1964-08-01 - Scraped Knee, Bruised Hearts
Summary: Jack is back.
Related: If there are no related logs, put 'None', — please don't leave blank!
Theme Song: None
jack steve-rogers 

Steve Rogers is seated at the sofa in the lounge area of the Avenger Mansion. In the past few months since he's moved out of the Baxter Building he and the other Avengers have put a ton of elbow grease into the place. He has yes to really enjoy the surroundings—there's always a new reason to be on the move. Just yesterday Steve came across the disconcerting knowledge of some secret government programs that took place after his plunge into the sea in 1945 and he's going to have to figure out how he can get some answers and, likely, come to grips with all of that. Throw in Doom, sharks with laserbeams on their head, and it has been a busy time. Luckily for him there's a quiet evening at the Mansion, with the rest of the Avengers …doing whatever Avengers do. Steve is taking the time to have a beer and listen to some records while he draws.

The sticky humidity of July in New York always makes it feel far warmer than the thermometer reads. The air feels heavy; laden with undeniable moisture that swelters with each inhalation of breath. But even the heaviness of the air lingers with strange anticipation.

Just outside the mansion a figure pauses. The distinct red dress and black pumps don't suggest a regular Avengers' mansion visitor.

Alerts may call attention that someone approaches the door.

Beads of moisture form on pale bare arms as a well coiffed brunette lifts her hand to buzz the bell. A comical, not wholly convinced, smile edges the corners of her lips as her hand drops back to her side and she takes a step back.

The figure turns on a heel, shakes her head, and softly chastizes herself without actually having rang the bell. Of course, pumps rarely grant a sense of balance to the accident prone, and she trips on the single step as she moves, prompting the woman to hold her hands out in front of her to catch her guaranteed spill on the ground.

The sound of the fall is enough to overpower the soft music. Steve perks up and stops scrawling his latest masterpiece. He peers over his shoulder, out the window and through some bushes. Definitely someone out there, he can tell by the flash of red through the bushes. With a little groan he gets up, assuming it's someone who wants to get a picture or wants to snoop to see whether Tony Stark has brought someone home (he hasn't, to Steve's knowledge). The blonde man makes for the door and by the time he opens it, he can see the back of a head of a woman dressed in red.

He goes from suspicious to concerned. She could be hurt.

"Miss," Steve says as he steps out from the stoop. "Are you alright?"

Steve's voice causes every muscle in the woman's body to stiffen. And, for a strange moment, for the woman pasted to the ground, the world stops. Her heart drops. Her breathing ceases. Everything just stops. Which probably gives Steve some cause for concern. It isn't until biological imperative kicks in that she gasps for breath, wholly unaware that she'd even been holding it.

And with that gasp, she pries herself off the cement. She presses herself into push-up. Her throat clears.

"I'm fine," the voice is familiar as she rises to her knees. "I think I only broke," spears over her shoulder revealing Jack's all too recognizable profile, complete with bright red flushed cheeks and that deep sense of alarm that follows irrepressible clumsiness.

"…my pride."

The look on Steve's face is probably worth two thousand dollars. He's just…dumbfounded. First, as to why she's here. And then, that she's on the ground. The scene is so surprising he doesn't know what to do, or what to say. His first instinct kicks in. "Are you okay?" he says, with politeness winning out. The second instinct is to take a drink from his beer, despite its inability to do anything for him in this situation.

"…yeah. I just tried," Jack presses herself up to a stand as the redo her face deepens further, wobbling slightly with the movement, but managing to get herself standing despite her now weak ankles. "Never mind. I'mit'sI'm fine." She manages a small sheepish smile. Her eyes roll slightly. "Sorry. I shouldn't be here, I should," she uses her thumb to point back from whence she came. "Sorry," she murmurs again.

"Don't apologize," Steve says with more firmness than almost at any point during their time together. He walks out onto the sidewalk with his head tilted toward her. "Here, let me check you out." He stops and starts, "I mean, check to see if you're okay." Steve inspects knees and hands, likely targets of scrapes.

"No, I'm fine," Jack insists just as firmly. But she's not moving. Evidently her hesitation remains. Sure enough one of her knees is scratched. "It's nothing, I mean, it's almost nothing." She swallows hard and then nods her head firmly as she forces an increasingly sheepish smile. "You're probably busy. And I'll be fine."

"I'm actually, not. Busy. I'm not really doing anything. Are you sure you don't want to come in? I could get some rubbing alcohol for you if you want." He looks to her, still trying to figure out why she has come. "I mean you're already here. Whatever you came for, you might as well stay and get it done, right?"

Jack casts a hesitant glance over her shoulder. "I really shouldn't be here," she reiterates lowly. With another sharp crease of her forehead she finally nods. "Alright. Rubbing alcohol then." Her lips edge at the corners again in another not fuller realized smile. "And I wasn't trying to get anything done. Not really. I came, I just… didn't… " her cheeks puff out with another exhaled breath. She finally takes a step towards him. "So. Rubbing alcohol." Focus up.

Steve nods, "Rubbing alcohol." He opens the door for her and allows her to walk past before he retakes the lead. He pops up the steps with a bit of a spring up to the second floor where he leads her to the bathroom. "Why shouldn't you be here, now?" he asks as he begins looking through the medicine cabinet for where he put the alcohol.

"It's really not that bad," Jack insists but continues down the path through the house in the surreal version of follow-the-leader. "Not just here-here as in the mansion, but here. Like in the general sense of here" she cuts herself off abruptly and forces a smile. "But you look good." She lifts a hand rather awkwardly, "Not that you didn't always look good but you look good in a different sense of the wordI mean like well kind of good." She bites her bottom lip to stop talking.

"So do you," Steve says as he hands over the rubbing alcohol to one hand and some cotton balls with the other. "You can take that any which way you want to," he adds before he gives her some space and sits on the edge of the window sill. "Do you want to talk, or do you want to just get out of here? I don't want to make you stay if you don't want to."

Jack can feel her cheeks warm with flush at the first while her eyes train on her feet. "I'm not sure what to say," she finally lands on. "I came to apologize. Which seems so ridiculous now. It felt ridiculous when I was at the door which is why," her eyebrows draw together, "I fell." She can feel her resolve waning. And finally she admits: "I'm not supposed to be in New York."

"You don't have to apologize, Jack. You didn't do anything wrong," Steve says as he props himself up a bit by his hands, perching them on the windowsill. He takes a deep breath before he looks at her in earnest, "What do you mean you're not supposed to be here in New York?"

Sincerity wins honesty. Jack leans against the wall and slowly slides down it until she's sitting on the floor. Her arms draw around her and she presses a hand to her forehead while emitting a soft, nearly-mirthless, laugh. "I discovered a really nasty case of insurance fraud." She skips a series of details jumps to, "An overzealous DA insisted I leave the city for my own protection. That's all." She manages another tight-lipped smile. "So. I'm really not supposed to be here."

The way it's supposed to work is the man is supposed to protect the female from every sort of thing ever possible in the history of man kind and that is the way it is supposed to work because that is the way Steve was raised. He opens his mouth, about to say something, but then closes it abruptly. He was going to say that she should have told him, but should she have? Would he be able to protect her? Was he able to all of the times she almost got killed on his watch? And who even knows when this all went down anyways.

"How long ago was that?" he says, trying to figure out the timeline.

"A couple months. It wasn't a big deal." And then more confidently, she clarifies, "It's not a big deal. It was business as usual until it wasn't." She shrugs to punctuate the point as if that offers more clarity or minimizes the impact of the thoughts. "But I just came to apologize. You didn't deserve the whole abrupt disappearance. I wasn't in Rhode Island either," her arms draw around herself.

"You weren't?" Steve says, but then stops. "Well, first things first. So long as we're talking…can you tell my why you left? I understand if you don't want to talk about it, but it's kind of been bothering me." Gee, I wonder why, right?

Jack stares at Steve a few beats. "I…" her chin drops. "You don't need trouble from me. This is trouble. You have your own concerns to deal with. All of this," she motions towards the house. "I needed to not be one of them. I'm fine. I am," there's a strange illusion that the more she says it the more convincing it will be. "It's not a big deal. I just didn't want to worry you. To burden you. To cause problems…. just. Reasons." She manages a small smile at the end.

"This is trouble? A scraped knee and rubbing alcohol?" Steve chuckles and matches her small smile with one of his own. "It was a big deal to me." He sighs and shakes his head, "You were never a burden to me." He pauses, "What do you mean by one of them?"

"I could've been," Jack replies easily enough as she scrubs her face. "I just did my job. That's all. I didn'tit never occurred to me" her cheeks flush and she sniffs hard. "There are people in this man's pocket. A lot of them. And this isn't the first crime the DA has pursued him on. As I understand it, anyways." She shrugs again. "Honestly, I'm not even remotely threatening. The paperwork is the concern, not the adjuster," she steadies her tone. "I'm fine. I'll be fine," she levels a look at Steve. "I was told not to speak to anyone about it. Which is why I didn't talk to you before. I'm here now because… I dunno. I didn't want to lose everything I am to this. It was just a case. One case."

"I know you're fine," Steve replies. "You're smart. And you know how to take care of yourself." The way he talks, it's almost sad. "So what now?" he asks. "If not back to Rhode Island, then where do you go from here?"

"…I'm staying. The DA told me not to. This man, he has police in his pocket," Jack's lips twist to the side. "But I won't live in fear of something that could never happen. And it's just insurance fraud. It's not like I caught him doing something that hurt people. I refused further protection… which is my right." She manages another smile. "But yes. I can take care of myself."

"There really isn't anywhere safer than here in the city. We have all sorts of people milling in and out of here. There's no safer place in the city," Steve replies. "If I even offer to help, what are the chances you'll let me?"

"I…" Jack starts and then stops. "I need to live. I can't be trading one safe haven for another. I spend all of my time looking over my shoulder anyways. It may as well be somewhere I can pretend things are halfway-normal." The end wins a wistful smile, "I didn't come here looking to be rescued. I came because I owed you an apology and an answer. I didn't leave because things between us weren't good. I didn't leave cause I didn't care. I didn't stop loving you. I left because I wasn't given a choice. I was summarily told that everything and everyone I cared about would be lost.. But I won't be threatened by the DA, the NYPD, or Wilson Fisk. Not anymore."

When she notes that she didn't stop loving him, Steve looks up at the light as he tries to think up a response. "If that's all true," and he doesn't even know why he says that. It's not like she's ever lied to him. He means it as a segue but how she takes it is up to her, of course. "What do we do now?"

The question is met with silence and stillness for several beats. And as the silence grows, her skin pales. Haunted reflections of something else cast in her eyes… until she collects herself. A smile is forced, but the colour never returns to her face. In that same stillness, Jack finally whispers, "I should go. I really don't want to bring you trouble. You've got enough of that if the Daily Bugle is to be believed." Her eyebrows lift slightly as she presses her palms against the wall she'd been leaning in a bid to regain her balance. "Plenty of adventure for the Avengers," despite her pale complexion, the ever-present twinkle of admiration in her eyes remains unmissable.

Steve stands up and pushes by her to shut the door to the bathroom. "Jack," Steve says with his back still turned to her. "Answer the question." Finally he turns around, "I need you to just talk about things for a moment without worrying about hurting my feelings."

The twinkle fades at the action and guarded stoicism dissolves in something far meeker. "I did answer the question," the edge of defensiveness creeps into her tone. "That was the answer. Can't you see, this isn't about hurting your feelings, can't you see that?" Her voice cracks and her hands press tightly to her face, "It's about not distracting you from this. It's about keeping you safe. It's about all of it. I've already lost everyone I worked with. Decimated. The entire branch. Over the course of two weeks everyone died. Mysteriously. Heart attacks. Food poisoning. Muggings. How does everyone in a row of cubicles die in the span of two weeks? It's statistically impossible."

"Alright," Steve says as he reaches to open the door. "Alright," he reiterates as if trying to convince himself. It seems apparent that his play to be the tough guy and force her hand didn't have the desired effect. "If you have to go, you have to go."

It's then that her hands drop to her sides again. Jack inhales a long breath. Her chin drops slightly into a nod. "Thank you. For," she motions towards her knees. "They needed it. And sorry about… everything, I guess." Her lips curve down. "This place, this is the life you're meant to have…. You know that. I know you know that."

"You didn't give me a chance to decide," Steve says, not willing to even make eye contact with her at this point. He steps out of the bathroom, giving her the hallway unimpeded.

And yet she remains unmoved. Jack feels frozen in place. Her eyes clamp shut because it's far easier to pretend everything is fine when someone avoids eye contact. "Then what do you want?" her voice squeaks. "I thought.." but whatever she thought is lost while her teeth toy at her bottom lip.

"I love you," Steve responds almost defiantly. He folds his arms over his chest almost petulantly. The entire time all of these decisions have been made without his input. It's as if that's his only comment, and on it his defense will rest.

The worst thing about knowing probabilities is knowing what should be done and what would be prudent to do; especially in light of general impetuousness. Logic and sound reasoning fall to the wayside with three little words, and despite how determined she'd come, Jack closes the distance between them, and if he'll let her, embraces Steve—even with his arms crossed.

By the time she closes in, Steve's arms are already uncrossed as they envelop her into a mighty hug. He holds her there, tightly, as if not wanting to let her go for fear that she may never come back. Again.

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