Archaic Kinds of Fun

that's her specialty

Hulk slowly retreated until Bruce was left standing in the foyer with an unconscious Jo in his arms, and Bruce ran for the elevator. Jo might be a mutant with regenerative powers, but she needs to be fully examined. He watched through Hulk’s eyes as the burns covering her body scabbed and healed, but she’s still a long way from a full recovery. Bruce can feel the way her bones are shifting under her skin, and the way she’s struggling to breathe tells him that she’s got a punctured lung. There was a shift around her sternum, a quiet crunching sound, and Jo screamed as the bones fused back together. Hazy green eyes blinked open as he stepped out onto the medical floor, and he went to the first room on the right.

“Doc?” The single word sounded slurred and pained, and Bruce laid her down as gently as he possibly could. He found a pair of surgical scissors and cut away her shirt and jeans. He pulled away the rough fabric, winced at the bent state of Jo’s legs, and noticed that she didn’t move at all as he pulled the material away.


“Spine…still…broke.” Each word had several harsh breaths between them, and Bruce took a slow breath of his own. Her spine is broken.

“What can I do?” If it was anyone else, he’d notify all loved ones and tell them that all he could was keep them comfortable. No one should be able to live through this.

“Tony…can’t see…me. Not…like this. Please.” Bruce watched the way her nose and cheeks shifted as the bones in her face began to heal, and thick tears were spilling into the closing cuts.


“I’ll do my best, sir.” Jo’s eyes closed at that and she seemed to relax a fraction, but she immediately tensed up again as her arms started healing.

“Should you be healing so slow?” He thought Jo’s healing was much faster than this. She’s normally laughing only minutes after getting shot in the head.

“Too much…one time. Fatal first…others later.” So her healing knows which injuries are more fatal, so why the broken bones now?

“Internal damage?”

“Healed.” She didn’t move at all as the bones in her legs snapped back into place, so that was one small mercy she got today. “Doc?”

“What do you need?” His hands were hovering over her bloodied skin, but he was too scared to touch her. He doesn’t want to hurt her even worse.

“The blood…is itchy.” He moved over to the counter and found a packet of wet wipes, and Jo was watching him when he turned around. He moved across her skin as gently as he could, watched as dark bruises were revealed as he wiped the blood away, and listened to Jo’s pained sobs as her body fought to heal. When he was done, he threw away the small mountain of bloodied wipes and then looked back at Jo. Without a task, he was lost. Jo’s fingers twitched as she held out her hand, and he was gentle as he took her crooked fingers in his own.

“Stay with me. You won’t hurt me.” Her thoughts were shaky, but the message got through. After a little more coaxing from Jo, he moved up onto the hospital bed and helped Jo settle against him. He would have kept protesting, but he didn’t want to strain her even more by refusing. Apparently, Jo is stubborn when she’s near death.

“I’ve got you,” he whispered once she fell still against him. Crooked fingers twitched against his arms, which were wrapped completely around her middle, and he took a moment to wish that he had a shirt. He had shorts on, Jo was still wearing a bra and panties, and he could feel the way the bones under her skin shifted as she healed and shook against him.

Her spine was the last to heal. Her legs kicked out against his, and he had to trap her legs between his to help with the spasms. Once her body was whole again, except for a smattering of bruises, she turned her face into his chest and cried. She didn’t sob or cry out; she just silently cried and held onto him a little tighter. After a few moments, he felt her body relax completely against him and felt slow breaths puff out against his collarbone. She was asleep.


“Jo?! Bruce?!” Parts of his suit were still a little warm to the touch, but he felt like it was safe to take off now. If it’s not, he’ll build another one. He was still in the foyer, stepping out of the suit, when the others arrived. Clint and Natasha were leaning against each other, Steve was covered in ash, and Thor was carrying Darcy. The kid didn’t look hurt, just a little freaked out.

“Jo and Hulk?” Steve asked.

“Dr. Banner has taken Miss Jo down to the med facilities.” Tony started for the elevator immediately. “Perhaps, sir, you should take a moment to return the suit and shower. Miss Jo is perfectly fine and is currently resting.”

“You lyin’ to me, JARVIS?” Without any more prompting, a video feed popped up behind his eyes. Jo and Bruce were both laying down on one of the hospital beds, and he can’t see any blood or bones. Huh.

“Is she okay?” Darcy was still in Thor’s arms, and it doesn’t look like the god is going to put her down anytime soon. Tony gestured for all of them to follow him while mentally telling JARVIS to inform Maria of their return. Once they were moving, Tony looked over at Darcy and tried to smile. Those big blue eyes shouldn’t look so sad.

“Jo’s gonna be fine, kid. Just rest up.” Thor carried Darcy off the elevator, Steve got off on the next floor, then Clint and Natasha, and Tony skipped his floor to go straight to the lab.

He took care of his suit first. The small compact box was placed into its case, where it expanded back into its usual form. He’ll need to clean it and make a few repairs, but it held up just fine. Looks like he doesn’t need a bodyguard anymore. (I’m not a bodyguard for Iron Man, sir. I’m a bodyguard for Tony Stark.) Nah, he can’t fire Jo. She’ll run away to Amsterdam and spend all of his money on cheap fun. He can’t have that. He’ll have to keep her around for a little longer, get her more cultured before setting her free. He chuckled under his breath, just a little, as he took the elevator down to the basement.

The first door on the right opened automatically when he walked into the med facilities, and he paused in the doorway to assess the scene. Jo was stripped down to just her undergarments, a bra and panty set in a blaring orange color, and he could only see a few bruises peppered across her skin. Her hair was free and matted with blood, but her body was clean. Bruce was just wearing his Hulk shorts, the only pair he had right now that could expand with Hulk and then shrink back down with Bruce. Jo was mostly laying on her back and Bruce was on his side, but Jo’s upper body was turned so that she could hold onto him. It was…kinda cute, in a macabre sort of way. He was going to turn around and go back upstairs, but Bruce’s eyes met his.

“She’s mostly all healed now. All of the internal damage and broken bones have been taken care of.”

“JARVIS said she was okay, but I just wanted to check with my own eyes.” He gave a little shrug at the end, because there’s no use in pretending that Jo doesn’t mean a lot to him.

“Tony?” He could barely hear her because her face was pressed against Bruce’s chest, and Tony did his best not to make a remark about Bruce’s pink cheeks. Later. He’ll save it for later.

“Go back to sleep, Jo. We’ll talk later.” He heard a quiet groaning sound, and he watched the way that Jo’s fingers spread out across Bruce’s biceps while the man’s eyes closed.

“She said something about needing her cuddle buddy to sleep?” Bruce looked confused, and this time Tony got to ignore his own overly warm face.

“Evil woman,” Tony hissed as he moved over to the bed. The hospital beds were huge, because some of the guys staying in the mansion are overly large, so there was still plenty of room left. He eased down next to Jo, who lightly patted her stomach without removing her face from the center of Bruce’s chest. He couldn’t see any bruises on that side of her stomach, so he slowly eased himself down. Once he was completely horizontal and using Jo’s stomach for a pillow, one of Jo’s hands moved down to card through his grease-caked hair.

“Tony?” That was Bruce, who sounded a mixture of confused and comatose. It makes sense to Tony.


“You’re, uh, kind of growling?” He felt Jo’s huff of a laugh, and he’s guessing that Bruce felt it too.



“We will never speak of this.” It was quiet for the next seventy-eight seconds, until Jo hummed quietly and seemed to drift off again, so he’s going to assume that everyone is agreed.

August 21, 2014

Jo woke up in half of her usual sleeping position. She could feel Tony’s stubbly cheek on her stomach and her fingers were tangled in his greasy hair, yuck. She was also twisted away from Tony, gripping a strong bicep, and using a very warm chest for a pillow. Right. There was the super painful healing because she sustained way too damage at one time, and Bruce stayed with her. Then Tony showed up, and she knew he was worried because she could feel it, and the three of them wound up in a cuddle pile. Her life is so weird. And she has some explaining to do.

“Miss Jo?” She tilted her head back and looked up into brown eyes. How long has Bruce been awake?

“Yeah, JARVIS?” Her voice sounds wrecked, but it’s no worse than usual.

“Miss Natasha would like permission to explain the situation to Miss Darcy and the others.” Natasha wants to tell everyone? Letting someone else tell her story feels wrong, maybe cowardly, but…she’s not sure she can look Darcy in the eye and tell the story without breaking down. Telling Tony, and Bruce, is going to be hard enough.

“Tell her to go ahead.”

“And you’ll tell us?” Tony had his chin propped on her hip, and she still has her hand tangled in his hair. She’s still holding onto Bruce too, like he’ll disappear if her grip loosens. She looked away from Tony to Bruce, who slowly nodded at her. Yeah, she can tell them.

“I’ve told you both that I’m not proud of some of the things I’ve done. I did a lot of bad shit when I worked for SHIELD, but I’m not blaming them. SHIELD didn’t train me or force me to do anything. I gained my reputation all on my own, so there’s no one to blame but me.”

“What happened, Jo?” It was Tony that asked, but she could feel Bruce looking at her too.

“It was a simple job. My usual kind of job, because I was already in my groove by then. Already had a solid reputation and specialization. It should’ve been quick and clean, but I…”


“You have Miss Jo’s permission.” Natasha nodded once at the words and met Clint’s eyes. He knows the story as well as she does, but he’s always cared for Jo. Maybe not immediately, but still close to the beginning. This story hurts him in ways that don’t phase her, so she’ll be the one to tell it. They’re sitting in the common room of the third floor, where Darcy and Maria’s rooms are, and only three of the house members are missing. Tony and Bruce are probably with Jo. Darcy is sitting on a couch, between Thor and Clint. The god has barely left the girl’s side all night, and the sun rose just minutes ago. Steve and Maria are sitting on the loveseat, and Natasha is sitting in the only chair. (Jade is sitting on the back of the chair.)

“Once you reach a certain level within SHIELD, you become a specialist. I am a spy. Clint is an archer. Those are our specialties. It’s what we’re best at.”

“What’s Jo’s specialty?” Darcy looks so strong and determined, but Natasha saw the look in the girl’s eyes yesterday. Whatever she saw when she was with Jo, it’s going to stick with her.

“Jo is a killer. That’s her specialty. Sometimes, despite that, we slip up.” She resolutely didn’t look at Clint as she spoke, but she could feel his eyes on her. Could feel Maria’s too, because the agent knows exactly what she’s talking about. Clint’s different call and Jo’s.


“The parents weren’t mutants, as far as we could tell. Maybe a little stronger than average, but human. The kids both had mutant genes. The oldest, Sean, was what we call a Gamma level mutant. His appearance, big with gray skin and horns, made it impossible for him to pass as a human in society but he still had above average abilities. His younger brother, Henry, was an Alpha level mutant. Completely normal appearance and a mutant ability that he could easily control—the ability to create and control fire. Their parents were bad people. They worked for the highest bidders as thieves. I was sent after them when they set their sights on something big and nuclear.”


“The mission was simple. Wait for the youngest boy, Henry, to leave the house. He was fourteen and scheduled to be out with friends all night. The oldest was eighteen and lived elsewhere. The parents were supposed to be alone, and Jo’s orders were simple. Kill everyone in the house. The boy forgot his wallet.”


“Henry wasn’t supposed to be there. I killed the woman first, then the man. Just a few flicks of my wrists, and they were gone. When I looked up, he was just staring at me. Both of his parents were laying at my feet, necks snapped, and he wouldn’t stop staring. He wasn’t supposed to be there. My orders were clear, but I…He was just fourteen.”


“She left the boy alive. When another agent was sent after him, the boy burned him alive. We didn’t find him for another two years, in a village in China. He’d set most of the village on fire using his new creations. Beings made out of fire that he could control. It weakened him, but he could kill faster. Jo subdued him, but she still couldn’t kill him. He was arrested, along with his brother. They’ve been locked up ever since, until the breakouts.”


“I should have put an end to it in China, but he was still just a kid. A kid that watched me kill his parents, so I knew why he was angry. It seemed wrong to kill him; he was just lashing out, and how was that any better than what I did? I know he killed innocent people, but I just, I couldn’t do it. I looked at what he created, at all that potential, and felt like snapping my own neck. He could have been amazing.”


“Henry sent out his fire creations to keep us busy while he dealt with Jo. He had to know that she would overpower him, knew that what he was doing would keep him weak, but I think he believed that his brother would finish her off. As far as we can tell, Sean never harmed a civilian. He just refused to leave his brother’s side.”


“I don’t blame Sean for coming after me. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the Gamma mutants. They have to hide from the world or they’re called monsters, and I took away the three people that loved and accepted him unconditionally. Maybe their parents didn’t deserve to die; maybe they just needed to be put away somewhere. All I know is that I made a different call, and there’s a village that’s been wiped off the map and a park full of dead people because of it.”

“You know that what Henry did isn’t your fault,” Tony said quietly.

“You did what you thought was right,” Bruce added just as softly. Great, they’re coddling her.

“I don’t blame myself, but that doesn’t mean that some of the fault isn’t mine.”


“Jo made the call not to kill a fourteen year old boy. Her specialty is killing, but only when she thinks there is no other option.”


“No one’s perfect, sweetheart,” Tony said. His cheek is resting against her stomach now, and her cheek is pressed against Bruce’s chest. She only cried a little, but Bruce still hasn’t complained a bit.

“Yeah, I know, boss. You two are pretty close though.” They both made startled sounds, and she held onto both of them a little tighter. “I mean it, you two are the best. You’ve listened to me cry about my horrible decisions and held me through the night. JARVIS, we need to work on designing an award for these two.”

“What should the award say, miss?”

“Number One Cuddle Buddy?”

“For both of them, miss?” Damn, JARVIS is too smart for her own good.

“Thing One and Thing Two?” At that Tony started laughing, a full belly laugh that shook the bed, and she could feel Bruce laughing into her hair. Crisis averted. Looks like she won’t be having a mental breakdown today. “C’mon, guys. I’m in serious need of a shower, and so are you two.”

“We are not showering together!” Tony yelled as he rolled off the bed.

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Bruce groaned as he rolled off the other side.

“I would.” At their shocked stares and wide eyes, Jo just shrugged. “What? Two hot scientists in a shower? What woman wouldn’t dream of that?”

“Well, uh, I don’t…”


“Don’t strain yourselves, boys. See you at breakfast!”


“I’ll be right back,” Darcy said slowly. Thor was standing in front of the giant stove and holding a spatula in one hand, and his big blue eyes kept flicking between the partially cooked pancakes and Darcy’s face. She could tell that he wanted to come stand beside her, probably even escort her onto and off of the elevator, but the pancakes aren’t finished. This is her chance. Not that she would ever want to escape from Thor or anything. She just needs to do this by herself.

“Lady Jo carries a warrior’s burden, and she has my respect.” She hasn’t heard Thor call Jo “Lady” since he first came to the mansion, and his eyes are looking very serious. They haven’t really talked about what happened yesterday. Thor has told her some Asgard stories, and she’s told him a few of her own stories from over the years. (All of the stories have no mention of Jane, because neither one of them needs to go through that right now.)

Since she couldn’t think of how to respond to that, she just nodded to let him know that she understood and quickly turned around. Everything was quiet as she walked to the elevator, and she stopped inside of it and looked up at the ceiling. JARVIS told her that Jo was in her room, alone, so that’s where she went. She could hear banging coming from the inside of Tony’s room, it sounded like a shoe hitting the wall, but the rest of the floor was silent. Jo called out for her to come in after a quick knock on the door, and Darcy leaned back against the door once it was closed again.

“I told you I’m—Darcy!” Big dark green eyes met hers before quickly looking down. Jo’s just wearing a bra and a pair of purple leggings, and Darcy ran her eyes over Jo’s bared torso. There’s not a single mark on her. It’s like yesterday never even happened. “Please, don’t cry. I’m okay, kid. See? I’m perfectly okay.”

“You told me not to watch. You told me to run.” Yeah, she’s crying just a little. She watched Jo get beat into a crater, and she saw the woman snap a guy’s neck like it was nothing. She knows the story behind everything now and can understand what happened, but that doesn’t mean she can just make the images go away.

“I didn’t want you to see me…like that.” Jo has her arms crossed, but not in a defensive way. Darcy took Psych 101, okay? Jo’s trying to hold herself together.

“Didn’t want me to see who you are?” The question made Jo flinch, but that’s not what Darcy means. “I don’t care about what you’ve done or what you might do in the future. I live with assassins, and the god of thunder, and the Hulk, and they call you the Tank. I know that bad things are going to happen, but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to hate you or whatever. You beat a dude into a bloody pulp just for mugging me, so I’ve always know that you’re capable of violence, but that’s not all you are. You’ve been teaching me how to dance because no one else ever took the time, and I still love you, you know?”

Jo’s mouth opened and closed a few times, and Darcy watched as she took a deep breath and then jumped forward. Arms locked around her without holding on too tight, and Darcy reached up to lightly pat at Jo’s shoulder blades before completely giving in and just wrapping her arms around Jo’s waist. Jo’s warm and soft, but Darcy knows how deceiving that view is. She’s strong and deadly, but she’s still Jo. She’s still the woman who beat up Darcy’s mugger, bought her some bruise cream, and is always there when Darcy needs her.

“I love you too, kid,” Jo whispered in her hoarse voice. Clint did that to her voice; Thor wanted to wipe out an entire race; Hulk literally tore apart Harlem; Steve was a soldier in World War II; Tony used to be called the Merchant of Death; Natasha…she’s sure that Natasha has done plenty of stuff that she doesn’t know the specifics of. Point? Everyone in this house has done some pretty awful stuff, but that doesn’t mean they’re all bad people.

“Okay. Glad we got this all hugged out. Can we go back to normal now? I’ll make fun of you and Tony, you can tease me about the archer, and we’ll eat Thor’s fucktastic pancakes.” Jo’s standing in front of her now, but they’re still holding hands. Is this what it’s like for Jo and Tony? And some of the others? After all the bad shit, do they just want some kind of contact? To stay anchored to something?

“Anchor? Close enough. Fucktastic pancakes? Yes, please. And on the way down, you can tell me all about your encounters with our resident archer.” Jo tugged her towards the door, and Darcy was feeling a little bit of situational whiplash. They can really go back to normal that fast?

“You might want to put a shirt on first,” was the first thing to come out of Darcy’s mouth. Unfortunately, they were already out the door and standing in the living room. Where Tony and Bruce were talking quietly.

“We’ve talked about this, sweetheart. You have to wear clothes now. We’re not living alone anymore,” Tony said gently. His eyes were shining with pure malicious amusement, and it looked like Bruce’s cheeks were turning a little pink. It was hard to tell since he kept glancing up and then turning his whole head away.

“You told me I had to wear clothes even when we did live alone,” Jo replied.

“You two are so married, it’s eerie. I mean that. Go get dressed, mum,” Darcy said and gave her a push. Jo wagged a finger at her before sauntering off, and Darcy stuck her tongue out once Jo’s back was turned.

“I saw that, young lady!”

“Ooh, busted!”

“Shut it, daddy-o, or I’ll make sure you wind up in the doghouse.” She was smiling when she turned around, and Tony was grinning at her like…well, she’s sure that’s how a normal person would smile if they won lottery and were told no taxes would have to come out.

“You’re on my side, right, Bruce?” Tony looked over at his fellow scientist, and Bruce scrubbed a hand through his hair without meeting Tony’s eyes.

“Ha! I’m the favorite!” Darcy cheered just as Jo came back. She was wearing a baggy red ACDC shirt, which had to be Tony’s, and she’s still wearing those purple leggings.

“I was promised pancakes.” Jo propped her hands on her hips and cocked a brow, and the two scientists looked at each other before shrugging and offering their arms. Jo lightly bumped against her as they each took an arm, and Darcy took a moment to smile up at Tony. Of course Jo would take Bruce’s arm; Darcy’s got to remember to conspire with Tony later.


“How are you still eating?” Jo paused with the fork still in her mouth and looked over at Darcy. She could see Clint and Natasha out of the corner of her eye, and the two assassins were just looking on with small smiles on their faces. A little further down, Maria was looking at Steve with the same awed face as Darcy.

“What do you mean?” Jo mumbled around her food.

“I think she’s referring to the twenty pancakes you’ve consumed in under ten minutes. Thor’s up to thirty, but Bruce has everyone beat at thirty-four. Unless, Steve?” Tony called down the table.

“He’s at twenty-seven,” Maria answered. Steve smiled appreciatively at her, since his cheeks were stuffed full.

“They had a big fight yesterday and had to heal, which means they need to refuel. I wish I could eat that much,” Clint said and mournfully rubbed his stomach.

“You’d puke and pass out,” Natasha reminded him.

“No one should be able to eat that much. Does your stomach hurt? Or your jaw? You’ve used an entire bottle of syrup,” Darcy said and waved the bottle. There was still some left at the bottom, so it wasn’t the whole bottle.

“I feel fine. A little thirsty.” A bottle of water appeared in front of her face, and she took a second to smile at Tony before downing half the bottle. Much better. She’s actually starting to feel a little more normal.

“Fascinating,” Darcy whispered.

“Do we have any plans for today? I have lab stuff I need to do.” At that, Jo and Darcy both turned to look at Tony. Lab stuff? Sounds kinda scary.

“Nope,” Clint said, popping the p.

“Business as usual,” Natasha added. Just like that, everything is back to normal. Jo’s not really sure what that says about all of them. Are they all in denial about their big fights or have they just gotten used to it?

“Guess that means you’re back to training,” Jo said with a small smile. Darcy smiled back, and the younger woman’s eyes were completely clear. Good. Jo was worried for a moment that maybe Darcy would feel uncomfortable training after seeing Jo in real action, but she should be used to Darcy surprising her.

“You’re not gonna get hungry halfway through and go all Hannibal Lecter on me, are you?”


“I don’t understand.” The table, minus two, erupted into laughter. Even Bruce and Natasha were chuckling a little, and Maria was trying to explain to Steve through her giggles.

“I’ll tell you later, okay, big guy?” Darcy asked. Thor grinned, big and wide, and stuffed half of a pancake into his mouth.

Just like that, everything was okay again.


“I’m really okay. You don’t have to take it easy on me.” Bruce looked up at the sound of her rough voice, and dark green eyes met his from across the room. Jo’s still laying on his couch, which is more like his bed at this point, with her book open on her stomach.

“I’m not taking it easy on you,” he said and turned back to his microscope. Sometimes he can’t focus when she’s looking at him.

“We’re taking the day off, and I know it’s because of what happened yesterday. I’m fine, really. Teensy bit sore but completely healed.”

“It’s not because of what happened yesterday.” He knows that Jo can read his thoughts, and he also knows that she hasn’t come anywhere near his mind today. Maybe the others can’t tell when Jo catches their thoughts, but he can. He spent years controlling every aspect of himself, and he can tell when there’s someone else in his mind.

“If we take a day off every time there’s a big fight, we’ll never make any progress.” Jo has a point, and Bruce quickly glanced over at her. She’s still lying down.

“Hulk only has one pair of shorts, and I think he needs variety. We can work in here today, if you want,” he added quickly. He really does think that she needs to take a day off, because yesterday was more than just a big fight. It was more than physical.

“But you’re all the way over there.” He could hear the pout in her voice, and he had to force himself not to look up and see if her lips were pouting too.

“You need to learn to project your thoughts without touch.”

“Well, that takes all the fun out of it,” she drawled. He didn’t mean to look up and catch her eyes, but he couldn’t seem to stop himself either. Jo’s smile was slow and crooked when she noticed him, a real smile, and Bruce looked away before he could embarrass himself. There’s something about the mutant that makes him lose a little bit of his control. “Alright, Doc, we’ll do things your way. You just sit there and look pretty while I do all the work.”

“I’m working,” he mumbled, mostly to himself. Jo’s eyes were already closed, and it looked like she was trying to regulate her breathing.

The lab was quiet as Jo concentrated and Bruce worked, and he liked the quiet. It made it easier to work, but he could still feel Jo’s presence. She made the room feel a little warmer, which doesn’t make any logical sense, but it’s no less true. Even now, he still doesn’t know what to make of her. He knows what she’s done and what she’s capable of, but she’s still one of the kindest people he’s ever met. (“My hero!” Jo yelled before jumping onto the Hulk.) She makes him feel like he’s just another man, when they both know he’s not. He shouldn’t be surprised by that. Her closest friend is Tony Stark, who is the first person to ever look him in the eye and praise Hulk instead of fearing him.

“He was…” The thought was light and whispered, and he looked across the lab to the couch. Jo was breathing slow and deep, and she was smiling just a little.

“He was…her air. And. She was…his sun.”

“More Harlequin?” he asked. Jo jumped into a sitting position and beamed a smile at him, and it made something in his stomach feel warm.

“They might be ridiculous, but everyone needs a guilty pleasure.” Her eyes were shining and her cheeks were flushed, and Bruce smiled. Just a little. He likes seeing her happy. It’s so much better than seeing her covered in blood or crying.

“Keep practicing. The thoughts were very quiet. You need to make them stronger.”

“Aye, aye, Doc!” She snapped off a salute and laid back down, and Bruce ran his hand through his hair. If he pulled on a few curls, Jo’s eyes were closed so no one would know anyway.


“You don’t have to do this.”

“Yes, I do. Your hair is absolutely filthy,” was her counter. She heard Tony huff but he didn’t argue anymore, so she took that as a win. Tony actually slumped back against her and propped his arms on her thighs, and Jo continued to scrub her fingers through his disgusting hair. How did he take care of himself before she came along? (They both know the answer to that, but neither one of them is going to say her name out loud.)

“It’s not that bad,” he said once the shampoo was out.

“Your hair was so greasy that it was turning into a helmet. How are you a fashion icon again?” She’s working the conditioner into his hair now, so that it’ll feel all silky smooth when it dries.

“It’s ‘cause I’m hot,” he drawled.

“Uhuh. Keep telling yourself that, boss,” she said and picked up her cup. Tony held still as she rinsed his hair, and he didn’t say anything as she started washing his back. She could feel the soft whirl of his thoughts, but she didn’t focus on them. He’ll talk when he’s ready.

“I should be doing this for you,” he said when she started ringing the sponge out. He’s all squeaky clean now and turned around so that he can look up at her, and she moved a stray piece of wet hair off his forehead.

“I like doing this for you. It makes me feel better,” she shrugged. She likes knowing that she can help someone like this, especially someone who deserves a little loving care.

“But you deserve it too.” Is Tony the mind reader now? Sweet Thor, that is one scary thought.

“Maybe. Stop thinking so hard, Tony. You don’t have to do anything to make me feel better. I feel better just by being around you,” she said with a big ol’ smile. Tony’s eyes narrowed as he looked up at her, but it didn’t change her expression in the slightest.

“You are so corny. Why are we friends?”

“Because I give you sponge baths. Duh.” She ruffled his hair before standing up, and she quickly toweled off her legs before looking at him again. He’s still just sitting in the water, looking at her. “Come on and get out, before you get all pruney.”

“I don’t think that’s a word.” He stood up anyway, and Jo passed the towel over. While he was drying his body, she scrubbed a towel over his head.

“It’s a word now, and we need to avoid it at all costs. There, all dry.” His hair was sticking up all over the place, so it was a little hard for her to take his glare seriously.

“Is there anything I can do?” Jo tossed the towel to the side and looked down at her feet. She’s just wearing a tee shirt and a pair of boxer panties, but this is her usual nighttime attire. Tony’s still naked, so it’s not like either of them is all that modest.

“You can…cuddle me all night long,” she finally said. Tony rolled his eyes and walked out of the room to find his own pajamas, and Jo made her way over to his bed. She really loves his silky sheets. They’re so…silky. Tony joined her a few moments later, and they moved into their go-to sleeping position.

“I really love you. You know that, right?” She twirled a lock around her finger and hummed in the back of her throat. Yeah, she knows that Tony loves her. Just like he knows she loves him. Why else would she wash his gross hair and scrub his back?

“Love you too, Tony. Now quit worrying about me and get some sleep. Everything is okay. I’m not going anywhere.” She must have said the magic words, because Tony completely relaxed against her and nuzzled against her stomach.

Everything is back to normal, so why does she feel like the worst is yet to come?
♠ ♠ ♠
I hope that the explanation made sense, because I don't want people to forget that sweet and cuddly Jo is the Tank. There's a reason that she has that name. I also missed having fluff, so there's some of that in this chapter too. If there's any questions, I'd be happy to answer them!