Aw, thanks. Sorry this is so late and a little off prompt, but here you go.
“Come help me with the kids,” Laura tells Bucky over the phone when he worriedly asks her what the hell he’s going to do tomorrow night for Halloween. He’s barely made peace with the doorbell when the UPS man brings them packages, and that only happens once a week or so. He knows he won’t be able to bear sitting in the townhouse and listening to the bell ring over and over again.
“But shouldn’t I help Steve?” Bucky asks tentatively.
Steve shakes his head violently from across the table, then quickly returns his attention to his newspaper Sudoku and pretending he isn’t eavesdropping.
“He’ll be fine to hand out the candy on his own,” Laura assures him. “He’s good with gloves and masks. Tell him tongs are a good option, too.”
“Oh.” Bucky momentarily tucks the phone against his chest and looks to Steve. “She says to use tongs.”
“Huh.” Steve cocks his head and nods. “Didn’t think of that. Sounds good, tough. Very safe.”
“Anyway, James,” Laura continues. Bucky quickly puts the phone back to his ear. “I have two little ones, and there’s only one of me. I’m driving them into town for trick-or-treating, so they don’t know where they’re going. And poor Lila’s a black cat this year, so she’ll need extra help crossing the street…”
“Ok…” Bucky looks up to Steve again, who this time is nodding. “Uh, sure. Should I come to your house, or…?” He’s trying to be polite, even though he has no way to get there on his own.
“How about Clint picks you up on his way home from work?”
“It’s settled.” Bucky can practically hear Laura’s smile.
When the next morning dawns, Bucky wakes with an aching head and throbbing sinuses. He buries his face into Steve’s shoulder, burrowing against him as if that might take away some of the discomfort.
“Hey,” Steve murmurs sleepily. He wraps his arms around Bucky, then stretches his neck to peer at the clock on the bedside table. “Five minute cuddle. Then I have to get ready for work.”
“You got some words in there?”
Bucky shakes head into Steve’s collarbone, which hurts.
Steve seems to infer something isn’t quite right. He cups the back of Bucky’s neck with a soft and relatively cooler hand. “You’re kind of toasty. Feeling alright?”
“You don’t have to go tonight if you’re not,”Steve says. “We could put a sign on the door, stay in–”
“’M fine,” Bucky whispers, his voice further muffled by Steve’s t-shirt.
“I’m so sorry I got pulled for weekend duty. Especially today.”
“Not your fault.” Bucky lifts his head. “I’m really ok.”
No matter what he tells Steve, though, Bucky knows he really isn’t alright. After Steve leaves, he stays in bed until past noon, and not because he’s sad or lonely.
When he finally throws on jeans and a sweatshirt and heads downstairs, his head’s aching fit to burst, and. his stomach isn’t feeling much better. He considers calling Laura, telling her he doesn’t feel well, and asking for a reprieve. Maybe asking her to come here to help him instead.
But no, he thinks. He agreed. He promised. He has to follow through.
A double dose of Dayquil is Bucky’s friend, then he decides to doze on the couch for a while. It turns out he sleeps until it’s time to leave for the farm, for his phone goes off and nearly scares him out of his skin.
“Hey, I’m outside,” Clint says once Bucky answers.
“Steve’s not home yet,” Bucky tells him, confused.
“Yeah, well. He follows the speed limit.” Clint laughs.
Bucky gathers up his jacket and heads out to the Rav-4 stalling in the driveway. “Hey,” he murmurs as he climbs inside. “Should I… let Steve know?”
“Already texted him,” Clint says with a grin. “We got you taken care of.”
Bucky sits quietly with his arm around his stomach for the entirety of the drive to Paris. He supposes he’s lucky that Clint doesn’t look at him too closely, but at the same time, he wishes his friend would drive a little more smoothly. He has to breathe deeply and gulp a few times as Clint skids to a stop in front of red lights.
“Here we are,” Clint finally says, turning up the bumpy driveway. “Home sweet home-away-from-home.”
“Mm,” Bucky agrees, though neither his head nor his stomach is taking the transition from tightly packed dirt road to loose gravel very well.
Bucky throws his door open as soon as they stop, but manages to swallow down the thick saliva pooling on the back of his tongue. He follows Clint up to the front door and waits patiently as he unlocks it.
“Kids might be a little excited,” Clint warns.
He’s right. No sooner does the door open than Bucky’s assaulted by a miniature Power Ranger and a waist-high black cat. “Uncle Bucky!” Lila shouts, throwing her arms around his leg.
“Um. Hi,” Bucky says, trying not to sound as uncomfortable as he feels.
Laura steps out of the kitchen and beams at him. “Hey, James.” She carefully peels her daughter away and directs her the television, where the Halloween episode of Charlie Brown is quietly playing. “Good to see you.”
“You too,” Bucky manages to choke out. His mouth is full of spit again, and this time, he isn’t sure if his body will let him send it back down his throat. He dips his chin as the taste of bile begins to creep over his back teeth.
“Are you ok?” A wrinkle of concern appears between Laura’s eyebrows. “You look–”
“I think–” Bucky starts. “I might– need to–” He cups his hand over his mouth.
Laura quickly takes him by the elbow and leads him into the hall bathroom. The toilet’s too far away, so Bucky leans over the sink and lets mucousy strings of sick slide up from his stomach, tinted orange from the dregs of liquid medicine.
He coughs and sputters, and Laura hands him a washcloth from a basket on the back of the toilet. Bucky scrubs it over his lips, then takes a deep, shaky breath.
“Clint didn’t traumatize you with his driving, did he?” Laura asks.
Bucky shakes his head. “I haven’t felt very good all day.”
“You didn’t have to come all the way out here,” Laura says, reaching up to feel his forehead. “I can manage trick-or-treating. I just really wanted you to come.”
“And I really wanted to come.”
Laura smiles. “Well, you’re here now. I’ll get you set up in the guest room to stay the night.”
“What about the kids?” Bucky asks. “It’s their night. I don’t want to ruin it.”
“They love it when you come, no matter how you’re feeling,” Laura answers. “I’ll take them out for a while, and Clint will stay with you. Then once the kids are in bed we’ll trade off. Ok?”
“Don’t want to be a burden…” Bucky suppresses a hiccup.
“You’re never a burden.” Laura gives his hand a squeeze. “You’re family.”