Bucky ripped open the packaging of his new phone, spent twenty incredibly frustrating minutes getting it activated, then plugged the stupid thing in to charge while he paced around his kitchen table. He looked at the clock, did some mental arithmetic, and decided there was no way he could wait until Steve was home. If he didn’t vent, he’d punch a hole in the fucking wall, or maybe even set the building on fire.
Hands shaking, he hurriedly dialed the number from memory, and slouched down against the wall the phone was plugged into. As soon as he heard the line pick up, he started talking.
“Sorry, I know you’re at work, but I’m about two seconds away from losing it, and I figured interrupting was better than the alternative.
My car broke down on the way back from that interview you set up, but it might as well have done it before, because as soon as they realized I was missing an arm, it was all, ‘oh, the position has already been filled’ which is bullshit! But I didn’t punch ‘em in their stupid faces, I just stood there and apologized for taking up their time, like a schmuck.
Then on the way back, the car up and dies on me, so I pull over, and smoke is pouring out. Only, when I go to call for a tow, some jackass riding his bike on the sidewalk clips me, sends my phone flying into traffic, where it’s promptly squashed like a pancake! This is a new phone, by the way,” Bucky paused, and took a deep breath.
“Then, while I’m yelling at that clown over my phone, someone else rear ends the car! While it’s parked! I mean, really? I just left it there, walked a couple blocks, found a place to get a new phone, then got on the subway.
The only reason I didn’t lose it was cuz stupid me figures I should listen to the therapist for a change, try to look on the bright side. At least I have a date with Liam to look forward to, only I get home and check my email, and big surprise. He thinks it’s better we don’t anymore. Which…” and here he sighed, voice catching, dejection setting in, “who the fuck can blame him? I wouldn’t want to date me, either. I swear to god, Stevie, I’m starting to think it would’ve been better for everyone if I’d just gotten shipped home in a bodybag instead.”
It was quiet for a moment, but then he heard the clearing of a throat, and a voice that was most definitely not Steve’s said, “Wow, okay, first, I want to apologize in advance, because in some ways, this is really just continuing the trend of your shitty day. Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you have the wrong number.”
Bucky made a strangled sort of wounded animal sound, head hanging low, embarrassment threatening to overwhelm him. “Perfect,” he managed to hiss. “Sorry. Fuck.”
“Wait, don’t hang up!” he heard just before his thumb hit the red ‘end call’ icon. “Hello? Still there?”
“Good! Okay, so, sure, wrong number, there’s protocol to be followed, only I’m not really a big fan of protocol, personally. So, quid pro quo. I just found out a family friend, a guy I’ve kind of thought of as a surrogate father—I’m an orphan by the way, parents were killed in a car crash—uh, yeah, so, turns out he’s been ripping me off for years. Pretty much from the moment my dad got put in the ground, really, and to make it even juicier, now I’m pretty sure he’s planning to get rid of me so he can just take over the family business.”
Bucky lifted his head from where it hung between his knees, straightening up. “Shit.”
"Kinda sums it up," the stranger agreed. "Which is why I’m sitting here alone, drowning my sorrows. But, really, and please don’t take this the wrong way, your day sort of makes mine sound awesome by comparison."
Bucky surprised himself by laughing. “Hey, at least I’m good for something.”
"I’m willing to bet you’re good for a lot of things. Name’s Tony by the way."
"Hey, Bucky," Tony said, and something in the way he said it made Bucky’s stomach do funny things. "So, does your phone keep track of the numbers you dial?"
"Great, so you can add me as a contact, then."
It was strange, because even after everything the day had thrown at him, even when he’d read Liam’s cowardly email breakup message, he hadn’t cried, yet here he was, getting choked up over someone being nice.
"Still there, Buckaroo?"
"Yeah, I’m here. Uh, okay." He cleared his throat. "Sorry. Look, you sound like a nice guy, so I should probably do you a big favor, and…"
"Thanks, but I’m gonna stop you right there. You’re an unemployed vet, sounds like you’re short an arm, and you’re probably suffering from PTSD. None of that matters to me, and if it makes you feel any better, I’m well on my way to becoming an alcoholic, and while getting dumped via email is pretty shitty, I actually have you beat. So, last year, had to go out of town on business, but finished up early, so I thought I’d swing by and surprise him, which, yeah, we were all surprised, because he was most definitely not alone. Or dressed.”
Bucky whistled. “Ouch.”
“Yeah, ouch. Oh, and even better, the guy fucking him was probably ten years younger than me, so that was just great for the ego.” There was a sigh over the line, and the sound of liquid being swallowed. “Been single since then.”
“That’s rough. Why do people cheat, anyway? Just break it off if you’re not interested in commitment.”
“Thank you, that’s my point exactly. I might be an asshole, but I’ve never cheated on anyone.”
Bucky shifted around, getting more comfortable on the floor. Maybe it was because Tony was a stranger, or maybe it was just his shitty day had set the bar exceptionally low, but talking with him was actually making Bucky feel better. Much better. If he was being honest, he loathed the idea of stopping anytime soon.
“You don’t sound like an asshole.”
“Spend more time talking to me, I’m sure I’ll change your mind.”
“Challenge accepted,” Bucky countered. “So, okay, I’m curious. What’re you going to do about this guy ripping you off?”
To his surprise, Tony answered him, began running over his plan, actually listened to Bucky’s feedback. It didn’t stop there, either. Somehow, they found themselves trading stories, and heartaches, and laughter, with some flirting mixed in for good measure. Bucky told Tony about losing his arm, about how close he came to giving up before Steve helped him get back on track. Not to be left out, Tony told him about losing his parents, his own battle with depression, and the two people he could actually count on in the world.
It was oddly liberating. Bucky told Tony things he’d never told his therapists, or even Steve, and he was willing to bet Tony had shared just as freely. Three hours later, when he heard Steve’s keys in the lock, Bucky gave a guilty little start, the intrusion breaking the spell he’d let himself fall under.
“Um, hey, sounds like Steve is home.”
Tony made a little startled noise. “Oh, right, I… shit, how long have we been talking?”
Bucky shuffled into his bedroom before Steve could see him on the phone, shut the door. “Couple hours, I think?”
There was a giggle from the other end of the line. “Guess I should let you go, huh?”
“I guess so.” Bucky was reluctant to end the call. “Hey, um…”
But Tony must have felt the same, because he started talking at the same time. “Okay, I’ve had enough to drink that I’m feeling brave, so I’m going to totally put myself out there and admit this is the nicest bit of genuine human interaction I’ve had in ages.”
Bucky hoped Tony could hear his sigh of relief. “Me too. I, ah, actually, I was just gonna ask if I could call you back.”
“Yeah, you better, and if you don’t, I’ll drunk dial you, make a total ass of myself.”
“Well, I certainly wouldn’t want that on my conscience.” Bucky chewed on his lower lip in an attempt to stop his smile from eating up his whole face. “So… maybe tomorrow? Round eight?”
“Sounds good,” Tony answered, voice dipping low, maybe even bordering on sultry. “Talk to you then, Bucky.”
“Looking forward to it.”
Hanging up was difficult, but as soon as he did, he saved Tony’s number as a new contact, then on impulse scratched it down on a piece of paper, too. Considering what’d happened to his last phone, he wasn’t taking any chances.
“Hey, Buck,” Steve called as he walked out to join him. “How was your day?”
Steve’s face lit up with a smile when Bucky started laughing. He thought about his car, the phone, all the things that had been eating him up from the inside when he’d tried and failed to get hold of his friend, then thought of Tony’s voice, his laugh, and the fact that he’d get to hear it again tomorrow.