Stark never replies.
The radio silence was driving Bucky crazy, slowly, but surely.
Bucky fought the urge to drive over and make sure the man was okay.
He’d be seeing Tony tomorrow; he could wait one more night…damn it he could.
That didn’t stop Bucky form secretly keeping tabs on news outlets, though, going so far as to set up a notification system for Tony - and that asshole Stone - is name on his phone; his stomach dropping every time he did get a notification, but the relief was instant each time it wasn’t a police report - or worse. Turns out Tony Stark had an active - and seemingly growing - fanbase, who knew?
He was overreacting, he was sure of it.
“Bucky you need to loosen up!” Sam calls to the brunet over the club’s thumping music, “it’s Saturday night and you look like a kicked puppy, put down the damn phone and have some fun!”
Bucky groans, Sam was right, he needed to blow off some steam before he did something he’d regret, like actually driving over to Stark’s house. He and Clint didn’t talk about the incident at Tony’s place, and despite his own conflicting feelings about the situation, the brunet had ultimately been grateful - Bucky really didn’t think he could stomach imagining that leaving had been the wrong choice. Reaching forward Bucky snatches up one of the shots Natasha had ordered for the table, shivering as he feels the smooth burn of Stolichnaya run down his throat Bucky moves to stand, holding out his phone for Sam to take and his friend does - with a laugh and teasing cheer of luck, of course.
Bucky moved towards the dance floor, emerging himself in the throng of bodies, giving into the music that thumped though his alcohol addled mind and warmed skin. He swayed to the beats, for the first time in fucking days Bucky stopped thinking, and felt blissfully free for it. The dance floor was crowded with bodies, shoulders bumping and hips grinding; there wasn’t a single touch on his body the brunet didn’t enjoy. His skin was buzzing. There was a woman at his front, lush bottom grinding against his lap and had no qualms when Bucky’s hands wandered along her flanks, instead she leaned back against him; her head tilts to one side, blonde hair falling away to expose soft skin, inviting. Bucky’s attention had been focused on the woman in front of him, so it was a bit of a surprise when he felt strong hands grip his own hips.
The man was slightly shorter than Bucky, body firm, and the brunet didn’t mind surrendering control whatsoever. The man behind him was unashamed in his touches, downright filthy in his caresses, and Bucky felt himself slowly losing his mind. Images of calloused hands and lithe arms danced behind his eyelids; flashes of whiskey eyes and lush-lipped grins, adorable crow’s feet, and for a moment Bucky almost forgets how to breathe. The brief images were enough for Bucky to know exactly who he was thinking of, to know who’s touches his body craved, and for the first time Bucky finally admits it to himself; admitted just how much he wanted- no, fucking shut up, he scolds himself.
It was dizzying, the encroaching thought, but Bucky knew it explained far more than he was willing to admit to; so he doesn’t. The anger and irritation that masked his lust, the way he yearned for the man’s smiles, why he could never stop thinking about Tony - the man had lured in and trapped Bucky so effortlessly; he never stood a chance. Which was why he’d be damned if he admitted it, even if only to himself. He knew how ludicrous his want was, but that didn’t stop his thoughts. His fantasies. Bucky removes his hands from the woman’s hips and whips around, coming face-to-face with a man he doesn’t recognize, but does nothing to stop the other man as their lips meet with unabashed want.
This man wasn’t Stark (wasn’t Tony), not by a long shot, but could be enough to sate him for the night.
“Like what you see?” The woman behind him purrs into his ear, Bucky shivers as he pulls away from the kiss, and the man grins. “Because we like what see see…”
“Fancy joining us for the night?” The man asks with his hands - no, both their hands - still on his hips, the smooth English accent making Bucky feel a little bolder, but Bucky wouldn’t admit it was because it was a far-cry from the New York accent with a haunting tone that had been replaying in his mind.
It’s a bit of a struggle to find his friends and get his phone back, but Bucky and his nameless companions managed, and with a farewell - and extremely embarrassing jeering - from his friends Bucky and the couple leave the club. It’s blur of tongue and teeth after that, demanding hands hot and heavy with intent, they hop into a cab and then stumble into the duo’s apartment, none of them waste time disrobing the other. It’s sloppy and rough, a jumble of excited hands and breasts and cocks; messy and exactly what Bucky needs. Bucky lets the man fuck him while his wife - was it his wife? - sits on his face, he takes what he wants and gives both of them they want, too - much is his enjoyment comes from knowing his partner, or partners, in this case, are satisfied. Bucky tastes copper when he bites down on his lower lip, stifling a moan as the woman works him over the edge as her partner’s hips stutter, his own hands clawing at the messy sheets as he finishes; Bucky’s eyes screw shut, flashes of the engineer playing behind them, and only just managing to keep Tony Stark’s name from ever escaping past his teeth.
It was at that moment, as he lays sated between the two sleeping bodies and still feels a wanting ache in his chest, that Bucky knows he’s well and truly fucked.
The admissions slips past his control, the string of words all but invading his mind.
I want him.
I want Tony Stark.
Bucky softly groans, right hand digits pinching at the bridge of his nose, fuck!
“Well I was thinking that if we moved this verse towards the end, it would still make sense and fall in better with the rhythm guitar,” Steve - Bucky’s childhood best friend and rhythm guitarist - suggests, the tip of his lead pencil scraping against the draft of their music sheets to illustrate his point.
Bucky takes a moment to consider the change, visualizing the edits in his mind before nodding, “I think the we could add in the drum solo to finish off the track, lord knows Clint is itching to do one.”
Steve chuckles and nods, jotting the notes down, “I’ll run it by Natasha to see how the bass will fit in, and we gotta make sure it doesn’t mess with Sam’s electric sections, but…I think we’re actually making really good head way with the next EP.”
Bucky hums, nodding as he takes another sip of his lukewarm latte, gearing himself up for the conversation he’d been thinking about how to broach since accepting the job with Stark Industries, “hey Stevie, there’s actually another reason I asked to see you today.”
The blond raises a thick brow, prompting, and Bucky inhales breaking the news as best he can. At least the easy part was over, that being telling Steve that he was working with Tony on his company’s latest campaign, which was why his childhood best friend looked like he was trying to pass a damn kidney stone over the mug of his cappuccino. However, now came the hard part, getting him to not lose his shit; so far, Bucky was failing pretty badly.
“You’re working with Stark?!” Steve chokes out, looking at Bucky as though he’d suddenly sprouted a second head.
At least Bucky had been expecting this reaction, so he’d prepared for it.
“Yes, Steve, I am and so is Clint-”
“Are you kidding? After everything he’s done to you guys-”
“-to be fair it’s clear he’s trying to right what he’s wronged-”
“-and you’re just fine working for him-”
“-yes we are because-”
“-have you lost your minds-”
“Steven Grant Rogers, SHUT UP!” Bucky finally snaps, losing his patience, and in a strange role-reversal finds himself in the position Clint had been a few days ago, “Stark definitely fucked up, but he hadn’t known about Stane’s dealings, and when he found out the guy tried doing everything he could to fix it; he still is, when we all know he doesn’t have to. Give the guy a chance Stevie, he really is trying, and even if you still feel - by the end of all this - that you hate him, I’ll respect that. But working with Stark means I can finally get this painful piece of shit Hammer stuck onto me off.”
Steve goes silent for a moment, and Bucky’s silently thankful to his best friend that the man genuinely does seem to be taking in his words (he was always the better person, like that, despite being a stubborn ass most of the time), “the Hammer prosthetic hurts you?”
Bucky sighs, not even realizing he’d said as much in his ranting, but decides it’s time to put all his cards on the table and nods, “it does, maybe the tech is aging or maybe it was shit to begin with - Tony would adamantly argue the latter - but we were living paycheck to paycheck back then, Stevie, so it was the best we could do. Now though…Stark is offering us a chance to get upgrades for free and all he asks in return is that we promote his work, and don’t get me wrong, I felt the same way you do, but…really, give the guy a chance, he may surprise you. And I’d really like my best friend there for me when I go under the knife.”
The guitarist sighs, relenting, “thanks for tellin’ me, Buck, I’m sorry I made you feel like you couldn’t, but of course I’ll be there for you, ’til the end of the line, remember?”
Bucky smiles softly at that, the childhood promise never failed to lighten his heart, “’til the end of the line, you little shit.”
“So…when are you seein’ him again?”
“In about an hour.” Bucky sips at the -now cold - dredges of his latte, setting the empty mug down, “I was going to head over after this, Stark needs a few more measurements or something before I head in for surgery.”
Steve nods with a look of consideration, and Bucky knows what he’s about to ask before the question leaves his best friend, “can I come with?”
“Only if you promise not be be an utter ass,” Bucky answers immediately, he makes sure to keep his tone light, playful, but needs Steve know he isn’t joking.
The blond doesn’t smile, instead the all too familiar resolve of determination colors his best friend’s features, “I promise, I gotta make sure my best friend’s taken care of, y’know?”
The brunet chuckle softly, picking at the food on his plate, “yeah I do, ya mook.”
A lull of silence falls between the duo, before Bucky sees Steve smile, blindingly wide with a mischievous glint in his eye, “so…how was Saturday night?”
Bucky smirks at his best friend, “well Lance was a treat, brought but sweet, but Bobbi holy hell that woman is beyond words-”
“-that’s good, you deserved a good night-” Bucky knows what Steve was trying to do, but he was the one who opened this can of worms, and Bucky wasn’t about to stop until his best friend was medical-mystery-red in the face.
“-Lance called her a Hellbeast the next morning-”
“-turns out ‘Hellbeast’ is actually a nickname for this thing Bobbi does with her tongue and fingers that left Lance and I with jelly legs and screaming-”
“BUCKY!” Steve flushes, spluttering, and Bucky barks out a laugh; that shade red cannot be healthy, or humanly possible, he thinks with a smirk.
“You asked, ya lil’ shit!”
“Fancy,” Steve says offendedly with a tone that dripped of sarcasm and contempt.
Bucky sighs, nudging his best friend, “Steve you promised not to be an ass, this guy is helping us out for basically nothing, and I’d rather not get on his bad side.”
Which I haven’t done yet, Bucky notes privately, somehow.
The blond shrugs with faux innocence, “what? I just said it’s fancy.”
Such a stubborn shit, Bucky thinks with a shake of his head, elbowing the blond, for good measure.
The elevator doors part seconds later, and immediately his eyes find Tony bent over what looks like a prosthesis; Bucky can’t help the bubbling of excitant and anxiety that curls up in his gut, but seeing how his friend immediately glares at Stark dampens his mood, a little. With another warning shove to Rogers, the duo move further into the workshop, the familiar sounds of Blue Öyster Cult lowering as JARVIS announces their presence to the inventor. Tony looks up from his work and smiles tiredly at Bucky and Steve, dark circles hanging off his honey eyes, and Bucky feels something cold coil in his chest at the clear lethargy the man tries to mask. However, it’s when his eyes catch on the mess of blotting of purplish-blues and greens that makes Bucky’s heart stutter, his hands turning into fists that twitch to reach out and hope to fuck that it’s just a smudging of ink - though Bucky full well knows it damn well isn’t.
“Tony what happened to your face?!” Bucky blurts, tone far more ruthless than he’d meant, but far more tame than the anger he feels roiling in his stomach.
Tony seemed taken aback by Bucky’s words, free hand moving to touch the discoloration on his jaw that stands out sickeningly against his pallid skin, but it quickly aborts and instead waves carelessly in the air tryin got dismiss the singer’s worry.
“Dum-E was helping me with some repairs, accidentally whacked me in the face with a wrench, no biggie, happens more often than you think,” he answers, the words coming out with a practiced ease that does nothing to ease the sickeningly cold coiling in Bucky’s gut. “Hello there, Tony Stark,” he greets Steve, bypassing the awkward air Bucky had created with his question, and holds out a polite hand.
“Steven Rogers,” Steve answers, taking the offered hand with a level of strength that makes Stark wince, but the man says nothing - Bucky’s hand turn to fists in his effort not to smack Steve upside the head.
“Good to meet you.” Tony looks at Bucky, gesturing to the chair he’d taken up a seat on before, “I just need a few more measurements that Dr. Cho - the primary surgeon on your case - ordered, and I can note down any customizations you might want to add on to the arm, otherwise everything is on track and we can get your surgery out of the way by next week so you can start on the post-surgery stuff as soon as possible, sound good? Alright then, just take your shirt off and have a seat, Mr. Rogers, you can chill out on the couch for the time being, if you want.”
Bucky moves to sit on the chair situated by the work table, and Steve remains at his side, watching the genius with a level of unmasked suspicion that makes Bucky want to kick Steve out of the damn lab. Setting his shirt on his lap, Bucky expects this this to be similar to when he’d been at Hammer Tech, and prepares himself for cold uncaring hands to handle him, but once again Tony surprises him. His hands are gentle, if a little calloused - from the manual labor Bucky would have never thought he did - when they touch his skin, skilled fingers work along where grafted skin met metal and mumbled a few commands to JARVIS as he went. Tony had works on his arm during their last time together, but each time Tony touches him he’s surprised by how much the man seems to care about his comfort, checking in with Bucky and explaining things as he goes - fuck knows Hammer’s people never did that, because if Bucky wasn’t screaming or crying, then clearly he was ‘fine’.
Bucky watches Tony work silently, content on having the man this close and touching him, but the warmth he’d expected to feel is undercut by the sight of the bruising on the smaller man’s face. His answer from earlier didn’t sit well with Bucky, it had to be a lie, because despite how clumsy his bots clearly were, he doubted they were that reckless. Tiberius Stone, his mind states, and suddenly Bucky feels murderous. Had Stone done that to Tony? It made sense, the look in his eyes from the other night, his rush to get him and Clint out of his house the second Stone arrived, and the look in Tiberius is eyes when Tony started talking back before backing down; the predatory edge to the man’s gaze and demeanor had set Bucky on edge, and yet he still left Tony alone with the man, why didn’t I fight harder to stay? Could he have prevented this? Could he have protected Tony that night? Why wasn’t there a news report about the attack? However, the thought gives itself away to another - crushing - thought; has this happened before?
“While I do this, is there any specific customizations you want with the final version?” Tony asks, pulling Bucky from his downward spiraling of thoughts, eyes snapping back up to meet his honey-brown.
“What kind of stuff are we talkin’ about?” Bucky tries for casual, and hope he lands it, unsure how he sounds past the ringing in his ears.
“Well aside from vibrating fingers?” Tony says jokingly, and Bucky chortles, reaching for a screwdriver that almost looks like a needle. “I can change the color, add artwork, or even make a synthetic skin, but don’t worry none of it will hinder the sensors.”
Bucky’s attention catches on the last of the proffered customizations, and glances over at Steve who looks just as taken aback, before turning to look at the Stark prothesis laid on a different work table - it was a leg, for Danvers probably, and the metal was sleek and captivating. Bucky muses that there was a time he’d have jumped at the opportunity, immediately agreeing to a chance at having his arm back - even if it was only fancy tech masquerading as his arm - but as the years wore on Bucky had changed, and now just the thought of trying to hide any part of himself made himself feel more than a little uncomfortable. If looks anything like the leg, it’ll look amazing, which is a plus, he thinks to himself, before looking back at Tony. Why did I leave? He morns, struck anew at the sight of bruises as his right hand fingers twitch on his thigh, itching to reach out and smooth away the ache Tony must still feel.
“Bucky?” Steve prompts, but Bucky keeps his focus on Tony, knowing his choice - this is who he was now, and he wouldn’t change anything about himself.
“If Stevie makes some art for the arm, think you can apply that on it?”
Tony smiles up at him, it’s a small whisper of a thing, but it’s still there and it almost has Bucky thinking he’d passed some kind of test, before the man answers, “of course, it’ll be like a tattoo though, permanent and prominent, that okay with you?”
“Sounds good to me, Stevie’s done most of the artwork for my tattoos anyway,” Bucky smiles, turning to Steve who says nothing, knowing this was Bucky’s choice and Bucky’s alone. “Think you’re up to the challenge, Rogers?”
Steve snorts, “please, give me a week.”
“An entire week? You’re losing your touch, Stevie,” Bucky chides, laughing when the blond flicks his ear.
For the first time since Bucky entered the workshop that day Tony barks a laugh, gleeful eyes watching he and Steve’s bantering, shaking his head in what could only be described as fond. Bucky couldn’t help but feel like he’d hang the moon if it meant he got to see and hear - if not be the reason - for more of Tony’s musical laughs.
“It’s fine, the arm won’t go on right away, after surgery we’d need to make sure the new plating and all the connectors - nerves and otherwise - are all functional before attaching the arm, so Mr. Rogers has all the time he’d need,” both men nod, Bucky couldn’t lie, he was a little bummed at having to wait to get the new arm (though he’d already known that, it was in the guidelines of what his surgery and following recovery entailed), but he trusted Tony’s judgment and- wait, when did I start trusting him?
Steve and Tony start talking about what kind of designed would go best on the arm, to make it it was clear and wouldn’t get lost on the prosthetic, but all Bucky could focus on was Tony and those damn bruises and how much he just wanted to pull the man close and keep him safe and- and….
Yeah, Bucky had it pretty bad.