On the day that Bucky Bear comes to live with Steve, he receives a very thorough introduction to the rest of the toys.
"These are my ground troops," Steve says solemnly to Bucky when they enter Steve's room, and Bucky supposes that the serious voice is appropriate, because the soldiers are lined up in very serious poses. He wonders if Steve leaves them like that all day long, and if they get tired of standing in the same position while Steve's in the room. He wonders if the soldiers pointing guns at each other like each other, and he wonders if Tommy and Jimmy would win in their current fight against Luke and Leia.
"This is the troops' fort," Steve continues when they come to a stack of blocks. Bucky waits until Steve's head is turned to smirk down at the blocks, because he knows that blocks are easy to offend and he knows that they hate not being thought of as proper toys.
The blocks scowl back at him, in the special kind of arrogant way that blocks always do, and Bucky knows that he is going to have a lot of fun taunting those poor, stupid blocks.
"The ground troops spend a lot of time at Fort Lehigh," Steve informs Bucky. "That was the name of Daddy's training camp before we moved. I liked it a lot, so I borrowed its name."
Steve lifts Bucky high into the air at that point, and Bucky wonders if he is going to be part of a game of fetch. He'd been part of a game of fetch before, at the last house, and he really hopes Steve doesn't want to play that game. Bucky will do almost anything for his human, but he hates playing fetch.
But no dog appears, and Steve keeps Bucky firmly in his grasp. "I didn't like moving much, but if Mommy hadn't gotten a better job here, I wouldn't have gotten you." Steve brings Bucky out of the air - thank goodness - and cuddles him close. "I still miss Peggy lots because she could lead the best battles, but it was worth moving to find you."
Bucky knows then that there aren't going to be any games of fetch with Steve.
"You've met the ground troops, but now you have to meet the special forces," Steve tells him, "That's the team you're part of, Bucky Bear."
Steve continues to hold him close as they climb into the bed and meet the other bears. Sure, there are a lot of bears, but Steve never lets go of Bucky as he introduces them. He also doesn't pick any of the other bears up during the introductions, which is how Bucky comes to realize that he is Steve's favorite.
"It won't last. It's just new toy shine," Sergeant Bear says gruffly once Steve is asleep, and Bucky is free to brag about his station. "We all had it once."
Steve's hand is still wrapped tightly around Bucky, so Bucky has to speak quietly. "Ha. Shows what you bears know. I'm not even a new toy at all."
Steve moves at the sound, but only to pull Bucky closer.
He's definitely Steve's favorite toy.
Ground troops sometimes leave the bedroom, but special forces don't.
"Ground troops don't always return," Sergeant Bear says to Bucky. "You take them out of here, they get lost and never return."
"It's true," General Bear acknowledges while Steve is eating breakfast. Steve has been eating breakfast forever, much longer than he usually does, but apparently, that is standard behavior for a Big Trip to the Playground Day.
It's Bucky's first Big Trip to the Playground Day, but he figures it makes sense. Steve is always eating, so it only makes sense that he's going to eat more on a Big Day.
"You see, new guy," Sergeant Bear says, leaning onto the bed's bars and looking out in the direction that Steve goes when he has to go eat with his mommy, "The ground troops are disposable."
The ground troops hear them, of course, and aren't happy about it.
"That's not true! Steve loves all of us!" Luke yells up at Sergeant Bear. It's very loud, and really, sometimes these guys act like they don't know that nobody is supposed to hear them.
"Steve does love all of us," Bucky agrees, even though Steve obviously loves some of them more than others - and by some of them, Bucky mostly means himself. "Steve's good to us. Stop saying that he doesn't love all of us."
These jerks don't know what it's like to live some place where the toys aren't loved. They don't know about fetch.
"If that's true," Sergeant Bear says in that nasty little voice he uses that Steve would never approve of, "then what happened to Han?"
There is a moment of silence following the name, and Bucky doesn't know why, because he doesn't know who Han is - or was, apparently.
"Before there was Luke, Han kept guard with me," Leia calls up, and she looks mad. Bucky's sure she's mad at Sergeant Bear, because unlike the other jerks, Leia's not stupid enough to be mad at Steve. "But then he went away. Steve was sad about it."
"But he still left a man behind," Sergeant Bear argues. "A ground soldier. He'd never do that to the special forces. That's why we don't leave the room."
"Han had a special mission!" Leia yells back, and it really is too loud, but Bucky is on the side of anyone who yells at Sergeant Bear, because that bear is a real jerk.
Besides, Steve would never leave a man behind, so what did this jerk even know?
"Sure, that's what Steve said. But missions end. How come Han's never has?" Sergeant Bear leans so far over the railing that Bucky thinks about giving him a good push. "Anyway, that's why only the ground troops are allowed to leave the bedroom. They're replaceable."
Bucky's mean thoughts are interrupted when Steve comes running into the room. "Mommy says I can take a toy to the playground!" he announces. "Just one, though."
He doesn't look around the room very long at all before Bucky feels himself being lifted up into Steve's arms again. "Normally, special forces are for bedtime," Steve tells Bucky. "Cause bedtime is an extra scary battle sometimes. But you don't mind taking an extra mission, do you, Bucky Bear?"
Of course he doesn't, and Steve grins at Bucky as though he's able to hear Bucky's reply. "We'll be back by lunch time, troops," Steve tells the rest of the toys.
Steve presses Bucky's face against his chest, but enough of Bucky's face is free to see the scowl on Sergeant Bear's face as they leave the room.
Bucky sticks out his tongue at Sergeant Bear, since Steve can't see his face.
Bucky doesn't feel very replaceable as Steve tucks him carefully into the seat next to him in his mommy's car. So much for special forces never leaving the bedroom! So much for toys leaving the bedroom being replaceable!
In fact, he's really sure that he is Steve's favorite toy.
Steve is very busy and he has lots of very important friends who aren't toys who help him on missions. So the toys know that sometimes, Steve is gone for a long time.
Not even Bucky's allowed to go on every mission.
(But he's allowed to go on more missions than Sergeant Bear, because Sergeant Bear is a jerk.)
"It's different this time," General Bear declares, after Steve has been gone for four whole supper times. "He was coughing pretty badly before he left. I think he might be sick."
General Bear likes to think that he knows everything, just because he's been with Steve since Steve's mommy brought them both home from the hospital. He's slightly less of a jerk than Sergeant Bear, but Bucky still doesn't care for him very much.
"Steve doesn't get sick," Luke points out from his spot on the floor. "He hasn't been sick the whole time I've been here."
"If he wasn't sick, he wouldn't have been coughing," Leia says reasonably.
"He was pretty sick with the chicken pox once," Jimmy mentions from his spot on the other side of Fort Lehigh. Jimmy is a terribly old-fashioned toy and never moves after Steve sets him down. He doesn't talk a lot, either. Bucky finds Jimmy terribly boring, but much, much more tolerable than Sergeant Bear.
Sometimes, when Steve is off with his other friends, Bucky climbs down and bothers the blocks and the ground troops. Jimmy is the only toy who doesn't think that's weird.
"Yeah, he threw up all over me then," Tommy remembers.
"That was forever ago," Luke grumbles.
"Humans get sick a lot," Bucky tells him.
"Steve doesn't," Sergeant Bear argues. "What type of favorite are you, if you don't know that?"
"What kind of toy are you that you don't know that humans stay home when they get sick?" Bucky demands.
"Not if they're very, very sick," General Bear says with a low, heavy sigh, and Bucky hates him at that moment, much more than he hates Sergeant Bear.
Steve can't be very, very sick. He just can't be.
"We don't know anything yet," One of the blocks that makes up Fort Lehigh says. It's the blue one with the chipped A, and Bucky thinks A might be the smartest block he's ever met.
"True, we don't. Steve might be gone because somebody else needs him," another block spoke up, this time a red F.
All of Steve's blocks are pretty smart, Bucky thinks, and hopeful too, which is even better.
Sergeant Bear looks like he's about to argue with the blocks when they hear Steve's mommy coming near the bedroom. They all fall back into place, and Bucky knows he's not the only one worrying because Steve still isn't with her.
"Okay," she says, when she enters the room. "Bucky Bear, where are you? Ah, right in the bed where he said you were."
Steve's mommy isn't as careful as Steve is when she carries him, and he has to ride for hours in a big bag full of her funny smelling toys, but she takes him to Steve anyway.
Steve is in a funny room that doesn't have any toys at all and he's still coughing way too much. But he sits up and reaches for Bucky the minute that his mommy frees Bucky from the weird bag of toys.
Bucky wishes he could return the hug that Steve gives him, even if it's the weakest hug that Steve's ever given before.
"Pneumonia is worse than chicken pox," Steve complains. He sounds tired, and doesn't talk much as his mommy tucks them both under the blankets.
"Feel better now that you have Bucky Bear, Stevie?" Steve's mommy asks.
"Can sleep now," Steve answers into Bucky's ear.
Bucky doesn't know what pneumonia is. But he does know that Steve doesn't want to be without him anymore than Bucky wants to be without Steve.
Bucky is really, really sure that he is Steve's favorite toy.
The first time that Bucky meets Pizza Dog Plushie, it's a Big Trip to the Playground Day and Pizza Dog Plushie is being carried by one of Steve's favorite human friends.
Bucky is somewhat of an authority on the subject of favorites, and he can tell these kind of things.
Clint is awfully suspicious for a boy, but Steve completely ignores the way that Clint stalks them forever before deciding to come over and play on the swings. Steve hops off his swing so that Clint can have a turn on the higher swing. Steve always invites Clint to come eat with them.
So, it's completely obvious that Steve likes Clint a lot.
Bucky's not wild about dogs at all, because they like to play fetch, but since Steve is obviously overly fond of Clint, Bucky decides that he will put up with the stuffed puppy that Clint carries in his backpack. Clint probably doesn't like fetch, and even if he does, Steve won't let him play fetch with Bucky.
That doesn't mean that Bucky has any intention of speaking to Pizza Dog Plushie. But while Clint and Steve are playing Frisbee and the Mommies are talking to Peter's Aunt, Pizza Dog Plushie takes advantage of the empty picnic blanket to speak to Bucky first.
"You can call me Lucky," he says to Bucky. "That's my other name."
"Why do you have two names?" Bucky asks. Toys only ever get one name. Humans are weird and have lots of names, but toys get one. That's how it works, unless you're a block and then you can be part of a fort.
"My tag just called me pizza dog," Pizza Dog Plushie explained. "I was a free gift when Clint's daddy ordered his twenty-fifth pizza from Carson's Amazing Pizza Parlor."
"Clint renamed you?" Bucky guesses. Sometimes humans do that. Tommy says that before he came to live with Steve, he used to be called Toro.
"Clint and Scott Summers got into a fight," Pizza Dog Plushie explains. "And Scott Summers ripped out my eye. Clint got me back before any other bad stuff could happen, though."
"Wow, Scott Summers sounds like an even bigger jerk than Sergeant Bear!" Bucky says, and he's almost impressed by that level of evil.
He bets Scott Summers plays fetch.
"Sometimes he's nice. But sometimes he is a mean bro," Pizza Dog Plushie says. "Anyway, Clint's Mommy didn't have the right kind of buttons to fix my eye, and she told Clint that we were lucky that I still had one good eye."
That sounds pretty harsh to Bucky, and he thinks of Steve's Mommy's funny smelling bag and the way she'd carried him to the funny room when Steve had been sick.
If mean old Scott Summers ever took Bucky's eye, Steve's Mommy would definitely fix Bucky's eye.
After all, Bucky is really, really, really sure that he is Steve's favorite toy.
The next time Bucky sees Pizza Dog Plushie, it's just after Scott Summers has been very naughty. Steve tells his mommy that he really needs a Big Trip to the Playground Day, and Bucky is pretty sure that has to be true. Getting Bucky back was a lot of work, but Steve is the very best soldier. Even Sergeant Bear has to admit that, after the Mission to Bring Bucky Home.
When they arrive at the playground, Pizza Dog is being carried by a little black-haired girl who is definitely not Clint. Bucky is confused by this, because he is very sure that Clint loves Pizza Dog a lot. He wouldn't just give Pizza Dog away.
Little black-haired girl offers Steve and Bucky some tea, and Steve reluctantly sits Bucky down next to Pizza Dog. Steve hasn't let go of Bucky much since the mission was successful, and Bucky is glad, because he'd missed Steve something awful.
"I brought you this," the little black haired girl says to Steve and she pulls a little ground trooper out of her pocket. He's dressed in the same kind of weird clothes that Luke and Leia wear.
"Han!" Steve says immediately, and he sounds so happy about it that Bucky can't help but want to punch Sergeant Bear again. That silly bear actually thinks that Steve doesn't miss Han.
"Eli thought you might need it more than him since Scott Summers was a jerk," the little black-haired girl says.
Steve's hands reach out and he takes Han in both hands. "Hello, Han. I've missed you," he says solemnly. Then he looks at the black-haired girl again. "Did Eli's grandpa get better? Or is he still sick?"
The little girl bites her lip and looks just as sad as Bucky had been the entire time he'd been stuck with Scott Summers. "No, he's still awful sick," she says. "Eli's really upset, and so his grandma."
Steve frowns. "Mister Bradley's really nice, too. He gave me my favorite pillow."
Bucky is not offended by this, because pillows are not toys. They can't even talk! So Bucky does not mind that Steve loves his shield pillow at all.
"He and Mrs. Bradley are the nicest. Mrs. Bradley makes real tea for our tea parties," the little black-haired girl says softly, and she reaches for Pizza Dog Plushie. That's good, Bucky thinks; she sounds like she needs a friend.
Steve gives Han the kind of hug that almost makes Bucky jealous. "I've missed you, Han, but it sounds like your mission isn't quite over yet, Soldier. Eli needs you more than I do, so you need to stay with him and keep him company." He hands Han back to the little black-haired girl and Bucky thinks that Han must be pretty special. No wonder the bedroom has a moment of silence when he's mentioned.
It's too bad he doesn't get to come home, Bucky thinks as the little black-haired girl takes Han, Pizza Dog Plushie, and her tea set away with her. Bucky's pretty sure Han would help him beat up Sergeant Bear a lot.
It's only after the little black-haired girl has gone that Steve picks Bucky up from his spot on the blanket. "I think I might be a little selfish," Steve whispers to Bucky. "I think it's sweet that Clint and Kate share Pizza Dog, and I'm glad that Han can help Eli while his grandpa is sick, but ... "
Steve squeezes Bucky so tight that Bucky thinks his stuffing might burst from his seams. But that's okay; it's the kind of hug that is worth it.
"But I could never share you the way Clint and Kate share Pizza Dog," Steve whispers. "And I could never, ever give you away, no matter how important the mission."
Steve's secret ends just as he catches sight of Sam waving a Frisbee at him, but that's okay, because the message has already been delivered loud and clear.
Bucky is really, really, really, really sure that he is Steve's favorite toy.