Getting better happens, Jack guesses, in the same way as that old saw about a watched pot not boiling. It drags on forever and then happens when you aren't looking.
Trouble is, he has a hard time not looking.
"Jack," Peggy says, exasperated, "catch the ball, would you?"
Docs gave him some exercises that he's supposed to do at home, things that are supposed to help. It's a program built during the war, he guesses, built off people like Sousa, and that brings an unfamiliar twisting guilt. He looks ahead, lets the damn ball go over his shoulder and bounce off Stark's flowerpots.
"You are impossible," Peggy says, getting up to fetch the ball.
"You don't have to be out here." It bothers him a lot when she does things like this; it's a violation in the way things are between them, a debt he can't repay.
"Oh, be quiet," she says, and throws the ball at his face this time, so he has to catch it or take across the forehead.
It's odd how Daniel is the easier one of them to be around right now. Daniel still acts exactly like he always has, like Jack is a persistent thorn in his side that he only reluctantly tolerates. It's vastly better than trying to handle Peggy's strangely mercurial way of behaving toward him: sometimes so soft that it alarms him, sometimes bordering on angry.
Daniel is just Daniel, and Jack appreciates his steadiness, especially right now. Daniel doesn't like him (much), and that's something he can depend on. He likes things he can depend on.
But every once in a while Daniel will throw him off balance. Like now: just sitting out with him on the deck by the pool and reading the paper, for no apparent reason.
"You really have to be here?"
"It's nice out here," Daniel says, reaching for his cup of coffee. "Besides, gunmen could come over that wall at any moment."
Jack turns a disgusted look on the wall in question, the patio wall behind the pool, draped in ornamental shrubbery. "Oh come on, a guy gets shot once, you never let him live it down ..."
It's not until later, a lot later, looking back on it, that he realizes Daniel was serious. Okay, serious in Daniel's particular sarcastic, deadpan way, but ... he really has had either Peggy or Daniel at his heel almost constantly, even here at Stark's, where there's a high-tech security system and a full-time guard.
"I don't need babysitting," he snaps at Peggy. They've graduated from catching a ball to light sparring on the patio. There was a time in his life when he couldn't have imagined participating in hand-to-hand combat with a woman. He's been put on the floor enough by Peggy by now to pay attention to where her hands are at all times.
"Oh, is that what you're doing?" she asks. "Right fist up, man, that's terrible form. My SOE combat instructor would have put you on your face for that, with a kick in the bollocks for good measure."
It's always a little startling to hear vulgarity out of Peggy. "Is that why you're good at this?" he can't resist asking. "Nothing to kick?"
This does get him planted facefirst on the patio tile, and he can't even say he doesn't have it coming. "Ow," he groans out when he has enough breath back.
He looks up and sees Peggy grinning down at him, with a hand extended and just a hint of concern on her face. "Are you all right?"
He doesn't dignify that with a response, just grabs her hand with his good one, and lets her pull him up.
Healing is a slog, not a sprint. It's a long slow journey with no particular destination along the way. But at least he's not doing it alone.
Whumptober Master List
Oct. 1 - Shaky Hands (Stranger Things) - On DW | On Tumblr
Oct. 2 - Explosion (Iron Fist) - On DW | On Tumblr
Oct. 3 - Delirium #1 (Agent Carter) - On DW | On Tumblr
----- Delirium #2 (Punisher) - On DW | On Tumblr
Oct. 4 - Human Shield (Alliance-Union) - Coming Around on AO3
Oct. 5 - Gunpoint (Iron Fist) - On DW | On Tumblr
Oct. 6 - Dragged Away (Iron Fist) - On DW | On Tumblr
Oct. 7 - Isolation (Alliance-Union) - Reference Points on AO3
Oct. 8 - Stab Wound (Iron Fist) - Deeper Cuts on AO3
Oct. 9 - Shackled (Iron Fist) - Shackles and Bows on AO3
Oct. 10 - Unconscious (Doctor Strange) - Pride Before a Fall on AO3
Oct. 11 - Stitches (Agent Carter) - On DW | On Tumblr
Oct. 12 - "Don't Move" (Punisher) - On DW | On Tumblr
Oct. 13 - Adrenaline (Stranger Things) - On DW | On Tumblr
Oct. 14 - Tear-Stained (MCU - Endgame spoilers) - On DW
Oct. 15 - Scars (Agent Carter/MCU) - Flesh and Blood on AO3
Oct. 16 - Pinned Down (Alliance-Union) - On DW
Oct. 17 - "Stay with me" #1 (Stranger Things) - On DW | On Tumblr
----- "Stay with me" #2 (Iron Fist/Jessica Jones, Ward/Malcolm) - On Tumblr
Oct. 18 - [skip day]
Oct. 19 - Asphyxiation (Agent Carter) - Down in the Dark on AO3
Oct. 20 - Trembling (Iron Fist) - Run Down on AO3
Oct. 21 - Laced Drink (Iron Fist) - Monochrome Delirious on AO3
Oct. 22 - Hallucination (Agent Carter) - On DW | On Tumblr
Oct. 23 - Bleeding Out (Punisher) - Hideout on AO3
Oct. 24 - Secret Injury #1 (Iron Fist) - On DW | On Tumblr
------------ Secret Injury #2 (Defenders) - On DW | On Tumblr
Oct. 25 - [skip day]
Oct. 26 - Abandoned (Agent Carter) - On DW | On Tumblr
Oct. 27 - Ransom (Punisher) - On DW | On Tumblr
Oct. 28 - Beaten (Iron Fist) - beaten but not broken on AO3
Oct. 29 - Numb (Iron Fist) - Future Imperfect on AO3
Oct. 30 - Recovery (Agent Carter) - On DW | On Tumblr
Complete list of prompts.
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