Archaic Kinds of Fun

no, it's a duel!

August 31, 2014

Jo woke up in the best possible way, which meant that she was sprawled over Bruce like a living blanket and there weren’t any crumbs digging into her thigh. (She hadn’t been lying when she told Bruce that there were crumbs in her bed.) She stretched out and felt her muscles pulling, and she sighed as some of her bones did a wonderful impression of some popcorn. A quiet good morning greeting reached her ears, and Jo twisted herself around with a little wiggle so she could reach Bruce’s lips. It was probably really early, there was the whole morning breath issue, but she really didn’t care. She wanted to kiss Bruce, because he was okay and he was with her.

“Mmm, good morning,” she mumbled after pulling away. Hair tickled her cheek as she burrowed against his chest, and she had a moment where she wanted to just stay in this same position forever.

“Have I ever told you how much I love your wakeup calls?” She could hear the smile in his voice, but that didn’t stop her from tilting her head to actually see it. Yep, just as beautiful as she remembered. She shimmied out of the sheet wrapped around her so that she could properly straddle Bruce’s hips, and she leaned down to nip at his ear.

“Feel free to keep reminding me, or maybe you can—”

“Seriously?! Why does this keep happening to me? What god did I offend to cause this?” Jo was sitting straight up now, still on top of Bruce, and she was thankful that she was still wearing the purple leggings and button-up. Bruce is still wearing his Hulk shorts, so they’re both decent at least.

“Sorry, kid. Maybe you should try knocking?” Darcy narrowed her eyes, but Jo just smiled at her.

“Breakfast in ten. I expect to see both of you, fully dressed, at the table in nine minutes,” Darcy said with a very menacing finger point. Jo has seen her fair share of finger points, so she can tell the menacing ones from the harmless ones. Jo gave her a salute, and she could feel Bruce shifting under her.

“Sorry, Darcy,” he said as she was pulling the door shut.

“Whatever. You’re not my real dad!” Jo met Bruce’s eyes as the words really sunk in, and she felt her lips twitching as she did her best not to laugh. She failed.


Darcy could hear Jo’s loud laughter until the elevator doors shut, and she smiled to herself. It takes a special kind of person to be so hilarious before noon, and she considers herself to be very special. Maybe if she was less special, she’d stop walking in on people in compromising positions. Then again, Tony and Pepper had been fully dressed and talking like normal people when she told them about breakfast. Looks like it’s all about balance. The elevator only made it down one floor before stopping, and her face was frozen in a smile when Clint joined her.

“No one should smile like that before noon. What did you do?” He sounds like he’s still half asleep; probably because they spent most of last night going over wedding ideas for Tony and Pepper. She quickly explained what she had walked in on just a few minutes before and her parting words, and Clint’s face twisted into a smile. He looks good with a smile on his face. Well, he always look good, but he looks especially good when he smiles.

“I bet ol’ Josie loved that,” he said with a little chuckle.

“It definitely made her laugh,” Darcy confirmed. Clint seemed happy about that, because Jo is one of his closest friends. Darcy still can’t get over the fact that they’ve been friends for nearly a decade; when they met, she was still struggling through high school. She’s also heard Tony talk about them dancing, but she’s only seen them dance in that tango class. And that was just on a monitor.

“Someone’s thinking a little too hard.” Clint tapped the center of her forehead, because he’s standing right in front of her, and when did that happen? When did the elevator door open?

“Still waking up,” she covered. Tony says the way they dance is sweet and innocent, but she just can’t picture it. Dancing like maniacs? Sure.

“C’mon, Darce,” Clint said and tugged on her hand. Right, she’s supposed to be walking. She doesn’t have to hold Clint’s hand to walk from the elevator to the dining room, but she can’t really think of a reason to let go either.

“I really hate that name.” Clint stopped walking, which made her run into his back. He looked over his shoulder at her, and Darcy blinked to better focus. His eyes are never the same color; today they’re mostly green, with just a little bit of golden brown around his pupils.

“I think it’s a cute name.” He’s fighting not to smile; she can tell.

“Do I look cute to you?” Oh no…she did not just say that. Why did she say that? Clint’s pretty eyes looked her over, from the top of her head to her socked feet, and the little smile on his face made something in her stomach flip.

“Cute enough.” Her mouth dropped open at the teasing tone, and she would’ve shot back with a witty retort if Tony hadn’t interrupted her.

“Barton! Quit corrupting my love child!”

“Yeah, Clinton!” Jo added. Looks like they all came down together. Darcy looked over her shoulder and trained her eyes in a glare. Tony and Jo were in the middle, with Bruce and Pepper standing next to them. Pepper and Bruce are at least dressed nicely; Pepper’s wearing a dark gray skirt and a blue top that makes her eyes pop, and Bruce is wearing slacks and a dark green button-up. Tony’s jeans have holes in them and the gray band tee has grease stains on it, and Jo’s wearing a pair of pale yellow shorts and one of Tony’s white ACDC shirts.

“Whatcha gonna do about it?!” Clint yelled back. He’s still holding her hand, and he used that hold to pull her around in front of him and then she was suddenly in his arms. Like, bridal style. Her arms flew around his neck in surprise, and she could feel his fingers pressing into her thigh just over her knee. “We’re going off into the sunset, and you can’t stop us!”

“It’s seven in the morning!” she heard Jo yell as Clint ran into the dining room. Darcy has some curves to her, but Clint is carrying her and running like it’s no big deal. He ran around to the far side of the table, where he usually sits, and smoothly plopped her into his seat. Next thing she knew, he was sitting in her lap. She let out a little oomph of air as he leaned back against her, and she could just see the doorway over his shoulder.

“If you want her, you gotta duel for her!” Jo was standing behind Darcy’s usual seat with her fists propped on her hips, and the other three moved around her to take their seats.

“Weapons?” Clint asked.

“Water guns filled with paint, obviously.” Jo shrugged like it was nothing, and Darcy dropped her forehead onto Clint’s shoulder blade. They’re both insane.

“Time?” Darcy groaned, to let them know that she was displeased with this conversation as a whole, but they ignored her.

“At dawn!” It sounds so medieval; she’s gonna hurl. It wouldn’t be so bad if she didn’t actually have a crush on Clint. Not that she’s sure that she does. He looks awesome shirtless (well, his bare arms are scrumptious because she hasn’t seen him with his shirt off since he was in the hospital). His eyes do this thing where she can’t seem to breathe right when she looks directly into them. He doesn’t want her to be a fighter and get that haunted look in her eyes like the rest of them.

“It’s a deal!”

“No, it’s a duel!”

“What have I missed?” Thor asked as he walked in. The god is carrying several plates of food, and Natasha is behind him with their plates. The assassin raised a brow at Darcy and Clint’s seating arrangement, but she didn’t say anything. Just set two plates in front of Clint, left her usual spot empty, and placed a plate at Darcy’s usual seat. So Natasha is taking her seat, because Clint is still sitting in her lap.

“Jo and Clint are gonna duel over Darcy,” Tony explained and grabbed a pancake. Or three.

“Darcy is more than just a prize to be won,” Thor said with a serious look at Jo and Clint. Darcy didn’t know if she wanted to laugh or hug the big guy. Both, she decided. Just as soon as Clint gets off of her.

“Whoever wins will treat her with the utmost respect,” Jo promised.

“And will strive to make sure that she is never harmed,” Clint added. It’s official. She hates both of them.

“Hear that, kid? Clint’s gonna duel for you. Want me to throw the fight? It goes against my nature, but I’ll make an exception for you.” That’s Jo’s voice, inside her head. She knows that Jo has been practicing projecting her thoughts, and it sounds like she’s getting better. Her mental voice is still quiet, like a whisper, but Darcy heard every word.

“Who says I want him to win?” She made sure to look around Clint and meet Jo’s eyes, and the mutant threw her head back in a laugh.

“Prepare to get your ass kicked, Clinton,” Jo said as she moved around the table. She seemed to fall into Bruce’s lap, but the scientist didn’t seem fazed at all. He just wrapped an arm around her waist and continued to eat with his other hand. Jo turned to tuck her feet under Tony’s thigh, and she twisted around to stick her tongue out at Clint once she was settled.

“World’s greatest marksman, baby. You’ll never see me coming.” She’s never heard Clint talk in that tone, a little lower and rougher than his usual voice, and it’s definitely not affecting her. Not even a little.

“If someone doesn’t feed me soon, you won’t have anyone to duel over. I’m wasting away back here.” She could hear Jo laughing as Clint moved to fix them both a plate, and she rolled her eyes when he offered her a piece of a sausage on the end of a fork. That’s just way too much innuendo for her right now. “I want pancakes.”

“Definitely the lovechild of Stark,” Clint mumbled as he put the fork down. He twisted around so that he was sitting sideways in her lap, so she could reach her own plate of pancakes. This morning is turning out so weird.

“That better be a compliment!” Tony yelled around a mouthful of eggs.

“I’m sure it was,” Pepper said with a sweet smile. Tony took one look at her and seemed to melt, and Darcy wants to learn how to do that.

“I shall oversee this duel. To make sure that the victor is worthy of Darcy,” Thor said as he took his seat. Aww, the big guy is looking out for her! Darcy just might have a god as her big brother.

“Sounds good to me,” Clint said. Jo hummed because her cheeks were stuffed full, but Darcy is pretty sure that she’s agreeing. The two of them will probably need a referee.

“And no cheating. I’ll be watching.” Jo and Clint both shifted at Natasha’s words, but the female assassin wasn’t even looking at them. She’s spreading jam on her toast, which isn’t threatening at all, but Jo and Clint are looking at her like she’s holding a grenade.

“Where’s Steve?” Jo finally asked. Tony looked up and around, but it was Thor that answered.

“Maria asked to speak with him before he could break his fast.” Huh, is Maria talking to Steve or Captain America? Because Maria is an agent again now that she’s all healed up. Darcy is kinda gonna miss her; Maria kept to herself most of the time, but the agent is funny and agreed with all of her wedding designs.

“Think she’s checking out his poetic jawline?” Darcy almost choked on her syrupy pancakes at the whispered question, and she cut her eyes over at Jo. The mutant is smiling at Tony though and not even looking her way. Darcy hopes she can feel the glare on the back of her neck.

“Give me a warning first before you do that!” Then she realized what the mutant had said, or thought. “Don’t we all check out his poetic jawline?”

“The only jawline you should be checking out is Clinton’s. It might not be as patriotic, but I’d go to war for his pretty face.” Darcy snorted a little as she tried to hold in her laughter, and Clint raised a brow at her. Okay, maybe secretly talking with Jo is a lot cooler than she previously thought. No one else can hear them, so they can say whatever they want.

“Does that mean you promise not to mess up his pretty face during your duel?”

“All is fair in love and war.”

“You okay, Darce?” There’s that nickname again; a part of her wanted to remind him that she hates that nickname, but he’s smiling so that’s probably what he wants her to do. Well, she’s not gonna give him the satisfaction.

“I feel like one of those distressed damsels from Jo’s cheesy romance books.”

“They’re not cheesy!”

Weirdest morning ever.


Natasha offered to take over Darcy’s training after breakfast, so Jo followed Bruce up to his lab. (Tony and Pepper kept giving each other looks at the breakfast table, so Jo’s going to give them their alone time.) Bruce moved over to what he was working on, and Jo collapsed onto the couch at the back of the lab. She’s got a book stashed in the cushions, and she pulled it out with the notion of actually reading it. Instead, she’s lost inside of her own head. She can hear Bruce moving around, hear little clinks and whirls of machines, and she lost herself as he started on his science.

She spent most of her thinking energy on trying to figure out just what the hell was going on in her life. She’s still in a state of shock from their last big fight, could still feel the fear of watching Hulk being ripped apart in front of her eyes, and could still hear Bruce’s defeated voice right before he pulled the trigger. Then there’s the other side of everything. The other side where she can’t sleep without Bruce’s warmth next to her, where she wrapped herself in his clothes just so she could keep his scent in her nose, and where he made her feel like a scared little teenager all over again. It was all so much, almost too much, and it was scaring the hell out of her. The scariest part? Being with Bruce was easy and felt right, and she’s never been more scared. Was Bruce just as scared and confused? He had to be, because this was new for both of them.

The thoughts crowding her mind had been quiet throughout breakfast, because she was focused on teasing Clint and Darcy. They may seem like an odd pair, but Jo can see them working together. Clint needs someone like Darcy, who is strong enough to handle his demons and just innocent enough to really bring some light into his life. As for Darcy, she knows that Clint will treat her like the amazing person that she is. She can already see it in the way he touches her, like she might disappear if he stops. Now she’s alone with her thoughts again, and her thoughts always seem to run back to Bruce. (Or Tony, but those thoughts are easy peasy compared to the Bruce thoughts.)

“Are you okay?” Jo’s eyes snapped open and looked around her. She’s still stretched out on the couch, but her book is lying forgotten on the floor. Bruce is standing in front of some kind of machine that’s shiny and looks expensive, and he’s got a little worried furrow between his brows.

“Why wouldn’t I be?” Jo smiled over at him, but it felt fake even to her.

“Because you’re not reading, or knitting, or singing, or dancing, or—”

“Yeah, yeah, I get the picture. I can be all deep and stare into space sometimes.”

“Your eyes were closed,” Bruce helpfully pointed out.

“The space in my mind? Or I might’ve been napping.”

“You weren’t napping.”

“Are you a telepath too?” Jo was sitting up now, with her legs pulled under her. Bruce had his glasses pulled on and the sleeves of his dark green shirt rolled up to his elbows. His hair wasn’t messy enough; Jo had to fight against the urge to go run her fingers through it and watch the curls spring up.

“When you nap, you, uh, pull some of your hair free and nibble on the ends.” Jo felt her cheeks heating up, because she was pretty sure that she was careful to not do that around people. Because what kind of person eats their hair? Not that she swallows it or anything, just some nibbles.

“You noticed that, huh?”

“I can be observant sometimes. Is everything okay?” Jo lifted one shoulder in a shrug and reached down to pop her toes. She could brush everything off and wait until she’d thought everything through some more, but why wait?

“We’re definitely together, right? With the amazing sex and fuzzy feelings, the whole nine yards?”

“I’d say that’s a correct assumption.” Bruce’s smile was soft and gentle, and Jo stopped chewing at the inside of her cheek.

“I really care about you. I thought you were going to die, and it felt like I was dying right along with you. I don’t get sick, ever, but your nightmare had me scrambling for the toilet. All because of…Fuck, I was terrified because I almost never met you. Well, there’s no way that Hulk wouldn’t save you two, but just the idea of never meeting you made me physically sick. And not just you, but Hulk too. It might sound a little crazy, but I love Hulk. Yeah, he’s gigantic and a little violent, but he’s also really innocent in some ways and he saved me. Keeps saving me, in little ways. So I worry, and I care, and I can’t stop thinking about you. I didn’t even want to go to sleep last night because you weren’t there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing. Love songs and the harlequins are starting to make sense. But it’s so much and sometimes I feel like I’m drowning.”

Jo sucked in a deep breath and felt relief wash over her. Now that she’d said it out loud, she felt like all of it wasn’t even that big of a deal. Caring about people was normal, especially when there was actual dating involved. For someone like Jo, whose only real relationship was based on loneliness, caring so much about someone who she met less than a year ago is a bit…different. (Tony and Darcy don’t count; they were missing family members, and they were always meant to come together.) It’s overwhelming, and she can admit that she’s a bit emotionally stunted when it comes to these things. When most girls were starting their lives away from home and falling in love, she was strapped to a table and losing some of her ability to trust. It sucks, but whatever. It’s something that she’s dealt with over the years; this is just the first time she’s had a chance to put all those self-therapy sessions into practice.

“Jo?” She really needs to stop spacing out so much, especially during important relationship talks. If she had been paying attention, she might have noticed when Bruce slipped off his stool and walked over to kneel in front of her. She didn’t feel his hands when they lightly gripped her bare thighs, and she’s always hyper aware of his skin against hers.

“Sorry, just a little spacey today.” Her smile mirrored Bruce’s, and she felt his fingers flexing against her legs.

“Sometimes I feel like I’m drowning too, like when you fold my socks and ask Hulk for another bedtime story. I’m not proud of it, but I spent years hating Hulk and myself. After I accepted who Hulk really is, I didn’t, I never…even if I love Hulk, how could I ever ask someone else to love someone labeled as a dangerous threat? A killer? A monster?”

“Bruce, I—” Bruce moved to grab her hands, which effectively shut her up.

“I wasn’t looking for anyone; I was okay with just learning how to be happy with myself again. You came out of nowhere, when I least expected it, and just existed in the same space. You didn’t jump every time I moved, you never hesitated to touch me, made sure I knew I was accepted and wanted here, and you…You walked in on Hulk struggling to read. Do you know what most people would have done? They wouldn’t have curled up in his lap and asked him to read over and over again, until he had the story completely memorized. I hide things, bury them, but I asked you to look inside my mind. You know things about me that no one else does. I’m scared too.”

“I’ve never heard you say so much in one go,” Jo breathed out. Sweet fuck, she could listen to this man talk for hours. The more he talked, the stronger his voice got until it was so intense that her thighs were tingling and her heart was pounding. Maybe she could work something out with Hulk so that they could alternate bedtime stories. She’s got a stack of romance novels stashed under her bed.

“I’m not finished.”

“Oh?” Bruce’s head ducked down and when he looked up, Hulk’s bright green eyes were staring up at her. It was a little different seeing Hulk’s eyes in Bruce’s non-green face, but there was no mistaking who was in control for the moment. “Hey, big guy.”

“You love me.” That was definitely Hulk’s growling voice, and Jo could see smudges of green across Bruce’s throat and coloring his cheeks.

“Yeah, I do. You’re my hero, my Hulkster. What’s not to love?” Jo’s pretty sure what she feels for Hulk is like how a mother loves her children; it’s pride and amusement and a can-do-no-wrong attitude. It’s sweet and innocent and effortless.

“I love you too.” Bruce was still holding her hands, so Jo leant forward to press a kiss against Hulk/Bruce’s forehead. She held her lips pressed against the green tinted skin and squeezed her eyes shut, and she felt rough hands gently moving up her arms and coming to rest on her cheeks.

“Bruce?” Her hoarse voice was even thicker than usual, and hands held her steady as he shifted back far enough to see her eyes. Brown, so it was Bruce.

“We’ll be okay,” he whispered against her lips.

“I don’t need anyone.” It sounded like she was talking to herself, which she kinda was. It was something she’d been telling herself for years, that she’d never need someone to feel complete. Not like this.

“I know.”

“But I want you.” Bruce moved so fast that it made her head spin, almost literally. One moment she was sitting on the couch with Bruce kneeling on the ground in front of her, and the next Bruce was sitting on the couch with her sideways in his lap. Her hands immediately went to his hair to lightly pull on it, and she felt his hands tracing across the bare skin of her back.

“I just want to hold you, just for a little while.” His voice was even, but his hands were shaking against the hold he had on her ribcage.

“Bruce, darlin’, you can hold me until the world stops spinning and it still won’t be long enough.” She felt his laugh and pressed her smile against his, and everything was suddenly okay. Everything was just the way it was supposed to be.


“I’m gonna go check on Tony and make sure that he hasn’t blown himself up,” Jo said with a little yawn. “You gonna be okay for lunch?”

“I know how to make a sandwich.” The answer made her smile, wide enough to show the dimple in her cheek, and she wrapped her arms around his neck. They’re both still on the couch, and they might have dozed off for a little bit. Just a little.

“Mmm, my genius.” It was hummed into his hair, and he felt a little bit colder when she suddenly flowed to her feet. He blinked up at her, and she reached out to scrub a hand through his hair. He could feel the curls unwinding, and there’s no telling what his hair looks like now.

“Go check on Tony. I’ll see you at dinner.” Her kiss was quick, and he had to lock his muscles in place to keep from following after her when she pulled back. Just to be safe, he waited until he was pretty sure that she was in Tony’s lab to make his way to the kitchen. He didn’t run into anyone, so there’s no telling where everyone is.

He pulled out sandwich ingredients and started making his tea on autopilot, and he thought back to what happened before his little nap with Jo. Because now that he’s sitting still and not busy doing anything too taxing, he can think about everything that happened earlier. In all honesty, he should have seen Jo’s fear-fueled outburst coming. He was a little surprised that he wasn’t the one that broke first, because this was intense for both of them.

Normally when two people meet and realize they are attracted to one another, they go on a date. They share an awkward first kiss, go on a few more dates, and take their time getting to know one another. They work their way up to that first sleepover and let their secrets out one at a time. At least, that’s what he and Betty had done. With Jo, they packed months’ worth of experiences into such a short amount of time. It’s only been a little over a month since they met face to face; they’re a few days shy of two weeks when it comes to dating. Their relationship wasn’t normal, but how could it be when one of them had an alter-ego that was green and the other was a telepath? No, they were never going to have a normal relationship, so Bruce couldn’t compare it to one. They had something different, something a little scary that was sometimes a little too intense and moved fast, but it was amazing. And it was going to work.

“Bruce?” The quiet voice pulled him out of his thoughts, and he looked down at his uneaten sandwich. The teapot is whistling too.

“Oh, uh, hi, Pepper,” he managed to get out while he hurriedly moved the teapot.

“Is everything okay? You look a little…dazed.” She looked concerned, and Bruce resisted the urge to wring his hands. (To check his pulse.)

“I’m fine. Just lost in thoughts.”

“Tony does that a lot too. Must be a genius thing.” Her smile was kind and only a little teasing, and she accepted his offer of tea. She talked about the wedding as he ate his sandwich, and she laughed as she talked about how Darcy and Clint kept arguing over every detail.

“What do you want?” It’s the first thing he’s been able to say, because he was hungrier than he realized. Pepper stopped and seemed to really think about it, and he sipped at his tea as he waited.

“Something…simple. All I really want is Tony. The rest doesn’t matter so much.” Her smile curved her lips, and there was a look in her eyes that made him want to smile. Tony is his friend, was his only friend for a while, and he’s happy for him.

“He’s really lucky.”

“So is Jo.” Bruce hid his smile behind his teacup, but he had a feeling that Pepper knew he was smiling anyway. “What are your thoughts on fondue? Wedding appropriate or no?”


“That’s it, sweetheart. Just a little lower. You gotta loosen up, or you’ll hurt yourself.” That’s definitely Tony’s voice, followed by Jo’s frustrated huff, and Darcy sighed as she paused just inside the lab.

“You two better not be having sex! I’ve put a lot of work into planning Pepper’s wedding!” There was a crash from the back of the lab, where she can’t see, and she smiled up at Thor before walking towards the sound. She could feel the god walking behind her, and they both stopped to take in the scene.

Tony was standing in front of one of his cars, that Darcy still isn’t sure how it got up here, and Jo was laying across the hood. Tony’s still in his ratty jeans and band tee, but Jo is wearing a black jumpsuit. It’s not completely skintight, but it shows off her curves pretty well. Jo sat up when she saw them, which caused her to slide down the hood a little, and Tony caught her before she could hit the ground. Once she was righted, they both turned to look at her and smiled.

“Don’t you mean mine and Pepper’s wedding? I’m a necessary piece,” Tony said and pointed at his face. Jo swatted his hand away and stepped in front of him, and Darcy could see the dark green lines that ran down the length of the suit.

“Tony made me a super suit so that I can stop destroying all my clothes, and it can fly!” Jo looked so excited, and a few strands of hair had slipped out of her bun to cling to her flushed cheeks.

“Which is still in the testing process, clearly,” Tony drawled out. Jo glared at him, but Darcy heard the crash so she might have to agree with Tony on this one.

“That’s cool, and I wanna hear all about it later, but I need to talk to you first,” Darcy got out. If she doesn’t do this now, she never will.

“All of us?” Thor asked. Yeah, she didn’t really explain anything earlier. She just asked the big guy to come with her to Tony’s lab, and Thor’s super chill so he didn’t question her. Jo was unzipping the jumpsuit to reveal her shorts and tee shirt, so Darcy waited until she was completely out of the super suit to answer.

“Yeah, all of you.”

A minute later, Jo was sitting on the couch between Tony and Thor while Darcy paced in front of them. This is important, and she really needs to get it out before she drives herself crazy. She wants to tell Tony, because…well, because in some ways he does treat her like a daughter. He ruffles her hair and calls her kid, and he told her a couple of days ago in the lab that she was like a mini-tank. It’s a compliment, because Jo is awesome, but Darcy doesn’t want to be a Tank. Jo’s been training her, along with Natasha, how to fight. Yeah, knowing how to protect herself is cool and all, but they’ve moved on to offensive techniques. Darcy doesn’t want to play offense. As for Thor, he looks after her. He tucks her into bed sometimes, and she can still see the tears that drenched his face when he thought she was dead. He calls her a little warrior, but she doesn’t want to be a warrior.

“Everything okay, kid?” Tony and Jo are holding hands, fingers laced together and everything, and they really do look like weirdly matched parents.

“I’ve, uh, made a decision. About my future,” she said with a little nod. Jo turned to Tony, and Tony looked at Jo with a raised eyebrow.

“Do you think she’s trying to leave the nest?” Jo whispered.

“She doesn’t have a flying suit,” Tony whispered back.

“What decision have you made, Darcy?” Thor asked her. Right, she made a decision. A decision that is very important to her.

“I don’t want to be a fighter. I’m not like you guys,” she said and made sure to look each of them in the eye. Tony fights because he wants to save people, to make up for all the death and destruction that his name caused. Jo fights because that’s just what she’s good at. Thor fights because it’s his duty, his responsibility, as a god and leader.

“No one expects you to—” Darcy raised a hand, and Jo stopped talking.

“No one has said it, but I can see it. The training, the nicknames, the looks…I’ve got some super strength and regeneration stuff, so the logical conclusion is that I should fight. I should help you, but I’m not a fighter. Never have been, and I don’t want to change. I know that I’m a mutant now, but I’m still just Darcy. I majored in political science, I cry when I watch Disney movies, and I don’t want to kill anyone.”

All three of them kept their eyes on her during her little speech, and she could see just a little bit of guilt in their eyes. She doesn’t want them to feel guilty; she just wants them to understand. She’s not tough like them, despite her new abilities. She’s the same girl she’s always been. They all looked down at her last statement, and Darcy wished she was a telepath for just a moment. Are they thinking about the people they’ve killed? Their battles? Because that look is in their eyes, the one that she never wants to have.

“You’re right, Darcy. We should have asked you what you wanted,” Jo finally said. The other mutant is smiling at her, but there’s still a dark look in her eyes.

“I just don’t want to let any of you down,” she whispered.

“Fear not, Darcy. You could never let us down. No matter which path you take, I am proud of you.” Thor’s words nearly had her tearing up, and she shifted a little on her feet as she looked at Tony. He’s the only one that hasn’t said anything yet.

“You minored in business, right?” Okay, not exactly what she was expecting.

“Yeah. Why am I not surprised that you know that?” Is there anything left that Tony hasn’t hacked into?

“Pepper’s been looking for an assistant, but everyone she’s interviewed has fallen short. I can’t just give you the job, Pepper’s the CEO, but I can get you an interview. If you’re interested,” Tony said with a little shrug. For a second, she thought he was trying to get rid of her. Then she saw the way his fingers twitched between Jo’s and the little bit of worry in his eyes. Does she want to assist the CEO of a billion dollar company?

“An interview sounds good to me, and it beats watching you mumble to yourself all day.” She said it with a smile, and she watched as Tony’s shoulders relaxed. She was still smiling when Thor surged to his feet, and she squealed as the god picked her up and spun her around. She could hear him laughing and congratulating her, and she kept catching glimpses of Tony and Jo smiling as she was spun around in circles.

“Master Stark.” Thor slowly came to a stop, and Darcy’s vision was a little dizzy.

“Yeah, JARVIS?”

“Captain Rogers is requesting everyone’s presence in the dining room.” Darcy was standing again, but she was holding onto Thor’s arm to keep from falling.

“We better not keep him waiting then,” Tony said and got up. Jo was tugged up with him, since they’re still holding hands, and Darcy smiled over at them. Her strange little family. Tony ruffled her hair as they walked past, and Jo winked at her. Everything’s going to be okay.

“Bruce!” Jo skipped away from Tony to join the doctor at the elevator, and Darcy lightly patted Tony’s shoulder when he started pouting. Jo popped up onto her toes to kiss Bruce’s cheek, and she had one arm looped through the doctor’s. Once they were close enough, she snagged Tony’s hand and laced their fingers together again.

“Shall we?” Darcy squinted as she looked up at Thor, and she looped her arm through his as they walked into the elevator. They went straight to the dining room, and the first thing Darcy saw was Pepper and Natasha sitting side-by-side at the head of the table. Clint was standing behind Natasha’s chair and had his hands braced against the top of it. On the far side of the table, Maria was talking to Steve and some guy with sunglasses that Darcy didn’t recognize.

“Remy?! What are you doing here?!” Jo was paused just inside the doorway, still holding onto Tony and Bruce, and the dude with the sunglasses looked away from Maria to face her.

“Is that any way to greet an old friend, le char?” The dude was smiling, so that’s a good sign. Right? Jo seemed to shift a little, but she’s smiling. Just a little.

“Depends. Are you here as a friend?” The guy crossed his arms, and he is really stacked. Not Thor-stacked, but he isn’t a little guy. He’s almost as tall as Steve too, and Darcy really wished that she could see behind his dark sunglasses. Who wears sunglasses inside?

“’Fraid not. I came here to get some help.” Oh, that is so not good. No one comes to the Avengers for simple help, so this is a team meeting.

“You gonna introduce us?” Tony not-so-quietly whispered. Jo just blinked at him, like she was processing the words, and then slowly nodded her head.

“Right. This is Tony Stark, Bruce Banner, Thor, and Darcy. Meet Remy LeBeau. What happened?” Jo said quickly. Tony squeezed her hand before moving to sit next to Pepper, and Darcy tugged Thor over to some seats. Jo stayed standing, and Bruce stayed next to her since their arms were still linked.

“I’ll let Agent Hill explain,” the guy, Remy, said with a tight smile. All eyes turned to Maria, and the agent squared her shoulders before she started talking.

“This morning, SHIELD got two separate requests. Victor von Doom is looking for the Fantastic Four, and he is getting too close for comfort. The Fantastic Four are building specially made cells for each escaped prisoner that is found, and they can’t do that and stop Doom. The second request came from the X-Men. Some of their students have recently gone missing, and it’s suspected that they’re being held by Arcade in China.”

“Murderworld?” Jo asked. That doesn’t even sound remotely pleasant, and who has a name like Victor von Doom?

“Murderworld,” Remy sighed.

“What’s that?” She could feel the guy looking at her even through those ridiculous sunglasses, but she’s not taking the question back.

“It’s something of Arcade’s own design. An amusement park filled with traps specifically designed to execute whoever is inside. He took some of the kids?” Jo had looked at Darcy for the first part of the explanation, but she was looking at Remy now.

“They were on a trip, traveling for the summer. When they didn’t come back yesterday, the Professor went lookin’.” Remy has an accent similar to Jo’s, but it’s a little thicker. His tone is lower and his words come out slower.

“So, what’s our plan?” Tony asked. Steve looked at Maria, and they seemed to have a silent conversation. Is everyone in this house trying to become a little telepathic?

“Maria and I discussed who would be best suited for each task, and we think we have it,” Steve said and looked around at all of them.

“Lay it on us,” Clint said when things had been quiet for a little too long.

“Ironman and Eris will go to Greenland and meet up with Thing and the Human Torch. Hawkeye, Thor, and Hulk will assist Gambit in China. Gambit has the coordinates,” Maria said quickly. Gambit, that must be Remy’s codename.

“I thought I wasn’t allowed in China?” Clint got kicked out of a country? How do you get kicked out of a country?

“What the Chinese government doesn’t know won’t hurt them. This is an extraction. If you can catch Arcade, great. If you can’t, we’ll worry about him another day.” Clint nodded at Maria’s words, but Darcy still wants to know why the Chinese government banned him.

“What about me?” Natasha asked. Maria didn’t mention Natasha or Steve when she called out the assignments. (She didn’t mention Darcy either, but that’s because Darcy isn’t an agent.)

“You and Steve are to report to DC, SHIELD headquarters. Trust me, we’ve got plenty for you to do.” Maria isn’t smiling, per se, but she does look a little amused. There’s a twinkle in her eye.

“Alright, you heard the lady. It’s time to get to work,” Steve said. Darcy looked around and realized that everyone was about to be gone, except for her and Pepper. Looks like she decided fighting wasn’t her thing just in time, but she’s already worrying about all of them. What if something happens to them while they’re gone?

The room slowly emptied, until Darcy was sitting alone in the dining room. She didn’t like the look of the empty room, but it won’t be empty forever. They’ll leave and do what they do best, and then they’ll come home. They’ll all come home.
♠ ♠ ♠
I think this chapter had a good balance to it. Humor, a bit of seriousness, and a small cliffhanger! The other person mentioned, Remy/Gambit, is a mutant from the X-Men Universe; feel free to google him. He’s in my top ten favorite X-Men, so I had to bring him in. If there’s any questions, let me know!