Archaic Kinds of Fun

definitely didn't expect this

Jo was humming as she walked into Tony’s lab, because today is starting out amazingly. Roof sex? Check. Eggs with hot sauce? Check. A super cute date with her adorable boyfriend tonight? Check! Definitely a good day. The music was already blaring in the lab so Tony and Darcy didn’t notice her, so she snuck up behind Tony on her tiptoes. She met Darcy’s eyes a second before she wrapped her arms around Tony’s neck, and she could hear Darcy laughing over the sound of the music as Tony yelped and struggled to get free.

“Good mornin’, boss!” she yelled once she let him go.

“You missed breakfast,” Darcy pointed out. Jo nodded, because she did miss breakfast, but it was worth it just this one time.

“Won’t happen again, promise,” she said with a smile. She can still see sunlight in Bruce’s hair and feel his hands moving across her slick skin; that’s worth missing Thor’s pancakes for, but not on a regular basis.

“Hey, kiddo, me and your mother need to have a talk. Wanna take a break?” Darcy’s eyes widened as she looked between them, and Jo shrugged. She doesn’t know what Tony wants. She could take a peek and find out, but it’s better if he talks to her in his own time.

“Sure. I’ll go find Thor. Let me know when you need me,” Darcy said and slowly stood up. She paused in the doorway and looked over her shoulder at them. “No lab sex! Behave yourselves!”

Jo didn’t have the heart to tell the girl that Tony and Pepper had already christened the lab, so she just saluted and watched Darcy leave the room. Once she was gone, Tony spun around on his stool to face her. The smile on his face was wide enough to crinkle the corners of his eyes, and Jo still has her arms wrapped around his neck. He’s moved so that she’s standing between his spread thighs, and she’s missed this. It feels good to just be around him.

“This isn’t one of mine.” He pulled on the blue button-up she was wearing, and she smiled down at him.

“It’s Bruce’s,” she shrugged.

“Does that mean my closet is finally all mine again?” Her laugh echoed in the lab as she shook her head, and she could hear Tony laughing along with her. “Well, it was worth a shot.”

“Alright, what do you want to talk about?” His eyes flicked away from her, which isn’t like him, and she felt his hands settling on her hips.

“Before, before the Extremis and all of that, Pepper and I talked about getting married. We were already making plans, but after…you know.” Even after the Extremis was removed, something still wasn’t right between them. Tony was falling farther into darkness, and Pepper didn’t know how to save him.

“And now?” She knows where this is going, but he needs to say it.

“I wanna ask her. Wanted to do it last night, but I couldn’t. I had to talk to you first.” His eyes are pleading up at her, and she looked inside. His whirlwind thoughts were a little calmer than usual, since he’s not focusing on all the science, and she easily picked up his worries.

“Oh, Tony. You could have ten wives, and I’d still be here. Right here.” She tightened her hold around him just a little, enough to get the point across, because she’s not going anywhere. “That night, when I forced you to open your eyes, I made a decision. To stick by your side until you didn’t need me anymore. I’m not going anywhere unless you tell me to. You got that?”

“Promise?” Tony loves Pepper like he’s never loved anyone else; it’s something overwhelming and beautiful and simple. Tony loves Jo like he’s never loved anyone else; it’s something calming and strong and easy.

“I promise. I love you too much to leave you. Ask her. I’m pretty sure she’ll say yes,” Jo said with a grin. She hasn’t actively looked inside of Pepper’s head, but she can’t really help picking up surface thoughts sometimes. Pepper’s love for Tony hasn’t dimmed a bit in their time apart, and it’s such a pure love. When Jo does pick up thoughts from Pepper, they’re mostly about Tony. How happy she is just to be near him, to see him happy.

“You think so?” He’s smiling at her again, and that’s the Tony that she likes to see. Pepper makes him happy, so she’s completely okay with the two of them getting hitched. She also knows that Pepper is okay with how close she is to Tony, because Pepper knows it’s nothing like that. Jo has Bruce.

“I know so. How are you going to do it?” Her fingers are running through his hair, which is greasy, so it’ll have to be washed soon.

“I thought I’d just drop to a knee the next time I see her. I’ve got the ring in my pocket.”

“Sounds super romantic.” Oddly enough, she means that. Pepper doesn’t like big and flashy things (except for Tony), so something simple is perfect. “I actually mean that too.”


“Miss Jo, Master Stark has requested your presence in his lab.” Jo met Darcy’s eyes once JARVIS was done speaking and then she looked down at the sandwich she was working on. Looks like Bruce will have to wait a bit. “He has requested your presence as well, Miss Darcy.”

“What’s he up to now?” Jo thought back to this morning, to her little talk with Tony, and felt her eyes widen. Did he really?

“Let’s not keep him waiting!” Jo already had a hold on Darcy’s wrist and was pulling her from the room, and she couldn’t stop bouncing on the balls of her feet during the elevator ride. If this is what she thinks, she’s super excited. They’re gonna get to plan a wedding!

“Okay, what do you know that I don’t?” Darcy asked. The elevator doors opened, and Jo pulled the girl along behind her to Tony’s lab. The music was at a barely audible level, but it was something slow and sweet. Tony was sitting on the couch in the back, and Pepper was sitting next to him. They were both smiling, Pepper had tears clinging to her lashes, and Jo sees something sparkly.

“She said yes!” Tony yelled as soon as he saw them.

“Holy shit, he proposed,” Darcy whispered.

“He proposed!” Jo yelled and started to jump up and down. The excitement must have been contagious, because Darcy joined her.

“Shouldn’t I be the one jumping up and down?” Tony asked.

“I think it’s supposed to be me,” Pepper said with a little laugh. Darcy met her eyes, and they moved at the same time. Darcy grabbed Tony while Jo grabbed Pepper, and they formed a little jumping circle.

“Okay, no more jumping,” Tony said and came to a standstill. Pepper stopped along with him, so Jo and Darcy stopped too.

“Let’s see the ring. It better be big,” Darcy said and smiled over at Pepper. The ring was pretty good sized and elegant, and Jo smiled at the literal symbol of Tony and Pepper’s love. She’s gonna start crying in a minute.

“I’m so happy for you two!” She wrapped one arm around Tony’s neck and the other around Pepper’s, and she pulled both of them to her.

“Thank you, Jo,” Pepper whispered. Jo knows that Pepper is thanking her for more than just her jumping congratulations; she’s thanking her for making this possible, because Pepper knows that Tony asked her first. Huh. Pepper really is the genius of the two of them.

“Well, I guess we’ll leave the two of you alone. Right, Jo?” She blinked and looked over at Darcy, who is smiling in a very mischievous way. Right. They should go.

“Yeah, I gotta bring Bruce’s lunch up. See you later!” She ruffled Tony’s dirty hair and smiled at Pepper, and she followed Darcy out of the lab.

“Wow, so they are really gonna do it,” Darcy said once they were back in the elevator.


“And you’re going on a date with Bruce tonight.”


“You know I’m helping you get ready, right? It’s your first date, so you gotta look good. Please tell me you actually own a dress.”


“So, now that Tony is marrying Pepper and you’re dating Bruce, do I get two Christmases?”



“I’m really happy for you,” Bruce said as he and Tony watched the other three men of the house talk about wedding traditions. Tony had walked into Bruce’s room, with the three others behind him, and waited until they were gathered together to give the big news. Tony proposed, and Pepper said yes. That explains why Jo was so happy earlier; she’d giggled so much throughout their lunch and even Hulk could tell how excited she was during story time. She didn’t fall asleep this time.

“I still can’t believe she said yes.” Tony was looking down at the floor, but Bruce could see the smile on his face. “Now, enough about me! Bruce has a date so we have to get him ready!”

“Ready for a date with Josie? There’s no such thing; she’s gonna eat you alive,” Clint called out with a laugh. Steve sent the archer a stern look, and Clint did his best to look chagrined.

“Tonight will be a joyous occasion!” Bruce smiled up at Thor and shifted on his feet a little. He definitely wasn’t expecting this when he asked Jo out on a date.

“You better have something good in your closet.” Tony slapped him on the back and walked into Bruce’s closet, and Clint followed in after him. Definitely didn’t expect this.


“This is ridiculous. Bruce and I have already seen each other naked, so why does it matter which dress I wear?”

"Because it’s your first date. It’s special,” Darcy said with a strong duh in her tone.

“She’s right. You can’t wear your usual ratty clothes,” Natasha added. She had no idea that the assassin disliked her wardrobe that much; if she dresses better, will Natasha stop shooting her?

“Do you already have the perfect dress picked out?” Maria asked Pepper. Jo and Darcy had stared the woman down until she announced the engagement to Maria and Natasha, because Jo knows that Tony is going to tell the guys.

“I have a few options that I’ve looked at,” Pepper said with a slight blush. It’s adorable how shy Pepper can be sometimes. Maria and Pepper talked about color schemes while Natasha and Darcy combed through her closet, and Jo was stuck somewhere in the middle. Agreeing that eggshell blue was a pretty color and dodging fabric that kept getting tossed out of the closet.

“Found it!” Darcy yelled and tumbled out of the closet. Jo looked at the dress Darcy was holding up, and she could see Natasha smiling over her shoulder. She’d already showered, so all she had to do was slip the dress on. She took it from Darcy’s arms and slipped into the bathroom, and she quickly shimmied out of the denim shorts and button-up she was still wearing. The dress slid on easily, and Jo took a moment to look in the mirror.

Jo remembers buying the dress. At the time, she couldn’t think of a reason why she’d ever wear it, but she loved it and bought it anyway. It was a plain black and fit against her without being too tight or loose, and the single strap around her neck kept her arms bare. The dress was backless, and the material hugged just under the small of her back so that the majority of her spine tattoo showed. A bow was tied at the back as well, like her ass was a gift to the world. She was still just looking into the mirror when Darcy came in, and Natasha was right behind her with a pair of simple black flats.

“Sit. I’ll do your hair.” Natasha’s tone didn’t leave any room for arguments, so Jo sat on the little bench that was in front of her vanity.

“Are we thinking up-do?” Jo heard Maria ask. Natasha hummed, and the two agents started pulling on her hair. Not enough to hurt, but enough to let her know that there were two pairs of hands in her hair.

“Light makeup?” Darcy asked Pepper, not Jo.

“Something simple,” Pepper agreed.

When they were done, Jo’s hair was in a delicate looking up-do instead of its usual bun and she only had on a little bit of eye makeup. Pepper also brought in a pair of gorgeous black teardrop earrings, and they’re not Jo’s so they have to be Pepper’s. They let her look in the mirror when she was all done, and she almost felt like crying. Natasha and Maria doing a wonderful job on her hair, Darcy’s insistence that she look perfect, and Pepper letting her borrow some of her earrings were a deadly combination. But she’s not going to cry. She thanked each of them, but they all shrugged it off. One day, she’ll repay all of them for this.


Bruce was waiting in front of the front door, flanked by the other men. Tony and Steve were on his right, and Clint and Thor were on his left. They’d agreed on his outfit for the night, without his input, and Tony had even put some stuff in his hair to keep the curls contained. Then they’d each given him advice for the night. What to order and what not to order (anything with garlic). Good dinner conversations. Topics to stay away from. Don’t forget to pull out her chair for her. It was a little surreal, to be honest. He’d gotten ready for his first date with Betty on his own, and the date had been fine. Still, it was a good feeling to know that he was supported.

“Oh, and don’t make a comment about how much she eats. Because Jo can really pack it away,” Clint laughed.

“And don’t forget to compliment her,” Steve added.

“And don’t be a perfect gentleman. That’s boring,” Tony said.

“You need only be yourself, Bruce, for Jo has already chosen you,” Thor told him right as the elevator doors opened. He couldn’t see Jo, because the women of the house were walking in front of her. Natasha and Darcy moved to the left while Pepper and Maria moved to the right, and he saw her. Her hair was held up to show the slopes of her neck, and the black dress she was wearing fit against her perfectly. The guys moved out of the way as she walked to his side, and he offered her his arm. Steve held the door open for them, and they both paused on the front step and listened as the door closed.


Jo could feel her nerves building in the elevator, and she did her best to squash them down. She’s just going on a date with Bruce, so there’s nothing to be worried about. They’ve shared emotional stories, had sex, and she fed the man eggs just this morning! She shouldn’t feel his nervous. She’s Jo Holbrook! She’s the Tank! And her knees are not knocking together! She squared her shoulders as the elevator came to a stop, and her chin lifted as she walked behind the rest of the girls. They were halfway across the foyer when she felt the warm press of Bruce’s mind, and she was suddenly hit with the urge to push the girls aside so that she could just see him already.

Her eyes immediately sought him out when the girls finally moved, and she had to clench her hands into fists to keep from running to him. Tony and Clint will never let her live it down if she tackles him before they can even get out the front door. Come to think of it, the girls would never let her forget it either. It’s just…he looks so good. His black pants looked perfectly tailored to his body, and he had a dark purple shirt tucked into them. No jacket. Still, the shirt. Something as simple as a purple button-up shirt should not raise her pulse like it. Knowing that doesn’t make her stop thinking about slowly unbuttoning it (because this shirt will not be ruined like the last one) and then licking every inch of revealed skin.

The guys stepped away from him as she got closer, and she could barely register the smiles on their faces. She was too busy trying to devour Bruce with her eyes. He offered his arm, like a perfect gentleman, and Jo slipped her arm through his. Steve opened the front door for them, and he gave her a little wink as they stepped outside. The door shut behind them as they stood on the top step, and they both turned to look at each other.

“You look…”

“Beautiful,” Bruce finished for her. Her smile felt like something permanent, and she wants to relive this feeling over and over for the rest of her life. Her other hand came up to brush against his arm, and she tilted her head just the tiniest bit.

“I was gonna go with fuckalicious, but beautiful works too.” She couldn’t have stopped her hand if she tried, which she didn’t, as her fingers smoothed over his chest. Do they really have to eat? They got all dressed up; that’s close enough to a date, right?

“Ready to go?”

“After you,” she smiled. Jo reluctantly let her hand fall so that she just had one arm linked with his, and Bruce started down the stairs. The front gate opened easily, and Jo raised a brow at Bruce when she noticed the car waiting for them.

“It was Tony’s idea,” he said with a slight blush on his cheeks. There is no way she’s getting through dinner without jumping him. It’s just not physically possible.

“He’s full of good ideas,” she mumbled as Bruce held the door open for her. She brushed past him to step inside, resisted the urge to lick the dip between his collarbones, and nearly collapsed against the soft seat. She was so hyperaware of Bruce that she didn’t pay attention to the drive, so she was a little surprised when the car stopped. She wasn’t sure how far they went or for how long, but she memorized the texture of Bruce’s knuckles and got a little drunk on the smell of his aftershave.

Jo held onto Bruce’s hand with both of hers as he led them into the restaurant, because she was scared of just where her free hand might wander. She had a feeling that Bruce wouldn’t be too happy if she tried to strip him on the sidewalk. Not that the idea wasn’t still tempting. They didn’t have to wait to be seated, which Jo thought was amazing. Most places made you wait at least a little bit, even with a reservation. Did JARVIS or Tony make the reservation? They’re kinda fused so either one is possible, and she’s betting that whoever got them a reserved table dropped the Stark name. Either way, she’s happy. The table they were seated at was a few floors up and on a private balcony, and Jo might have blushed when Bruce pulled out her chair for her.

“We’ll be right out with your meal,” the waitress said as she poured them each a glass of wine. Jo waited until the woman walked away before looking at Bruce, and he looked just as confused as she felt. Jo was pretty sure that ordering came first, unless…

“Tony,” they said together. The man has serious control issues sometimes, but she can’t get mad at him for this. She’ll probably wind up thanking him.

“I think Tony might be a closet romantic,” Jo laughed.

“At least he didn’t dress you.” Jo was thankful for the private seating as her loud laugh sounded in the air around them, and she felt Bruce’s foot nudge against her own. Despite all the open space, the round table was pretty small. Jo wasn’t gonna complain because it means she was just that much closer. The laughing died down as their waitress returned with a giant tray in her hands, and Jo watched as the woman started arranging everything on their table. A giant plate of food was placed in the center of the table, they were given silverware wrapped in a napkin, and the bottle of wine was placed next to the plate.

“If you need anything, press this and I’ll be right with you.” She set down a small circular object that looked like a coaster to Jo, with a single button in the center of it. Huh, so no interruptions or anything. That’s pretty awesome.

“Mmm, pasta. Is that shrimp?” Jo and Bruce clinked forks and then dove into their shared meal. Tony’s definitely a closet romantic; he got them a shared pasta dinner and everything.

They were quiet while they ate, sometimes catching each other’s eye and smiling softly. After a few bites and two glasses of delicious wine, they loosened up. Jo had her shoes kicked off and her feet resting on Bruce’s chair, and he had one hand resting lightly on top of her foot. They kept the conversation light, to start with. Bruce asked about the tattoo on her back, so she explained how the design came from one of her Ma’s paintings. Her ma was an art teacher, so Jo wanted something of her ma with her at all times. It was nice talking about her ma with someone that really listened, and Jo felt all warm inside when Bruce even told her a few things about his own mother. She knew talking about her wasn’t easy for Bruce, so the stories were even more special. Like how she loved James Dean movies and played in the rain with him.

“You can ask, if you want to.” They’ve been quiet for a few beats, and they were both so relaxed that picking up on Bruce’s thoughts was easy. Lips were just starting to part when their waitress returned with another large tray, and she smoothly picked up their empty pasta plate and sat the other one down before walking off. Jo licked her lips at the sight of the chocolate cake and quickly picked up her fork again.

“Wouldn’t it be rude?” Bruce asked once they’d each taken a bite.

“We’re in it for the long haul, so it makes sense to be curious. That, and talking about him doesn’t hurt. We ended things peacefully. It goes both ways though,” Jo said with a thoughtful look. Then she shoveled in another bite of cake and tried not to moan at the wonderful taste.

“Sounds fair enough.” His fingers were lightly tracing shapes on her bare shin, and she wiggled her toes against his thigh. Maybe she can take his shirt off with just her toes? That’s something she’s never tried.

“I didn’t date as a teenager. Being a teenager is hard, but being a teenager in a mutant school? It was fuckin’ ridiculous. After I graduated, I thought I’d go on an adventure and fall madly in love with some exotic stranger. Instead, I traveled in the US for a little over two months before ROSE got me. When I got out, dating was the last thing on my mind. I was a bit angry for a while, and SHIELD used that. A few months after I got free, they sent me on a mission to Greenland with Johnny Storm of all people. It was undercover and we were newlyweds, and somewhere along the way the acting became real. I was angry and scared, and he could make me laugh. As for him, he was tired of being lonely and wanted to be with someone more like him. Someone who could handle the heat. His words, not mine,” Jo smiled. Those early years after being saved were not pleasant memories, but there were moments when she knew that things would work out. Like when Johnny made her laugh during sex and Clint took her dancing in warehouses.

“What went wrong?” She knew Bruce would never judge her, but she still fidgeted a little in her seat.

“Sometimes love isn’t enough, and we were kinda using each other. I needed a distraction, and he just needed someone. We separated as friends, so at least there’s that. He’s still the first guy I ever loved, and how many girls can say they held onto Johnny Storm for over a year?” Jo knows that Johnny has been with a lot of women, it’s that cocky charm of his, and she’s been in a lot of cat fights over the years for him. She can’t stand it when women sleep with him just because of who he is and for the sake of saying that they bedded the famous Johnny Storm. Jo’s not jealous or anything, but those are not good reasons for sleeping with someone. Mutual attraction, that’s the way to go. “Alright, Doc, ‘fess up.”

“You haven’t been with anyone since then?” Bruce looks confused, but it’s the truth. Her only other relationship was with Johnny Storm, and it’s so completely different from what she has with Bruce that she doesn’t think she can compare the two.

“Not for longer than a night, and there’s been very few of those. I’m guessing Betty was the first?” Bruce shyly met her eyes as he nodded and wrung his hands together. Jo wiggled her foot, and he moved one hand down to wrap around her ankle.

“We met in college, freshman year. We were dating before Halloween; being with her was natural and easy. Then we both went through graduate school and started working on the gamma bomb, and you know the rest,” Bruce said quietly.

“She’s the only one? You never fell for some beauty during your travels?” Jo’s smile was gentle, but she already knows the answer. She doesn’t have to read Bruce’s mind to know the answer either; it’s written all across his face.

“No, I was too scared to talk to anyone, much less do anything else. There were a few times, but they were always controlled and careful. And never twice.”

“Good. That means I won’t have to fight off anymore exes.” It was said with a teasing smile, and Bruce circled his finger over the top of her foot.

“Yeah? How many would you fight off?” Bruce’s eyes were lighter now, and he looked a little more relaxed. Maybe they should’ve had the dreaded exes talk last week.

“For you? Hmm…”

“Trying to decide when to give up?”

“Trying to remember how many people are in the world, because I’ll fight them all.” Jo felt her thighs tingling as Bruce’s cheeks were dusted with a light pink, and she had to remind herself that crawling across a table was bad manners. What about crawling under? Crawling under couldn’t be that bad, right? She was trying to weigh the risks versus the rewards when there was a tiny click, and she was groaning before a voice echoed in her ear. The rewards had been winning.

“Avengers! Vector and Ironclad are in Harlem! Hurry it up and get your asses out there!” Jo rubbed a hand over her ringing ear, because Fury’s yell can break sound barriers.

“We’re closer,” Bruce said. Yeah, she figured that. Jo was already putting her flats back on and mourning her dress, because clothes never survive fights. She reached up to her comm and heard a tiny click, so she knows that she’s linked to JARVIS and that Tony will hear her.

“Hulk and I are on the way to Harlem. Meet us there.”

“You got it, sweetheart.” There was a pause as she stood up and then she heard Tony’s voice again. “Be careful, Jo.”

“I’m always careful. Ready, Bruce?”

“I’ll get the check.” The waitress was there just moments after pressing the little button on the coaster, and they were both reassured that the check was already taken care of.

“Miss? Do you think you could hold a few things for us?” The waitress blinked at her, and Jo just waited.

“Yes, of course. What would you like us to hold?” Jo quickly reached up to pull on her earrings, the teardrops not the comm, because there’s no way she’s losing these. Or having them ripped out. Pepper let her borrow them, and she’s going to make sure that they’re returned.

“Just these, and his shirt.”

“What?” Jo looked over to meet Bruce’s eyes, and she did her best to keep a serious face on.

“You are not ripping that shirt, Doc, so take it off. Or I will.” Bruce cocked an eyebrow and did as she said, and Jo tried not to laugh at the blush darkening their waitress’s cheeks as Bruce slipped his pants off too. He’s wearing a pair of Hulk shorts, that’s good. Jo waited until the waitress was holding her earrings and Bruce’s clothes before looking at Bruce and then over at the balcony. They’re in a hurry, and who needs a front door when there’s a balcony?

“I don’t really like Harlem,” Bruce said quietly once they reached the rail. The waitress was still staring at them, but Jo blocked the woman’s very loud thoughts. Oh yeah, her Doc definitely looks good shirtless.

“This time will be different. Let’s just get this over with, and I’ll see you after.” Jo grabbed a handful of his hair, pressed a hard kiss against his lips, and jumped over the rail. When she looked beside her, Hulk was grinning down at her. One large hand scooped her up, and they were off.

“Alright, big guy, I’m gonna need you to take Vector,” she said as they got closer to Harlem. She can already hear sirens in the not-so-distant distance.

“I want the tin man,” Hulk growled.

“I know he pissed you off last time, but I’m not strong enough to take the leader. Even Thor had problems with that guy, so I know I can’t fight him. I’ll keep Ironclad busy until the others get here. We need to get the leader, for sure this time.” Hulk huffed, but Jo knew he understood. Jo’s the first person to boast about how strong she is, but she knows that she’s far from the strongest out there. Ironclad is strong enough to stand against Hulk and escape, so there’s no way she’s going to be able to defeat him. Her goal is to just hold on long enough for the others to show up.

“I’ll win,” Hulk said right as they reached the destruction.

“My Hulkster always does,” she whispered as she thrown into the air. Her body slammed into an iron one, and they both went sprawling from the force of the collision. Jo rolled to her feet while her opponent lumbered to his, and they both held their ground to stare each other down. It’s proper fighting etiquette. Thou shalt stare menacingly before battle commencement.

“They sent you to fight me? What can you do?” Ah, before battling, there shall be smack talk!

“I kicked X-Ray’s ass,” Jo shrugged. Steve helped, but still. She’s counting it.

“He’s an idiot, and I’m much stronger.” The iron face shifted in a smile, and Jo rolled her shoulders. She’s in a loose dress and has her hair in a fancy up-do; getting her ass kicked by an asshole was not how she wanted to end her night.

“Oh yeah? You just look like a Colossus knock-off to me,” Jo said with a shit-eating grin. The man’s face scrunched up in his anger, and Jo prepared herself for the first hit.

Once the fight started in earnest, she lost sight of Hulk. She was too busy ducking iron fists and delivering a few heavy hits of her own. Her skin is tougher than humans’, along with her bones and other various organs. It takes a little something extra to hurt her, especially when her body is prepared for a fight. She’s stronger than most humans too, but punching iron will never be like punching cotton. With the way her adrenaline is pumping right now too, her body is speeding up the regeneration process. Bruises that normally take a day to heal are disappearing immediately, and deep cuts that normally close up and fade in stages are vanishing almost instantly. That sounds good, in theory, but it’s really not. The faster she heals, the more tired she gets. Her body is trying to shut down so it can focus only on healing, but she can’t stop fighting yet. All because this fucker is relentless.

“Is this the best you can do, Eris! I thought you were the mutant of chaos!” Jo glared up at the iron asshole hovering above her and raised her pristine knuckles. (Her knuckles should be stripped to the bone or at least bruised, but they’re not…and, oh fuck, it’s getting harder to stand up straight.)

“Very original! I can see why you picked the name Ironclad now!”

“If I kill you, will they send someone stronger?!”

“Only one way to find out!” Jo caught the smirk on his face before he dropped to the ground and flattened her body under his. She might have screamed as the asphalt tore at her back and broke all around her, and she felt her ribs and sternum splintering under the iron fucking mountain perched on top of her. She could taste blood coating the inside of her throat, and her pelvic bone snapped under an iron foot as he got to his feet. This time she did hear her own scream mixed in with Ironclad’s rough laugh.

“There’s one last thing you need to see before you die.” Strong fingers wrapped around her throat and hoisted her into the air, and Ironclad held her out away from his body with her feet dangling in the air. Her rapidly bruising throat struggled to catch a breath while her healing tried to kick in; the more damaged she was, the slower the healing came. Until she eventually passed out and was left to heal completely. Or died.

“Can you still see? Watch your partner die.” Jo stopped trying to breathe and opened her eyes. She could see Vector farther out, with energy blasts aimed right at Hulk. Vector has the ability to repel matter and right now, he’s using that ability to repel Hulk’s skin. Hulk, who’s still fighting his way to reach Vector even though his skin is being flayed off.

HULK!” Jo’s scream was nearly drowned out under the sound of Hulk’s loud growls, and she struggled against the hold on her throat as more green skin was ripped off to show the muscles underneath. Hulk couldn’t take that kind of abuse…that kind of torture.

“That ugly green bastard’s gettin’ what’s been comin’ to him,” Ironclad whispered behind her. Jo swung her legs back into his face and winced as she dropped to the ground. The pain could be dealt with later; she’s gotta stop Vector. Hulk was showing more muscle than skin now, and she’s not going to watch him die.

She was almost to Vector when a powerful fist hit the center of her back, and her legs collapsed as her spine broke. Her head knocked against the concrete, at just the right angle to watch Hulk nearly crawl his way towards Vector. His giant hands, showing pieces of bone, dug deep into the ground as he pulled himself forward. A sob worked its way out of Jo’s rough throat at seeing Hulk’s skin completely flayed off, but she couldn’t do anything. She couldn’t do anything. It was like the Zodiac attack all over again, but she could actually see the damage as it was happening this time. A hard foot dug into the broken part of her spine, keeping it from starting the healing process, but Jo didn’t take her eyes off Hulk. Not for a second. Not even when he soared to his feet and planted two massive fists in Vector’s body. The leader flew headfirst into a building, made a good-sized crater, and fell to the ground. He didn’t get up, and Jo’s eyes were locked on Hulk.

“How did he…?” The foot pressed harder into her spine, but Jo couldn’t feel anything anymore. Hulk tipped his head back as he roared, and the sound vibrated in Jo’s ears. Wide eyes watched as skin formed across his body, until he was whole again. He’s gonna be okay.

“Because Hulkster always wins,” Jo heard herself whisper. Her body was fighting to repair all of her broken bones along with the internal damage, but she’s already used up too much energy. This isn’t a spar where she regenerates at a slow and steady pace, so she doesn’t get so drained. This is an actual fight, and her body can’t keep up anymore.

“Jo!” The foot was removed from her back as Thor and Ironclad went rolling away from her, but she was still looking at Hulk. Who was now looking back at her with rage darkening his face. She knew it was Tony that called out to her, but she couldn’t look for him.

“I’m okay, big guy. Just a little roughed up,” she groaned out. Holy fuck, but everything hurt. She’s not going to die, but she’s going to feel this for a while. The big healing energy has run out and is just focusing on keeping her alive. After she passes out, the healing process should pick up again.

“Can I kill him?” Hulk asked. The big guy was kneeling in front of her now, and she could hear shouts coming from all over the place. So SHIELD was here, finally. Why does everyone always show up after everything’s gone critical?

“Nah, let’s let ‘em suffer in a super prison for all eternity.” Hulk was okay, he was talking to her, but all she could see was his skin evaporating off his muscles. A big green hand gently, so gently, picked her up and cradled her in the crook of his arm. One side of her body was pressed against the wall of his chest, and Jo struggled to press a hand against the green skin. Whole. Hulk was whole. He was okay.

“What the hell just happened?!” Jo blinked Director Fury into focus and shook with the sound of Hulk’s growl.

“We have Vector, sir, and Thor has subdued Ironclad.” Looks like Agent Hill is back where she belongs; Jo hopes she comes to visit.

“Are you gonna live?” Director Fury was looking at her now, but shouldn’t he be looking at Hulk? That’s when it hit her. Only her and the two U-Foes saw Hulk surviving his skin being ripped off.

“If you’re asking if I need medical, the answer is no. My healing is a little held up at the moment, but I’ll be fine.” Well, she’d be fine once her spine stopped taking its sweet time knitting back together. Most of her ribs were whole again, but her pelvis still felt a little off.

“Jo needs rest,” Hulk said quietly.

“And clothes,” Director Fury said and gave a loud whistle. An agent appeared almost immediately and passed over a giant blanket. Hulk managed to grab it and wrap it around her without jostling her around, which Jo was very thankful for.

“I expect a full report, from both of you, tomorrow.” Jo watched him stride off to start directing the clean-up, and she looked up at Hulk.

“Jo! You okay?” Tony asked. He’s in the suit, but the face plate is up so that she can see his worried eyes. It’s a good thing the blanket is covering up her still visible injuries and the many tears in her dress.

“You fought bravely and need to rest,” Thor added. Hulk’s growl was more of a quiet rumble now, and Jo lightly patted his chest. And then left her hand there, just so she could feel that he had skin.

“I am feelin’ a little beat. Thanks for getting Ironclad for me.”

“It was my pleasure.” Thor’s smile really is like sunshine, but she’s still hurting too much to appreciate it.

“The others?” Jo asked. She can feel Tony’s assessing gaze on her, but she’s not about to tell him that her spine is still broken.

“The assassins are at the house, with Darcy and Pepper. Steve is helping Maria with the prisoners. Now, are you two gonna be okay?” Tony’s looking back and forth between the both of them, and it’s almost like he knows.

“We’re both fine. Are you gonna help with the clean-up?” Tony smiled at her, just a small twitch of his lips, and he looked over at Thor.

“Yeah, we’ll clean up your mess. See you at home?” She smiled and nodded, and she watched as Tony and Thor moved off to join the mass of running agents.

“Let’s go home, big guy,” Jo said quietly. Hulk secured his hold on her and started walking off. Jo expected him to run, but he didn’t want to hurt her. The thought was so sweet that she almost started crying, but she managed to hold back. Honestly, she feels a little numb. Like she’s in shock. Jo’s sternum fused back together with a flash of heat a few moments later, and she barked out a rough scream at the feeling. Huh, that must have been a worse break than she realized. She could also breathe a little easier, so her lung damage has also been repaired.

“Are you okay?” Bright green eyes were staring down at her, and Jo rubbed small circles against his massive chest. Fuck, she couldn’t stop touching him. It felt like if she stopped touching him, his skin would disappear again.

“I’m okay, just healing. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. I won.” Jo pressed her forehead against his chest and tried to calm her breathing. Maybe the shock is starting to wear off?

“You could have died. I saw what happened, your skin,” Jo moaned. Hulk’s grip tightened to a point just shy of painful, and Jo pressed her forehead harder against him. Like she wanted to crawl inside and hold his skin on with her bare hands. It didn’t make any sense, but she couldn’t breathe right and her eyes were burning.

“I’m fine. It hurt, but I’m stronger than him,” Hulk huffed. Jo listened to the sound of the gate opening and closing, and she sighed in relief once they were inside the mansion. No one can hurt them inside the mansion; Tony’s paranoia made sure of that. Hulk shifted into Bruce just as Clint and Darcy came out of the kitchen, and Pepper and Natasha were right behind them. Bruce was quick to reassure them that everyone was okay; he told them that they were okay, just tired. Jo smiled along and prayed that nothing major healed while she was putting up the everything’s-okay façade.

Ten minutes later, they were in Bruce’s room. He gently laid Jo down at the foot of the bed, because her spine still hasn’t been fully repaired. Bruce’s eyes met hers, and Jo felt the first tear slip from her eye. It was followed by more, many more, until she was sobbing so hard that the mattress shook under her. Familiar rough hands parted the blanket to grab her arms and pull her up, and she curled into Bruce’s chest as much as she could without using her legs.

“Fuck, Bruce, your skin.” Jo was shaking everywhere she had mobility, and she couldn’t stop fucking crying. All she could see were the bones of Hulk’s hands as they dug into the ground, the strong muscles exposed to the open air, his face stripped bare and the sharp jut of a jawbone as he roared.

“I know, but we’re okay now. We’re okay, we’re here,” Bruce murmured into her hair. She knew that he was okay, but those images just wouldn’t go away. Jo’s fingers pressed into his skin hard enough to leave bruises just to feel it even as she cried onto the skin of his chest. Once the sobbing died down, Bruce carried her into the bathroom and gently stripped her ruined dress off. He had to hold her up until halfway through the shower, when her spine finally blazed and reconnected her spinal cord. Her legs were shaky, but they managed to stay unbroken during the fight and held her easily enough. Still, she made sure they were touching at all times.

“I’m sorry, but I can’t…stop.” Her fingers roughly brushed her cheeks, but the tears just kept coming. It was like a never ending faucet, constantly dripping. They dried off with the same towel, and Bruce kept a hand on her hip as she roughly dried her hair with a giant towel. When he made a move to grab some pajamas, Jo grabbed his hand and tried to think of a way to ask what she wanted. In the end, Bruce must have understood what she was too embarrassed to say out loud and led her over to the bed. They burrowed under the blankets naked, and Jo pressed herself completely against him. She needed to feel his skin against hers, and as much of it as possible. After they were settled, Jo was spread across him like an extra blanket and still leaking tears.

“It’s going to be okay, Jo.”

“I know.” It wasn’t going to be okay, because she could still see and she couldn’t stop crying. She’s seen a lot of injuries and a lot of sick shit over the years, but she cares about Hulk and had to watch as he was flayed alive without being able to do anything about it. No, it’s not okay.
♠ ♠ ♠
So much happened in this chapter that I barely know where to begin. Who’s excited for Tony and Pepper? Because I am! I didn’t get to write a wedding in the last story, so I’m looking forward to writing one this time around. Also, Jo and Bruce went on a date! The rest of the night wasn’t so good, but I think the date went pretty well.

Now, about the U-Foes. I wish I could take credit for that fight scene, but I can’t. I’m not really sure which issue it came from, but Hulk and Vector did fight in the comics. Here's Hulk VS Vector Page 1 and Hulk VS Vector Page 2.

I’d love to know everyone’s thoughts on this chapter! Thanks for reading!