Summary: “Sometimes life has a way of pulling you to the right path, even if you don’t realize that’s what’s happening at the time…” Steve stumbles across someone who makes sense of the chaos his life has become and gives him new hope. Bella/Captain America. Complete in four parts.
Captain America timeline: Set after Steve awakens from the ice, but before (and then during) the first Avengers movie.
Twilight timeline: New Moon A/U, set a few years later. Bella knows about Victoria, but not the wolves. She never goes to Volterra and Edward never comes back.
Part One: The Diner
He wasn’t sure why he kept coming back. Walking the the new streets of the once familiar town – his town – and being confronted with unfamiliar buildings and people who could hardly be bothered to even nod an acknowledgment when you stopped them from walking into oncoming traffic, was a type of unique torture for Steve. A punishment he couldn’t help but deep down feel he deserved. He couldn’t help coming back to his hometown while he attempted to adjust to these strange new times, his heart yearning for something – just anything – familiar. Something from home.
You could take the kid outta Brooklyn, but not the Brooklyn outta the kid.
The ghost of his town was the bones of the city he was in, though. Familiar buildings and structures, but no longer occupied by the same businesses or families. Some had been broken down and built back up again, taller and brighter, replacing the old and obsolete.
He felt old and obsolete. And tired. So very tired, even though he’d been asleep – feared going back to sleep – for a long, long time.
Sighing, Steve turned down another street, squinting against the sun as he stared down the block. There – that’d been where the art school he’d been planning on attending had once been. After being denied by the Army so many times, he’d begun to plan his alternatives and had been preparing to apply right after Bucky left for his deployment. Instead, Dr. Erskine had found him – or rather, he’d found Dr. Erskine – and his life started out on the path that led him to where he was now. Seventy years in the future in a city that had once been his home, but now served to remind him of everything he’d lost.
There wasn’t an art school there now and he wondered when it’d gone – had they moved? Gone out of business? Had it happened during the war, or the years after?
In its stead was now a diner. When had that gotten there? It had the look of a newly renovated building, the colors bright even in the familiar architecture of the building that had housed his would-be school. In fact, the more he looked at the diner, the more familiar it seemed and his feet started moving towards it before he’d even made the decision to walk.
That’s all it said in a bright red neon light above a blue awning.
A soda shop, he thought suddenly. It looked like someone had taken a soda shop from his time and plucked it before him.
He entered with only mild hesitation.
The floor was tiled and there were deep red vinyl seats – a jukebox tucked into a corner. The bar was made out of a dark, solid dark wood and polished to a real shine. It had the look of real wood, too, not the fake particle board Steve kept encountering and breaking when he couldn’t quite manage to pull back his strength enough. So much of this new time was shiny, but cheap, he’d realised early on. Flimsy and fake.
Faintly, he heard the tickle of piano keys and a voice – a familiar voice – singing.
“Embrace me, my sweet embraceable you.
Embrace me, my irreplaceable you.
Just to look at you, my heart grows tipsy in me.
You and you alone, bring out the gypsy in me.”
Billie Holiday, he realized. He was listening to the familiar voice of Billie Holiday.
“Hello, welcome to The Diner. How many?”
Steve started. A hostess was standing by a podium, looking at him expectantly.
“Um, me. I mean, one. There’s just me.”
I’m all that’s left, he couldn’t help the thought.
She smiled, her eyes wandering over him in frank appreciation that he found both flattering and embarrassing. Mostly embarrassing.
“Right this way, party of one,” she winked, and Steve followed without thinking, his eyes taking in everything they could.
Black and white photos of musicians he and Bucky used to listen to – crooners, Buck used to call them – hung on the walls. His friend had been a bit of a crooner himself, not with music, but he’d certainly had a way with the ladies that’d have them eating out of his palm as surely as if he’d been a jazz crooner himself.
“Neat, huh?” the hostess asked as she took in how he was observing everything. Instantly, Steve looked down to hide his interest in the hauntingly familiar setting. “A little old fashioned for my tastes, but the photos are vintage. Really adds to the atmosphere.”
“Old fashioned. Right,” he muttered as he slid into the booth she brought him to.
She placed a menu down in front of him. “You’re server will be right with you. Enjoy your meal.”
As she walked away, an inviting sway to her hips he easily ignored, he looked around once more and lost himself in the atmosphere.
An older couple sat at a table across the room, their weathered hands gripping the other’s as they drank from the same milkshake with two straws. Despite himself, Steve smiled. He’d seen Bucky do that with a dame once, his eyes fixed on hers as she blushed prettily… Crooning to her without the need for music or even words…
Whatever this place was, he decided he liked it.
In another corner was a group of more modern kids. They were rambunctious, almost annoyingly so, and wore torn up jeans with studs and chains. One of the guys even had pink and green hair arranged into long, wicked looking spikes. Another one had a tattoo on the back of his neck – Steve’s keen eyesight making out the silhouette of a naked woman.
“Strange, isn’t it?” a quiet voice asked.
Once again, he startled and was instantly annoyed with himself. It wasn’t like him to be so distracted and unaware of his surroundings.
“Strange?” he asked, turning to the new voice, his eyes instantly widening as his stomach dive-bombed and then promptly rose back up into his throat.
She was beautiful. Heart-stoppingly so. She wore a simple but flattering blue dress with a white apron, and her hair was organized into elegant waves down her back – both of which combined made him think of Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. Except she was even more beautiful than Dorothy. There was a softness around her eyes, a relaxed air around her posture that made her warm and open. Approachable, he decided. She held all the beauty of the silver screen starlets of his day with the casual friendliness of any girl next door.
A distant part of him realized he was gaping at her and his hands jerked, knocking into the glass of water she had apparently sat down before him and spilling it everywhere.
Well done, putz, that distant part of him said, sounding oddly like Bucky.
“Oh gosh, I’m so sorry,” the girl – his waitress, he realized – said as if she’d been the klutz. She pulled a rag from her apron and started to mop up the mess.
Jolted into movement again, Steve grabbed a handful of napkins from the dispenser and went to help. “Oh no, please – it was my fault. I’m the one who’s sorry.”
“Well, no use crying over spilt milk, right?” she smiled, a blush sweeping her cheeks. “Or, err, water in this case.” She rolled her eyes at herself, but they were still kind when they focused back on Steve. “Let me take care of those napkins and this rag, and I’ll be back with a fresh glass for you.”
Thankfully, she grabbed the sopping wet napkins and bundled them up in her rag and was gone before he could embarrass himself further.
Unlike the hostess who sat him, Steve’s eyes were unerringly drawn to this girl as she walked away. There was no purposeful sway, just quick and sure steps that took her behind the counter as she grabbed a new glass to fill.
When she came back, she set the water down again and smiled. “There. I’m so sorry for startling you earlier.”
“Please, it was my fault,” he said again, staring up at her. He must have been a little too fixated because she blushed again and Steve couldn’t help the thought that it made her even more lovely.
“It must be your first time here – I know how distracting The Diner can be the first time in. A bit strange as you take it all in.”
“Yes, it’s all a bit strange,” he admitted. Though probably not for the reasons you had meant, he silently added.
“Frank – that’s the owner – really prides himself on the authenticity. He’s named after Sinatra and it shows,” she huffed a laugh. “But then you see regular folks come in – like that group you were looking at? With the mohawks and tattoos? Well, it just makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a world in between times, never completely in one decade or the other. Timeless.”
Steve smiled. What she was saying was more true than she could possibly know.
“Exactly,” he said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.”
She nodded knowingly. “Most places go the 5 & Diner route, more sock hop and ice cream social, than forties jazz diner. I prefer it here myself, but I suppose I’ve always been a bit old fashioned…” she trailed off and Steve felt his stomach threatening to choke him again.
“Anyway,” she shook her head, brown ringlets flying out and catching the dim diner light. “I’m sorry to keep you waiting – have you decided what you’d like to order?”
Steve smiled dumbly up at her for a moment too long before he remembered the menu in front of him that he’d ignored this whole time. “Oh,” he twitched, reaching out to it. “I was a bit too distracted, I’m afraid. I haven’t even looked at the menu.”
“That’s alright,” she said. “I could take you through a few of our special if you’d like?”
“Yes ma’am,” he said. “That’d be great.”
With the ease of one good at their job, she rattled off the specials, but then leaned forward afterwards. “But if you really want to know what I’d recommend,” she confided, “Then I’d say try the meat and potato patties. They may not be real fancy, but there’s a lot of flavor in them and they’re more authentic than the other meals. Hard to go wrong with meat and potatoes, anyway.”
“I remember those,” he smiled, and while he may have made the motions of the gesture a few times since awakening, he’d never felt he truly meant it until this very day. Until this diner and this woman. “Bucky’s mom used to make those for us, back when meat was scarce,” he said without thought to how odd it must have sounded. He didn’t look nearly old enough to remember the days of meat being rationed and purchased using hard to come by tokens.
“Lots of families who fell on hard times have their own variations of it,” she acknowledged. “My gran used to make it for my mom and me, back when she and my dad divorced and we moved back in with her and pop. Times were rough for a bit, but it’s sort of a comfort food for me now. And, well, you look like you could use a bit of comfort, if I may say,” she said, blushing once more. “I’m sorry, that’s really presumptuous of me. I shouldn’t have said it and-”
“I’m Steve,” he blurted out, sticking out a hand as he rudely cut her off before she could continue down the spiral of self-doubt she seemed inclined to sink into.
You’re just a regular Casanova, aren’t you? the Bucky voice chided again, sounding far too amused.
“I’m Bell- uh,” she coughed lightly. “Sorry. Belle. My name is Belle.” Then she reached out and slipped her soft, much smaller hand into his.
And for the first time since they’d pulled him up and out of the ice, Steve felt himself begin to thaw.
(A/N): Thank you for reading.