Archaic Kinds of Fun

if you'll have me

“Tony! You take Vapor! Thor, take Vector! Hulk, Ironclad! Jo, we’ve got X-Ray!” Fury’s voice was still ringing in her ears as he gave them a quick overview of who they’re up against, and Jo carefully moved so that she was standing on Hulk’s shoulder. She could already see Tony going after a ball of green gas that resembled a woman’s form, and thunder roared as lightning streaked across the sky. Jo lightly ran a hand through Hulk’s hair and then launched herself off of his shoulder. She knocked into a red form that made her teeth lock together as she was blasted away from him, and Steve caught her before she could crash to the ground.

“Okay?” Steve asked as X-Ray moved down to face them.

“Never better,” she grinned. She caught a flash of a smile coming from the Captain’s direction and then it was right back to fighting. Just another day on the job.


“Please tell me we get a day off after that,” Jo groaned. The entire area, which spans quite a few blocks, was sectioned off. The destruction wasn’t nearly as bad as it could’ve been, but she still hates the look of it. She’s sitting next to a broken piece of sidewalk and looking up at Director Fury, who does not look happy. Well, he looks less happy than usual.

“I thought this was your day job.” Tony’s still in the suit, but the faceplate is up. He also looks way too happy, but he’s not really injured so at least there’s that.

“I’m retired. You’re my day job now.” Fury is still glaring, but Jo’s not sure which one of them he’s actually glaring at. Maybe both?

“Bug! Go make sure the perimeter is secure!” A woman in the standard agent jumpsuit hurried off, and Jo cocked an eyebrow at the imposing director.

“Does Hill know you’ve already replaced her?” Fury glared down at her with one eye while Tony cackled next to her, and she just grinned up at him. He can’t technically do anything to her, since she’s not a SHIELD agent.

“We need to be better prepared,” Steve said as he appeared next to Fury. Her and Tony had matching groans, but they both quieted down when Steve looked their way. It’s hard not to feel chagrined under Captain America’s disapproving eyes.

“Damn right you do!” Fury snapped out.

“Hey! Two out of four ain’t bad!” Tony protested.

“We should have captured them all,” Thor said solemnly. Jo hates seeing the god look so down. Where’s Darcy? Darcy always cheers the big guy up.

“We got our guys! You two are the ones that messed up,” Tony said and pointed at Thor and Hulk. Tony got Vapor while Jo and Steve wrangled X-Ray, but Vector and Ironclad managed to escape. Jo punched Tony on a metal arm just hard enough to sting a little and then surged to her feet. Once she was standing, she stood next to Hulk and looked up at him.

“They won’t be able to resist coming back, and we’ll get them then. Right, big guy?” Hulk huffed and looked away from her, and Jo had to command her face not to twist into a pout.

“We’ll get them next time,” Steve said with a kind of confidence that gave Jo goosebumps. Now, this is her leader. Clear eyes, a set jaw, and enough determination to take down several armies.

“Yeah, next time,” Tony huffed and lumbered to his feet. His eyes met hers, and Jo raised a brow at her boss. She can feel his thoughts, lightly brushing against her own, and she shook her head. As fun as flying with Iron Man sounds, she’s gonna pass. Tony and Thor can fly back, Steve has his bike, so she’ll walk back to the mansion with Hulk. She kept her eyes locked with Tony’s and thought as hard as she could; she pictured her bridge and saw the words floating across the air to Tony, “See you at home.”

“What are you waitin’ for? Get out of here! And keep your comms on! Bug, let’s get the hell out of here!” The short-haired agent rolled her dark eyes, which Jo saw as daring and hilarious, before following after him. Tony and Thor both leapt into the air and disappeared, and Jo walked between Hulk and Steve for a moment.

“Need a ride?” Steve asked her. He was already sitting on his bike and looking over at her, but she could still see Hulk out of the corner of her eye.

“Nah, I’m just gonna walk. See you back at home.” Steve nodded once before taking off, and Jo fell into step next to Hulk. She slowly reached up and wrapped a hand around his pinky finger, and the big guy huffed quietly but didn’t try to dislodge her. She can feel his thoughts, like giant boulders rolling down a mountainside, but she’s not looking for anything specific. Hulk will talk when he’s good and ready, so she just held onto his pinky and kept pace with him.

“Hulk lost. Hulk never loses.” They’re away from the majority of the destruction now, but the streets are still pretty clear. Jo reached up with her free hand to pat somewhere in the vague area of his elbow and then knocked her temple against his arm.

“You didn’t lose. The only way you lose is if you die, and you’re clearly very much alive. There’ll be another fight, and you’ll get him then.” Hulk’s huff was more of a snort this time, and Jo racked her brain for a way to comfort him. She hates hearing the big guy sound so defeated.

“Still angry. Tin can not very strong, not like Hulk. Hulk was…” Jo watched the way his brow furrowed and took a little peek inside his mind. She can’t hear Bruce, but she can feel his presence somewhere deep in the back of Hulk’s mind. It was like straining to hear rain against the ground when thunder was echoing. If Jo had to guess, she’d say it’s like Bruce is meditating while locked inside of his own mind. It’s all very confusing.

“Distracted. You were distracted.” Hulk huffed and nodded, which Jo took as his only response. “Thor probably wants to rest up some so you can’t spar with anyone, but Tony fixed up your sub-basement as your own personal training room. You can go down there and smash to your heart’s content.”

Hulk didn’t say anything, but he didn’t need to. They walked silently down the streets with only a few strange looks from passersby, and Jo was thankful that they kept their distance. Not because she was worried about Hulk hurting anyone or anything; she just doesn’t feel like dealing with any assholes right now. X-Ray blew her up pretty good, and she’s probably gonna be feeling this fight for a couple of days. She can deal though. Everyone on their side is in one piece, and the Fantastic Knock-Offs didn’t leave any casualties in their wake. Jo pressed her thumb against the front door once they reached the mansion, and the two of them paused in the foyer. The mansion is quiet, a little too quiet if you ask her, and she looked up at Hulk.

“Jo rest and heal,” Hulk said and poked her shoulder. Jo reached up to grab his massive hand in both of hers and made sure to look in his eyes.

“Smash until you feel better but don’t overdo it, okay? Hulk needs to rest and heal some too.” Hulk huffed with a nod and gently pulled his hand away before walking off towards the elevator. She wants to take Hulk’s advice, she really does. A long nap and nice dream about his alter-ego (sans interruptions) is what she wants to do, but it’s not what she’s going to do. First things first, she’s thirsty.

“Jo?” She looked up as she walked into the kitchen and met a pair of calm blue eyes. He hasn’t even changed out of his uniform yet.

“Hey, Steve. Do you have the urge to drink an ocean dry too?” Her eyes darted down to the three empty water bottles on the counter in front of him, and his smile was a little sheepish when he looked back over at her.

“There’s still some left.” He was already turning back towards the fridge, so Jo made her way over to the counter and accepted the two bottles of water that he passed over. Best leader ever.

“Thanks. I feel like I’ve been trying to swallow cotton.” The only sound for the next few seconds was the crinkling of her water bottle as she chugged it down, but she’s pretty sure that Steve understands.

“I debriefed everyone, and they’re okay,” Steve said and took a quieter sip of his drink.

“Where’d everyone wander off to?” Okay, that’s one bottle down. One to go.

“Thor is going over his fight, move by move, with Clint and Natasha to see what he did wrong. Darcy is with him. Maria is in her room, still talking to Fury, I bet. Tony is back in the lab. How’s Hulk?” Jo slowly absorbed the information and absently nodded at the new information. Quick shower and then she’s off to find Tony; he’s hiding something from her so she needs to get to the bottom of that.

“Working off some tension in his room. He’ll be okay,” Jo reported.

“And you?” Jo set down her second empty bottle and turned to face Steve, who looks like she probably does. There’s dust in his hair and all over his suit, from being pushed against cement, and a little bit of blood under his chin.

“I’m good, just need a hot shower. You holding up okay, Cap’n?” She likes Steve. They cook dinner together, and he tells her about his life because for some reason he trusts her like that. There’s no one else she’d rather have at her back in a fight. He jokes with her, with his dry and witty sense of humor, and he takes care of them.

“I’ll be fine. Dinner at seven?”

“I’ll be here.” She gave him one last smile before walking out, and she slowly stretched out some of her sore muscles as she rode the elevator up to her room. Her feet shuffled as she made her way across the floor, and an actual moan worked its way out when the hot water hit her aching back. Oh yeah, this is what she needs after a big fight. (She is not going to think about Bruce, shirtless, in her bed. Nope, not going to think about it one little bit.)

She rinsed off as quickly as she could, and she sighed a little as she undid her braid so that she could wash her hair. Definitely asking Bruce how he did that later, after they discuss other things. Like him being shirtless in her bed. Quiet reprimands were still slipping from her lips when she stepped out of the shower, and she kept a towel around her hair as she walked into her closet. She tugged on a pair of bright red leggings and one of Tony’s Metallica tee shirts, and the worn out cotton felt soft against her skin. Brushing her hair and putting it up took ten long minutes, and she was panting when she was done. Maybe a small haircut wouldn’t hurt. Just a couple of inches.

“JARVIS? Can you ask Darcy to come up to Tony’s lab?” she asked as she stepped out of her bedroom.

“She is currently on her way up. I’ll hold the elevator for you.” She could hear the doors opening, and she felt her lips pulling into a smile when Darcy’s face greeted her.

“Hey, mamalicious! Have fun beating people up?” Jo swung an arm around Darcy’s neck so that she could pull the younger woman against her side, and the sound of Darcy’s loud laughter was almost enough to make her forget about all of her lingering aches and pains.

“Of course,” she grinned as the elevator started up again.

“Probably needed it after another boring meeting,” Darcy mused. Jo felt her body slowly tensing up, and Darcy must have felt it too because she tipped her head back to meet Jo’s eyes. “You know, the meeting that you and Tony went to. That’s why you weren’t in the lab when I got there this morning. JARVIS said Tony was in a meeting.”

“I’m gonna kill that idiot,” Jo managed to get out before stepping out of the elevator. She could hear Darcy walking behind her, but she’s locked in on the lab and Tony’s whirlwind thoughts. What was that idiot thinking?! When she asked JARVIS if Tony was okay this morning, the AI said he was fine. He just didn’t mention that Tony wasn’t even in the building!

“There’s my two favorite—”

“Where were you?!” Her hands are braced against Tony’s shoulders, just in case she needs to give him a few hard shakes, and his eyes are dark and wide.

“You didn’t go with him to the meeting.” Darcy’s voice was a quiet realization, and Jo felt a muscle in her cheek twitching as her teeth ground against each other.

“I was still tired from healing. Why would you leave without telling me?” She’s mostly worried about him, because what if something had happened to him when she wasn’t there? Another, smaller, part of her is just hurt. He left her without saying a word, and he got JARVIS to lie to her and Darcy.

“I was perfectly safe. I knew where I was going, and I took a suit with me,” Tony said slowly.

“What is so important that you could just take off like that?” Tony’s looking at her like he wants to apologize, but Tony Stark doesn’t make mistakes.

“Pepper.” It’s just one word, but it’s the only answer she needs. She let go of his shoulders and took a small step back, and she can feel Darcy’s eyes moving across both of them.

“Is someone going to explain what’s going on? Because I am so lost,” Darcy said when they were quiet for a few more moments.

“Yeah, let’s get this over with. C’mon, sweetheart.” Tony grabbed her hand and tugged her over to the couch, where he arranged them into one of their usual positions. Her back was pressed up against an arm of the couch, one leg ran along the back of the couch while the other one dropped to the floor, and Tony sprawled himself between her spread legs. Darcy grabbed one of the chairs and plopped into it, and they waited for Tony to start talking.

“I woke up early, but I didn’t want to wake you up because I know that fight took a lot out of you. I wanted you to rest, and I was just going to the lab. I’d been working for a few hours when Pepper called and asked if we could meet. JARVIS said that you were in your room, so I went to tell you but…”

“I was sleeping,” Jo whispered.

“And so was Darcy. You’ve both earned a day of rest, I knew the place, I had a suit…I didn’t see a problem. I wasn’t even going to be gone that long, but we got to talking and—”

“Pepper, as in, your ex? Didn’t she break up with you?” It was an innocent question, but Jo could feel the way that Tony tensed against her. Yes, Pepper left and Tony fell apart. Jo’s the one that put him back together, bit by bit, and she really hopes that this little meeting didn’t undo all of her hard work. She blinked and looked down, and she noticed that her hands were held protectively over the arc reactor. Like she could keep him safe if she held on tight enough.

“We parted on good terms, and we’re still very close,” Tony said with a pointed look in Darcy’s direction. He’s thinking about the way that Pepper looked today; they sat outside, and the sunlight made Pepper’s hair glow. The light blue shirt nearly matched her eyes, and her smile made him feel warm. Everything about her always lit him up inside; she was his sun.

“Next time, let me know before you leave. Even if it is to just go see Pepper,” she said quietly. Is Tony really okay? She knows that seeing Pepper must have been hard, and she doesn’t want to see Tony hurt like that again. Never again.

“About that, she might start showing up around here. Occasionally.” This would be so much better if she could just see his face. He feels relaxed where he’s laying against her and his thoughts are at the same whirlwind pace as usual, but what if he’s just pretending at being okay?

“Are you two getting back together?” Darcy sounded a mixture of excited and guarded, and Jo waited for the answer.

“We’re just friends.” Tony’s never loved anyone the way that he loves Pepper, and Jo’s pretty sure that it’s the same for Pepper. Can two people like that ever be just friends?

“Does that mean I don’t get two Christmases?” Jo and Tony turned to look at Darcy at the same time, with nearly matching expressions, and Darcy just shrugged. “What? Two Christmases means more presents and more food.”

“Sorry, kid, we’re still one big happy family,” Tony drawled out.

“Whatevs, I’m going to find something to eat. You two try to keep your clothes on,” Darcy said as she smoothly got to her feet. Jo’s not trying to read anyone’s mind, but she can hear Darcy’s surface thoughts. Darcy wants to give them a little alone time, to talk stuff out, and she also wants a snack.

“Don’t eat too much! Steve and I are cooking at seven!” Jo called out as Darcy reached the doorway. A raised hand was her only answer and then she was alone with Tony. She kept one hand pressed against his arc reactor, with only little shafts of light escaping from between her fingers, and she moved her other hand up to his hair. It’s sweaty and a little tangled; she’ll have to wash it later.

“I really am okay,” Tony said after a few quiet moments.

“It must have been nice to see her again,” Jo said and twirled some of his hair around her finger. His hair is always perfect in magazines and random paparazzi shots, but it’s really a mess most of the time.

“It was. I’ve missed her.” His fingers are trailing patterns across her knee, mostly circles. Before Jo came along, there was only Pepper. Even before they were TonyandPepper, she was there for him. Cleaning up after him and keeping him alive. As much as he misses being with her, he also just misses her. Jo’s known that since the beginning; Pepper is always there in the back of his mind.

“Whatever happens, I’m here for you.” She nuzzled her cheek across the top of his head for just a moment and then went back to playing with random pieces of his hair.

“Can we stop talking about me now and talk about you and Bruce?”

“I thought you loved talking about yourself?” He twisted around enough so that they could lock eyes, finally, and raised a brow. Okay, now it’s her turn to tell what happened. She told him about the nightmare and Bruce waking her up, which included Bruce’s little dream walking moment. She kept the next little part to herself, because Bruce trusted her with a piece of himself and she’s not gonna betray that trust. She did say that they were both emotionally exhausted afterwards and decided to take a nap. Then there’s what happened after the nap…

“Hulk’s birthday? All of that started because you were thinking about Hulk’s birthday?” Tony sounds confused, which she understands. She’s still a little confused too.

“Kinda? I dunno, it just happened. It’s not like we’ve had a chance to talk about it. Hulk’s down in his room right now because he was a little upset about his fight with Iron Clad,” Jo rushed out. Now that everything is slowing down, she’s really starting to think about what happened. She kissed Bruce. Or, Bruce kissed her. Either way, they kissed.

“But you are going to talk about it?” Tony said slowly.

“Yeah, of course we are. Later,” Jo said with a little shrug. She asked Bruce if they were going to talk, and he said yes. So they’re going to talk about what happened.

“And how do you want this talk to end?” She smoothed her fingers through his hair as she tried to think of an answer, because she’s not really sure. Except she’s completely sure and absolutely terrified.

“What if he thinks it was a mistake? Or a fluke? What if he can’t even look at me later? What if he asks me to give him space? I don’t wanna give him space! We don’t have to, you know, do anything but I really like being his friend and—” Jo’s eyes crossed as she looked down at the hand covering her mouth, and Tony’s dark eyes were staring up at her in what looked like amusement. If he laughs, she’s biting him.

“Just tell him how you feel and work from there.” He’s talking quietly, which is ridiculous because they’re the only ones in the lab. Tony slowly moved his hand so that he was cupping her cheek instead of silencing her, and Jo reached up to rest her hand over his.

“I can do that.” Tony smiled at her, a grin wide enough to show his teeth, and then gracefully moved to his feet. Jo closed her eyes and melted back against the couch, because it’s been a long day and she wants a little nap before going down to cook dinner. Well, before going down to assist the Cap’n in making dinner.

“And Jo?” She hummed to show she heard him but didn’t bother opening her eyes. It’s nap time. “I think he likes you too.”


“Steve! What’s for dinner?” Jo asked as she slid into the kitchen. Steve, who was already standing at the stove, turned his head to smile at her. Steve has the prettiest smile. She’d follow that smile into battle.

“Meatloaf and home fries?” Jo’s stomach let out a quiet grumble, so that’s a yes.

“I’ll get the potatoes!” Steve worked on turning the giant hunk of hamburger meat into perfect patties while she peeled the potatoes, and they worked in silence for a little while. Jo likes cooking with Steve. He’s good at giving directions, he’s a great conversationalist, and they can work in silence without it getting awkward.

“I got a phone call earlier,” Steve said as he flipped a patty on the little grill. Jo looked up from her pile of sliced potatoes to meet the captain’s eyes. Sometimes she’s still not sure why Steve picked her as his pseudo-therapist, but she’s glad he did. She likes knowing that she can help him out a little.

“From who?” She kept on slicing as she waited for an answer, and Steve flipped another few patties before replying.

“Logan. He was calling for you, but JARVIS told him you were in the shower and redirected it to me.” Yeah, that sounds like JARVIS. The AI is just as meddlesome as his creator.

“How’d it go?” Blue eyes flicked over to her, and Jo tried to give him a reassuring smile. She’s also making a mental note to kick Logan’s ass if he said anything to upset her Captain.

“It was…okay. We talked about the war and how much things have changed since the forties, and he mentioned he was thinking of coming down for a visit.” Steve’s voice sounded a little off, and she kinda gets it. Since waking up, Steve has felt out of place. It must have been a little weird talking to someone from way back when.

“That’s good. I miss the old man,” she said as she started frying up the potato slices. She does miss Logan, but she’s not really eager to get him in the same room as Tony.

“He still sounds the same.”

“Looks the same too. Sideburns and all,” she grinned. Steve smiled back, and he looked a little more relaxed now. A little less haunted. “So, do you think this is enough?”

“A small mountain should be enough to feed all of us.” Their eyes could barely meet over the mound of sliced potatoes, and Jo shrugged. They eat a lot, especially after a fight.

“If you say so, Cap.”


Dinner was…normal. Somewhat. Jo and Natasha are trading little jabs with Tony egging them on and Thor reprimanding them; Clint is talking to his chicken while feeding her bits of fried potatoes; Steve is mother-henning Maria, who is calmly explaining all the different ways she can handle a knife which means that she can cut up her own meatloaf. So, yeah, normal. Bruce is missing because he’s taking a nap, as JARVIS helpfully informed them, and she’s eating her delicious dinner and listening to everyone around her. Something just feels a little off though, and she can’t put her finger on it.

A nudge against her calf snapped her out of her thoughts, and she jumped a little before meeting Clint’s eyes across the table. The archer was trying not to laugh at her jumpiness and mostly succeeding, but Darcy doesn’t like that smug little smile on his face. She kicked him back, which wasn’t as effective since she’s barefoot, and he retaliated. He caught her next kick between his calves, and Darcy tried to wiggle free but couldn’t. Nope. Her ankle was firmly caught between Clint’s very strong legs. Hopefully she’s not blushing. Too much.

“You okay?” Clint mouthed. His lips moved but there was no sound. It’s not like it matters; Natasha is yelling at Jo in Russian, and the mutant is laughing so hard that her entire face has turned red. Does Jo speak Russian? Wait, Clint asked her a question.

“Yeah,” she mouthed back. She is okay, something just feels off. Maybe it’s because Bruce is missing. Yeah, the other scientist is the quietest of them all but his presence is always felt. She shrugged one shoulder while nodding her head, to back up her declaration of being okay, and she tried to will Clint to look away. It’s like she can feel his gaze.


“Present!” She jumped again as she answered, and Tony started cackling. She knew he was an evil genius! Extra emphasis on the evil part.

“You okay, kid? I’ve been calling your name for, like, a whole minute,” Jo said and popped a giant bite of meatloaf into her mouth.

“Yeah, I’m okay. Did you need something?” She has really got to stop spacing out so much.

“Can you watch Tony after dinner for me? I wanna get in some reading time before bed.” Tony was pouting next to her now and whining about not needing a baby-sitter, and Darcy took a big gulp of water before answering. What is with her tonight?

“No problem,” Darcy said with a smile. She doesn’t mind just chilling in the lab with Tony; there’s usually music and sometimes she gets to see things explode.

“Father daughter bonding time!” Tony yelled. Darcy groaned and rolled her eyes, like a sullen teenager that’s being embarrassed, but she couldn’t keep the smile off her face. Yeah, just another night.


After dinner was finished, Jo made her way up to the library. It’s the one place that’s nearly guaranteed to be empty, and the big table is surprisingly comfy. She was stretched out on top of the table and reading the part where the handsome duke was apologizing to his ladylove for sleeping with her older sister while he was drunk when the door opened quietly. She expected to see Tony when she looked up, maybe Clint or Darcy, but she wasn’t disappointed to see that she was wrong.

“Hiya, Doc,” she said as she rolled from her stomach to a sitting position. She left her book where it was laying, finding her place won’t be that difficult, and looked across the room to the doorway.

“Hi, Jo.” His voice was still rough from sleep, and Jo flushed as she remembered why she knew what the Doc’s I-just-woke-up voice sounded like. The memory made her think about the missing part of her large intestine, but the more recent memory of the way his stubble rubbed against the sensitive skin around her lips was closer to the forefront.

“Sleep okay? How’s Hulk?” Something happened around his eyes, but Jo wasn’t sure what it was. It was a shift of something, but fuck, he looked good just standing there. His pajama pants were so long that she could just make out his bare toes, and the fuzzy red robe wrapped around his upper body swallowed him. His hair was all sleep rumpled, and Jo just wanted to bury her fingers in his hair and drag him back to bed. She can’t do that though, because they have to figure stuff out first. Figure them out, if there’s even going to be a them. Something that she’s been trying not to think about, but now Bruce is standing in front of her and neither one of them are talking. They’re just…looking.

Bruce isn’t perfect, she gets that, but who is? He’s not flashy and doesn’t bring attention to himself, but she can’t look away from him. And she’s tried. She’s been hooked on him ever since the first time she brought him lunch…or maybe even before that. The first time she impulsively leaned over and kissed him on the cheek? Or maybe the day that he stepped between her and a bomb? It doesn’t really matter when it started. All she knows is that she can’t seem to stay away from him. After that whole nightmare sharing thing, she should be avoiding him. There’s a small part of her that wants to hide from him and never meet his eyes again, but she still can’t look away.

The guys she’s been with in the past have been confident, bordering on cocky (sometimes taking it to whole new levels), and far from shy. Now there’s Bruce, who’s insanely strong and maddeningly gentle. Jo wants Bruce because he’s broken and she doesn’t want to fix him like you’re supposed to fix broken boys. Instead she wants to hold him closer so they can be broken together, so all of their insecurities and nightmares can slip through their cracks and crash against each other.

In other words, Bruce Banner scares the ever living fuck out of her. Jo has always known what to expect from the opposite sex, because she always chooses the same kind of guy. The guy that wants a little bit of fun and won’t feel anything when she slips out in the middle of the night. She doesn’t want a night with Bruce. She wants everything with him, and it’s a completely different feeling. Jo’s dated, and fucked, and maybe even fell in love once…but she’s never felt like this.

“What do you want from me?” The question jolted her out of the weird murmurings of her own mind, and she blinked Bruce’s form back into focus. He’s still leaning in the doorway, with his too big robe and porcupine hair. Is he wearing a shirt under the robe? Is his skin still all sleep warm from his blankets?

“Bruce, I…” She let the sentence die out and gently looked into his mind. She doesn’t know what to say, because she wants all of it. She wants lazy mornings in bed, lunch in the lab, hand holding in the park, and kisses before fights. But what if that isn’t what he wants? Her mind hit against a brick wall that felt electrified, and she flinched as she pulled herself away. Bruce’s brows were drawn down and his lips were pinched into a tight line when she looked up. One side of her wanted to smooth a hand against the grooves and make him smile, and the other side of her wanted to go crawl in a corner and hide her shame. Not that she’s ashamed. Telepaths read minds; it’s in her DNA.

“No poking around inside of my mind to tell me what you think I want to hear. What do you want from me?” She can’t answer that, not yet. Not until she knows that he won’t completely shut her down. Why’s he asking her this now anyway? They kissed, it was amazing (fucktastic), so can’t they enjoy that for just a little bit longer?

“I…want…you…to…” Jo paused and tried to think, but she’s not the best at thinking under pressure. She’s better at doing. Doing is her thing. “Dance with me. I want you to dance with me.”

“I’m not your favorite dance partner.” It wasn’t said with any kind of malice or jealousy, it was just a statement. No, it’s just a fact.

“No, Clint is, but he isn’t here right now and I think better when I’m moving around. So come dance with me. JARVIS, one-oh-nine, please.” The AI didn’t say anything; he just started the music.

“One, two, three, four.” Jo slipped off the edge of the table with one hand outstretched, and she thought for a moment that Bruce was going to turn her down. Then he pushed off from the doorway and walked towards her. He ignored her hand, and Jo let it fall back to her side as he loosened the belt of his robe and dropped the giant thing on the table next to her book. He was shirtless under the robe. This is a very serious situation, but Jo was torn between shouting a hurrah! at the ceiling and thanking every god out there. Or just, you know, jumping on the half-naked man that scared and aroused her at equal turns. He turned to her then and offered his hand, and how could she say no? She slipped her hand into his and schooled her face into a blank expression as the song began in earnest.

“Settle down with me. Cover me up. Cuddle me in. Lie down with me and hold me in your arms. And your heart’s against my chest, your lips pressed to my neck. I’m falling for your eyes, but they don’t know me yet.”

“I don’t know this song,” Bruce said as the chorus started. Jo realized she was looking over his shoulder to avoid looking at him, and she lowered her gaze to his bare shoulder. He had a single freckle on the top of his shoulder, his left one but on her right, and she wanted to lick it. Maybe nibble it a bit.

“It’s by Ed Sheeran. He’s amazing and has the voice of an angel, so just listen and enjoy.” Her fingers were lightly touching against his biceps, like the way someone lets their hand hover just over the stove eye to see if it’s still hot. His hands were a bit firmer on her hips but still loose, like she could move away from him at any moment if she wanted to. She didn’t.

“Settle down with me. And I’ll be your safety, you’ll be my lady. I was made, to keep your body warm. But I’m cold as the wind blows, so hold me in your arms.”

“What are we doing, Jo?” Okay, Jo had to remind herself, he’s not Clint. Bruce isn’t going to lose himself in the music and turn off his brain for a bit. The man is constantly thinking, and now he’s thinking behind an electric brick wall so she can’t cheat. (Somewhere, in the back of her mind, the realization that she’s come to depend on the telepathy is both terrifying and nauseating.)

“We’re dancing, Bruce. Maybe not the best dance in the world, but dancing just the same.” She didn’t mean to snap, she likes Bruce enough to not snap, but she’s starting to feel a little cornered. Apparently, while she was cooking with Cap and eating dinner with everyone, Bruce was analyzing everything that’s happened between them.

“It’s not a very difficult question. Whatever you want to say, just say it. I promise not to get angry.” There was a tense set to his jaw, but his hold on her hips was just as light ever.

“Don’t give me that bullshit, Doc. Get angry all you want; me and Hulk are bros.” After all this time, he’s really going to use that line? She thought they moved past that the day they officially met. His dark brown eyes caught and held hers when she looked up, and Jo couldn’t look away. Not now that she was actually looking.

“We’ve barely known each other for a month, and you didn’t even really talk to me for the first week. We still barely know each other. Then yesterday, we kissed. Would you have gone further if we hadn’t been interrupted?”

“Yes.” The answer slipped right out of her, without waiting for permission from her brain. Bruce’s eyes took turns darkening and flashing, and it made her blood feel like it was on fire and her skin itch.

“I won’t do that. Not with you,” he said with a set line to his jaw. Jo could feel the rush of blood pounding at her temples, since her healing is a little sluggish on anything that isn’t fatal.

“I’m not good enough for you to sleep with?” Now that the words were out, she didn’t know if she was more angry or hurt. She knows that she’s not everyone’s idea of beautiful, but Bruce hadn’t seemed to mind all the curves when they were cocooned in her bed.

“I respect you, and our friendship, too much to have a one-night stand. I don’t have a lot of friends, and I am not losing one just because hormones got the best of us.” Jo stopped moving and stayed rooted to the spot, and Bruce let go of her as he took a quick step back. Her hands fell limply against her sides, and she tried to make sense of the whooshing sound between her ears. It was like riding a tornado under water.

“I don’t want a one-off.” Is that what he’s been thinking this whole time? That she just wants a little wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am? She could go out and find a one night stand if that’s what she really wanted; she wouldn’t risk Bruce just for one night.

“Why? Don’t say that just because you think it’s what I want. Tell me why you want an emotionally stunted and socially awkward man who, up until a year ago, was absolutely terrified of sex because he turns into a giant green monster capable of leveling entire cities. I may have an understanding with Hulk now, but that doesn’t change anything. I’m still…I’m still…”

“Broken?” His eyes snapped to hers, and Jo made a point not to look away. “You’re broken and all torn up about past misdeeds. I get it now. Somewhere between our relaxed makeout session and now, you’ve sat down and thought up all the reasons why you shouldn’t be happy. I get that, I do, but do not take it out on me. You wanna know why I don’t want a one-off?”

“I already asked once.” It was like a staring match before the shootout on main street, and they’re both wearing bulletproof vests that’ll save them from dying but still leave dark bruises behind.

“The simple answer is that I just want you. I want the quiet guy with his shy smiles and wild hair; the genius that talks out loud just because I asked him to; the man who faced down his own fears just to help me learn something new about something I hate. And because…because…”

“Because?” Jo flicked her eyes up to meet his and then continued on. It’s now or never. Might as well get everything out.

“Because you scare me, Bruce. You, not Hulk. Hulk is both childlike and a helluva lot smarter than even you give him credit for sometimes, but he’s simple compared to you. You listened to me freak out over Tony’s hallucinations, and you put up with my drunk ramblings after I hid from you. You saw some of what they did to me and instead of leaving me alone, you ripped off a piece of yourself and handed it to me. People don’t just do that, Bruce. They tell people that they’re sorry that something so awful happened to them, give them a pat on the back, and then walk the fuck away. But you? You listened to the sad tale and raised me one better. And you…”

“What?” Somewhere in the middle of her speech, around the hallucination part, Jo looked down at her bare feet. Sweet fuck, she’s still wearing bright red leggings and one of Tony’s tee shirts. She looks like shit and is still trying to give some kind of grand speech. When she looked up, Bruce was staring at her like she was a ghost that could disappear at any moment.

“The guys I’ve been with, they either knew exactly who and what I am or they knew enough of my personality to reach an opinion that’s close enough to the truth. I’m not some petite little girl; I’m a little rough around the edges. I can take whatever they can dish out and then scream for them to go a little harder. They don’t have to be careful with me, so they’re not.”

The tops of Bruce’s cheeks were dusted a light pink, and Jo wanted to press her fingers against the skin to feel the heat just underneath. Not yet though. She has to get this out, to finish it.

“When you kissed me…it was gentle. You touched me like you could see all the cracks, and you didn’t want to break me. No one’s ever done that before. Not like you did, and I don’t give a shit if it’s selfish, but I want that. We’re gonna have to work at it if we decide to be a “we,” but I think I can do it for you. We already know the worst parts of each other, so how bad can it be?”

“You want there to be an us?” Bruce looks completely shocked, and it’s a feeling that Jo can understand. She feels shocked every time she opens her mouth and words come pouring out, but that doesn’t make her words any less true. She wants this strange doctor, with his porcupine hair and big green other half, all to herself.

“Yeah, I want there to be an us. If you’ll have me.” She felt the corners of her lips twitching and dipped her chin down, because she can’t look at him right now. Every time he lets their eyes connect, she gets stuck staring at him like he’s the physical representation of the oxygen she needs to breathe. Rough fingertips gently tipped her face up, and she met Bruce’s eyes. He didn’t say anything, just let his eyes move back and forth as he looked at her. Like he was thinking.

“My heart’s against your chest, your lips pressed to my neck. I’m falling for your eyes, but they don’t know me yet.” JARVIS must have the song on repeat, but this was the first time Jo had registered the song in a while. And Bruce was still just looking at her.

“I’ll stay awake for days in the lab and probably forget to talk to you,” Bruce said quietly. She could feel his warm breath tickling her lips, he was so close, but she needed him to make the first move.

“I leave dirty clothes on the floor and get crumbs in the bed,” Jo countered.

“So kiss me, like you wanna be loved. You wanna be loved. You wanna be loved. This feels like falling in love. Falling in love. We’re falling in love.”

Bruce’s nose brushed against hers, and she held her breath as she waited for what came next. She didn’t have to wait long. He caught her bottom lip between his teeth, and she felt his tongue swiping across the caught flesh. She really wants to keep this going, but she has to make sure first. Hands tightened on his shoulders as Jo ignored her earlier thought of testing those very same shoulders with her teeth, and she pushed herself back just the tiniest bit. She felt his bare stomach moving as she breathed, and the shifting of the thin material between them caused her skin to break out in goosebumps. He was staring at her, she was staring at him, and why aren’t they joined at the lips again? Oh, right.

“Just to clear things up, we’re not stopping this time, right? Because I’ve been all tense and tingly since this afternoon,” she breathed out. She can take care of it herself, sure, but she doesn’t want to. Not when there’s a much better option.

“Are you sure you don’t want to wait?” He’s way too nice to her, and Jo can already tell that she doesn’t deserve him. She’s going to keep him anyway and work at deserving him though, hopefully without fucking it up along the way.

“The next time I walk in here, I want my thighs to shake from the good memories.” Being all breathy doesn’t work with a voice as rough as hers, but her purr is pretty good. Good enough to darken Bruce’s eyes and have him wrap his arms around her so tight that it feels like they’ve fused together.

This time his lips devoured hers, and she felt almost helpless against the onslaught. Her lips were hot and sensitive, she couldn’t breathe, and she couldn’t stop. Fingers tore at the loose pants barely hanging onto his hips and at the elastic waistband of her leggings, and they both stumbled out of their bottoms without their lips parting. It wasn’t easy, Jo bit Bruce’s lip hard enough to make him hiss into her mouth, but they managed it. Her fingers traced across his hips before moving onto the expanse of his back, and she felt his hands helplessly pulling at her shirt. Right, she needs to get that off. Now that she was thinking about it, she was almost desperate to feel his skin against hers. She ripped her lips away from his and hurriedly stripped the shirt off. If her arm got stuck for a moment or two, Bruce was a gentleman and didn’t mention it.

“We should, probably, slow down.” Jo was happy to note that he was breathing just as hard as she was, and she dropped the shirt to the floor.

“Why? You’re not worried about Hulk, are you?” She knew before that the change was triggered by his heart rate, to some extent, but he’s in control now. Well, they’re both in control.

“What? No, he’s sleeping. I told him I needed some time alone, and I promised that he could spar with Thor tomorrow. I think that we should take it slow.” They’re naked, alone together, with nothing to interrupt them. Why are they still talking?

“I think we’ve established that I’m not the average girl. I’m not saying I’m a whore or anything, but I have done this before.”

“You’ve fucked before, I know.” For some reason, Bruce saying such a naughty word sent heat running through her. That was something worth looking into later. “I don’t want that, not this time. I want it to be like our first kiss.”

“Oh.” A shiver raced down her spine, and she turned her face into Bruce’s palm when he cupped her cheek. So far he hasn’t tried to grab her breasts or spread her legs, and Jo’s starting to feel a little lost. It’s like being a virgin all over again and not knowing where to put her hands. As Bruce’s lips touched hers, softly this time, Jo just let herself fall into it. This isn’t just some guy racing her to the finish line. This is Bruce, the broken doctor with lips softened from her tongue and rough fingers gently tracing her spine.

“You don’t have to hold back with me,” he whispered with a kiss to the base of her throat. It was a mirror of that afternoon, her own words and actions used against her. Bruce was warm and solid where he was pressed against her, and Jo decided, fuck it. She fell apart in his arms with a moan torn out of her throat, and Bruce caught her with sweet kisses. She laughed, a quiet and breathless sound, as he laid her back against his giant fluffy robe. (She’s never going to look at the library table the same after this.) His body easily fit between her spread legs, almost where she wanted him to be, and he peppered kisses against her face and throat just to hear her laugh again.

“I’m scared, Bruce.” One of his hands was tangled with hers while the other stroked the soft skin of her inner thigh, and his warm breath puffed out against her bellybutton.

“Me too.”

Normally when Jo let herself get lost with another person, time sped up as she tried to reach that place where her mind went completely silent. With Bruce, it wasn’t like that. Seconds stretched into hours as he kept her right on the edge, until her thighs were shaking and sweat pooled between her breasts. No one had ever paid so much attention to her body, not with such detail. Rough fingertips, blunt teeth, a teasing tongue, soothing lips…he had her ready to fly apart with nothing but light touches. Jo never knew that the inside of her right knee was ticklish until Bruce’s tongue swiped over the spot and made her giggle like a little girl. The giggles disappeared into gasps as he nipped at her thigh, and she was right back to straining for the end but being denied.

When Bruce finally, finally, slipped inside of her, Jo was so worked up that it was painful in the sweetest way. Neither one of them was going to last long. Jo was at the point of begging five minutes and six hickeys ago, and she could feel Bruce shaking lightly as she scraped her nails across his shoulders. This time when she reached her peak, Bruce let her fall off the edge. And it was a fall, with a soft landing. She came with a sob, and a scream, a curse, and a prayer. She was trying to get her breath back when Bruce went still, and her body gave a rolling shiver to arch her back against the sensation. Dark green eyes traced the tensing of Bruce’s biceps, and she locked her thighs around his waist so he couldn’t move. Bruce pulled his face away from her neck to look at her, but not before tasting the salty skin stretched over her still pounding pulse.

“Just for a little bit, okay? I just need you to stay, just like this, for just a little bit.” Bruce smiled, a shy little twitch of his lips, and he nodded. Jo relaxed the muscles in her aching thighs and sighed when Bruce settled more fully against her with his face tucked back into her neck. His hands were curled in her hair and propped on the table so he could somewhat hold himself up, and Jo let her fingers dance to the music still playing across the tops of his shoulders. It wasn’t comfortable for either of them, they were both sore and sweaty, and a shower was needed as soon as possible. For now though, for this one moment, they were okay.
♠ ♠ ♠
The bad guys are not my creation. They're a team known as the U-Foes, so feel free to google them. Basically, they're just four people who went to space to get superpowers. (Like the Fantastic Four.) If there's any questions about them or anything else, leave a comment or send a message!

PS: Who's happy that Jo and Bruce finally got together? Because I know I am!