“Hey, babe,” Bucky says into the phone, trying to smile, “remember that favor I was doin’ Potts, was gonna be the last job before I retired?”
Steve sighs heavily. “Yeah, Buck, I remember.”
“Well, see, Hammer tried to kill us instead’a payin’ us, so…” He lets it hang there for a moment and instead of saving him from the awkwardness, Steve waits him out. “We need a thief, Stevie. They were kickin’ around names and, well. You’re the best.”
Steve sighs again. “I’m also retired, Buchanan. Just like you were supposed to be. You and me on the beach somewhere, livin’ quiet – ring a bell at all?”
The thing is, Bucky knows he’s already in. So when Steve asks, “How?” Bucky knows what he means, and replies, “Bomb,” Bucky’s smile is real and he knows that Steve’s mentally writing a list of everything he needs to bring.
You don’t hurt Jay Buchanan without answering to Steve Reynolds, and you don’t hurt Captain without dying by the Winter Soldier.
Bucky and Steve met as kids and then lost track of each other when Bucky joined the marines and Steve went to college. They met up again, though, when Steve was hired to steal the very same thing Bucky’d been hired to retrieve. By that point, Bucky had already made a name for himself in certain circles, and thankfully, everyone back home thought he was dead instead of MIA.
Of course, him being dead made it quite the shock for Stevie.
Steve knows the bare bones of the missing fifteen years. He knows a mission went bad and that Bucky’s team were written off while three of them were still alive. He knows that somehow, Bucky lost an arm and probably should’ve actually died. He knows that someone somewhere gave Bucky what’s possibly the best prosthetic in the world.
He knows that Bucky hates the name he uses as a retrieval specialist. He doesn’t know about Alexander Pierce. If Bucky has his way, Steve will never know about Alexander Pierce, or the three years Bucky belonged to him.
Bucky knows that Steve stayed in school for two years before dropping out because Peggy Carter took him under her wing and taught him to steal. Steve likes artwork but Peggy was more into gems, and Bucky had actually heard about some of their jobs before realizing ‘Captain’ was Steve.
“It’s sorta like Dread Pirate Roberts,” Steve had explained, curled up against Bucky, that first night. “She was Captain but now I am. She retired.” He shrugged, blushing a little. “I wasn’t sure I was ready, but, well. I’ve done pretty okay for myself.”
Bucky had laughed, staring down at the kid he’d left behind. Steve had grown maybe an inch, but instead of being scrawny, now he was lean. He’d always been stronger than he looked but now Bucky could see it.
Since Carter had let him out into the world alone, he had no one watching his back. There was never any question of Bucky not rectifying that.
Steve told him upfront that it wasn’t going to be his life forever. Bucky’s plans never extended past the current job, so he hitched his wagon to Steve (like there was ever any question of him doing something else?) and wherever the job took him, he’d come back to Steve’s home of the month. It wasn’t like Bucky had ever done anything with all of the massive paychecks, so he handed that money over to Steve to do with what he liked.
Steve had just blinked at him in shock. “You trust me that much?” he’d asked, flabbergasted.
“You trust me?” Bucky asked back.
Nodding fervently, Steve said, “Of course.”
Bucky gently chucked his chin. “Then take the money, Stevie.”
On his thirty-third birthday, Steve decided to cut back his jobs by half. He wanted to travel for fun, not to steal multi-million dollar items anymore. (He still would, of course, if it was something he really really wanted that wasn’t for sale, but, well. Special occasions. And for Bucky’s thirty-fourth birthday, Steve stole him the oldest ‘modern’ firearm in the world because he knew Bucky would love it. Bucky did.)
Bucky started cutting back on his jobs, too, because traveling the world with Steve or stealing from some rich guy for some other rich guy? No contest.
“Remind me,” Steve says, unimpressed, arms across his chest as he stares down at Bucky, “why the fuck you decided to work for Hammer?”
“Pepper Potts said she’d owe me a favor,” Bucky says, slouched in a very uncomfortable chair and trying to hide just how uncomfortable it is.
“And your team?” Steve says, rolling his eyes and going to the counter where the files are waiting for him. Hardcopy, because Bucky has learned exactly how unsafe electronic files are. Even though Stark complains loudly about it.
“Potts planned it,” Bucky says, tilting his head to follow Steve with his eyes. “Natalia’s the grifter; she got us in. Stark for hacking, even though he kept sayin’ we couldn’t trust Hammer. He’s been fuckin’ annoying with all the I told you sos. And then, well, me.”
Stevie sighs like it’s all awful, turning around to give Bucky his most I am so unimpressed frown. Bucky shoots back with his You know you love me grin.
“You’re Captain?” Stark demands, gaping down at Steve. “You’re pocket-sized!”
Steve ignores him, smiling at Potts and shaking her hand. “Thank you for joining us,” she says. “Buchanan has told us quite a bit about you and your reputation speaks for itself.”
“Thank you for having me,” Steve replies. “I’m eager to get started.”
He actually is, Bucky knows. Hammer would’ve been better off just hiring Bucky at the outset instead of this whole team. When Hammer double-crossed him, Bucky would’ve just killed the fucker and been done with it. But Potts, Stark, Natalia, and Steve?
They’re gonna leave the bastard alive and wishing to God he weren’t.
“You truly love him,” Natalia murmurs while Potts explains the plan in full to Steve.
Natalia was why he’d survived and the reason he has a left arm. She also introduced him to Rumlow, who led him to Pierce. Because of that, she thinks she owes him. So he turns to her and says, “You make sure Hammer has no idea Steve’s involved in this and everything’s square.”
She nods firmly, glancing at Steve with a small smile. She asks, “Still retiring after this?”
“That’s the plan,” he says.
Plans never survive intact. Hammer’s ruined, his company gutted and his reputation bleeding out, and Potts looks at each of them. “We could do some real good,” she says.
Bucky looks at Steve as Stark says, “Whatever you want, Pep, you know I’m in.”
Natalia adds, “I’ve got red in my ledger. I suppose destroying the corrupt could help wipe it out.”
Steve reaches for Bucky’s left hand, hidden in a dark glove, and says, “It might be fun.”
“Stevie, I’m with you ‘til the end of the line,” he says, so Steve looks back at Potts and nods. “We’re in.”