“Don’t worry, kid. We’re gonna get you to the doctor,” Bucky promises. Steve coughs a little harder and Bucky swears he can hear the kids’s chest rattle when he does. It scares the hell out of Bucky.
The pouring rain isn’t helping any, both young men are soaked to the bone and Bucky knows this is in no way helping Steve’s condition. They didn’t have the money to take the bus and get Steve medicine so they made the choice to walk to the doctor.
Steve shivers and coughs harder. Bucky looks around and makes a hasty decision.
“This way. It’s shorter.”
“The alley? *cough* Seriously?”
“Faster and partially covered, kid. Come on,” Bucky says guiding Steve into the dark alley.
“Short cut,” Steve grumbles and pulls his soaked jacket tighter. Bucky’s getting antsy. The alley is getting darker and Bucky is sure that there was supposed to be an offshoot that would have brought them at least a block closer to the doctor.
“What the shit,” Bucky growls. “Where the hell is Davene?”
“Buck,” Steve chokes.
“In a second, kid,” Bucky says dismissively as he turns back around and trots back the way they came looking for a missed side street.
“BUCK!” Steve’s voice is high pitched, raspy and his yell brings on a wave of fresh coughing.
“Jesus Christ, Steve! What?” Bucky demands, turning around. Steve is shaking, pointing at beacon of light that is expanding towards them at an impossible rate. Bucky is frozen for a moment, unsure what to do. Fight or flight instincts kick in and Bucky grabs Steve by the arm, yanks him backwards and then pulls him along behind him as they try to run from the glowing, growing light source.
But Steve can’t keep up. Bucky can hear him visibly wheezing, his cough shaking the kid’s entire body.
“Go!” Steve wheezes, pushing Bucky away.
“Not without you, kid!” Bucky snaps. He’s about to hoist Steve over his shoulder when the light behind them suddenly floods the entire alley, blinding them both. There’s an immense void of silence. Bucky is screaming, he knows he’s screaming, but there is no sound. It’s like there is no air but he can still breathe. He can see Steve curled into a ball, eyes clamped shut, hands pressed to his ears. He reaches for him, tries to pull his best friend to him…
Gage and Ella are watching Sarge the German Shepherd bounce around the wooded area behind the old farmhouse they share. It’s a blustery evening, the wind blowing through the trees, stripping them of their remaining leaves.
“Sarge! Come on!” Gage bellows over the wind. The dog looks back once before trouncing further into the woods, barking merrily at some random thing. Ella snickers as Sarge continues to bark and ignore Gage’s commands to come back.
Sarge’s barks change from playful to fierce and then he whines. Ella and Gage glance fearfully at each other before taking off after Sarge.
“Sarge! Sarge!” Gage yells as the two run faster. More barking. Gage and Ella race into a clearing where they skid to a stop, tumbling over each other. Sarge is barking at a glowing vortex of light, dancing back and forth in front of it. The vortex begins to pulse, a loud bass-like thrum coming from it, forcing Ella and Gage to cover their ears. Sarge barks and whines more. The thrum becomes deafening and then there’s a huge, blinding light and a shock wave sending Sarge skating backwards and blasting Gage and Ella onto the ground once more.
The noise stops and Sarge is barking happily. Gage and Ella chance to open their eyes.
Laying in front of Sarge are two young men wearing clothes from some long forgotten era. The dark haired one looks up and Ella and Gage gasp.
The younger man leans over onto his side and begins to choke and sputter. The dark haired one crawls to him and then looks pleadingly at Gage and Ella.
“Help him. Please. Please, please, help him,” the dark haired one pleads.
Bucky lands hard enough to knock the air out of his lungs. He’s dazed until he hears Steve coughing violently. Bucky comes out of his stupor and sees a dog bouncing around in front of him barking and trying to lick Steve’s face and his. He sees a man and a woman staring at he and Steve with the oddest of looks on their faces, both wearing clothes he’s never seen before, ever. Steve’s coughing gets worse and Bucky does the only thing he can -- he pleads for them to help.
“Please. He’s my friend. He’s really sick…”
This seems to snap them out of their trance. The woman comes forward first, kneels next to Steve and cradles his face in her hands. The man comes over next, sheds his coat and wraps it around Steve’s shoulders.
“I’m a nurse,” the woman says gently to Steve. “Try to relax. I know it hurts, I know you feel like you can’t breathe, but you have to try and relax.”
“Easy, Chief, easy,” the man says in almost the same gentle tone. “We need to get you two inside. I’m Gage. This is Ella.”
“James. He’s Steve,” Bucky says quickly. Steve is slowly easing up on the coughing. He’s focused on Ella which is seemingly what she wanted.
Ella and Gage give each other a look Bucky can’t read. He’s at their mercy though. Steve is sick and he has no idea where the hell they are or how they got here or how they’ll get back.
Gage and Bucky help Steve to his feet, Ella puts her arm around his waist and lets him lean on her.
“How’d you end up here, James? Sarge, shut up!” Gage barks. The dog huffs at Gage but obeys even though he’s still wagging his tail wildly and trying to lick Steve’s hands and Bucky’s hands while running around them.
“I don’t...I don’t know. There was a flash of light and this sound…”
“Like a bass going apeshit?” Gage asks.
“Bass?” Bucky questions as they walk. Steve starts to cough again.
“Easy, honey, easy. We’re going someplace warm, just hang on.” Ella’s voice is soft and soothing and has an almost immediate effect on Steve. Bucky puts his hand on Steve’s shoulder and gives it a gentle squeeze. Steve looks at Bucky and tries to give him a smile but it's forced and Bucky knows this.
The walk back is slow because Ella and Steve stop every few steps so Steve can cough and then try and catch his breath. Bucky is too worried about Steve to be concerned about anything else. All he can do is hope that Ella and Gage are the good people they seem to be and that Steve can get better.
Ella leads Steve and the others into the small farmhouse. Based on the looks she's been getting from Gage she's not the only one thinking that she recognizes these two strange men who appeared out of a goddamn vortex in the middle of the ass end of Nowhere, Pennsylvania.
The thin, sickly blonde starts into another coughing fit just as they get inside. Steve, his name is Steve according to the other man. Ella is desperately trying to combat the feeling -- the knowledge -- that she and Gage know these two and that they are in fact the precursors to the heroes they will become later on.
One of them at least.
Ella looks quickly over at James as she helps Steve into one of the dining room chairs. He's only concerned about Steve and rightfully so. Based on the sound of Steve's cough and the way his chest rattles he's got bronchitis if he's lucky. Pneumonia if he's not.
“You said you came through some light? Was it like a vortex?” Gage asks. Steve is nearly choking now, his face beet red as he tries to stop and breathe.
“Later, Gage,” Ella intervenes. “Do you have anything to help open his airways a little?” she asks quickly. Gage thinks for a split second before nodding his head and rushing from the room.
“Steve, Gage is getting you an emergency inhaler. I think. But I need to know if you’re allergic to anything.” Ella is scared that if this is who she thinks it is that one wrong move may kill the poor guy. He’s already in a weakened state without the bronchitis/pneumonia issue.
Steve shakes his head no, wheezing so hard he can’t talk. Ella glances at James for confirmation. He’s sheet white and scared but still manages to shake his head no.
Gage comes back with the emergency inhaler and helps Steve with it. Ella brushes Steve’s soft blonde hair from his brow and he looks pleadingly at her, blue eyes tearing at her heart. He’s feverish.
“Gage, they need clothes.”
“Yeah. James? Come with me, man. You two need to get out of those wet clothes.”
James doesn’t move.
“He’s going to be okay,” Ella promises. “Go with Gage so you guys can get warm, sweetheart.”
James furrows his brow and Ella sees Steve nod his head, sort of like a silent I’m okay type thing. James sighs and reluctantly follows Gage from the room.
“How are you feeling, honey?”
Steve blushes a little and smiles weakly.
“Rough,” he manages to reply. “Thank you.”
Ella nods her head slowly and takes a seat across from him.
“You’re a long way from home, I think,” she says gently.
Steve looks around, the fever starting to burn bright in his eyes now.
“I guess we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Ella smiles, certain that Steve’s making a joke while referencing a classic film.
“No, Dorothy, this sure as hell isn’t Kansas.” She laughs lightly and it makes him smile.
“Where…” His voice gives out completely.
“We’ll go over that later, honey. I want you and your buddy to get out of those clothes first,” she says as James and Gage come back into the room.
“Showers. You two can clean up, get warmed up, and we’ll figure shit out from there,” Gage states.
“Come on, kid, a hot shower should warm you back up,” James agrees. He places his hand on Steve’s shoulder and gives it a knowing squeeze. Steve looks up with tired eyes and nods his head.
“Think you can make it up the stairs okay, Steve?” Gage questions. Steve nods his head again. Gage glances quickly at Ella and then leads their two guests back upstairs.
Ella rubs the back of her neck and sighs. This isn’t real. This is absurd. This is…
“This is insane,” Gage mutters walking back into the room after a few minutes. “Do you know who they are?”
“I’m afraid to admit who I think they are.”
“Steve? James? Come on...they even look—“
“I know who they look like, Gage. I know what their names are. I just...Bucky and Steve? Cap and...how is this possible?” she asks.
Gage shakes his head.
“Don’t know. It has to be something with that fucked up wormhole or whatever that was we saw today. And their soaked to the bone. It hasn’t rained here in at least a week.”
“They’re also wearing clothes that went out of style in 1940 something. So either they’re really good actors…” Ella begins.
“Or they’re the real deal,” Gage finishes. “Steve’s not faking that illness, though. That shit is terrifyingly real.”
“He’s feverish. If I had to wager a guess he’s got bronchitis working its way to pneumonia. He needs a doctor.”
“And what do we tell them, Ell? They probably don’t know their social security numbers - if they even have them - they have no insurance, no home address...somebody starts asking questions and they answer them honestly it’ll get them both locked away in a nut house.”
“You’re suggesting we try and clear his issue up here? He needs antibiotics,” Ella protests.
“Listen,” Gage says quietly as he takes Steve’s seat, “Steve Rogers before he got the serum was deathly ill all the damn time. Not just asthma. We’re talking this guy had Scarlet Fever, he’s got heart issues...he’s got lots of issues, to be honest. The army didn’t just reject him because of asthma, he’s got a laundry list of ailments. Antibiotics may do him more harm than good. Especially our antibiotics in our time.”
“You’re convinced they’re…” Ella purses her lips.
“Pretty damn sure. And you see how Sarge took to them like a fly to shit. He’s not that sociable. Like you.”
“Oh piss off. I’m not the hermit, you are,” Ella grumbles. Gage grins.
“What do you want to do?” Gage asks after a moment.
“You’ve already made up your mind, Gage. Why ask me?”
“You live here, too.”
“We can’t throw them out, Gage. If they’re here there has to be a reason they’re here. Right?” Ella is looking for assurance that this isn’t something that’s going to end up with a case of the deads for them.
“That’s the theory.”
Steve and Bucky are in what Gage called the guest bedroom, stripping out of their soaked clothes. Steve shivers violently and nearly falls. Bucky grabs his arm and pushes him back towards the bed.
“What’s an inflatable mattress?” Steve asks, pulling free from Bucky’s grip. His voice cracks when he speaks making his throat hurt more.
“No idea, Steve.”
Steve shivers again and sighs. He’s cold and tired and just completely miserable right now.
“Shower. Come on.”
“We’re in our underwear and there’s a dame downstairs,” Steve protests.
“Gage said she’d stay put ‘til we come back down. Besides, I saw the way you looked at her,” Bucky teases. Steve can’t help the flush of color that rises on his face.
Bucky grins and the two head back to the bathroom.
“I’ll wait outside. You feel like you’re going to fall, you better yell for me, kid,” Bucky orders. Steve rolls his eyes and walks into the bathroom, closing Bucky out. It’s so much bigger than the one at their place. He follows the instructions Gage gave them about the shower and in a few minutes he’s scrubbing himself while being warmed by the heated water.
When he’s done he steps out and shivers. He grabs the super large towel and wraps it around himself in an effort to conserve some of the heat from the shower.
“Steve?” Bucky calls through the door.
Steve opens the door to find Bucky standing there, arms folded over his chest, glaring at him.
“Ma?” Bucky growls.
“Stop nagging,” Steve growls back. Bucky drags his hand down his face and shakes his head. He points to the guest bedroom and Steve trudges down the hall. He finishes drying off and puts on the clothes that Gage had given them. The clothes hang off of him in the most ridiculous way, but they’re warm and Steve is so grateful for that.
It isn’t long before Bucky comes back. He’s dressed in a few quick moments but Steve barely notices. He’s staring at the pillows on the bed wishing he could just lie down for a while.
“How are you feeling?” Bucky asks, sitting next to him.
“Tired. Very tired. Where the hell are we, Buck? Look at this stuff. This isn’t...she said we were a long way from home.”
“Yeah. I’m pretty sure we are. Gage asked about the light we saw. Maybe they saw it, too. I’m just thankful they’re nice. And she’s a dish.”
Steve chokes out a hoarse laugh.
Gage and Ella listen as the stairs creak indicating that the two guests are coming back downstairs. The walk into the room freshly showered and looking much warmer than they were a while ago.
“Better?” Gage asks. They nod their heads.
“Thank you,” James says genuinely.
“How do you feel, Steve?” Ella asks. He sits down across from her and she can see him blush just a little. James sits next to Steve so that the four of them are facing each other.
“I’m alright.” He’s lying and Ella can see right through him. She skews an eyebrow at him and he drops his eyes.
“No you’re not,” she says gently. “Are you warmer?”
They both nod their heads.
“Are you guys hungry?” She watches as they exchange glances.
“Yes, ma’am,” James answers.
“It’s Ella. Don’t ma’am me,” she jokes. He grins at her, his blue eyes shining. Definitely a ladies man, no doubt about it.
“Go light. Something that’ll fill them up quick and is warm,” Gage tells her.
“Oatmeal? Eggs?” She’s asking Steve and Bucky to see what they say.
“Oatmeal,” Bucky answers for them. Steve makes a horrible face at him. Ella hears Gage snicker.
“How about some hot tea with honey for you, Steve? To go with the oatmeal you don’t seem interested in,” Ella teases. Once again Steve blushes. He nods his head slowly. Ella heads to the kitchen.
She can hear Gage and James/Bucky talking about the vortex of light as she heats up the water for the oatmeal. Instant oatmeal. Maple and brown sugar. She laughs to herself. Did they have this in their time or was it that non-flavored slow cook stuff? Will they even eat this?
Ella puckers her lips as the tea kettle starts to whistle. She grabs a mug, drops a tea bag into it before filling it with hot water. While it steeps she grabs two bowls and empties some oatmeal into each bowl before adding more hot water. She stirs the contents, grabs the honey and dumps a good amount into the tea. She carefully carries everything out to the dining room. Bucky and Steve blink and Bucky leans down and sniffs the bowl.
“Did you add syrup?” he asks softly. Ella smiles.
“It’s instant. It comes pre flavored, maple and brown sugar…” Ella stops talking when the guys give her puzzled looks.
“Pre-flavored?” Bucky questions.
“How’s it taste?” Ella asks.
“Funny,” Steve rasps. Gage laughs when Bucky gives Steve a gentle nudge with his elbow.
“Like I was saying, this isn’t your timeline, guys. Or at least not your…” Gage motions with his hands like he’s looking for the words.
“All this stuff,” Bucky says looking around, “is nothing like home.”
Gage takes a long, deep breath and exhales slowly. Ella’s lips twitch. She knows what Gage is thinking. Do they admit that they know these two? How much is too much information?
“What year was it when you saw the light in the alley?” Gage asks.
“1940,” James/Bucky replies.
“It’s 2015 here.” Ella says this as calmly and gently as she can and the braces for Steve and Bucky’s reactions. Steve chokes on his tea and Bucky sits back in the chair and takes a deep breath.
“You’re kidding, right?” Steve asks as he wipes his mouth.
“No, she’s not. All this stuff that you’ve been eyeing suspiciously is all modern technology,” Gage explains. Bucky’s eyes widen.
“Modern...technology…” he muses.
“This is a version of your future,” Gage continues.
“What does that mean?” Bucky asks. Steve has given up and is just shaking his head in disbelief.
"It means that you're from a possible timeline from a parallel universe."
Bucky's head is swimming. The future? Is this guy serious? They can't be in the future. This is a joke. A sick one at that.
"No. No, this isn't...we can't be..." Bucky struggles to find the words to express the craziness of the situation. Ella and Gage exchange looks. Steve looks like he's about to pass out. What the hell is happening here?
"Look around you, sweetheart," Ella says in that same gentle voice that wooed Steve over earlier. "What do you see that's from your own time?"
Bucky looks around and goosebumps erupt on his skin. There is nothing here that he recognizes. The bowls she gave them, the mug she gave Steve, the nasty oatmeal, the way she and Gage are dressed...
"We need to get Steve in bed," Gage states. He and Ella are getting up from the table. Steve looks at Bucky and Bucky has to fight the rising panic he's feeling.
"Yeah. Alright," he agrees with much reluctance.
"I'll get the air mattress set up so if you want to stay up there with him you can," Gage offers. Bucky can only nod. Ella is helping Steve from the chair. The kid blushes furiously and she smiles, her hazel eyes sparkling when she does.
"Come on, honey, let's get you upstairs." She walks him slowly from the room and Bucky decides to follow. He needs to keep Steve in his sights or he may go insane.
As they pass through what Gage called the living room he sees more things that boggle his mind. Things he hadn't bothered to notice when they walked through here earlier. Things that scare him but also pique his curiosity to the point he trips over himself.
They head up the stairs and Ella helps Steve sit on the bed and then pulls the covers back. Again, Bucky sees things are not like he's used to. Steve crawls under the covers, rolls onto his side, and sighs shakily.
"You're okay, Steve. You're warm and safe. Gage's room is on the other side of the bathroom and mine is across the hall. If we aren't there check downstairs," she tells him. Bucky watches as she brushes Steve's hair from his face. He smiles weakly and closes his eyes.
"Right here, kid."
"Just checking," Steve mutters.
Gage comes in a moment later with a large bag. Bucky watches in stunned fascination as Gage and Ella set this thing up. It's like a balloon in the shape of a bed. Ella says she'll be right back and walks out of the room. Bucky can hear the soft sounds of Steve's labored breathing as the kid drifts deeper into sleep.
"Relax, man," Gage says quietly, "it's going to be okay. We're going to do all we can to make sure Steve gets better. And we'll try and figure out how the hell to get you guys home."
This last statement shocks Bucky. They aren't planning on keeping he and Steve like pets. They genuinely want to help and get them home.
"Thank you. I mean it. Thank you," Bucky says humbly. Ella comes in with her arms laden with blankets and a couple of pillows.
"It's still early and you're welcome to come back downstairs to get something else to eat or drink or just hang out and talk with us," she says as she dumps everything on the balloon bed and starts to shake out the blankets. "You're not confined up here. He needs sleep, though."
"I know he does. I just..." Bucky trails off. Gage pats him on the back.
"Stay up here. When you're ready come downstairs. We can talk more," Gage tells him. Bucky nods. Ella runs her hand down his arm and smiles sweetly at him then she and Gage exit the room.
Bucky sits on the balloon bed and looks around. He wanted a life of adventure, but this is a bit much.
Ella flops down on the couch and cracks her neck. Gage heads to the kitchen and comes back a few minutes later with double shots for them both. They down the shots and Gage takes the glasses back to the kitchen.
"What do you think?" He asks when he comes back into the living room.
"I don't know. This is either the most elaborate dream I've ever had or there is some really fucked up shit going on in the Marvel Universe."
"If you're dreaming then so am I and those two upstairs are having a damn nightmare," Gage states. Ella nods in agreement.
"I just...is it really them?" She asks, still trying to wrap her head around the situation.
"I took their soaked clothes to the basement to get them washed. I emptied their pockets. Buck's the only one who had any kind of I.D. on him. James Buchanan Barnes is what is said. If he's not the real deal he's a pretty goddamn good facsimile.
"Jesus Christ, Gage," Ella whispers, "we have them here. We can save Bucky --"
"No. Ella, no. We can't...you can't alter their timeline like that. It's a fixed point --"
"You don't know that!" She protests. Gage shushes her and points up the stairs.
"What are the odds that it's not? Look at the comics and look at the MCU. In both he gets taken by HYDRA, brainwashed, and turned into the Winter Soldier. None of that has changed. Do you think keeping them here will solve that?"
"Yes," Ella replies in defiance. "I do."
Gage shakes his head.
"You can't change their destinies. If you keep him you keep Steve. No Captain America means that in their universe HYDRA wins and then aliens invade and it just spirals out of control from there."
Ella isn't buying it.
"What the hell are they doing here then?!"
"Something must have happened. I can't explain it. You saw that light vortex just like I did. They saw it, too. Hell, Buck said they tried to run from it. Something brought them here and that something will want them back at some point."
Ella sits in silence, unwilling to accept the explanation Gage has given. They have a chance to save Bucky from a fate worse than death.
But deep down she knows he's right. Without Steve as Captain America, without Bucky getting captured, what happens to their world?
Bucky opens his eyes and blinks away the sleep fog. He must have fallen asleep. Steve's still out on the bed, now laying on his back, mouth hanging open as he struggles to breathe. Bucky shakes his head. He stands up quietly, covers Steve back up and creeps out of the room. He has questions. He needs answers.
The hall is dark, but towards the stairs he can see a soft glow. He can hear Ella and Gage talking but can't make out what they are saying. He slinks down the stairs and just as he gets to the bottom the last stair creaks and Ella and Gage look over at him. So much for the element of surprise.
"You okay, sweetheart? What's wrong?" Ella sounds worried, she looks worried. She glances up the stairs before focusing on Bucky again.
"I'm alright. He's still asleep. I just...I have so many questions...I don't know what the hell is happening..."
"Come here and sit. Gage'll get you something to drink and we can talk."
Bucky takes a seat on the couch next to Ella. The couch is comfortable and warm. She smiles at him and Bucky finds himself smiling back. She's nice. Pretty hazel eyes, long lashes, her hair's a little short for his liking but that must be the thing here.
"Whiskey," Gage says handing Bucky a glass, "I'm assuming you're old enough to drink?"
Bucky was about to take a sip and stops.
"I'm nineteen. I should be," Bucky says a little more coarsely than he'd meant to.
Gage and Ella pucker their lips. Ella starts to laugh.
"They didn't change the legal drinking age till the 80s I think," she says to Gage.
"Here, if a cop shows up you've been drinking NyQuil," Gage says flatly.
"What's Night Quill?"
"Never mind," Ella and Gage answer together.
"It's not important. What is important is getting Steve back on his feet," Ella explains. Bucky nods.
"Ask whatever you want, just try and keep an open mind about this," Gage tells him.
"We're as confused by this as you are," Ella says. She touches his left hand briefly and then slides away from him a little like she's embarrassed. Bucky unconsciously slides closer to her again and he sees Gage smirk at Ella.
"Who are you two?" He asks them finally.
"As in names? Or --"
"He's my best friend. We were practically raised together. I spent more time at his house with his family than I did my own," Ella explains quickly.
"Are you two...ya know...a couple?" Bucky asks. He blinks at the stupidity of the question given all the other shit that he wants to ask.
"No," they reply together.
"That would be like you and Steve dating," Gage states. This makes Ella burst out laughing.
"Shut up and get your head out of the damn gutter," Gage scolds her. Bucky watches Ella bite her bottom lip as she tries to stifle her giggling. He's not sure what the hell is so funny but she's damn cute when she laughs.
"But you two live together."
"We share this place. My grandmother left it to me when she passed, Ells needed a place to live and I needed help paying the taxes off on the property. We share the place. Doesn't mean we're dating, married, sexually involved --"
Bucky chokes on his drink.
"Gage, you jackass," Ella chides. She pats Bucky on the back till he's able to regain his composure.
"To answer your question, we live together but it's roommates as opposed to lovers. That's all there is to it," Gage laughs.
Bucky sits silently for a minute. There's a large rectangular thing that has dark, reflective glass.
"What is that?" He asks motioning towards it.
"A television. You had television in the 40s didn't you?" Gage asks.
"That's a television?" Bucky asks, disbelief coating his words.
"That's a TV. From our time. Not yours. Don't turn it on to impress him, Gage. Just stop." Ella's tone is one of warning instead of playful chiding now.
"How did we get here?" Bucky asks, deciding to change the subject lest Gage and Ella start to fight.
"That's what we'd like to know," Ella answers.
"It is. We're as lost as you on that, James," Gage agrees.
"Bucky. Call me Bucky."
This makes them both smile like they know that name fondly. It should scare him but it makes him feel more at ease instead. Like they're old friends now.
Bucky continues to ask questions and Gage and Ella take turns and do their best to answer. It's late by the time they all go to bed, Bucky having at least some of his questions answered.
Steve wakes up and panics when he doesn't recognize where the hell he is.
"Buck?" He rasps. His throat feels like it's on fire.
"Yeah." Bucky's response is groggy and thick, but Steve can tell he's close.
"Where the hell are we?"
"Safe. Go back to sleep."
"Are you kidding me?!"
"Goddammit," Bucky grouses. Steve can hear things being shifted around and then there's a sudden blinding light overhead.
"Serves you right," Bucky laughs as Steve shields his eyes.
"Go to hell."
"Where are we?" Steve asks again.
"What do you remember?"
Steve thinks long and hard for a few minutes. A bright light in the alley, a pretty dame, some guy, a dog...
He looks around, his eyes finally adjusting to the bright light.
"A girl, a guy and a dog," he answers.
"That's a start," Bucky says sitting on a floating bed of blankets. "But there's not much I'm going to be able to clear up, Steve."
Steve listens as Bucky goes over what happened while Steve was asleep, about Gage and Ella being like brother and sister, about how they found Sarge at the pound, how no one seems to know what brought he and Bucky here, that Ella is a nurse for babies at a hospital and Gage is something called an Emergency Medical Technician, and the best thing...
"Two thousand and fifteen?" Steve repeats dubiously.
"Yes. We somehow landed in the future."
"And you believe that shit?"
"Look around, Steve. Do you see anything from our time? From the last three decades?" Bucky asks. Steve looks around the room again trying desperately to find something that would disprove Bucky's story. He finds nothing.
"That's not possible," Steve grumbles, refusing to give into Bucky's story.
"Maybe not, but here we are."
Steve rubs at his throat. He’s so thirsty.
“Need a drink?” Bucky asks. Steve nods his head. Bucky motions for him to stay put and Steve glares at him. Bucky rolls his eyes and exits the room. Steve can hear him knocking lightly on a door and then soft voices. Bucky returns a few moments later.
“Ella’s getting you a drink.”
“You got her up?”
“It was either her or Gage. You want me to go get Gage for you?” Bucky taunts. Steve huffs at him and then coughs. There’s a soft tapping at the door.
“Guys?” Ella’s voice is soft as it comes through the door. Bucky opens the door for her.
“Hi, honey,” she says as she walks in. She’s got a large glass full of what Steve hopes is orange juice.
“Hi,” he rasps back and tries to smile. Dames don’t usually smile at him or look at him so this is a whole new experience for Steve.
She hands him the glass and sits gingerly on the edge of the bed. Steve takes the glass and drinks down the cold juice greedily.
“Do you want more?” She asks when he gulps down the last drop. Bucky is smirking at him.
“Yes, please,” Steve says sheepishly. She smiles knowingly and gets off the bed.
“Do you want anything, sweetheart?” The question is directed to Bucky.
“No thank you, Ella,” he replies softly. She gives him that same sweet smile she just gave Steve and leaves the room.
“She calls you sweetheart,” Steve teases. Bucky cocks an eyebrow at him.
“Yeah, okay, honey,” he retorts. Steve laughs a little.
Ella knocks lightly again on the door and then steps inside the room.
“How are you feeling?” She asks as she hands him the glass. Steve doesn’t drink it as fast as before.
“Better,” he says after taking a breath. She places her hand against his brow and tilts her head.
“You’re still a little feverish, but not like before. That long nap did you some good,” she says with a smile. Steve grins timidly.
“Thank you,” he says softly.
“It’s alright, honey,” Ella replies. She brushes his hair from his brow with the softest of touches. Steve starts to cough, ruining his blissful moment.
“Go get Gage up, Bucky, please.”
Bucky nods and leaves the room. Steve’s trying to stop coughing, but it hurts and every time he tries to take a breath it makes him cough more.
“Oh god, Steve,” she whispers. Gage and Bucky return a moment later.
“Shit. Let me get the inhaler,” Gage says quickly. He rushes from the room and returns a moment later with the same device he’d given Steve to use earlier. Steve uses the device and slowly his airways start to open up and the coughing subsides.
“He needs a nebulizer,” Ella says looking at Gage.
“I know, but we can’t medicate him…”
“Why? Why can’t you give him medicine?” Bucky demands angrily. Ella and Gage look forlornly at Bucky.
“We can’t, Buck. Our medicine is stronger and very different from yours and the dosages are different…it may do him more harm than good,” Ella tries to explain. Steve can see Bucky isn’t happy with that answer.
“Even if we could give him medicine without worrying about the side effects we can’t get to them,” Ella adds. “Here, in our time, access to medicine is strictly regulated and insanely expensive - even with health insurance. He needs to try and ride this out, Bucky. We’ll do our best to get him better, I promise.”
This seems to satiate Bucky if only just a bit. Steve offers Ella a small smile. He’s thankful that she’s nice, calm, pretty…
“Since I’m up I may as well go to the store,” Gage says rubbing his neck. “What do you think? Jewish penicillin?”
Ella nods her head in agreement.
“More juice, stick to the stuff that’s real, not that sugar shit you like.”
“Sugar shit,” Gage mutters. “What else?”
Ella looks over at Bucky and gives him a playful smile.
“Chocolate?” she asks. Steve laughs when Bucky’s face lights up.
“That’s a yes,” Gage chuckles.
“Get some better whiskey and real honey, too, Gage.”
“Yeah. That might help burn this fever out of him if nothing else,” Ella says thoughtfully. Steve can see she’s thinking hard about what they should get for he and Bucky. How will they repay her kindness and Gage’s? Steve has no idea, he just hopes he gets the chance to do so.
Ella hears Gage’s Jeep rumble into the gravel driveway. Sarge’s ears perk up and he rushes towards the door.
“Shh,” she hisses at Sarge. She finally convinced Bucky and Steve to try and go back to sleep and the last thing she wants is Sarge waking them up.
She heads outside to help Gage bring in the groceries and give him a heads up that the boys are sleeping.
“They’re asleep. Supposed to be anyway,” she says as she grabs some bags. Gage nods.
“I got them some clothes so they don’t have to keep wearing mine. I guessed as best I could. I got the stuff for soup and some other things I thought they’d eat. They look like meat and potato guys.”
“Why? Because you’re a meat and potato guy?” Ella jokes. Gage rolls his eyes.
“I have yet to read anything that says Cap is a vegan. And Barnes loves tacos.”
Gage cracks up laughing and then Ella gets the joke.
“You’re a goddamn pig,” she grumbles.
“Those two have been eyeing you up since they landed,” Gage continues. “Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed Steve blush every time you talk to him.”
“They’re kids, Gage.”
“Yeah, here and now they are. We’re older than they are.”
Gage and Ella stop and look at each other.
“They’re kids, Gage. They really are…Gage we can’t let them go back. We can’t let them get hurt…”
“Ella, we’ve been over this. They can’t stay. If they do it alters their universe which might alter ours or god knows what. It’s like pulling a loose thread on a sweater, it just starts to unravel the whole thing. We cannot keep them. They aren’t pets —“
“I never said they were,” she snaps, “but how can you just stand there and calmly tell me to let Bucky go through hell and Steve watch his best friend plummet —“
“Stop,” Gage says putting his hands on her shoulders and squeezing gently. “Stop. You know we can’t let them stay. This isn’t their world. Hell, this isn’t even their time. They have to do these things, Ells. We can’t protect them no matter how much we want to. And believe me, I want to save them as much as you do, but…we just can’t. We can’t alter their fates or destinies or whatever you want to call it. And what would they do if they stayed? They can’t get jobs, they have no insurance, no proper I.D., no money —“
“I can pick up extra shifts,” Ella argues. Gage shakes his head no.
“You can’t change their futures, Ella. Neither of us can. And whatever brought them here will most likely take them back.”
Ella sighs heavily. This is so fucking stupid. They have the chance to save Bucky from hell, maybe they’ll alter Steve’s future, but wouldn’t that be for the best? To let these two live their lives out in peace instead of the crazy bullshit they’re going to have to suffer?
“Ella, I get it. You want to save them. You want to keep them safe —“
“They’re just kids, Gage!”
“Yeah, because you being a whole three years older than Bucky makes you an adult,” Gage snorts.
“Listen, asshole, I’m more of an adult than you are.”
“I’m older,” Gage retorts.
“And so much less mature for your age group,” Ella fires back.
“Oohhh, is that how it’s gonna be today? Alright, hussy, just remember that the next time you want me to be your wingman on a goddamn date!”
“Oh fuck off!” Ella laughs. “Wingman my ass. The last time we went out you left me to go chase after some half dressed hooker giving blow jobs in the men’s room!”
Gage opens his mouth as if he’s going to contest this, thinks better of it and just shrugs.
“I like getting head. I’m a guy,” he says calmly.
“Fucking pig.” Ella laughs at Gage’s oinking noises as they head back into the house.
Bucky wakes up and looks over at Steve. He jumps when he sees Steve watching him.
“I hate when you do that.”
Steve shrugs and then coughs.
“You sound horrible, kid.”
“I feel it,” Steve wheezes. “I’m hungry.”
“Me too. Feel up to going downstairs to see Ella?”
Steve lights up. Bucky rolls off the bed and follows Steve out of the room and down the stairs.
“Hey! How are you feeling?” Gage asks upon seeing them enter the living room.
“Swell,” Steve wheezes and then coughs for added emphasis. Bucky can only shake his head. Gage gets up from the couch and grabs a very flimsy looking bag from the floor. Bucky and Steve take a seat on the couch.
“Ella, they’re up! Get them something to drink!” Gage yells.
“Yes, master!” comes the reply from the kitchen. Bucky can’t help but grin. She’s a pistol. Even Steve is smiling.
“Fucking smartass,” Gage grumbles. “I picked up some clothes for you two. Ella’s got them in the dryer now. I picked up some stuff to try and help you out, Steve. I don’t know if it’ll work, but we can try. Hopefully it doesn’t do more harm than good.”
Ella comes out of the kitchen carrying two large glasses. She smiles when she sees Bucky and Steve and they both smile back. She hands them the glasses and goes back to the kitchen.
“Thank you,” Bucky and Steve say in the same sheepish tone. Gage smiles a little and nods.
“Go see what she’s doing,” Gage teases when he sees Bucky and Steve looking in the direction of the kitchen. “If you ask her nicely she may make you something to eat.”
“Not that horrible oatmeal,” Steve mumbles. Gage laughs. Bucky elbows Steve in the ribs and gives him a harsh look. Steve shrugs and the two of them get up and head towards the kitchen.
Ella is at the counter and turns around when they come in.
“Yes, ma’am,” Bucky replies. She scowls at him and Steve rasps out a laugh.
“You get oatmeal,” she says flatly as she wipes her hands off, “Steve, what do you want?”
“Wait a minute, baby! I’m sorry!” Bucky apologizes quickly. Steve laughs harder and starts to cough.
“See what you did?” Ella taunts going to Steve and rubbing his back. Bucky grits his teeth and sighs. Steve is just eating this up.
“I’m just fucking with you, Bucky. It’s okay,” she laughs. She places her hand on Bucky’s cheek and smiles. Her hands are soft and warm and for a moment Bucky forgets how to breathe.
“So, what would you two like to eat?” she asks. “We’ve got eggs, cereal, I can make you pancakes, we’ve got cold cuts for sandwiches…I’m getting ready to make chicken noodle soup for us for later.”
Both men beam at her. Home cooked meals from a pretty dame. Hot damn.
“Eggs?” Steve asks.
“Sure. How do you like them?”
“Out of the shell,” Steve retorts.
“Cooked,” Bucky adds. He sees Ella lick her teeth and then she laughs.
“Alright, assholes, alright. Out of the shell and cooked. Any other requests?”
Bucky and Steve glance at each other. Steve rubs his throat and Ella takes his glass, fills it up with more orange juice, and hands it back to him.
“Scrambled is fine,” Bucky answers for them both. She nods.
“Go sit down in the living room, guys, I’ll let you know when they’re ready,” Ella tells them. They begrudgingly leave the kitchen and go back to the living room.
Gage is playing on some small device that fits in his hand. He puts it aside as soon as he sees them.
“I found some movies from your time we can watch, guys.”
“Our time,” Steve grumbles and sighs.
“Focus on getting better, Steve,” Gage tells him. “Whatever brought you here will take you back.”
“You sound sure of this,” Bucky says, not sure if he should believe Gage or not.
“Mostly sure. Pretty sure. Look, things like this...like what we all saw before you arrived are anomalies. Something is out of whack and at some point once it’s fixed you two will be back in your own time. That’s the theory, at least.”
“If we don’t? If it doesn’t fix itself?” Bucky continues. Gage thinks about this for a few moments.
“You can stay here with us. That’s the only other solution.”
Bucky rubs his temples and then looks over at Steve. His coughing is under control. He’s not feverish really. Maybe being here is for the best for them. At least for now. And there’s Ella. Bucky’s heart starts to beat a little faster and he glances towards the kitchen. He can hear the distinct sound of eggs sizzling in a skillet. He looks over at Steve and sees Steve looking dreamily into the kitchen, his eyes almost glassy from being sick, a stupid smile on the kid’s face.
“What?” Steve asks, snapping out of his stupor. Gage starts to laugh. Bucky fights the urge to torment Steve and simply shakes his head.
Ella finishes plating the eggs and rubs her eyes. She spent all night talking to Gage about Bucky and Steve and she’s exhausted. She called the hospital, pulled a few strings, and managed to take her vacation time off to stay here with Bucky and Steve. She’s still combating the feeling that she should tell them about their future, warn them of what’s to come, but Gage is adamant that she keep quiet. And he has a point. Telling them what she thinks their future will be could very well alter what happens to them. Steve may never get the serum and as Gage so bluntly put it “he won’t live to see his 30th birthday if he doesn’t meet Erskine” . That thought chilled Ella to the bone. Telling Bucky what happens to him...Ella shudders. She would protect these two with her life if she could.
Ella shrieks and jumps, nearly knocking the plates onto the floor.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Steve rasps rushing over to her. He gingerly puts his hand on her arm like he’s scared she’s going to withdraw from him in disgust.
“You startled me,” she tells him, smiling warmly and putting her hand on his cheek. He leans into her touch and closes his eyes for a moment. Gage says the last woman who showed Steve any compassion was his mother. He’s starved for attention.
“I’m sorry,” he says again, opening his eyes slowly and lifting his face from her hand. “Just wanted to see if you needed help.”
“I’m good. Breakfast is ready -“
“What’d you do, punk?” Bucky asks as he walks into the kitchen followed by Gage.
Ella looks at Gage who is smirking.
“Right,” Bucky antagonizes. Steve glares at him.
“That’s enough, boys,” Gage says trying to keep a straight face. “Go eat.”
“You guys want toast?” Ella asks as she hands them their plates.
“Yes, please,” Bucky replies and smiles. Fucking charmer.
“Steve?” she calls as she grabs the bread.
“No, but you can make me eggs,” Gage replies. Ella turns around slowly to give Gage a menacing look.
“Oooohhhh!” both Steve and Bucky sing. This only makes Gage laugh.
“Make your own goddamn eggs.”
“That’s why you don’t have a man. You’re pissy,” Gage retorts as he grabs the eggs. Steve and Bucky are shoveling eggs in their mouth and watching Ella and Steve.
“I’m pissy because assholes like you demand complete servitude,” Ella fires back.
“A woman’s place is in the kitchen. Right, guys? Back me up here,” Gage says throwing more fuel on the fire. Bucky chokes on a mouthful of eggs and Steve is wild eyed, shaking his head no.
“Fucking asshole. Look what you did,” Ella chides Gage. She gets Bucky a drink so he can wash down his eggs.
“Me? You serve them!”
“Pfft. You’re soft on them,” Gage persists, like they aren’t there anymore. Ella sees both Bucky and Steve light up and a light blush cover their cheeks. She looks away and over at Gage.
“Are you done?” she hisses. “What the hell?”
Gage shrugs and grins stupidly at her.
“Go sit down before you fall down,” Gage orders the guys. They obey, like small children. As soon as they leave the kitchen Ella punches Gage in the arm. Hard.
“What. The. Fuck.” she growls.
“Calm down. I’m just fucking with them. And you. They’re fascinated with you and we both know Steve’s never had a girl pay him any kind of attention before. Don’t get your panties in a wad,” Gage says flatly. He breaks a few eggs into the skillet and tilts his head as they sizzle.
“I hope they burn,” Ella mutters. She grabs another glass and the orange juice and brings it out to the dining room for Steve and Bucky.
The past few days have been a blur to Steve. Between sleeping, eating, and sleeping some more he’s only been partially aware of what’s going on. What he is aware of is Ella. Her pretty hazel eyes, pink lips, the little dimple she gets when she really smiles, the way she laughs, how she doesn’t take any shit from Gage and fires back the most obscene shit Steve’s ever heard…
“What are you smiling about?” Bucky asks. He’s laying on the ballon bed, hands behind his head, looking at Steve.
“Me, too. Dame like that wouldn’t last a day in our time. She’d have goons all over her.”
“Yeah. She’s a great gal. Why isn’t she married?” Steve wonders out loud. Bucky sighs.
“Don’t know, kid. Things are very different here. I’d snap her up in a heartbeat if I could.”
“You’d get her, too,” Steve mumbles, the sickening feeling of jealousy rising like bile in the back of his throat. Bucky turns over on his side and looks up at him.
“She dotes on you, Steve. Don’t think for a second you don’t have a chance with her.”
“That’s here,” Steve gripes. Bucky rolls over onto his back again.
“Maybe,” Steve repeats. “She dotes on you, too, you shithead.”
This makes Bucky grin. He likes Ella as much as Steve does and as far as Steve’s concerned he doesn’t stand a chance against Bucky.
“She likes us both, Steve.”
This makes Steve take pause. It’s like his brain just hit a brick wall.
Bucky rolls onto his side again.
“You see her doting on me. I see her doting on you. She likes us both.” Bucky’s answer is simple and matter of fact. Like this is the only logical explanation for everything.
“She can’t have us both...that’s not...we don’t even belong here!” Steve argues. Bucky’s eyes widen.
“No shit we don’t belong here and who says she can’t have us both? Whose rule is that? Remember the Crawleys?” Bucky asks. Steve groans. He remembers them alright.
“The husband, the wife and the three mistresses he kept in the other apartment,” Steve answers.
“And that was in our time. Things are probably different here. Lots of things are different here,” Bucky muses. Steve shakes his head. Bucky’s fascination with all things new and technological is insane. How many of Stark’s conventions has Bucky dragged him to just to see what the mad man made? Steve’s lost count.
Steve drops his weary head onto the pillow. Ella washed the sheets on both the beds in here today and they smell...perfumy. Something fake that makes his nose itch. Nothing like how she smells. Soft and warm and sweet and inviting.
There’s a soft knock at the door. Both men sit up quickly.
“It’s just me,” Ella calls. “Can I come in?”
“Yes,” they answer together. Steve can’t help how eager he sounds. The door opens and Ella walks in wearing her usual tank top and what she calls yoda pants. They look ridiculous on her, but that tank top...his heart races and his balls throb each time he sees her in one.
“Just checking on you two. Do you need anything before I go to bed?”
“Steve wants a kiss goodnight,” Bucky says with a laugh. Steve’s jaw drops and he can feel his face turn beet red. Ella rolls her eyes at Bucky.
“He does or you do, smartass?” she asks. Now it’s Bucky’s turn to get red in the face and this makes Steve laugh.
“Jerk,” Steve taunts. Bucky flips him off and Ella laughs.
“Such horrible little boys,” Ella teases. Steve and Bucky both take offense to this.
“We’re not boys,” Steve tells her firmly.
“We can show you just how big we are, baby,” Bucky adds. Ella’s not phased, just skews an eyebrow at them and smirks.
“Uh huh. A kiss? For each of you? Is that what you want?” she asks. Bucky huffs at her and slides under the blankets on the ballon bed. He’s not used to being brushed off by a dame. Steve laughs harder until he starts to cough. Ella sits on the edge of the bed and rubs his back until he stops. It feels amazing to Steve.
“Want a drink?” she asks. He shakes his head no. She gets up from the bed and before Steve can blink she’s kissed him gently on the cheek.
“Goodnight, Steve,” she says with a smile. Steve can only look at her in amazement. She then kicks the ballon bed playfully which earns her a growl from Bucky. Steve starts to laugh again.
“You want a kiss goodnight or not, grumpy pants?” Ella demands. Bucky throws the covers off and huffs at her again. Steve’s near tears he’s laughing so hard. Seeing Bucky have trouble with a dame is a damn riot.
“Grumpy pants,” Bucky mumbles. Ella sits on the balloon bed next to Bucky and smiles playfully.
“Grumpy pants. Are you over your temper tantrum?”
The look on Bucky’s face makes Steve howl laughter and then cough and laugh and cough some more.
“Shut up, punk,” Bucky grouses.
“Steve, seriously, calm down,” Ella tells him. She’s struggling to keep a straight face and that only makes it worse for Steve. He bites down on the inside of his cheek to try and stifle his laughter.
“I’m not grumpy,” Steve hears Bucky mutter. He watches as Ella runs her fingers through his hair and then kisses him on the cheek.
“You’re cute when you’re angry,” she teases. Steve loses it and starts laughing out loud again.
“Alright, baby doll, alright. Is this how it’s gonna be?” Bucky asks. Steve sees Ella tilt her head just a bit.
“Just stating a fact,” she says softly. “And I’m fucking with you, Bucky. That’s all. Don’t take offense to it.”
Bucky smiles and Steve sees just how deep Bucky is with Ella. It’s as deep as Steve is.
“I know, baby. Thank you for the kiss.”
“Goodnight, guys.” Ella stands up from the balloon bed, stretches, waves at them and then leaves.
“Think she’d have us both, Buck?” Steve asks absently staring at the door.
“If there’s a heaven that would be it, kid.”