Bucky walked into the bar with his last twenty and a scowl that could have peeled rust off of iron, slapping the bill on the bartop with his prosthetic hand. “Gimme the strongest thing this’ll buy,” he snapped. The bartender took one look at Bucky before he unscrewed the serving tip off of a bottle of rum and handed him the half-full bottle. Bucky grinned, all teeth, and poured himself a generous serving into a glass and knocked back the drink with his good hand.
“Whoa there, might want to slow down,” a voice said from his left. He turned sharply and almost lost his breath as he met the gaze of the most beautiful man he’d seen in a while. He was clearly older. Silver threaded through his hair and was peppered in his well-groomed goatee, but he wore his age well. His whiskey brown eyes were crinkled into a smile and his soft pink lips were quirked up as he sipped from a glass full of a clear but sparkling liquid with a lime wedge on the rim.
“You’re one to talk,” Bucky muttered, as he poured himself another shot from the bottle. “What are you drinking, old man?”
The man looked taken aback and Bucky almost laughed. Steve always told him that he had no tact and he especially had no patience on a night like this one. He turned back to his drink, satisfied that he had successfully driven away the only company he had attracted. He wasn’t expecting a glass to slide next to his own. The lime and the bubbles bursting on its surface undoubtedly meant it was the other man’s drink.
“What kind of idiot do ya take me for?” He asked, letting his annoyance bleed into his voice. “This ain’t my first rodeo, pal.”
“Just sniff it,” the man said, “or better yet, Henry, give our broody friend here what I’m drinking.”
Bucky rolled his eyes and lifted the glass to his nose and was surprised to smell only water with a hint of lime. If there was alcohol in the drink, it was so light he couldn’t smell it. He confirmed it when the bartender - Henry - pushed an identical drink in front of him (Bucky had watched him carefully make it) and it tasted like bland, carbonated water.
“Okay, so you’re an old man drinking soda water and lime at a bar, am I supposed to be impressed?” Bucky asked. He didn’t down the shot in his glass and instead found himself sipping the water and lime mixture.
“No, but I wanted to make sure you knew I wasn’t drunk and trying to talk you up. What’s got you so worked up that you’re buying overly expensive bottles of alcohol at a bar rather than drinking at home?” The man asked. He reached across Bucky and plucked his half finished drink from in front of Bucky and took a delicate sip. Bucky tried not to stare at his bobbing throat, but god damn, the man was gorgeous.
“Why are you at a bar if you ain’t trying to get drunk?” Bucky quipped back.
“Hmm, fair question. I thought I was meeting a date, but it seems I have been ditched. I don’t drink much anymore, but I didn’t want to waste a night out. I’m,” he paused and he seemed like he was thinking hard about something, “Anthony by the way,” he finally finished. He extended a hand out that Bucky automatically shook with his good hand.
He got the impression that the man hadn’t given him his real name and he felt inclined to return the favor. “You can call me James. Why would anyone ditch someone as handsome as you?”
“James, eh? If you’re not careful, I’ll think you’re flirting with me,” Anthony said as he squeezed the wedge of lime into his drink. He locked eyes with Bucky and licked the moisture from the outside of the glass. Bucky swallowed and considered taking another shot. These kinds of things didn’t happen to him anymore and he wondered if he should not so subtly show off his prosthetic. Instead he found himself slipping into his old, flirty drawl.
“Maybe I am, doll. How about we ditch this place and go somewhere more private?”
Anthony raised an eyebrow but then smiled and laid a hundred dollar bill into the bartop. “I’d be stupid not to take a man as gorgeous as you home. Your place or mine?”
Bucky, who was still boggling at the amount of money Anthony had dropped on two non alcoholic drinks, looked up and blurted out, “Your’s. I think you might have something more exciting than my place.” He didn’t mention the inconvenient roommate who owned the tiny apartment where he crashed on the couch. He didn’t think Steve or Peggy would appreciate him bringing back a stranger to their place, no matter how handsome he was.
Ten minutes later, they were sequestered in the back seat of Anthony’s private car, a divider blocking the driver, named Happy, according to Anthony, from watching them. It was a good thing because as soon as they tumbled into the backseat, Anthony and Bucky were kissing.
Bucky crowded Anthony against the door of the car and captured his lips in a bruising kiss, licking into his mouth when the older man gasped. He tasted like lime and mint and Bucky chased the taste, flicking his tongue against Anthony’s and almost groaning when Anthony sucked hard on his questing tongue.
Bucky braced his prosthetic arm against the door and let his good arm wander down and undo a few of Anthony’s buttons on his crisp white shirt. He slipped his fingers in and wasn’t prepared for a hard shove, just as he felt the unmistakable ridge of scar tissue against his fingers. He found himself sprawled on the seat across from Anthony, disoriented and a little out of breath.
“I’m sorry, I should have said. I don’t - I don’t take my shirt off,” Anthony muttered and he began to deftly redo the buttons that Bucky had loosened. Bucky couldn’t help but notice that his fingers shook and the scars on his own shoulder ached in sympathy pain.
“Hey, it’s alright, doll, we don’t gotta do anything you don’t wanna,” Bucky said. Anthony smiled as he pressed down the buttons on his fully closed shirt.
“Your accent comes out more when you’re being extra sweet. I like it.”
Bucky blushed but he took the hand that Anthony offered and let himself be drawn back into the warmth of Anthony’s embrace.
They spent the rest of the ride kissing, both of them carefully keeping their hands chaste even as their mouths slid wetly together. Bucky curled his hands into fists and pressed them into the soft leather of the car seat, concentrating on taking Anthony apart with his tongue and teeth. Maybe they wouldn’t get anywhere tonight, but it was the most he’d done in almost a year and he was quickly getting addicted to the noises coming from Anthony’s mouth. Even if he got an epic case of blue balls, it beat going back to Steve’s place - and he’d left his bottle of rum at the bar, anyway.
The car eventually came to a stop and Bucky and Anthony untangled themselves while Happy the chauffeur coughed and averted his eyes when he opened their door. Bucky stared out at the large brownstone in front of him and wondered if he’d made a mistake. They were in Manhattan, already a part of the city he never found himself in, and something told him that Anthony owned the whole townhouse to himself.
“Home sweet home. You coming?” Anthony asked and there was an edge to his voice, like he expected Bucky to bolt or make a comment. Bucky shook off his awe and gave Anthony the same cock sure grin that Steve told him would get him into trouble one day.
“Of course I’m coming. Wouldn’t miss another round of those kisses for the world.”
Anthony’s grin was equal parts relieved and cocky and he reached out a hand that Bucky took. In another ten minutes they were stumbling through the front door of the house, their lips locked in a heated kiss. Anthony was smaller than Bucky and he pulled him forward until Bucky could crowd him against the wall of the front hall. Bucky braced his arms on either side of Anthony’s body and leaned down and licked into Anthony’s hot mouth, wishing he could get his hands on him.
“Doll, let me touch you; I won’t hurt ya,” Bucky said, breaking away from Anthony’s lips to duck and nip kisses down the bare column of Anthony’s neck.
Anthony moaned and titled his neck, giving more access to Bucky’s lips, and his own hands were already clutching Bucky’s shirt, one warm hand slipping up until it was pressed against the hot skin of Bucky’s back.
“God, yes. Please just touch me!” Anthony moaned, his breath coming in uneven gasps. Bucky removed both hands from the wall and smoothed them down Anthony’s shoulders before reaching toward the buttons on the now wrinkled shirt. He had one button in his left hand when he realized it wouldn’t move. It was clutching at the shirt but no matter how hard he tried to make it move, it stayed stubbornly still.
Bucky felt himself panicking; why of all times was it now that his useless arm decided to act up? God, he’d have to rip the shirt to dislodge his arm. He mentally bid farewell to his night out, feeling mortified. He was just about to rip the shirt when he felt a gentle hand on his malfunctioning fingers.
“I was wondering about this arm, at the bar. I noticed a lag, when you were picking up your glass,” Anthony said. Bucky jerked away as far as his arm would let him.
“Sorry, I didn’t want to bring it up, but I’m something of an engineer and I noticed that your arm might be have a few issues. I didn’t think this would happen, but I think I can help, if you let me,” Anthony explained. He licked his swollen lips and Bucky looked down at him. He looked disheveled, his greying hair was in disarray and his golden eyes were dilated; he was clearly still turned on and Bucky’s own neglected cock twitched, reminding him how turned on he was as well.
He stilled his attempts to subtly shake his hand free and stared at Anthony. He bit his lip and furrowed his brow as he considered his options. He felt defensive and wasn’t sure if he wanted a stranger to look at his arm, but he might owe it to Anthony to let him look at it, since it clearly wasn’t going to release the other man’s shirt without a fight.
“I guess it can’t hurt,” he said grudgingly. “Lead the way; I hope you actually have tools that aren’t just a wrench.”
It turned out Anthony had a whole lab in the basement of his massive house. They had to walk awkwardly, Anthony leading the way as Bucky shuffled along with him, but eventually they were seated in the middle of workshop twice the size of Steve and Peggy’s living room. Bucky tried not to gape as Anthony carefully manoeuvred them into two chairs.
“Just something of an engineer, eh?” Bucky quipped as he eyed the stations of computer screens, tables full of tools, and half finished projects that looked like actual robots.
“I prefer the title, ‘futurist’,” Anthony mumbled absentmindedly as he took a tool from a nearby workstation and started to fiddle with Bucky’s arm. Bucky tried to keep still but he couldn’t help but watch Anthony as he worked. The other man looked even more beautiful when he was clearly in his element. His eyes were lowered and Bucky took the time to admire how long and thick his eyelashes were. Bucky knew Anthony was older than him, probably by at least ten years, but the man exuded a boyish energy that Bucky found adorable.
He was so engrossed in cataloging how Anthony’s hair darkened from grey to light brown at his temples that he almost didn’t notice when his prosthetic hand released its hold on the shirt. He let it drop and slowly tried to stretch the fingers out. It hardly twitched and he almost sighed. It looked like a visit to the VA rehab clinic was inevitable and he hoped he would be able to get an appointment in a reasonable time frame.
He clutched his dead arm to his chest and started to get up. “I’m sorry about the disappointing night. I’ll uh, get out of your hair now.”
He tried to think of how he’d get back to Steve’s Brooklyn apartment and cursed himself for using the last of his money at the bar. Unemployed men like him couldn’t afford the luxury of using their money so carelessly. It wasn’t like he could always drink his worries away every time he was inevitably turned down for another job.
He was startled out of his thoughts by a touch on his flesh and blood arm and he turned around to meet Anthony’s concerned gaze.
“Slow down there, cowboy, I can probably fix that arm if you let me.”
Bucky looked down at his arm and then back at Anthony who was rolling the screwdriver he must have used on Bucky’s arm between his hands. He looked around the lab and the sophisticated, half finished pieces of machinery that were scattered around. Well, it wasn’t like he could make Bucky’s arm any more useless.
Bucky settled back down on the chair and faced Anthony, holding his arm out with a confident grin. “Not sure about the nickname, but who am I to deny you if you want to get your hands back on me?”
Anthony’s lips twitched, like he wanted to smile, but he managed to school his expression into something more serious before he gestured to Bucky’s arm with his screwdriver. “You’re going to have to strip that shirt off. It’s not exactly the way I expected to get you shirtless but, we can’t have everything.”
Bucky hesitated, suddenly feeling horribly self conscious but he clenched his jaw and took off his long sleeved henley. He knew that Anthony was hiding his own scars under his shirt, and somehow that knowledge helped him bare his own. He had a white tank top underneath but the mess of scars on his shoulder and chest were on full display. He resolutely looked away from Anthony’s face, not wanting to see the inevitable pity in his eyes.
“Hmm, I don’t like how this is installed but that isn’t anything I can fix now,” Anthony said and Bucky almost jumped when he felt a calloused hand touch his neck, titling his neck away from his shoulder. He looked at Anthony and instead of pity he saw deep curiosity and fascination in his eyes.
“Can you move your arm at all?” Anthony asked as he poked at the elbow joint. Bucky shook his head.
“I can’t do a thing. I was pretty sure I was going to be leaving this place with a piece of your shirt, to be honest.”
“I wouldn’t have minded if you ripped my shirt off, but again, not the way I would have hoped for.”
Bucky snorted and then settled back into his chair as Anthony began to poke and prod at his arm. “Is this how you got so rich? Making cool machines?” He asked
Anthony paused as he was removing a wire from Bucky’s wrist. “I guess you could say that. Though most of it is through inheritance. Nothing too exciting about me. I’m just another rich kid from Manhattan.”
“I’m from Brooklyn,” Bucky offered. He could tell that Anthony was being modest and no matter how rich his parents had been, he obviously used his hands to build everything because they were rough and calloused.
Anthony snorted and resumed fiddling with Bucky’s arm. “The accent may have given that away.”
“I don’t know whatcha talking about, doll,” Bucky drawled, playing up the accent. He winked at Anthony and was rewarded with a smile. He was starting to crave the smiles that he could coax from the other man and he found himself wishing he knew more about the man he merely expected to be a one night stand.
“So, what do you do, besides be rich?” Bucky asked. He held still as Anthony brought out a wire stripper.
“Me? Oh, I’m boring. I’m just an old guy who drinks sparkling water at bars and lures young men back to his house so he can mess with their prosthetics,” Anthony said as he brought out a penlight and shone it down at the mess of wires he’d unearthed from Bucky’s arm. “What about you? What’s a handsome man like you doing drinking alone at the bar?”
Bucky shook his head, letting his long hair fall into his face. Peggy had swept it into a half bun for him before he had left the apartment but now it was a complete mess and he couldn’t even brush it aside.
“Ya might need new eyes. I’m nothing much to look at, especially with this gimp arm,” Bucky said with as little bitterness as he could muster.
Anthony shook his head as he groped for another tool from the workstation behind him. “You don’t seem like the type of person who fishes for compliments, but let me tell you, you could have no arms and still have men and women flocking to you. Your uh, kissing skills are also top notch.” He was blushing as he said the words and he licked his lips, like he was remembering their kisses.
Bucky couldn’t help but reach down and lift Anthony’s face with his good hand, tilting his chin and bending down until their lips connected. The kiss was relatively demure but it still sparked heat through Bucky’s veins.
“If you don’t want me to mess up your arm, you shouldn’t kiss me like that,” Anthony said and Bucky was gratified to hear that his voice was a little rough. “Later. We’ll get to that later, once I fix your arm.”
The next couple of hours passed with quiet conversation and Bucky tried not to move as Anthony fixed his arm. He tried several times to learn more about the man but he was strangely tight lipped. The only times he relaxed were when he talked about his friends “Rhodey” and “Pepper.” Bucky was pretty sure those were nicknames, if Happy the chauffeur was anything to go by.
Bucky in turn told vague stories about his life. He didn’t mention Steve or Peggy by name but he complained about his newlywed roommates who had managed to get themselves knocked up within months of getting married.
“Some people would love to be that successful. God knows my parents spent enough money trying to conceive me,” Anthony said as he carefully tightened a bolt on Bucky’s arm. He seemed to be almost done fixing the arm and Bucky carefully flexed his fingers. To his surprise, his hand responded immediately, with none of the delay he was used to.
“This is better than before!” he exclaimed and looked up excitedly at Anthony. Their gazes met and suddenly, it was like they were back at the bar. Anthony’s pupils dilated and Bucky found his own eyelids drooping, his gaze drifting down to Anthony’s pink lips.
“Mind if I kiss ya, doll?” he asked. Anthony nodded and Bucky reached out with his newly fixed arm to cup Anthony’s cheek. He leaned forward, wetting his lips, and almost groaned at the first touch of their lips.
He deepened the kiss, sliding his tongue into Anthony’s mouth and tangling it with Anthony’s. Their kiss started slow and languid but quickly heated up and Bucky couldn’t help but run his good hand through Anthony’s hair, slightly gripping it and positioning Anthony’s head so their lips aligned better. Anthony’s hands came up to clutch at his back, drawing him closer until he was almost in the older man’s lap. He didn’t mind and instead pushed forward, trying to grind his hardening cock against Anthony’s thigh.
A loud buzzing cut through the haze of their kiss and at first Bucky tried to ignore it. However, the sound and vibration were persistent and Bucky realized it was coming from his pocket. Only one person could be calling him at - he checked the time- midnight, and sure enough, it was Steve.
“You better have a good reason for calling me, punk,” he said as he answered the phone. Anthony was breathing heavily but he didn’t say anything, though his hand stayed on Bucky’s thigh, rubbing up and down in a very distracting manner.
“Peggy’s in labor! We’re going to the hospital. Come here as soon as you can!” Steve said breathlessly and Bucky jerked away from Anthony’s touch.
“What? She isn’t due for another week!” he said and he could already feel himself panicking. How was he supposed to make it to the hospital in Brooklyn?
“Babies don’t wait for anyone. Just be here as soon as you can.” Steve hung up before Bucky could say anything else.
Bucky looked towards Anthony feeling confused until he realized that Anthony was just using the name he’d given him at the bar. All of a sudden, the weight of his situation crashed down upon him. Here he was in a posh Manhattan townhouse, miles away from his best friends, with no money to his name. The only person who could help him was a one night stand who he’d already imposed upon. He was pretty sure Anthony’s name wasn’t even his real one.
Bucky blinked back tears as overwhelming stress and the abject feeling of failure crashed over him. He was a terrible friend. Steve and Peggy already let him crash at their place and he’d been unemployed for months. Instead of saving his money, he’d decided to blow it after one failed interview and now he was going to miss the birth of his godchild just because had wanted to get his dick wet.
“I’m sorry, I gotta go. I… thank you for fixing my arm, sorry for leading you on,” Bucky muttered as he reached for the shirt he’d taken off. He was already making plans in his head to get enough money to take the subway back to Brooklyn.
His thoughts were interrupted by someone clearing their throat and he turned to face Anthony, who had a hand reached out as if to grab his attention.
“I couldn’t help but overhear that you might be needed by your friends? You’re going to have a hard time getting a cab at this time of night and the subway takes forever. I could drive you if you don’t mind?” Anthony said.
“What? You don’t have to do that,” Bucky protested weakly. “I wouldn’t want us to wake up Happy again.”
Anthony shook his head and got up from his chair. “I’m not waking Happy up. I can actually drive and I have a few cars that will get where ever you need as fast as possible.”
Bucky hesitated but couldn’t find a reason to protest. Instead he shrugged on his shirt and grinned at Anthony. “Lead the way. I hope you don’t drive like the old man you are.”
Less than 20 minutes later, Bucky could definitively say that Anthony did not drive like an old man. In fact, he was pretty sure they’d broken every speed and traffic law in the state of New York on their journey to the hospital. He looked nervously behind them, expecting half the police force to be on their tail.
“Do you know what floor and room they’re in?” Anthony asked as he casually parked his car alongside the curb. Bucky was sure it would be towed and mourned the outcome, as a brand new BMW probably cost lmore than he’d ever made in a year - yet Anthony didn’t seem concerned as he left the car and followed Bucky into the hospital.
“They’re in the Maria Stark Maternity Ward,” Bucky said as he checked his phone for the exact room number Steve had sent him. He noticed that Anthony flinched at the mention of the maternity ward name and wondered why. The Starks were old money and they seemed to have a floor named after them in every building in New York. Maybe it was a rich person rivalry that he wouldn’t understand.
They managed to make it through security and the nurses’ station on the maternity ward. It was only after they were almost to Peggy’s room that Bucky realized he’d brought a complete stranger to witness the birth of his godchild. Before he could make a comment though, Steve flew out of a nearby room and almost crashed into Bucky.
“Oh thank God you’re here Buck! She doesn't want anyone but me in the room so can you take care of your Ma and your sister? I just can’t. There’s a waiting room down that way. We’ll get you when… well you know,” Steve said breathlessly. His was sweating so much that his hair and shirt were damp and his eyes were a little wild. He didn’t even seem to notice Anthony and he ran back into Peggy’s room before Bucky could even answer.
“Well, ‘Buck,’ looks like we should head to the waiting room,” Anthony remarked. Bucky blushed but didn’t correct the other man as they towards the waiting room. Another ten minutes later, he could hear the excited voices of his Ma and his sister and he quickly got up to intercept them.
“Hey, we’re in here. Peggy ‘n Steve don’t want ya ‘ta be in there,” Bucky yelled. The nurses at at their station glared at him and he ducked his head, trying to look as innocent as possible. Luckily, his family heard him and Becca and his Ma sidetracked into his room.
“Oh for Christ’s sake, we weren’t going to barge in on the poor woman! No need to yell like that,” his mother complained.
“I’m sorry, I just wanted to make sure you didn’t go charging in,” Bucky said but his mother and his sister had stopped paying attention to him. Instead their gaze was fixed upon an awkward looking Anthony who had a toy train in his hand. Bucky realized with belated horror, Anthony had never changed so he still had on the very wrinkled shirt and he had obvious hickies all down his neck.
“Well, who is this?” his Ma asked, marching forward to take a look at Anthony. Becca was close behind her and they both inspected Anthony like he was a prize pumpkin at a fair. Anthony, for his part, looked bemused but unperturbed.
“Hello, I’m Anthony and I just gave uh… Buck here, a ride to the hospital,” Anthony said, flashing a charming smile that didn’t reach his eyes. Bucky was both amazed and dismayed to realize that Anthony had been been giving him his real smiles and now that he’d been put in an awkward situation, he was presenting a false front.
“Buck? Oh Lord, did you introduce yourself like that, James Buchanan Barnes?” his mother asked as she stalked back towards him. Bucky winced. So much for the thin veneer of anonymity he had been hoping for. Now Anthony knew his full name and he still didn’t know a thing about the other man.
“Ma, leave him alone. At least he got here in time,” his sister said. She was still eyeing Anthony suspiciously but she settled down onto a chair instead of interrogating him.
She primly crossed her legs and turned to face Anthony who was still fiddling with the toy train, albeit his focus seemed forced, giving away his discomfort.
“So, were you just a good samaritan who saw my brother trying to get a ride on the street?” Becca asked. Bucky cringed. He desperately wished he were in the room with Steve and Peggy, or that he’d thought to tell Anthony he didn’t need to stick around.
“Well, funny story,” Anthony started as he set the toy train down. Bucky’s whole body clenched up, hoping Anthony wouldn't actually tell the story of their first meeting. “I was at a-”
Anthony was interrupted by the arrival of a harried looking nurse. “Is this the Rogers family? The baby is here, if you want to follow me.”
Everyone scrambled up and suddenly they were being ushered into Peggy’s room. Peggy was holding a small bundle in her arms, looking sweaty and exhausted, but beaming. “Come here and meet baby Sarah,” she said in her perfectly cultured accent.
Bucky was the first to move and he almost tripped over his feet in his haste to get to the bedside.
“Oh my God, she’s so tiny! Can I hold her?” he asked. Peggy smiled and lifted the baby gently off her chest. Steve looked like a nervous wreck next to her and he was obviously trying not to intercept as Bucky carefully cradled Sarah to his chest.
“She’s so beautiful,” Bucky cooed, feeling his heart melt. “What gives though? I thought labor was supposed to last forever and you’re a week early!”
“Be grateful we even made it to the hospital. She was almost born in the back seat of the car. She wanted to say hi now ,” Steve explained.
Bucky hardly heard him and instead rubbed his hand down the soft hair on top of Sarah’s head. He was careful to use his flesh and blood hand and was grateful that his prosthetic worked, so he could support her. He turned around to thank Anthony but all he saw were his mother and his sister. Anthony was nowhere to be found.
Several hours later, Bucky left the hospital with his mother and his sister, catching a ride back to Steve’s place with them. The fancy BMW he had ridden in on was gone from the curbside and the only trace of Anthony was the arm that worked better than it ever had.
“Hey, what happened to the guy who drove you here?” his sister asked. Bucky shrugged his shoulders.
“I don’t know. I guess he was just a nice guy doing me a favor,” he said. He rubbed at the beard burn around his mouth and wondered if he would be lucky enough to run into Anthony again one day.
“Listen, no matter how many times you ask, I’m not going to give away information about another customer,” Henry the bartender informed Bucky. Bucky winced at the unfriendly tone in the bartender’s voice but couldn’t blame him. He felt like a creep, asking about Anthony, but he was desperate.
It has been months since the night of Sarah’s birth and his life had done a complete one-eighty. It’d started with a letter from the VA office asking if he would like to be a candidate for an experimental prosthetics program. Bucky had been nervous but he’d readily agreed; it wasn’t like he had much to lose. It turned out to be the best decision of his life.
He had a brand new arm made out of metal with a neural implant and it was like he had his real arm back again. The new arm was responsive and most importantly, he could feel things again. Steve called him The Terminator, but when he had long sleeves and gloves on, no one could tell he didn’t have a natural arm.
He had no idea who paid for the arm or the surgery and when he’d asked, all he’d gotten was lip service about a “generous donor who wished to remain anonymous.” The only thing they had asked from him in return was feedback about how the arm worked, which he had enthusiastically supplied.
A working arm meant he could confidently apply for jobs and he’d recently been hired as a mechanic at a custom auto shop. They worked on cars for the super wealthy and the pay was much better than anything he’d ever expected to make after losing his arm. He had even moved out of Steve and Peggy’s apartment, much to his own relief. It had been getting a little crowded for three adults and a baby in a one bedroom apartment. He’d moved a floor down to a nice studio that he could comfortably afford.
Everything was coming up roses for Bucky and he could pinpoint the exact moment to the night he had met Anthony. He knew Anthony was still miles out of his league, but he had a better shot than ever and he was hopeful that instead of a botched attempt at a one night stand, he could take the older man out on a date.
Unfortunately, his dream man was proving to be elusive and the only hints he had -a generic name, a generic house in Manhattan he couldn’t remember the address of, and a bar in Brooklyn - were not enough to track him down. He’d gone to the bar time and again, but Anthony never showed up. He’d tried to find the house but he couldn’t remember it since he’d been otherwise occupied when Happy had driven them there. His last ditch effort to ask the bartender had just blown up in his face.
“I’m sorry, I know, I sound like a creep. I wouldn’t be asking if I had any other option,” Bucky said. He tried to give Henry a pleading look but the man remained stone faced.
“I’d give up. There are other rich men in the city and you aren’t bad to look at,” Henry said dismissively. He pointedly turned away and Bucky could read a brush off. He sighed and shoved his hands into his pockets and wandered out of the bar. Maybe it was time to give up.
“Oh for Christ’s sake, I can walk!” Becca said as Bucky tried to get her into the wheelchair the nurses had helpfully provided. To his left, Becca’s husband stood holding the baby carrier and the hospital bag they’d prepared. Steve and Peggy were fetching the car and his Ma was fussing with the baby in the carrier, who was thankfully asleep.
He couldn’t believe he was back here, almost ten months after the birth of Sarah, but it looked like their family was being blessed by babies this year.
“Sit down before ya give your husband an aneurysm,” Bucky said, and he firmly pressed down on his sister’s shoulders until she grudgingly sat down and allowed herself to be wheeled towards the exit.
“Well, look who it is! I wasn’t expecting to see you guys back here for another birth!” someone said behind them. Bucky turned around and was struck dumb by the sight of the very man he’d spent months searching for. Anthony was casually leaning against the wall, one arm in a sling, looking like he’d had a rough day. He was in a suit, but his tie was missing and there was faint bruising around his left eye. He looked like he’d gotten into a fight but he still looked breathtakingly beautiful to Bucky.
“Anthony-” Bucky began but was cut off by his mother charging forward.
“Are to some kind of stalker? What are you doing here? Just because my son spent time with you once doesn’t mean you get to try to follow my family around!” she snapped at him. Anthony looked bewildered.
“I- no ma’am, this is a complete coincidence. I happened to get hurt and this was the closest hospital,” Anthony protested.
“A pretty convenient coincidence! You just happened to get hurt the exact same day as we are at the hospital? Have some tact and choose a better time to try to get a date!”
Bucky watched the whole confrontation with horror and willed him body and mouth to move, but nothing came out. He watched Anthony’s face fall and then quickly morph into a distant and bland expression. It was clear he was hurt but he was trying to hide it.
“I’m sorry to cause you and your family distress. I can assure you, this is the last time you will ever see me,” Anthony said, and he twisted something off his wrist and let it flutter to the ground before he strode out the door. He paused and looked back. “Congratulations to you and your family.”
By the time Bucky finally moved, running out the door after Anthony, he was nowhere to be seen. He walked back to his family, angry and dejected, and tried not to let them notice. His sister had just had a baby and he didn’t want his anger and despair to bring down the mood.
“I wish you hadn’t done that, Ma,” he couldn’t help but whisper. “I’ve been looking for him for months. Trust me, if he were a stalker, I’d be a willing victim ‘cause that would have saved me some time.”
His Ma looked at him and he knew he must look the absolute picture of dejection because her face was creasing into a guilty frown.
“I- oh my gosh, I had no idea. I just saw him and it seemed so strange that he was here again. I worry about you after…” She didn’t finish her sentence but Bucky understood the sentiment. After he’d been medically discharged from the army, he had been in a series of terrible relationships, so his family was understandably a bit wary of new love interests in his life. From the outside looking in, of course Anthony suddenly appearing again looked suspicious.
“I’m never gonna find him again. I don’t know a thing about him and now he probably will make sure to avoid any place he might run into me,” Bucky said. It felt like like a cruel twist of fate that he’d see Anthony again and then lose him in the most spectacularly terrible way possible.
“Well, he might have left a breadcrumb,” his Ma said. She had a piece of plastic in her hand and she carefully dropped it into his palm. It was a hospital wristband and he realized Anthony must have dropped it on his way out. He felt guilty and briefly considered not looking at the name, but his burning curiosity got the best of him. He flipped the wristband up so he could read the name and almost dropped it.
The name on the band read, Stark, Anthony E. Anthony Stark, the only son of the late weapons inventor, Howard Stark. The same Anthony Stark who had turned into a recluse almost a decade ago after he had been kidnapped, who the media knew as Tony, who had shut down his father’s weapons business after his kidnapping. Bucky had been in the military then and vaguely remembered the unrest after that bombshell of an announcement. Now, Stark Industries was the leading name in clean, renewable energy, but Tony Stark wasn’t the CEO. Hardly anyone had seen him since after his kidnapping and it was no wonder Bucky and his family hadn’t recognized him.
The faint hope Bucky still carried for a romantic reconciliation died inside of him. Men like Tony Stark did not date someone like Bucky Barnes. If he had been out of his league as Anthony, he was out of Bucky’s universe as Tony Stark. Still, Bucky clutched the wristband and resolved to at least apologize to the man for how his Ma had accused him.
“Bucky, I didn’t know you were still talking to Tony Stark!” Steve’s voice cut through his thoughts.
Bucky whipped around to face his best friend who had come in to help move his sister into the idling car.
“What?! You know who he was?” Bucky demanded.
“Yes? Didn’t you know? He came by the apartment and offered to pay our hospital bill for Sarah’s birth. It helped a ton, especially since this was before I got the illustrator job,” Steve explained. “We almost didn’t accept the offer but he really insisted and said it was because you’d done something nice for him. He asked us not to tell you but I figured you must know now? Was I wrong?”
Bucky’s head reeled and he felt dizzy. Anthony- well, Tony Stark- had come to his old apartment? He’d paid Sarah’s hospital bill? Why hadn’t he come by when Bucky had been around? He had so many questions and no answers.
“I didn’t know any of that. Hell, I didn’t even know he was Tony Stark until right this minute!”
“As much as this is fascinating, can we not discuss Bucky’s sugar daddy or whatever he is in the hospital lobby? I want to bring my son home,” Becca interrupted.
Bucky mentally and physically shook himself, slipped the hospital wristband in his pocket, and moved to help his sister.
“Call him that again and I ain’t babysitting for a year,” he threatened.
He was anxious to start his quest to apologize to Tony, but as always, family came first.
It turned out, trying to connect with Anthony now that Bucky knew he was Tony Stark did not make things easier. In fact, Bucky felt faint horror at the realization that he’d been chasing after a billionaire like some sort of gold digger. No wonder the bartender had been less than impressed by him.
His first serious attempt was to try to look up Anthony’s company and perhaps find out a way to set up an appointment. He looked up Stark Industries during his lunch break, waiting impatiently as the search results loaded on the sluggish Wi-Fi. The first result was an article about the CEO, and Bucky tapped on it, interested to see who Anthony had entrusted his company to. He almost fell off the chair he was sitting on.
The article was about Virginia Potts, who had started out as Tony Stark’s PA and eventually had been appointed the CEO of his company when he had disappeared from the public eye. The same Virginia Potts who he’d been sending reports to about the performance of his arm. He took a moment to fully appreciate the knowledge that he’d been emailing the CEO of one of the most successful companies in the country, before it dawned on him what this meant.
Ms. Potts had always made it clear she was merely playing messenger between the creator of the arm and him, and now Bucky was one hundred percent sure he knew who the anonymous benefactor had been. He shook his head; it just didn’t make sense. Why would Anthony do so many things for his family and him without reaching out to Bucky personally? Surely he must have known that Bucky was looking for him. Whatever the answer was, his best hope lay in contacting Virginia Potts and begging her to ask Anthony to talk to him.
He spent the rest of his lunch break drafting an email and sent it before going back to work.
When he got home, he was disappointed to find that he hadn’t received an email back. It was the same story for the rest of the week and he was ready to chalk it up as another failure when he finally received a reply late on a Friday night. He was at Steve and Peggy’s, holding Sarah, when his phone pinged. He glanced at his sleeping god daughter and carefully retrieved his phone.
Dear Mr. Barnes, the email began. Bucky grimaced, he always felt like an old man whenever someone addressed him like that.
I wish I could help you but Tony is a very private man who doesn’t meet with many people. I’ve relayed your apologies to him and he told me to let you know that he isn’t offended at all. I’m sorry I can’t help you get in touch with Tony. Please accept this gift card to a local coffee shop in apology. I would recommend going on a Tuesday afternoon, they make fresh muffins that are to die for.
Virginia “Pepper” Potts.
Bucky reread the letter, confused as to why Pepper would give him a gift card. It wasn’t like she owed him information about Tony (and he had decided to mentally change Anthony to Tony - since that was what his friends clearly called him). It was also gratifying to realize that Tony had told him a lot about his life, since Virginia was obviously the Pepper that Tony had told him about all those months back.
“Whatcha looking at?” Steve said as he walked into the living room from the kitchen. He gently reached for his sleeping daughter and sat down next to Bucky.
“Well, I got an email back from Ms. Potts and it ain’t exactly what I wanted to hear. She gave me a gift card though,” Bucky explained.
Steve plucked Bucky’s phone out of his hand and read the email while Bucky slumped back into the couch. He stifled a yelp when Steve reached over and hit him on his flesh and blood arm.
“You moron! She’s giving you a hint! She can’t straight up give you Stark’s number but it looks like she’s giving you the chance to run into him. I bet you five bucks that if you show up at that coffee shop next Tuesday, he’ll be there,” Steve said.
Bucky stared him, and then reread the email and almost slapped a hand to his face. He was an idiot. “Jesus Christ, you’re right! She’s actually giving me a chance! God bless Pepper Potts.”
The following Tuesday, Bucky took a half day off of work and arrived at the coffee shop at twelve p.m. sharp. Pepper had said “afternoon” and Bucky didn’t want to miss Tony by arriving too late. The gift card was for fifty dollars, which was a ridiculous amount for a coffee shop but as one hour turned to two, Bucky found himself making a dent in it as he ordered cup after cup of black coffee. He also tried a few muffins and they were admittedly very delicious.
He went for another refill and glared at the kid who took his order. The kid -Peter, according to his name tag- had been giving him more and more judgemental looks as the afternoon had worn on.
“I really think you should switch to tea or water, man,” Peter told him. He dutifully rang him up for the large black coffee and another poppy seed muffin though.
“Don’t worry about me kid, I drink twice this much usually,” Bucky said, but his hand shook as he handed over his gift card. He also fished a few wrinkled bills from his pocket and stuffed them into the tip jar.
“Well, hopefully whoever you’re waiting for stops by before you have a heart attack from the caffeine.”
Bucky rolled his eyes and stepped out of line. Kids these days didn’t know how to drink coffee. He hovered by the pick up counter and bit back a smile when Peter called for, “RoboCop”. The kid had been giving him more and more interesting names as the afternoon had progressed.
He was just taking a bite from the muffin and turning back to his table when he heard a familiar voice from his left.
“Hey kid, give me my usual,” Tony fucking Stark said. Bucky swung around and immediately ran into a warm chest. His cup upended and spilled steaming hot coffee all over the front of the person’s shirt.
“What the fuck?” Tony Stark said, because of course Bucky had probably given the one man he wanted to apologize to third degree burns from his coffee. Bucky dropped his empty coffee cup and the muffin and let his hands hover awkwardly around Tony’s shoulder, unsure if he should touch him.
“I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you,” Bucky said miserably. “We should get you to the hospital! You might have terrible burns.”
He grabbed Tony’s arm and started dragging him to the door but was pulled short when the man refused to move.
“I’m not going to the hospital! I’m fine!” Tony said as he dug his heels in. He was gingerly touching at his chest through his shirt and the wince he gave at his first tentative touch belied his words.
Bucky set his jaw and shook his head. “I know how bad burns can be, mister. You ain’t getting getting out of this and I bet I’m more stubborn than you.”
Tony looked at him carefully and Bucky tried to settle his face into the most obstinate expression he could. “Are you sure your mom would like it if you hung out with you ‘stalker’?”
Bucky winced. “I’m so sorry for that. In fact, that’s why I was trying to find you. I wanted to apologize and thank you for everything you’ve done. Guess I really fucked that up, didn’t I?”
Tony laughed but stopped as a pained expression crossed his face. “Fine, I probably do need to get this looked at, but no hospitals. Think you can bandage me up? I have some supplies at my house.”
Bucky wanted to protest, feeling like Tony needed more than whatever rudimentary first aid Bucky could administer, but he also got the impression that this was a huge compromise on the other man’s part. He also didn’t want to turn down the opportunity to talk to Tony in private.
“Hey kid, can ya give me a bag of ice for the road?” Bucky threw over his shoulder at Peter. The kid, who had been watching their interaction along with the rest of the coffee shop, jumped and then scrambled to comply.
Thirty minutes later, they were in the backseat of a familiar Audi, heading to Tony’s townhouse. He had the bag of ice pressed to his shirt and the car was filled with the thick scent of coffee from the stain on his shirt. Bucky couldn’t keep his eyes off of Tony, drinking him in like he was water after a long drought.
Tony looked just as captivating as he had the first time they had met. His greying hair was longer and curled adorably across his forehead. He had a pair of thick rimmed glasses that seemed to accentuate how thick and dark his eyelashes were and his golden brown eyes seemed to glow in the light of the afternoon sun. Bucky found himself just as smitten as he had been that first night. He swallowed and tried to memorize how perfectly beautiful Tony was because he was certain this was as close as he would ever be allowed to this man again.
“If you take a picture, it might last longer,” Tony said, and he turned and met Bucky’s gaze. He didn’t look offended and his warm eyes seemed amused.
“Maybe I’ll take a picture too. You look more handsome than I remember. Were your eyes always that blue?” Tony asked. Bucky blushed and resisted the urge to break their eye contact.
“That should be my line, doll,” he said, giving Tony an obvious once over. Tony snorted but he returned the look and Bucky felt hope stir in his chest. He never expected that they would be flirting like this again but the chemistry they shared was undeniable.
The car came to a stop and Bucky found himself in front of a familiar brownstone as Happy opened the car door. He and Tony didn’t talk as they went into the house and Bucky openly gawked at the upscale interior of the house. He had been preoccupied when he’d last been here but now he could fully appreciate the classic architecture and beautiful decorations.
Tony seemed to notice his awe because he smiled and gestured around himself. “This was all courtesy of my mother. She always had an eye for design.” His lips were twisted into a sad smile and Bucky remembered how he’d reacted to the mention of the wing in the hospital named after his mother.
“She had amazing taste. Steve, my friend with the first baby, would love this,” Bucky said. Steve would probably have salivated at the artwork that lined the the walls of the front hall.
“Oh, yes, I met him, but I’m sure you know that now. Well, my first aid kit it down in my workshop,” Tony’s said and he gestured towards the stairs with the hand not holding his ice pack. They made their way down until they were in the massive lab where Tony had fixed his arm almost a year ago. It was just as cluttered as it had been the first time he had been there but there were different half finished projects. Tony led them to the middle of the lab and Bucky settled into a chair as Tony rummaged in a drawer.
He looked at a hologram that must have been left up from one of Tony’s current project and was startled to see a prototype for something that looked suspiciously like his arm. He blinked when Tony came up behind him and swiftly dismissed the holograms.
“Here,” Tony said gruffly, shoving a first aid kit at him. Bucky opened the box in autopilot and tried to process that Tony was still working on designs for his arm. Here was tangible proof that Tony had been the one to personally design the arm that had given him a second chance at life and the man hadn’t even wanted him to know.
“I can hear you thinking from over here, Bucky. Do you mind if I call you that?” Tony asked.
Bucky smirked. “Only if I can call you Tony.” He didn’t wait for Tony to respond and instead examined the contents of kit and fished out neosporin and some large bandages.
“Well, this really ain’t how I wanted to get your shirt off, but I guess we can’t get everything we want,” Bucky said, as he looked pointedly at Tony. The older man hesitated but finally stripped off his ruined shirt. He didn’t have anything on underneath and Bucky was momentarily distracted from the lobster red skin by the harsh maze work of scars that crisscrossed Tony’s chest.
He remembered the feel of scar tissue beneath his hands but he never would have guessed that the damage was so extensive. He’d seen plenty of terrible scars and hell, he had some of his own; it was the burden of being a soldier, but it was jarring to see that kind of damage on someone who should have been a civilian.
“It’s not pretty is it?” Tony asked. His tone was dry, but when Bucky looked up, his expression was guarded, like he expected Bucky to back away and leave now that he’d seen his damage. Bucky forced his lips into a smirk and leaned forward, dabbing the still slightly damp skin with a clean washcloth from the first aid kit.
“Naw, this ain’t anything. You’ve seen my shit, it’s only fair I see yours,” Bucky said. He tried to be careful as he administered his care but Tony still tensed up whenever he brushed the soft towel against his irritated skin.
“You must think I’m a creep, designing your arm and helping your friend,” Tony said after Bucky drew away. Bucky almost dropped the tube of neosporin in his hand.
“Wait, how are you the creep?” he asked as he swiveled around to meet Tony’s guilty gaze. “I’m the one who’s been trying to track you down for a year. And then when ya basically told me leave you alone, I emailed your friend and stalked you to your favorite coffee shop!”
Tony smiled but it was a sardonic one that didn’t reach his eyes.
“I knew you were searching for me, but I was too much of a coward to turn up whenever you looked for me. I will say, it was a complete coincidence that we ended up at the same hospital again. That was an interesting curveball.”
Bucky grimaced,slathering his hands in the greasy gel, and began to layer Tony’s chest with it. “I just don’t get why you did all this for me but didn’t try to meet me again. Is this a pity thing? Tryna get your name on Santa’s good list by helping out a vet?”
He tired to keep his tone light but he couldn’t help letting some of his genuine fear bleed into his voice. It would kill him if Tony only saw him as a charity case. He would much rather have the older man ignore him than help him just because of some sort of savior complex. He wasn’t going to deny the arm had vastly improved his life, but it would sting if Tony saw him as a pet project rather than a real man.
“Ha! I think I’m permanently off that list. No, my intentions were not pure. You’re… beautiful. Vibrant and full of life, despite having been dealt a shit hand by life. Meeting you reminded me that despite how hard I tried, I wasn’t actually dead and my life didn’t end after the kidnapping. As you can guess, my scars are from that whole thing, and I guess I never really mentally left that behind. You… are the first thing I’ve really wanted to try for, but I guess I even messed that up.”
Tony took a breath and then offered the most fragile and tentative smile Bucky had ever seen. “Sorry for laying all this on you. I figured I owed you the truth since I’ve been interfering with your life. If you felt guilty for what happened at the hospital, I forgive you, though it wasn’t your fault. Thanks for taking care of my burn too. I’ll call us even.”
Bucky wiped his hands on the discarded towel and sat back in his chair and observed Tony. It felt surreal to him that a man as brilliant and attractive as Tony seemed so unsure and unconfident but Bucky knew he could relate with him. The scars from war weren’t skin deep and he still felt like a shell of a person, like he’d left behind his humanity when he’d come back from war. He hadn’t expected to find a kindred soul in someone like Tony, but knowing they shared this burden only endeared the man more to him.
“I just wish you’d actually talked to me before you gave me this cyborg arm. How’s a fella supposed to top this? All I got is a coffee shop gift card and mediocre cooking skills. But I do know a place near work that makes a mean burger, if you’d like to go with me. I promise I won’t spill any more coffee on you,” Bucky offered. He tried to keep his tone casual, but his heart was beating hard. He wasn’t even sure if Tony really wanted to get to know him, but he had to try. He knew with his whole heart and soul that he’d never meet a man like Tony again and damn if he hadn’t fallen for him that first night.
“You. You want to go on a date with me?” Tony asked. He seemed so surprised and Bucky almost smiled.
“That’s right, what do ya say, doll?” he asked.
Tony blinked a few times and then he smiled, his whole face lighting up. “I guess we could give it a try. It might finally get Pep off my back,” he said.
Bucky couldn’t help but pump his fist in victory. “Oh thank God. You don’t know how long I’ve been wanting to ask ya out!”
He was startled when he felt a hand on his metal arm and looked up to meet Tony’s fascinated gaze.
“Wait, I just realized! You can tell me everything about the arm now! You don’t know how frustrating it was to read Pepper’s second-hand reports. I think I can make it even better! Wait, can you take off your shirt? I mean I’m almost naked, it only seems fair-”
Bucky lifted his metal hand and carefully brushed his fingers across Tony’s lips, silencing the older man. He leaned forward and gently captured those soft lips in a kiss and savored the taste he’d been chasing for a year.
“I’m sure we can work something out. We got a lot of time doll and I ain’t going anywhere.”
Tony smiled and then kissed Bucky again.
“I’ll hold you to that. Now kiss me again before we find out someone else is pregnant,” he teased.
Bucky laughed but obliged. He let his eyes drift shut and smiled into the kiss. It had been a rollercoaster of an experience to get here, but every second had been worth it.