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Author's Chapter Notes:

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Jack finally came round properly after three days. His head was no longer throbbing and he felt as if he could move without using up too much energy. He pulled himself upright in the bed and drank the glass of water beside him, thirstily. Once it was empty he swung his legs out of bed and crossed to open the curtains. It was a sunny morning and there was a thick frost on the ground. Jack smiled to himself and turned to find his clothes and washing paraphernalia.

Once he was ready, he packed his bag and made his way back through the Sanatorium to his office. His desk had been tidied and he noticed that his clinic schedule had been removed from its place on the noticeboard. Suspecting Jem to be the culprit, he exited his own office and went to knock on Jem’s door. At his call, Jack entered and dropped into one of the comfortable chairs. Jem smiled to see his friend back up again and immediately rang for some refreshments and breakfast.

“How are you, Jack?”

“Much better, thank you. Glad to be back on my feet again. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bout like that before.”

“No, it’s not pleasant. Are you going back home today?”

“Yes. I ought to ring Jo and let her know, first. How is she?”

“She’s had a bit of a stressful time, to be honest. Anna and Stephen have both had it as well. They should both be practically over it by now, though.”

“What about Jo?”

“She seems to have managed to avoid it so far.”

“At least she won’t have had time to worry about me, I suppose.”

“No, she hasn’t. Jack, I need you to do something for me when you get home, though. I elicited a promise from Jo that once everyone was back on their feet, she’d have complete bedrest for a few days. Can you make sure she stays there for the next week?”

“What about Stephen? She’ll not accept that while he’s at home and I can’t look after him when I’m here.”

“Stephen is coming to us for the week. I’ve also taken you off the rota for the next two weeks. You’ve been working far too many hours to cover everyone else, so I’ve given you some time off to get yourself back on your feet properly and to look after Jo.”

“Thank you, though I can always come in if you need me.”

“You aren’t needed here and you are at home. Jo is more than likely going to collapse once she realises she doesn’t have to bear all the responsibility alone, anymore. I’m hoping that she’s managed to avoid catching the ‘flu this time around, but you never know. Keep an eye on her for me and let me know if she displays any symptoms.”

“I’ll look after her. I’d better get home, really. Thanks for breakfast.” Jack rose from the seat, replacing his cup on the tray. “Oh, do you have my clinic schedule?”

“I do. I’ll return it when you come back. Go home and see your family.”

“How is Stephen getting to yours?”

“Madge will collect him. Just give her a ring when you think he’s ready to visit.”

“Okay. What shift do I start back on?” Jem crossed to his desk and looked through his papers.

“You’re on an early shift.”

“I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, then.” They shook hands and Jack departed to collect his things from his office and drive home.

When he pulled up outside the cottage, he hoped all was well with everyone. He climbed out and locked the door before walking up the path and letting himself into the house. After shedding his hat and coat, he looked into the lounge and, on finding no one there, crossed to the kitchen to see Anna just pouring hot water into the teapot. She looked up as he entered and smiled.

“Grüss Gott, Herr Doktor. How are you feeling?”

“Grüss Gott, Anna. Much better, thank you. How are you? I understand you’ve had ‘flu, too.”

“Yes. It was not nice, but I too, am feeling much better now, thank you. Stephen is also on the mend as well.”

“That’s good to hear. Where is he?”

“He is upstairs with the Frau Doktor. She was just putting him to bed for a nap while I made the tea.”

“I’ll go up and find them. Take the tea through to the lounge and we’ll be down, shortly.” Anna nodded her agreement and Jack ran lightly upstairs to find Jo sitting in the chair in Stephen’s room, their son in her arms. She looked up in surprise when the door was pushed open, but her expression soon turned to one of happiness as Jack appeared in its place. She smiled at him but held her finger to her lips. Jack crossed to where she was sitting and gently took his son from her, looking down at him, concern in his eyes. Stephen was still a little flushed, but was much better than Jack had hoped. He had just fallen asleep, so Jack placed him in the cot and covered him over before silently pulling Jo out of the room and onto the landing.

Once there, Jack immediately understood why Jem had asked him to make sure she rested properly for the next week. Jo was pale and had dark circles underneath her eyes, a sure sign that she was overtired and anxious. Before he could say anything, Jo had flung herself into his arms and he held her close as she hugged him tightly. He dropped a kiss on her hair before pulling back to speak to her.

“How are you, darling?”

“I’m okay. How are you, Jack? Jem said you were quite bad. Are you all right now?”

“I’m fine, now. It’s wasn’t a nice experience, especially when I had a migraine hit me at the same time.”

“Yes, Jem told me. I thought you’d stopped having them, now. What triggered it?”

“Probably a combination of working all hours and the ‘flu. I know I could barely move for the pain for the first couple of days. Once that subsided, I just had no energy at all and not even a full blown air raid would have moved me from the bed.” Jack led the way downstairs as he talked and Jo automatically followed him as he walked into the lounge. Anna had deposited the tea tray on the table and Jo went to pour them both a drink.

“Here you go. I’m glad to see you’re back up and about again.”

“Thank you. I hear it’s not been all plain sailing here?”

“No. The day after you rang, both Stephen and Anna went down with it, so I’ve been trying to take care of them both.”

“You’ve done well, Jo. Even Stephen looks almost well again. I gather I missed a rather important milestone?”

“Yes. He’s walking unaided, now. Though he hasn’t done much these last few days except sleep and cling on to me. That’s why I was holding him when you came upstairs. He’s just been crying as soon as I put him down to sleep.”

“It’s understandable, though we need to try and get him back to his normal routine again if we can. He can’t cling to you all the time.”

“I know. I’m glad you’re back at home, since it might help if you put him to bed a few times.”

“Of course. I’ll do it tonight and we’ll see what happens.” Jack refrained from reminding Jo that she needed to rest herself, there was time enough to discuss the promise she had made once Stephen was ready to go to the Round House.

They passed a quiet day, Stephen proving Jo’s comments as he clung to her. He began to cry as soon as Jack tried to do anything for him. As the next two days passed Jack realised that the best way to break his son’s clinginess was to send him over to his Aunt and Uncle for a while so, on the third morning, he rang Madge and asked her to collect Stephen when she had a moment. He’d left Jo sleeping, so he went to see if she had woken and to inform her of what was happening. Jo had just climbed out of bed when Jack entered the bedroom. She smiled up at him and stood on tiptoe to kiss him as she walked towards the door.

“Where are you going?”

“To the bathroom. I won’t be long.” She disappeared through the door before Jack could stop her. Sighing to himself, he dropped into one of the chairs before the grate and waited patiently for her to return. He knew that he needed to remind her of her promise to Jem and he wasn’t entirely sure how she would react. He could see that she was exhausted, but so far, she hadn’t had the expected collapse he and Jem had anticipated. He wondered if it would come once Stephen went off with Madge and Jo had no one to concentrate her energy upon. He decided to just inform her about Stephen’s departure for now and see what transpired.

When Jo returned, he rose and told her about Stephen’s departure that morning. Jo listened in silence before turning to dress. She said nothing for a few minutes as she concentrated on her buttons.

“When is Madge coming to collect him?”

“She said she’d call round for him about half past ten. Then they’d arrive home in plenty of time for lunch.”

“I don’t like the fact that he’s going when he’s still not right.”

“Jo, he’s fine now. His temperature is back to normal and his appetite is returning. He needs to stop being so clingy and this is the best way to solve that. If you aren’t there, he won’t have much choice.”

“How do you know he won’t make himself ill, fretting?”

“He won’t do that, darling. I think that once he realises he can’t have Mamma for a few days, he’ll just get on with it as he did before.”

“I hope so. I’m still not keen on the idea, though.”

“It’s not as if we’re sending him to someone who won’t love him. Madge and Rosa will look after him.”

“I know. I just worry about him, though.” Jack pulled her to him as she rose to fetch her hairbrush and held her close.

“I know you worry, darling, but you shouldn’t. Stephen will have Josette and Ailie to play with while he’s there and he doesn’t get chance to play with them that often, really.” Jack held her tighter as he felt her shoulders begin to shake and she cried into his shirt. The breakdown he had been expecting had finally happened. He manoeuvred them to the bed where he sat her down with him and allowed her to cry her worry out. Eventually, Jo calmed down and raised a tearstained face to him.

“S-sorry. I didn’t mean to be such a wet blanket.”

“Shhh, darling. There’s no need to be sorry. You’ve had a rather hectic week or so and it’s just caught up with you. You’re exhausted.”

“I am tired.” Jo’s admission startled both herself and Jack, though he took the opportunity he had.

“Once Stephen has gone with Madge, you could get some well-deserved rest. It’s not as if you have anything urgent to do over the next few days.”

“I suppose so. I promised Jem I would.” Jack pulled her in for another hug.

“Go and wash your face again and come downstairs for breakfast. Then we can keep each other company for the rest of the day. I could do with some more sleep too, really and I’m sure Anna would appreciate a break as well.”

“Okay.” Jo rose and Jack held on to her arm, pulling her in for another kiss before he let go. Then he straightened the bedcovers before going downstairs to breakfast.

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