The only thing Fury tells him, is that he's supposed to retrieve an idol from a temple cave deep in enemy territory and that it's high priority. Steve, wisely, doesn't ask more questions about the how and why of SHIELD's information, he just gets out his notebook and starts a list of all the things he's going to need. As always Bucky is at the top of the list.
“Captain,” Fury says slowly. “You need to understand that returning this idol to us is crucial. We've been looking for it for the past few months and now we finally have a chance to get it before it falls into the wrong hands.”
He nods. With him being the kind of hush-hush field operative he is these days it's rare that anyone actually addressees him by his rank and when it happens it usually means that someone is going to pull rank on him. It's nothing new. He takes it in stride and makes a mental note to go through all the information again as soon as he's far away from any supervision.
“I'm the best at what I do,” he declares confidently and meets Fury's eyes. He dares him without words to give him stricter orders that he can go and ignore in the field. Steve isn't the best soldier in the field because he follows orders to the letter; he's the best because he can think for himself, because he can blend in and vanish if he has to, because he operates on his own without even checking in for month on end, because the supersoldier serum is giving him an edge. “I hope you don't mind me asking why SHIELD would be looking for an ancient gold idol in a temple cave.”
“Because,” Fury says slowly, “it's not an idol at all.”
There is an ominous pause.
“What is it then?”
“A weapon that may win this war. A possible asset. Just get it, Rogers. Destroy it if you have to.”
* * *
Bucky just frowns at him when he tells him where they are going. “To do what?”
“Retrieve some ancient tech.”
“Ancient tech?” Bucky isn't impressed. “Who does he think we are? Tony Stark and his marvelous band of adventuring sidekicks?”
“That's what I said,” Steve told him with a grin. “It sounds like something right out of Marvels, doesn't it?”
“It doesn't sound real for sure.”
They chuckled, both having fond memories of some of the outrageous adventures from the Marvels pulps and got on with their preparations, sharing details about their favorite Tony Stark adventures.
* * *
“This really is like Marvels!” His friend sounded delighted.
“Not before we don't acquire a robot. Remember the last one? That had a robot.”
“Battle armor,” Bucky said gleefully. “I think it was technically battle armor.”
That conversation pops into his head as soon as his eyes fall back onto the little gold statue. He's seen a bad picture of it before, a scrawly sketch. It only now occurs to him that is doesn't look like a unshapely representation of a mighty god or warrior. He's been told it's supposed to be technology, but apart from the shape he can't see how this lump of gold is supposed to be anything of the kind. It looks like a golden miniature robot.
He remembers that he's not supposed to touch it, supposedly because that might activate the weapon and kill him. Keeping that in mind he takes out the coarse sack he brought with him to bag it and just swoops it up without touching it. He can hear voices and footsteps getting closer behind himself and grins. That'll be the protectors of this muddy place of religious fervor.
Time to run.
This really is like a Marvels adventure story more than his usual war heroics. He likes it. If only Tony Stark were here to see it. He'd be proud.
It all goes downhill from there – much like it would for his Marvels hero. He nearly loses his treasure, soldiers shooting at his head while he tries to get to the little waterplane. Bucky has already started up the motor, ready to go. As he climbs in, the craft already moving, bullets buzzing around him, his clothes wet and his fit slipping, the sack tears and without thinking he grabs after the artifact before it can fall and pulls it up with him into the craft, falls back out of the way of the next bullets. The little waterplane is moving already. He can feel the pull, when it starts to rise.
Still the strange puffing sound comes as some surprise, but it's not the weirdest thing about it. A startled scream nearly escapes him when suddenly he finds his lap full of... very naked, handsome man. Blue eyes are blinking down at him in answering surprise, then a grin forms on the handsome face and Steve thinks he has seen the face before.
“That was quite the escape,” the man says, arms braced on either side of Steve's head, holding him up. “Quite the adventure, huh?”
Tony Stark. Naked, alive, real Tony Stark right out of Marvels. Very naked. On top of him.
He must be poisoned, because he touched that idol thing. This can't be real. He's hallucinating.
“What the hell, Steve?” Bucky calls from the cockpit. “I tell you to date and find a warm body to warm your nights for five years straight and this is when you decide to listen to me?”
Stark grins at Bucky, then back down at Steve. “I gather you're single? Because technically I think you're my knight in shining armor now...”
This is how he meets Tony Stark, saving him no less. It's not the end of it.
* * *
Fury is unhappy with the whole mess, but apparently satisfied with the fact that Stark did not end up back in a German prison or - even worse - secret lab. The man himself is glad to be able to move around again and he is grateful enough. Apparently Bucky and Steve will make the next Marvels cover, although Fury insists that Steve can not be identified as the man who goes by the call sign Captain America. It doesn't matter to him, because getting mentioned in there as Steve Rogers is much more exciting.
Surprisingly that's not the only reward he gets, Steve thinks and grins at the ceiling of his campy London hotel room. Tony Stark, once again naked, is stretched out beside him, fast asleep.
He could get used to this.