Doveryai, no Proveryai

May 23, 2017:

James Buchanan Barnes trails Phil Coulson back to his apartment just in time to keep him from being blown sky high. After the deed is done, he gets his chance to ask the SHIELD Agent for help with a highly personal mission.

Phil Coulson's Brooklyn Apartment

Chock full of priceless baseball memorabilia and a stereo that gets remarkably little use.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Captain America, Peggy Carter, Zatanna Zatara, John Constantine, Red Robin, Dr. Jane Foster, Isa Reichert

Mood Music: The Rock Anthem in Phil's Head


Fade In…

Following Phil back to his apartment might actually be a fun game of spy vs. spy.

He doesn't go home that often to begin with, but he did today. Once he did he just started driving. Not good enough to actually catch Bucky on his trail— he's good, but he's no legend— he nevertheless has good instincts. About halfway through the ride he frowned, took a few weird turns, doubled back, and parked the car. He might have just flown Lola, but that would have attracted even more attention.

He took a cab.

Got out at some random location.

Took another cab.

Took a coffee.

Took a third cab.

Bought coffee at Trader Joe's, but that was mostly because he remembered he was out of coffee.

Finally went home, finally deciding that the itch at the back of his neck was not instinct really, but just him being paranoid. And anyway? By this point, he was tired and ready to just go home.

He also isn't really good enough to shake Bucky through all of this, but he at least gave it the old college try without ever knowing who he was trying to shake. If he had, he probably would have just stopped so they could meet up.

It's kind of ironic that did all this simply because his instincts sensed someone who wasn't a threat to him, only to turn the key in the lock and walk into something that is. He takes a few steps inside before his foot treads over something buried under his carpet. He probably doesn't hear the little click of a pressure plate, but…super-soldier senses just might.

Pressure plates. Rarely good news in their line of work.

—-

It is an entertaining game of cat and mouse. Bucky Barnes might have enjoyed it if not for the fact the act of stalking and shadowing calls up many unpleasant memories. One of them even has to do with the man he is currently following, though there has never been any acknowledgement of it between the two. It was a long time ago, and things were very different back then.

He can tell that while Coulson is not fully aware of who is tailing him, the agent can tell he is being tailed nonetheless. This in itself is impressive. Plenty others have died without realizing there was a shadow on their heels until the blade opened their throat.

Ultimately, Phil decides to just go home, because if someone's going to follow or kill him he might as well be comfortable and in a place he knows well, and silently Bucky tails along. He still doesn't announce himself, even as Phil turns the key, opens the door, and walks in —

And then there's that click.

"Stop there, Agent," a familiar voice finally emanates from down the exterior hall. The erstwhile Winter Soldier materializes, appearing rapidly in the front door. He probably could have just popped up in the apartment himself — his eyes are keen enough to pick out addresses on cards in opened wallets — but that would be rather rude, and frankly overkill, under these circumstances. "I have a feeling you're gonna regret it if you move."

—-

Hearing someone say 'stop right there' is rarely good news either, and often there's about three seconds to decide if that means 'don't move cause something's going to kill you' or 'move right now because someone's going to kill you.' Fortunately, Phil recognizes the voice instantly, and makes the right choice, freezing in place. "You've got to be kidding me," he mutters, even though he still hasn't heard the click.

He doesn't turn to face Bucky, because that would mean moving. He instead freezes just like a kid playing Simon Says.

It also gives him a moment to chase the wideness from his eyes, because really, acknowledged or not, he remembers that day very well. It's an interesting bookend for him. On This Day in History 28 years ago, he heard this voice and it spared his life because he was too insignificant to kill. And today, he hears this voice and it probably saves his life because…he has just stepped on something, apparently.

He's still got the Trader Joes bag hanging dangling from his hand. It rustles a little as it swings, little Keurig box providing a counterweight.

His apartment is immaculate, but he chooses to say, "Sorry about the mess, Sergeant," by way of a joke; a way of acknowledging his visitor in an understated, mundane way. Besides, it rather works.

Any situation which constitutes regretting it if one moves when stepping into one's living room definitely constitutes a mess.

—-

It's a mark of trust that Phil Coulson chooses to take the 'stop there' at face value and freezes in place. That makes Bucky feel a little bit better about what happened twenty-eight years ago, and just about himself in general. Every time he sees Phil, it's a stark reminder of how much potential he's cut short over the years. How many people he's erased before they could reach their prime. If he had decided to just kill the kid he saw in Bucharest all those years ago, there would never have been the Agent Coulson standing before him now.

There's not really time for indulging feelings, though. Bucky is already moving into the apartment on light steps, circling around Phil, head turning as he listens and looks for other traps. "Pressure plate," he finally explains. "I have a feeling it's gonna be bad if you step off."

He circles around so he's standing in front of Phil. He folds his arms, frowning down at the floor. "If this is a mess, I'd hate to see what you consider clean," he says, though his mind is transparently elsewhere. Probably on listening for any ticking, or the buzz of wires that don't belong.

—-

Phil grimaces. The look on his face settles onto something grim and maybe even angry as he glances around the apartment. He's not a man much given to anger as a rule; he's not stone and he does have his moments, but neither is he a temperamental person. Still, this time someone has gotten a bit under his skin. His lips do twitch slightly when Bucky distractedly misses the joke entirely, or just chooses to ignore it.

He focuses on just relaxing, because he realizes he could be here for awhile, and remaining tense is going to make his body ache way too much way too fast. "I guess I should count myself lucky the jerk didn't rig up my toilet. That happened to one of my agents about 10 years ago. He retired early. Nobody blamed him."

Then he realizes he's speaking when Bucky is trying to listen, and he clamps his mouth shut. Some of that may be his version of nervous babble. It all sounds pretty even, but…joking is definitely how the Agent deals.

Once Phil hushes his mouth, Bucky will be able to pick out three long wire buzzes moving straight under the carpet towards one of Phil's speakers. He has very nice speakers and a decent home theatre system, for someone who is almost never home to use them. There are also some buzzing wires flowing to his left and his right beneath the carpet; his sensitive nose picks out that each of those leads to blocks of C4 tucked somewhere inside the wall.

Phil's habit of staying away from home probably worked against him…this bomb installation job probably would have taken a good day, maybe two, to complete, involving a slow process of prying up carpet, re-installing it as perfectly as possible, fitting things into walls, and so forth. Then again, his habit of staying away from home means this is no timed detonation job, and probably not a remote detonation job either, as timing it would have been ridiculously tricky.

The apartment's single exterior window firmly faces a brick wall in a narrow alley by Phil's own choice, sending someone to watch for the Agent's return given the interior hallway set up and residents who have lived there for years would have been an exercise in frustration. The detonation relies exclusively on the fact that the pressure plate was put somewhere the Agent would almost surely step on it, and then almost surely carelessly walk right back off of it again.

—-

Bucky certainly doesn't miss the double-meaning nature of the joke, though his way of responding is merely to acknowledge only one interpretation of Phil's words. To acknowledge the other would imply he finds Phil's predicament inconvenient or annoying, and that's not the kind of person he is anymore. Or ever truly was, for that matter.

He cocks an eye at Phil when he quips that at least they didn't rig his toilet. "Don't speak too soon," he says. "I ain't checked it yet."

Listening closely, however, does not suggest that the toilet is in any danger. Bucky gravitates immediately towards the

"Someone really hates you," Bucky concludes, as he moves towards the home theatre system — avoiding walking on the path of the wires — and inspects it, looking for any means to disarm the entire bomb installation. He thumbs over his shoulder in the direction of the C4. "That's a whole lot of C4. You ever go home?"

—-

'Don't speak too soon,' the super-soldier says, and Phil chuffs an uneasy laugh.

He watches as Bucky gravitates towards his home theatre system. He'll hear the buzzing cluster of wires inside the speaker that indicates a detonation device tucked in there. The bottom of the speaker was apparently removed to hide it, so it's not hard to get to.

"Sure I come home. Just not often. Last time was February 14th," Phil admits. "Had a fantastic steak, listened to the game, and went to bed early."

Valentine's Day. A day that just worked out great for so many people! Though apparently Phil's only bad luck that day was coming home by himself, which makes it a vast improvement over some people's holiday of love.

Once Bucky actually uncovers the detonator he'll see a looping, intensive design that's got markers of Russian bomb-makers. It's not a popular design anymore, since the popular ones almost all go on remote-detonator cell-phone triggers, but despite the older design it's nevertheless got plenty of markers for Bucky to see. Hell, he might have even made a few just like it.

He has questions for Bucky in return, but…he'll ask them after they're no longer in a life-or-death situation. He sweats just a little, a few lines of it running down his face and staining his perfectly pressed and starched white collar.

—-

Last time was February 14th. Bucky glances over his shoulder, then glances back towards the stereo system without making any comment. He's in the middle of the delicate process of opening up the speaker to expose the detonation device without setting it off, upon which he finds something… pretty much identical to a lot of mechanisms he's rigged in the past.

He sits back on his heels with an obvious look of dissatisfaction, though it's more due to the memories that conjures up than due to any difficulty with the actual bomb.

"Russian," he says eventually. "Old-school. I've made a bunch just like this. That stuff with Yakovleva going this well?"

He starts looking at wires. "I meant to do more with regard to that," he admits. "But I had a debt I had to pay."

He glances up briefly, mid-work, his hands pausing. "I was coming over to ask you something, actually. But it would probably be more natural to wait until you're not standing on a bomb." He looks back at the wires, resuming his work. "I feel I'd get a more natural response."

—-

"The son of a bitch looked like a woobie clear up until he revealed that he defected to the enemy side. I let him use my apartment in a gesture of trust," Phil says sourly. "So yeah. Real well."

He appreciates the tacit acknowledgement that they both know that Bucky paid Raisa Ivanova a little visit, even though he'd carefully tap-danced around that one in their meeting. It just kind of makes things simpler. A sort of 'yep' and 'yep'.

"Was that what took you into Germany?" he asks, deciding to go ahead and drop his own 'yep,' moment. "The debt?"

Bucky says he'll get a more natural response, and Phil chuckles. "I'd love to say that's not true, but you're not wrong. Still, I'm looking forward to a natural conversation just as soon as you're ready to have one." He's also looking forward to not being the literal pin in the grenade, so there's that too.

As he filters through the wires he might recognize the work of Gregoir Kuzmich. Kuzmich is fond of planting little decoys and traps in the wiring, he loves to mislead anyone who would like to disarm one of his bombs. He sells his work to the highest bidder, and whomever he sells it to gets the arm and disarm sequence. On the other hand, there are only a handful of ways to actually make the thing work in the first place, which means he's got a limited number of ways to try to fool people at all. Bucky might well have seen every single one of them at some point in his past.

—-

Bucky frowns as Phil speaks bitterly of 'that son of a bitch' defecting, though he doesn't take his eyes off his work. "Her husband?" he inquires, as he pulls wires carefully out of the way to identify the ones beneath. "Isn't that the way. It's always the ones closest. Especially in Russia."

He finally does look up when Phil inquires whether the debt took him into Germany. His blue eyes meet the other man's dead-on for half a moment, in a silent 'I see what you did there,' before he looks back down. "Yes," he says eventually, and offers nothing more unless prodded.

Now down to the wire (perhaps literally), Bucky tunes out everything else to focus on determining which wires are which. After a few moments, he thinks he has it, because — "Kuzmich, you motherfucker," he mumbles to himself, deft fingers filtering past the decoys as he recognizes them, one by one. "I should have taken your head off ten years ago. I had enough opportunities."

He starts pulling the wires he recognizes.

—-

Phil gives a little nod when Bucky asks about the husband. When Bucky gives him that dead-on look he merely gives the half-smile he so often gives. But he doesn't prod any more than that. Sometimes a little confirmation tells a man in his line of work a great deal, after all.

Besides. There's this bit where Bucky is pulling wires, and Phil mostly holds that smile like a dork who is trying to pretend not to be scared shitless, all without breathing. Some more sweat stains his collar, his face, and he just smiles and smiles, as his life depended on not dropping the expression, instead of merely not moving. He does note 'Kuzmich', as that might be important intel later, but it's almost noted in the same sort of way that led him to ask about Germany— the habit of a spook for whom observation and confirmation are as reflexive as breathing.

Bucky pulls wires he recognizes, and nothing blows up. There's no convenient lighting or anything to say the detonator is disarmed, but Bucky can hear the moment when the wire detaches from the blasting material, and knows the job for done. Everything else can be cleaned up with that particular problem handled. The pressure plate is no longer a threat, and any checks he might do to ensure there aren't any secondary detonation systems reveals that there are, in fact, none.

—-

Bucky gives no indication of whether he can tell that Phil is afraid. It's a sort of professional courtesy extended. Besides, he's busy focusing on not accidentally blowing up the guy he's going to need in a second.

Nothing does blow up, though. Bucky's skills and prodigious memory are rewarded. Letting out a breath he hadn't realized he himself was holding, he sits back on his heels again and looks at the entire thing bleakly. "You're gonna need some cleanup in here," he says. "But it's disengaged. You can step off that thing now."

His gaze turns wry. "We'll both probably be killed if I'm wrong, so I'm pretty sure."

He straightens back up to a stand, folding his arms over his chest. "You'll probably want a drink or something before we do anything else. Hell of a 'welcome home.'"

—-

It's a courtesy Phil really appreciates. It's harder to control fear when someone points it out, after all.

But when Bucky says he can move, he simply does, with no tentativeness. He trusts the man's abilities absolutely. If Bucky says the thing is disarmed, it's disarmed. And if he's wrong, well, they'll only know it for less than 20 seconds anyway.

Still, he does exhale when nothing happens. And yes, he goes right for the liquor cabinet, withdrawing two glasses. "Scotch?" he offers. He's not a big drinker, but there are definitely moments that call for it. This is absolutely one of them. "I have a few other things as well, let's see…"

He rummages around, having forgotten exactly what's in there. He does throw out any bottle that was already open though, without reservation, opting only to remove bottles that have the thick wax seal on them still 100% in place. In case of poison, waste good Scotch. "Vodka, Gin…"

—-

"Scotch is fine," Bucky says, still frowning at what's left of the detonator as if it personally offended him. "It's all just for flavor now anyway."

He cocks an eye at Phil as the other man throws out any already opened bottles. "Good plan," he says. "But let me drink whatever you pour first. Just to be safe." It's a rare poison that can affect either Steve or Bucky fast enough to harm them, and being that the target was Phil Coulson, likely they're not going to use those.

He does a quiet sweep of the rest of the apartment while Phil is de-poisoning his liquor cabinet. He figures the objective eye would probably be appreciated. There's nothing really of note to be found that he can perceive, and soon enough he returns to the front room.

"All right. Still kinda awkward," he says suddenly, "but less than if I were asking you for something while holding some live bomb wires. Whatever you do say to what I have to ask, I don't want you to say it cause of what I just did."

—-

Phil pours two glasses of Scotch. If he has any hesitation about letting Bucky be his taster, he doesn't show it. He pushes both over, even as he puts the bag with the Keurig box back on the counter. He'd dropped it behind the liquor cabinet without even thinking about it. He takes off his jacket and tie, and unbuttons the first few buttons of his shirt, then rolls up his sleeves. He's slowly relaxing with these little rituals, oddly reminiscent of Mr. Rogers in his little neighborhood.

"I'm listening," he assures Bucky, his face taking on a contemplative air. His hazel eyes meet Bucky's, ultimately compassionate and attentive.

He understands why the soldier is qualifying this. All the agitation, muted or not, of the past several moments drains away. It's clear that Bucky and his impending request are now the only things in his thoughts at all, the most important thing in his world right at this very moment.

—-

Bucky takes both glasses in turn, trying a sip from each before pushing one back towards Coulson. "Don't taste anything," he says. "Still a bit of a gamble, but then again it's hard to poison this stuff and redo the seal invisibly." He ought to know. He's tried a number of times.

Once Phil finishes some of his calming-down routine, Bucky finally broaches the subject he came to discuss. "The first thing I should probably do is… apologize," he says. "It seems to me you covered for me, so… sorry for the necessity of you doing so. I don't have much excuse save for the fact I found my sister." He drains his glass and puts it back on the table. The muted rage that comes and goes in his eyes is clear as day. "I missed her entire life."

He glances up at Phil. "I was able to find something from it, though. The location of the machine they used to wipe my mind over the years. I want to get it."

—-

Phil smiles a little; he hadn't even realized that Bucky would catch that bit of covering. He takes the Scotch and sips at it, trying to decide how to respond to it. In the end, though, what he says is, "Given what you've just said, I think your reaction was more than understandable. Messy, certainly, but…" he spreads his hands. It's not like Phil hasn't shot his share of HYDRA agents.

He takes a long sip of the Scotch and says, "Not that what I said during our dicussion that afternoon doesn't continue to stand."

He takes another sip and asks simply, "How may I help, Sergeant?"

The words are soft-spoken and hold no hesitation whatsoever. There is no indication whatsoever that Phil's answer would have been any different if they'd caught up at the Trader Joe's thirty minutes ago, instead of in Phil's rigged up apartment.

His eyes are absolutely steady. Nor does he assume how Bucky envisions him fitting into this: there are over a dozen ways he can think of that he might support this effort, but in this? Despite his nudges, lectures, and hints in the aforementioned discussion?

The man's own sense of integrity says the manner and shape of his participation is Bucky's call to make.

—-

Bucky doesn't take out HYDRA cells without monitoring the news later — both what actually runs on the TV and in papers, and what gets said in less official channels. He heard enough to put together a good guess why the investigation veered into talk of drugs gone sour, when there was very little evidence to actually suggest that other than the presence of a lot of guns, a lot of money, and a lot of dead people.

He doesn't say anything of it. His mouth only thins at the descriptor 'messy.'

Then Phil asks how he may help.

"Not bringing this to SHIELD would be a start," he begins slowly. "Which is a big ask. I get it. Maybe it's enough to say, 'not bringing all of SHIELD into it.' Peggy pointed out having some documentation on the machine might help for … proof." He glances at Coulson. "I gather you got pull, though, and it's probably gonna be that kind of pull needed to keep this from becoming another kind of international incident."

A wince comes and goes across his face. "The machine is in Siberia. In a HYDRA base with which I am well familiar. I have no intention of this being a loud operation, but I figure someone helping keep things quiet will lower the risk of shit blowing up."

It is a mark of tentatively-extended trust he's even proposing this at all, to someone who could blow that discretion wide open immediately. That much is clear.

—-

Phil is touched by the trust. The truth is, he doesn't often get it. People see the Suit and the Badge, not the man, and most immediately feel like he's out to get them. And the truth is, sometimes he even is.

He is quiet as he thinks about this.

"This is between you and I," he agrees, without hesitation. He doesn't comment on having pull; it's something that seems to him to be the most useful when he just sort of doesn't acknowledge it, when he merely uses it. In this case, it's the kind of authority that does give him the discretion to basically classify a mission pretty much to himself if he feels like it. Or himself, and Agent Carter, given the names mentioned so far.

"I can think of a few ways to keep it quiet and off the radar without compromising your ability to save the existence of this technology for a rainy day," he says at last, very much giving the nod to the fact that yes, the rainy day is coming without doing anything that might over-extend said pull. It's something even he can do. "Who do you envision on your team?"

Now the Scotch is forgotten. His eyes are sharp, keen.

—-

Bucky doesn't extend trust to many. But he has a feeling that someone who stuck their neck out for him a few times now… might be a good person to try.

Nonetheless, he's visibly tense and on edge as Coulson considers. It's a tension that doesn't abate until Phil agrees it's between the two of them — and presumably Peggy, since she's been brought up. He closes his eyes briefly, possibly to hide the relief. "I want to use it to remove any possible conditioning left in my head," he explains further. "Be kind of shitty if that got activated on the 'rainy day' I'm thinking is coming. Documentation on the machine itself would also be helpful…"

He seems to relax more as Phil says he can think of some ways to keep it all discreet. Who is he thinking of taking?

"People who know how to run a clandestine op," he says. "Or people with abilities that make 'clandestine' a whole lot easier. I don't want to piss off Russia. Steve and Peggy I've already talked to. Jane for her technical and engineering abilities. I have some mage consults who owe me a favor."

He tilts his head at Phil. "You, if you want. You were good twenty-eight years ago. I assume you've gotten better."

—-

"Zatara, and the British guy with no known address," Phil murmurs. "You should know that all of your known associates are finding their way into dossiers, Sergeant Barnes."

It's the kind of tidbit he really needs to know.

He starts a little, and smiles sheepishly, as Bucky, too, brings up the incident in Bucharest. "I had no idea you recognized me from that," he says. In retrospect, his performance was kind of goofy…he's got 20/20 hindsight to see all the flubs and fumbles he made. And yet it's still one of the most important days of his life. "That day changed my life. I was just a data tech back then."

He feels like he should tell Bucky 'thanks for not shooting me', but that's awfully fraught for any number of reasons that he can think of, so he just leaves it at that.

He also tries not to act like Bucky hasn't named quite a few members of his personal 'Dream Team', including the very man making the ask. "I would be happy to come. It makes things easier. I have suggestions that will help me keep this covered up, that will help us avoid anything which might create additional headaches for the Secretary of State."

But he waits for the go-ahead before giving them, still respectful of what all this must mean for the former Winter Soldier.

—-

Zatara and the British guy, Phil immediately concludes. Bucky sighs. "It was worth a shot," he says, though he doesn't seem terribly surprised. "Guess there was no way they were staying out of dossiers, especially with how… enthusiastic Zatanna gets about things." He heard about the 'I'M HERE TO TALK TO YOU ABOUT YOUR DEAD BEST FRIEND JAMES BUCHANAN BARNES' incident. "I'm sure they would prefer any kind of low profile that can be afforded them in this, however."

But then Bucky finally addresses the elephant in the room straight-up. That incident, half Coulson's life ago, that changed everything. He was just a data tech back then, Phil says.

"I noticed," Bucky says dryly. For a moment, his blue eyes flicker with the decades they've seen. It's surreal, seeing a man from your youth sit before you, unchanged and seemingly eternal, discussing that one time thirty years ago where he nearly killed you. "That's probably why I didn't bother. I wasn't authorized for random data techs." He tries and fails to smile. "Lucky for us all now."

He shakes the memory away. He doesn't seem to be looking for a 'thanks for not killing me,' because that's not really something you should have to THANK a man for. Instead he just laces his fingers in thought, completely unaware that Phil is being presented with his literal Dream Team lineup right now. "Anything you can think of," he prompts. "Last thing we need is Russia with a reason to up the pressure. A big movement from SHIELD is sure to do that."

—-

Phil gives a faint smile at Bucky not being authorized for random data techs. Here he'd thought the man was just being merciful, even as he started hearing the legends later. But hey, low rank saves life. He won't complain.

"First, I suggest everyone on the team be disguised as you and your Unknown Super Rich Associate with the Cars were in Germany," Phil says quietly. "Had that been done, you all would have passed over the radar, but too many of you weren't. Except me, for reasons I'll outline in a moment. I assume that was done with the help of the magic users."

He leans forward, folding his arms as he rests on the wet bar, drink utterly forgotten. "What I can do is basically create a 'mercenary consultant team.' I'm authorized to hire them and use them when situations are particularly delicate, when SHIELD wants to maximize our plausible deniability. You can name it. I honestly suggest we just put code numbers in the system, which is a thing. I can seal it so it is a team that only I am authorized to hire. As far as SHIELD is concerned, I will be going into Siberia with a hand-picked consultant mercenary team for 'vital intelligence gathering.' I will classify the entire thing to my level which…"

Here he clears his throat. "Well. Would mean that maybe 5 people could read about it after that, including myself, and the 5th is Fury."

While he's not big on promoting his 'clout', he is going to state it here because it means helping Bucky understand just how this is being kept off the radar. "If I am able to bring any intel that is not this disgusting machine back with me it would help, just in case that is audited; I'm sure there will be quite a bit more. It doesn't hurt, right now, that we're up to our necks in Russian problems; it might just look like it's all part of…"

He waves his hand at the disarmed bomb.

"Another nice advantage to this would be— and this is a matter I was going to delicately bring up with you later, but…"

Here he looks steadily at Bucky. "I promised you a way to legitimately get your revenge if you could help me help you with what's coming for you. This would be a great way to do it. The structure would already be in place. At that point, I could pass you intel, or you could dig up your own and pass it to me, I can effectively authorize anything you want to do with HYDRA on paper as one of my own operations, though it would often be better for me to be at least in the same area as any fires you plan on setting, and you could go do the work you're doing without creating additional problems. It would allow us to coordinate a little bit as well. I recognize this might not be entirely palatable to you because as much trust as you've extended tonight I am government, but…it is something I can offer, to put your efforts back on something like the side of the law."

—-

Merciful. If Bucky knew, he would laugh, but not with any humor. Mercy did not exist in the lexicon of the Winter Soldier. Only those he was authorized or not authorized to destroy.

Fortunate that he wasn't authorized to destroy Phil Coulson. The man has some good ideas, to which Bucky listens with the silent attentiveness of an old campaigner.

"That's the cover for SHIELD," he summarizes, at the conclusion of it. "It will work." He does not comment overtly on Phil's subtle revelation of just how much clout he does have, because that would be gauche, but he is impressed that the man can lockdown his operations at that high a level. "It would not be surprising for you to do it, as you said, given the current issues."

He frowns. "For the Russian end of it… I was able to glean that the HYDRA base is… where I was created as the Winter Soldier. They hid it beneath a Russian military base. It's sparsely staffed, but it's staffed. A small team of Russian Ground Forces officers and their adjuncts shouldn't raise too many brows, since that's the cover most HYDRA operatives use going in, and the military personnel seem aware of what they're guarding and who they should let through to the lower levels. I shouldn't have issues drafting the identities, though some help getting them to exist in the proper channels would be useful."

He tilts his head when Phil brings up another advantage, however — a more personal one. The promise he made to help Bucky legitimize his vengeance. Blue eyes consider Phil throughout his proposal, absorbing it, considering it, but clearly not yet ready to render a decision on it quite yet.

"We'll see," he says eventually, but it's not exactly a no.

—-

Phil doesn't push. He says, "I'll get to work on making all of these things exist as soon as I get into the office tomorrow morning." It has to be from the office; if he starts doing these things on his watch from home it could raise eyebrows. He has to make it all look air-tight and legitimate, and that means several hours of pulling up files that could somewhat have something to do with what they're going to be about, so that if anyone delves into his history the sudden decision to go into Siberia makes total and complete sense.

It really doesn't hurt that he was just outside St. Petersburg dealing with a flaming debacle just a few short days ago.

He finally remembers the Scotch and drains it absolutely dry, then puts it down once more. "I'll continue to look for ways to offer my support, Sergeant Barnes," he says solemnly. "I appreciate your willingness to come to me."

Pause. Beat.

"Does…Dr. Foster know, yet, that you planned on inviting me?"

—-

Bucky nods as Phil says he can start seeding all those false identities as soon as he gets to the office. "I'll send over what I have drafted," he says, because if anyone is going to have intimate knowledge of how to create believeable Russian identities, it's probably him. "Steve and Peggy are fully aware, so collaborating with them would also be pretty useful, I think."

He says this like he doesn't know what a gigantic dream this is for Phil Coulson.

His expression goes somber when Phil says he appreciates the willingness to come to him. "Life is a series of gambles," he replies, pensive. "But I thought this might be a reasonably safe one. Doveryai, no proveryai, da?" He smiles thinly. "As they say."

But there's the million dollar question. Does Jane know. "Yes," Bucky is surprisingly quick and frank to answer. "I think she can put aside any issues for long enough to see this through. She has a baffling tendency to trust my judgment."

—-

Phil isn't about to reveal that right now there is an 11-year old version of himself strutting around the inside of his head with sunglasses and a suit on, bobbing his head while some sort of appropriate Classic Rock Anthem designed to showcase just how AWESOME his life has just become begins playing in his head, framing his Strut of Justice down the Hallowed Halls of the Triskelion, where he shall soon Coordinate With Agent Carter and Captain America on Something Important, and then Go On A Mission with Them and Also James Barnes Like a Real Howling Commando.

That phrase— coordinate with Steve and Peggy— pretty well shoves everything out of his head. No, he'll just do the fist pump later, after Bucky leaves.

He remains utterly professional as he says with great eagerness, "I wouldn't dream of failing to coordinate with them. And of course I'll wait for you to send them over, that is of course exactly what I meant."

He clears his throat. The little boy might have slipped out just a little there. Awkward. Time to cover. He pours more Scotch.

Like a damn grown-up.

Dr. Foster who?

—-

If Bucky has any awareness of what is really going on behind the scenes with Phil Coulson, he doesn't let on. He probably honestly doesn't. He's not used to the idea of thinking of himself or Steve or Peggy as national heroes or anything like that. He died long before their names were set down as indelibly in history as they are today, and he hasn't really had time to adjust to how much they've entered the public lexicon since the close of the Second World War.

In his memory, Steve is still the skinny little scrapper who wanted to do so much more than his body would allow, and Peggy is still the sharp, confident lady he thought might someday help him with wrangling Steve, which was and still is definitely not any kind of one-man job. To him, the both of them are his best friends, and not Captain America and Agent Carter.

He has some inkling, though. It would be hard not to get some idea when Phil replies with such eagerness. And clarifies that yes that is exactly what he meant. Bucky blinks up at Phil at that, mildly bemused, before he just smiles and says a whole lot of nothing about it, instead pushing his glass back and standing up. "At any rate, you probably wanna call some people over, get this all cleaned up, have a chance to actually decompress. I won't keep you."

He pulls out his phone, checks it. He blends in well with the modern era already. "I'll be in touch," he offers, as he turns to take his leave.

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