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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.

Chapter Text

“So I have a huge, ridiculous crush on my cellmate,” Bucky says the moment the call connects. “I’m pretty sure he knows and is now avoiding me.”

There’s a long silence on the end of the line.

“Okay,” Steve finally says. “I was going to talk to you about my meeting with the important people in DC, but I sense you need to get something off your chest.”

“No, wait, what?”

“I spoke to a guy called Fury? He was head of spec ops when we were out in Afghanistan.”

“Nick Fury?!”

“Yeah, he’s in contact with the Latverian government, and he’s got contacts in Sokovia too. He’s got some political sway and I kind of think he knows a lot behind the scenes. Either way, he’s weighing in on your behalf.”

“You’re shitting me,” Bucky says. “Why?”

“Gee, I don’t know, Buck. Because you’re a good man and you deserve help?”

Bucky thinks about his fist making too-solid contact. Thinks about the view through his sniper-sight in the desert air. Thinks about the bodies on the ground. “Well that’s a can of worms we shouldn’t open,” he says lightly. “But thanks, Stevie.”

“You’re welcome,” Steve says. “I may have also reminded Senator Ross about the fact I got my MOH rescuing you, and gee, wouldn’t it look bad if I had to go and do that again.”

Bucky starts to laugh. “You did not.”

“Did a little bit,” Steve says. “It’s good to hear your voice, Buck. I got worried when you didn’t take my call the other day.”

“Hey we were in lockdown. I didn’t choose to not take the call,” Bucky says. “Some drama on fourth wing, the high security gig.”

“As long as you’re okay,” Steve says. “Apart from a crush you’ve got on someone, you say?”

“Yeah,” Bucky says. “I’m an idiot.”

“Yeah,” Steve agrees, sounding serious. “Don’t do anything to get yourself in trouble.”

“Bit late for that,” Bucky says dryly.

Steve sighs. “Tell me about it,” he says. “I’m going to fly back on Friday so I can come and see you.”

“And make everyone in DC think you’re going to orchestrate some sort of jailbreak,” Bucky says. Behind him, he hears movement and he automatically turns so his back is flat against the wall. Walking up the corridor towards him is Juris, one of his cronies at his side. Bucky goes tense but keeps his outward focus on the phone.

Steve laughs. “Might shake them up a bit,” he says without shame. “Coulson is going to try and meet up with Hill from the embassy and then come in to see you.”

Bucky doesn’t answer him. Juris wanders past Bucky and then stops, casually turning on his heel to lean against the wall on the opposite side of the phone.

“Buck?”

“Hold on, Steve,” Bucky says, holding the receiver to his chest. “The fuck do you want?”

“Want to make call,” Juris says, all innocent tone and challenge. “I wait in line.”

Bucky raises an eyebrow. The waiting line is literally painted in red on the floor about three feet behind the guy. “I got two minutes left, pal.”

“I wait,” Juris says.

Bucky rolls his eyes, lifts the receiver up to his ear. “Hey Steve, there’s someone here who’s desperate to make a call. I’d make him wait but he’s being a real little bitch about it.”

“Bucky,” Steve admonishes, even as Juris bristles at the insult. “You shouldn't use bitch as an insult, that’s sexist.”

“Sense the tone, Stevie,” Bucky says flatly. “I’ll call you back.”

“Are you okay?” Steve asks urgently.

“Peachy,” Bucky says. “Later, sweetheart.”

He hangs up the phone, flashes a grin at Juris. He’s tempted to lean against the wall and stand there belligerently just like Juris had done, but he knows this is possibly one of those rare ‘ pick your battles’ moments that Sam likes to talk about all the time.

“You’re welcome,” he says, popping the guy a salute before walking away. He can practically hear the guy’s teeth grinding in anger and it fills him with satisfaction. See, Steve? There is something to be said about not rising to the bait every goddamn time.  

Seeing as Clint is probably still avoiding him, Bucky goes down to the dingy gym that’s in the basement. He has to be fully searched to go in, and the guards on duty have a brief quibble over his arm, but eventually they relent and let him in. It’s pretty grim down here, but the weights are good and it’ll help him blow off some steam. And besides, it’s quiet down here, which means he only hesitates a while before pulling off his orange scrub top, leaving him in his white tank. It shows off the whole of his arm, something he’s never done before while in the prison - well, only to Clint while he’s been in the showers. He gets a few curious looks, but after that everyone seems to just ignore him in favour of their own workouts, which fills him with relief. He’s busy on a bench press, having accepted an offer from Markus ‘body like a tank, temperament like a particularly shy kitten’ Novickis to spot him, when a face appears above his.

Bucky groans. “Go away, Pietro,” he huffs, gritting his teeth as he starts on his next set. “Busy.”

Pietro just stares at him, nonplussed. Then he says a whole lot of something in Sokovian, looking expectantly at Bucky when he’s done, like Bucky has somehow managed to become bilingual overnight.

Pietro makes an impatient noise. “Clint,” he says, and pulls an exaggerated unhappy face, miming tears running down his cheeks

Bucky hisses out an annoyed breath and sets the weight back on its bar. He shoots Markus an apologetic look and the guy just nods and moves away. “Where is he?” Bucky asks Pietro. “Clint. Where?” he mimes looking around.

“A kápolnát,” Pietro replies, which is not really helpful. Pietro sighs expansively and then crosses himself, holding his hands up like he’s praying. Right, either he thinks Bucky is a demon and he’s asking for protection, or Clint is in the chapel.

“Fine,” Bucky grouches, and starts walking. Pietro walks at his side, wrinkling up his nose and eyeing Bucky’s sweat-darkened tank with distaste. Bucky ignores him, swiftly making his way up to the chapel and edging in, shutting the door smartly in Pietro’s face. He can’t immediately see Clint, so proceeds with caution. He finally finds him sitting on the floor at the front of the room, back against the peeling varnish of the front pew.

“Why’re you hiding in church?”

Clint scrambles up at the sound of his voice, clearly shocked. He bolts, sprinting around the edge of the room to the door. Bucky lunges after him, reaching him just as Clint opens the door-

-and finds it slammed back in his face by none other than Pietro. The shock of it is enough to give Bucky the upper hand; he grabs Clint and wrestles him to the ground, sitting across his ass with his hands in the small of his back.

“Get off me, you fucking maniac!”

“Incorrect,” Bucky says. “What, you’re actually running away from me now?”

“Well, yeah!” Clint says, turning his head to try and scowl at Bucky. “Fuck, you got Pietro doing your dirty work for you now?”

“He told me you were here,” Bucky says. “He mimed being all sad and shit, I thought you wanted me here.”

“I’m literally in here because I didn’t think you’d think to look for me here.”

Bucky scowls down at the back of his head. “I wasn't looking for you, I was in the gym. I toldja, Pietro fetched me.”

“Explains why you stink,” Clint says, and pauses, turning his head the other way. “You weren't looking for me?”

“No, you were in a snit with me, figured I’d give you space,” Bucky says. “What’s the point in looking for you if you don’t want to talk to me?”

“Thats...a grown-up, sensible way of looking at things,” Clint huffs. “You gonna let me go now, you’re crushing my spleen with your fat ass.”

“Are you gonna talk to me?” Bucky challenges. “Without running away like an asshole?”

“Whatever,” Clint mumbles. Bucky narrows his eyes at him, not quite trusting him to not run away again. He decides to give him the benefit of the doubt and clambers off him, sitting down on his ass with his back to the door. Muttering mutinously, Clint gets up, kneeling and rubbing at his back, which is such a drama-queen moment, honestly. Bucky hadn’t even put his full weight on him.

“Oh grow up,” Bucky says. “Now what the fuck is going on?”

Clint gives him a dirty look but shifts to sit next to him, back against the other door. He rubs at his wrists where Bucky had had hold of them. “I…” he begins, and huffs. “Okay. You know when we were talking about prison rules and you being queer and all that shit?”

Bucky holds back a wince. A strict Catholic upbringing - completely abandoned from a pretty early age, honestly - has him still wary of talking about the g-a-y when in the c-h-u-r-c-h. It’s like some ingrained response, like his fight or flight mechanism. He ignores it as best he can, and nods.

“Well...I made it seem like I was just joking around,” Clint says. “When I’m...well, if straight is a zero and exclusively gay is ten, I’m probably like a three.”

Bucky considers that carefully. “What were you before you landed in jail?”

“A three, still,” Clint says, and oh. “I might even be a four now. Because of you.”

“I cannot make a person more gay,” Bucky starts, caught somewhere between stunned and exasperated.

“You are very manly,” Clint insists. “With the muscles and the stubble and the body hair and did I mention the muscles-”

“But that’s not - sexuality and taste in people is completely diff- you know what, I’m not arguing about that. Let’s argue about that later,” Bucky says, trying to get back on track. “You’re telling me you’re queer?”

“I dunno,” Clint says. “I’ve only ever been with women.”

“So where did the three come from then?”

“I dunno!” Clint says, gesturing at nothing in a frustrated wave of his hand. “My imagination?! And now I look at you and...you know what. Forget it. It’s because I’ve been in jail so long.”

“Clint.”

“No, just,” Clint says, and he sounds tired. “Let’s go back to the way it was when we were at shower truce and you bought me chocolate.”

Bucky sighs. He doesn’t know what else to say. Sure, he’s got a crush on Clint’s freckles and his appalling sense of humour and his general face-type-thing but he never expected it to be reciprocated. He thought Clint was straight, and now here he is, making everything all weird.

“Alright,” he murmurs, and climbs to his feet. “Consider confession over, let’s get out of here.”

“You’re not gonna beat me up?” Clint asks.

“Why would I beat you up?” Bucky asks, and shakes his head, deciding he doesn't want to know. “Whatever. We’re alright. Let’s go.” He raps his knuckles in the door, expecting Pietro to open the door for them. When he gets no response, he frowns and pushes the door open. Pietro isn’t there; the corridor is deserted.

“The fuck did he go?” Bucky asks.

Clint muscles him out the way, looking up and down the corridor. “Probably knows I want to yell at him for shutting the door in my face,” he shrugs. “We’ve got lock-in in ten.”

“Alright,” Bucky says and they start walking. Privately, Bucky wishes that he didn’t have to share a cell with Clint right now. Everything is so intense here; you can't even have a decent argument with someone because there's nowhere to go and cool your heels. Bickering one moment and then forced into a ten by ten space for the next four hours. It’s like some high-intensity, high-octane soap-opera or some shit.

They pile into their cell and Clint immediately swings up onto his bunk. Bucky tidies the place a bit and then sinks onto his own bunk, lying on his back and staring at the one above him.




 

He wakes up screaming. He’s barely aware of it before there’s a body leaning across his, a hand clapping over his mouth. Panicking, he drags in a breath through his nose, eyes finding the person in the gloom.

Clint .

“Shhh,” Clint says, strained. He’s only got one hearing aid in. “Don’t scream. Try not to scream.”

Even through the chest-tightening panic, Bucky manages to nod and Clint takes his hand away. He’s sweating and shaking. His metal arm is aching, burning with faint pinpricks of pain. It’s not real, he tells himself, shutting his eyes tightly. You can’t feel anything.

“They hear you crying, they’ll think you’re weak,” Clint whispers, voice low. “Don’t give them that excuse.”

Bucky nods again, swallowing hard. “I’m alright,” he says, clenching and unclenching his metal fingers. “Fuck.”

Clint climbs off him but doesn’t go far. He sits on the end of Bucky’s bunk, eyes bright in the dim light of the cell. The rest of the prison is silent, save for the muted sounds of a few hundred sleepy breaths.

“Afghanistan,” Bucky manages to say. “North border. Insurgents.”

“That what happened to your arm?”

Bucky nods. “Some days I can still feel it. Burns.”

Clint looks faintly horrified at that. He hesitates and then holds out his hand; Bucky doesn't hesitate to hold out his metal one for Clint to take. Clint holds it carefully, sliding his fingers over the platings and gently bending Bucky’s fingers to curl around his own. The prickling pain flares bright for a moment but Bucky forces himself to watch, focusing on the actual sensations of Clint pressing on his hand. That’s real, he tells himself. That feeling is real.

“Okay?” Clint asks.

Bucky nods. “It’s helping.”

Clint nods. He shifts closer, slides his palm up Bucky’s inner forearm. This is the first time Clint has ever really paid any attention to Bucky’s arm, other than the odd comment or joke about it. Bucky hadn’t really noticed until now just how chill Clint has been about it all.

“Doctor says my brain sometimes short-circuits and thinks my arm is still there,” Bucky explains quietly. “So I get phantom pains.”

“This isn't hurting you, is it?” Clint asks.

“No, it’s helping,” Bucky says. “I can feel the pressure...it’s like resetting my brain. It’s remembering how my new arm feels instead of freaking out about the old one. Steve used to do this for me a lot.”

“Steve, the brother you wouldn’t fuck?”

Bucky lets out a shaky laugh. “That’s the one.”

Clint shifts closer. His hands slide higher, fingers slipping up the sleeve of Bucky’s shirt. “You mind?”

Bucky slowly sits up, then decides fuck it and carefully pulls his shirt off. He’s not wearing an undershirt underneath so his whole arm is fully on show. He sits back down and Clint is immediately there, turning Bucky slightly so his back is to Clint. He tucks one of his feet up and shifts close, his hands moving deftly over Bucky’s shoulder.

“It’s a hell of a thing,” Clint murmurs.

“Doesn’t feel so great on your dick,” Bucky whispers back. “The plates pinch.”

Clint leans forwards, stifling his laughter in Bucky’s back. “I wasn’t gonna ask.”

“Sure,” Bucky says. Clint huffs out one last breath onto his back, sitting back up and carrying on gently massaging at Bucky’s upper arm. They fall quiet, the only sound in the space their breathing and the faint whirr and click of the plates in Bucky’s arm. Clint’s fingertips slide up along Bucky’s shoulder and to his neck, drifting up to the base of his skull and making him shiver. “Clint,” he whispers. He’s not sure if Clint hears him, but the fingers drag back down and up his spine again. He reaches back, holds onto the fingers with his real ones. A second hand slides onto his waist from behind. Bucky has to close his eyes, feeling tears prickling hot and sudden. He doesn’t want to be here. He wants to be in New York, with his own things around him. He wants to be in his own bed with his own blankets and he wants Clint there with him, not stuck in a fucking barred cell in the ass end of Latveria.

He wants to go home.

He heaves out a sigh, lets go of Clint’s fingers and rubs his hand over the back of his head. “So, you not running away from me?”

“Hmm?”

He turns so Clint can see his mouth. “Just asking if you’re going to run away from me again.”

“Well not right now,” Clint says like it’s obvious.

Bucky huffs out a quiet laugh. He looks down at his knees and feels a thrill run through him as Clint leans in too, but all he does is rest his temple against Bucky’s, rolling from side to side a little.

“Hey Grumpy Bucket.”

“Mmm?”

“This is totally four behaviour. Maybe even five.”

Bucky laughs softly. “You’re the one who had a problem with the numbers. I’m a solid eight and I’m cool with it.”

Clint’s mouth flickers in a smile. “You gonna be okay?”

Bucky nods, lets Clint take his hand again. Clint traces his fingers over the plates around Bucky’s thumb, across his palm.

“Gonna be able to sleep without crying like a baby?”

Bucky pushes him off the edge of the bunk.




 

At breakfast the next morning, things feel normal again. The tension he’d been carrying lifts from his shoulders and he’s amazed by how much better he feels, even though Clint is cracking awful jokes and stealing his damn toast and generally being annoying. His only saving grace is that Pietro hasn’t shown up, so the obnoxiousness is capped at Clint levels. Admittedly that’s still pretty high.

“So I’m officially halfway through my sentence as of today,” Clint says. “Two years checked off the calendar.”

“Impressive, seeing as you don’t usually know what day it is,” Bucky says. “How the hell do you end up with four years for burglary?”

“Persistence is the key,” Clint says. “And also doing thousands of Krev worth of damage when you fall off a roof and land on top of someone’s imported Bentley.”

“Yeah that’ll do it,” Bucky says, toasting Clint with with his coffee mug.

“Yeah and I kinda threw away any chance of early parole because of the whole escaping thing.”

Bucky frowns. “You don’t sound remotely bothered by that.”

“Nah, not really,” Clint shrugs. “Hey, what about you? You’ve been in here weeks now. You’re kinda settling in like you’re here for the long haul.”

Bucky frowns down at his breakfast tray. “Well. I could either get twelve weeks or twenty years, depending.”

Clint’s mouth falls open. “Depending on what?!”

“On whether the guy I hit dies or not,” Bucky scowls. “Bastard can’t make up his mind. He’s in an induced coma or some shit.”

“Man, that sucks,” Clint says. “Hey, are you gonna eat that toast or just murder-stare at it?”

“Have at it,” Bucky says, gesturing to his tray. He’s kinda lost his appetite anyway. Clint leans over and snags one piece of toast, though he’s already eyeing up the second. Bucky hands it over to avoid the inevitable.

Bucky’s eyes slide up as someone approaches their table. “Hey Vadik,” he says, but then clocks the way that Vadik is clutching his tray and looking pale. “Whoa, what’s up?”

Vadik swallows hard. “Duckling is in the medical hospital,” he says. Bucky feels his stomach drop like it’s lead.  Clint chokes on his toast. “Juris and his guys,” Vadik mutters. “They are in solitary now. A few guys moved in to help and it escalated too much.”

“When did this happen?”

“Last night,” Vadik says, glancing around. “He’s in a bad way.”

“Fuck,” Bucky curses, getting up. “ Fuck .”

Clint is following him, white as a sheet. Bucky glances at him and Clint nods jerkily; they set off together, going as fast as they can without actually running. They get up to medical but are stopped outside the door.

“Please, we just wanna see Pietro,” Bucky says, Clint overlapping similar sentiments in Latverian. “The skinny Maximoff kid.”

The guard says no. The guard shakes his head. The guard tells them to go away. Clint remains as persistent as ever until finally the guard relents. He tells them that they’ve got ten minutes, that they’re not allowed to touch anything and that if anyone asks, he had nothing to do with anything.

Bucky holds his breath for the walk from the search point to the ward. His heart is hammering sickly and he feels almost like he did the night he got arrested. He walks like he’s in a trance, feet moving on autopilot. Then they find Pietro and Bucky nearly throws up. He looks bad. Both eyes swollen shut, bandages wrapped around his head, his chest. There’s bruises everywhere and that’s just the bits of him that aren’t covered by hospital issue white blankets.

“Shit,” Clint says. His fingers curl around the bars on the edge of the hospital bed. Pietro sleeps on, and Bucky doesn’t know if it’s by choice or if he’s unconscious, just like that guy Bucky hit-

He feels it roll through him like a wave, like a cresting storm. Anger so thick that he can barely breathe, can barely think. He’s shaking. If he were in any rational frame of mind he’d recognise the feeling, he’d know that down this road lies nothing but trouble.

“This is my fault,” he hears himself saying, his voice oddly distant. “They did this to him to get to me.”

He can feel his left arm vibrating, the mechanisms unsure about how to process the stress and adrenaline coursing through him.

“Bucky, no-”

Clint’s too late. Bucky’s already walking. He shoves out of the hospital wing, door crashing against the wall behind him. There’s a shout but he ignores it, moving swiftly down the stairs and towards the corner of the prison that he knows houses the solitary units. People get out of his way like he’s carrying a weapon, stepping back and flattening themselves to the walls. He finds himself stopped by the reinforced door of the detention wing, still boiling with fury.

“Hey, no,” says the guard in the walled office that sits beside the door. “Off limit. Go.”

Bucky replies by punching the glass window in the door with his left hand. It cracks upon impact, a thousand spiderwebs shattering from the place where he hit. He lifts his fist again. The glass shatters, falling to the floor in glittering shards-

An alarm goes off, wailing shrilly. There’s yelling behind him. The pounding of footsteps. Someone hits his back, a strong arm around his neck. “Let me through,” he says, trying to wrest free. Another body hits him, dragging his right arm up behind his back. He hits the door again, right above the handle. “Let me go, I’m gonna fucking kill them -”

It takes three more guards but they get him to the floor, pinned down on his front. His hands are promptly cuffed, the metal digging into his right wrist and straining against his left.

“Stop,” a voice snaps. “American, stop .”

He shudders out a breath, pressing his cheek to the cold tiled floor. He clenches his eyes tightly shut and he screams, shredded and raw.

 


 

 

He winds up in solitary himself, which is ironic seeing the effort they put in to stop him getting into the wing not an hour earlier.  His neck hurts from being dragged to the floor and his left shoulder throbs dully where the prosthetic is joined. The whole thing feels off somehow, juddering slightly and not quite moving as smoothly as it should. It’s like it wasn’t actually designed for punching out bulletproof glass or something.

He sits in the corner of the box-cell he’s found himself in, knees drawn up and face buried in the crook of his right elbow. His left arm hangs next to him, whirring and ticking unhappily.

He can't stop thinking. The guy he hit, lying comatose in a hospital. Pietro, taking a beating because of Bucky’s history. Steve, still believing in Bucky even though he’s barely worth it. Clint, with the smiles and jokes and gentle hands, somehow a speck of goodness in this whole mess.

Breathe, he tells himself. Come on. Don’t get lost. Don’t follow the rabbit .

Because his rabbit hole is lined with the sharp shards of PTSD and panic, leading somewhere which he desperately doesn’t want to go again. He’s lost himself before and he’s not sure he can handle a second time.  He shifts around so his face is pressing into the corner of the room. He brings his hand up to the back of his head and he feels himself crack, everything just too much. He tries to stop himself crying but it’s like holding back the tide.

He curls further into his corner and he sobs.




 

By the time he’s let out the next evening, he’s stopped crying. He’s still angry - if he meets Juris at any point he’s going to grab hold of his neck and squeeze - and he’s still scared shitless about what’s going to happen to Pietro, but he’s managing to keep the feelings on lockdown.

“Thanks,” he mutters to the guard who lets him out, ducking his head and wanting to get out of there as soon as fuckin’ possible. The guy nods but stops him with a hand on his shoulder. “Medical after solitary,” he says, then glances at Bucky’s arm. “Maybe American needs mechanic, not doctor.”

It’s so unexpected that Bucky laughs. “Yeah, maybe,” he says, a little rueful. “Can I go?”

“Medical firstly, is procedure,” the guard says. “Then you can go.”

Bucky does as he’s told. The doctor checks him over, makes some vaguely confused sounds about his arm, makes him eat something that tastes vaguely like a protein bar, then finally lets him leave. On his way out Bucky doubles back and checks on Pietro. This time Bucky finds him awake and trying to climb out of the damn hospital bed.

“Hey, hey!” Bucky shouts, and Pietro drops back into the bed. His face lights up and it cuts like a knife; Pietro should be angry, looking at him in disgust for what he did, and here he is looking at Bucky like he’s a parole officer with early release papers.

“Daddy!”

“Shut the fuck up and sit down,” Bucky despairs, stepping forwards and resting a hand on Pietro's shoulder. “Are you okay?”

“Mi?”

Bucky flounders. He needs Clint to translate. Unable to use words to show how fuckin’ glad he is that Pietro is okay, he huffs and then runs his hand over Pietro's hair. Pietro looks surprised at the affection but allows it, sinking back into the pillow behind him.

“I’m sorry,” Bucky says. “Kid, I’m so sorry.”

Pietro stares blankly at him. Sensing that he isn’t going to get much further, Bucky glances over his shoulder to check that no one is looking, then quickly leans over to drop a kiss on the top of Pietro’s head before turning on his heel and walking away.

 


 

 

Clint is back doing pull ups when Bucky gets back to the cell. The moment he spots him he almost lets go of the bar in shock. “Bucket!” he exclaims, hanging there for a moment before dropping to the floor soundlessly. He strides forwards, hands coming to grip Bucky’s arms through the bars, of course getting in the way as the guard tries to open the door to let Bucky in. “Wasn’t expecting you for days, they said you were in the hole!”

Bucky pulls away from Clint and Clint steps back so the door can be opened, locking behind Bucky with a dull buzz. Bucky immediately drops into his bunk, sitting with his back against the wall. Of course, Clint follows him, sitting down next to him with a foot tucked up under him and still talking a mile a minute.

“And Liepins, that guard with the pornstache, he ended up in the hospital and someone said you did it, but Vadik says that Juris did it, then Vadik said that Emils said that Georgjis said you smashed the door to first wing and they tasered your ass. Oh and Juris has got like two weeks in the hole, which actually makes more sense that he put the guard in the hospital-”

“Clint, stop,” Bucky says, planting his elbows on his knees and pressing the heels of his hands into his eye sockets, hard enough so that spots dance in the darkness. “I just got out of solitary, you are like, too intense right now.”

Mercifully Clint stops talking. For like ten seconds anyway.

“Buck,” Clint says, very quietly. Bucky goes tense as he feels fingers gently touch against the inside of his knee. “Bro, this wasn’t your fault.”

“Don’t,” Bucky says abruptly.

“You need to hear this-”

Bucky drops his hands, knocks Clint’s fingers away from his knee. “How the fuck do you know what I need?”

“You didn’t choose to hurt Pietro-”

“If you don’t shut up, I will shut you up-”

“And you’re a good guy, you know you’re a good guy, everything you’ve done-”

Bucky lunges for him; his temper is still so raw and intractable. Clint instinctively goes to block the arm but Bucky is stronger and fuelled by rage and guilt and a whole host of other things he can’t even name. He slams Clint down onto his back, arm braced over his chest to keep him in place. His other hand grips the lower half of Clint’s face so he can’t keep talking, fingers digging into his cheeks.

“Stop,” Bucky says carefully, deliberately. “I’m not in the mood.”

Clint nods slowly, lifting his hands up by his shoulders. His eyes are hard though, still challenging, still like he thinks he knows better.    

“Get off my face,” Clint manages to get out through gritted teeth.

Just to be contrary, Bucky loosens the grip of his fingers but doesn’t let go. Clint’s eyes are locked on his and they’re so very, very close. Really, there’s only one thing to do when you’re that close to another person’s face, so Bucky thinks fuck it, and leans down to kiss him.

Clint doesn’t kiss back, but he doesn’t try and throw Bucky off or punch him in the face, either. He just lies there, staring at Bucky as he pulls back.

“Not in the mood, huh?” Clint finally says.

“Figured if your mouth is occupied you won’t be able to run it,” Bucky retorts.

“Shhh,” Clint says, craning his head up to look out through the bars. At what, Bucky doesn’t fucking know, because it’s lights out and lock down, and their cell is on the end of the row, so no fucker is going to be walking past.   

“Oh I’m sorry, am I ruining your rep as a straight guy? Outing you as a three? Or are you a four right now?”

“Shut the fuck up,” Clint says, and he slips a hand behind Bucky’s neck and pulls him down to kiss him again. Bucky’s careful to keep his breathing quiet and even, even as Clint opens his mouth under Bucky’s, licking at his bottom lip.

Well, goddamn , Barton.

Bucky drops down, resting his weight on his forearms, pressing Clint down into the bunk. Clint stifles a groan, hitching a leg up over Bucky’s hip - and then promptly drops it again, shoving at Bucky’s shoulders and turning his face away.

“What?” Bucky whispers, swiftly backing up. Damn, his heart is thudding in his chest and he wants Clint so badly that he can hardly think straight.

“Just wait,” Clint says, getting up. He grabs his own sheet and drapes it down over the end of the bunk so it blocks Bucky’s from view.

“That’s not subtle,” Bucky whispers.

“Well it’s either start a rumour or give someone an eyeful,” Clint whispers back, ducking back into Bucky’s bunk. It’s even darker in here now; Bucky’s not fool enough to forget about where he is and the hundreds of other inmates that are sleeping not far away, but he does appreciate the strange little bubble of privacy that they’ve got going on.

Clint edges closer. He’s overthinking now, Bucky can tell. So Bucky takes the lead, and goes with bodily hauling Clint into his lap, almost hitting Clint’s head on the underside of the top bunk in the process. Clint bites down on a yelp and glares down at Bucky, grabbing hold of the post of the bunk to keep his balance. Bucky shrugs, unapologetic, and when he tilts his chin up Clint drops the attitude and leans down to kiss him. His fingers stroke along Bucky’s jaw and his mouth is soft and wet and Bucky wants more.

“This okay?” Bucky asks, sliding his hands under Clint’s purple top, palms smoothing up over soft skin.

“I’ll let you know if something’s not,” Clint whispers back.

“Deal,” Bucky murmurs, and leans up for another kiss.




 

He wakes up in the morning when the buzzer goes off, jerking his head up off the pillow and feeling disorientated, hearing the clunk, clunk, clunk of cell doors unlocking. It takes him a second and then realises that things feel strange because he’s laying down the wrong way in his bunk, his head instead of his feet towards the bars. Oh, and he’s naked. And Clint is lying next to him, his back pressed to Bucky’s chest.

Oh yeah. That happened.

He drops his head back onto the pillow, thinks about how he feels about it. Physically? Sweaty and slightly...sticky. Emotionally? Jury’s out.

He deals with it by pressing his face into the back of Clint’s neck, mouthing at the freckled skin of his shoulders. Clint makes a sleepy sound, shifting back against Bucky, a little wriggle that his morning wood definitely appreciates.

“Mmmwhat,” Clint mumbles. A sleep fuddled hand creeps out from under the bedsheet and gropes along the floor to find his discarded hearing aids. He picks one up, slips it in.

“Door’s unlocked,” Bucky murmurs.

Clint fiddles with his hearing aid some more, heaves out a sigh and flops back down onto the bunk. “Go get me breakfast.”

“Not a fuckin' chance,” Bucky says. The sheet is still hanging up and the memory of last night is still fresh, and he doesn’t want to think about the day ahead, or Juris or Pietro. So instead he thinks with his dick, grinding it into the small of Clint’s back and slipping a hand over his waist and further south.

“Jesus, I’ve created a monster,” Clint says, but he does another shimmy back against Bucky’s body. “This is a dumb idea, the door’s unlocked.”

“Will people respect the privacy sheet?”

“I think by this point everyone’s scared enough of you to keep out of your way even if-” he stops talking and stifles a groan as Bucky’s hand delves right down between his legs. Bucky bites lightly at Clint’s shoulder-

Mi a faszomat csinálsz? !

Bucky jerks up in shock and curses as he spots a familiar face - albeit with two black eyes - peering around the edge of the sheet. Bucky jerks his hand away from Clint’s crotch, holding onto his hip instead, just incase Clint makes any ill-advised moves and ends up taking the sheet with him. Clint splutters, gesturing wildly, and Pietro vanishes from view.  

“What is he doing here?!” Bucky asks, craning over to try and see where he’s gone. “Why is he not in the hospital?”

“Pietro!” Clint yells. “Miért nem vagy a kórházban?” He frowns as Pietro yells back, rolling his eyes. “He says that he’s been allowed out, nothing is broken, why are we having sex when you’re supposed to be his...I’m not sure what that translates directly as but I’m pretty sure he’s going for the Sokovian equivalent of Daddy.”

“Tell him he’s jailbait, I’m not touching him with a ten foot pole.”

Clint starts to laugh. “One, he’s nineteen, two you’re already in jail.”

“Whatever,” Bucky says. “What, you’d rather I be shacking up with him?”

“No, I’m kinda liking how this worked out,” Clint says, with a very smug grin. “You’ve got some moves.”

Bucky rolls his eyes, pushes at Clint. “You can move right now. Breakfast.”

Clint stands up, completely naked and apparently not caring. “We can’t go for breakfast.”

Bucky frowns, because if this is Clint turning down food he’s going to send him to medical to get his head checked. “What?”

“Well, we’re covered in...let’s just say I don’t fancy sitting in the freaking canteen with your jizz all over my thighs.”

Bucky screws up his face. “Classy.”

“Well, we stink of sex,” Clint says. “And I’m kind of crusty.”

“You’re so hot right now,” Bucky deadpans. “Come on, I’m hungry. I’m so fuckin’ hungry that I’ll eat you in a minute.”

“What, again?” Clint says, and cackles with laughter as Bucky throws the pillow at him.

 


 

 

Bucky gets his way, though it’s a close thing. Man, Clint is stubborn some days. He walks down to the canteen, feeling strangely aware of himself and the way people look at him and move around him. Can they tell? Do they know he slept with Clint last night? Can they work it out by looking at them?

He decides he doesn’t care.

When they get to the hall, Pietro is sat with Vadik and waves them over. He seems totally unphased by the fact he got the absolute shit kicked out of him. In fact, the little shit keeps grinning over at the two Juris thugs who aren’t in solitary, clearly rubbing it in their faces that he’s out of the hospital.

“You are trouble, you little fucker,” Bucky says flatly, sitting down.  

“Hey Daddy,” Pietro says cheerfully, and tries to take the juice from Bucky’s tray.

“Hey Bucket,” Vadik says, waving. “You are on visitors list today, you know this, right?”

“No,” Bucky says, taken aback. “What?”

“Late addition, I did not know if you knew because you were in the hole.”

Comprehension dawns. “Oh man, Steve ,” Bucky says. “I was supposed to call him.” He rubs at his forehead, grimacing. “I am not up for this right now.”

“I’ll go,” Clint says. “I can be you. Pull a face like a wet cat and sulk.”

Bucky elbows him, hard. “You’re just missing a robot arm and ten pounds of muscle.”

“Don’t flatter yourself,” Clint says indignantly, then looks Bucky up and down contemplatively. “Actually, you probably have an extra ten in each of your thighs.”

It’s not anything different to the usual banter and teasing, but Bucky now has a very strong memory of Clint being occupied between his thighs. Fuck, he hopes he’s not blushing.

“Whatever,” Bucky says, and Clint hides a grin in his palm. “Oh man, he’ll ask about why I couldn’t call and I can’t lie to him. Mother fucker .”

“Hey,” Clint says. “Deep breath. Go see him, just be honest. You’ve been spouting bullshit about what a great guy he is for weeks, he’ll be fine. You know you’ll regret it if you don’t.”

“Ugh, you’re right,” Bucky says, jamming his toast into his mouth and picking up his apple. “Right. Clint, you make sure Pietro doesn’t do anything stupid. Vadik, you make sure that Clint doesn’t do anything stupid.”

“I object to that,” Clint shouts at his retreating back, and Bucky just flips him off without looking back.

 


 

He slowly sits down in the chair opposite Steve, smiling a little ruefully. He doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t want to talk about what’s going on in here. But then again, he doesn’t want to talk about his lawyer or sentence or the intricacies of extradition. Talk about the devil and the deep blue sea.

“Buck?”

Steve reaches across the table. Bucky sighs and lets Steve take his hand. Of course, Steve notices the errant twitch in his thumb and frowns, lifting Bucky’s hand up like he’s inspecting it.

“What’s going on?”

“I’ve had a fucked up few days,” Bucky admits. “Some shit went down. There was this kid...he’s been following me and Clint around for a while. Ended up in the hospital because of me.”

“Buck, what did you do?” Steve asks very calmly. Bucky blinks, looks up at Steve’s face. He looks so serious, like he’s about to start planning some sort of retaliation or intervention or something.

Bucky swallows, pulls his hands back. “I didn’t do it,” he says, and feels honestly sick with the way that Steve visibly slumps with relief. He makes himself keep talking. “You know I was all beat up when you first came to visit?”

Atop the table, Steve’s hand clenches into a fist. Moving on instinct, Bucky grabs hold and presses down so said fist can’t go anywhere. “It’s okay. They’re in solitary, kid’s gonna be okay, I didn’t beat anyone up in retaliation.”

And after I got out of solitary I banged my cellmate and that felt pretty good, he mentally adds. He definitely doesn’t want to say that out loud though. Talking about Pietro and the fighting is one thing. Talking to Steve - who is basically his brother - about his prison-based sex-life is something else entirely. Steve’ll start talking about ethics and morals and Bucky can’t be bothered with it. Sex with Clint felt good, kept his mind off all the shitty things going on for a while.  

Steve doesn’t look like he’s buying Bucky’s ‘everything is okay’ spiel. “Then why is your thumb all screwy?

Bucky doesn’t want to meet his eyes. “I punched the door to the wing where the solitary cells are. I may have been trying to get at the guys that beat up the kid. They threw me in solitary for a while to cool off, that’s why I couldn’t call you.”

“Sounds like you,” Steve says. “Well…sounds like we can be grateful that it’s not worse than it is.”

“The kid took a beating for me.”

“No, some assholes beat up a kid because they thought it’d be smart,” Steve says. “Stop blaming yourself.”  

Bucky pulls a face. “Sure.”

Steve sets his other hand atop Bucky’s. “Okay, stop blaming yourself for like three minutes, I need to tell you something.”

Bucky looks up. He’d feel scared or nervous but honestly he’s just exhausted. He’s tired of prison and feeling like he’s on a goddamn rollercoaster.

“Shoot.”

Steve takes a deep breath. “The guy you hit woke up,” he says. Bucky’s world takes another violent lurch. “He’s talking, got some memory loss about what went down that night-”

The ringing in Bucky’s ears is his brain flatlining, he’s sure of it. Steve’s mouth is moving but he can’t hear anything. He stares and stares and Steve keeps talking, then Bucky’s brain promptly reboots. “Wait,” he says, cutting Steve off. “He woke up? Wh- when?”

“Day before yesterday,” Steve says. “Coulson tried to call you but we couldn’t get hold of you. Assuming that’s when you landed your ass in solitary.”

“What did Coulson say?” Bucky asks, leaning forwards. “Does this mean I’m not going to be charged with manslaughter?”

“Looking very unlikely seeing as the guy’s alive,” Steve says. “I don’t know any more than that, I’m sorry.”

Bucky slumps back in his chair, presses both hands to the top of his head. “That’s…” he tries. “Wow.”

“Yeah,” Steve agrees. “You gonna be okay?”

“Probably,” Bucky says, blowing out a breath. Pietro’s okay and he got to have sex with Clint and he’s officially not a killer? It’s like the universe has marked down today as ‘cut Bucky some slack’ day. He finds himself burying his face in his hands, laughing slightly hysterically with it all. “Yeah,” he amends, dropping his hands and managing a weak smile. “Yeah, Steve, I’m gonna be okay.”

 


 

Bucky tells Clint about the facts he’s officially not a murderer the moment he gets back into their cell. Clint blinks at him and then his face splits into a grin and he holds up a hand for a high-five.

“Hell yeah! No rotting in here for twenty years!”

Bucky rolls his eyes, but he’s fighting a smile and does deign to high-five Clint. After all, finding out that you’re not responsible for accidentally killing a guy does feel pretty good.

“We need to celebrate,” Clint says. “Let’s go have a victory smoke outside. Or go buy more Cadbury’s from the commissary. This is amazing. Are you actually going to have a trial now?”

“I dunno,” Bucky says. “That’s all I know.”

He slips into his bunk, hiding behind the still-hanging sheet. He feels overwhelmed if he’s honest. One minute he’s getting on with his life in jail, then next minute he’s thrown another curveball. If he goes to trial, what will happen? Will he still end up with years for aggravated assault? Will he be extradited? If he gets out, he’ll have to go home and then what? He’s been putting off committing to anything by travelling, but he doesn’t think Steve will want to carry on now. Besides, Steve has a job to go back to, Bucky doesn’t have-

“Hey,” Clint says, holding onto the top bunk and swaying forwards. “You’re back to looking like someone pissed in your cornflakes.”

“It’s my thinking face,” Bucky says, kicking halfheartedly at his leg. “They might extradite me if I’ve got to serve a long sentence.”

“Good, then I won’t have to look at your face anymore.”

Bucky rolls his eyes, swings his legs around so their clamped around Clint’s middle, yanking him into the bunk. Clint yelps, throwing out a  hand to brace himself against the wall behind Bucky’s head, coming within about an inch of headbutting Bucky right in the nose.

“You’d miss me,” Bucky says.

Clint snorts. “Yeah like a hole in the head,” he says. His eyes flicker down to Bucky’s mouth and back again. “You’re very close.”

Bucky tilts his chin up, inviting. Clint obliges and presses his mouth to Bucky’s in a long, lingering kiss before pulling back. “Later,” he says. “When the goddamn door is locked. Now can you please get your thighs off of me, I’m scared you’re going to crush some organs.”

“You quite liked being between my thighs last night,” Bucky whispers, raising an eyebrow at Clint. Clint groans in response, slumping forwards with his face mashed into Bucky’s shoulder.

“Monster. I’ve created a horny monster,” he says, not making any effort to move.

Eh, he doesn’t sound too distressed by it. Bucky breathes out deeply and presses a kiss to the side of Clint’s head, running his metal palm gently down the soft ridge of Clint’s spine. He smells of sweat and prison-issue soap, a combination that Bucky never thought he’d be getting used to, let alone find himself liking.

“Alright, get off,” Clint says. “Let’s go buy chocolate.”

Bucky drops his arms and legs, lets Clint straighten up. “You mean you want me to go buy chocolate.”

“Well you’re the one with the sugar daddy filling your account with-” Clint darts away, laughing as Bucky lunges for him. “I’m kidding, I’m kidding, I take it back.”

“You only take it back because you want chocolate!”

Clint grins from where he’s hovering in the doorway. “Well, duh.”

He either is desperate for candy or has faith in how much Bucky wants him intact and not beaten up, because he lets Bucky catch up and sticks close to his side as they walk down to the yard. Their shoulders bump occasionally and Bucky has a moment to wonder what it would feel like walking down the sidewalk like this, free from jail but still with Clint at his side.

Then he makes himself stop because that falls under the category of after and judging by his track record, his after ain’t gonna be nice or pretty.

“You seen Pietro today?” Bucky asks, lighting a cigarette and leaning back against the chain-link fence.

“Nope, not yet,” Clint says. “You missing your duckling?”

“Don’t want him to land himself in trouble,” Bucky admits. “It’s like having an annoying little brother to keep an eye on.”

“Wouldn’t know about that, I am the annoying little brother,” Clint says with a shrug. He reaches for Bucky's cigarette, like he’s literally about to take it from between Bucky’s lips, and Bucky jerks away, swatting sharply at Clint’s hand with his metal one.

“Ouch!”

“You don’t even smoke, get your hands away from my face.”

Clint rubs the back of his hand, looking annoyed. “Maybe I thought I’d start, maybe then you won’t taste so bad.”

Bucky replies by blowing a stream of smoke directly into Clint’s face. Petty, yes, but very satisfying. Clint possibly doesn’t find it as amusing because he gives Bucky a dirty look then stalks away. Bucky snorts with laughter, watching him go. He’s not worried; in fact he’d be more worried if he and Clint went a whole day without bickering. He can almost feel Sam’s despair from here, can hear the lecture about healthy relationships. Whatever, he and Clint have something that works for them, however messy it is.

He gives Clint time to cool off, stopping by the gym and the commissary before heading back to the cell for lock-in. Clint’s there already, sprawled out on Bucky’s goddamn bunk. Bucky raises a brow and throws a bar of chocolate right at him.

“Get off my bunk, asshole.”

“Nah,” Clint says, picking up the chocolate bar and grinning. “You’re forgiven for breaking my hand.”

“You tried to take the goddamn cigarette out of my mouth!”

“I suppose,” Clint says. “Get in here, it’s cold.”

Bucky obliges, ducking into the bunk and shoving at Clint until he gets him where he wants him; lying with his back against Bucky’s front, curved together with Bucky’s arm thrown over Clint’s waist. It’s comfortable and kind of peaceful, listening to Clint breathing and the rain starting to drum on the roof and windows.

Bucky hums, rubbing his nose against the back of Clint’s ear, accidentally nudging at his hearing aid. “Sorry.”

“Mmm,” Clint mumbles back.

“Hey, What you said earlier - are you really a little brother?” Bucky asks.

“Yep,” Clint says. “My big brother Barney, last I heard he was on a two year stretch in Johnson County.”

“Runs in the family.”

“Yeah, we learned it from our pa,” Clint says. “I don’t wanna talk about him. If you’re a six on the asshole scale he’s like a thirty-four.”

“What is with you and the numbered scales?” Bucky wonders, but decides to humour Clint and change the subject, nudging the conversation sideways just enough so it’s not super obvious. “I’m the only one of my family to go to jail. Some big brother role model I turned out to be.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah, three younger sisters. We used to be super close, but after the whole getting blown up shit, we kinda lost that. They didn’t know what to say to me, I was a fuckin’ mess...yeah, we never came out the same from that.”

“What’s this, Bucky has a heart day? Sharing and caring hour?” Clint jokes, but he finds Bucky's hand and threads his fingers between Bucky’s, squeezing tight.

“It’s cool, I got my ma still,” Bucky says. “And-”

“Let me guess, Steve.”

Bucky huffs out a laugh. “Yeah, Steve.”

Clint heavens out a sigh, wriggles back into Bucky’s body. “Hey, I didn’t mean it earlier when I said you tasted bad.”

“Is that a hint?” Bucky says.

“Hell yeah it’s a hint,” Clint says, rolling over onto his back. “Wanna make out until the doors unlock?”

Bucky shrugs. “Sure,” he says, and leans down to cover Clint’s mouth with his own.

 


 

 

They don’t make out until the doors unlock. They last ten minutes and then Clint gets a hand up Bucky’s shirt and then Bucky gets his down Clint’s pants and before Bucky knows it they’re naked and doing a lot more than making out.

Bucky’s really not complaining, and neither is Clint.

 


 

 

Two days later and Coulson calls and tells him that he does in fact have a date for his trial. It’s to take place in Latveria, with no press but a boat-load of interpreters. Coulson will also be attending, which Bucky is grateful for. Steve is not allowed to attend, which Bucky is more secretly grateful for. Steve likes to pretend he’s all into shit like following rules and acting respectful, but Bucky knows .

He’s telling Clint about it one evening after lock-in. He’s sitting up in his bunk with a book forgotten by his side; Clint is sprawled out, shirtless and with his head in Bucky’s lap. It’s a pretty decent view, as far as scenery inside the prison goes.

“I think I’d like to meet Steve,” Clint says, grunting happily as Bucky’s fingers knead at his shoulder. “He sounds fun.”

“He’s a cop, Clint.”

Clint screws up his face. “Oh yeah. I forgot about that.”

“A good cop.”

“No such thing,” Clint says, almost slurring his words. If he were a cat, he’d be purring. “Hey, get my other shoulder, too.”

“It’ll cost you,” Bucky grins.

“Blowjob?”

“Sex is not for trading,” Bucky reminds him firmly. He’s not sure if Clint really understands his stance on this, but he’s respecting it so Bucky’s not gonna sit him down and talk it over.

“Alright, I’ll get you some more Lucky Strikes. How about it?”

“I’d have settled for an extra juicebox but sure. A pack of Luckies,” Bucky says, laughing as Clint curses. He settles him back down with a hand on his chest, turning his attention to Clint’s other shoulder. It feels almost peaceful in here; Bucky’s gotten real good at blocking out at noise from beyond the sheet. The shouting and laughing and clanging of metal barely phases him anymore. Sure, it’s there, like a background track he has to keep one ear on just in case, but right now it’s all about what’s right in front of him.

“Hey, maybe I should think about escaping again if you’re going to be extradited.”

Bucky’s fingers go still. “What?”

Clint wriggles, trying to get the massage going again. “Just saying. If you’re not here, I might as well not be here.”

“Okay. This place sucks, but you’ve escaped twice and been recaptured twice,” Bucky says. “They might start to get really pissy if you manage a third.”

“I’ll just not get caught.”

“You’ve been in jail nine times ,” Bucky reminds him. “You suck at not getting caught.”

“Okay, all of those had extenuating circumstances that were not my fault,” Clint says. “Well apart from the thing with the swarovski store, that was on me. Doesn’t matter. I could totally not get caught if I put my mind to it.”

“Pietro,” Bucky says. “Can’t leave him unattended.”

“He’s got like four more weeks,” Clint says. “He’ll be out in no time.”

Bucky frowns down at him.  “You serious?”

Clint smiles, all lazy and slow. “When am I ever serious?”

That’s a fair point. Bucky relaxes back against the wall, smoothing one hand absent-mindedly over Clint’s chest. Clint makes a happy, pleased noise in the back of his throat. “More of that, please. Thanks.”

Bucky obliges, deciding that he can focus on feeling Clint up rather than thinking any more about potential afters.




 

 

When Juris and his thugs get out of solitary, Bucky braces himself for more violence. What actually happens is that they take one look at Bucky and walk off in the other direction. Vadik tells him that it’s because they know about him breaking the glass door to the solitary wing, and now everyone thinks he’s dangerous and crazy.  Bucky’ll take it. He’s happy not to poke that particular hornet's nest ever again. 

Pietro, not so much. He stands at Bucky’s side in the exercise yard, pulls Bucky’s metal arm over his shoulders and then waves at the gang from across the yard, smug smile firmly in place. Bucky thinks about telling him to pack it in but honestly, he doesn’t think it’ll make any difference.

Clint stands on his other side, trying not to be too obvious with how hilarious he’s finding the whole thing. After a while, Vadik and quiet-yet-huge Markus Novickis come to stand with them and Bucky finds that maybe being in jail here isn’t so awful after all.

Not as good as being free, but if he’s gonna be locked up, it might as well be here.

 


 

 

It must be Bucky’s birthday or something, because his name is added to the visiting hour list last-minute and when he gets there, he finds not one, but two visitors. He hugs Steve, shakes Coulson’s hand, and sits down with a feeling like butterflies in his stomach.

“You doing okay?” Steve asks, and then his face screws up in confusion and not a small amount of shock, eyes fixed on Bucky’s neck. “Is that a hickey ?”

“Probably,” Bucky says, acting cool even though he’s mentally cursing Clint and the low cut of his shirt. “What, stop looking at me like that. It’s all consensual and safe.”

Steve doesn’t look convinced but Bucky would rather detach his own arm than talk about this in front of Coulson. Steve apparently has no such qualms.  “But what if  - you’re in jail , Bucky. What if someone objects to you-”

“Steve, I literally punched through a bulletproof window because I was mad at someone,” Bucky says, ready to defend Clint and his choice to be with Clint with everything up to and including curse words and table flipping, if necessary. “No-one is saying shit about what I choose to do.”

“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear any of that,” Coulson says, sliding a file over the table at Bucky. “So, the trial is in in four days and we’ve got a time now as well. Nine AM sharp.”

Bucky flips open the file, nodding. “What do I need to do, just show up?”

“Show up and act very, very apologetic,” Coulson says. “Because I know that you would never do something like this ever again.”

Bucky glances up at Steve. He knows damn well that Bucky would do it again, but he supposes they can keep that just between them. “Of course,” he says, eyes flicking over the paperwork. “I acted rashly in a moment of panic because I was scared for the life of my best buddy over there.”

“Yes, if you can say that and actually be sincere about it, that’ll do fine,” Coulson says.

A muscle jumps in Steve’s jaw. “I still think I should be there.”

“Absolutely not,” says Bucky.

“Steve, they will take one look at you and wonder why the hell Barnes thought you needed any help or protection. We’re still trying to find a picture of you that doesn’t make you look like you could have ended that fight on your own with a hand tied behind your back.”

“Show ‘em an old one,” Bucky says. “He used to be tiny.”

“Yes, then they will first of all wonder why it doesn’t match the guy in the security footage from the bar and then they’ll wonder why on earth the tiny guy was allowed in the army in the first place.”

Bucky blinks, stuck on the first part of that. “They have the footage? Will they show it?”

“Yes,” Coulson says. “Brace yourself for it. The guy goes down hard. But you can tell he had a bottle in hand, so that’s our ace.”

Bucky swallows. “Do I have to actually go?”

“Yes,” Coulson says. “It would be monumentally stupid to withhold you from-”

He doesn’t get another word out because in that moment alarms blare through the building, shrill and insistent. The guards all leap into action, hustling prisoners from the tables and yelling at the visitors to leave. Doors are locking with metallic thuds and the warning lights are flashing red from all corners.  Steve stands up so suddenly his chair crashes backwards. Bucky hastily reaches out for him, pressing a hand to his shoulder. “Steve, calm down, it’s just an alarm. There might be a fight or a medical emergency or something. It’s okay.”

“Amerikānis! Atgriezties savā būrī! American! Move!” a guard shouts. Bucky starts stepping backwards, away from Steve and Coulson. “I gotta go - I’ll call you soon as I can.”

“I’m flying back tonight,” Steve shouts, resisting being made to move by Coulson’s hand on his arm. “I’ll-”

Bucky doesn’t catch any more because the guard hustles him through the door. He and the other detainees who had visitors are locked in one of the processing cells; evidently, the guards don’t have the time to get them all dispersed to their individual cells. Bucky stands there, listening to the mutterings of his fellow prisoners, watching the guards move past with harried expressions.

“What’s going on?” Bucky asks the guard that’s standing by the door, left to keep an eye on them. Quite predictably, he gets ignored so gives up and settles in to wait.

Four and a half hours later and they’re finally let out. Everyone is cranky and hungry, Bucky included. One of the prisoners is demanding answers from the guard by the sound of it, his voice fractious and loud.

“The hell is going on,” Bucky mutters to himself, joining the crowd at the door that are waiting to get out. A group of guards are walking towards them, all armed and looking livid.

“American,” one barks, pointing at Bucky through the bars. “Barnes. Stand back. Hands on head.”

Bucky feels a thrill of alarm go through him. He obeys, stepping back away from the others with his hands raised high. “What?” he asks, brain rapidly cycling through everything he’s done in the past few days, wondering how the hell he’s in trouble now. It can't be the whole screwing his cellmate thing; he knows it’s probably frowned upon but there’s more than just he and Clint shacking up when the doors are locked for the night.

The rest of the prisoners are hustled out of the way. Bucky is slapped in cuffs, much to his consternation. “The hell is this?” he demands. “I haven't done anything.”

He’s marched down the corridor to an office, belonging to someone big and important by the looks of the plaque on the door. His suspicions are confirmed when he’s pushed inside: it’s got the same concrete walls as the rest of the building but there’s a huge oak desk, framed certificates on the walls, leather-bound books on the shelves. Shit. This must be the fucking warden’s office or some shit.

“We ask you questions,” one of the guards says, pointing to a chair. “Sit.”

“Why?” Bucky asks. “Seriously, what’s going on?”

“Purple,” the guard says it like it’s a dirty word, nostrils flaring. “Your cellmate is escaped. So, we ask you questions.”

Bucky abruptly sits. Not because the guard told him to, but because he thinks his legs might give out. His ears are ringing again, his whole brain frozen in some fucked up feedback loop that’s unable to process anything else.

Gone.

Clint is gone.

 


 

He’s questioned for hours . The whole facility stays in lockdown, the whole thing dragging out until nearly midnight. Bucky has no idea what’s happening but squads of guards keep coming and going from the warden’s office, all armed. At one point he hears the barking of dogs, and not nice friendly ones either, the sort of big bastards that used to be used to scare the shit outta people when the squad had them out in Brooklyn. Pietro is bought in at one point as well, bewildered and furious. He alternates between shouting at the guards, shouting at Bucky, and making over-exaggerated shrugging-confused gestures. The poor kid. He clearly doesn’t have any idea what has happened to Clint and they are grilling him hard.

Bucky’s not surprised when he’s led to solitary instead of being allowed to go back to his cell. They’re probably going over the place with a fine-tooth comb, stripping everything down and trying to find any clues about where Clint is. He is given a pillow and blanket and an almost-apologetic grimace from the guard that Clint used to called Pornstache.

Finally alone, he sits down in the corner of his solitary cell. He feels numb inside, like he did the day they brought him to this godforsaken place. Like the day he got rescued by Steve, half-dead and not entirely sure what he could believe or not.

He feels awful. Clint didn’t even say goodbye, and as irrational as it is, Bucky thinks that’s the thing that stings the most.

 


 

Two days later and he’s let out. He’s moved to a new cell with a guy called Stefans, who is middle-aged and tired-looking, and who doesn’t bother Bucky at all. It’s two down from Pietro which is okay, he supposes. And every cell is the same, so it’s not like he can really have any reason to miss the old one.

He gets the top bunk this time round. Lying there, staring at the cracked paint of the ceiling, wishing he was back in his bunk with Clint next to him, warm and freckled and safe.

He sighs, rolling onto his side. He doesn’t get what he wants. He should have learned that by now.

 


 

The prison talks of nothing but Clint’s escape for days. Vadik comes to find Bucky to tell him about all the rumours, sitting across the table from him and Pietro, interrupting nothing but their moody silence.

“Most people are saying that he went out of a window in medical and scaled the wall,” Vadik says without preamble, though he does look slightly wary of the look on Bucky’s face. “Some are saying he killed a guard and took his uniform. Some are saying he dug a tunnel. Some-”

“What does it fuckin’ matter,” Bucky snaps. “He’s gone and there’s fuck all we can do about it.”

There’s a strained silence. Pietro rests his elbows on the edge of the table, holding his head in his hands. Vadik purses his lips, his eyes flitting everywhere but to Bucky.

“Whatever,” Bucky says, feeling like he should be apologising and then feeling shitty because he won’t. “My fucking trial is tomorrow so I’m sorry if I currently don’t give shit about how Clint escaped. He’ll be back in here within a goddamn day knowing his track record anyway.”

He abandons his breakfast and walks away.

 


 

Despite what Bucky said, Clint isn’t back by the next day. Bucky’s woken up by a tired-looking guard before the doors officially get opened for breakfast. He doesn’t care about the early hour; he’s been up all night thinking about his trial and Clint in some horrid recurring loop, like the moment he manages to stop thinking about one, the other pops into his head. 

Already assuming the worst, which is that he’ll be sentenced to ten years and have to come back here, he leaves all his things in his cell. He plans on just waving at Pietro's sleeping form as he goes past but Pietro is there and waiting. He reaches out through the bars as Bucky passes, whispering something in urgent Sokovian.

Bucky still has no idea what he’s fucking saying.

He sighs and steps over to briefly grasp Pietro’s hand with his real one, squeezing it gently and nodding at him before tugging free and walking away.

It's a confusing morning. Lots of back and forth between offices and halting conversations around paperwork. Soon enough he's in the back of a prison transport, and when he clambers out on the other end, Coulson is waiting for him.

“Ready?” Coulson asks.

Bucky nods curtly. Talking is currently not on the list of things he can achieve without a) snapping or b) throwing up.

The trial is conducted entirely in Latverian, which Bucky thinks is a fucking joke. The judge frowns a lot as he listens and Bucky is pretty sure he’s going to be spending the rest of his miserable life in a Latverian prison. Finally the judge stands and speaks. Bucky looks to Coulson who is just standing there perfectly calmly, like he’s listening to a goddamn weather report. The judge claps his hands once and everyone starts moving. Bucky looks around wildly, wondering what the fuck is happening-

“Aggravated assault,” Coulson leans over and murmurs in his ear. “Ten months, time served to be taken into account.”

Bucky’s stomach drops, even as his brain goes !!! because he was expecting a sentence of years . “I have to stay here for another seven - no, six months?”

“No,” Coulson says simply, and his face doesn’t really move but Bucky somehow knows he’s smiling. “You can do the rest of your sentence stateside, if you like.”

Well, he’s got nothing to stay in Latveria for anymore. He starts moving, trying to shuffle out of his row. “See you later losers, I’m going back to New York.”

“Hold your horses, we’ve got paperwork to do,” Coulson says. “If you like, you can make a call while I sort it out.”

Bucky’s heart aches. He thinks immediately of Steve, but that’s overlapped almost instantly by thoughts about Clint. He wants to go home so badly but the moment he leaves Novi Osjek Correctional then that’s his link with Clint gone. He’s got no idea where Clint is and no way of contacting him - the moment he’s out the door then that’s it.

Whatever. It’s not like Clint would be able to wander in and visit him. And even if he did, Bucky would be obliged to deck him for walking out on him like that.

“Barnes? You okay?”

Bucky nods. “Yeah,” he says, exhaling heavily and looking towards the door. “Yeah, I am.”




 

Going back to Novi Osjek sucks more than he expects. It's like he's got a finish line in sight, so now every moment is dragging. He's desperate to get back to America, he's desperate to get out. He's never going to put a toe out of line again - well, not strictly true because his best friend is Steve ‘I find trouble AND trouble finds me’ Rogers, but he swears he'll try .

He half hopes to be whisked away straight away but no such luck. His flight is scheduled for three days time, which he supposes gives him time to adjust and collect his shit up and try to explain to Pietro that he's leaving.

Three days to wonder where Clint is, if he's safe, if he's keeping his ass out of trouble.

He must do a sufficiently good job of keeping a low profile because by the time Bucky's shipped out on his frankly humiliating prison plane, he's not been dragged back. Whatever. Bucky doesn’t even care. He keeps telling himself that as he slouches down in his seat, closing his eyes and trying to ignore the twisting of his stomach which he is definitely blaming on mid-Atlantic turbulence, and not anything else.

 


 

Bucky steps into his brand-new, very cramped, all-American jail cell, washbag in one hand and bedroll in the other. His shoulders are tense and tight and his eyes are locked on his two - yeah, two - new cellmates who are standing there with arms folded across chests, expressions grim and challenging.  

Until the guy on the left’s eyes bug out and he drops his arms, nudging the other guy with a frantic elbow. “No way man, do you see his arm? It’s like made of metal and shit!”

Guy-Number-Two’s facade falls as well, the serious expression giving way to exasperation. “We agreed on intimidating! You’re ruining it!”

“No man, he’s got a metal arm and shit, can you not see? I can’t intimidate that!”

“We could have done if you’d stuck to the plan .”

Bucky feels the fear and tension draining from his shoulders, enough so that he rolls his eyes. “I just got in from correctional in Latveria so this whole shtick?” he says, pointing from one to the other. “Ain’t intimidating in the slightest. Which bunk is mine?”

The two guys looks to each other, have a moment of communication with raised eyebrows and meaningful looks and then one, the white guy with the scruffy beard, nods at Bucky. “Okay, you can stay,” he says, like he has any say in the matter whatsoever. “We’ve got the bunks, you get the temp bed at the back. It’s okay as long as you don’t move around too much.”

“Great,” Bucky says flatly, but then on a whim tucks his washkit under his arm so he can stick his hand out. “Bucky.”

“Sure, that’s a real name,” the guy says with a shrug, but he does reach out to shake Bucky’s hand. “Scott. And this is Luis. We’re actually good guys, if you can get past the part where we’re super intimidating.”

Bucky feels his mouth flicker in the echo of a smile. “Sure,” he says. “I guess you could say the same about me.”

 


 

 

American jail turns out to be infinitely easier than Latverian jail, despite the fact there’s three of them crammed into what’s clearly supposed to be a two man-cell. If he ignores the severe lack of space, he can appreciate the fact that there’s no language barrier, there’s less time spent in lock-in, there’s a decent gym. Also, no-one comes for him at all, and Scott tells him it’s because everyone knows that he spent time in a jail in Latveria so he must be hard as fuck or know the Latverian mob. That - and the metal arm combined with his resting-bitch-face - keeps the bullies away.

Bucky likes his cellmates. Scott is clearly lacking in self-preservation and Luis talks too much but still, he likes them. Even so, he finds himself not really talking to them about anything personal, save for a bit about Steve. He doesn’t talk about his arm, his time in the army, how he got kicked out of the NYPD. It feels too raw, thinking of how he shared it all once and got his ass burned. He won’t be making that mistake again.

Steve visits him once a week like clockwork, and now he’s stateside he gets other visitors too: most of the time it’s Sam, once or twice it’s Tony goddamn Stark, who turns up to try and sort out his arm. He’s torn between being livid - how dare you treat my tech so disrespectfully, Barnes, what are you doing to my baby, what do you mean it’s your arm, it’s my baby - and being so excited he can't stand still - it actually got through bulletproof glass? How thick? How many hits? Steve tells him that his mom wants to visit too, which Bucky refuses point blank. He doesn’t want his mother to see him like this. He’s put her through enough.

However, Barnes stubbornness is clearly genetic and she has Steve on her side, so of course she shows up. Bucky spots her through the visiting window before he’s taken two steps towards it and seriously considers running. She’d be mad as all hell, but he’s in jail which would definitely shield him from the worst of a mama-Barnes telling-off. At least it’s not like the visiting room in Novi Osjek; here he’s got a sheet of glass between himself and the disappointment. And she won’t be able to try and hug him or hit him with her purse, either.

She spots him, points at him, narrows her eyes. It’s a look that clearly says ‘don’t you dare,’ so he trudges over and sits down, head ducked. He feels thirteen all over again, ready to be yelled at for getting in another fight. He steels himself, picks up the receiver on his side of the glass.

“What did I tell you about fighting with that Rogers boy?” is the first thing she says, and it’s so familiar that he feels tears, hot and sudden. He leans on the shelf in front of the window, metal hand over his face.

“Sorry, Ma,” he manages, voice breaking.

“You hush now,” she says sternly. “You’re a good boy, James. I’m just sorry the world keeps throwing you trouble.”

He nods, finally looks up at her. She looks sad but calm. So strong. “How are you holding up?”

He just shrugs. He doesn’t know what to say.

“Steve says you miss the friends you made in Latveria,” she says bluntly. “Prison friends?”

And fuck Steve and his big mouth. Bucky glares half-heartedly. “Steve needs to know when to shut up,” he grouches, but he can’t lie to his ma. “Yeah,” he says. “I...there were some good guys there.”

“Not murderers or rapists, I hope,” she says. “I raised you right, mostly.”

He huffs out a laugh. “No, one idiot kid and a cat burglar,” he says. He kinds of wants to tell her more, a strange swelling in his chest wanting him to blurt it all out, everything about how damn worried he was about Pietro, how he took a beating for being a cop, how he fell hard for Clint and Clint just upped and left without a word. He makes himself swallow it all down. His Ma is clearly keeping it together for him; he should do the same for her.

She shifts on her side of the glass then thankfully changes the subject. “Steve says you’re going back to live with him when you get out. I think that’s the best place for you but you’re welcome to come home.”

“I dunno,” Bucky says. He hadn’t been lying when he’d told Clint that things between him and his family - his sisters in particular - were strained after he got discharged from the military. He can’t imagine it’s gonna have improved much now he’s landed himself in this mess.

“Keep your chin up,” she murmurs gently. “Stop scowling so much. You’ll get further in life being kind and nice.”

“Sure,” he says, glances over his shoulder as he hears a bell ring. “I gotta go.”

She nods. “We love you,” she says, like it’s not a two-word sledgehammer to Bucky’s already wavering emotions. “And James?”

“Yeah?”

“Please don’t let your hair grow long again, you look so much better now it’s short.”

He rolls his eyes. “Sure,” he says. “Love you,” he quickly adds, then hangs up the phone and walks away before she can see him trying not to cry.




 

His mom talking about after starts something in Bucky’s brain. He finds himself repeatedly thinking about what it’s going to be like after: where he’s going to go, who he’s going to be with, what he’s going to do with himself. It’s strange: before, the answer would have been a very definite ‘Brooklyn’ and ‘Steve and Sam,’ but now it makes him feel a little hollow because his heart keeps wanting to add Clint to the list.

Honestly, he despairs at himself some days. Who else would manage to get all hung up over a guy they met and started screwing while in jail? It’s like his heart works out exactly the way to make him feel most awful.

“Hey Terminator,” Scott says brightly as he sidles back into the cell. He and Luis have a deck of cards spread out on the tiny table, clearly in the middle of something.

“Hey, you don’t look so good,” Luis adds. “Your eyes are all red, man.”

“Just saw my Ma,” Bucky says. Luis and Scott glance at each other, clearly caught off guard by Bucky actually sharing with them.

“Uhhh,” Scott says.

“Oh, right, yeah,” Luis says. “Your ma. That would explain the whole sad face, you know, because you look like you’ve been crying, which I respect man, it’s a strong man who lets himself cry.”

“I’m so sorry about him,” Scott says. “If I knew how to make him stop talking, I would.”

“I’m just saying,” Luis says. “Not many men will cry, and really not in jail because there’s hardasses everywhere and they might beat on you for crying.”

Bucky sighs, contemplates walking back out of the cell. He sure can’t get at his cot because Scott and Luis are in the way and it’s not like his old bunk, where throwing himself into it would signal that he really wanted to be left alone. Not that it ever worked with Clint anyway.  Scott and Luis are still looking at him. Luis looks expectant, like he’s waiting for Bucky to reply, unwavering despite the seconds ticking by into ‘awkwardly long pause’ territory. Scott is looking carefully concerned. With his Ma’s advice ringing in his ears, Bucky steps over and perches on the edge of Scott’s bunk, next to him. “Deal me in?” he asks.

“Sure,” Scott says.

“Hey, you’re making friends, bro,” Luis says happily. “That’s great for you. We’re awesome.”

“Sure,” Bucky says, and settles in to play.




 

One impromptu card game and he, Scott and Luis officially become friends. Well, they wait for him in the mornings to go down to the canteen and Scott shares a pack of M&Ms with him, so Bucky reckons they’re friends. It’s not the same as Pietro and Clint but it’s enough.

They’ve been hanging around as a trio for about a week when Luis starts to get nosey. “So, what’s jail in Latveria like? I hear they have cages for like twenty prisoners and they throw you all in and make you fight over bread.”

“How do you think I lost my arm,” Bucky deadpans, picking at his leftover rice with his plastic fork. He’s been done for like half an hour; Scott and Luis take so long to fucking eat anything because they talk to goddamn much. It’s as if things like eating and sleeping are some kind of horrible chores that get in the way of all the words.

“No, serious, I hear those Eastern European jails are crazy,” Luis insists. “You’re crazy to pick a fight in a bar, man, like those guys could have gone to town on you-”

“Wait, how do you know about that?” Bucky asks.

“You were on the news,” Scott says, Luis nodding at his side.

Bucky scowls at his tray. “Fuckin’ great.”

“Don’t worry, they showed more of your friend, you know the one with the muscles and the blond hair? Yeah, that guy, they talked about him all the time, kept showing photos and shit.”

“He’s super photogenic,” Scott says through a mouthful of bread. “What? I’m comfortable enough with my masculinity to say when a guy is hot. Your friend is super hot.”

“Gross,” Bucky says, wrinkling his nose. “He’s like my brother, stop it.”

As he looks up across the room, he notices a pair of eyes on him. The guy holds his gaze for long enough for it to be deliberate and then looks down at his tray, teeth biting at his bottom lip. Well, it’s not subtle. Bucky inwardly sighs and chooses to ignore it.

“Well your brother is like a national hero,” Scott says.

“A national hero with muscles,” Luis adds. “So many muscles. All the muscles.”

“I’ll get you an autograph when I’m out of here,” Bucky says, dropping his fork and deciding he’s had enough of waiting around for those two to finish up “I got an appointment with a bench press, I’ll see you losers later.”

“You’re a bench press,” Scott manages to throw at him as Bucky walks away, which really isn’t the worst thing Bucky’s ever been called. He makes his way down to the gym, stretching and warming up with a walk on the treadmill. He’s been going perhaps six or seven minutes when a figure hops onto the treadmill next to him. He glances over and feels a jolt as he recognises the guy who had been looking at him across the canteen.

He looks ahead, starting to feel really uncomfortable.

“Hey,” the guy breaks the silence between them. “You’re new, right?”

“If you call six weeks new,” Bucky says slowly. “What do you want?”

“Depends what you’re offering,” the guy says. Bucky does look over then. The guy is looking right at him, eyes dark and wanting. He’s a good looking guy, the sort Bucky would have bought a beer if he’d been in the mood for drinking and flirting.

Would being the operative word. The only person he wants to buy a beer and flirt with is Clint, even though Clint fuckin’ ditched him without a goodbye and could be literally anywhere in the world right now.

“No,” Bucky says.

“I don’t think you mean that.”

Bucky grits his teeth, looking straight forward. Anger flickers in his belly, hot and fractious. “Okay, I’m gonna give you ten seconds to walk away before me and you fall out.”

He must look suitably pissed off because the guy flees without another word. Bucky curses inwardly, wondering if he’s somehow radiating queer vibes or if the guy had just that been desperate.

 


 

“Can you tell from just looking at me?”

Sam looks a little nonplussed at Bucky’s question, settling down onto the plastic visitors’ chair and blinking slowly at him through the glass. Maybe Bucky should have opened with hello or something, but fuck small talk.

“Tell what? That you’re an asshole?”

“No.”

“That you’re a terrible cook?”

“No.”

“That you and Steve are super codependent and it’s slightly alarming at times?”

Bucky glares at him. “Sam.”

“Okay, okay. I assume we’re talking about,” Sam pauses, looks discreetly around him then not-so discreetly half-murmurs, “your taste in women?”

Well, Sam would suck at being a spy, but for now Bucky’ll take the clumsy as fuck metaphor or ruse or whatever it is they’re doing here. “Yes, can you tell my taste in women just from looking at me?”

Sam shakes his head. “No. Only when we’re out and you stare at...a particular woman. Why are you asking? Has someone said something?”

“I got...an offer,” Bucky says.

Sam lets out a low whistle, clearly impressed. “You work fast.”

Bucky scowls at him. “I told them to do a running jump,” he says irritably, then looks down at the counter. “I’m not...I’m not exactly over my...ex.”

Comprehension dawns over Sam’s face: exasperated, pained comprehension. “Oh man, Steve warned me but I was not prepared.”

“He better not have had said anything.”

Sam ignores him. “He told me that you hooked up with someone and he thought you’d fallen hard.”

“I barely told him shit, what does he know.”

“He knows you, your face gives everything away. He’s got like a doctorate in reading your mind. Besides, you’re telling me you’re not over your ex, you’re confirming everything Steve’s said.”

Bucky resists the urge to bang his head against the glass. He leans forwards so he doesn’t have to look Sam in his stupid knowing eyes, wishing he still had his long hair to hide behind. “I’m not. I keep thinking about them. And I don’t even know where the fuck they are or if it was actually anything more. Like while you’re inside it’s like a damn pressure cooker…and now I gotta start thinking about what I’m gonna do afterwards. Without them.”

“Yeah, sounds like you took an emotional hit there,” Sam says. “You know I’m proud of you, in a messed up kind of way? You put yourself out there, let yourself connect with someone else. For a while back there I thoughts that the only person you’d ever talk to again was Steve.”

Bucky’s mouth flickers in an unwilling smile. “Hey, I’m practically sociable these days. I made like, four friends in Latveria.”

“Your lawyer, your translator and two guys from the embassy?”

“Fuck you Sammy. Actually, it was a nineteen year old petty thief who didn’t speak a word of English, a fraudster who was somehow allowed to run the commissary, the softest drug dealer in Eastern Europe and a cat burglar who used to steal things and give them away.”

Sam blinks, takes a moment to process. “Well. That’s...good?”

“Yeah, the drug dealer used to spot me in the gym and the kid used to call me Daddy. Only English word the little shit knew.”

It’s not often that Bucky manages to render Sam speechless. It’s kind of satisfying. Unfortunately Sam recovers pretty quickly.

“I have no idea what to say,” Sam confesses, starting to laugh. “Oh man, you are just another level. We’re not gonna be able to take you anywhere.”

“Well I’ve got four months left in here, you’ve got a while to brace yourself.”

“Shit man, that’ll fly by,” Sam says dismissively. Above them, the buzzer goes off, signalling an end to visiting time. “Keep your chin up, try making some new friends. You’ll get over your ex in no time.”

“You sound like my Mom,” Bucky bitches. “Get out of here.”

Sam grins. “See you soon.”

“Whatever,” Bucky says and hangs up the phone, walking away. He does kind of feel better for having spoken to Sam, not that he’s ever gonna say it out loud and certainly not in any place he can hear.

 


 

Sam is clearly full of shit because first of all, time doesn’t fly and secondly, Bucky doesn’t stop thinking about Clint. He tries, he really does, but it seems like the longer he goes without him, the worse it gets. Every time he goes for a shower, he’s thinking about Clint. Every time he climbs onto his bed, he’s thinking about Clint. Every time he buys chocolate from the commissary or does pull ups or goes out for a smoke...Clint, Clint, Clint.

 


 

Three months to go, and Steve turns up for his regular weekly visit with a not so regular look on his face. He slips into the chair looking - well, there’s no other way to put it - shifty as all fuck. A thrill of panic runs up Bucky’s spine and he grabs for the phone receiver, “What,” he asks, then curses because Steve hasn’t yet picked up his receiver. “Steve! What?”

“What?” Steve echoes back at him, doing a terrible job at smoothing his features over. It’s like that time he tried to paint over a goddamn fist-hole in the drywall.

“What do you mean, what? Why do you look like that?”

“I don’t look like anything,” Steve says.

“Bullshit. Something’s up.”

“Nothing is up,” Steve insists, tipping from shifty into stubborn and goddamnit, it’s impossible to win any arguments against that face. Bucky’s been trying for twenty years. He should know better. Going head to head with Steve just makes him dig his heels in, then for Steve the argument becomes about being stubborn. Clint was kinda cut from the same cloth, though Bucky doesn’t think he’ll ever find anyone to outstubborn Steve.

“You’re freaking me out,” Bucky says. “What is it? Are my family okay?”

“Everyone is fine,” Steve says. He looks like he wants to reach out and hold onto Bucky somehow. “Everything is okay. I just - I spoke to the precinct about going back before my year is out. Just thinking about that.”

Bucky narrows his eyes. The whole going-back-to-work thing would be enough to make Steve distracted but he wouldn’t hold that back from Bucky, he’d tell him straight away. Bucky’s got a sixth sense about that sort of shit now. It goes off whenever Steve is trying to lie, or whenever he’s getting himself in trouble. Honestly, it pings a lot.

“You would have told me about that without the whole-” Bucky says, gesturing to Steve’s face.

Steve sighs, looking down. “Okay,” he admits. “It’s not just work. It’s...you know Sharon, that Sam used to date?”

“The Sharon that you nearly dated before Sam did a better job of it?”

Steve rubs at his brow, wincing. “Yeah, thanks for that. Anyway, she...she called me, wanting to know if she could come and see Sam.”

Bucky rears back, face screwed up in confusion. “Sharon called you. To ask if she could see Sam.”

“Well yeah, she didn’t know Sam’s number so I was her only point of contact,”

“What is this, fuckin’ High School? Give the woman his number and tell them to sort themselves the fuck out.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Steve says. “Maybe I didn’t explain it so well. She’s got reasons that she can’t talk to Sam right now...I don’t know. It’s just, I’m stuck in the middle between two people, and I can’t tell one of them what’s going on-”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Bucky holds up his free hand. “Steve. You are not qualified for being a relationship counsellor or a mediator. Please stop. Christ, no wonder you look like a dog that pissed on the carpet.”

“Jeez, thanks.”

They move on to talk about other things, in the short time they’re afforded. However, even as Steve starts bitching about the pre-season football news, Bucky can’t quite shake the feeling that something’s not right. That convoluted story about Sam and Sharon isn’t sitting right, but he can’t put his finger on it.  If he didn’t know better he’d think Steve was talking about someone else, like - oh god - himself and Sharon or some shit. He hopes not. That’s not a story he wants to read another messy chapter of.   

Though it is a small comfort, thinking that for as fucked up as his love-life is, Steve’s is always bound to be more tragic.

When Steve leaves, Bucky goes to find Scott and Luis. He finds them outside, half-heartedly tossing a basketball back and forth.

“Hey, how’s your good looking friend?” Scott asks brightly, tossing the ball to Bucky.

“Acting weird,” Bucky says, snapping the ball back to Luis with more force than probably necessary. “Talking shit, not making any sense.”

“Hey, that’s like everyday in here,” Scott grins, nodding at Luis. Of course, Luis doesn’t even notice.

“What’s he talking about?”

“Some shit about his ex, who is also our pal’s ex, I don’t know it was a mess. And he has the nerve to give me shit about my ex-boyfriend and he’s sitting there getting his panties in a twist-”

He abruptly stops talking because he realises what he’s just said, and braces himself for impact.

“Does he really wear panties?” Scott asks. “That’s a mental image that’s never going to go away, thanks.”

Luis is nodding sagely. “Dude, sounds like he should sort out his own love life, ‘stead of messing around with yours, you know what I’m saying?”

Relief filling him from head to toe, Bucky grins, catches the ball as it comes his way again. “For once, I kind of actually do.”




 

Two months to go and a nineteen-year-old kid asks to join their table. He’s in for car theft and is scrawny and covered in bad tattoos and looks very out of his depth. Bucky won’t talk to him, but he grunts an affirmative and lets him stay.

 


 

With one month to go, he has a meeting with a parole officer who talks about rejoining society and taking responsibility. Bucky barely hears any of it, brain stuck on ‘Steve better turn up to pick me up when I get out, I’ve got no money for a cab.’

 


 

The door clunks open for a final time. Bucky holds his hands out, lets himself be cuffed by the guard waiting to escort him out. Scott passes him the bag of his things which he holds to his chest, nodding at Scott gratefully.

“I’ll see you on the other side,” he says.

“Yeah, I got six more weeks then you can buy me a beer,” Scott grins. “Good luck, Bucky.”

“Yeah, no more fighting in bars and punching people with your terminator fist,” Luis says. “Learn to punch people with your other hand. Or maybe learn to not punch people at all though that sounds like something that might be too hard to do for you, bro.”

“I’ll think about it,” Bucky says.

“Send me Red Vines! One of the big kilo tubs, none of the packet bullshit!”

“Yeah, whatever,” Bucky says, and turns to follow the guard out. He feels like he used to do trying to get to sleep on Christmas Eve, stomach all twisted up and fluttery with anticipation. There’s a few shouts at him as he walks through the prison but he’s not paying any attention. He keeps thinking about being out, seeing his friends, his family. After is actually here.

The paperwork is a fuck-ton quicker than it is in Latveria, but he still has an agonising two hour wait while he and two other guys are processed. Finally, he’s given his possessions back - thankfully not the same blood-spattered, beer-stained clothes from Latveria but a fresh set - and he’s allowed to shed his prison identity and pull his real one back on. The shirt is tight over his shoulders from spending hours in the prison gym, but the jeans are his comfiest so he’s not gonna complain. He feels different somehow. Definitely not the same guy he was before he landed his ass in jail.

Maybe it’s not so bad.

He’s asked to sign his paperwork, he’s given his papers and then promptly turned out into the parking lot. Back in the big wide world, ready to become part of society again, or whatever the fuck the parole officer said.

He stands there in the weak summer light, not knowing what to do.

And then he hears the blare of a horn and he smiles.

“Bucky!” Steve shouts, jogging across the lot towards him. Sam is there as well, leaning out the drivers’ window of his truck and grinning ear-to-ear. Bucky braces himself and Steve hits him like a brick wall, if brick walls were warm and prone to rib-crushing hugs.

“Yeah,” Bucky says, holding tight onto him. “Thanks for coming to get me.”

“Don’t mention it,” Steve says, easing him back. He sets his hands on Bucky’s shoulders. “I kinda have something to tell you.”

Bucky feels himself go tense. “What? Is everyone okay? What’s happened?”

“Everything is fine,” Steve says. “But...you know when I said about Sharon calling? Well, I may have...well, it wasn't Sharon that called. And. Well.”

Bucky initially doesn’t know what the fuck he’s talking about. And then he looks over Steve’s shoulder and spots a very familiar figure standing next to the truck, hands shoved in the pockets of a purple jacket that’s the same damn colour as the scrubs he used to wear in jail.

What. The. Fuck.

Bucky literally can't do anything but stand there and stare. Clint lifts a hand in an awkward wave.

“I’m going to kill him,” Bucky says without thinking. “What is he doing here?”

“He called me, asked for some help,” Steve says.

“Murder. Right now,” Bucky says. He shoves his bag and papers at Steve’s chest and barely waits for him to grab them before he’s walking. He’s suddenly furious. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing here?!”

Clint hastily runs around the truck so the flatbed is between him and Bucky. “I told you he’d be mad!” he says to Steve.

“Damn right I’m mad, you left without even a fucking goodbye!” Bucky bellows. “Get here, I’m going to-”

“Maybe have this fight not next to the jail?” Sam calls, exasperated. “Don’t make me call your Momma, Barnes.”

“Fuck you, I’ll call her myself and tell her what this prick did,” Bucky says, trying to round the truck. Clint goes in the opposite direction, wisely keeping two tonnes of metal between them.

“I told you I was thinking about escaping!” Clint protests.

“You said you weren’t serious! You just left and they threw me in the hole for it!”

“I didn’t want you to get in trouble for knowing anything!”

“Fuck you, I got in trouble anyway!”

Sam leans out of the window, looking to Steve. “I thought these two liked each other?”

Steve sighs, leans against the side of the truck. “Me too. Maybe this is how they show affection in jail?”

“I trusted you, you piece of shit,” Bucky snaps at Clint. “And you just left.”

“I’m here now,” Clint says. “I’m here because this is where you are.”

That takes the wind out of Bucky’s sails. Well, enough for him to stop yelling, toning it down to glaring across the bed of the truck.

“Could you two maybe get this out of your system?” Steve says. “We’re at your Ma’s for dinner at three, Buck.”

“I just-” Bucky says, cutting himself off and huffing out an annoyed breath. He doesn’t know what to do, this is just another freaking baseball bat to his emotions that he can’t deal with. While he’s trying to get his brain in order, Clint edges closer. He takes tiny little steps like he’s trying to sneak up on a damn tiger, though he’s got that determined glint is his eye which shows he’ll probably risk a mauling.

“Steve, get in the truck,” Bucky says, not looking away from Clint. Steve pops a salute and does a very bad job of hiding a grin as he walks around to jump into the passenger seat.

“You’re an asshole,” Bucky says to Clint.

“Yeah, right back at you,” Clint replies. “God, you’re still pulling that face.”

“Why are you here?”

“Well talking to you made me miss the states, so I hopped a cargo ship and came back. You told me enough about Steve for me to find him pretty easily, and he took me in. Said he’d be my unofficial sponsor. I’ve gone a whole six months without crime, unless you count the occasional jaywalking and one incident of speeding-”

“Clint.”

“Yeah, okay. I missed you,” Clint says. “Steve turning out to be awesome was a bonus. You know he’s a cop and he’s still awesome?”

“He is not awesome, he’s a little shit who didn’t even tell me you were here.”

“Uhh...I kinda asked him not to?” Clint admits. “I wanted to tell you I was here myself. But we’ve not got my record...well. Let’s just say it’s being straightened out but it’s not done yet, so I couldn’t exactly wander in for visiting time.”

“You’re telling me that you’re somehow falsifying your prison record? And Steve is totally cool with this?”

Clint shrugs. “It was Steve’s idea.”

Bucky starts to laugh, covering his face with his hands. “Great. Now he’s a crooked cop.”

“He’s morally sound but legally dubious,” Clint says, sounding far too happy about it.

Bucky feels fingers wrap around his wrists, tugging his hands away. He holds firm with his eyes covered and then feels warm breath on his mouth. He waits and sure enough, Clint gently kisses him. He closes his eyes and lets his hands fall to Clint’s shoulders, holding him close.

“Can we try this now that we’re out of jail?”

“Try what?” Bucky asks, kissing Clint between words. “We were just screwing.”

“No, there was petting and hand holding and talking,” Clint insists. “That’s like the most serious relationship I’ve ever been in.”

“That’s tragic,” Bucky tells him. “You really wanna do this?”

“Well I’ve been introducing myself to all Steve’s friends as your boyfriend so we might as well,” Clint says.

The sheer fuckin’ cheek of it. Bucky can only gape at him and then decide to let it slide. “Fine,” he says. “Dinner with my Ma at three.”

“Wow, meeting the family,” Clint says. “This is definitely the most serious relationship I’ve ever been in. Hey, shall we just get married and be done with it?”

“Just get in the truck and behave,” Bucky says.

Clint grins at him and quickly leans in for a kiss that is half filth and all tongue, and Bucky decides fuck it and kisses him back. His heart is going quicker than ever in his chest and he’s pressing Clint back into the side of the truck-

“Hey, keep it PG!” Sam hollers out the window. “I swear, Mama Barnes is on speed dial!”

“So, this is what after looks like then,” Bucky says against Clint’s mouth.

“Yep,” Clint agrees. “No more jail.”

“Yeah I’ll believe that when it happens,” Bucky snorts. “Let’s just go for dinner and see where that gets us, yeah?”

“I’m in,” Clint says, giving him a shove. “Come on Grumpy-cat, we can make out in the back.”

Bucky shoves him back, just because he can, but then they both climb into the truck. Sam mutters ‘finally’ and Steve turns around to wink at Bucky, who responds by kicking the back of Steve’s chair.

From one dysfunctional family to another, Bucky thinks, mouth hitching in a smile. He cranks down the window and lets the breeze wash over him, taking a deep breath and trying to get his head around the fact he’s safe, he’s surrounded by friends and he’s free .

Clint shifts across into the middle seat, bumping his shoulder against Bucky’s. “You okay?” he asks quietly, tipping his head sideways to rest on Bucky’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” Bucky says absently, turns his head to press a kiss against Clint’s temple and watches the prison vanish around the bend as the truck makes a turn. “Yeah. I’m pretty okay.”