1965-04-01 - FITE ME STARK!
Summary: Bucky comes in for a tune up while Tony and Steve are talking.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
bucky steve-rogers tony 

The phone rang at the Rogers apartment and he answered. To his surprise, it was an aide of Stark Industries, asking for his presence - kindly - later on today. Would he stop by sometime this afternoon to speak with the boss?

La voila — there's Steve, having bypassed the front desk as well as security with relative ease. He's fairly recognizable, even when wearing a simple pair of jeans and his favored brown bomber jacket, with the shearling-soft collar. He exits the elevator onto the main floor populated, presumably, by the boss himself, and walks out with a curious lift to his brows.

"Stark?" His voice travels well enough, one supposes.

Tony stands by the window, dressed in a smart business suit that probably cost more than his lower level employees make in a month. He's impeccably polished, the very image of the legend Tony Stark, captain of industry. He exudes power, charm, and competence.

Someone looking past the clothes might notice the weariness in his eyes, though. How they just don't light up anymore. He looks distracted, barely there. Glancing away from the window, he smiles wryly and says, "Cap. Come in. You're looking as ever."

Steve wanders in, in no huge hurry given his pacing, and makes his way over to the window. He looks out it and appreciates the view of the city below, with its myriad architectural nuances and the glint of sunlight from countless panes.

"Your secretary called?" He asks even as he glances over at Tony. His attention isn't intense, by any means, but it lingers. He recognizes that distance; he's seen it before countless times in a near and dear friend of his.

"Yeah, my afternoon's empty til five, and I wondered if you would come." He walks over to a sideboard and takes down two glasses. "Drink?" He then takes down a bottle of scotch that's top shelf stuff. The man doesn't mess around when it comes to scotch.

"How've you been?" he asks. "I know you've had a rough year, what with almost being assassinated." By Bucky, but he leaves that part out. For now. "We lost touch, you and I. I kind of regret that."

Steve nods assent in regards to accepting a drink. He plans to appreciate its taste rather than its inebriating abilities. Few things on this earth, and of this earth, can dent the man's sobriety.

"Being nearly assassinated puts a new lens in your glasses, I'll grant you that,'" he replies. "Otherwise, it's the same dance in a new age. I learned the steps long ago." The smile is largely wry. He accepts the glass of whiskey and lifts it, but doesn't sip it. "What did you want to talk about exactly, Tony? Just about losing touch?" There's a disbelieving cast to his consideration of the technological tycoon.

Tony's brows lift. He delivers unto Steve one glass with a splash of scotch, and he says, "Can't I just want to talk to an old acquaintance? I don't have friends, Cap." He gestures to a comfortable chair, and he himself leans agianst ta long, sturdy desk, arms folded at his middle.

"I suppose I probably owe you an apology or three. You'd have to refresh me what for."

The Captain sits in the offered chair, scooching around a bit to find a content medium of repose, and then gives his host his full attention again.

"I'm not interested in apologies, Tony. I find holding grudges a waste of time unless things can be immediately resolved. Still…thank you," he says by further remark, " — for whatever apology you choose to offer. Peace is something to treasure."

Tony admits, between small sips of scotch, "I wouldn't know what I'd be apologizing for." He glances around, but it's just them in this office, no one else even on the floor. Yet. "I don't remember a lot of summer. It's a blur. I was drinking more than I was sleeping." Not that he's saying it's a problem. Just that, well, a man blacks out sometimes. "So sure, bygones."

Which is when another guest/appointment is announced: a Mister Frost, there to discuss veterans' prosthesis technology. Just so someone who's wanted by the Feds doesn't show up on Tony's building's check-in log. A fairly transparent codename.

And Buck's in one of those good suits, a fairly conservative, well-tailored three piece, though the effect is somewhat spoiled by the steeltoes he's wearing in lieu of Oxfords or loafers. Hey, the girl and the boss like the boots, and they're the ones whose opinions count, right?

"And here you are, drinking again." Man, Steve would make one hell of a shoulder-angel, especially with the disapproving cast to his features. "I'm aware that I have a drink in my hand, yes, but I know my limits," he's sure to add, almost daring Tony to argue with him.

Then comes the announcement of an arrival, aforementioned Mr. Frost, and the Captain turns in his chair to look over his shoulder and beyond it. His eyes widen noticeably. "…Mister Frost," he says by way of greeting from his seat, emphasis implying equal parts skepticism and surprise.

Tony holds up his glass and says, "This is only my third one." In his defense, it's just a splash. No telling how big those other splashes were before, though. "I've cut down." Still, how much is that saying, really? It's all about the technicalities.

Then Bucky walks in. Tony grimaces and says, "Frost. Sorry, I thought I had you scheduled for Friday." With a sardonic glance between the two, he adds, "I assume you know each other."

There's no cynicism at all in Bucky's smile. Finding Steve there is a pleasant surprise. He glances between them, brows up. Is this meant to be an April Fools' joke? "Steve," he says, with a grin, "Hey." None of that beaten-animal shyness, for once, a rare glimpse of the guy he used to be. But then he's looking to Tony, inquisitively. "I can come back another time, Mister Stark," he says, tone respectful. "I don't wanna interrupt."

"No, by all means, I'd rather not interrupt." Paint Steve intrigued as they come; he's unaware of the interactions between his long-time comrade and the only offspring of the man who created his shield so long ago. His upheld hand drops back to the arm of the chair and he pushes himself to his feet, his glass of scotch still untouched.

"We do know each other, yes, Tony." Bucky is given a sardonic little lift of the glass, friendly and baiting in a way, before the Captain wanders off to look out the window again.

"You don't have to go anywhere," Tony tells Steve. "Unless Frost here wants you to scram. I'm just going to look at his arm." He leans toward Cap and says in an exaggerated whisper, "He's got a metal arm."

To Bucky, he says with a vague gesture, "Jacket off, let me see. Really? A suit today? Who do you have to impress?"

"I was just coming in from a shift at work," Buck says, still docile. But he has no hesitation at all in stripping down - suit jacket, vest, dress shirt, until all he has on from the waist up is the white cotton tank top. The rest of it is hung carefully off to the side. To Steve, he adds, "Mister Stark's been looking into it, literally. I don't have access to the Russian techs who tended it, and it does need maintenance that's beyond my means to do. I'm hoping some of the tech can be adapted and used for other amputee veterans who need it."

Steve's reflection can be seen to roll his eyes lightly at Tony's quip, but he turns around and observes the proceedings in silence. As to Bucky's explanation, he nods even as he sets aside the glass of scotch on a nearby table — oh dear, doomed to be untouched by Saint Steve, that drink.

"If there's anyone with the means to make that happen, it's Stark." He has no hesitations in stating this because, simply, it's true.

Tony smiles with just a touch of the smug. That's right, he may be a human dumpster fire, but he knows his tech. He goes to the desk and takes out a long, flat tool set. He sets it down and pops it open. "This is way ahead of its time," he says as he beckons Bucky over with a screwdriver. "But we've already made strides. By the twenty-first century, I'm confident we'll have fully automated prosthetics that run on brainwaves. Don't worry, I'm distressingly sober right now."

"Hell, I usedta know guys in the war who worked better a little drunk," Buck says, matter of fact. No shyness even as he peels off the tank top - Tony might need access to the plates at the edge of the graft that the cotton hides. Not like the others present haven't seen him shirtless before. He lets Tony position him as needed. "And from what I understand, it's based on designs from a captive German engineer," he adds, pulling his ponytail over the other shoulder.

"I never figured out how they did it," Steve comments as he's walking over, remembering briefly some of the very men that Bucky speaks to. He stops beside Tony, opposite of his working hand as not to accidentally bump any tools and disrupt delicate internal wiring, and squints at what he can see of the revealed technology.

"…it seems to run on electricity," he quips in turn, with utter lack of guile…at least, until one catches that glint in his blue eyes and that restrained smile.

Tony handles the arm deftly, easing off the panel that lets him see inside. "If it makes you feel better, I've drunk enough to kill the headaches I get from not drinking." He gives everything a once-over with a knowing eye, looking for dust and rust.

"You're not wrong," he tells Steve, somewhat distracted by his task. "Bio-electricity. The human body produces billions of little batteries." And mitochondria are the power house of the cell. "Not really my department, but it's one of those areas where the line between biology and physics is thin and grey."

It's….honestly kind of weird seeing IN to the arm. To all the little sparkling servos and gears beneath the shining contours. Bucky as the Constant Tin Soldier. Buck's fallen into the pose that grants Tony the easiest access, arm laid along the desk's edge, head tilted towards the other shoulder. A few of the more delicate arrangements are a little out of true - not grinding, yet, but far from their peak.

Steve frowns as he watches the delicate maneuverings of the tools within the complicated circuitry of the metal arm. He has a memory of someone in Howard's lab attempting to explain precisely how Erskine's serum boosted these very cells throughout his body, but it's a hazy one. Being knocked about and turned nearly inside-out by the empowering process rendered that particular memory nearly moot.

"How do you know what to fix?" he asks Tony.

Tony frowns at the few delicate bits out of alignment. "You shouldn't wait so long to come see me," he says. The adjustments are so small it would take someone with Tony's eye to even see them being off. He takes a tiny-ended tool he made himself for this occasion to work those pieces back into place. "That should reduce your drag."

To Steve, he says, "It's easy." For once, he doesn't sound like he's boasting on purpose. "You see these?" He gestures with the tool to the conduits. "These carry the electricity through the metal arm to his brain. That's how he can use the prosthetic like it were a normal appendage. These," he gestures to some servos, "control positioning and these," other servos, "control speed. They look good, nice and clean. We just need to make a few adjustments so he doesn't get out of alignment." He smiles, rare and genuine and distracted. Tony's happy with the way the technology is behaving.

He's so used to this - being an exhibit. Buck's long since lost any embarassment at all. Yet another thing they stripped him of: modesty. So there's only a patient, little smile as he looks between them. "Sorry, Mister Stark," he says, without a hint of sarcasm. "I was real busy for a while." Then he pauses. "I know you're more an engineer, but do you know anyone who's really an expert in genetics?"

His blue eyes shift from point of interest to the next, dictated by the fine point of the tool. Steve will admit a grudging sense of admiration for the level of breathtaking mechanical detail in the arm itself, but it will be forever tempered by the circumstances of his friend's acquisition.

He glances from the servos to Bucky and then to Tony at the question. Blond eyebrows lift in silent inquiry. Why ask this, he wonders.

"I know a few people who dabble," Tony says. "Why, you got a paternity suit to shake?" He sets about routine cleaning. It's small work, and tedious, but he doesn't seem the least bit bored doing it. Whatever his feelings for Bucky might have been, the arm has won him over at least some.

With a glance to Steve, he shrugs. Paternity suit is his guess. "Don't worry, I'll be discreet, no one has to know."

That….that question prompts a little spate of near-hysterical laughter from Bucky. An edge there that shouldn't be. "Sorta," he says, when he can calm himself down. "Something like that. The Russians…made….replicas? Clones? Variants of me? They look like me anyhow, but…."

Steve straightens slowly from his inquisitive lean and sighs.

"They're impressive, Tony, in a…sorry, Buck, but it's spooky sometimes." His shrug is apologetic, in a way. "Even I have a hard time telling them apart when the lighting is bad."

Tony's brows lift. "Cloning?" Tony says. "They should be genetically identical to you." His brow furrow as Bucky's laughter jostles him a little. Not enough to deter him from his work. "Where are you keeping these guys? Under wraps, I hope. I don't know how many of you the city could take." He starts closing up panels on the arm (after giving them a good polishing). "Do they have arms?" he asks.

"Somewhere safe," Buck says, firmly. "And they aren't a hundred percent identical, is the thing. I don't know if they are actual clones. There was possibly magic involved in their creation. And no, none of them have metal prostheses that I know of." He grins, but it's wan, uneasy.

Steve remains mum as to the location of the gaggle of Bucklings. Bucky clones. Copies of his friend. No matter how he tries to categorize them in his mind, they still remain that moderate bit of spooky.

'Magic', he mouths at the man working to shutter off the intricate mechanics of the metal arm. Another shrug, this time with visible discomfort as to the very concept of magic itself.

Tony raises both hands and says, "Magic? Not my department. I deal in the possible, sometimes the slightly improbable." He gives the arm another once over and slides the plates into place, checking that each one locks in securely. Don't want those flying off while flipping an omelet.

Tony gives Steve such a sympathetic look just then. Magic. Damn right it's uncomfortable. "Listen, Frosty, if you get hold of proof there's been magic, you let me see it."

He opens his mouth, as if to spill the whole story. And then thinks the better of it. "I didn't figure, Mister Stark," Buck says, humbly, as Tony reassembles things. "I just….don't know how much of it was really science as you'd recognize it."

A hand reaches out and pats Bucky on his human shoulder no harder than necessary, soothing in a brotherly way.

"I bet Tony's seen some science that we might think is magic. But still, a geneticist. Who do you know?" This is Steve asking now, his brow furrowed in the direction of the man with the toolset.

Tony glances between the two of them. With a rather gentle and knowledgeable hand, he polishes the outer casing of the arm with a chamois til he gleams. "I deal in the possible no matter how difficult to comprehend," Tony says. "Unfortunately I'm held back by the fact that I do rely on the rest of humanity to make the tools with which I can build the things I know we can make."

He sits back and eyes his handiwork. There, that'll suit him. Which means that arm is looking good. "I keep up with a few of the more promising minds coming out of our better universities," Tony says. "There are a few candidates I could approach."

The buffing….that he didn't expect. Buck doesn't quite smile at it, but it's clear he's pleased. A funny, generous gesture from Tony. "Thank you," he says, quietly. "I needed that. I feel a lot better already." Then he's getting up to don his clothes again, in the reverse order, as if this were no more than a doctor's visit.

The Soldier's friend takes a step or two back, all the better to allow Bucky the range of movement to regain his suited state without bumping elbows.

"Any names you can share with us now? We can do our own legwork, if it comes ot it. I've got enough connections that it wouldn't be difficult." He glances over at Bucky briefly and then back to Tony once again.

Tony nods to Bucky as if to say 'don't mention it.' "Just don't wait too long to come see me," he warns. "And ounce of prevention." He starts packing up his tools in the tool case. Everything in its place. For a man whose life is such a mess, he's got his technological life in order.

"There's a kid I've met a couple times, name's Bruce Banner. Look him up. If anyone can help you, or find someone to help you, it'll be him."

He offers a little salute, two fingers to temples, before shrugging on his suit jacket. Where-ever he got it originally, Buck's had it tailored to fit him well. "Will do, Mister Stark," As if he were the younger one, compared to Tony. "And I'll remember that name. Bruce Banner."

"Banner," the Captain echoes quietly to himself. His eyes slide askance of the other two men, off to some middling point on the floor, and a tickle of memory comes forth — but not enough to really pull up a face to go with the name. It's a bit of the old catch-phrase, 'tip of your tongue'.

"I'm sure we can find him easily enough. Any idea where to start? University, perhaps?" Steve asks Tony.

Tony rattles off the name of the university. It's in the city, so that's good. Physics department. "Don't worry, he's got his biology credentials. Kid's a genius, and I don't use that word lightly." Indeed, Tony Stark is, frankly, unimpressed by most people.

He gets his tool kit put away, then leans on the desk. Without his tinkering to keep his hands busy, he reaches for the glass of scotch. "Let me know how it works out," he tells Bucky. "What happens to you affects the arm, so…"

Which gets a look from Buck, mild, thoughtful, puzzled. Mister Stark needs more toys to play with, that's very clear indeed. He's retying his tie in his reflection in the glass. "Will do," he says to Tony, then adds, wryly, "I'm tempted to will this thing to you, Mr. Stark. You'd probably get more benefit from it than anyone else, and it'd be shame to have it burned or buried with the rest of me."

Bucky's annoucement about the fate of the arm has his friend giving him a lingering look. Steve's frown lessens after a moment.

"I've got some input on that, Buck, but we can talk about it another time." He looks back to Tony again now and continues. "Is there still something that you want to talk about?"

Tony looks up from his glass, both eyebrows raised. "Sure," he says, taking up that offer without allowing room for hesitation or backsies. "You'd be helping the veterans of your country. They deserve to come back home to the help they need."

He shoots Steve a look. "It would advance the technology of prosthetics by decades," he explains. Science, Steve. Come on. He then shrugs and says, "I was going to tell you why I was such an unbearable ass — even more than usual — last time we were really working together. We can sum it up with drinking."

An inclination of his head to Steve - Buck's almost never inclined to argue. Far from an ironclad commitment….how's he gonna have a valid will when he's wanted by the law, after all.

"I don't disagree that it could help potentially advance prosthetics, but is the technology going to kept solely in that field?" There's a bit of that bulldog mien gathering about Steve, in how his shoulders and jaws tighten. "Can you promise me that it stays out of the hands of anyone with an idea about weaponry? If you can't, Tony, no."

As if it's his place to say where the arm goes anyways, but still, there they are, and there he's said his piece.

"Most of the parts that could be used for weaponry already are," Tony says. But can he promise? Some life comes to his eyes again as he thinks about this. The possibilities! "It might not be in my lifetime," he says, "so it probably won't happen," because who would be smart enough to create it? "But, theoretically, if an artificial brain were to be invented — one that actually worked — the technology could be used to assemble automatons that could be programed for…" here, he mumbles the words into his glass, "combat purposes."

"I don't have the source. I can't be the only with this," Buck's voice is somber. "I'm sure the Russians already are. And this is a moot point. With the kind of luck I tend to have, the next time I die it might be in some way that ends with my body destroyed." …..next time. "And I hardly have a valid will, as it is."

"Stark." That's Steve getting grumpier still, his voice dropping lower in warning. "This is a good time to stop thinking like an entrepeneur and consider your morality instead."

He then turns his attention on Bucky and the metaphorical hackles visibly lower in turn. "You're not going to die." He puts some forceful emphasis into the statement, as if this will avert some potential fate.

Tony nods to Bucky. "We can't assume they aren't, as we speak, trying to make heads or tails out of what they've got on you. Sometimes you're better off thinking like a pessimist. That way there are fewer nasty surprises." He shoots him an odd look. Next time? "Hey, Lazarus, what's your secret?"

He then looks at Steve blankly. "Excuse me?" he says. "I'm thinking like a realist, Rogers. I wouldn't weaponize this tech, but that doesn't mean the Ruskies won't. Or some future 'entrepeneur' won't stumble on an old schematic some time in the future and get ideas. So you got to ask yourself do you stop creating because someone somewhere might misuse your creation someday? Or do you do the good you can while you can and either have faith in humanity or destroy your work on your deathbed?"

Buck's tone is gentle, tender. "Steve, the day'll come when I do, and it sticks." He rests a hand on his friend's shoulder, lightly. "And Mister Stark is right. They already did weaponize it - that's what I was to them. Not even a prisoner, but a weapon. This," a wave of his ordinary hand indicates the gleaming metal one, "Was made so I could be. Mister Stark….past a certain point, he's not responsible for what people do with what he makes. Oppenheimer made the bomb, but it was Truman who decided to drop it." At that question, he turns to Tony, shakes his head. "It's never the same thing twice. It's not something built n to me. It's more that they can never seem to leave my body alone." He sounds…..wearily matter of fact about it.

"No, you compromise — and you might not like it, but it means that you can sleep better at night knowing that the technology was kept out of hands that might abuse it," Steve fires back at Tony, his arms now tightly crossed in his bomber jacket. "We don't need to stoop to their level, if they're — "

He abruptly stops when Bucky speaks up and the pressure of his friend's hand settles on the round of his shoulder. A hard swallow forces down whatever else he had to say to the technological genius and instead, Tony gets a nice, hard, and glittering glare as Bucky continues his thoughts.

"Who's stooping?" Tony quips, rapid-fire. "I'm sinking everything I learn about this thing into prosthetics for veterans. Believe it or not, I don't create everything I can conceive of. The world would be a lot darker place if I did." What he's confessing there he might not be aware of, or maybe he is. "And it's my job to think two steps ahead of the people who would use him," he jabs a finger at Bucky, "to hurt us."

He distracts himself from the argument though by turning to Bucky and says, "It's something about your physiology. If they could hook one of these up to anyone, they already would have. This is why they're trying to make more of you. That needs to be shut down." Does he get credit for not saying 'and the clones destroyed?'

"We've…..already made some first essays towards that," Diplomacy, from Bucky? Perish the thought. "Believe me, Mister Stark, we're working on it. That's part of why we need the geneticist. Science is reproducible, but we can't stop them permanently until we know how they are." He pats Steve again. "It's already in bad hands, Steve. We haven't stopped that, not yet. It's going to be a slow process…."

At Tony's line about Bucky himself being used to hurt others, Steve surges forwards a few short steps. He catches himself, and his temper, in time, again due to the calming tone of his friend's voice and the pat on the shoulder. How entirely un-diplomatic of the Captain. It seems there's a raw nerve to be found.

He's breathing hard even as he turns and walks away, nearly entirely from the conversation itself. It brings him to the doorway leading to the hall, where the elevator reflects back their silhouettes in blurred gloss.

"We'll find answers, but not here." He looks between the two men. "If you'll excuse me." Steve then turns and appears to begin to leave entirely.

Tony stands his ground, lifting his chin as Steve lunges. What's Captain America going to do, huh? Attack an unarmed man? Truth hurts. As Steve turns away, Tony shifts his regard to Bucky and says, "Please, call me Tony. Mr. Stark was my dad." He shoots a sidelong glance Cap's way, then grudgingly says, "Don't get me wrong about saying you've been weaponized. The way you've shaken it off, I bet they never saw that coming."

He sighs, then claps Bucky on the shoulder and says, "You're all fixed up. Scram." He nods towards the departing Cap and, in a lower tone, says, "Don't let him drive angry. That's my schtick."

"You're not wrong, Tony," Bucky says, calmly. "I am a weapon. I was before the Russians ever got their hands on me, and they sure as hell didn't do anything to undo it. Steve just hates it, that's all. He cares a lot more about right and wrong than I do," A nod to the engineer, and he's following after Steve, with that funny, uneven stride. The arm's permanently altered his center of balance.

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