Chapter 1: Never Better
He woke up by the sound of somebody knocking on the car’s window, once, twice, three, four times in a row. Jack snapped and sat up, blinking at the strange pain in his nose that distracted him from the awful headache. ‘Ah, crap.’ He thought, squeezing his eyes shut as he took his hand to the septum.
“Are you okay, Mister?” a ten year old boy asked looking at the injured man through the glass.
Jack Thompson simply nodded and friendly waved at the boy in response. The kid imitated him before running back to his house calling for his parents, because some creep had crashed his car against a tree in their garden.
Sighing, the blond got out of the car and closed the door to see how much damage he had caused, thankfully nobody had been hurt… just Stark’s car that had missed one of the tires after crashing it. Without even bothering to speak to the adults at the house, Jack made sure to not leave anything inside the car and started to run toward the mansion he had been staying at while recovering from surgery months ago, and now Peggy Carter pretty much kept him there only because she wanted to keep an eye on him.
“Mr. Thompson?” He heard that sweet voice with the funny accent. It was Ana, walking toward him with the dog her husband had given to him. “What happened to you, are you alright? Miss Carter has been looking for you like crazy!”
“Never better—Good to see you too, Ana.” Jack said, cleaning the blood from under his nose, although that didn’t cover the stains on his undershirt. “Is Marge still in the house?”
“With Chief Sousa and Edwin, yes.” The redhead confirmed, looking at him from head to toe. Jack Thompson had turned into a complete mess.
Great… the eastern chief thought, as he made his way to the house. He opened the door, and closed it behind him as he leaned against it with his eyes closed, the damn headache was killing him and his nose didn’t help either, he didn’t know which was worst. Opening his eyes again, he found Peggy Carter running toward him making him believe she would hug him, but instead she just stood in front of him worried about the blood stain in his shirt, obviously, but she looked rather angry than concerned.
“Good morning.” He greeted, at the three people before he started to walk toward his room to get some sleep.
“We were worried about you, Jack” Daniel said, noticing the way his co-worker was behaving, like nothing bad had happened. “Where were you?”
Jack shrugged. He couldn’t remember where he had been, all he remembered was bourbon, his medication, more bourbon and nearly crashing against a car in one of the main streets. But of course he wasn’t going to say anything about it.
“We thought you had been hurt.” Peggy mentioned, they had spent all night awake calling to every single hospital in L.A. over and over again in case he had been found somewhere. “Or worse, gotten killed.”
“Well, I’m alive and safe and sound.” The blond shrugged, and handled his jacket at Jarvis. “Blood stains are hard to wash off, so don’t bother trying to put this one in the washing machine.” He sat down, and glared at Peggy who was the only person remaining in the dining room. “Handle me that cup of coffee, Margie dear?”
Peggy pursed her lips as she stepped closer to the table, Jack could tell she was angry. They had been together in the office before she left, they had had a conversation, she had told him about her relationship with Daniel and of course he didn’t take it well. Grabbing the cup of coffee, she squeezed the china knowing it wouldn’t break if she did, but god she wished so. Jack smiled. She didn’t, and before her former boss could say another thing the cup flew across the room and smashed the wall only inches away from the blond. Shocked blue eyes met browns as he tried to say something, but the brunette was faster and walked out of the room leaving him alone.
“And I’m the messed up one?” Jack shook his head and stood up from his seat, making his way back to his bedroom, not without swallowing another pill.
Peggy sighed deeply, sitting down at the couch as she watched a very peaceful Ana Jarvis using her sewing machine, she was fixing one of Peggy’s blouses and she needed to have the agent around to try it, and as Daniel had given her the day off for the lack of sleep thanks to Chief Jackass, there was nothing to do but make sure she wasn’t going to do something crazy.
“You know, this isn’t the first time Chief Thompson has been acting strange…” she commented after a while.
The brunette raised an eyebrow and glared at the petite woman with curiosity, “Is it, huh?” she questioned putting her cup of tea down. “What has he been doing?”
Jack stopped in the middle of the hall, holding a towel against his bare skin. Frowning he started walking to the living room, in order to hear their conversation. Ana didn’t have the right to spread the word about what he’s been doing. No, it was wrong in so many levels. Had he been seen? Yes, but that didn’t give her the right to tell Peggy what he was doing in the night.
Ana shrugged, without taking her eyes away from the piece of fabric she was sewing and her feet still moving along with the singer machine’s needles. “I don’t want to gossip, but the newspaper boy, Aaron, saw him the other day sneaking into the garden early in the morning, and he told one of the neighbors’ maid and she told other person and so until it reached my ears the other day when I was walking Coco.”
“What’s wrong with it?”
“Well, they said…”
Soon she was interrupted at the sight of a man who had nothing but a small towel covering nothing but his ‘man parts’. Peggy choked on her tea when her eyes met the naked man who wandered around the house like it was his. Ana, for her side, she didn’t know what to do or say; all she did was staring blankly at him.
“Jack!” Carter snapped, noticing Ana wasn’t able to articulate a word. She had to act normal although it was the very first time she’d seen him completely naked as well… “What on earth are you doing?!”
“Came looking for my laundry.” He shrugged, turning to look through the basket with perfectly ironed clothes.
Peggy’s eyes traveled through Jack’s bare body that was now giving her its back, and cleared her throat pretending to be uncomfortable (she didn’t really mind the view), when Jack was taking longer than usual.
“Here they are!” the blond exclaimed, pulling out a pair of boxers before turning to look at Peggy and Ana, who was still uncomfortable as hell. “They’re for luck.”
The brunette nodded unconvinced. Smiling, Jack made his way back to his bedroom, but before disappearing in the darkness of one of the mansion’s halls, he turned to look at Ana (who now was looking to another direction).
“It’s always a pleasure to spend time with you, Ana.” And with those words said, the blond disappeared on the dark, cold hall.
Mrs. Jarvis was blushing, she could feel how her cheeks burned of how blushed she was. There was a thin line between being comfortable and being rude, and Jack Thompson had already crossed it. Peggy could feel how the blood running through her veins started to boil, and it was why she stood up and followed Jack into his room.
The bed was undone, as per usual, his dirty clothes were on the floor next to the same towel he had shown up in the living room with. As for Jack there he was nowhere to be found until Peggy saw his jumping reflection in the mirror in front of the wardrobe.
“Where do you think you are going?” she asked him, closing the wardrobe’s door in the chief’s face, making him step back.
“Work.” He replied, opening the door once again to take out a tie and closed it with his foot. “Marge, be a doll and handle me my shoes, please?”
Ignoring his words, Peggy stepped forward, facing him like she was threatening him. Jack wasn’t sure if it was because he asked her for his shoes or for something else. Carter narrowed her eyes at him, and took the tie from his hands.
“You’re not going anywhere.”
“Yes, yes I am.” Jack insisted, trying to get the tie back, but Peggy was faster and soon she was holding his wrist tightly.
At first, he fought a little but Jack knew it would make things worse that’s why he just allowed himself to look at her eyes, daring her to do something else and so did she. Blue eyes met browns, both had fire and anger, especially Peggy’s that grew as her grip got tighter to the point it started to hurt.
“It’s four o’clock in the afternoon, and you’re calling that going to work?” she said, her eyes never leaving Jack Thompson’s that didn’t leave hers either.
“Well, I have stuff to do!” he said, trying to lose her grip.
“What kind of stuff?” she questioned, lowering her grasp until she freed Jack’s wrist “Your case is almost solved.”
“Yes, I know it’s almost solved!” Jack exclaimed, stepping back once he was free.
The brunette didn’t say anything in response and gave him the tie back, a quite strange reaction coming from her and another almost argument they had in less than a week. She sat on the bed and watched him carefully for a couple of seconds before taking the stained undershirt from the floor. No words came out of her mouth, which scared the hell out of Jack if he was being honest.
“What?” he asked after the strange silence had turned scarier after every single second.
“Well, as I said, it’s four o’clock in the afternoon,” she began, “and my co-worker and friend, just woke up, after spending all night out, without letting anyone know where he was and came back the next morning, with a bleeding nose after crashing Howard’s car,” she continued, as Jack looked away from her. “He just walks around like nothing happened, and then he asks ‘What?’” she threw the undershirt to the bed and crossed her arms in front of her chest.
Jack looked at her, “Look, Pegs, you have no idea what I’m going through… I’ve got a group of lawyers and the police behind my back because nobody has seen Vernon after that day!” and dealing with them to prove his innocence when the only people that had been there were in Peru and in a psychiatrist hospital with a straight jacket wasn’t a thing that helped much to proof his innocence.
“Let me help you then.”
“No, Peggy. I don’t need your damn help.” He muttered, fixing the collar of his shirt.
Peggy sighed, she was concerned, her eyes showed so but Jack was too busy thinking about himself to notice that deep inside of her she was worried about his life, and what it was turning into. She was sure that’s how it had been when he had come back home from the war, and that’s why Mr. Thompson had gotten him the first good job opportunity he saw for his son who was starting to lose his way, history was repeating again and Jack was falling in a train wreck.
“Jack…” she whispered, making him turn. “We’re worried about you.” She finally admitted, but she wasn’t only talking about herself this time, Peggy wasn’t the only person who thought Jack needed help as soon as possible, so did everyone in the house, his family and Daniel, who was pretty much his only friend. This attitude couldn’t get worse. “Mr. Jarvis made a doctor appointment, we will be here to help you in everything you need, but you have to let us help…”
Jack stepped back pushing her a little, he was offended. It was when Peggy knew she had screwed up everything.
“Thanks for consulting me” he said, his voice sounding colder than it had ever been before, she had offended him too many times to know that his behavior wasn’t the one it would usually be after she does it. “You’re my employee, Peggy. Stop acting like you were my damn mother!”
“Then stop acting like a child!” she shouted back.
Jack scoffed and pulled her out of his way. “I don’t have time for this. I HAVE STUFF TO DO!” he yelled as he left the room.
Chapter 2: Use Somebody
“So, what do we have here?” Jack asked, taking his jacket off as he walked in the office. “New case?”
Peggy’s eyes went off the paper in order to meet Jack’s, who stood in front of the desk with an interested look. She simply nodded with a little smile and handled him the file. It was a small one, but after all the bad things Jack had been gone through the past months it’d was the perfect thing he could start with. The eastern chief, made his way to the desk he had been assigned while he was still on California until he was completely recovered while giving the case a detailed look. Sitting on the chair, he started reading as Peggy watched from her own desk in the other chief’s office (Daniel had decided to make her desk a space in his office after her translation and promotion to the SSR’s second command while they were still solving the ‘Man in a Black Suit’ Case).
Jack’s smile disappeared. So did Peggy’s once she noticed this. His blue eyes traveled to the Chief’s office where the brunette sat, concerned at Jack’s reaction. He was furious, and he made sure to make it very clear when he walked into the room with red walls and threw the file on Carter’s desk.
“This is crap!” Chief Thompson exclaimed “I won’t take a case like that!”
Peggy sighed, “The doctor said you could make a slow comeback to your job, this is the easiest and safest case we could find for you.” She explained, sliding the file through the desk, leaving it in front of him.
Jack was starting to get irritated, “It’s not a comeback.” He said under his breath. “I won’t take it.”
“Then you’re fired.”
Jack eyebrows arched. Was she being serious? She was the employee, he was the boss. The one who did the firing was him, not her! Crossing his eyes over his chest, Jack remained standing in front of her, refusing to give up on his idea that the case was a crappy one and an agent with his experience deserved to do something better than that, but this changed as soon as he saw Peggy’s facial expression softening. Carter’s eyes went directly to the man who had just walked into the desks room with a bouquet of fresh flowers. Daniel. Jack turned, to glare at the man who had taken Agent Carter’s complete attention. How unprofessional… Thompson thought, once the brunette was outside, thanking her new boyfriend for the flowers Had there been more people in the office her reaction would have been completely different, but it was only the three of them. Jack’s face also did change, sad eyes went straight to the happy couple as he listened the girl accepting his invitation for dinner. Peggy didn’t have to say anything, but it just took her a quick look back to tell Jack he had to deal with the case she had given him all by himself and that was final.
Sad blue eyes met the floor once Jack knew he was finally alone. His chest ached, but not because of the scar that now was a big part of it, it was some kind of pain he had felt just once or twice in his life, a pain that came with anger, sorrow and desire. It didn’t take him much time to realize it was broken heart. For a moment he thought he couldn’t breathe, and then a headache replaced the other feeling, feeling how the temperature of his body rose with the anger and then suddenly becoming cold. The headache and the pain in his chest never leaving him. He took a bottle of bourbon from Sousa’s desk and opened it, to heat up his body or to get at least one distraction. He sat down the chief’s chair and started to play with the Brooklyn Dodgers ball his friend kept in his desk. All he had to do now was waiting for Peggy to show up in the office at any hour, he couldn’t leave the headquarters without her, for safety issues.
Jack drank and threw the ball to the air, once, twice, three, four times before taking another drink and repeat what he did. He walked around the office and checked his watch, then continued playing with the ball and drinking. He turned on the radio, sang and sat down again, in another chair in the exact same office. Time seemed to have slowed down, minutes didn’t pass and the pain that had taken over his body was still there.
By the time Peggy had arrived, Thompson had already drank two third parts of the bottle and was laying on a chair, playing with a flashlight he had found somewhere in the office. Sighing, she stood right in front of him, glaring at the drunken man with annoyance.
“Did you have a nice time with your boyfriend?” Jack asked, without even bothering to look at her and stop playing with the flashlight.
“I did, actually.” She confirmed with a nod. “Daniel’s educated, respectful and stable, you know a good partner, which is what I need.”
“Is that right?” the blond asked, still not daring to look at Peggy’s face. “You know what I need, Carter?” he questioned, his eyes traveling up to the ceiling.
Peggy scoffed, “You really don’t want me to answer that, Jack.”
“What I need, Marge.” He interrupted her, “Is someone who doesn’t leave the office to be out on a dinner with her boyfriend and forgets about me, who you’re supposed to take care of like I was a damn child and you were my mama, or doesn’t leave my headquarters in New York just because she wants to hook up with her boyfriend. Someone to stay here with me while I’m trying to solve a fucking case!” he paused and turned to look at Peggy, whose smile had dangerously disappeared. “Do you know where I can find that person, Margaret?”
“Only if you can find someone who can do the filing and bring you your coffee or your lunch, while I’m trying to solve the case which you assigned me, by the way.”
“Aw. Come on, how difficult can it be to solve a case I gave you everything you have to know about!” Jack stood up and stepped closer to her. “Sousa’s doing part of it too. Stop complaining, your job’s not that hard!”
“That hard?” she repeated with a scoff. “Who answers the phones? Who makes sure we got enough agents out in the street trying to find one person or at least something that we can use to find our suspects? Who keeps your office looks tidy and in perfect state, as you like it to be, while making sure there’s enough coffee, surely not you because you’ve never moved a finger in your entire life!”
“Are you done?”
“How much do your medication, which magically disappears out of nowhere, costs? Huh?” she kept talking, stepping forward Jack, making him step back fearing she’ll throw a punch at him at any second. “Who knows all your doctor appointments? Who makes the appointments? Who pays the bills? Who had to leave her best friend behind in the other side of the country because you suddenly felt like sending me here? Who had to stay here in order to help you and your friend who’s now my boss, by the way, not you.”
“So since when is Peggy Carter hooking up with her bosses?” he paused, looking at Peggy from head to toe. “Well, I guess it’s my fault. I shouldn’t have sent you here in the first place, none of this would be happening, and certainly I wouldn’t have to live with the idea of you finding you sucking…”
A slap flew across his face, making his face turn. Jack had definitely crossed the line, but Peggy had crossed one too. As soon as he could react and before Peggy could do any other thing, Jack pushed her against a wall and held her tightly, keeping her from moving.
“Let me go!” she shouted trying to push him away, but Jack was stronger than her.
“Never, Peggy.” He said softly before pressing a kiss against her lips, just as soft as is voice.
For the first time, Peggy Carter was feeling in disadvantage when it came to Jack Thompson, she felt small, she felt weak and she feared that the Chief would do anything to her while being in that state. Still, she kissed him back until she felt she could move again, which she did pushing him with all the strength she could find in her body. Soon, she found the blond man’s reflection lying on the floor, looking at her reflection through the door glass with guilt in his eyes. This wasn’t the Jack Thompson she knew, yes he was a jerk and a pain in the arse ninety nine percent of the time, but he was a good man, unable to intentionally hurt a person, much less if it was a woman he cared about, and Peggy knew that she was one of the few people he actually did care for.
She attempted to run, but her eyes stopped on the reflection of that man who she knew well, he was lost and completely out of himself. Jack needed help. Turning over her own steps, Peggy stood in front of him and knelt down. There were tears in his completely lost eyes, whoever this man was it wasn’t the jerk she had known and had allowed herself to let him grow in her heart like a little brother she had to take care of.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, Peggy…” he confessed “I’m not like this, I promise.”
“I know.” She nodded, and stroked his cheek.
“Did I hurt you?”
“Daniel has done worse things.” she chuckled, making reference to that one time in the theater when Sousa had tried to kill Thompson and ended up beating Peggy.
“Still, I knew what I was doing.” He knew it was wrong, which was why he felt so bad about it. “I don’t like the person I’m turning into.”
“Let me help you then, this can be treated and we will all be here for you.” Her lips formed a small smile.
“Because you’re our friend.”
Jack rested his head against Peggy’s shoulder. He was crying, she could tell, and she let him; Jack wasn’t the kind of person who shared his feelings easily, in all their time working together she had seen him crying only once or twice. It was rare, yet it felt nice he’d trust her enough to show his weakest side.
A few minutes later, she decided to take him home. Once there, Peggy laid her old boss on his bed and let him sleep, apparently that was the only way he’d be at peace. Carter liked it when Jack was sleeping, he looked young, happy and full of hope, he was a complete different person, and probably the person he used to be before different situations led him to the lifestyle he was living now.