Archaic Kinds of Fun

no boys allowed

August 18, 2014

“I suck so bad at this,” Jo groaned and flopped back onto the floor. Since Bruce is an awesome guy, he’s given up some of his after-lunch lab time to work on the plan. It’s only day two, but she’s already feeling like a complete failure.

“You don’t…suck. You just need more practice.” They’re sitting out on her balcony, which is where they have lunch now right before practicing, because Bruce thinks it’ll help if she’s in a familiar place. Like the lab isn’t familiar? Well, she does really like her balcony. It’s so warm. She forced herself back into a sitting position and looked over at Bruce with defeated eyes.

“I’m not making any kind of impact. Hulk is snoring in there.” Bruce smiled at her, really smiled at her, and Jo thought she was going to fall over. It’s a good thing she’s already sitting down.

“He fought Thor after breakfast, so he’s still sleeping it off. Hmm, maybe we should try something different?” There was a little voice, somewhere deep in the back of her mind, that said she would love to try something different. This is all Tony’s fault. He keeps teasing her about her little crush and thinking really vulgar thoughts whenever her and Bruce are in the same room. She’s gonna wind up killing him. With love.

“Different how?” Right now, they’re sitting on the floor of her balcony and facing each other. They’ll close their eyes, Bruce will calm his mind, and Jo will try to think a word at him. So far, he’s heard nothing.

“Telepathy is strengthened by touch, right?”

“Yes, please,” was her immediate thought. Looks like she’s getting better at not embarrassing herself. Well, somewhat.

“Yeah, I think so. I can usually focus on Tony’s thoughts easier when we’re touching.” That much is true, but Tony’s thoughts are always so…fast. Unless he’s trying to get something across to her.

“Which position would be best for you?”

“All of them. Maybe we can make up some new ones. Stop it!” Oh, wow, she really needs to get this under control. The Doc is just so cute sometimes though! With his curly hair, missing buttons, and shy smiles. What’s not to like? No, wait, she’s gotta focus. Which position is best for the task at hand?

“I’m not sure. Any thoughts?” Because clearly all of her thoughts are in the gutter today. Tony was right. This is going to be a disaster, but not for the reasons he thought.

“How are you and Tony normally touching when you listen to his thoughts? When are they the clearest?” Bruce is so smart, and his dark blue button-up is missing the top two buttons.

“Oh, uh, normally when we’re laying down or holding onto each other.” She felt a little heat in her cheeks, and she really hopes that JARVIS isn’t playing all of this for Tony. Oh, who is she kidding? Of course he is. She watched as Bruce looked down at his knees and pinched the bridge of his nose, and she shifted a little as she waited.

“Okay. Then we can try that, if that’s okay with you?” Okay with her? It is most definitely okay with her, but would this be considered taking advantage of the Doc? She’s doing it for the greater good, but she’s getting fringe benefits.

“Yeah, we can try that. I guess we’ll just, uh, lay down?” Everything about this is awkward. Her palms are sweaty, her stomach is fluttery, and her face constantly feels hot. She wasn’t even this nervous when she lost her virginity.


“I’m coming.” She winced a little at the words, but Bruce is already horizontal and thankfully couldn’t see her. Where’s Natasha when Jo actually needs to be shot in the head? Well, at least they pulled down the giant couch cushion to sit on. It’s more like a futon cushion, which means it’s even more like a mattress. She really needs to stop thinking, except thinking is the whole point of this. Sweet Thor, she could really use Natasha’s perfect aim right about now.

“Is this okay?” Normally when she lays down with Tony, they already have set positions. Tony lays on her like she’s some giant body pillow, and she’s either touching his hair or the arc reactor. Sometimes both. With Bruce, there is no set position because this is all new. The other night though, when he let her sit with him for a little while, that was…nice. So that’s what she went for. She laid on her side and scooted over into Bruce, so that she could lay her head on his chest and wrap an arm around his stomach. His arms gently came around her, like he was scared that she wouldn’t want him touching her, and she snuggled in close to show him that definitely wasn’t the case.

“Yeah, this is good. Empty your mind, Doc.” Bruce is really warm, which is saying something because she runs a little hotter than average. He’s solid and smells like his favorite tea. Jo slowed her breathing to match his, until they were moving together. She could feel his mind just on the edge of hers, and it was easy to get into his head. Well, into parts of it. There’s a big wall at the back that she can’t get through, but what she can hear is relaxing.

Everyone’s mind is a little different. Tony’s mind is like a hurricane constantly on the move and occasionally touching down to wreak a little havoc. Darcy’s mind is like the clear blue sky; it’s calm, soothing, and endless. Bruce’s mind is like Tony’s, but calmer. It’s like rain, constant and gentle. (Hulk is like a thunderstorm, with cracks of thunder and flashes of lightning.) She’s not trying to get into Bruce’s head though; she’s trying to get her head into his, which sounds weird but that’s how she’s explaining it. She’s trying to get a single word to pass over from her mind to his, without destroying both of them. What feels like a lifetime ago, Bruce talked her through making a box inside Tony’s mind. If she can do that and actually stop hallucinations, then she can do this.

It’s all about the descriptions, right? Bruce said that. She heard him tell Tony that she was very good with descriptions when he explained the ABI incident to him, so that’s what she needs to do now. She needs their minds to connect, so a bridge should work. When she was a little girl, her Ma used to take her to play in the woods because the south is full of actual tress. There was a small stream with an old wooden bridge over it that Jo loved to play on, until it finally collapsed one year when she was at Xavier’s. She loved that bridge. Loved the little grooves cut into the planks, the smell of the flowers that curled around it, and the feeling of the sun soaked wood against her back. She pictured the bridge as if she was standing on one end of it, and she pictured Bruce standing on the other side. Saw the way his hair curled after he’d been running his fingers through it, the rumpled shirts that he always wears, and that shy little smile. She whispered the word and watched it drift in the air, like when she used to blow bubbles on the bridge. Just drifting and lighting up from the sun.

“Boo?” The image fell away at the sound of Bruce’s voice, his real voice, and Jo sleepily blinked her eyes open.

“You say somethin’, darlin’?”

“The word is boo?” He sounds like he wants to laugh, but…

“You got it! I did it!” She’d moved so fast without even thinking about it, on pure instinct, and Bruce blinked up at her. So maybe jumping up and rolling wasn’t the best idea, but it’s not her fault that her body thought it was a good idea to straddle the good doctor.

“Yeah, you did it.”

“C’mon, Doc, smile! It’s only been two days, and we’re already making progress!” She should probably move, but Bruce reached up to grab her hips when she jumped on him.

“I told you that you didn’t suck,” he said with a little smile. That’s what she wanted to see, but it’s not going to make her move any faster.

“I was just testing you,” she said with a little smile of her own.

“So tomorrow we’ll try a whole sentence?” Jo groaned at that and slowly forced herself to get on her feet. She reached a hand down, and her stomach did that fluttery thing again when Bruce grabbed her hand and let her pull him up. For someone who used to jump at the slightest touch, he sure has come a long way.

“I’ll ask JARVIS to come up with something witty,” she said as they moved the little mattress back onto the couch/futon. She led the way out of her room and back towards the elevator, and Bruce doesn’t startle anymore when she grabs his arm. She should probably keep the touching to a minimum considering that she just straddled the guy, but she wants him to know that she’s never afraid of touching him.

“I’m sure you can come up with something witty on your own,” Bruce said with a gentle smile. Jo pressed the button for one floor up and tried to keep her brain in check. She failed.

“I could always read a few lines from my current book. This one’s about a steel worker and a rich widow.” Predictably, Bruce’s cheeks flushed and he looked away from her. So cute.

“You know those books are rotting your brain, right?” He joked! Note to self, pray to Thor later and thank him for this miraculous day.

“Those books are gold, and I don’t need a smart brain. I’ve got yours.” She couldn’t resist. She hasn’t actually touched his hair since the day after the big fight with the Zodiac, and that was only by accident. She reached up to ruffle his hair and nearly melted through the floor. It’s so soft.

“I think your brain is just fine,” Bruce said as they stepped off the elevator. To the right is Tony’s lab. Bruce’s lab is on the left. Isn’t there a song or fifty about painful decisions at crossroads?

“What about the rest of me?” There he goes, getting all flustered again. There’s a special place in Hell for people like her. (What’s the Asgardian equivalent of Hell? She’ll have to google it later.) “Kidding, Doc. See you at dinner?”

“I’ll be there.” He’s still smiling at her, so that’s good.

“Good. I’d hate to carry you downstairs in front of everyone.” She has no impulse control. Whatever controls that has been completely fried. She stretched up on her toes, used her free hand to grab his shoulder and balance herself, and pressed a quick kiss against his cheek. Then she had the good sense to walk away. “Bye, Doc!”

“Bye…Jo.” Her heart was still pumping a little faster than normal when she walked into Tony’s lab, but she did her best to look completely normal. Tony’s like a shark. He can smell weakness. Sure enough, as soon as she got close enough, he spun around on his stool and wrapped his arms around her hips.

“Miss me?” she asked with a little laugh. His face was buried in her stomach so she couldn’t exactly hear his answer, and she lightly pulled on his hair until he pulled back and looked up at her.

“You smell like tea and science.” His grin showed most of his teeth, and Jo not-so-lightly pulled on his hair. “Ow! No hair pulling!”

“You’re an awful person.”

“Yeah, but you still love me.” His grin was dialed down some, and Jo hefted herself up onto a table.

“Thor help me, I do. You and all of your awfulness.”

“How’d it go today?”

“Like you don’t already know?” She picked up the apple slices he didn’t finish at lunch and popped one into her mouth.

“I didn’t watch. I want you to tell me.”

“Okay, but first, where’s Darcy?”


Darcy stepped into the gym and took a look around, but there’s no redheaded assassin in sight. Thor and Hulk took over the gym this morning after breakfast, so she missed her regularly scheduled training time. It has to be Natasha today, because Jo said she was busy Doc-ogling after lunch. No, wait, Tony said that. Then Jo tried to beat him to death with a couch cushion. Either way, today is Natasha’s day. So where is the assassin? She better get here soon; Darcy’s even wearing her special work-out clothes, which are shorty shorts and a sports bra covered with a tank top. It was Jo’s suggestion. Footsteps sounded behind her, and she whirled around to face…

“Clint?” He’s wearing loose black basketball shorts and a plain gray tee shirt, and he still somehow looks absolutely delicious. This house is ridiculous, because everyone is ridiculously attractive. It’s just not fair.

“Hey, Darce!” Next time, she’s gonna help Jo with killing Tony, just for starting that stupid nickname.

“Where’s Natasha?” Clint’s feet are bare, and why is that such a noticeable thing? Maybe it’s because his feet are connected to his calves, but that shouldn’t be such a big thing either. How can a guy’s calves be attractive?

“I dunno. She said something about Steve and hacking into Interpol, and then she threatened to shoot me if I didn’t come down here to train you.”

“I thought she only shot Jo?” Clint lifted his arms to start stretching, and Darcy tried not to look at the strip of skin that the move revealed. Tried.

“Jo’s just her favorite. So, show me what you’ve learned.” This is not going to end well, not at all. The last time she was alone with Clint was…right after he woke up with her snuggled up to him in his hospital bed. Jo, the traitor, had snuck out at some point and left her alone. Awkward does not even begin to cover the situation; him barely clothed, her small drool patch on his shoulder…she had to do a walk of shame! And she didn’t even get to have the good bits that go with a walk of shame! “And, Darcy?”

“Yeah?” She rolled her shoulders and popped her neck, just to release some tension.

“I’m not going to go easy on you.” His smile is teasing, like when they joke around at meals, and she felt her nerves settle some.

“Bring it, bird boy.”


“O’ captain, my captain!” Steve looked over his shoulder at her greeting, and Jo felt a sense of accomplishment when she saw the slight blush on his cheeks. She has got to get everyone to sing to him, and the word “captain” has to be in the song.

“You’re late,” Steve said and handed her a spoon. Jo hopped up onto the counter, right next to the stove, and looked down into one of two giant pots. Mmm, spaghetti. Enough of it to feed an entire army. Or just enough to feed a god, a Hulk, a super soldier, two mutants, three agents, and a scientist who keeps forgetting to eat (even when it’s literally placed right in front of him).

“Tony and I were testing out his new suit,” she said and started stirring. Sweet Thor, it all smells so delicious.

“How’s that going?” Steve sprinkled in some spices that made Jo’s mouth water, and she wondered if Steve would look away long enough for her to sneak a taste.

“So far so good. He’s making a tracker thing that can call it to him, and it’s holding up pretty good. Feeling better today?” It’s been two days since their mission, so he should be healed up. Steve lightly patted his side and smiled over at her.

“I’m okay.” She knows that he’s a quick healer, but she still feels a little better now that she’s got verbal confirmation.

“Glad to hear it, Cap’n. Now, about our schooling, I think we’re pretty much done. There’s still some pop culture stuff, but you’ve got the history down.” Steve’s brain is like a sponge; it absorbs everything.

“Good, because I would like to do something different tonight.” Jo stopped inhaling the delicious scent of their future meal and looked over at Steve, who was shifting his weight from one foot to the other. Steve is a soldier. He doesn’t shift.

“Yeah, whatever you want. Everything’s okay, right?” As a general rule, Jo doesn’t read anyone’s mind without their permission. (Tony doesn’t count because that no-privacy contract works both ways.) Situations like this make it very difficult to follow that one little rule though.

“Maria wanted to thank me for all the help—”

“Sounds like Maria,” Jo muttered. Don’t get her wrong, she’s got a lot of respect for the agent. The woman did look after her ass for several years, and they worked their way up through SHIELD’s ranks together. “Sorry. Continue.”

“She told me that SHIELD wanted me to see a therapist, but that Fury said my psyche evaluation passed. Barely,” Steve said with a little smile. The man sacrificed his life, froze to death, and was then revived after seventy years. No one would be okay after that.

“Uhuh.” She gets what he’s saying, but she has no idea where this is going.

“Maria suggested that I talk to someone outside of the agency, but I don’t want to give some stranger my whole life story. I would rather talk to someone that I trust. On and off the battlefield.” Oh, wow, that’s…big. Then again, she’s one of the few people outside of the agency that he actually knows. Him and Tony get along better now, but she can understand why he wouldn’t want to confess all to Tony. They didn’t exactly start off as the best of friends.

“You sure you want it to be me? I won’t tell anyone what you tell me, but I’m not…I’m, uh, people don’t usually come to me for this sort of thing.”

“Tony does,” Steve shrugged. Tony didn’t really have much a choice at first, but she’s not going to explain all of that to Steve. She’s not really sure how to explain her and Tony.

“Fair enough. Whenever you want to talk, I’m here. Did you want to talk about anything tonight?” Steve stirred the pots one more time and then leaned against the opposite counter so that he was facing her.

“I want to tell you about a friend that I lost in the war. His name was Bucky.”


Dinner that night was a normal thing. Clint and Jo had a sword fight with the garlic bread, Natasha shot Jo, Thor caught Jo before she could hit the ground, Darcy fed garlic bread to Jade, Tony yelled too much, Bruce ignored them all, and Steve and Maria watched them all like amused and slightly disapproving parents. So, the usual. Darcy’s not sure when they got to a point that they could have a usual dinner night, but here they are. Dinner’s starting to wind down though, and they’ll all separate soon enough. She’ll go back to the lab with Tony, with Jo probably tagging along. The assassins will do whatever assassins do when they’re not assassinating, and Steve will wheel Maria back to her room before doing whatever he does at night. Bruce will either spar with Thor or go back to the lab, and that’ll be the end of it.

“C’mon, sweetheart. Daddy has a few more things to finish up before bath time.” Darcy thought Tony was joking about the back washing thing when he first told her, but he wasn’t lying.

“I am not calling you daddy,” Jo said and got to her feet.

“Thor, do you feel like a spar tonight?” Steve asked. He was already standing behind Maria’s wheelchair and looking down the table at the resident god. Huh, Steve normally doesn’t ask for a spar after dinner.

“I would be most honored, Steve.” Everyone was talking and starting to move around, and Darcy steeled her nerves. She talked this over with JARVIS, and the genius level AI agreed that it was a good idea.

“Wait!” The movement in the room came to a stop, and she could feel several pairs of eyes on her. Even the chicken is giving her a curious look. She placed her palms flat on the table and slowly pushed herself to her feet.

“Are you well, Darcy?” Thor is such a nice guy; she’ll have to remember to hug him later.

“Yeah, I’m good. I’ve just been thinking, the only time that we’re ever all together is when there’s food involved, so, uh…hmm.”

“What are you thinking, kid?” That’s kind of funny coming from the telepath.

“I think we should do team building stuff. Nothing big, just little stuff,” she shrugged. She had a big speech prepared about unity and trust building exercises, but her head is a little empty now that everyone is just staring at her.

“Like what?” Natasha asked. Darcy is eighty-six percent sure that Natasha likes her, most days.

“Movie nights, game nights, maybe something outside?” she suggested.

“Can we play tag?” Clint looks like a little kid on the playground who had way too much sugar; his eyes are too bright and he’s a little twitchy.

“You remember how our last game of tag went, right?” The archer looked over at Jo with a smile firmly in place.

“You fell off the copter all on your own, Josie.”

“You’re going down, Clinton.”

“I am unfamiliar with this game,” Thor said and looked down at her.

“I’ll explain it you,” Darcy said with a smile.

“We can play tomorrow at one, after lunch,” Steve said in a tone just under his Captain voice.

“Can Hulk play? I think he’d enjoy it more than I would,” Bruce said quietly.

“Of course he can,” Steve answered for all of them.

“I’ve got the perfect venue!” Tony yelled and walked off. He was muttering under his breath, and Jo gave them all an apologetic look before hurrying after him. Thor left with Steve and Maria, because of the spar, and Darcy leaned back against the table. Jade lightly pecked at her arm, so she reached over to pet the chicken.

“I think you’re right,” Clint said from right next to her. It made her jump a bit, which only made him smile. Natasha walked out of the room carrying a stack of plates, and Clint was picking up the plates from her side of the table.

“Right about what?” Jade’s feathers are so soft, and she’s such a chill chicken.

“About the team building stuff. It’ll be good for us.” Clint knelt down next to her, and Jade fluttered over onto his shoulder. It takes a real man to walk around with a chicken on his shoulder.

“You think so?” Everyone seemed pretty excited about it, but this could end up being a complete disaster.

“I know so.” Clint gave her a little wink before sauntering out of the room, and Darcy took a minute to compose herself. Only a minute though. She’s gotta get to the lab before Tony blows something up. Again.

August 19, 2014

“Tony?” He looked away from the amazing view and turned to see who was talking to him.

“Yes, Natasha?”

“Please tell me that you did not buy the football stadium.” The others were still climbing out of the limo that he rented for the day, and he could hear the loud whoops coming from Jo and Clint. Possibly Darcy and Thor.

“I did not buy the football stadium. I rented it for the day and promised to repair all damages,” Tony said just as Jo reached his side. They drew straws before leaving the house earlier, and Jo got stuck with the short straw. That means his bodyguard is “it” first, and he’s kinda looking forward to how this is going to go.

“What’s with the giant lifeguard chairs?” Darcy asked and stopped at his other side. Flanked by his two favorite girls? Maybe this team building thing is worth missing lab time.

“Someone has to referee all of you, so me and Maria will be watching to make sure that no one cheats.”

“And how am I supposed to get up there?” Maria is still in her wheelchair, and Steve is eyeing the really tall chair like it just insulted America.

“Bruce? Think Hulk can give us a hand?” Maria’s eyes widened, but she didn’t say anything. Bruce looked at Maria, looked at Tony, and looked back at Maria.

“He won’t hurt you,” Bruce finally said. Tony knows that Bruce is still worried about people’s reaction to Hulk, and he might even still be worried about Hulk despite all the progress they’ve had. Old habits and everything.

“I know,” Maria said with a little nod. Tony’s gotta hand it to the agent, she said it in a strong voice and direct eye contact. Is Agent Hill afraid of anything? He could hear everyone talking around him, Clint was teaching Thor the art of smack talking but it sounds like Thor has got that down already, and Natasha is thanking Darcy for the good idea. Bruce is starting to disrobe, to prepare for Hulk, so Tony swung an arm around Jo’s shoulders and pressed their temples together.

“One button, two buttons, three buttons…”

“I will kill you.” The bodyguard’s voice was murderous, and Tony turned to hide his smile against the side of her head as he kept “talking” to her.

“Ooh, a roll of the shoulders and the shirt is gone. He’s reaching for the zipper…pants are going down in three, two, o—”

“LET’S GO!” Jo’s yell was right in his ear, and Tony jumped back from her. Okay, he might have deserved that, but Jo’s smug little smile is not necessary.

“Ready to get your ass kicked, Josie?” Clint asked before sprinting past her. He didn’t realize the archer was so fast, and Natasha was starting to pass him.

“I’m ready to stomp a mudhole in your lily white ass!” Jo yelled back. Tony could hear Clint laughing even from this distance, and Jo and Darcy were walking on either side of Thor after the assassins.

“Help Hill?” Hulk sounds like he’s still waking up, and Tony turned around to see Maria’s action. She just smiled up at Hulk, and Steve quietly thanked the big guy. As if being scared of frightening of anyone, Hulk slowly eased himself down onto his knees in front of Maria’s wheelchair. He held a giant hand out, and Steve lifted Maria up and gently placed her into Hulk’s palm. The big guy was slow to stand, and Tony followed after Hulk once Maria told Steve to join the others. Tony waited for Hulk to place Maria in her padded chair and then smiled up at him.

“Mind helping me up?” Hulk huffed, but he still scooped Tony up and dropped him into his chair. Looks like he saved the gentleness for Maria. “Hulk! Flatten ‘em all.”

“I will,” Hulk grinned and moved off to join the others.

“They’re going to kill each other,” Maria stated calmly.

“All in good fun,” Tony said and waved a hand. Darcy’s idea was pure genius; they live together, they eat together, they’ve fought together, and now it’s time for them to play together. What’s the worst that could happen?

“I am going to murder you!” See? They’re having fun already! Tony slid his sunglasses on and settled down to watch the show.


Tony’s sunglasses were lost in his hair and Maria was gripping the arms of her seat as they edged close to the end of the third hour on the field. They’d come full circle with Jo as “it” once again, and all of the players looked like they’d been in a war. Workout clothes were torn and bloody, the women had loose hair falling around sweaty faces, and everyone was breathing hard. The two assassins circled around Jo, both were light on their feet and kept ducking back from the mutant’s powerful swings. Jo suddenly moved into a run, and the two assassins dived out of the way. Darcy yelped as she scrambled to move, but Jo was running like a freight train. Right before crashing into Darcy, she hooked a hard left and leapt into the air. She hit Thor in a flying tackle, and the two of them went rolling across the green grass.

“She got ‘im!” Tony and Maria had both jumped at the sudden tackle, and Maria was holding her ribs with a small smile.

“She really did.” The stadium looked like a tornado had hit it. The grass was torn up, and there were a few lines of broken seats. One was from Thor hitting Hulk, then Jo threw Steve, who threw her, and Thor ripped out one of the field goals when Hulk threw him at it.

Hulk was nice enough to pick Jo up, and she helped Thor stand up in return. Tony could see the god’s wide smile from his seat, and Jo and Thor gripped each other’s forearms and said a few words. Probably thanking each other for the good battle. Jo said something up to Hulk, and the big guy scooped her up and dropped her onto one wide shoulder. The assassins were smiling at Darcy, who had one hand over her heart and was laughing, and Steve was standing next to Thor now. Tony watched as Hulk slowly walked over to them, and they were just high enough to be a little over his direct line of sight.

“So, boss, how’d we do?” Jo was slumped against the side of Hulk’s head, and the big guy didn’t look phased at all.

“I give it an hour and it’ll break YouTube.”

“Aw, don’t tell me you uploaded it.”

“He did.” Tony glared over at Maria, because he thought they’d bonded over the past three hours while their housemates tore up an entire football stadium. Jo just groaned and wrapped her arms around Hulk’s head, and he poked at her knee until she let him go. To be fair, her arms were covering his eyes.

“Excuse me!” All four of them turned as one towards the yell, and three teenagers loaded down with pizza stared up at them.

“This your doing?” Jo was looking directly at him, and Tony just shrugged.

“Put them over there by that Hulk sized crater!” he called down. “Can you get us down, Hulk?”

“Are your legs broke?” Hulk asked as Jo helped Maria shimmy into Hulk’s open palm.

“Nope.” Tony jumped into the waiting hand and turned wide eyes up at Hulk. “But my heart is.”

Twenty minutes later, they were all settled into a circle and happily munching on a giant mound of pizzas. Three teenagers now had stories to tell and a few autographs, and the sun was warm. Maybe he should go outside more. Then again, he’s pretty sure that his more “super” friends won’t be tackling each other every time they go outside. Shame. He does have a lot of work to do too, which he’s been working on a little when his attention wasn’t focused on all the playful violence. Jo poked his cheek and pointed at his food, and he resisted the urge to think naughty thoughts about Bruce. His fellow scientist was sitting on Jo’s other side and only wearing a pair of shorts. Coming up with something to make his bodyguard all flustered would be a little too easy, but…Jo did good today. (She’s his bodyguard. He had to cheer for her.)

“Ugh, why does everything hurt? I’m supposed to be a super healer now, right?” Darcy was laying back in the grass, but her legs were draped across Thor’s lap. Thor had a pizza box balanced on top of her shins, and Clint leaned over to look at her face.

“Look okay to me,” he mumbled around a bite of pizza.

“A lot of healing at once will make you sore for a little while sometimes. You didn’t get banged up that much, so you should be fine in an hour or two,” Jo explained. They did go a little easy on Darcy, even though her healing is on par with Jo’s. Hulk, Thor, Steve, and Jo are the only ones that got really thrown around. Natasha and Clint don’t even look all that banged up.

“Got any other bright ideas, kid?” Darcy raised her head up just enough to see him, and she does look a little tired.

“Girls night?”

“I think I’ll sit that one out,” Tony said and took another bite of his pizza. Wait, his hands are shredding a piece of grass. Oh, that’s Jo’s hand. Jo’s feeding him now.

“I’d be okay with a girls night,” Jo said with a bright smile. She wiggled the slice of pizza until he took another bite, and Tony glared as he chewed.

“It would be…interesting.” Natasha and Jo just looked at each other, as if realizing that they were agreeing to spend even more time around one another. Tony really doesn’t get those two; Jo will tease Natasha until Natasha shoots her, and Natasha seems to get a small measure of joy out of seeing Jo bleed. Yet, Natasha worried about Jo when she was compromised. It’s strange.

“I think it sounds fun,” Maria said with a quick glance at Jo and Natasha.

“Tonight?” Darcy sounds so excited, like a little girl getting ready for her first sleepover.

“Tonight it is, but I’m taking a nap first. I think I broke something earlier,” Jo groaned and stretched enough to make her back pop.

“I’ll get everything we need,” Darcy said quickly.

“Does that mean we’re having a guy’s night?” Clint asked.

“Yes!” Tony blinked as he looked around at the four women, and all of the men looked as confused as he felt. Well, he’d better get back to the lab soon because it looks like his night is all booked up.


“Ready?” Jo paused next to Tony, who just looked up at her with wild and slightly panicked eyes.

“Can’t I just stay in the lab?” She looped her arm through his and pulled him off of his stool, and Tony’s feet drug across the ground a little as she walked. She was still pulling Tony along when they met up with Bruce, and she watched the way that his eyes flicked over both of them with a hint of amusement.

“You’re just gonna be playing skittle poker and shootin’ the shit with the guys. What’s so hard about that?”

“I don’t wanna.”

“You can ask people to live with you, but you don’t want to spend an evening with them?” She pushed Tony into the elevator and followed in after him, and she smiled up at Bruce as he pushed the button for the first floor.

“I gave them a place to live. Isn’t that enough?” She didn’t glare over at Tony, it was a little softer than a glare. A little.

“You can be sociable for a night, and try not to offend anyone too much.” He’s such a wonderful man, and a complete asshole. She’s not really sure how manages to be both.

“Do you want me to start calling you hot mama too?” There’s the smile she’s been looking for!

“You can if you want, but I’m still not calling you daddy.” Tony’s smile turned into a little smirk, and she lightly knocked her shoulder against him before spinning on her heel. Now she’s facing the scientists and the elevator doors are open behind her. This is her stop; the boys will continue on down to the basement, and over to the arcade.

“Killjoy.” She ignored that little comment and turned towards Bruce.

“Keep an eye on him. If he tries to sneak out, restrain him.” Tony squawked, which almost made her lose her cool composure, and she could tell that Bruce was fighting a smile too.

“I’ll do my best.” She lightly pulled on Tony’s hair to pull him down as she rocked up onto her toes, and she smacked a kiss against his forehead. She used her already swaying momentum to swing over and press a quick kiss against Bruce’s cheek, and she waved to both of them as she walked backwards out of the elevator.

“Have fun tonight, boys!” Tony was laughing and Bruce was blushing when the doors closed, and Jo spun around to walk forwards. She was still smiling, and not just because the Doc’s stubble made her lips all tingly, when she reached the dining room door. There was a giant sign taped to one of the doors and in big bold letters were the words, NO BOYS ALLOWED. That’s definitely Darcy’s handwriting.

“You’re late,” was the first thing she heard after walking inside. Natasha and Maria were already sitting at the table, and Darcy was standing in front of her and to the side a little. Jo had a comeback, she really did, but her eyes were glued to the table. Giant bottles of various sodas and energy drinks were peeking out of several coolers, and there was an enormous mound of candy on the table.

“Suicide by sugar?” Jo asked and finally looked at Darcy. Her big blue eyes are so shiny and bright, and Jo loves that she’s so happy. Sometimes she thinks about the girl she found at Starbucks; the one with dull eyes and a broken arm. Best not to think about that. They’re here to have fun tonight.

“Alcohol is outlawed, so I had to improvise. JARVIS told me everyone’s favorite drinks and snacks, so, voila!” Darcy said and spread her arms wide. There’s enough sugar in this room to kill a house full of people. Jo let Darcy lead her over to a chair and even let her push her into it, and she didn’t miss the way that Natasha’s lips twitched. She wants to smile, Jo knows it.

“What are we doing first?” Maria asked. She’s sitting in an actual chair instead of her wheelchair, and she’s got her elbows planted on the table. It’s a little funny seeing the serious agent in her midnight blue PJs. (Pajamas were a requirement, which was really easy to fulfill because she’s been wearing a pair of loose shorts and one of Tony’s tee shirts since her shower.)

“First up is Never Have I Ever, so we can get to know each other. If you’ve done the thing, you take a shot of something sugary. Drink, candy, I don’t care.” Darcy passed out tumbler glasses, so a shot is actually bigger than a shot. Good fun.

“I’ll go first!” Jo said and rolled the glass between her palms. “Never have I ever…shot someone in the head.”

“Playing dirty already, Holbrook?” Natasha asked as she filled her tumbler with something red and syrupy looking.

“I’m not even a little surprised,” Maria said with a pointed look and poured in an energy drink.

“You’ve never shot someone in the head?” Darcy asked. Jo leaned back in her chair and smiled at the new mutant. (It’s good to have another mutant around.)

“Nope. I don’t like guns,” she shrugged. “Who’s next?”

Never Have I Ever turned into Truth or Dare and by the end of the second hour, they were all giggling like schoolgirls from the extreme sugar rush. Jo’s body didn’t see the sugar as a threat, so it wasn’t flushing her system. It looked like Darcy’s healing had the same idea, because they were just as giggly and red faced as the two human agents in the room. Jo was slumped against the table with her cheek pressed against the wood, and she was using her tongue to bring a gummi worm closer. Darcy was leaned back in her chair with her feet propped up on the table, and she was tossing skittles into the air. (More landed in her cleavage than in her mouth, but who cares?) Natasha was actually sitting on the table and stacking up cans, but she kept knocking them down whenever she laughed too much. Maria was the only one sitting upright, because of her ribs, and she was happily popping small bits of chocolate into her mouth.

“So, can we talk about how ridiculous this house is?” Darcy asked and flung another skittle into the air. It crashed against the towering tower of cans, and Natasha pouted a little as it collapsed. Again.

“It’s huge,” Jo groaned out and finally snagged the gummi worm.

“It’s Stark,” Maria countered. She’s got a point.

“Not the house. The people in the house. Why is everyone so, so, so…”

“Hot?” Maria supplied. Jo snorted out a laugh, and she could hear Natasha humming a little.

“I can’t be the only one who’s noticed. All of you have eyes.” Darcy tossed a skittle at her, and Jo’s eyes crossed as it bounced off her nose. “You even see Tony naked on a regular basis. Naked, Jo. Naked.”

“He does look good naked,” Jo mused. What? Just because they’re not sexually attracted to each other doesn’t mean that she can’t recognize the fact that her boss is super attractive. Ha! Super.

“Mhmm,” Natasha hummed and drained another can to add to her tower.

“You’ve seen Stark naked?” Maria leaned forward a little, and Jo tilted her head to watch the way that Natasha’s eyes narrowed and widened.

“Oops. That’s confidential. No, I haven’t.” Natasha waved her hand, like in a dismissal, and Jo laughed. That got her a little glare from the assassin, but she hasn’t been shot at all tonight. “Got your eye on someone, Darce?”

“Me? Pfft! No.” Oh, that’s definitely a lie.

“You’re a worse liar than Jo.”

“Not true, Maria. I’m the worst liar ever. Director Fury said so,” she slurred. Her veins feel like they’re on fire; she wants to run around and sleep forever.

“I know who it is,” Natasha said, all regal-like. Her shoulders were back and her chin was lifted, so it’s regal like.

“No, you don’t. Because there is no one.” Jo groaned as she pushed herself off of the table, and she slumped back in her chair so that she could see Darcy’s face. Darcy doesn’t want to say, because she doesn’t want to be the only one to admit something so embarrassing. It’s a surface thought, so Jo doesn’t feel too bad about hearing it.

“I like the Doc. His hair is all curly and he never buttons his shirts right. He smells like tea, and his alter ego is green,” Jo said with a big grin.

“Did Jo just say she has a crush on Bruce?” Maria whispered. It was a very loud whisper.

“Yes.” Natasha didn’t even try to whisper.

“It’s just…” Darcy huffed and crossed her arms, and the other three women just waited. “He has those arms, you know? And his eyes are never the same color, and who has a chicken as a pet and still looks cool?”

“Clinton!” Jo yelled. Natasha was already laughing and surrounded by fallen cans, and Darcy’s cheeks were flushed. Jo lightly patted her shoulder in the universal “there-there” gesture.

“Steve’s jawline is poetic,” Maria said into the dead quiet room. Jo looked at Darcy, who then looked at Natasha, who looked at Jo…and then all three exploded into laughter.


“How do you always win?” Clint asked and looked up at Thor. The big god was putting skittles into his mouth by the handful, so he just smiled with his cheeks puffed out and shrugged.

“You’re the one that taught him how to play,” Tony pointed out. Skittle poker wasn’t as bad as he thought it was going to be. They played, they traded jibes, joked a little…it was, fun. He’s not going to admit it to Jo though; her smug smile is too much for him to handle after losing a poker game to the God of Thunder. He might admit it tomorrow.

“We all lost fair and square,” Steve said with a little smile. Okay, so, Tony had been very wrong about Captain Apple Pie. Under all that patriotism, he’s actually a very sarcastic and witty guy. They understand each other a little more now, and tonight helped with that. A little.

“But we lost to a god,” Bruce pointed out with a small smile. Tony’s not sure if it’s just because he’s living in an actual house with people who accept him or if it’s Jo’s continued liberal use of touching, but something is bringing Bruce out of his shell little by little.

“Should we check on the girls?” Clint asked. Thor finally swallowed what looked like an entire packet of skittles and let out a small breath. Smells like the rainbow.

“I would like to make sure that Darcy is well.” Tony’s not worried about Jo, because he knows that his bodyguard can hold her own, but he doesn’t want to miss the chance to see her in a compromising position.

“We should definitely check on the girls. Come on, Bruce!” He grabbed a fistful of the doctor’s shirt over his shoulder and pulled him along, and Bruce quickly moved to walk beside him. Tony let him go with a smile and waited for Bruce to finish righting his shirt, and he could hear the other three men of the house laughing behind them. Perfect. “So…Jo.”

“She’s your bodyguard,” Bruce said quickly. Too quickly.

“She is. She’s also your lunch buddy, and you two are doing that telepathy thing. How’s that going?”

“I know she tells you everything,” Bruce said with a side look.

“She does. Tell me everything, that is, but I want to hear your side. What do you think about her?” Bruce is a little hard to read sometimes, because he doesn’t react like most people. Then again, none of them really do.

“I think she’s doing very well. I understand her reluctance, because of what happened to her, but she’s very…strong.” Bruce is wringing his hands again, which Tony knows is just him checking his pulse. Hulk used to come out whenever his pulse got too high, but it’s not like that anymore. Old habits?

“She’s definitely strong. The first time I saw her, I thought Fury was crazy. She just looks so soft, you know?” Bruce’s jaw twitched, just a little, and he let his hands fall by his sides.

“The first time I saw her was through Hulk’s eyes, standing on a rooftop and waiting to get blown up. She looked strong to me,” Bruce said and turned to look at him. Damn. All five of them eased into the elevator, which meant that Tony couldn’t try to figure out Bruce’s stance on his bodyguard anymore. Maybe later.

Tony could hear the loud laughter before they reached the dining room, and he took in the sign with a feeling of extreme humor. Darcy would put up a “no boys allowed” sign. The four different laughs were distinct but blending together perfectly, and Clint was already giggling quietly. Probably imaging his life partner laughing like a loon. Thor was smiling too, because he’s happy anytime that Darcy is. Steve huffed and mumbled something about Maria promising to take it easy, because Steve is the ultimate mother hen. Him and Jo never should have been allowed to join forces; they’re talking about making heart healthy dinners for people who can’t even get clogged arteries.

“Are they wasted?” Tony asked, mostly to himself.

“Alcohol is forbidden in the house, so I doubt it,” Steve said quietly.

“Forbidden?” Tony asked, to everyone. Clint wouldn’t meet his eyes, Bruce shuffled, and it was Thor that answered.

“Lady Jo requested that no mead be brought into the home,” he recited. Bruce looked at him then, and Tony got it. Jo doesn’t allow alcohol in the house, for him. What did he do to deserve her again?

“It sounds like they’re still in full swing, so we should leave them to it,” Clint said and turned around. Yeah, that sounds good. He’s starting to feel a little tired anyway.

He’s not sure how much time passed between getting ready for bed and listening to Jo stumble into his bedroom, but it felt like a lifetime. Jo has her own room, but she never sleeps there. It’s a good thing, because apparently he can’t fall asleep without her lying beside him. He watched her silhouette sway as she got closer to the bed, but she knelt down beside it instead of climbing up next to him. He was about to ask her what she was doing, but she reached out and started running her fingers through his hair. She must think that he’s asleep, and she must be really out of it if she’s not using her telepathy to check and see.

“I used to think I was unlucky, you know? ‘Cause I got picked up by ROSE the first time I ever went off on my own, and I…I lost myself. I’ve been a stranger for so long, and then you came along. Tony-fucking-Stark. I didn’t like you; you were an asshole, too rich, had an ego the size of the Grand Canyon, and your tech blew me up once. But, I get it now. I get it, Tony.”

She paused and took a slow breath, and Tony held perfectly still. They know these things, but they don’t really talk about it. They just accept it.

“You are my good luck. If I hadn’t, if you hadn’t…if we had missed each other, I’d still be a stranger. There’d still be a stranger living under my skin, and you’d probably be dead. This whole time, everyone’s thought that I’m the strong one that keeps saving you. Which I am, because I am a kickass bodyguard, but they’re wrong too. You saved me too, Tony. I don’t feel like a stranger anymore.”

Fingers combed through his hair one more time, and he listened to Jo stumble her way towards the bathroom. Once she was gone, he let out a pent up breath and tried to process what just happened. He saved his savior? He saved the mighty Jo Holbrook? Jo came back into the bedroom and wiggled her way up the bed, and she slumped against the bed next to him. He felt her tugging on him until he rolled over into their usual sleeping position, and her body completely relaxed once they were pressed together. So, she needs him just as much as he needs her. The thought should be worrying, because of all those co-dependency issues, but it’s more comforting than anything.

“We’ll never be lost again.”


“You dudes are the best,” Darcy hummed. Thor is carrying her like she’s a little kid, all effortless and stuff, because he’s the best.

“Always so nice. And blonde,” Maria added. Steve is walking very slow to make sure that he doesn’t jostle her too much and hurt her ribs, and Darcy thinks that is just adorable. Also, Maria was totally right. Steve’s jawline is poetic. But so is Thor’s hair.

“I love your hair,” Darcy said and reached up to pat the top of Thor’s head. The god smiled down at her, enough to make his eyes crinkle, and the look made her feel all happy inside. Jane is so dumb. So so dumb.

“Thank you, Darcy. I am quite fond of your hair as well.” He held her up with one arm, one arm, and patted the top of her head like she’d just done for him. He truly is a god.

“Do I have good hair?” Maria mumbled. Steve looked over at Darcy and Thor for help, but Darcy was too busy trying to brush Thor’s hair with her fingers.

“You have perfect hair, ma’am.”

“You’re so polite. Isn’t he so polite, Darcy?”

“The politest,” she agreed. Darcy and Maria called out goodnights as they were taken to their separate rooms, and Darcy giggled as Thor laid her on her bed. The mattress was soft, like marshmallows.

“Sleep well, Darcy,” Thor whispered as he pulled her blanket up to her chin. She knew going to the girls night in pajamas was a good idea.

“Nighty night, Thor.” He quietly closed the door behind him, and Darcy snuggled down into her blankets. She’s sure about two things. One: girls night was a huge success. Two: she’s gonna have one hell of a sugar hangover tomorrow.
♠ ♠ ♠
So there was a touch of seriousness at the end, but this chapter was mostly fluffy. The next chapter will not be so fluffy, so enjoy this one. Fluff will return though, because it's all about balance. I just wanted to give everyone a pre-warning.

If there's any questions about anything, I'd be happy to answer them!