1965-05-06 - After Hours Drinking
Summary: The terrific trio hang out with a bottle of scotch and some coffee.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
steve-rogers bucky tony 

Tony has called Bucky up to his office after hours. It's a posh office, very comfortable. The premise is to atlk about a timetable for his Russia adventure. However, there's a full bottle of scotch and two glasses set out by the time Bucky arrives there. Tony's suit jacket is hung up, and his tie loosened, sleeves rolled up to his elbows. It's been a long day, and he's relaxing, damn it.

And there's a very bemused Bucky, in one of his work suits, clearly off a shift at the bar. Determined not to let down Lux's exacting standards, it seems. The bottle and glasses make him cock his head for a moment, and then he smiles. "Tony," he says, gently. Since there's to be no 'Mr. Stark' and 'sergeant Barnes'

Tony glances over and nods to Bucky. "Come in," he says. He pours a splash of scotch into each glass and offers one over. "How's the arm working?" He's only just fixed it the other day, but he's always curious. Sure, it's Barnes' arm, but it's Tony's baby, adopted though it might be.

"Like a dream," he says, with that incandescent grin. He accepts the glass, lifts it to Tony in salute, and takes a sip. "Good stuff," he says. This is clearly an overture of friendship, and he's willing to take it as such.

Tony takes his own glass and raises it in turn. Then he takes a drink. Mmm, that's the stuff. "Life's too short for cheap scotch," he says. He gestures to a cushy chair, indicating for Bucky to sit. He takes a seat in the cushy chair beside it. "So what's your timeline for going back to Russia to right all the wrongs?"

He pauses at that, the smile gone again. But he seats himself in the chair. "I don't have one, yet. We need to talk to Strange. Because I may not …..well, it might be that the next place I go isn't Russia, per se. The problem with taking on the rest of that supersoldier program is that we frankly made a godawful mess when we last paid a visit. That flooding in Russia you've heard about on the news? That was us. Specifically, that was Volga messing with us. I am still afraid he simply let us go after playing with us awhile. But we got him and athe Army and their own powered heroes up in arms. I got as far as I did because there was still a lot of confusion as to my real allegiances. A lot of them thought it was just the Winter Soldier trying to come home, or capture Steve and bring him back."

Tony nods as he listens. The boy scout isn't around, so he drinks like he means it, not guzzling but not messing around. "Calling on Strange is a good move. You're playing ball on his field with all this mumbo jumbo. You and Rogers are good soldiers, but soldiers aren't trained for stuff like this."

Another of those smiles, this one tinged with wry acknowledgement. "Believe me, sir, I'm well aware. The Doc and I….we got off to a bad start, but…well, we've got someone we care about in common. That helps a lot. And magic….yeah, I got no idea at all. My experiences with it, with the exception of the Doctor, have always been bad. What little I met in the war was black as sin, and what we saw in Russia was no better."

"Yeah, that's the impression I got," Tony says. "But you and I did, too. Til I realized it wasn't you I hated, but that twisted bastard they locked up inside your head." He raises his glass to Bucky before taking another sip. Aw, he doesn't think Bucky's a craven maniac. Just his inner voice is. "We have lively debates, Strange and I. I think the idea of me ever comprehending even a sliver of what magic is offends him." He grins, teeth bared. Challenge accepted.

Buck's grim at that. "I hate him, too," he says, softly. "Winter. He's a monster. He's their monster, and he's like an infection I'll never really be cured of. I'm in control and I will be for good, unless they get me again." And there's the sum of his greatest fear - that they will, and that all the good that's been done him over the past year will be undone. "The doc understands that….that what I did at first wasn't me. I can imagine. He was a doctor, and then he's a wizard, and those are two professions where trying to pretend you have godlike omniscience is part of the deal." Then he observes, with a lift of his brows. "Well, maybe he does. I mean, I'm not a wizard. He can portal himself around the world without breaking a sweat. I kinna wish I'd brought him to Russia. But I think he has to stay mostly neutral. I still need to talk to him about going to the underworld."

Tony mutters, "Tell me about it," in light of doctors and wizards assuming godlike anything. He pours a little more scotch into Bucky's glass. "He didn't seem too neutral about hearing kids were being rounded up and broken down for this little exercise." Then there's an unheared record scratch as Tony regards Bucky blankly. "Underworld?"

That has Bucky gazing back at him, just as blank. "You told him about that?" He doesn't seem in the least bit angry - it might've helped, in fact. "Yeah. When we were in Russia, some of the kids - not the grown ones that look like me, but younger ones - were killed by Volga. I'm hoping to go there and get some of them back. People can come back from the dead, sometimes. I've been brought back a bunch of times myself." ……he is apparently a hundred percent serious.

"You mentioned magic, and there are kids getting hurt. If there were any higher authority on magic, I would've told that guy, too." No regrets. He shifts a little where he sits to face Bucky more fully. Acyborgsayswhat? "There's a way back from death and no one thought to give medical science a heads up?"

"I'm glad you did. He needs to know," Buck replies, mildly. "There are ways. Depends on the death. First time, you had the Russians reviving me from a death that was basically flash freezing. They thawed me out with warm saline, pumped me full of adrenaline and shocked me right back awake like Frankenstein's monster." His tone is deliberately light, trying for a casual distance….and the look in his eyes gives the lie to it, wild and haunted. "Once they were sure they had me stable, they did some experiments, cut off what was left of my left arm, and grafted this thing on." A bigger gulp of the scotch, for all the good it does him. "I got killed by a SHIELD agent using electrical abilities. Dead on the table, but again, jolted back. I got shot in the face, but a mutant who can apparently revive the dead brought me back. He and some other mutant terrorists were going to trade me to a Russian front group for some Semtex." Again, that calm, as he recites that litany of horrors. "I saw the afterlife that time. I think I was in limbo."

"Sure, sure, people have been revived from death," Tony says. The mention of a mutant makes his nose twitch. Mutations are clearly scientific phenomena, but even so. "Yeah, that's where you lost me," he says, "an afterlife." He takes another drink, sucking his teeth as the burn runs down his throat. "The logistics just don't make sense."

Bucky spreads his hands, gently enough that the scotch doesn't slosh. "I know what I saw," he says, but there's no real defensiveness. "And I was definitely dead. I had a bullet hole in my face, and an exit wound the size of an orange on the back of my skull. There's magic, we both know that. And ….let me show you something." He reaches in to the vest he's wearing, pulls out something wrapped in black suede and white silk. Even as he's unwinding the inner layer, what it is is clear, for it glows warmly. He holds it up by the quill end - a feather made of light, shimmering gently.

Tony holds out a hand as if to receive the feather, or at least to touch it. "Yeah," he says with a small sigh, "I know about magic. I know it's apparently the best thing ever and 'mere' science can't hold a candle to it." He rolls his eyes. "But I still put my faith in what I can verify."

It weighs, quite literally, just about nothing. There's only the faintest sensation of touch at all. It's warm. Almost more a hologram of it, though it interacts with Tony's hand as well as Buck's. "What's that line of Twain's - faith is believing what you know ain't so?" Buck ventures. He doesn't let Tony take it, but he does let him touch it. "That's a seraph's feather," he says, softly. "Angels are real. And there's more than one afterlife. I've been to at least one, helped rescue a friend from it."

"If I believe in it," Tony says, "I just find a way to verify it." He examines the feather with fingertips and his gaze before he releases it and turns his attention to Bucky. "I guess, though, if you can bring someone back from it, it's not really an afterlife. More like a pit stop." He waves a hand. Semantics. "All right, so there's all this stuff outside my jurisdiction. I get it."

Bucky can't help but laugh at that, despite himself. "I guess that's one way to put it," he says, wrapping it up again and tucking it away under the vest, as if it were something precious. Presumably it is. "But that doesn't mean that science doesn't help…"

Tony says, "Yeah, yeah. I don't need the pep talk, Shiny. We're not living in huts eating nuts and berries. I've got a fair idea of how science figures into it." He pulls a tight smile, then claps Bucky on the shoulder. "I've been surrounded by the mystical lately, and I'm sure it's great, but I'll stick to what I know."

Buck gives ihm a dry look at that, but he doesn't seem offended. "Fair enough," he says, grinning. "Hell, all of it's above my paygrade."

"I've actually met someone with a bigger ego than I have," Tony says. "But he's smart. Hell, you know him. He's good at what he does, but what he isn't doing is addressing the Kree or Skrull situation, so I keep on doing what I do." He smiles wryly. "Come on, I'm going to put on some coffee."

"All right," says Buck, amiably enough. "I've heard those names before…..alien races interfering?" The idea doesn't seem to freak him out. Six impossible things before breakfast, and all that.

Tony nods and says, "Yeah, interfering is a nice way of putting it. It's not a problem hocus pocus is going to solve." He gets up and walks over to the coffee pot on a sideboard. As he goes about making a pot, he says, "So we're not obsolete yet. I'll put the weapon in your hand, you'll fire it. Teamwork."

There's that funny, wistful little smile from him at that. "Just like the old days," he says, not in the least displeased at the idea. "'s how it always was."

Tony arches a brow and looks over his shoulder at Bucky. "Yeah? I'll try to live up to the old man. You know, if I could get hold of some of that Kree or Skrull technology, it'd give us better than a fighting chance." He takes down two mugs from a cupboard.

"You've already surpassed him," Buck says, without hesitation. Not meant to be idle flattery, just a statement of fact. "And I'd bet. I dunno who has it. SHIELD's gotta have some…."

Tony smiles a little, and in a rare moment of humility, he says, "I've built on what he started." He pours two cups of coffee, then brings them over to where Bucky sits, offering him one. "Got to balance out the drinking somehow," he says. "I'm trying to regulate this sort of thing." He rolls his eyes. "In the bottom of a glass, I see Rogers' disappointed face."

There's that slow smile from him, almost tender. "Isn't that what every good teacher really wants? To see his student go beyond him?" He accepts the coffee, sips it black without thinking. "And that's smart. So many smart guys have pickled their brains…" Then he laughs. "God, it's amazing how that works, isn't it? He looks at you like he's a golden retriever ou just kicked by accident, and…"

"It's not right," Tony says. "A man should be able to drink himself to death while complaining about drinking himself to death." He takes up his scotch, setting his coffee aside to cool a bit. "Bah, I don't know why I care what he thinks. As long as I keep rolling out the tech and paying for it, yeah?"

There's that sly, sidelong look from him. "But you do care, don't you?" says Buck. Used to having to coax and cajole stubborn men - for all his giving nature and humility, Steve is utterly mulish at times. "He does that to everyone. It's what makes him what he is. He makes you want to try and measure up to him."

Tony shrugs and glances away. "Makes the ship run smoother," he says. He stares at the scotch in his glass. "He's not wrong though," he admits. "I did very nearly crash and burn. I know I'm spiraling now. I know it'll end up killing me."

The blue eyes are level, and not without sympathy. "Why do you do it?" he asks, softly. "You're a genius who has an amazing capacity to make the world better. If the aliens do decide to come in force, no one will be more necessary than you. Steve and I…..even Steve is just a soldier. He's a good man and a good symbol and a good leader, but truth be told, there are many of those out there. But what's hurt you so bad you do this?"

Tony is quiet a long time, studying his booze. Opening up isn't really his bag, but the question is honest enough, and it's not one he's used to hearing. He takes a deep breath, sighs, and says, "I don't know. It slows me down. I don't think so much. I was doing all right, but then Pepper left. It was amicable, but now there's just the work, and sometimes the work isn't enough."

Buck doesn't have that amazing honey-gold aura of instant trust and confidence that Steve does. But he's still got shreds of the old hail-fellow-well-met air to him. "I can see," he says, softly. "You know, I kinna wish I could drink. But I almost never can. Finding something that's hard and fast enough to get past my liver…..almost doesn't happen. Though it's lucky….I'd be drinking myself to death, too, if I could. If it weren't for Steve and my girl and the kids." Nevermind that the polyps generally look to be of an age with him. "But now I got people I'm responsible to." Then he leans back. "Let Steve be your friend, Tony. Don't just hold him up as some unobtainable measure."

Tony shakes his head and says "That's kind of up to Cap, too. He doesn't trust me, and maybe he's right not to. We're doing fine right now, but something is going to come up, just like it always does. He is a good man, I believe that, but he's so naive in some ways. It's not a 'bad' naivete per se, but someone has to look at the bigger picture, and he doesn't like that much."

There's a slow inhalation at that. "He holds his ideals so tightly, he can't really handle some of the shades of gray that are out there," he allows, quietly. "He will trust you. He'll come to. But he is naive. The idea of having to choose the lesser evil gives him the willies." He shrugs, sips from his coffee. "But he's also got enough pragmatism to do so, if he needs to, or if it serves a higher cause. He never turned me in, for one."

"You know him so well," Tony says. "Of course you do." He takes a drink of his scotch, pursing his lips as it burns sweetly in his throat. "Sometimes you gotta play dirty," he replies. "The stakes are too high, and there's no heroic way to do what needs done. Some of us don't have the luxury of being the hero. I admire him. I hope he never stops being him, but this is just the world we live in now."

"That was always my job, Tony," Bucky's voice is very gentle. "Even in the war. Steve was out there in his spangly outfit with his shield….and I was a sniper. I killed guys, end of story. So I agree. Like I said, he can be a pragmatist when he needs to. He just has to be dragged to it. We need him, but we also need you. And you functional. Scientists are what are going to keep us safe in the future. Scientists made me, not magicians. They made Steve. Isn't that the thing with science - reproducible results?"

"I'm highly functioning," Tony says with a lightness in his tone. Which fades as he adds, "Sometimes it's easier to think if I've dulled the edges. I can focus on the work and not an empty house." He takes a last drink of scotch, emptying the glass, which he trades out for his coffee. A downer and an upper, what a pair. "Steve's the best thing Dad ever made," he says. "I grew up hating him so much."

"…..your dad, or Steve, or both?" Buck says. "And…..you're that lonely?" There's no drawing comparisons between his suffering and Tony's. Pain is pain, and it is what it is.

Tony waves a hand at the question of who he hated. "I go to social events," he says. "When Strange is there, it's entertaining at least. There are plenty of young women who would love a moment of my time, but they're not exactly stunning conversationalists. But yeah, when I go home, it's to an empty house. Except for JARVIS, but I don't think artificial intelligences count."

James suggests, "You should stay at the mansion more. You shouldn't be alone. It's me and Scarlett and all those kids, though only a few of 'em speak English. We're working on that. None of us are geniuses, but we're people. And we're interested in you."

Tony's instinct is to deny, and he starts to, tensing up. Then he stops himself, and he says, "It might be convenient to have a room here so I've got somewhere to sleep when I've been in the lab for too long. It's not safe to drive when you're that tired, you know what I mean?"

He lifts his hands, carefully, as if Tony were a jumper he needed to talk off the ledge. "Yeah," he says. "I imagine it's good for you to take breaks, have someone to talk to. Hell, I like cooking, and I'm trying to get the kids to relax enough to come down and start eating at the table like real human beings. You should eat with us."

"I do want to meet them," Tony says. "I'd give anything for data to study their genetic composition." He pauses, then adds, "And I'm sure they're great… kids." Polyps. "Yeah, maybe I could stand to eat with people I have something in common with."

Buck rubs a hand over his chin. "I'll have to see. They…..we've all had terrible, terrible experiences with biologists. Lab stuff tends to make them really jumpy. But we'll find a way. Because yeah, I want this information in the hands of people who aren't out to use us as weapons or tools." Us. We. Pack identification.

"Oh, I'm not a biologist," Tony says. "I just dabble in the lesser sciences." He nurses his coffee along, sitting back comfortably. "I just mean if you ever get a copy of the research. I don't intend to dissect them. Just a little curious, you know?"

"I want a copy of it. I'd probably have to go back to Russia and get it…." Which idea makes him pick up his coffee, for the warmth, if nothing else. "I'm sure I'll endup back there eventually…"

Tony shakes his head and says, "Don't get killed over it. Get these guys, the bastards doing this. That's job number one. Stop them." He frowns down at his coffee cup. There's tension in his jaw as he says, "What they're doing to kids, it's crossing every line."

There's that glint in his eye….the killer is still there. "That's what I intend," he says, oh so softly. "We've got to stop them. To raze this project to the ground."

"Get Strange on your team," Tony says. "I don't think he's on the fence on this one. People tend to get decisive when kids are getting hurt." He takes another drink of his coffee, grimacing as though it were bitter. Never mind the stuff's as smooth and velvety as money can buy.

"That's what I'm working on," Buck says, softly. "I need him for the next part. I want some of the dead back, if it can be done. I don't know, but that's the kind of thing he would know. It might be it can't at all, or the price is too high, but that fucking Russian sorcerer killed my daughter."

Tony hesitates, then lays a hand on Bucky's flesh and blood arm. "I'm sorry," he says in a moment of painful sincerity. One way or another, that son of a bitch is going down. If magic can't do it, I'm sure a bullet will ruin his day. I can help you with the afterlife stuff, but whatever tech you need, give me the word."

"Thank you," he says, and he looks into Tony's face. Steve isn't the only one with blue eyes that just kind of invite trust…or pity. "Because scientists made a lot of this mess, and we're going to need one of the best to undo it. I know genetics and biology aren't your bailiwick, but…..hell, the engineering, too."

"I can pick it up if I need to," Tony says without a glimmer of doubt. Can he master cutting edge genetics? Sure, give him a couple weeks. "I also know a guy who knows a guy. Some of these circles are pretty tight." He pats Bucky's arm. "We'll fix this."

"I know you can," Howard had Steve. Apparently Tony gets the factory seconds Russian knockoff supersoldier. But he gets one. Well done. YOu fed it, now it'll follow you home. "That makes me feel better," he says. "Between you and the Doc, they won't know what hit 'em."

Hey, this one comes with a shiny mechanical arm, Tony's favorite kind of arm. He takes up the scotch bottle and puts another splash in Bucky's glass. "I wouldn't discount Cap either," Tony says. "This is one of those fights that could use a laser-focused moral compass. There's really no gray area here."

"He's always been mine," Bucky confesses, without any hesitation at all, after knocking back some of the scotch. "It….he's a lot of what keeps me sane. Because if the best guy I know can forgive me and help me deal with it, I got no excuse to check out, you know?" He's contemplated suicide? Surely that can't be all that surprising.

Tony studies Bucky's face, and there's a haunted familiarity in his eyes. No, not surprising at all, and not so unheard of. He raises his glass and says, "To having a reason to keep going." He takes a drink and slumps into his chair. It's a comfy chair, and one can relax in it without any unbecoming slouching. "I've heard love is like that, though. You forgive. I'm not saying you two are like that. I mean like a bond of brothers."

Buck glances down into his glass, for a momet, then up. "It is love. I call it like I see it. Between growing up together and going through the war….closer than brothers. Brothers don't get to choose each other, they fight, they betray one another. Steve….never anything like that. It's like…..we hold up romantic love as the one true thing. But this is the kind of friendship that's just as strong."

"In antiquity," Tony says, "Philia was regard more highly than eros. Some would've said it was a stronger bond." He studies his glass, then shrugs and takes another drink. "Sounds good in theory." He's got a PA he gets along with pretty well, so maybe that's something.

IT takes him a moment to sort that out, then he nods. "It is. Has been for me, anyhow." But then he's eyeing Tony almost shyly. "I'm glad you're on our team," he says, softly. "Steve and I…..we're good fighters, but that's it. The stuff the Russians have done….there was a guy there with tentacles that came out of his limbs that he could control….." He shudders in disgust. Omega Red is creepy, even in hindsight.

Tony arches a brow. "Yeah? I try to help the good guys fight. And survive. Been trying to think of some gizmos to come up with to help you two in Russia. Ones that Mr. Shield won't object to. Maybe stealth technology. Outsmarting radar is the trick." He gazes into his glass like he might find the answer there.

That makes him flash a grin. Mr. Shield. Apparently he approves of the name. "Stealth would be great. I think Steve's kind of stuck on the shield….I, however," he says, airily, looking up f rom under his brows, "I am not so determined to limit myself to the purely defensive." He waggles his brows.

"He has his strength to fall back on," Tony says. "I've got the suit, and it's got rockets." That's where he stands on offense vs. defense. Rubbing his chin, he says, "The tech exists, it's just a matter of modifying it to our needs. How are you getting to Russia, do you know? It would take awhile to manufacture something like a SR-71 Blackbird, but it's not insurmountable."

Spoken like a true Stark, son of the Northland. Buck's lips purse at that, brows up. It's not that he doesn't believe. He knows what a Stark is capable of, in a pinch or even before. "I don't," he says. "I was honestly assuming I'd enlist the Doctor. He can make these window things you can pass through, from anyhere to anywhere. Someone dumped me in Australia, and he came and got me, just like that." He snaps his mortal fingers.

"Oh, yeah," Tony says. "That party trick. "That'll save time and money." Not that the money is an object. Why buy a private jet when you can make one? Or travel by suit, even better? "Could maybe hook you up with body armor if they're coming at you with guns or lasers. A little something to absorb ballistics and radiation. What do you think? What did they have last time?"

"Also useful because I don't think they can either defend against it or see it coming," Buck ventures. "Uh. Lots of conventional weaponry. Armor'd be great, but I'm mostly moving on foot, and I'm sneaky rather than tough. Cap's the big brick, and he's got that shield and his own righteousness." Not as bitter as it might be, considering. "The guy with the tentacles. A guy who's like…..the Soviet answer to Cap."

"Yeah, their best man would have tentacles," Tony mutters. Then he waves a hand and says, "I'll set you up with something so thin you won't even know you're wearing it." He stares into the middle distance, then nods to himself. "Yeah, I think I could whip something up. Might be bulkier than I'd like, but it'd be quiet."

There's a twinkle of delight in Buck's face at that. Starks giving him presents. Just like the old days, hooray. "Stealthy's what we gotta be. We damn near set off World War Three with that last trip."

"What I'm thinking about is… hmm." How to explain without laying down a lot of scientific terms. "It'd be like stuffing a canvas vest with something that, for the sake of argument, we'll call layers of fabric. We'll need lots of layers, a little grounding material. It'll have some bulk to it, but nothing you can't carry. You'll barely notice the weight."

He listens, blue eyes bright. "Sounds good," he says. "You're not talking about full plates, are you? And I can carry a lot of weight. I'm not as big as Steve, but I'm strong in kinna the same way."

Tony shakes his head, "Nah. It'll cover your torso, protect the vitals. Try not to get shot in the face. It'll leave your limbs free for stealthing around. Mind you, if you get shot in the vest, it won't feel great, but it'll keep you alive." He can tell all this just from thinking about a few materials he's got (or doesn't but could invent)?

"It's my birthday and also Christmas," Bucky says, not entirely under his breath. "Thanks. Mr….Tony," he settles on. It makes sense. Mr. Stark is always Howard.

"What's that?" Tony asks with a crooked smile, not quite catching everything Bucky just said. Then he says, "Don't mention it, Buck. We're a team. Keeping you guys safe and affective is what I bring to the table. You'd do the same for me. In your way."

There's that funny, deliberate smile on his features. "So," he says, only half-teasing, "What can I do for you, in return? Got anyone you need dead?"

Tony laughs a little and says, "Let me get you a list," He pours out more scotch for both of them. Sweet, smooth, smoky scotch. "Just keep your head about you and, when the time comes for a fight, don't hold back. Take care of these kids you're talking about and I'll call it good." He claps Bucky on the flesh and blood shoulder.

"I'd offer to name one after you, but they got names already. The ones I've been able to find," he adds, slowly. There's that cloudy look in his eyes.

Tony inclines his head and says, "I don't think anyone or thing has been named after my *first* name." Wickedness brightens his eyes as he says, "Maybe you'll find one that's just a baby, no name. Good luck raising little Anthony Barnes."

Bucky grins back at him, unashamed. "I will. You laugh, but I'll do it. There's already one named after Steve," he says, more softly. "She's the one I need to get back, the girl."

"You have a girl named Steve?" Tony asks. "What is that, Stephanie? That's not a bad name. If I ever have a girl, she's going to be Maria. That is, if I get a say in it. I think I've been careful and don't have any kids out there."

"One of the girls in Russia was Stefaniya. Fanya," Buck's voice is soft. "It was a good name. Apt….she was definitely made from him." Tha last comment has him looking wry. "I thought I was, and look how that turned out."

Tony taps his chest and says, "The only thing the Ruskies gave me was this, and even this I had to make myself. Fingers crossed. They weren't interested in my DNA, just my mind." He grimaces. Not his favorite memory. "Geez, does Cap know?"

A long beat of hesitation. "He knows. He saw her briefly," he says and then sets aside the glass. Tony's got enough into him that it's snuck up on him - a flush on the high cheekbones, that brightness in his eyes.

"I can't imagine what he's thinking," Tony says. "I have no idea what I'd think in his place, or yours." He shivers a little. For as upset as he gets at the idea of kids getting hurt, he's not feeling too paternal. He takes Bucky's coffee and hands it to him. Now the long road back to sobriety. "If you guys need anything, by the way, I know it's j ust throwing money at problems, but I'm good at that."

There's a somber, if not yet sober, moment. "….It feels so weird," he confesses. "To be honest. I was so horrified when I first found out. That….it was like….what they did to me wasn't enough. That they'd made these copies so they could keep recreating the horror and making it worse." He sips from the coffee. "I'd gotten free, but there were all these prisoners wearing my face, still."

Tony shakes his head and says, "Like I said, there's no grey area here. This is what they do. They're so starved with whatever they can find to get the upper hand on us, which they're never gonna do, that it delvies into depravity. I'm not saying we haven't made mistakes, but we don't go this low. I mean it, though. If you need money helping these kids out, it's the least I can do."

He fixes Tony with an uncertain look. "Be careful what you offer, Tony," he warns. "I may take you up on it. They are going to need so much. Housing, education, therapy….hell, just feeding them. Eight guys each of whom eats like Steven Rogers with a tapeworm."

Tony waves a hand and says, "Sure, sure. It's just money." Easy enough for him to say when he's already throwing it away hand over fist on this and that. "I'll start a trust. We'll keep them in housing, clothed and fed, whatever else they need, education." He pauses before admitting the word, "Therapy," while pulling a face. "Yeah, I guess they'll need that."

"You definitely get one named after you," Bucky breathes, with a grin. "Oh, good. Not like I could put 'em out on a street corner in a cardboard box reading SOVIET ASSASSINS FREE TO GOOD HOME" Wonder of wonders, Tony and Bucky are drinking coffee….and dealing with glasses of scotch. Because Buck drunk and wired is exactly what Steve needs.

He received the invitation far later in the day, late enough that clearly whatever kept the Captain delayed his arrival in turn. He arrives in a black leather jacket and jeans, combat boots, and he pauses in the doorway to the executive suite. Knock-knock, knuckles rap against the frame of the door itself and he calls out,

"Hey, sorry I'm — " Late. "Buck. Didn't expect to see you here," he comments as he strolls in, sporting a bemused half-smile. "I'll get a cup of coffee and then join you gents." He spotted the still-steaming caraffe quickly enough after eyeing the decanter and glasses in use. As such, he meanders over, his face turned towards the conversation to listen if not interject while he looks about for a mug.

"Cupboard right in front of you," Tony says in reference to mugs. The cupboard is a sleek panel, no knobs, but an indentation for opening and closing. Everything here is sleek and neat. "Yeah, I remembered what you guys said about just drinking with the guys. Barnes and I got an early start." He's been drinking quite a bit himself, and has switched to coffee, but he's fairly high functioning. "We were just talking about the kids and how they're going to be taken care of."

"He's gonna help," Buck is all but chirping. Happy assassin is very happy. "I promised to name one after him, if I found one that doesn't have a name." Because god knows there have to be more, right?" "Anthony Barnes."

Impressing his fingertips on the panel opens aforementioned cupboard door and Steve gathers a mug. He slows in the motion of bringing down the drinking glass, light eyebrows lofted high, and he looks between Bucky and Tony.

Finally, a little nod and quirk of his mouth and he mutters, "Has a ring to it." Coffee is poured, black and silky, and he sips at it as he walks over. He takes a seat somewhat in the middling distance between assassin and genius-inventor, if not slightly towards Bucky in the end. Old habits die hard. "Your help is appreciated, Tony." A lift of the steaming mug accents the expression of gratitude.

"Flattering, but not necessary," Tony tells Bucky, though he does grin at the thought. "Careful, people will think we're married." His smile doesn't dim in the slightest. He inclines his head to Steve and says, "I'm happy to do it. If I can give these kids a good life while sticking it to the Ruskies, it's money well spent."

The relief in Bucky's face. Someone else to help bear the financial burden. Scarlett's wealthy, but surely that can't compare to the resources the head of Stark Industries can bring to bear. "Well, you could make an honest man of me," he teases Tony. "Give up your career as a playboy."

"Cheers to that too," Steve adds drolly in reply to the provision of the Russians regretting foolish decisions — like pricking the affront of Winter and the Captain. He disappears into his coffee mug and merely smiles mildly, almost to himself, at the banter between the two men.

Tony frowns thoughtfully as he glances between the two of them. "Is this where I brag about the playboy thing or admit I've let myself down on that front? I'm not sure how this part of drinking with the guy goes." He takes a swallow of coffee, eyes lidding. "I'm actually telling women to have a nice evening and putting them in cabs or limos. Don't tell anyone. I'm just off my stride." Love and love lost will do that to a guy.

"Maybe you're just maturing and outgrowing it for real," Bucky offers, more gently. "I know I never thought I'd get over playing around - don't ask Steve what I was like in Paris during Liberation, though he probably remembers more of it than I do…."

Steve's eyes flick to his oldest friend and he pulls his lips to one side in a smirk.

"I remember enough of it. I ran the meetings, you ran the Rue." That being French for the street, of course, some of which were spectacularly populated during Liberation — more than enough gratefulness to go around for those looking to celebrate the sheer joyfulness of greeting another dawn. "That's gentlemanly of you, Tony, however. Maybe you are outgrowing it." He echoes Bucky, his attention now upon the genius-inventor.

Tony wrinkles his nose at the thought, but he doesn't argue. He considers over a drink of his coffee, then admits, "It feels dirty even for me, these days, they're so young. Older and wiser women know better, and the ones who can keep up in a conversation are waaay too smart to give me the time of day." He rubs his forehead. "I've got this reputation to maintain, though. I can get skeezy or married, but not old."

"You can reform. Turn over a new leaf. Decide to settle down." Bucky, now lucky in love, wants to spread it around.

Steve nods, his eyes dropping to the coffee mug resting between his hands. "That's always an option, finding someone who understands you. How your mind works." He looks up at Tony again. "Maybe there's someone who can keep up with you out there."

Tony looks down at his mug. He shrugs a little and says, "I found that someone, but she left. She had to go. She would've been a fool not to." He takes a drink, swallows extra hard, then musters up a smile. "Eh, as long as no one sees me putting them in limos, no one has to know they're going home alone, or to their husbands, or whatever."

A sidelong glance at Steve. They're going to have to work on this, clearly. Something to pull Tony out of his shell. Buck sighs, and shakes his head, fondly.

A sidelong glance at Bucky before the Captain take a large swig of coffee. "You think that was the only woman out there, Tony? There are a lot more women in the world than when…" He peters out, realizing that this is basically stamping himself with red ink: Old Fogie. "You just have to keep looking. Maybe make an exception of two. Nothing comes easy in a relationship." The sagacity of tone belies the fact that his batting record is about….nil with significant others.

Tony lifts his gaze to look between the two of them. Here is where he says something flippant and brushes it off. No, wait. Here is where he actually has a moment of introspection. "Right now, it doesn't feel like there'll ever be anyone else. She was everything I was looking for and I blew it so many times. She kept taking me back. We were doing great, but she got an offer. I couldn't let her throw her career away to stay with me. So maybe someday I'll get over her, but it won't be soon." He smiles a little.

"….if it was working, why don't you follow her?" Bucky asks, after a moment. "I mean, yeah, she took a new job, but…did she leave the country? I mean, how fast does your suit fly?"

"Seems like the suit flies pretty fast to me. Got cold feet?" Steve asks this point-blank even as he shifts in his chair, leaning more heavily to one side. He considers the volume in his mug before deciding to wait a little longer before refilling it.

"She's in the UK," Tony says. He leans back, grimacing as he says, "I just. I don't want to mess t his up for her. She takes care of me, and that's great, but she needs to take care of herself more. Until I can be more than the drain on her time and energy, I can't be there. I know what it'll cost her, and I can't ask her to pay that price."

"Then wait for her, if you can," Buck's voice is almost sweet. "I don't mean…..I don't mean hang it around your neck. But imagine who you'd like tobe for her. Your best self. You're smart, real smart. So even if it doesn't come naturally, reason it out. She liked you for you, she musta seen something in you."

Steve thumbs in Bucky's general direction. "He's got a good point and idea, listen to it." It's not quite a command, but there's the sense that the Captain firmly believes in being patient. It's proven a steadfast stance on his part for many, many…many years now.

"Huh," Tony says. He glances down at his cup. "Yeah, maybe that's what I need to do. I've been spending all this time falling down again because that's what I do. Because the further down I go, the less I deserve her and the split makes more sense. If I wait, and become who she needs me to be, she's got to come back sometime, right?"

"I'm not saying give up yourself. But there's someone there she loved. And you said you're afraid of being a drain. Well, she's a smart cookie, even if she's too soft-hearted for her own good. She's been bitten a lot, but….I'm not saying it's a bargain. But….if she's the one you're set on, turn your efforts to that. Look at this like a reprieve, a chance to set yourself straight. The bottle doesn't make you happy. Even you work doesn't make you happy."

Steve elects to remain quiet. So far, he's been in continual agreement with his oldest friend. It seems the wisest route to remain silent and allow the one with the smoothest speaking skills to press upon one of Tony's nerves.

He rises to his feet and wanders back over to pour himself more coffee. It's a steady and soothing sound, the fall of liquid, and he sips at the re-heated contents of his mug even as he glances back at them.

Tony glances at Bucky as Bucky, his wise words given, starts to drift off. Tony has given him a mule's weight in scotch, his gift to his friend: getting him wasted. Tony looks a little surprised, frankly, and he says, "Well how about that?" He looks to Steve. "The trick is to get the good stuff and just keep pouring it into him on an empty stomach."

The smile given to Bucky as Cap sits down is fond…and jealous, but only to an extent. He sets his coffee off to one side before sighing out an entire chest-ful of air.

"One time, back in the early '40s, we had some quiet between skirmishes. Bucky found a stash of vodka, something a German officer intended to squirrel away. Bottles and bottles, what…" He lifts a hand only to drop it back to his thigh as he glances over at Tony. "About four bottles. One drink turned into ten turned into enough." One corner of his mouth quirks again. "One of the Commandos found us the next morning. He asked if we knew our names from a hill of beans. Buck had some smart retort. My head was still pounding." Tony is given a momentarily scrutinous look. "I don't know how you do it."

Tony grins. "That sounds fun enough, it might just be worth showing up to war." The grin fades, but not entirely, lingering on his lips for a little. He leans back comfortably, one hand wrapped around his mug. "How I do what?" he says. "Function when I'm blotto? There's a sweet spot where I'm still in control, and the trick is hovering right at that point."

"It's a trick," Steve acknowledges in a perfectly neutral manner. "The serum made my metabolism too fast for a feat like that. Three times faster than the average human, apparently." He watches the steam rise from the surface of his coffee, set where it is. "It's nice not getting sick, I'll give you that. I guess I can be a connoisseur of liquor these days. Sommelier. Whatever the term for it is these days."

"I'd think it was a blessing and a curse," Tony says. "Imagine, having to be sober after every decision you make, even when it costs you, or worse, someone else. Blotting that stuff out is why drinking was invented." Maybe not entirely accurate, he'll have to get back to his sources. While he's glib, he studies Steve. "I've been sober more often these days than not. I wanted to show you I could."

Steve studies the toes of his boots even as he huffs a nearly-inaudible snort. "It's a curse, Tony." That's all he has to comment in regards to the slim blade of prompting that eidetic memory has its pitfalls, in brilliance and shadow alike. He looks up again at the genius-inventor even as he folds hands across his lap and rests them overtop his belt buckle. "I noticed." His chin lifts, bringing him entirely level with the darker gaze of the man across from him. "I did, Tony. Well done."

Tony smiles wryly and lifts his cup to Steve. "I'm not proud of how happy that makes me." He glances down, then back up again. "We're on the same team, Cap. That's all I've got to prove. Doing right by the team. I know I've fallen hard, but name a time when I haven't gotten back up again."

"Me naming a time isn't going to help you. You keeping this up," and he nods at Tony, meaning the general scheme of his personal project to slowly work at drinking less, " — that's going to help. You've got a plan. Stick to it." A third of the mug of coffee disappears into him once Steve gathers up the mug again. Ah, caffeine, what little affect you have on a super-soldier's metabolism.

Even if Tony lets up on the booze, there will always be coffee, and he buys the good stuff. "Yeah, well, you're a good influence," he says. "I think that's part of your official job title. Patriot, leader of men, good influence." He salutes Cap with his cup. Then he glances over to the dozing Buck. "He's got a lot on his plate," he mentions. "He's lucky to have a friend like you."

The blond lifts his mug right back, his smile a wry thing even as it disappears behind the silhouette of his mug. A black lacquer on it and in white emblazoning, Stark Industries, accompanied by the logo of the company — of course.

Bucky is gifted with an amicable look that no one else has received, not since the decade of the second world war. "Yeah," Steve says softly. "I'm lucky to have him too. Don't know where I'd be without him some days."

"I think I might actually know what contentment feels like if I ever have someone like that," Tony says. He considers, brows lifting as he adds, "Then again, that's the price of being the smartest guy in the room. No one else knows quite how to handle you." There's no boasting in his tone. It's just the facts, man.

"You'll find someone," Steve insists to the genius-inventor. He'd state the same of the sun rising in the morning, or that the dew on his bare feet is cold on those mornings when running away from old demon-dreams of war is better than remaining abed. "Still, seems like a narrow approach to contentment. Does being able to do what you want not make you happy? What about this coffee? It's good stuff." He gestures with the cup, careful not to slosh over the rounded rim.

"Always so positive," Tony says. Like what he likes most about Steve were something to nitpick. "You're right, as usual. I like doing what I want. I like being the smartest guy in the room. If this is how it all balances out, then I'm ahead of the game." He empties his cup in a swallow. "And this is damn good coffee."

He gets to his feet, and he claps Steve on the shoulder. "Don't get up. I'm just going to put on another pot. And don't listen to me too much, Cap. I get maudlin. I only let you and Barnes see it because I know you won't rat me out."

As he's fiddling with the coffee maker, a woman's voice comes over the intercom. "Mr. Stark, you have a phone call. It's Lockheed Martin." Tony rolls his eyes, and he say,s "I gotta take this, but I won't be long. Make sure Lightweight over there doesn't drool on my upholstery." Then he heads for the door to take the call in private.

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