Avengers-Sousa Thompson

Agent Carter fic: Quid Pro Quo

One more to go after this ...

(This one was terribly fun to write. I guess we all know how much I hate writing gratuitous h/c.)

Title: Quid Pro Quo
Fandom: Agent Carter
Pairing: Peggy/Daniel in the background
Word Count: 2900
Summary: Five times Jack and Daniel ended up in the hospital, through the years.
Crossposted: http://archiveofourown.org/works/7130462


1. 1946

Jack didn't stop by to see Sousa in the hospital after the Midnight Oil incident. It wasn't precisely that he wanted to make sure he didn't go for round 2 versus the Sousa Rage Monster; it was really more that he just didn't think of it. Or see any reason why he should. It wasn't like Sousa needed someone to hold his hand (and besides, Carter was there for that purpose in any case). And Jack really wasn't the hand-holding type.

Still, a knot in his stomach that he hadn't even realized was there untied itself after Agent Ramirez took the call from Carter letting the office know that Sousa was going to be all right. It felt unexpectedly good, a few hours later, to see him walk (or limp) into the SSR bullpen, with Carter shadowing him somewhat more closely than necessary. The stuff was supposed to be lethal, but it looked like that bullet in the war wasn't the only time Sousa had managed to hand Fate its ass.

Tougher than he looked, that one.





2. 1947

Finding Peggy and Sousa by his bed when Jack woke up from surgery was a surprise. It was mostly a pleasant surprise, although he was too drugged and out of it to really appreciate it; the warm feeling was tempered by humiliation that people he worked with, people who worked under him, were going to see him while he was flat on his back, out of his head half the time with medication and barely-damped pain, and too weak to even sit up without needing help.

But the really surprising thing was that they just kept coming back. Individually or together, they came at least a couple times a day, to talk over new developments in the case or just sit with him. It didn't seem to matter if he was irritable and snappish, or flatly uncommunicative; they still kept coming back.

Once Jack was able to sit up and stay awake for more than ten minutes at a time, Daniel brought a deck of cards and they played on top of a folded blanket in his lap, which helped pass the time. It was still a little awkward having him here; a tense awareness hung between them of their professional relationship and the recent mess with Vernon and the Arena Club. Things were somehow easier with Peggy. With her, at least, Jack felt like they'd cleared the air. With Sousa, not so much.

It only came up once. In the middle of laying down cards, the words seemed to drop right out of his drugged-up mouth. "You know, next time we're pulling a sting, if there is a next time, I don't mind taking the punch. Quid pro quo and all. You gotta wait until my chest is healed up, though."

"Can I get that in writing?" Daniel said after a startled minute.

That made Jack laugh, and it hurt. A lot. Sarcastic little shit.





3. 1949

"So how's life in the oxygen tent?" Jack asked, tossing his hat onto the table beside Daniel's hospital bed and plunking into the chair recently vacated by Peggy. She'd stuffed a pillow behind the small of her back, which Jack removed; maybe it felt more comfortable for a person who was seven months pregnant. "Now that the ball and chain's gone, you can start flirting with the nurses again ..."

Daniel made a half-hearted movement as if to throw a pillow in Jack's direction, but refrained.

He looked absolutely terrible, white and drawn with blue-tinged lips. Jack wondered if he'd looked that bad when he was in the hospital after being shot. He had a bad feeling the answer was probably "yes."

No one had realized the Midnight Oil exposure had scarred and weakened Daniel's lungs, until an ordinary head cold worsened into a potentially life-threatening case of pneumonia. According to the docs, Daniel was always going to have to be careful with his lungs. "Which would have been nice to know before it landed him in hospital," Peggy had snapped acerbically.

She'd been staying with him 24/7, until the combined motivational force of the Jarvises (with a little help from Jack and Rose) managed to roust her and send her home for a shower and some sleep in something other than a hospital chair. The fact that she was pregnant and massively uncomfortable in any position had probably helped get her to agree, as well as contributing to the dark circles under her eyes.

Jack had been dropping in and out ever since Daniel had been hospitalized, but this was the first time they'd had one-on-one time, as well as the first time since he'd been coming in that Daniel seemed to be fully awake and coherent. Even if he looked awful.

"You up for cards or anything?" Jack asked. "I know there's a deck around somewhere. Peggy and I were playing bridge with the Jarvises in here earlier."

"I'd pay to have seen that," Daniel croaked, and coughed weakly.

"Maybe if you weren't sleeping all the time, you'd be around for the show."

Daniel didn't answer immediately, as his choking coughs threatened to erupt into a full-blown coughing fit. Jack looked wildly around for the cup of water he knew he'd seen Peggy with earlier, locating it finally on the windowsill. Daniel shook his head, though, and waved him off. "No ... 'm okay ... To answer your question," he said, a little less feebly, "don't bother about the cards, I can't sit up long enough. Peggy's been reading out loud, but you don't have to."

"Reading what?" Jack picked up the book from the bedside table. He wasn't that much of a pleasure reader himself, except when he had no other options. He'd worked his way through a stack of mystery, detective, and western novels while recovering from his gunshot wound two years previously. He was expecting something highbrow and British, but what he found was a new Ellery Queen. It actually looked pretty interesting.

"Like I said," Daniel said, "you really don't have --"

"Shut up Sousa, I haven't read this one and I want to find out who done it." He flipped to Peggy's bookmark, which turned out to be an end piece torn from a cardboard box that had held bullet cartridges. Oh Peggy, he thought, never change.

He started reading from the start of the chapter. It was an interesting experience, reading to someone else. He'd never done it before. Made him think of reciting lessons in class, back in grade school.

Occasionally he glanced over. Daniel looked asleep, but when Jack paused, his eyes cracked open and he nodded a little, with a faint smile.

Jack turned a page and kept reading.





4. 1958

The hospital was in West Germany, and Jack came in straight off three days in the field, still wearing stained, rumpled fatigues and smelling like smoke. On the bright side, he'd had time to work off enough aggression that he no longer wanted to punch the whole world, or at least the Leviathan part of it, to make every last one of those bastards pay.

There were two beds, and Peggy was asleep in one of them. She'd crashed on top of the covers, wearing her uniform, in this case a business suit with a pencil skirt, but Jack didn't think she looked any less tired than he felt. He came in quietly and flopped in the chair between the beds.

"Hey," Daniel said softly, and Jack started. He'd thought Daniel was asleep.

"Hey yourself." Daniel looked better than Jack's last sight of him, but then, it'd be hard for him to look worse. He'd been a bruised, bloody, shaking mess, pulled out of a Leviathan prison cell and shoved into a cargo plane in the middle of a firefight on a landing strip halfway up the side of a mountain. Peggy's team had been on the airplane with him, but Jack's team had stayed behind to do what needed to be done.

Daniel looked more like Daniel now, and less like ... what he'd looked like then. The bruises were fading to yellowish brown, and a line of stitches traced a neat curve across the side of his face, just missing his eye. A loose scrub top covered the worst of whatever else they'd had a chance to do.

"I hope you're happy," Daniel said quietly, and Jack raised an eyebrow, the only part of him that he felt like moving. "Worried us sick, you know, 'til you finally got around to calling in. I had my hands full stopping Peggy from running off to the wilds of the Caucasus, instead of staying here to deal with the diplomatic fallout."

Jack wanted to laugh at that. You were worried about US? But he'd probably have done the same, in Daniel's shoes. Shoe. Whatever.

There was a drowsy silence, a comfortable silence. Peggy was snoring a little, which Jack intended to bring up the next time she insisted that she did not snore, thank you. He knew he needed to get up, get something to eat, get out of this uniform before it grew roots into him, but right now all he wanted to do was sink into this chair and listen to the two of them breathe.

"Hey, Jack," Daniel murmured.

"Mmmm?"

"Did you get 'em?" Daniel's hoarse voice was sleepy, but there was an intense undercurrent to the question.

"Yeah," Jack said. "Yeah, we got 'em."





5. 1975

Of course Peggy would walk into Jack's hospital room in the middle of a fight. A fight that was, in Jack's opinion, started by Daniel, continued by Daniel, and entirely Daniel's fault.

"The way you're talking, you'd think I was having a quadruple bypass in --" Jack pushed himself up enough to see the clock on the wall, even though the effort left him breathless. "-- less than two hours just to annoy you."

"It might as well be!" Daniel shot back. "You wouldn't be having it in the first place if you ever ate anything that wasn't made out of red meat and maybe tried not drinking half a bottle of Scotch every night, you selfish bastard."

"What, you're lecturing me about my diet now?" Jack demanded at the maximum volume he could achieve, which was considerably less than his usual but still loud.

"You two do realize this is a hospital, correct?" Peggy said tartly. "Filled with sick people in need of rest? I can hear you all the way down the hall."

Daniel gave her a betrayed look -- even in his fifties, gone completely salt and pepper, he could still manage the puppy dog eyes -- and, without another word, wheeled around and strode out. Wearing an eleventh- or twelfth-generation Stark prosthesis, he rarely used the crutch anymore, usually only when he was exhausted or hurting, and he could really move when he was motivated.

"What, he has to pick now to be a grade-A jackass for some reason?" Jack said. "No offense, Peggy, since you married him and all. But what the hell."

Peggy sighed and pushed a hand through her hair, dark brown shot with gray. "Jack, you had a heart attack. You very nearly died."

"Yes, and? You'd think that would make people be nicer to me."

"You know, considering that you're an intelligent man, it amazes me sometimes how dense you can be." She said it matter-of-factly, in that way she always had of saying things Jack couldn't imagine anyone else could get away with. "Jack ... you've been part of our lives for thirty years. Stop and think about it for a minute."

Jack did a little surprised mental math. It had been thirty years, hadn't it? Give or take a year or two. How was that even possible? Thirty years since the first time he'd sent Peggy Carter on an errand for coffee; thirty years since he'd fake-tripped Daniel to make the boys in the office laugh.

I was a real shit then, wasn't I?

But ...

Thirty years.

He'd held their babies and he'd been Uncle Jack to their kids as they grew up. He'd crashed on Peggy and Daniel's sofa while both his marriages were breaking up, and after he'd signed his divorce papers with Trixie, Daniel had dragged him out to a bar and they'd both gotten completely trashed. (And regretted the hell out of it the next day; an all-night bar crawl was a better idea at nineteen than at forty-seven.) He'd fought side-by-side in the field with both of them -- he'd long since lost track of where the saving-each-other's-asses count stood -- and he'd stayed in touch by long-distance phone call while he was pursuing his political career in Washington.

Thirty years. Dear Lord.

Peggy was watching him with one of those looks that meant she was, as usual, seeing through him like glass. She smiled a little, and sat down on the edge of the bed. Before he realized what she was up to, she leaned towards him, dipped an arm under his shoulders, and pulled him against her shoulder, resting her face in his hair.

Theirs had never been a particularly huggy relationship. He could remember hugging her exactly twice: at her and Daniel's wedding, with all three of them tipsy and Jack suffused with massive amounts of warm-fuzzy goodwill towards both of these two idiots; and after they got Daniel out of the Soviet dungeon o' tortures back in, whatever that was, fifty-eight or fifty-nine.

Peggy pressed a kiss to the top of his head before letting him go. "You're family, Jack," she told him. "You know that, right?"

"God help us all," he said, smiling weakly at her. It was all he could think of to say.

"I have to get back to the office to clear my schedule for the rest of the day. So I'll see you after your surgery."

Of course, that was Peggy, he thought as she tripped briskly out, heels clacking on the hospital floor. She wasn't even going to admit the possibility that he might not wake up.

Somehow it made it easier for him to believe it.

He wasn't expecting to see Daniel again before the surgery, but he'd underestimated Peggy's unique powers of persuasion, or possibly just Daniel's capacity for guilt, because Daniel skulked in a little later. Jack laid down the Alistair MacLain novel he was halfheartedly reading.

Daniel hovered near the doorway, both hands shoved in his pockets. "So, uh, talked to Peggy," he said at last.

Jack tried to figure out how embarrassing this was likely to get. "Do I even want to know what she said?"

Daniel snorted, and half-smiled, finally meeting Jack's eyes. "She said we're grown men and we can work out our problems on our own. Said she did enough of that kind of thing at work."

"Aha. Er ..." This was the point in the conversation where Jack would have smiled, tipped his hat, and made a fast exit -- if he hadn't been trapped in a hospital bed. Unfortunately Daniel showed no inclination to do the decent thing and leave. "So," Jack tried, a little desperately, "do we have anything to work out?"

"You tell me," Daniel said, looking worried and hopeful.

"Not really, I don't think."

Relief broke across Daniel's face like the sun coming up -- we're good then -- and he smiled. "I brought cards."

They played poker and rummy until the nurse came to wheel Jack down to the surgical floor. Daniel gathered in the cards, and hesitantly, without saying anything, put one of his hands over Jack's for a minute.

Jack was expecting him to beat a hasty retreat, but in keeping with the touchy-feely nature of the day, Daniel paced the gurney until they reached a staff-only door. There weren't any more words, but Jack raised his head to glance back and saw Daniel leaning against the wall, watching, before the door swung shut and cut off the sight of him.

"Brother?" the nurse asked as she set up an IV.

"Not ... exactly."

Peggy had said family, and it warmed him to his core while also making him want to sink into the floor and die of embarrassment, but there weren't really words for being this thoroughly tied up in each other's lives for thirty years. There was a whole lot of water under the bridge between all of them: anger and betrayal, pettiness and fights, moments of too much intimacy and not enough, trust and love and risking it all to save each other's lives.

What it came down to, really, was that he couldn't imagine his life without these two people in it, and he didn't want to.

And that was the thought that stuck with him, enough to follow him down into a rapidly descending, anesthesia-induced darkness.

***

Jack woke in the ICU with a ventilator tube down his throat, dazed and out of it and feeling like twelve shades of hell.

And both of them were right there, by his bedside, waiting for him. Just as he'd expected them to be.


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Each installment was great,loved that their friendship endured through the years