Note: A different twist on Captain America...I hope you all like it...Enjoy!
We were walking down the street towards the movie theater, swinging our joined hands between us. My best friend, James 'Bucky' Barnes, grabbed tighter and pulled me into his body before dipping me. I started laughing at his antics and continued while he pulled me back up and twirled me away.
"I am going to miss this, your odd things to make people laugh," I said, calming down.
"Just my odd things? You're not going to miss me?"
"Hmmm, maybe just a little," I replied, showing him how little with my thumb and forefinger.
The two of us continued on until we reached the alley entrance and heard a scuffle at the end. I exchanged a look with Bucky before running down the alley. A man, roughly the size of Bucky, was reaching back to punch someone in the face.
"You just don't know when to give up," he said.
"I could do this all day."
The punch landed across a small man's chin and I was angry.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" I yelled, reaching for the man's arm.
Rather than stopping, the man pushed me away and I collided with the brick wall behind me.
"You shouldn't have done that," I muttered.
"Hey, pick on someone your own size," Bucky said before landing a hard punch to the stranger's nose.
I heard the crunch of bone and had to smile. I dusted off my pants and shirt before looking over at the small man. Steve Rogers was my brother, well pseudo-brother. His parents took me in when I was 2 and we grew up together as family. Then we met Bucky and have been inseparable since, even with me being a girl. I walked over to Steve, using the man's stomach as a stepping stone, and checked out his chin. It would probably bruise because that's the type of guy Steve was.
Growing up, he was never the healthiest and his growth was stunted from all the illnesses. When our father passed away, money became even tighter and we occasionally went without food. So even at 24years old, Steve would never grow taller than his 5'4 height nor keep from having to look up at most people.
"Sometimes I think you like being punched."
"I had him on the ropes," Steve chuckled.
"How did it go?" I asked.
The rejection showed in his blue eyes but he pulled out the enlistment form and handed it to Bucky. I pulled my brother in for a hug and told him it would be fine. I settled myself in the middle of our little trio and took their arms. Bucky was talking to Steve about something to do with Paramus while my mind kept running through jobs Steve could do for the war effort without enlisting. I knew his heart was set on joining the Army, like Dad, but with how small he was and his medical history, he was never going to be approved.
"You get your orders?"
"Sergeant James Barnes. I ship out tomorrow morning for England."
"Last night before our trio becomes a duo. We should do something fun. I know. Come on, Steve. Let's get cleaned up," I said.
"Why? Where are we going?"
"To the future," I cried, before pulling the boys down the street in the direction of our small apartment.
Bucky and Steve were waiting on me to finish getting ready. I cast a last look in the mirror. Since I usually never wear anything but pants, I chose a dress that had belonged to Mom. It was a green A-line dress with a stand-up collar, mini lapels and a subtle belt. The bodice was tighter than what I was accustomed to but wearable for the evening. I curled my red hair and pulled it back with barrettes. Plain black stockings and black T-strap heels rounded out my ensemble. I didn't bother with makeup except for some lip stain.
"Josephine Mary Rogers! I do not want to spend my last night stuck in this apartment," Bucky yelled from the front room.
Taking a breath, I grabbed the doorknob and twisted. The boys weren't even looking in my directions when I stepped out. Bucky was still in his uniform but Steve had changed into a white button up shirt, a striped tie, brown pants and his gray jacket.
The looks on their faces were priceless. Bucky's jaw was actually hanging open and Steve was smiling. He walked over and hugged me. With my heels, he was neatly tucked under my chin.
"You look great, Jo."
"Thanks, Steve. So do you."
The World Exposition of Tomorrow had gathered a large crowd and it was hard to get through at times. Steve and Bucky were walking behind me and I caught snippets of their conversation. Even though it has been the three of us for over a decade, there were some things that only they could talk to each other about and girls were one of them.
I didn't need to stop to know that Bucky had set a date for himself tonight and that usually meant trying to set Steve up as well. While my brother had a heart of gold, most girls couldn't look past his size. There was even one time when we were in school that I decked a girl for what she said about him. Bucky high-fived me when he found out while Steve lectured me. Neither of us stood for bullies but he also believed in not hitting a girl. I had shrugged my shoulders and told him a girl hitting another girl was a fair fight.
Stepping off to the side, I watched the four of them walk towards the stage for Howard Stark's presentation. The girl standing beside Steve didn't look too thrilled to be there and would glance over at Bucky. I clenched my fist for a moment before calming down. There was no reason to get angry since it didn't look like Steve was interested. I smiled when I saw him offering the girl some of his peanuts because he always tried to look after others first. His blue eyes strayed back to where I was standing and met my green eyes for a second. I kept an eye on him as he slipped away from Bucky and the girls to head to the Recruitment office behind me.
"I understand your need to join, Steve, but you're only tormenting yourself. We can figure out another way to help out."
"Come on, you're kind of missing the point of a double date. We're taking the girls dancing," Bucky said as he joined us.
"Did you forget about me, Buck? I'm the odd woman out or were you hoping I'd go dancing with some random solider?" I snorted in laughter.
"You go ahead. I'll catch up with you."
"You really going to do this again? You've been stamped 4-F every single time. Listen to Jo and find another way to be part of this war because there is no way you'll be doing it on the front lines."
"I'm not going to sit in some factory, Buck, while other men are putting their lives on the line. I got no right to do any less than them. That's what you don't understand. This isn't about me."
"Yeah right, 'cause you don't have anything to prove."
Steve and I have had this talk a few times over the past year and I understood where he was coming from. I would have joined the Army if I had been a boy, because there was never going to be a time when they allowed women to join up. I glanced at the girls and I could see they were getting impatient.
"Hey, Barnes. Are we going dancing?" his date called out.
Bucky swivelled around and smiled at the girls.
"Of course we are," he replied before facing us again. "Don't do anything stupid until I get back."
"How can he? You're taking all the stupid with you," I joked.
Bucky hugged us before running down to the girls. I turned towards my brother, straightened out his hair and tie before smiling.
"Let's get you in line. I know how much you want this so I'll wait with my fingers crossed."
It wasn't long before Steve was taken back. I walked around the front entrance looking at all the different posters and reading the pamphlets with my fingers crossed. Steve came out of a curtained area talking to an older man in a wool jacket. Stepping closer, I strained to hear what they were talking about.
"Maybe what we need now is a little guy. I can only offer you a chance," the man said, his accent speaking of being a foreigner.
"I'll take it."
"Good. Where is the little guy from?"
"Brooklyn," I gushed, running over to Steve.
The man gave me the once over before Steve spoke up and introduced me as his sister.
"Congratulations, soldier," the man said as he stamped Steve's paperwork 1-A.
To celebrate, Steve and I went out for dinner. It wasn't anything fancy because of the rationing but still filling enough. He had to report at Camp Lehigh in the morning for boot camp so we headed home afterwards for him to pack. Since the Army would be supplying him with regulation clothes, he didn't need to take much but there were a few things I made sure he took with him, such as a few photos and Dad's pocket watch. His books on military strategy and tactics took up most of the room.
For a few hours while he slept, I stood in his doorway watching him. He and Bucky were the only people I had left in my life. I have no records of who my birth father is and my birth mother died in a fire. Then I lost Dad five years later. Mom died from TB just after Steve graduated from high school. Luckily he was old enough to keep me out of foster care since I was only 16years old. When that car picked him up in the morning, I would be alone for the first time in my life and I was scared. Stepping into his room, I smoothed back his hair and kissed his forehead.
"I love you, Steve. Please come back to me."
For the first time since Mom died, I knelt beside my bed and prayed. I prayed to God for my brother and Bucky to survive the war and to come back to me. The night crawled along but I couldn't sleep, my mind thinking about what could happen. An hour before Steve was to get up, I pulled myself from bed and started on making him a decent breakfast. His response at seeing all the food was to lecture me. The amount of rations I would get after he left would be half so he believed I should have saved it.
"This might be the last homemade meal you have. If you success, you'll be stuck eating Army food for the rest of the war and besides I don't each much. The rations I get will be enough and I can always purchase more on the side."
"No. I don't want you to deal with those thugs. Save your money. I can't believe there are people out there selling food at such high prices. And some of that food isn't edible. Mrs. Johnson on the first floor became sick from eating meat she purchased from those thugs."
"Steve, I love that you are looking out for me but I will be fine. I have my job to keep me busy."
And when I am not at work, I'll be sitting at home worrying about you, I thought.
We finished off breakfast just in time. Steve gave me one last hug and a kiss on the forehead. It was something Mom would do and we both picked up on the habit. My eyes watched as he got in and the car pulled away from the curb. Once it was out of sight, I turned on my heel and headed to work.
Ironically, my job was to sew the Army fatigues. It was a monotonous job. I started a year ago sewing jackets and am still sewing jackets. I could do the job half asleep with my eyes shut. The time did give me an opportunity for my mind to wander and in a second, I was sitting up straighter smirking because of the idea I had. The hard part wasn't stealing a set of fatigues but waiting until the end of my shift to do it.
Running home, I tried them on and only had to alter the waist. I tossed them and all of my dark pants into a bag. I had a few dark shirts but had to rummage through Steve's things for more. I added undergarments and socks before heading to the kitchen. I packed what I could for food and supplies. The apartment seemed empty, almost hollow. We had to move after Mom died to a smaller apartment and sold most of the furniture and non-essential things. Mementos of our parents were the only things we kept and I had Mom's wedding ring while Steve had the watch.
A quick stop at the neighbours to say goodbye was the last thing I did before leaving. I offered them the rest of the food in exchange for watching the place while I was gone.