Archaic Kinds of Fun

meeting adjourned

July 31, 2014

For a moment, Jo thought it was the sound of Tony’s voice that woke her up. Which it kinda was. It was actually his thoughts that woke her up, but she was still a little fuzzy as she tried to wake up fully. The silk sheets under her felt amazing as she stretched a little, and Tony was in his favorite resting place. She was spread out on her back, like usual, and Tony was between her legs with his head pillowed on her chest. Since he was on his back, her hands were crossed over the arc reactor and holding him to her. Jo could hear three distinct voices, sometimes all at once, and they were all inside Tony’s head. There’s no phone in sight, but it’s clearly a phone call. Inside Tony’s head.

“How is that even possible?” Jo murmured. It is way too early for any of this to be happening. Can’t they just go back to sleep and deal with all this weirdness next week or something?

“Richards, I gotta go.”

“—we could probably stabilize…go?”

“Yes, as in I’m hanging up. Give me some hours, and I’ll call you back. JARVIS will keep you updated.” There was a click, inside of Tony’s head, and then it was just Tony in there.

“One more time, how is that even possible?” Jo plunged her hands into Tony’s wild hair and felt her knuckles twinge. She’s still healing a little then.

“I modified the Extremis, stabilized it. I told Bruce about it, just in case there was an emergency, and it looks like I made the right call. It’s no Cap-in-a-bottle, but it’s an enhancer. I guess it enhanced the best part of me.” Tony’s tone was flippant, like always, and Jo’s whole body shivered.

“Fuck, Tony, you were almost dead. You might still die, because don’t think that I didn’t pick up on that untested part drifting through your genius brain. Natasha and Clint both had really close calls and are still critical, and Darcy was dead. I could have lost all of you.” Jo’s whole body was shaking now, and Tony twisted around so that he could get his arms around her. He wound up with his back against the headboard and his bodyguard draped across his lap, and he had his face pressed against the side of her neck. Her strong pulse was beating against his stubbled cheek while she sobbed silently into his hair.

“We’re all alive,” he whispered. If she didn’t stop crying, he might be on the verge of a crying breakdown. Jo knows that she can’t handle watching him cry right now, so she pulled back and used the shirt that she was wearing to wipe her face.

“Oh, fuck you, you asshole. I’ve known you all of six months and here I am, having a total meltdown because you almost died. I’ve killed people I’ve known longer than you. So, fuck you, Tony, and don’t you ever fuckin’ almost die on me again or I’ll fuckin’ kill you myself.”

“Love you too, sweetheart.”

“I hate you so much.” Jo rested against him for another few minutes, until she’d completely calmed down, and then she moved them around again. When she was done, she was leaning back against a mound of pillows and Tony was lying next to her instead of between her legs. He was using her stomach as a pillow, and she was running her fingers through his hair.

“Have you thought about Darcy?” She picked up on some thoughts and realized that they were thinking about the same thing.

“I saw the way that the mugger broke her arm. There’s no way a break like that could heal in just three weeks,” Jo said after a moment.

“Then there’s the whole dying thing. I checked the footage, and there’s no way she could have survived that.” Tony replayed the video for her, inside his head, and Jo had to bite her lip as she watched. She wasn’t sure if she was angry, sad, or needed to go puke. Darcy never should have gone through that.

“That’s Viper, the bitch. I should’ve killed her when I had the chance.” Jo’s rough voice was all growl, and Tony rubbed comforting circles against her arm.

“She mentioned Darcy’s father.” Darcy was raised in foster homes, and there’s no record of who her parents are. She doesn’t even know the name of her mother because there’s nothing on her birth certificate.

“You think that she’s…like me?” Tony looked up at her as Jo twirled some hair around her finger, and she sighed at the pointed look.

“It’s the only thing that makes sense.”

“It’s not making any sense to me. I knew I was a mutant from the very beginning. I’ve always been stronger than average, and I’ve always been able to heal. Always. Darcy has never exhibited any nonhuman abilities. Her black eye healed at an average rate.”

“Maybe it only kicks in for the big stuff?” Tony asked. Jo shook her head, but this is the only theory that makes sense.

“You’ll have to ask if you can draw some blood, check her DNA. If she’s a mutant, you’ll be able to tell.” There’s also the question of Darcy’s father; what does Viper know that they don’t?

“I can do that.”

“Why were you talking to Richards?” From what she’s picked up on, those two don’t get along. Probably because Tony tends to act like an asshole around the majority of the population.

“The city got really torn up during our big fight. We’re trying to make the cleanup and rebuild a little easier.” Oh, so he’s working on something good. That’s…good.

“I can’t believe that I’m even asking this, but is there any way that you can give Clint and Natasha something to help them out? Maybe Maria too?” She listened in as Tony’s thoughts spun all over the place, and his mind was running so fast that she only picked up on a few words.

“I have been working on something to expedite healing, but it’s still completely untested. I don’t know if it’ll work, if it’ll kill them, or what the side effects might be.” According to his thoughts, Tony’s been working with some companies to get this tested and then to start mass producing it. He wants to give it to hospitals for free. To be such an asshole, he really is a saint.

“You heard JARVIS last night. The internal damage alone is about to kill them, Tony. Who knows how long Clint and Natasha can hold on? And what if we get attacked again?”

“Okay, okay! I’ll try it and see what happens, after I get a little blood from Darcy. Deal?”



Darcy stepped into Maria’s hospital room with Thor right behind her, and the agent gave her a shaky smile. Steve was sitting in a chair at the agent’s bedside, and his smile was a little firmer. He looked okay, especially compared to Clint and Natasha. Darcy looked in on them first, but they were both unconscious. It’s probably kinder to keep them under. They’re both so banged up, and Bruce kept wringing his hands as he went over their long list of injuries. Broken bones, internal bleeding, and so much more that she didn’t understand but translated into very bad.

“How are you feeling?”

“Three broken ribs, a concussion, and a total of forty-eight stitches. I’ve had worse, but Captain Rogers keeps waking me up to ask if I know when my birthday is,” Maria said in a quiet voice.

“And it is?” Steve asked with a pointed look. Darcy looked on as Maria glared up at the Captain, which is something that most people just can’t do. Not even Natasha has managed to glare at him yet.

“April third. I’m expecting something big from you, Rogers.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Darcy thought it was almost cute as Steve smiled and Maria glared. “We’ll give you two a minute.”

“Thanks,” Darcy whispered as Steve moved past her. He took Thor with him, and Darcy moved over to the empty chair.

“I heard what happened, and I almost didn’t believe it. Darcy, I am so sorry—” Maria stopped talking when Darcy grabbed her hand, and she tried to hold back her tears. She cried enough last night after Thor carried her to her room; the big guy just rocked her and let her get it all out, but she’s still feeling…raw.

“I want to say thank you. You shouldn’t have even been able to move in your condition, but you protected me anyway.”

“I didn’t do a very good job.” The woman’s lips were pinched into a thin line, and Darcy squeezed her hand a little.

“I’m still alive.” Maria’s blue eyes met hers, and Darcy already knew what she was going to ask.

“How are you still alive?” Darcy looked down, and she saw the crook of her elbow. There’s nothing there. No tiny hole. No little bruise. There should be.

“I don’t know; no one does. Tony took some blood before I came down here, and he’s going to try to figure it out,” she shrugged. Jo and Tony both had an idea, she could see it in their eyes, but they weren’t talking. Not about that at least. Instead they just took turns hugging her and telling her that she was the favorite; she had to remind them that she was their only child, which just made them both smile.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Steve started. Darcy and Maria both looked at him, and Steve flicked his eyes down before continuing. “We’re going to have a quick team meeting. All of us.”


“Doc!” Bruce froze at the sound of the rough yell, and he caught a flash of green eyes and pink lips right before arms locked around his neck. He rocked back on his heels and wrapped his arms around Jo’s waist to steady them, and he could hear Jo’s quick breathing in his ear.

“Jo?” She tightened her arms for a brief moment and pulled back a little, but she kept her arms around his shoulders.

“I just, I wanted to say thank you. For saving Tony. For helping Clint and Natasha. For everything.” He could feel her fingers curling around the hair at the nape of his neck, and she was smiling at him. There was a dimple in her left cheek.

“Am I interrupting something?” Tony’s voice sounded amused, and Bruce looked to the side to see him smiling at the two of them. Bruce would have stepped away, but Jo was still holding onto him and idly playing with his hair. Does she even realize that she’s doing it?

“I’m just thanking the Doc for being so awesome. You should thank him too,” Jo said and lightly scratched a nail against his scalp.

“I think I’ll leave the thanking to you, sweetheart, but make it a quickie. We’ve got a meeting, remember?” Tony sauntered off, like he didn’t just almost die, and Jo rolled her eyes before looking back at him. Shouldn’t she step away from him now?

“He can be so vulgar sometimes. Like I’d let our first time happen in a hospital hallway? We’re way too classy for that,” Jo said with a grin. She pulled away from him and started walking after Tony, until she realized that he wasn’t walking beside her. She looked over her shoulder at him, and Bruce didn’t know what to think. It was colder without her standing against him. “Coming, Bruce?”

“Hmm? Oh, uh, yeah. Yes. What kind of meeting are we having?” Jo grinned at him once he caught up, and she looped her arm through his when he was close enough. Bruce startled a little at the touch, and Jo’s smile gentled but she didn’t let go. She’s wearing black shorts that show off her long legs and a white AC/DC shirt that has to be Tony’s, and she smells like…oranges.

“It will all be explained, at the meeting. We decided that it was better if everyone has a say-so, but Tony really wants your opinion. ‘Cause you’re the Doc.”

“How’s he doing? With the Extremis?” Jo’s smile slowly slipped away, and he watched the way that her cheek twitched. Like she was biting the inside of it.

“So far so good, but we’re both keeping our eyes out for any side effects. We’ll talk about that at the next team meeting,” Jo said as they got closer to the others. He could see Tony talking to Steve, and Thor was listening intently.

“You weren’t joking when you said that Tony liked team meetings.” Jo’s smile lit her eyes up, and he felt like stepping away from her. It’s strange to have a smile that bright directed at him. Because of him.

“Tony loves talking about himself. C’mon, Doc, things are about to get real interesting.”


She let Bruce go once they reached the others, but she had to force herself to do it. The Doc was so solid and warm that she never wanted to let him go, which was a little strange. Yeah, she likes the Doc, but she had no idea that hugging him would feel so good. Especially with everything that’s going on. She’s felt jittery and on edge since her and Tony stepped out of his bedroom this morning, but she felt calm the moment that she held onto Bruce. Just one of those random little things.

“Done already?” Tony whispered once she got to his side. She lightly elbowed him in the ribs, but he just smiled at her. Steve pulled his head out of Maria’s room and nodded, and they all walked inside. Darcy was sitting next to Maria’s bed, and Jo smiled at her as they fanned out. Steve stood on the opposite side of Maria’s bed, and Thor went to stand directly behind Darcy. Tony stood at the foot of the bed, with Jo and Bruce on either side of him.

“You want both of us here?” Darcy asked.

“You’re part of the team, kid.”

“But I’m not,” Maria pointed out. She’s a SHIELD agent, not an Avenger. Then again, Darcy and Jo aren’t Avengers either.

“No, but this affects you too.” Jo kept quiet as Tony explained the healing accelerant that he’s been working on, and he didn’t hold anything back. He told them that it was untested and that there was no way of knowing how things would turn out, and Jo watched everyone’s faces as they listened.

“What kind of chances do Natasha and Clint have, Bruce?” Steve asked once Tony was done. Jo watched the way that Bruce wrung his hands, but that’s not what he’s doing. He’s subtly checking his pulse. Over and over.

“Chances of survival are low, but they’re both stable right now. If they both pull through, it’s the recovery that I’m worried about,” Bruce said quietly.

“Recovery?” Darcy asked. Thor braced a hand against her shoulder, and Darcy reached up to hold it.

“Both of Natasha’s legs were severely broken in several different places. She’ll need to have surgery to fully repair the bone damage, but she’ll never walk the same again. One of her kidneys is about to fail; we’re going in to remove it this afternoon. A doctor has already performed surgery to repair Clint’s heart, but he’s still in danger of heart failure. A broken rib punctured one of his lungs. He has burns covering the majority of his back, so we’ll have to start skin grafts once he’s strong enough.”

“They’ll never fight again,” Maria said once Bruce was through. They’ll be vulnerable, and they’ve made a lot of enemies over the years. Jo and the others can keep them safe, but…Natasha and Clint are agents. It’s not just a job to them. It’s who they are.

“They will never truly heal,” Thor said in a quiet voice. Steve looked around the room at all of them and then settled his eyes on Tony.

“Give it to them. We have to try,” Steve said. When no one said anything different, Tony nodded and looked at Maria.

“You want some?” he asked. Maria quirked a brow, which just made Tony shrug.

“The concussion will fade, the broken ribs will heal, and the stitches will come out. I’ll be just as good as new.”

“Okay. Let me know if you change your mind.” Maria nodded, and Tony clapped his hands to make sure that he had everyone’s attention. “Fury will be here in a few hours, and we are all going to sit down and figure out what the hell happened. I am going to see if I can get Clint and Natasha up and moving, and I will be going by myself. Bye.”

“Keep us updated,” Steve said as he reached for the door. Tony saluted and kept walking, and Jo rubbed at her temples. Okay, that’s one thing taken care of.

“Jo? Has Tony had any time to look at the blood I gave him?” Jo blinked once and then looked over at Darcy, who was looking at her like she was on the verge of becoming a mind reader. Her eyes were piercing through Jo, and Jo is not the world’s best liar. There’s a reason that her only jobs for SHIELD were beating people up.

“Not yet, but he’s running some kind of analysis thing on it.”

“Any theories?” Darcy is definitely trying to read her mind, and her and Tony made the decision not to tell Darcy anything until it was proven.

“Well, you see, about that—”

“Dr. Banner, Miss Jo, your presence is being requested in Agent Barton’s room.” Saved by JARVIS! She owes that AI so much. Darcy gave her a little glare as she shrugged, and she followed Bruce out of the room. Jo was the first one into Clint’s room, and she froze at the sight that greeted her.

“A little help please!” Tony yelled out. Clint was thrashing and yelling on the bed, and Tony was struggling to keep him still. Bruce moved around her and pinned the archer’s arms down, and Jo sprang into action. She used the hospital sheets to tie his legs down, and she braced her arms against his stomach to push him against the bed.

“This is so not good,” Jo mumbled and pushed against Clint’s stomach as he jerked.

“Josie?” Clint managed to ask through a scream of pain. It made Jo wince, and she twisted her back so that she could press her cheek against his thundering heart. His stitches have popped and blood is starting to seep through the thin hospital gown.

“I’m here, Clint, with Tony and Bruce. You’re going to be okay,” Jo said quickly.

“Clint? What are you feeling?” Tony asked and got really close to his face.


“He’s conscious, so that’s something. Clint, is anything changing?” Bruce asked. Clint clenched his eyes shut as his body spasmed again, and Jo and Bruce both shook with the movement.

“My back…it’s itchy,” he groaned.

“We need to get him up so we can see,” Tony said. Jo and Bruce exchanged a look, and they moved quickly once a decision was made. Well, Bruce made a decision and Jo was able to hear it. Before Clint could have another massive convulsion, Bruce hefted him up into a sitting position and Jo pinned his arms between their bodies. Clint yelped at the movement and bucked against her, but Jo just held on a little harder. Tony and Bruce made quick work of the ties holding the hospital gown together, and Jo peered over Clint’s shoulder to get a look at his back.

“It’s healing,” Bruce said with a small amount of wonder. Clint screamed again, which went against the statement.

“But it looks like it’s killing him,” Jo countered. Clint twisted and tried to get away, and she listened as the sheets ripped. A knee connected with her spine, and Jo groaned at the hard hit.

“C’mon, Clint, you can fight this and hold on. This stuff is going to heal you, and you’ll be just fine,” Jo whispered.

“What the hell?!” Jo closed her eyes at the sound of Darcy’s voice, and Clint struggled against her. She can’t hold him on her own. Jo’s stronger, but she doesn’t want to hurt him.

“Darcy, you need to—”

“Is it working?” Darcy asked, completely cutting Tony off.

“We think so. The burns on his back are starting to heal,” Bruce explained. Jo’s body tensed up as Clint bit into her shoulder, and she felt her skin breaking as he screamed and jerked. His arms broke free, but he just wrapped them around her and rode out the tremor. His grip was bruising, but Jo will be just fine.

“Shh, Clint, it’s okay. You’re almost done,” Darcy whispered. Jo forced her eyes to open, and she watched the way that Darcy gently combed her fingers through Clint’s hair. Darcy must have felt her looking, because she met her eyes and shrugged. “What? It works when you do it for Tony.”

“Good point.” Clint continued to shake, but he released Jo’s shoulder after a few minutes and started moving his head back into Darcy’s fingers.

Nearly an hour later, most of Jo was completely numb and Darcy was sitting on the bed instead of standing next to it. Clint was slumped forward against Jo and completely still, but Darcy was still lightly petting his hair and humming quietly. Tony and Bruce were sitting down, just watching, and everyone let out a relieved breath when Clint finally went still. His back was healed, somewhat. She watched as the burns scabbed and faded, until pale scars were left behind. There’s still evidence of what happened, but it looks like something that happened over a decade ago.

“I’ll get a doctor to check his lung and heart,” Bruce said quietly.

“You girls ready to take on Natasha?” Tony asked. Jo and Darcy groaned together, and Clint huffed out a breath against Jo’s shoulder. “Right. I’ll go ask Thor and Cap. You two should rest.”

“Great idea, boss.”

“Wonderful idea, daddy-o.” Jo gently laid Clint back onto the bed, and the bed was thankfully large enough that Jo and Darcy could lay down on either side of him. They were both asleep before Tony closed the door behind him.


Since they never managed to re-tie Clint’s gown, it’d slipped off completely and was now twisted around his hips. According to the doctor whose name Bruce couldn’t remember, Clint’s heart looked like a healthy twenty year olds. As for his lung, it was impossible to tell that it had ever been damaged. Even the bruises from his mission with Jo were gone. The scars on his chest from the open heart surgery looked old and faint, and Clint’s vitals looked amazing. He also looked at peace, but that might be because of his two sleeping partners.

Jo was on his left side, and the bodyguard had one foot planted on the floor and the other stretched out over Clint’s leg so that her toes brushed against Darcy’s leg. The white shirt she was wearing had a dark stain over the right shoulder, where Clint bit her. Other than that, she looked completely uninjured. Darcy was on Clint’s right side, and she was curled up against the archer. She was using his shoulder as a pillow, and she had one arm draped across the top of his chest so that she could reach his hair. All three of them looked completely at ease, and Bruce was just about to walk away when he noticed dark eyes watching him.

“Hiya, Doc.” Jo’s voice was even rougher than usual, and her eyes looked soft as she smiled up at him.

“Did I wake you?” he whispered. He didn’t want to wake the other two; they can all use all the sleep they can get.

“No, the painful twinge at the base of my spine did that. Think you can help me up?” She raised one hand, and Bruce slowly reached out to grab it. Her fingers wrapped around him, and they were rougher than he expected. Maybe the healing doesn’t take care of everything, like calluses. She winced as he pulled her up from the bed, and he watched the way that she pulled in a slow breath once she was standing.

“Are you okay?” Tony said that Jo was a quick healer, but it has only been a day since their big fight.

“Just a little sore. If I had known the city was going to be attacked the moment I returned, I might’ve taken it easy in Scotland.” Her smile stretched her cheeks, and she was standing so close that Bruce could smell oranges and the faint metallic scent of blood.

“You look fine,” was the first thing to come to mind. There wasn’t a scratch on her, but he realized exactly what he’d said when Jo raised a brow at him and her smile changed into a smirk.

“You’re too cute when you blush like that, Doc. So, think you can help me to my room? My leg’s kinda numb.” He nodded because he was scared to open his mouth again, and Jo looped her arm through his. Her other arm came up so she could hold onto his forearm, and Bruce led them out of the room. “How’s Natasha?”

“The broken bones have healed, and both of her kidneys are perfectly healthy. She had the same reaction as Clint, lasted a little over an hour, but she’s resting now. Thor is keeping an eye on her, and Steve is with Agent Hill.”

“Where’s Tony?” Jo’s hand was warm against his bare arm; why did he have his sleeves rolled up?

“Working in the lab. I think he said he was analyzing Darcy’s blood.” Jo just hummed, and Bruce thought back to the little interaction between her and Darcy before they were called into Clint’s room. “You and Tony have a theory?”

“Just between us?” Bruce looked over and realized just how close they were.

“Just between us,” he agreed. They stepped into the elevator, and Jo seemed to slump against him. Like her body was giving out.

“We think that there’s a small possibility that Darcy might have a mutant parent,” she whispered. A mutant parent?

“Wouldn’t she know?”

“Darcy was found at a hospital, no mother or father. She was raised in foster homes, so she has no idea about where she comes from. The weird thing is that she’s never showed any signs of being a mutant before now.”

“Mutant attributes sometimes show up later in life, don’t they?” He’s studied mutant genetics, a little, while researching his other (greener) half.

“A lot don’t realize that they’re mutants until puberty, but sometimes it’s obvious right from the get-go. Like me. Ma knew that I’d gotten my dad’s mutant powers right after I was born. Something about getting stuck with needles and not even bleeding. Darcy…her arm healed way too quickly, but her black eye healed at an average rate. It just doesn’t make sense, but it’s the only thing that does make sense. Ugh, my head hurts.” Jo rubbed her temple against his shoulder, and Bruce doesn’t know what to do to comfort her.

“What if her mutant side has been repressed this entire time? Getting killed could have triggered it.” He’s thinking aloud, but Jo hummed anyway.

“It’s possible. After Tony finishes running his little tests, we’re going to call the Professor. He’ll know what’s going on. The Professor knows everything.” The last part was said with a little whisper and smile, and Bruce felt something tightening in his gut. Why does she keep smiling at him like that?

“We’ll figure it all out,” Bruce said as the elevator stopped and the doors opened. Jo slowly straightened so that she wasn’t pressed against his side, but she was still holding onto his arm.

“Okay, it’s nap time. It’s too bad that Tony’s working; I could really use a cuddle buddy.” She looked over at him, and Bruce felt his eyes widen. “But I guess you’ve got work to do too, huh?”

“I do.” Jo shrugged and let her arm slip through his.

“Eh, maybe next time. Thanks for the escort, Doc.” Before he could tell her that it was no problem, she leaned up on her tiptoes and pressed a quick kiss against his cheek. Bruce watched her walk out of the elevator and into the living room that they both shared with Tony, and she raised her hand in farewell just as the doors closed. Bruce touched his cheek, but the spot was the same temperature as the rest of him. Funny, because that one little patch of skin felt a lot hotter.


“If you keep groaning like that, I’m going to kick you out.” Jo groaned even louder at that and flopped over onto her stomach so that she could bury her face into the couch cushion. She’d only managed to get two hours of sleep before she was up, but she feels like her old self again. No more aches and pains. She went to find Tony as soon as she was awake, and he was still in the lab doing Thor-knows-what. (She’s finally picked a religion; Thorism.)

“Toooooony.” She’s not whining. Nope. Not her. She heard Tony heave a sigh and then the quiet slap of his bare feet against the tiles. He sat down next to her on the couch, and he swept her hair to the side so that he could massage the nape of her neck.

“Okay, I’ll bite. What’s wrong?” Jo turned her face so that she wasn’t suffocating herself, but she didn’t look up at Tony. She just looked out into the lab as she told him about waking up on Clint’s hospital bed with Bruce standing over them. “Creepy.”

“He was checking Clint’s vitals. Anyway, so I asked him to help me up and then I told him that my leg was asleep. It was a little tingly, but it was mostly a lie because I wanted him to walk me to the elevator.”

“You lied to the good doctor?” She blindly slapped out of at him, listened to his little yelp of pain, and continued.

“I just didn’t want to be alone for a minute, and I like his company. So we talked about how Natasha was doing and our Darcy theory—don’t say anything; I know you don’t care if Bruce knows. So after we got to our floor and we were getting ready to say goodbye, I…uh,” she trailed off.

“You what?”

“I might have kissed him.” Tony exploded into laughter, and Jo got up on her knees so that she could whack him with one of the little pillows that came with the couch. Tony did his best to defend himself, but he was laughing too hard to put up much of a defense. “It was just on the cheek! A quick little peck! That’s all!”

“You!” insane laughter “Kissed!” a little more insane laughter “Bruce!”

“He’s going to think I’m such a weirdo,” Jo groaned and fell back onto the couch. She clutched the pillow to her chest and stared up at the ceiling, and she listened as Tony’s loud laughter drifted into quiet chuckles.

“He’s not going to think you’re a weirdo,” Tony said as he propped his chin on top of the pillow she was holding.

“What kind of person does something like that though? We’ve had like three face-to-face conversations, and at the end of the third one I kissed him! On the cheek, but still!” Tony smiled at her, so Jo huffed and turned away from him.

“What you did is probably a good thing. Bruce has been avoiding physical human contact for so long that he’s probably forgotten what it’s like. What you’re doing is good for him. It lets him know that you’re not scared of him and that he’s accepted. So quit freaking out.” Jo turned his words over, and it made sense. Earlier this morning, which feels like a lifetime ago, Bruce tensed a little when she linked their arms. Is that because he’s not used to people touching him just for the sake of having a little contact?

“Huh, you really are a genius.” Tony was trying to smother her with the little pillow when a ding! cut through the lab, and Jo pushed herself up into a sitting position. “Are you cooking something?”

“That would be test results. JARVIS, what are we looking at?”

“There is an X-gene present, sir.”

“And that’s all she wrote,” Jo said and looked over at Tony. They both tensed up as the lab door opened and then immediately relaxed when they saw Bruce. He paused when he noticed the two of them, and Jo waved. She’s not going to be embarrassed; she’s going to show the Doc that he’s one of them.

“Perfect timing! Come look at this, Bruce.” Jo let her hair down as the two scientists looked at a screen and started muttering to one another, and she found her hairbrush stuffed between two cushions. She’d been wondering where that ran off to. By the time she was finished putting her hair back up, Tony and Bruce were done talking and looking at her.

“What?” Tony tugged on Bruce’s elbow to pull him over, and the two scientists sat down on either side of her since she was sitting in the middle of the couch.

“It’s time to call the Professor and tell him what we know.” Jo gave JARVIS the number to the school to save him some time, and they all held still as they listened to the rings.

“Xavier’s. What do you want?” Jo wanted to laugh at the gruff voice, but now isn’t the time.

“Who put you on phone duty? They should know better than that,” she said with a little more drawl than usual. She listened to the deep huff and let herself smile; she’s really missed Logan.

“What are you doin’ callin’ the Professor’s phone?” Logan asked.

“I need to talk to him. It’s pretty important.”

“This got somethin’ to do with that dumbass boss of yours?” Jo slapped her hand over Tony’s mouth before he could say anything, and she held firm as Tony yanked on her wrist.

“Completely unrelated. Please, Logan. I really need to talk to him.”

“I’ll be listenin’ in.”

“I’m okay with that.” She trusts Logan, and she knows that he’s just worried about her. Huh, maybe Logan really is her father figure.

“He’s teachin’ a summer class. You! Kid! Go tell Wheels to get in here!” Jo rolled her eyes at Logan’s gruff voice and tried to figure out just how he became a teacher. Really, what was the Professor thinking?

“You doin’ okay? We saw what happened yesterday.” Jo gave Tony her angriest glare, and he narrowed his eyes before slowly nodding his head. Jo slowly eased her hand away from his mouth and placed her hands in her lap instead.

“Who are you calling a dumbass?!”

“Shut it, Tony! Yes, I’m fine. The fight wasn’t easy, but we’re all okay,” Jo said quickly. She could hear Logan grumbling on the other side of the phone, probably death threats, and decided to change the subject. Fast. “Oh, and Uncle Wade says hi.”

“What have I told you about that name?”

“It makes him happy.” Before Logan could say anything else, the sound of the Professor’s voice filled the background. Jo couldn’t hear what he was saying, but she knew that tone. It’s definitely the Professor. Logan told him what she’d said, and Jo waited.

“How can I help you, Josephine?” His voice was soothing, and Jo relaxed back against the couch.

“You know I’m not good with the science stuff, Professor, so I’m going to let Mr. Stark do all the explaining.” Tony quirked a brow at the “Mr.” thing, but Jo just shrugged and motioned for him to go on. The room was quiet except for Tony’s voice, and Jo let her eyes close as he explained the situation. He went over Darcy’s past, the mugging and her healing rate with the injuries from it, what Viper said, and about how she healed from a shot to the head.

“Is it possible?” Tony asked when he was done. Logan was growling quietly in the background, and Jo knows why. There’s been an ongoing war between Logan and Viper for years.

“Possible, yes, but it is very rare for this type of mutation to occur so late,” the Professor said thoughtfully.

“Bruce had a theory,” Jo threw out. Wide brown eyes met hers, so she knocked her shoulder against the Doc’s and gave him an encouraging smile.

“Dr. Banner?”

“I believe that the mutation has been dormant and was triggered by what happened with Viper. I think the only question now is if it will recede back into dormancy or remain present,” Bruce said quietly.

“Quite right, Dr. Banner. Every mutation is different, so we have no way of knowing what Miss Lewis is capable of. Knowing her parentage would give us an advantage,” the Professor said as Logan continued to grumble.

“I’ve done some digging, and I haven’t been able to pull up anything. She was left in a basket in front of a hospital when she was only a few hours old, and there’s no record of either parent anywhere,” Tony said with a little glare. Jo can tell just how much this is bugging him, but there’s nothing they can do.

“You need to tell her. If her abilities remain active, she will need to be taught. Do you understand, Josephine?” Yeah, she understands. Most people think that being able to heal requires no teaching whatsoever, but they’re wrong. It’s important to know your limits and if you can control it.

“Yes, Professor.”

“If you need anything, Josephine, we are here for you. Aren’t we, Logan?”

“Just say the word, kid.” Jo looked at Tony, looked at Bruce, and then looked down at her hands.

“We’ve got everything here covered. Thank you, Professor.” Tony and Bruce took turns saying thank you and goodbye to the Professor, and Jo promised Logan that she’d call him again soon before hanging up.

“How do you think Darcy will take it?” Tony asked once the call was ended. Jo crossed her arms under her chest and tried to imagine it, but she couldn’t. Would it be like someone telling her that she’s an alien? Because most people think of mutants as something foreign and other; something not even human.

“There’s only one way to find out,” Jo shrugged.

“It will take time to adjust, but Darcy is a strong girl,” Bruce said quietly. Jo smiled at him and then tried not to sigh when the bright smile caused a little color to rise into the Doc’s cheeks. He really is just too cute for his own good.

“Yeah, we raised her right,” Tony sighed. Jo just hummed and tried to sort through her thoughts. So much has happened in such a short span of time, and her head is starting to feel full.

“Sir, Director Fury has arrived.” JARVIS announced the arrival out loud for her and Bruce to hear, but Tony could see the live footage of the director walking into the foyer inside his mind. This is going to take some getting used to.

“Are Natasha and Clint stable enough for a meeting?” Tony asked. Surprisingly, it was Bruce that answered and not JARVIS.

“That’s why I came up here. They’re both conscious and all injuries have been healed, but they both have severe cases of…vomiting.” Bruce’s nose wrinkled a little, and Jo nearly cooed at the sight. She stopped right before she really embarrassed herself.

“Then we’ll get them a bucket. C’mon, we need to get this all out,” Tony said and fluidly moved to his feet. Jo stood up next to him, and she offered her hand down to Bruce. The Doc lightly gripped her hand with his own, and Jo pulled him up off the couch.

“Don’t forget Fury’s package. I wanna know what I got my ass kicked for,” Jo said and looked over at Tony. Right before leaving for the big fight, Jo gave Tony the big envelope that Roderick slipped into her back pocket before she left. Tony went to get it out of his safe, and Jo looped her arms through the two scientists’. It’s time for the big team meeting.


Darcy walked into the den behind Thor, who was carrying Natasha, so she couldn’t really see anything at first. Clint was leaning heavily against her side and apologizing for needing her help, so she couldn’t hear anything either. Once they got inside, she stretched her neck and took a look around. Bruce was sitting on one end of a couch, tucked into the corner, with Jo sitting next to him. Steve was sitting in one of the big chairs, and Maria was sitting in a wheelchair right next to him. Tony and a really tall black guy with a freakin’ eye patch were talking next to the fireplace, and it looked intense. Darcy followed Thor over to another long couch and waited for the big guy to ease Natasha down. She helped Clint sit, and Thor and Darcy took the end seats of the couch so that Natasha and Clint were between them. They were also armed with small trashcans and baby wipes, because of the nausea.

“Barton. Romanoff.” The two agents straightened up, despite the fact that they’re so sick they can’t even walk, so this guy must be someone important.

“Director Fury,” they said together. Oh, this is the guy that Tony’s always yelling about. The Director of SHIELD; the big boss.

“It’s good to see you both.”

“Sir.” Both agents dipped their chins, but there’s something in their eyes. Darcy can’t read the look, but that’s probably because they’re super secret agents.

“Let’s get this started! Richards?!” Tony yelled as he walked over to the couch. He sat down on the couch, and him and Jo immediately locked hands. A giant screen appeared above them, and Darcy blinked up at the four faces. One of them looks like a rock.

“What’s happened?” the guy in the middle asked. He was wearing a white lab coat and had a little gray in his dark hair, and the pretty blonde standing behind him had a hand on his shoulder.

“We believe that the Zodiac attack was a distraction,” Fury started. Ha! Zodiac Attack. What? It rhymes. “We’ve had mass breakouts at the Big House and Cube.”

“Villain prisons,” Clint whispered to her. Well, that explains why everyone looks so freaked out. Even Jo is looking a little pale.

“How many?” Richards asked.

“All of them.” Jo swore out loud, and Darcy could hear Natasha muttering under her breath in Russian.

“Do we know who did it?” Steve asked. Fury looked around at all of them and drummed his fingers against the mantle over the fireplace.

“There was no footage at the Cube, but we picked up an image from the Big House before our communications went down. It was Sinthea Shmidt, and we believe that she was there to free her father.” Steve’s jaw was clenched so tight that Darcy was afraid that his head was going to explode, and Thor dutifully held Natasha’s hair back as she emptied her stomach.

“What do you need us to do?” Richards asked.

“I need you and your team to go to a secure location to rebuild the prisons. We can’t let this happen again. Stark has agreed to consult, but he will remain here in the city.” Tony nodded at Fury’s words, and Natasha was able to sit back against the couch. Richards looked back at his team, and the three people nodded.

“Just let us know when and where.”

“We’ll talk later, Richards,” Tony said. The screen suddenly disappeared, and Darcy blinked up at empty air.

“This is a nightmare,” Maria muttered and rubbed at her temples.

“Do you know how many of those pissed off prisoners I put away?” Jo groaned. Oh, so that explains the paleness.

“About the same amount that we put away,” Clint huffed. He’s looking a little green, so Darcy rubbed soothing circles across his back.

“What’s the plan?” Fury looked at Steve and then shook his head.

“Plan? We don’t have a plan. Over a hundred prisoners escaped and scattered, and we have no way of finding them. The only thing we can do is wait.”

“Can we move on then? I have a suit to rebuild,” Tony said with a pointed look at his bodyguard. Jo just glared right back and didn’t say anything, but she didn’t let go of Tony’s hand either. Those two are so weird.

“Eris?” That’s a really weird codename; Darcy likes Tank better. The imagery is a lot more fun.

“Got it right here, sir.” Tony pulled an envelope out of his pocket and handed it to Fury, who opened it and then immediately handed something over to Tony. Darcy’s pretty sure that Fury is making a statement, but he could’ve just told Tony to open it. Oh, it’s a memory stick. That’s kinda boring. Tony plugged it into his phone, and a screen popped up.

“It’s…names,” Natasha said quietly. She’s still not looking so good, and neither is Clint. The file showed nothing but a long list of names, and everyone turned to face Fury.

“I dirty boxed two giant Scots for this?” Jo asked, with just a small hint of anger. Fury looked past the couch that Jo was on to where the agents where, and Darcy was on the edge of her seat.

“I don’t have any proof, but something isn’t right. The Scots got this off one of our operatives, but I have no record of its existence. I don’t know what the names mean.”

“It’s why we were investigating HYDRA. There are things that don’t add up,” Natasha added.

“What do you want us to do about it?” Oh yeah, Tony definitely doesn’t like Fury.

“Nothing, for now. I need us all to be on the same team.” Tony shifted at that but nodded, and it was Steve that spoke up.

“We’re all on the same team, sir.”

“And since we’re all on the same team, I think Maria should finish out her recovery here. She’ll be vulnerable on her own,” Tony said quickly. Maria sputtered and looked at Fury, and Darcy tried not to laugh. Tony’s a nice guy trapped in an asshole’s body, so sometimes he just decides to do nice things without asking for permission first.

“Fair enough.” Maria huffed quietly and let her shoulders slouch a little, but her broken ribs stopped her from doing much else.

“Okay! Time for the good stuff. Half of us in this room should be dead, but we’re all still here. Let’s start with me,” Tony said and actually pointed at himself.

“Shocker,” Jo drawled. When Tony turned to glare at her, she leaned back onto Bruce and smiled.

“I’ve been keeping a modified version of Extremis in case of emergencies. For those that don’t know, Extremis was developed by some bad dudes trying to recreate the Super Soldier thing but it was a bust. Mostly. It works on a limited number of the population and burns people up from the inside. I modified it into what I thought was a healing agent.”

“What you thought?” Natasha asked. Thor was still lightly rubbing Natasha’s back, because the agent is still shaking slightly. Clint’s sitting stone still, so Darcy’s hands are in her lap.

“When I fell, nearly every bone broke. A few organs ruptured. I should be dead.” Tony is gripping Jo’s hand so tight that both of their hands are turning colors. “The Extremis healed me, but it also enhanced me a little.”

“That’s one way of putting it,” Jo muttered. So Jo already knows. What is she saying? Of course Jo already knows.

“I’ve got a link to satellites and computer networks, and to JARVIS. It makes things go a lot faster,” Tony said with a little smile.

“He can google stuff in his brain,” Jo explained.

“Tony’s brain is a computer? Sweet,” Darcy said with a nod. Tony glared at her this time, so she just smiled at him. Huh, his glare is looking a little weak today.

“Have you used this Extremis on Natasha and Clint?” Thor asked. Go, big guy! Keeping them all on track. Tony shook his head and looked at the two agents.

“Extremis gave me the idea, but it’s something that I’ve developed completely on my own. It’s still in the experimental stage, but it healed you.” Clint and Natasha both raised their heads to look at him, and Tony shifted under the combined anger. “So there are still some kinks to work out.”

“You think?” Clint asked as a tremor worked through him.

“It should ease off soon,” Tony said and tried to smile. Well, that covers the three people who survived.

“What about me?” Tony and Jo both looked at her, and she can’t read them. She can always read Tony and Jo, because they don’t hide from her. Is there something wrong with her?

“Darcy, if you want, we can talk alone,” Jo said quietly. Darcy looked around the room and thought it over real quick. The two agents, the agent that tried to save her, Thor, Cap’n ‘Merica, the world’s scariest pirate, the good doctor, and the weirdest couple to never date. She can trust all these people, right?

“Just tell me.” Tony and Jo exchanged a look, and Darcy could tell that they were having a telepathic conversation. Well, Tony was talking internally and Jo was listening. After a moment, something was decided and they both turned to her again. She thought it would be Tony that answered her, but it was Jo.

“It’s rare for something like this to show up so late in life, but it’s not impossible.”

“There’s something wrong with me, isn’t there?” she asked before Jo could continue. Her green eyes widened, and some of her hair fell free as she shook her head.

“No! There’s nothing wrong with you, Darcy. Nothing, okay? You’re just…different.”

“Different how?” Everyone looks as confused as she feels, except for the two scientists and Jo.

“Different like me,” she said with a shrug. Darcy got shot in the head and survived, just like Jo.

“Am I still human?” Darcy whispered. She could feel her heart beating against her chest and in her throat, and it sounds like water is rushing through her ears.

“Technically, yes. You’re not a homo sapiens though. We’re homo sapiens superior,” Jo said with a little smile. She’s a different species? She always thought she was a little weird, but a different species? How is this even possible?


“We think one of your parents passed the gene down; we’re just not sure why it took so long to manifest or if it’ll stay active.” Gene, manifest, active…No one knows anything about her, because she doesn’t know who she came from. The only reason she’s alive is because some mutant gene decided to kick in and save her, and now it might just disappear but she’s still not really human. Darcy’s mind was about to kick into overdrive when she felt a slight pressure on her hand, and she looked over at Clint.

“I like mutants,” he said with a shrug. It was said so simply, like a child on the playground announcing that he likes cheese, and Darcy’s laugh sounded a little watery. So, she’s a mutant. She can live with that.

“Can we talk later, Jo?”

“Of course. Whenever you want.”

“And we want you to know that we still love you and you’re the favorite,” Tony added. That got Darcy to laugh one more time, and she held onto Clint’s hand a little harder.

“This has all been very touching, but some of us have things to do,” Fury said pointedly. Tony waved his hand, and Fury nodded at the agents before striding out of the room.

“Anybody got anything else they want to bring up?” Tony asked. When no one said anything, he clapped his hands and jumped to his feet. “Meeting adjourned!”
♠ ♠ ♠
So, this chapter was fun to write. I actually mean that too. Everyone is alive, Darcy's situation was somewhat explained, and there were Bruce/Jo moments! There's a lot that I could talk about in this chapter, but I wouldn't even know where to start. Feel free to ask me any questions!