Archaic Kinds of Fun

secret friendship handshake

February 6, 2014

Jo woke up with the sun, which isn’t uncommon. She has nights where she sleeps more than anyone should, and sometimes she struggles through a few hours of sleep before calling it quits. She tried knitting for an hour, kept poking herself, and decided to go on the roof. There’s something about feeling the sun on her skin that settles her, so laying on the roof for a couple of hours was just what the mutant ordered. JARVIS even put on some music for her and talked her through some yoga poses to keep her limber. She likes that AI system more than pretty much every person on the planet.

“Miss Jo, Miss Potts would like to have a word.”

“Yeah, of course.” Pepper came back yesterday, and Jo made sure to give the couple their space. She was just getting to her feet when the door leading to the roof opened, and she jogged over to where Pepper was standing. “Hey, Pepper. Whatcha need?”

“I just, I have a small favor to ask of you.” Now that she was close enough, she could see the redness of Pepper’s eyes and the way her hands were shaking.

“Is everything okay? Want me to kick Stark’s ass?” Pepper’s laugh seemed to shake too, and Jo shuffled on her feet a little. Comfort is not really her thing. She’s a rough kind of girl, but she doesn’t like the look in Pepper’s eyes.

“Thank you for looking after him.” The other woman looked on the verge of tears, and Jo took another step forward. Pepper raised her hand, which made Jo freeze. “Tony and I have decided to have some time apart. Maybe forever, I don’t know, but I can’t—”

“It’s okay, Pepper. I think I get it. You’re worried about what happened last week, right? You don’t have to worry. I’ll keep Stark safe.”

“It’s not just last week. It’s the Extremis, SHIELD, aliens…just, everything. I need some time alone, and I really think he does too. Just promise me something?” Pepper is obviously torn up about this, but she’s serious and determined.

“Yeah, sure.” Stark might be an ass, but Pepper is a good person. Jo’s done her research, so she knows that Pepper has somehow managed to be both strong and kind. It’s impressive.

“Take care of him for me.” It wasn’t even a question, but it’s not a demand either. It was something in between, and Jo suddenly realized that she was nodding.

“I’ll keep him in one piece. Are you still gonna call for check ins?”

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea. Thank you, Jo.” She was still standing in the same place when the door closed behind Pepper, and she lightly pinched the bridge of her nose.

“Where’s Stark at, JARVIS?”

“He’s currently in his lab, Miss Jo. Should I direct you?” Yeah, she should probably make sure he was okay. Him being in the lab is the norm, but Stark is a genius and capable of so many things.

“That would be great, buddy.” She’s not really sure why the Malibu house is so big, but whatever. JARVIS is the best, so he managed to get her right where she needed to be. Stark was bent over a hunk of metal and muttering to himself like a crazy person, and Jo slowly moved farther into the room. It looks like a tornado hit the place.

“Oh, it’s just you.” Stark’s bloodshot eyes met hers, and Jo mentally prepared herself for what’s to come. She might not be Stark’s number one fan, but heartache sucks. Today, she’s gonna suck it up and be a friend.

“Sorry to disappoint, boss. How ya holding up?” She plopped herself onto a stool and rolled herself over to the billionaire’s side with all the dignity she has left; she’s rolling on a stool in her PJs, which consist of some ratty old sweatpants and a bleach stained tank top. Her dignity is long gone.

“Drink?” Stark held out a bottle of Scotch, expensive going by the smell, and Jo arched a brow.

“It’s ten in the morning,” she pointed out. Oh, wow, she’s going to get drunk just off the fumes wafting from that bottle.

“It’s ten at night in Calcutta,” Stark countered. She couldn’t even think of what to say. For one, what does that have to do with anything? For two, how does he even know that?

“Ah, fuck it. Special circumstances.” Stark cheered as she took the bottle from him, and Jo said a silent prayer as she tipped her head back to guzzle the liquor down. The bottle made an impressive thumping sound when she set it down, and she had to swipe her hand across her lips as she sucked in a deep breath. She hasn’t drank like that in about a year. She’s really gotta get back to Amsterdam. “Alright, boss, what are ya working on?”

“The single greatest creation of ever!”

“Let’s hear all about it then.”

As Stark explained his current experiment, Jo’s pretty sure he’s making a sentient toaster but whatever, she peeked at his thoughts. She doesn’t like the telepathy, it’s too intrusive and violates people’s right to privacy, but she wants to make sure her boss is going to be okay. Since he’s thinking about his work, Stark’s thoughts are like a hurricane. It’s hard to pinpoint any one thought, because there are so many. Jo’s not sure how the man doesn’t have a constant headache. The Pepper thoughts are there, along with the pain that comes with a breakup, but it’s buried under a haze of liquor and equations. She could dig deeper, but she’s not really comfortable with that.

She let Stark talk himself out and gave his shoulder a gentle squeeze before showing herself out. The dude just got dumped, so he’s allowed to wallow in liquor and metal for a little while. If the kitchenware starts rebelling though, she’s gonna have to put the billionaire in a timeout. Stopping a robot rebellion is not in her job description…well, except for that one time. That was totally an isolated incident though. Jo felt a little bit better by the time she got to her room, and she picked up her knitting needles with a smile. She’s gotta finish Logan’s mittens.

February 9, 2014

“How do we know if she’s strong enough?” one man asked.

“She survived the accident without a scratch,” another man said.

“Proves nothing,” said the third.

“Then we’ll have to test her, won’t we?” asked the fourth.


Jo’s eyes flew open as she sat up, and she pushed her hair out of her face. What the hell was that? The dream was normal, but that super loud mental wakeup call? That’s new. She let her mind expand to see if something in the house woke her up, but everything was quiet. If there was someone else in the house, she’d hear them. Hell, she can barely hear Stark’s sluggish thoughts, so he’s obviously not alarmed about anything. Everything’s been quiet and peaceful in the three days since Pepper left, so…what just happened?

“JARVIS?” Fuck, her voice sounds like shit. Water would be good. Lots of water. Her knees and spine popped as she stood up, and she twisted her head to get her neck to crack as well. She’s carrying way too much tension.

“Did you need something, Miss Jo?”

“Is Tony still in the lab?” His thoughts are sluggish and far away, and she hasn’t seen the guy since the day Pepper left. Her feet shuffled across the floor, and she forced her arms up so she could put her long hair up. If she leaves it down, it’ll get in her way and make her sweaty.

“Master Stark has not left the lab since the last time you saw him, Miss Jo.” Stark has been in the lab for three days? No, wait, he was probably there right before Pepper left too. That’s four days in the lab.

“At all? Has he slept? Ate? Showered?”

“Master Stark has not left to sleep or shower. Does Cragganmore count as a meal?”

“That’s insanely expensive scotch, right?”

“Yes, miss.”

“Then, no, it definitely does not count. What am I gonna do with the boss man, JARVIS?” Jo’s long legs were already eating up the distance between her room and the lab, and she growled insults under her breath as she power walked. Not insults at Stark, oh no. Insults at herself. What kind of telepathic bodyguard lets her boss fall this far without noticing a damn thing? Yeah, she’s not the guy’s biggest fan, but that doesn’t mean she can just abandon the fucking guy.

“Whatever you deem right, Miss Jo.” Jo pushed her way into the lab and stopped just inside to assess the situation.

“Holy fuck,” was her first coherent thought. She’s not even all the way into the lab and can already smell the expensive scotch Stark’s been choking back for days. Speaking of the genius, he was slumped over a table with his eyes barely open. Jo walked over to his side and fought the urge to pinch her nose. Yeah, he definitely hasn’t left in days.

“Boss? Can ya hear me?” He lifted a hand to wave her away and then let his arm flop down beside him. This is so not good. First things first, the guy really needs a shower. He smells like a dumpster. “Alright, boss, you brought this on yourself.”

“Mfmgrl.” Jo ignored whatever-the-hell-that was and bent down to throw the guy over her shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Stark is a good six inches taller than her, but if he’s not even coherent then there’s no way that he’s gonna be able to walk. It’s a good thing she’s inhumanly strong. She listened as he groaned every time she took a step, and she just prayed that he didn’t puke on her. She might deserve it, but she’d rather avoid that particular mess. They reached his room in record time, and she was almost the connecting bathroom when his voice called out.

“Not here!” Not in his own bedroom? She let her mind open and probed gently at his thoughts. There’s something about Stark that’s making her drop her usual barriers so that can peek into his whirlwind thoughts. Right now, he’s thinking about Pepper and how he doesn’t want to be in their room without her. Makes sense. Jo inched over to the giant dresser, snagged some clothes that looked somewhat appropriate, and went to where the guest bedrooms are. They had just made it into Jo’s bathroom when Tony started to cough, and Jo dropped the small handful of clothes and Tony in record time. She had the billionaire on his knees in front of the toilet before the third cough, and it was just in time too. Jo’s nose wrinkled as Stark threw up four days’ worth of a drinking binge, and she lightly rubbed a hand across his heaving back.

“Feelin’ better, boss?” she asked once the stream stopped.

“Lee’m’lone.” She’s pretty sure that he just told her to leave him alone. Pretty sure.

“Can you stand and shower on your own?” Tony huffed, which she took as a no. Seeing as how the guy currently has his face pressed against the place where her ass takes up residence from time to time, she feels like it’s safe to say that he can’t stand on his own. This is going to fucking suck; she so didn’t sign up for this. With one last sigh, Jo got to her feet and pulled her sleeping shirt over her head. She’s still wearing the sports bra she did her yoga in before passing out and a pair of panties, and she’s keeping those on. Stark was still laying on her toilet, so she moved over to the shower to get it started. It’s just a standing shower with no actual tub, that’s in another part of the bathroom, but a shower is all she needs. Once the water was warmed up, she bent down and yanked Stark’s shirt off.

“Hands off!” His thoughts were opaque at this point, and she rolled her eyes at where he thought this was going. Like she’d want to get it on with a dude with barf breath? She has standards, okay? Also, he’s drunk enough that his bloodstream could start its own brewery. She might have a strange moral code, but taking advantage of a drunk person is always wrong.

“Trust me, boss, I’m gonna enjoy this less than you are. You need to shower though. You’re starting to smell like shit bakin’ in the sun.” His dulled eyes tried to glare, but it didn’t really work. Jo bent a little more to tug at his pants, and she somehow managed to get him stripped bare without killing either of them. Probably because Stark was going commando.

“Mmm, too cold,” he mumbled once she got them into the shower. Only Tony Stark could be dead drunk and still find a way to complain about the water temperature. Jo cranked the heat and then smiled when Stark yelped a little at the sting. Serves the bastard right. Jo would’ve preferred to just rinse him off and be done with it, but there was no way that was going to work. His hair is literally caked in grease, so shampoo first.

“Don’t worry, it’s all eco-friendly,” she mumbled as she worked the lather into his hair with one hand. Her other arm was busy actually holding the guy up, and he wasn’t helping with all of his squirming.

“Sir, Dr. Banner is on the line. Should I put him through?”


“YES!” Jo’s command was overridden by Stark’s, and a quiet click sounded over the water. Who calls at four in the morning anyway?

“Uh, Tony?” Jo rolled her eyes at the sound of the tentative voice. Poor bastard doesn’t know what he’s in for.

“Bruce! Guess where I am!” Jo shoved his head under the water and started washing the soapy lather out.

“Sorry, uh, Doc? Tony’s had a little too much to drink. I’m just trying to hose him down and get him to bed. Can he call you back later?” she rushed out. Stark was sputtering and wiggling around to get out of the spray, but his legs weren’t cooperating to hold him up. When this is all over, she’s asking for a raise. A big one.

“You’re not Pepper.”

“I’m Jo, Tony’s bodyguard. I promise that I’m not doing anything unprofessional, and, if we’re being honest, there’s a long list of women who have seen Tony Stark naked. One more isn’t that big of a deal.” There was a quiet chuckle over the line, and Jo finally pulled Stark’s head out from under the water.

“Pepper left me.” Tony said it like a petulant child, with his bottom lip poked out and everything, but Jo could feel the very adult pain pounding away at his skull.

“I’m very sorry to hear that, Tony.” Well, it looks like Stark really does have a friend! She was starting to wonder.

“Sh-she said that, that I’m, she’s…it wasn’t workin’ for her,” Tony managed to slur out. Jo tried to balance her boss as she lathered up a sponge (not her favorite one) and started bathing him down.

“And now you’re gonna smell like happiness, which smells like orange blossoms,” she mumbled as she started washing him.

“Bruce? Jo’s makin’ me smell girly,” Tony said with a pout.

“I’m sure you smell lovely, Tony,” the nice man said.

“Yeah, so quit your pouting. This is not how I wanted to spend my morning either. Uh, Doc? He’ll call you back later, okay?”

“Yes, okay. Thank you for taking care of him.”

“Just doin’ my job.” There was another click, signaling that the call was over, and Jo sighed in relief. Tony giggled quietly as she washed the inside of his right thigh, and she really didn’t need to know her boss’s ticklish spots. Really didn’t.

Ten minutes later, Stark was clean, dry, and in clothes that didn’t smell like a pig sty. His other clothes need to be burned. She’ll get right on that the next time she wakes up. Jo drug the now snoring man into her room and let him flop down onto her bed. After all that, she’s fucking exhausted. She slipped into a clean pair of panties, the boxer kind, and grabbed her sleeping shirt from the bathroom. After slipping it on, she fell down onto the bed next to where her boss was drooling on her pillow. Yeah, she’s definitely asking for a raise. A really big one. Maybe a paid vacation.


It is cold. It is dark. Then the sky lights up brighter than any Fourth of July, and it’s all over. Falling, falling, falling…it’s so hot, and it’s all over. Accept it. Accept it. It’s all over. No more parties. No more press. No more worrying about whether or not shrapnel is gonna tear through my heart and put an end to everything. No more nightmares about dark caves, white sand, and it’s so hot.


Jo woke up covered in a cold sweat with a scream lodged in her throat that was not from one of her nightmares. Her nightmares are all bright lights and slick blood, but that doesn’t make the fear shaking her bones any less real. She was reaching across the bed without another thought, and a quick slap snapped Stark’s eyes wide open. Bloodshot, nearly black, eyes met hers in a startled panic. Good. He feels just as off-kilter as she does. Fuck! She’s never been good at controlling the telepathy when she’s sleeping; it was one of the things that made sleepovers so hard.

“What the hell? Why are you in my bed?”

“Not your bed, boss.” He blinked, scrubbed the back of his hand across his mouth, and swore like a sailor. Jo was impressed. She could feel his mind flicking through the night’s previous memories, so he’s one of the few people who can remember everything no matter how drunk they get. She can sympathize with that.

“Do not ever do that again. Do you understand me?” Dark green eyes were covered in a slow blink, and Jo reached up a hand to scrub through her fallen hair.

“Are you shittin’ me right now, boss? I carried your drunk ass outta the lab, kept you from drowning in my toilet, and I fuckin’ washed the stink off of you. And all you have to say is, never do that again?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. If someone tries to shoot me in the head, get off your ass and save me. If I’m happily drunk in my lab, leave me there.” The last three words were said with so much heat that Jo had to give herself a pat down after he stormed out to see if she had sunburn.

“You got it, boss.”

February 24, 2014

“Still alive, boss?!”

“Fuck off!”

March 8, 2014

“Hey, boss, I just pulled a homemade pizza outta the oven. Want some?”

“Do I look like a child to you? I can get my own food. Now get out!”

March 30, 2014

“How long has it been this time, JARVIS?”

“Nine consecutive days, Miss Jo.”

April 2, 2014

“Do you think I’m a complete and utter failure, Logan?”

“I think you’re living with an idiot, kid.”

April 10, 2014

“Boss? Natasha and Clint are coming for a visit tomorrow.”

Jo dodged a flying projectile as Stark yelled at her again, and she shook her head as she left the lab. Stark’s hopeless. Or is she?

April 11, 2014

“Clint! Thank God you’re here! And Natasha! Lovely as always,” Jo grinned.

“Don’t make me shoot you again.” Natasha’s smile was sweet and deadly, and Jo slung an arm around the archer’s shoulders.

“Is she really gonna shoot me?” Jo stage-whispered. Natasha’s own green eyes narrowed as Jo’s twinkled, and Clint hid his face behind Jo’s massive weight of hair.

“Probably.” Jo shrugged and accepted the fact that a bullet would probably tear through her brain before the night was over. Eh, whatever makes Natasha happy. Jo was still trying to catalog their stock of cleaning supplies, to get the bloodstains out, when Natasha pushed a box into her arms.

“Uh, what’s this?” The box looked plain enough, but it could be anything. Like a bomb. Would Natasha give her a bomb?

“A replacement blazer,” was Natasha’s simple answer.

“Fury said the case was closed over a month ago.” Natasha raised one shoulder in a very elegant shrug, so Jo let it go and started leading them to the main living room. Or is it a den? Whatever.

“Where’s Tony?” Jo picked up on the use of a first name and raised a brow at Natasha. Interesting.

“Boss has locked himself in his lab and refuses to come out. I told him y’all were stopping by, and he asked me to please leave him in peace for the night,” Jo said dutifully. What Tony had actually slurred while throwing a hunk of metal at her face was, “I don’t give a fuck and all of you better stay the fuck away from my lab!” Apparently, the billionaire caught a case of sailor mouth when he was six sheets to the wind. Six, because three sheets was three weeks ago.

“How long has he been in there?” Jo looked over at Natasha, who was seated on the chair across from her. Clint was sprawled on the same couch as Jo with his propped up in her lap.

“This time? Five days. Honestly though, he hasn’t really come out since Pepper left.”

“That was two months ago,” Clint pointed out. Not that it was needed. Jo knows exactly how long it’s been, because she’s been stuck in a silent house with a drunk. Whenever she goes down to the lab and tries to talk the idiot into eating, or drinking something that won’t poison his liver, or showering the stink off, or maybe just taking a nap that isn’t alcohol induced…he shouts his abuse until she huffs and walks away. On particularly bad days, he likes to throw things and then she has to walk away before the bodyguard kills the man she’s supposed to protect.

“Don’t give me that look, Nat.” The redhead is currently glaring holes straight through her, like it’s her fault that Stark went crazy. “I’ve tried everything. The one time I actually pulled him out of the lab and cleaned him up, he told me to stay away. I don’t know what else to do.”

“I’ll go talk to him.” Jo tilted her head back to watch the redhead sashay away and then glanced down the couch at her favorite archer.

“That’s the person you’ve chosen to love for all eternity?” Clint wiggled his toes, and Jo rolled her eyes to show her annoyance before she started massaging his feet. She and Natasha might not see eye-to-eye, ever, but Clint and Jo get along just fine.

“Love isn’t a choice.”

“So you wouldn’t choose her?” Clint’s eyes met hers, and Jo shot him a toothy grin.

“I’d choose her every time.” Jo rolled her eyes again and just kept her fingers moving. Twenty minutes later, the two of them were laughing over an old episode of Teen Titans when Natasha strolled back in. She sat down in the same chair, crossed her legs, crossed her arms, and scowled at the TV screen.

“Did he yell at you too?” Jo suddenly asked. That’s gotta be why Natasha looks so…pretzel like.

“Let me know when he’s sober.” Clint and Jo shared a look before looking over at the redhead. In tandem, they asked, “Why?” Natasha didn’t answer; she just smiled. Then again, that’s answer enough.

April 13, 2014

For the past two days, all Jo has been able to think about is her idiotic boss down in his basement lab drinking himself into an early grave. She’s read his file, quite extensively, so she knows what he’s thinking about. The telepathy doesn’t hurt either, since she’s kept her barriers down. He’s upset over Pepper, but that’s the obvious answer. The first person he ever loved, at least romantically, left him. That stings, of course it does. That’s not where the story stops though. No, Tony Stark isn’t just heartbroken. Tony Stark is scared. Fuck that. Tony Stark is fucking terrified. In the midst of all the heartbreak, there’s fear. So much fear that even Jo can feel her heart skip a beat whenever she looks inside.

Apparently, Stark has spent so much time just focusing on Pepper and that shred of happiness that he’s completely ignored everything else. From what Jo has been able to pick up, Stark hasn’t dealt with anything that’s happened to him since he decided to rehabilitate his image. It’s all been festering deep down inside, and it’s spilling out through the cracks. When Stark passes out, Jo gets to relive every horrible thing that’s happened to the man in the past several years. When Stark is awake, his mind is whirring so fast that she can’t concentrate on any one thought. She’s pretty sure he can’t either, because he’s trying his damnedest to drown out his fears and is instead just drowning. And she’s drowning right along with him.

He is scared of Afghanistan, of dark caves and his heart struggling to beat. (It was his bomb, his tech, that killed so many people…that killed him.) He is scared of the people he trusts; the ones who can get close and rip his heart out. (He can’t move, can’t talk, can barely even breathe and Obadiah is holding his heart, because the arc reactor is his heart now, and he’s going to die.) He is scared of New York, with the gaping hole into another universe that can trap him forever and the falling. (It’s cold, it’s hot, it’s dark, it’s so bright.) He is scared of the people that he’s wronged, of people that can hurt him and people that can hurt her. (It’s a good thing she left, maybe she’ll be safe now.)

Jo’s never been the comforting type, but this has gotta stop. Stark is still an asshole, but she respects the man now. Funny how that works. She had to see just how fucked up the man was before deciding that he wasn’t all that bad. Stark has been torn open and his fear is bleeding out all over both of them. This ends. Tonight.

“JARVIS? How forgiving would you say Stark is?” Jo asked the ceiling. She’s standing in the center of her room, wearing nothing but a faded green tank top and a pair of bright pink boxer panties.

“Not very, miss.” Jo nodded her head, she’d figured as much, as she started twisting her hair up on top of her head.

“How about his policy on violence?” Jo doesn’t how to console people, but she does know about being so scared that it eats you from the inside out. She’s got a strong feeling that Stark needs a friend and a long cuddle, but he’s not ready for that yet. So she’s gonna do what she does best. She’s gonna kick some ass.

“He’s not against it.”

“Good enough. Wish me luck, JARVIS.”

“Good luck, miss.” Jo grinned at the ceiling as she walked down the hallway, and she mentally prepared herself as she stormed into the lab. This is the worst plan she’s ever come up with, it’s going to hurt, but it had damned well better fucking work.

“Stark!” Dark green eyes watched as the muscles around a protruding spine tensed, and she swallowed against the lump in her throat. Holy fuck, Stark is thin. When she turned her head, she could see the way his ribs popped against the tight shirt he was wearing.

“Get out.” He didn’t even bother to shout, and he just sounds fucking exhausted. The smell of cheap booze was heavy in the air, so he’s apparently so far gone that he doesn’t even care about what he’s drinking anymore. Whatever will get the job done is good enough now.

“Get off your ass, Stark. You need to get cleaned up, eat a little something, and then sleep for a week. Come on, I’ll help you.” The man spun around on the stool he was perched on, and Jo took a step forward as he wobbled to the side. He managed to right himself, and Jo let her arm fall back to her side.

“Are you deaf or something? Is super hearing not one of your superpowers?” His skin is waxy and pale, from the horrible diet and lack of sunshine. Probably from not bathing regularly too. He looked like he was sunken in on himself, a shadow of the real Tony Stark, and there were dark bruises under his bloodshot eyes.

“Nope, just normal hearing. Ready to go?” His chapped lips pulled into a thin line, and Jo could feel the angry snarl of his mind. He wants to be left alone, but the asshole’s been alone for two months.

“Get out.”

“Or what?” Jo crossed her arms and locked her legs, and then immediately tried not to think about how ridiculous she must look in her tank top and panties. Whatever. Proper intervention attire doesn’t exist.

“I’ll fire you.”

“Sorry, boss. Unless you’re in your right mind, I can’t accept that. When you’re sober and not starving, I might let you fire me. Now, are you ready to go?” His eyes were unwavering, despite the constant intoxication, so Jo shrugged and stalked forward.

“Don’t you dare—” Jo grabbed a handful of his shirt at the shoulder and yanked him to his feet, and Stark predictably pushed her away once he was standing. She let him remove her hand, but she didn’t back away.

“I am tired of the drunken slurs and wondering if you’re even alive. Do you know why I took this job, Stark?” She’s got a feeling that his brown eyes are really pretty when they’re not surrounded by broken blood vessels.

“Don’t know. Don’t care.” They’re standing pretty close. Close enough for her to smell…more than she wants to.

“I took it because I decided the world was better off with you still in it, despite your many fuckups. I didn’t like you, but you’re worth saving. At least, you were. Lately, you’re just a waste of space.” That last part is a little harsh, but she’s trying to piss him off. If there’s one thing she’s learned over the years, it’s that a good ol’ fashioned fight is good for clearing the mind.

“Then why are you still here?” His words came out in a near growl, and Jo took a step forward.

“Funny, I’ve been asking myself that for weeks. Maybe it’s because I don’t want your death on my conscience.” Stark’s eyes narrowed, and Jo took a deep breath. “Or maybe I’m still here because I promised Pepper I’d look after your ass. I’m starting to see why she left.”

“Leave.” Stark is furious; it’s beating away behind his eyes and tightening his fists, but he won’t lay a hand on her. Damn chivalry. Alright, looks like it’s up to her.

“One last thing.” Stark raised a brow in question, and Jo’s hips moved with the punch she delivered to the man’s jaw. Stark’s head snapped back, and Jo’s knuckles throbbed. She thought it would take a little more prompting, maybe some hair pulling, but Stark bounced back with a punch that nearly knocked a tooth out.

Jo threw out another punch, and the fight was on. Stark’s mind was pulsing red, so much red that he wasn’t even thinking about what he was doing. He didn’t even see Jo. He couldn’t see anything past the fear and rage driving him. Jo relaxed her body and let her boss wail on her from then on. She doesn’t actually want to hurt Stark; she just needed to get him riled up enough to let go on his own. And for someone that’s malnourished, sleep deprived, and drunk, Stark packs one helluva punch. Bones cracked and splintered under the constant pressure, and blood dripped down to stain the floor. The hits were constant, and Jo just let it happen. This is what she wanted to happen, and it’ll all be worth it in the end. Because what happens when all the rage has burned out?

“Why!” A fist cracked her fifth rib on the left side. (Fight back!)

“Won’t!” Another fist rocked her head to the side and made her right ear start ringing. (Quit looking at me!)

“You!” A direct hit to the sternum had her coughing and wheezing. (Over the heart.)

“Leave!” A metal table broke her nose as her face was slammed into it. (Do something! Anything!)

“Me!” Her feet slid on a fallen bottle, and a groan was pushed out as her back connected with another table. (Stay down!)

“Alone!” Knuckles split her lips, and she sputtered as she gulped down fresh blood. A callused hand wrapped tight around her throat and squeezed, and fiery bloodshot eyes stared down into hers. Jo raised a hand to wrap her fingers around a too thin wrist, and she used the hold to pull herself up and suck in a breath. Her chest burned as it expanded, and her nose was clogged with blood. She’s taken worse beatings over the years, a helluva lot worse, but that doesn’t mean that Stark’s beating doesn’t still hurt like a bitch. Worst plan ever.

“Because someone has to take care of your stubborn ass.” Jo tried to smile, she really did, but the cuts on her lips and cheeks split open and ruined the everything’s-okay effect she was going for. Tony shook his head, like he was trying to clear it, and it surprisingly worked. Jo listened in as the rage died down and was swept away. Of course, without the rage clouding his judgment, Stark was starting to realize what had just happened. He could see her again.

“I didn’t mean to—” And there was the guilt, which was quickly cut off as Jo slapped a hand over his mouth.

“Don’t worry about it, Stark. I knew this was gonna happen when I came down here; I hit you first, remember? You’ve been hiding down here for weeks and bottling everything up. It was time to get it all out, and I’ll be fine. I’ll be all healed up and lookin’ pretty by tomorrow morning, but you gotta stop doin’ this to yourself. You’re killin’ yourself, boss.” To Jo’s surprise, she was crying. A few little tears slipped down her cheeks, and she watched Stark’s eyes track their trails. His mouth opened and closed, and Jo could practically taste the pain in Stark’s thoughts now. The rage was completely burned out.

“I don’t—”

“C’mere.” Jo tangled her fingers in the greasy mess of his hair and lowered his head to the top of her chest. She’s well-endowed (and damn proud of it!), and she knows the calming effect that a good girly hug can have on some people. Sure enough, Stark slumped against her beaten body. Hot tears ran down her bare skin as Stark cried in silence, and Jo let her own quiet tears fall into the man’s greasy hair. She might’ve come into this job not liking Stark, but the man is falling the fuck apart. She’s been privy to his worst fears for the past two months, and she’s starting to feel a little protective over the asshole.

“What is wrong with me?” he suddenly groaned out. His hot breath hit the cooling tear tracks, and Jo shivered lightly in his arms. Her several injuries did not thank her for the movement.

“You’re fucked up, Stark.” She felt a huff against her wet skin but managed to control the chills this time.

“Thanks. Great pep talk.”

“We’re all a little fucked up, yours is just showing. Don’t worry, I’ll get ya back in fightin’ form.”

“I just kicked your ass.” He pulled back enough to look at her, and Jo let her hand fall from his hair to his face. She gently wiped the sweat from his cheeks and smiled. (Not the tears, because Tony Stark doesn’t cry.)

“I wasn’t fighting back. Now, let’s go get cleaned up. Can you walk?”

“I think so.” He was a little wobbly, so Jo followed him to his room. She didn’t leave until she heard the shower start and then wandered off to her own room. Stark isn’t the only one that needs to get cleaned up.


When Tony stepped out of his steamy bathroom, in nothing but a pair of loose pajama pants, he found his bodyguard sitting cross-legged on his bed. Her hair had been put up again, because he’d pulled it loose earlier. She cleaned all the blood off, and she’s wearing gray sweatpants and a blue tank top. She looked up when she heard him enter, and Tony waited for the floor to open up and swallow him whole. He’s never really been a violent person, he’s always used his words as weapons, and he’s never done anything like this. Mutant or not, Jo is still a woman and he…Did he really do that to her?

Her nose still looks broken, and dark bruises moved to cover the space under her eyes. Deep cuts showed on her cheeks, and her swollen lips were split in three different places. There were even more bruises on her arms, and he’d bet money that her ribs are just as dark. There was a circular bruise over her sternum, right above the swell of her breasts, and a few of her fingers were bent at odd angles. He stopped next to the bed right in front of her, and she tipped her face back to look up at him. The move showed off the bruises on her throat, where he choked her. A single finger traced over the inflamed marks, and a callused hand gripped his wrist to stop him.

“Ya gotta stop worryin’ about it so much, Tony,” she whispered in that rough voice of hers. Why is her voice so rough? And she speaks in a slow drawl, so is she from one of the southern states? He’s never asked; she’s still a complete stranger to him.

“You called me Tony.” That made her smile, and she sucked back the bead of blood that welled up on her bottom lip at the stretch.

“Yeah, well, a right hook is like a secret friendship handshake to me.”

“You’re deranged.”

“I’m not the only one, so let’s talk about you for a second. You’ve gotta stop this.” Her dark green eyes were pleading up at him, and he had a vague recollection of Natasha saying something similar a couple of days ago.

“Well, you’re gonna have to help me.”

“What can I do?” She was asking for instructions, and Tony pulled in a deep breath. This is not going to be easy, but it’s the right decision. Looking at Jo’s bruised face is enough to reassure him of that. Even now, he can feel the heat from the bruises on her throat under his palm.

“Get rid of the booze in the house and don’t let me get anymore. Shove food down my throat. Sneak sleeping pills into said food. Do whatever it takes and ignore most of what I say.”

“That won’t be a problem.” She grinned up at him and then removed his hand from her throat. “And now, it’s bedtime.” Barely a minute later, he was buried under his blankets and blinking sleepily at the woman silhouetted in his doorway.

“Thank you, Jo.” It’s the first time he’s called her by her name, and it’s too bad that he can’t see her expression.

“Just doing my job. G’night, Tony.”
♠ ♠ ♠
I know this chapter might be a little controversial, because of what happened between Tony and Jo, but something drastic had to happen. The whole thing was Jo's big plan, and you have to remember that Jo is a mutant who's used to violence. So, yeah.

If there's any questions, I'd love to answer them! Of if you just want to talk superheroes, I'm okay with that too.