Archaic Kinds of Fun

girl power

“S-s-sorry, Bru-uce. Wait, I think I’m done. Whew! Tony, breathin’ okay?” His chin is hooked over her shoulder and digging into the soft spot running along her neck, and she reached up to rub her hands across his shoulder blades. She felt his back expand as the arc reactor pressed against her chest, and a soft breath rustled some of her fallen hair.

“Breathin’ is okay,” Tony huffed out and then stepped back.

“Do I want to know?” Bruce sounded a little hesitant, and Jo felt her smile turn all dopey. She drifted over towards him and wrapped her arms around his middle while dropping her cheek to his chest, and she could feel Tony’s eyes on them.

“Probably not. So, I have it on good authority that there are s’mores in the backyard.”

“My backyard?”

“Our backyard,” Jo corrected. She twisted just enough to cut her eyes over at Tony, who ducked his head to hide his smile. Looks like getting laid has put him in a really good mood. (Jo may trust Pepper, but she’s still keeping a close eye on Tony.)

“You want to join the others?” Bruce asked her. His hands are warm against the exposed skin of her hips, and she really wants to go cuddle him somewhere. Might as well be social while she cuddles him, right?

“Yes. I think we should all go down.” Tony raised an eyebrow at her but didn’t argue, so he is really mellowed out. It’s strange but…nice. She kept one arm around Bruce and extended the other to Tony, who twined his fingers with hers and let her pull him from the room. Jo was squished between the two scientists on the elevator ride down, despite all of the extra room. They stayed close together as they walked through the house towards the backyard, and Jo grinned as soon as they stepped outside.

“They’re animals,” Tony whispered in mock horror. There was a small fire going with several seats around it, and all Jo could see was Clint standing on Thor’s shoulders while having a stick fight with Darcy.

“Go mingle!” Jo managed to extricate herself and pushed the two scientists towards Steve and Maria, who were watching the spectacle with disapproval and fondness. She watched them stumble off and straighten before reaching the others, and her body stayed relaxed as she waited for Natasha to approach.

“I saw you talking to Pepper.” Her words were quiet, and Jo glanced over. Natasha’s brighter green eyes were watching Clint’s movements, and the other woman looked just as at ease as Jo did.

“We didn’t say much,” Jo shrugged.

“What did you hear?”

“Why do you want to know?” They turned at the same time, and Jo’s always had a hard time meeting Natasha’s eyes head on. It doesn’t stop her from meeting the agent’s stare, but it’s still not an easy task.

“I remember what he looked like, that night. It was like looking at Tony Stark’s ghost. I don’t want to see him like that again.” Natasha’s eyes flicked over to where Tony was standing now, but Jo didn’t have to look over. She knows that Tony has come a long way since he stopped drinking; she’s felt his body grow stronger day by day and listened as the nightmares slowly stopped.

“She’s not out to get him, if that’s what you’re asking. She’s suffered too, just not where people can see.” Jo knows that Natasha cares about Tony, in her own way, so she understands why the deadly assassin is worried.

“Good. Let me know if the situation changes.” Jo blinked and Natasha was already walking away. The mutant slowly shook her head, to rearrange all of tonight’s thoughts and revelations, before walking over to Bruce and Tony.

“Come on! It’s marshmallow time!” Darcy yelled and tossed them some sticks. Everyone managed to find a seat and circled around the fire, and Jo put three giant marshmallows on her stick before sending it into the fire.

“These’re really good,” Clint mumbled around a giant s’more. Jo’s cheeks were stuffed, so she nodded back. The fire was warm and the snacks were delicious, and everyone slowly quieted after stuffing themselves.

“Thor,” Darcy drawled. She was propped up against the god’s side and had her feet thrown into Clint’s lap. She wasn’t alone in that. Natasha was stretched out on his other side with her feet on his other thigh, and the archer took turns massaging their feet. Maria was sitting on the ground with her back propped up against Steve’s shins, and the agent was lightly petting the chicken in her lap. Tony was laying on Jo, who was laying on Bruce, and everything felt perfect.

“Yes, Darcy?”

“Tell us a story. Somethin’ with a happy ending.” Darcy already sounded half asleep, and Thor laid a giant hand on the top of her head.

“How do stories start in Midgard?”

“Once upon a time,” Darcy, Clint, Jo, and Maria chorused. Thor smiled around at all of them, and Jo let her eyes drift closed as Thor’s deep voice blanketed all of them.

“Once upon a time, there were two little boys, brothers, on a grand quest to find the kingdom’s missing goblet. It was a magical goblet, with the power to make the drinker the one true ruler of the kingdom. One night, after the palace was deep in slumber…”

August 24, 2014

“…and the two little boys returned to their beds to dream of their next quest.”

Thor’s story had been just what Darcy wanted. A true bedtime story filled with adventure and hijinks, and there was a happy ending. Maybe that’s why it was so heartbreaking. She’d been in that hazy space between sleep and awake during the story, but she’s not stupid. She knows that the story was about him and Loki, and it breaks her heart to know what Thor has lost. She gets that Loki is a bad guy who did terrible things, but he wasn’t always a bad guy. Darcy stepped off the elevator with a little sigh and immediately straightened her shoulders. Thor is downstairs setting the breakfast table, and she’s here to collect…someone. She’s not really sure how things are going to work with Jo and Bruce dating, so she’s going to start with Tony’s room.

“Time for brea—! Really? You two are still going at it?” Jo has just her shoulders propped up against the headboard, and Tony is laying between her spread legs with his head braced against her stomach. Jo’s fingers are lost in the genius’s wild hair, and it’s clear that they’re both alert but their eyes are closed.

“Shh. ‘m concentratin’,” Jo mumbled. The mutant did have a little furrow between her eyebrows; what are they up to now?

“Is this some kinky sex thing?” Yeah, Jo and Bruce are dating but it’s Tony. Oh, wait, they’re not in a three way, are they?

“I can’t concentrate when the kid is over there thinking about three ways,” Jo said and finally opened her eyes. The mutant’s dark green eyes were surrounded by broken blood vessels, and Tony heaved himself up so that he was sitting in front of his bodyguard and not laying on her.

“Three ways, huh? But we’re the kinky ones?” Tony’s eyebrows did a weird wiggling dance, and Darcy had to hold in her snort.

“So what is going on?” She moved farther into the room and watched the way that Jo’s eyes cleared up until she looked completely normal. Jo looked over at Tony, who shrugged and then turned to look back at Darcy.

“I’ve, uh, been learning how to control the telepathy. Do something more with it than just listen to other people’s thoughts.”

“Something more?” Jo nodded, and it sent her loose hair tumbling over her shoulders.

“I’ve been learning to project my thoughts, and I’m getting better at it. My, uh, voice is still kinda weak, but it’s getting stronger. So Tony got this idea, and we decided to test it.” Darcy turned to Tony then and waited for him to pick up the explanation.

“I wanted to see if she could manipulate my thoughts to get things in the lab to move.”


“I managed to get a screwdriver to wiggle and I got a massive headache,” Jo groaned.

“It wasn’t a screwdriver,” Tony pouted.

“Can you talk into my mind?” Normally having someone in her head other than her would freak her out, but Darcy trusts Jo. She knows that Jo wouldn’t do anything to hurt her.

“Is breakfast ready?” It was definitely Jo’s voice, but it was softer and very quiet.

“Yep! Thor was carrying out the pancakes when I started up here,” Darcy said with a smile. It’s good that Jo is learning how to do more things with her telepathy. She knows that Jo wasn’t born with it, and she’s pretty sure that Jo was tortured into becoming a telepath. Pretty sure. So it’s good that she’s learning to accept it.

"Um, Jo?" Darcy looked over her shoulder to see Bruce standing in the open doorway, and he looks like he’s still half asleep. He missed two of the middle buttons on his shirt.

“G’morning! Ready for breakfast?” Tony groaned and rolled off his bodyguard, and Darcy watched the genius’s back as he moved over to the bathroom. For an old guy, he’s in pretty good shape.

“Breakfast sounds good,” Bruce said through a yawn.

“You’re really okay with all of this?” Darcy asked him. Everyone knows that Tony and Jo are close, but she thought things would change once Bruce entered the picture.

“Of course.”

“Don’t worry so much, kiddo,” Jo said and gently squeezed her shoulder as she slipped past. She’s wearing bright orange leggings and one of Tony’s many band tees, but Bruce is smiling and letting her snuggle up to him like an overgrown cat.

“I thought we were getting food?” It looks like Tony is dressed for a day in the lab. Darcy looked around at all of them, her strange little family, and nodded.

“Let’s go!”


“Are you feeling okay today?” Maria looked up from the table, which is so loaded down with food that she’s not sure how it’s still standing, to level a look at Steve.

“I’ll be cleared in a little over a week,” she pointed out. Her ribs are almost healed and then she’ll be back to active duty. She misses work, misses having a plan and a purpose, but she’ll miss being here.

“Just making sure,” he said with a small smile. He’s too polite.

“I want the one shaped like a hammer!” Jo yelled and reached past three plates to snag a pancake.

“I wanted that one!” Clint yelled back and moved to fight her for it. Isn’t it too early for them to fight?

“You snooze you lose, Clinton!”

“I was here first, Josie!”

“I wish I had their energy,” Steve sighed next to her. She quirked a brow at him, which made him huff out a laugh.

“It’d be better if they used it productively,” Maria said as the two continued to squabble at the other end of the table. They didn’t stop until Thor walked into the room with another pancake shaped like a hammer, which Clint grabbed before Jo could.

“Am I late?” Maria looked up as Pepper walked into the room, and she slowly chewed on her own pancake. She’s not really sure what to make of Pepper’s reappearance. She respects the woman, for being able to put up with Stark and for being an overall good person. She knows how hard Pepper has been working to turn Stark Industries around.

“We just got started,” Steve answered since everyone else was too busy eating. Pepper smiled at him as she sat down next to Tony, and the table continued on as usual. Thor and Darcy are talking about whatever pops into their heads while Darcy feeds bits of food to Jade; Clint and Natasha are talking in whispers (Natasha) and giggles (Clint). Jo is sitting between Tony and Bruce; the two scientists are talking while Jo talks to Pepper, but Jo keeps reaching out to touch Bruce and Pepper pokes Tony to remind him to eat.

“They really are something, huh?” Maria was quiet, but Steve heard her.

“We’re a good team. All of us.” There’s a look in his eyes, but Maria is just going to ignore it. She can’t stay here. Once she’s healed, she’s got a job to do.

“Hey, everyone! Before you leave, I gotta talk to ya!” Darcy was standing in her chair, and all eyes turned to her. She waited for the room to quiet down and then started talking. “We need to keep doing team bonding stuff, so Thor and I were talking about some stuff that we could do. We’re thinking hide-n-seek.”

“Can we do partners?!” Jo yelled out.

“Partners!” Clint yelled and threw a fist in the air. Darcy twisted around so that she could do a quick head count, but she stopped at Pepper.

“Do you wanna play?” Pepper looked up at Darcy, looked over at Tony, glanced past him to look at Jo, and then finally looked back at Darcy.

“Sure, why not?”

“Partners!” Darcy declared. The room seemed to explode with sound, and Maria had to look down to hide her smile. Earth’s Mightiest Heroes indeed.

“Would you like to be my partner?” There’s no way she could ever turn down Steve’s million watt smile. Or say no to that jawline.

“I would be honored.”


“Does this count as my morning workout?” She’s sweating a little and using muscles she didn’t know she had, so this has to be close enough to a workout to count.

“You’ll have to ask Nat.” When Darcy proposed that everyone play hide-n-seek, she never thought she’d wind up in an air vent with Clint. Then again, nothing should really surprise her at this point.

“It feels like a workout. You really do this all the time?” Clint looked back at her, because they’re crawling single-file, and his smile looks terrifying in this dim light.

“C’mon, Darce, this isn’t that bad. There’s an opening just up ahead.” Darcy groaned and continued to crawl on her elbows, because she’s pretty sure that this is the best hiding spot ever. Who looks in air vents? What felt like an eternity later but was probably just five minutes later, several vents converged into a big open space. Clint propped himself up against one side, so Darcy sat across from him and stretched her legs out. It meant that her legs were thrown over Clint’s, but whatever. She’s massaging her knees.

“You never get claustrophobic?” she whispered. She doesn’t want to take any chances. Natasha and Steve both have super hearing, even if they both deny it.

“Nah, not really. It’s comfortable,” Clint shrugged.

“Do you go vent climbing on top secret spy missions?” Clint’s laugh sounded rough, but he’s still smiling at her.

“Sometimes. Vent climbing isn’t my specialty though.” She kinda hates that word now. Specialty. Jo’s specialty is killing. Natasha’s specialty is being a spy. Clint is an archer.

“I know that. You’re all about the whoosh.” She mimed shooting an arrow and then used her hands, along with some awesome sound effects, to mime an explosion. Clint’s silent laughter was like a reward, and she wants to do that again. Yeah, Clint is usually laidback, except for when he’s fighting with Jo. He’s a fun guy. Most of the time. He gets that same look in his eye as everyone else when he thinks no one is watching. All of them are carrying something with them that makes them a little darker. Darcy knows it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. It doesn’t matter how much they smile or joke around, there’s always something just behind their laughter. Darcy doesn’t have that. She’s looked.

“Darcy?” She blinked to get her eyes to focus, and whoa. Clint’s eyes are really pretty up close. What color even is that? It’s something more than hazel. It’s like every color is mixed in there.

“Huh?” She’s nearly speechless. Now that she’s paying attention, she can feel Clint’s hand on her shoulder.

“Where’d you go?” How’d he get so close without her noticing? And there’s that look. It’s not fear, but something close.

“I don’t want that look.” She feels like she’s headed for a breakdown, and it’s getting hard to breathe.

“What look?” Clint looks confused, which she gets because she feels confused too. She should drop this, but she’s never been good at holding back. She’s always been the type to spew out whatever comes to mind.

“The look that all of you get. All it takes is a word or a noise sometimes, and you’ll get that look. Like you’re somewhere else. It’s dark and ugly and I don’t want it.” She’s shaking, just a little, and she can’t make herself stop talking. “I get where it comes from, in theory. You’ve all been through stuff. Torture, wars, killing…That look comes from horrible things, and I don’t want that look.”

“I don’t want you to have that look either.” Clint’s thumb is rough against her cheek, which is just enough sensation to keep her grounded. She reached up to grab his hand with both of hers, and she held his hand against her cheek while she got her breathing back to normal. She lives with assassins, gods, soldiers…She’s a mutant, but she doesn’t want to change. She doesn’t want to be a killer. Or a fighter.

“Please don’t tell anyone that I freaked out in an air vent.” He used the hand still touching her face to get her eyes to meet his, and she was thankful to see his smile.

“Your secret is safe with me.” She leaned forward to hug him, and it felt good to just hold on after getting that out. It’s something that’s been eating at her since Jo’s fight in the park, and she knows that she’ll wind up talking to Jo about it at some point. For now though, she feels better.

“Thanks, really.” It was sort of mumbled as she pulled away, but Clint could hear her since they’re pretty much plastered together.

“I’m always here if you need me.” Their eyes locked for a moment, and Darcy was the first one to crack. They laughed until tears streaked down their cheeks, and Darcy had to hold onto Clint’s shoulder to keep from falling over.

“That was so cheesy!” Clint’s continued laughter ruffled the hair clinging to her neck, and she wiped her cheek on his shoulder.

“Still true.”

“Yeah, I know.” Clint knocked his temple against hers and then turned around to start crawling again.

“We should move before someone finds us.”

“Right behind ya.”




They’re sitting outside, because they agreed that no one would look outside, behind a bush in the backyard. It’s a warm day, plenty of sun, and the grass is soft enough. This isn’t really how Bruce thought he would spend his day, but he sees the point of it. They’re a team. If they can fight together, they can…play team bonding games together. Pepper is a bit of a surprise. He doesn’t know her very well; he spent some time at Tony’s after the Extremis incident, and Pepper was always polite to him. He was still walking on eggshells then, always ready for rejection and fear.

“Tony and Jo’s relationship doesn’t bother you, does it?” That’s the second time he’s been asked that today. He doesn’t understand why people are surprised.

“No, it doesn’t. They’re good for each other, and I don’t want to be the one that forces them apart. Do you?” Bruce respects Pepper, but he cares about Jo and Tony.

“No, no, of course not. They are good for each other. Without Jo, I don’t know what would have happened to Tony.” He can still hear them sometimes. Chattering teeth over a speaker. Jo’s panic. Tony’s panic.

“Are you moving back in?” It’s a very forward question, something that he usually wouldn’t ask because he doesn’t like confrontation, but he’d like to know what to expect.

“I don’t know. Maybe. It’s up to Tony, really. It’s always been up to Tony.” Pepper’s smile is soft, and Bruce shifts around to get a little more comfortable. He’s never been good with small talk. Even less so with emotional conversations.

“Have you seen them together? Really seen them?” Jo and Tony have been attached at the hip since he moved in, it’s just how they are, and he’s used to it. There’s no reason to be jealous. If they wanted to be together, they would be.

“I saw them in bed together, if that’s what you mean. Tony said the cuddles help with the nightmares.” For some reason, Bruce did not expect Tony to be that honest.

“She washes his hair too.”

“So that’s why it’s not completely caked in grease.” They both started laughing, quiet laughter to keep from getting found, and Bruce felt a little better about the situation. It’s good to know that Pepper really is just as reasonable as he always thought she was. “We really are lucky to have them.”

“We are.” Jo touches him without looking, because she just wants to be near him. This morning, her thoughts mixed with his at the breakfast table to let him know how happy she was. Among other things. It’s a miracle that his face isn’t still bright red.

“Do you think anyone would notice if we slipped away to get lunch?” They have been hiding for a while without getting caught, and he could go for a sandwich.

“I’m sure we’d be forgiven if we brought back enough for everyone.”

“That sounds fair.”


“Why are we hiding in the theater?” This is where Tony dragged her to, which Jo thinks is a little weird. Isn’t the theater one of the first places they’ll look?

“Because it’s dark and well ventilated. Also, cushioned seats.” Tony is sitting in one of the seats with his feet kicked up on the seat in front of him, and Jo is sitting next to him with her legs thrown over his.

“Do you wanna talk about Pepper?” She can hear the woman’s name echoing in his mind, even though he’s not actively thinking about her.

“Are you trying to be a therapist?”

“Just your friend.” She kept smiling even when he rolled his eyes, and she moved around to get more comfortable. She wound up with her head on Tony’s shoulder and her legs curled under her, but this works.

“We should move slow, right? To make sure that we’re both ready.”

“That sounds perfectly reasonable.”

“But I don’t wanna be reasonable!” It sounds like he’s headed for a full blown sulk, and she really wants to laugh but probably shouldn’t.

“Then don’t be. I mean, is anyone in this house reasonable?”

“Maria is.” Okay, she can’t really argue that. Agent Hill is a very put-together person, but the rest of them are less reasonable.

“Just do what feels right.”

“Is that what you’re doing with Bruce? What feels right?” She pinched his side until he yelped, and they pushed against each other for a moment. They seemed to give up at the same time and slumped against each other.

“I could make a joke out of that last statement, but I’m going to be an adult for a few minutes. Yes, that is what I’m doing with Bruce. Neither one of us has any idea what we’re doing. We’re making it up as we go. We’re doing what feels right.”

“So, if I wanted to be with Pepper again, really be with her, I should just go for it?” Pepper left Tony, for his own good. Tony knows and accepts that. He’s even better for it. They’ve both healed and both want to move on, with each other. Maybe their relationship was just on hold? Like it was paused and was always meant to start again.

“Yeah, I think you should go for it.” Tony’s mind feels calm, which is something that it never feels like.

“Will you be my best man?” She’s not sure if that means he’s going to propose to Pepper the next time he sees her or if it’s just a future plan, but it doesn’t really matter. She knows her answer.

“You betcha.”


“It’s really nice out here.” Maria and Steve are sitting on the front porch, so they’re technically abiding by the rules of staying in the house. Steve didn’t want to be too inventive since her ribs are still healing, and it’s so nice outside that she doesn’t feel like arguing.

“Beautiful,” Steve agreed. This is a nice way to spend the day. Later, when she’s back in the field and thinking on her feet to survive, she’ll remember this. The sun, the warmth, the feeling of being completely carefree, the way that one stubborn lock of hair flops over Steve’s eyebrow. Yes, this is going to make a very nice memory.




“I thought to win the game we must seek the others.” Thor has a very good point, but Natasha is happy with working on her tan. When they got up to the roof and she saw the big cushioned lawn chairs, it was like fate. It only took a matter of seconds to strip and lay in the sun, and Thor even joined her.

“We’ll seek them later. Isn’t this fun?”

“I do enjoy the feeling of the sun.”

“There you go! We’ll give them plenty of time to hide and then we’ll go seeking.”


“Six hours! I was in an air vent for six hours!” Darcy yelled with Clint standing behind her.

“We fell asleep!” Jo yelled and pointed between her and Tony.

“You almost gave Steve a sunburn!” Maria yelled and tried not to laugh at the captain’s light blush.

“It was strategic!” Natasha yelled with Thor nodding vigorously behind her.

“We got pizza!” Pepper yelled. Everyone turned to stare at her and Bruce where they were framed in the doorway, but the looks didn’t last long. All of the attention went straight to the pizza boxes in their arms. The pizza was quickly unloaded, and loud thank-yous were yelled in between bites. Pepper caught Bruce’s eyes as everyone ate, and he gave her a shy nod of his head before turning back to Jo.

“You and Bruce carried all this?” Tony asked her. He’s actually eating, without any prompting, so he must actually be hungry.

“I’m stronger than I look.”

“Girl power!” Jo yelled. Darcy and Maria whooped with her, and even Natasha banged her fist on the table a little.

“So, who won?” Darcy’s question was innocent, but it caused most of the people at the table to start yelling about who the ultimate winner was.

“Is it always like this?” Pepper whispered.

“Usually. Is that okay?” Tony whispered back. She’s sitting at a table with two mutants, two assassins, a soldier from the forties, the right-hand of SHIELD, Hulk, a god, and a mad scientist.

“I think I can get used to it.” She smiled to let him know that she was joking, that she’s completely okay with everyone here, and he smiled back. She’s never seen Tony look so light before, and she knows it’s because of the people sitting at this table. She’s never been more okay with anything in her life. “I can definitely get used to it.”
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I know that it was kind of short, compared to some of my other chapters, but the next chapter is going to have a little more action in it. I've got the next few chapters planned out, but I just recently graduated so things are kinda crazy right now.

I really like writing these chapters; the ones where everyone is just goofing off and enjoying life. There is more plot to come, actual plot, so enjoy these chapters when you can. If there's anything that anyone would like to see, I am open to taking requests. Thank you so much to everyone reading and HAPPY HOLIDAYS!