mind, because no-one else will lay a hand on him if he's yours.”

“What?!”

“He’s taking advantage of prison life rules, bro, can’t blame him for that,” Clint grins, then says something to Pietro who nods vigorously.

“Don’t encourage him,” Bucky despairs. “Tell him it’s not happening.”

“Hey, I’m not your personal translator,” Clint says, but he’s still grinning from ear to ear. “Learn some Sokovian, you tell him.”

“Both of you can go fuck yourselves,” Bucky says, giving them them finger too, just to underscore his point, before twisting around to lie on his bed.

He gets about three seconds of peace and then of course Pietro hops into the cell, grinning at Bucky as he sits on the chair, propping his feet on Bucky's bed like he's not remotely intimidated.

Great, Bucky thinks, deciding to just ignore them in favour of his book. Just great.

 


 

 

During dinner, Pietro seems to take their conversation about his status as Bucky’s duckling as permission or encouragement or some shit. He slides onto the bench next to Bucky, close enough that they’re touching at the hip.

“Hey! Personal space!”

Pietro just blinks at him, all wide eyes. He leans closer, so his shoulder is pressed to Bucky’s.

“I will beat you so hard,” Bucky hisses. “Clint, tell him to back off!”

Sat opposite them, Clint has one hand pressed over his eyes, his elbow on the edge of the table. He’s breathing in and out through his mouth and he’s literally shaking with mirth. So, on a scale from one to completely not fucking helpful at all, Clint is off the charts.

“Clint!”

Clint tries to compose himself. His eyes are shining with tears of laughter and honestly Bucky’s worried that he’s going to pee himself. He wipes his eyes on his hand and then beckons Pietro to lean over the table.

Pietro leans over and Clint whispers something in his ear. Pietro nods and sits back down, turning back to Bucky and saying way too clearly, “Yes, Daddy.”

Bucky lunges across the table to grab Clint, but Clint is too quick for him. Howling with laughter, Clint dances back out of range, off the bench and across the hall.

“Get back here!”

People are now staring and laughing as Bucky abandons his dinner in favour of chasing Clint out of the hall. He catches up with him in the corridor just outside the commissary, tackling him and wrestling him into a headlock.

“Okay, uncle!” Clint gasps, though he’s still laughing.

“I should kill you for that,” Bucky says.

“Worth it,” Clint says. “Beside you can’t kill me, I die and then they’ll move Pietro into the cell.”

“Oh no, I’ll kill him too,” Bucky says. He starts to walk, pulling Clint along with him. “Then I’ll have a cell all to myself.”

“You’d miss me.”

“Yeah like a hole in the head,” Bucky says, ruffling Clint’s hair. “Come on Purple, let’s go.”

“You gonna let me go?”

“Nope.”

Clint’s hands go up to hold onto Bucky’s forearm. “Kinda sweaty down here,” Clint says, sounding mildly strangled. “You’re a little ripe, Bucket.”

“This is your punishment, deal with it,” Bucky says, nodding at a couple of guys as they pass. “The next time you and Pietro decide to get smart you’ll end up in a thigh lock.”

“That sounds both dangerous and alluring?” Clint says. “On second thoughts, being that close to your sweaty balls isn’t alluring at all.”

“Then behave yourself,” Bucky says.

Clint pats his arm, twisting around to grin up at him. “Sir, yes, Sir.”

 


 

 

That night, Bucky can’t help but think about stupid Clint and his stupid shoulders. He’s spent the last three years in close quarters with Steve who actually has the world's widest shoulders, so he’s got no idea why he’s all hung up on Clint’s. Might be the fact he’s in prison and Clint is the only friend he has, so his brain is fixating on him. Might be the freckles. The ones scattered across the tops of Clint’s shoulders, matching the ones on his cheekbones. Bucky kind of wants to put his mouth on them. It doesn’t really help that because of the shower truce and Clint’s utter lack of shame, Bucky knows that the freckles go a lot further south, too.

Ugh, Bucky thinks, rolling onto his side. He needs to stop this right now. Just because he’s queer doesn't mean Clint is, and he’s got no desire to end up in a prison-rules type arrangement with anyone. Even though most of the populace think that’s what’s going on with him and Pietro. Nope. Pietro is too young and too annoying and not Bucky’s type at all. No, Bucky’s type appears to be blond and freckled and not quite as annoying as he first appeared.

Nevermind the universe; Bucky’s brain is quite clearly on a mission to do him over.

 


 

 

Bucky’s just stepped out of the shower when an alarm goes off, loud and insistent. He and Clint glance at each other, frowning. It’s not time for afternoon lock down yet, they’ve still got like two hours before they need to be back in their cells.

“What’s that?”

“Must be something kicking off somewhere,” Clint says. Outside the bathroom, they can hear shouting, lots of footsteps.

A guard sticks his head around the door. “Laiks iet. Tas nav urbis,” he says, and Bucky doesn’t understand the words but he recognises the impatient tone.

“Okay, yeah we gotta go,” Clint says. “Come on, Bucket.”

“Wait, I’m not dressed!”

“Now,” the guard snaps. “American, move now.”

Clint grabs all of his things and starts heading out. Bucky curses and quickly drags his clean top over his head, wrapping his towel around his waist and gathering up his things.

“Now.”

“Alright, keep your panties on, I’m getting,” Bucky mutters, ducking out of the bathroom. There’s a steady flow of people heading back to their cells, expressions ranging from accepting to curious to disgruntled. He spots Clint easily, a dash of purple among the orange and grey.

“Barton, wait up,” he calls, catching up with him. “Has this happened before?”

“A few times,” Clint says. “If something is going down somewhere they’ll do a lock down so the guards can all go sort it out. Might be a fight, might be a medical emergency or something.”

“How long’s it gonna last? I’m expecting a call from Steve.”

“No idea,” Clint says. Around them, guards are checking how many people are in cells and are manually locking the doors, buzzers sounding off as each one is shut.

They find a guard waiting impatiently outside their cell, waving his hand to hurry them up. They duck in and Bucky abruptly stops as he spots someone lounging around on his bunk.

“Hello, Daddy,” Pietro says cheerfully.

“Absolutely fucking not,” Bucky says. “He doesn’t live here.”

“No time,” the guard says. “Brat refuses to move, brat can stay here.”

And with that, they’re locked in with a clunk and a very final sounding buzz.

“Great,” Bucky sighs. “Unscheduled lock-in, no call with Steve, annoying duckling on my bed.”

“Duckling,” Pietro agrees, and holds out a book towards Bucky. Huh, it’s a copy of The Da Vinci Code, which is like eighty years old at this point but it’s printed in English. Bucky takes it from him and decides that maybe he won’t forcibly remove him from his bunk.

He sets the book down, drops his bundle of clothes and wash kit onto the table, pulling out his his clean clothes. He thinks about trying to be modest but then thinks fuck it, dropping his towel so can get step into his underwear. There’s a matching set of whistles, which he replies to with a succinct middle finger. With his point made, he decides to get around the fact that his bunk has been stolen by stealing Clint’s.

“Hey, no!”

“You got me into this mess with the duckling, you accept the consequences.”

“You were the one who got us involved in that fight!”

“Whatever,” Bucky says, shifting to get comfortable.

“I’ll come up there.”

“Whatever.”

Which is how Bucky ends up lying on his back with his head on Clint’s lap, reading his book as Clint plays at cat’s cradle with a piece of string. Clint’s attempts to tip him off of the bunk proved futile, as were Bucky’s attempts to get Clint to go sit with Pietro instead. So now, two way-too-big-for-this guys are sharing a top bunk which probably isn’t structurally sound enough for their combined weight.

And yeah, it started off as something between a joke and a pissing contest, but now that they’re there it seems kinda...nice.

“Hé,” Pietro says, popping up from nowhere. “Mindkettő nagyon közel van egymáshoz. Szexelsz?”

Clint kicks out at him, but Pietro is a quick little bastard and ducks out of the way.

“What’s he saying?” Bucky asks, though he’s regretting asking already.

“He wants to know if we’re fucking, seeing as we’re so close.”

Bucky contemplates throwing his book at Pietro. Instead, he just shrugs. “Tell him we are, why does he think we go to the showers together.”

Clint laughs, his legs shifting under Bucky’s head. “You wish.”

“Please, I’m not desperate,” Bucky says and Clint grins down at him and blows him a kiss. Bucky feels his stomach twist and he’s not quick enough to think of a response that’s witty or sarcastic enough to count as banter. He just stares up at Clint, and the smile on Clint’s face slowly fades into something uncertain.

“Te ketten bruttó,” Pietro says, and Bucky and Clint both jerk like they’ve been tasered.

“Oh, fuck off,” Bucky snaps, sitting up and swinging his legs off the edge of the bunk, causing Pietro to dive back under onto Bucky’s. Heart beating too quick in a weird fluttering mix of not-quite-arousal and embarrassment, Bucky jumps off the bunk and stalks over to the door. He feels so trapped, wishes his metal arm was imbued with some sort of super strength so he could tear the bars out and escape.

 


 

 

Turns out he doesn’t need to escape away from the awkwardness. The moment lock-in ends, Clint hightails it out of the cell like there’s a fire, or free candy being given out at the commissary. Bucky’s left just standing there, feeling a little wrong-footed. Is Clint running away because of what Pietro said? Because of the way Bucky looked at him?

“Fuck,” Bucky mutters, rubbing at his jaw.

“Daddy,” Pietro says from behind him, patting awkwardly at Bucky’s elbow.

“Can you not right now,” Bucky says, tipping his head forward so his temple is pressed against the bars. There must be something in his tone which shows just how not into messing around he is right now, because Pietro pulls his hand back and then slips out of the cell without even a wink or a dumb comment.

 


 

 

The next time Bucky sees Clint is at evening lock-in; he’d not even appeared for dinner, his missing purple scrubs an obvious gap in the room. When he does come back he’s acting so painfully normal that it’s obvious that he’s trying to be normal: Bucky can spot the faking it a mile away.

The next morning, he’s gone again as soon as the cell doors are unlocked.

Great. So Bucky’s managed to freak out his one friend in here and now he’s back to being alone all over again.

It sucks more than he was expecting.