It was possibly the prettiest gun Bucky had ever laid eyes on. So freshly tooled, there were still tiny metal shavings, and it gleamed with oil. "Never been fired," Howard said carelessly, but his eyes followed the gun while Bucky went over it, careful and methodical, and there was something like approval in them when he added, "Let me know what you think," and spun on his heel and walked off the range.
A hundred spent rounds later, Bucky walked into Howard's busy workshop for the first time, set the gun down, and said, "It pulls to my seven o'clock, but," he shrugged, "it's good."
"It pulls? How much? What kind of compensation do you need? What range did you get to?"
"Not much. Took two shots to get it right. 'Bout three hundred yards out for a headshot."
Howard made a dissatisfied sound and yanked the gun off the table. It was laid out into component pieces inside a minute.
This was too fascinating to wander away from, and Bucky leaned against the wall, out of the way. "Fired a lot of your guns since coming over here," he said. "They're good."
A vague sound that could have been agreement or disagreement or just a sound answered him.
"Just wish I coulda taken that flying car out for a spin."
There was a reaction, Howard's head jerking up, nose wrinkled in distaste. "You saw that?"
"Sure did. Front row seats at the Expo that night. Think the girls just dragged me and Stevie over because they wanted a look at you, but that car was somethin' else."
"Steve saw that?" Howard groaned and turned back to the gun, muttering at the pieces about idiotic science fiction notions and not even field-tested and interfering Board. Bucky grinned as he watched the slow reassembly.
"I dunno, I thought it was the best thing that night. Well, best thing at the Expo. Best thing that night happened after." Howard glanced up just in time to see Bucky's suggestive eyebrow raise, and he stood straight and sized Bucky up like he'd never seen him before.
"So you Brooklyn boys do know how to have fun. I was starting to worry. Now that sounds like a story worth hearing."
"Bet it's not as good as stories you've got, Mr. Stark."
"Aw, hell, don't you start in with that. My father was Mr. Stark. Call me Howard."
"Fine." Howard bent over the gun again, meticulously tracking down the flawed part that would dare make a weapon of his pull to the side. "Well?"
Bucky couldn't help the snort. If anyone would appreciate this story, Howard would. After leaving Steve at the recruiting station against his better judgment, he had taken the girls dancing as promised, and he swore he'd had the purest of intentions—that got a snort from Howard, as it should have—but at the end of the night, neither of them were ready to go climbing the balcony to get back into their dormitory window.
"But I couldn't just leave 'em wandering around Brooklyn all night, could I? There's a lotta creeps out there. And it so happened that the dance hall we ended up at was only a few blocks from my place, so I invited 'em up for coffee."
"The coffee that's rationed at home?" Howard asked dryly without looking up.
Bucky shrugged. "Turned out neither one really liked coffee much anyway. So that saved some time."
Howard snickered. "Not bad, Brooklyn, not bad for your last night Stateside. I'm actually a little homesick now."
"So, c'mon. Fair's fair," Bucky said, pulling up a chair and sitting astride, arms folded across the back. "Whaddaya got? Spill."
They traded stories as Howard redesigned Bucky's sniper rifle on the fly: dames, drinking holes during Prohibition, drinking holes after Prohibition, fights, both getting into 'em and breaking 'em up. Howard was sitting quietly, filing down a rough edge on a newly-machined piece as Bucky told him about growing up in their neighborhood.
"We were all just scruffy Irish," he said, "not too different at the kid level from the scruffy Russians or the scruffy Poles. Get into a fight in an alley with an ash can that someone kicks over, everyone looks the same, y'know? I mean, we kept up with pretending, but we all had friends across the lines." He laughed a little, shaking his head. "You probably never had to deal with that, though, huh?"
Howard didn't answer at first, and Bucky noticed he'd gone still and was concentrating awfully hard on the file in his hand, but then the rasping started again. "Actually I did," Howard said, polishing the piece, running his thumb against the edge, picking up the file. "Lower East Side."
Bucky couldn't keep the surprise off his face. Lower East Side? But that neighborhood was—
Suddenly, Howard's cold anger toward Germany got a little clearer. And Howard was motionless again. He was waiting, wasn't he? Waiting for Bucky to figure out what it meant that Howard was from the Lower East Side.
"So you get it," Bucky picked up again smoothly, "only idiots got into scraps because of what kinda language or what kinda people were on the other side. 'S why we're over here, right? Buncha idiots looked around and didn't like what they saw."
Howard laughed, and there was a lot of bitterness there, but he hadn't stopped working again. That was a good sign, Bucky thought. "That's a decent enough summary, Barnes."
"Right. Bucky. What kind of a name is Bucky, anyway?"
"A scruffy Irish one," Bucky shot back immediately. "I earned it. You wanna scrap?"
Howard shrugged, and the movements of his hands were finally steady again. "Maybe later. Got this gun to finish." He polished the piece, inspected it once more, set it down, moved on to the next. "For a buddy of mine."