A/N: This is kind of a long story if you're not in both the iCarly and HTR fandoms on Tumblr, but here's a quick rundown: the running headcanon is that Stevie is the daughter of Sam and Freddie, and at one point goes back in time to try and get her parents back together. (Kind of a BTTF-esque thing going on. Except Freddie doesn't fall in love with her. Because no.) There's a lot of extra headcanon that goes along with this. This fic falls into that "extra" area.
"I'm here to see Samantha Bens- Puckett."
The nurse at the front counter frowns, looks down at the sheet of paper in front of her. "I'm sorry, there's nobody here by that name."
"What are you talking about? I know she's here, look, I need to see her-"
"She was here," the nurse cuts in. "However, Ms. Puckett's mother checked her out yesterday."
Stevie swears under her breath. She'd gotten the wrong day. How on earth did she manage to get the wrong day? It must be more finicky than she realized at first, this time travel thing. Sighing, she brushes a lock of hair out of her face. Now what? If she had gone back too far that would be one thing, but not going back far enough… this was going to be harder to fix.
The sound of her name in a time where no one knows her (because she doesn't even exist, yet) makes her whirl around. There's a man standing behind her, tall, all limbs and nervous energy. She's never seen him before in her life - but then, to be fair, where she is right now isn't exactly "her life." Still, there's something familiar about him she can't put her finger on.
"I'm sorry, I don't know you," she says, shaking her head.
"No, you don't," he agrees. "Not yet."
It's hard to tell whether it's meant to be an awkward attempt at a pickup line or just a statement of fact. Stevie sincerely hopes it's the latter. She's only sixteen.
"Right." She motions awkwardly toward the door. "Well. I'm just going to get going then."
"I'm from the future," the man blurts out. Stevie gapes at him. Normally, she would think he was absolutely off his rocker, but here, now, it was too much of a coincidence for her to immediately write him off as a nutcase. "Like you," he adds.
"Miss, is he bothering you?"
Startled, Stevie looks over her shoulder at the nurse. "No, no, not at all," she says. She grabs the man by the arm and steers him away. "Let's you and I talk somewhere."
It's hard to get much information out of him other than his name (Caleb), at least at first. His attention wanders and he keeps alternating back and forth between talking about things like "neutronium cotton" and "ionized quadrizine" and pointing at patients and telling Stevie in a too-loud voice about their futures. Judging by the glares sent their way, this is an activity most of the other patients are not fond of.
They sit at a table outside in the courtyard. It's January and bitterly cold in Seattle and Stevie wishes she'd brought a warmer jacket, but this is the best place not to be overheard. If one of the nurses or guards heard her, she might wind up with a room here, and while one would think she had all the time in the world it didn't quite work like that.
She spends a few minutes staring at him, trying to figure out which of her brothers he looks most like. To be honest, he doesn't look much like anyone in her family at all. The hair color is right, but the features are all wrong. She can't shake the feeling that she had earlier, though - that he looks familiar somehow.
"It's good to see you again, Aunt Stevie," Caleb says. "It's been a while. You were much older the last time I saw you, but I suppose that makes sense."
"When was the last time you saw me, Caleb?"
"Right before I left twenty-seventy-seven."
She does some quick math in her head. Yikes. That would put her up over fifty years old. (She hopes she's aged gracefully.) That would also put Caleb in his mid to late twenties, and while she's never been a good judge of age that seems about right to her.
It's a mark of how insane her life has become, she supposes, that she's not even questioning this.
It's not until later, when he's in the middle of telling her about his experiments with deuterium psuedospheres, that she realizes who he reminds her of.
"Caleb," she interrupts, leaning forward, "what's your last name?"
He blinks, looking astonished that she'd even need to ask. "Baxter."
Nelson's last name.
The entire thing is so bizarre, so completely unbelievable that she bursts into uncontrollable giggles. Because really, when you go back in time and wind up meeting the son of one of your best friends who has also gone back in time, what else is there to do but laugh?
"You do that too?" Caleb asks, sounding relieved.
"So how is Uncle Zander?"
Stevie chokes on nothing but air, flails one arm wildly while she uses the other to pound herself in the chest. It's suddenly ridiculously hard to breathe.
"What?" she manages to spit out, finally, once her airway is clear.
"Oh," says Caleb, sounding contrite, "has that not happened yet?"
"Has what not happened yet?" she demands, head spinning. She forces herself to take a couple deep breaths. He could have meant anything by that. He's been calling her "Aunt Stevie" all day; maybe it's the same with all of Gravity 5. She hopes so, actually, likes the idea that they all stay close even after they graduate.
"Nothing." Caleb's eyes shift from side to side as he says it. The word is far too innocent coming from someone who seems to take particular delight in telling everyone their future, and she's not buying it, not really. But she lets herself, because the alternative is thinking about Zander in a way she's not sure she's ready to think about Zander. It's easier, at least for now, to pretend she doesn't know why she likes it when their hands brush in the hall or why she always feels like she can just sit and do nothing but watch him play guitar for hours.
"What are you doing here, anyway?" Stevie asks. It's getting late, and the lower the sun sinks the colder she gets. It's getting difficult to speak around her shivers.
Caleb shakes his head, frowns. "It was an accident. You know how finicky time travel can be."
"Then again," Caleb says, sounding thoughtful, "I wonder. If it's finicky or just very particular."
Stevie gives him a look, confused. "What do you mean?"
"You think you're here on accident as well, right? That you got here too late?" Stevie nods again. "Well," Caleb continues, "perhaps neither of us is here on accident. Perhaps the time travel is smarter than we are. In a manner of speaking, of course. Cosmic threads can't exactly be intelligent. No brain or other mental processing organs to speak of. But they seem to be able to manipulate things to the best possible outcome."
"But my parents-"
Caleb cuts her off. "I took care of it. Couldn't let my favorite aunt cease to exist, could I? I'd be stuck with my mother's sisters otherwise, and her side of the family is a little genetically lacking in the intelligence department." He sighs. "For now, at least, your parents are fine. I think your concerns lie a little later than right now."
"But then, why am I here?" Stevie wonders aloud. If Caleb already took care of things, and if time travel knew better than she did, why would it drop her here, where there was nothing to be done?
Caleb looks at her for a long, long time. "I think you know," he says finally.
When she eventually makes it home she can't meet Zander's eyes for a week.