Archaic Kinds of Fun

the same ol' killer

“This is the worst kind of timing,” Jo groaned as she pulled out her old green duffel.

“It is?” Bruce is sitting on the end of her bed, because she asked him to stay with her while she packed, and Jo looked over her shoulder at him.

“We just had a big fight, and then there was all the…well, you were there,” she mumbled. The past two days have been an emotional rollercoaster, and she was really looking forward to things going back to normal. Breakfast with everyone, spending time with Darcy and Tony, lunch with Bruce, working on her mental voice while ogling Bruce, cooking dinner with Steve, scrubbing grease out of Tony’s hair, and then collapsing in bed with Bruce at the end of the day. She wants that back.

“This shouldn’t take too long,” Bruce said as she stuffed some more clothes into her duffel. She’s got the super suit now, so she’s packing leggings to go under it. She’ll need jeans for the other times though, when she’s around normal people. Well, the Fantastic Four aren’t exactly normal, but still.

“Hey, you’re not worried about Johnny, are you?” She’s sitting on the floor of her closet, so she can see Bruce if she leans to the side. He doesn’t look particularly worried, but she can feel his thoughts shifting around.

“Should I be?” It was asked with a small smile, and Jo rolled her eyes where he could see before going back to packing. She has more of Tony’s shirts in her closet than she realized.

“Of course not. Johnny’s just a good friend, and I really want this to work. I want us to work.”

“Me too.” His voice was a lot closer, and Jo tipped her head back to meet his eyes. He’s standing in her closet doorway, and he looks just a little too delicious for her to pass up. She reached up to pull on the bottom of his shirt, and she saw a flash of his smile as she pulled him down on top of her. Packing can wait for a few minutes.


“Darcy?” Tony is tossing random pieces of clothing out of his closet, and Pepper is meticulously folding them and placing them in a suitcase. He told her she didn’t have to fold anything, but Pepper just ignored him.

“She’s a great assistant. Picks up on things pretty fast, great listener…I bet if we tested her IQ, it’d be genius level.” He said it in a slightly teasing tone, but he means that. Darcy interned for an astrophysicist, and she’s been helping him for a little over a month. Her mind seems to absorb information; Tony’s pretty sure that she’s an actual genius.

“But you want me to interview her first?” Tony walked out of his closet, because he’s thrown out enough clothes to last for a few days, and he sat down on the bed next to where Pepper was folding.

“Seemed like the most fair thing to do,” Tony shrugged. He should have seen this coming; Darcy may have Jo’s cuddlier traits, but she isn’t a fighter like Jo is. She can fight with her words, Tony has seen her sass up close on more than one occasion, but she’s not a physical fighter.

“Why the change?” Pepper’s eyes flicked over to him, and he squared his shoulders.

“Darcy got her doctorate in political science while working with Dr. Foster and stopped at a master degree in business. She could really do some good with the company, instead of wasting her potential in my lab. Engineering isn’t her passion.” Pepper placed the last folded shirt into his suitcase, and Tony let his forehead press against her stomach as soft hands smoothed up his neck and disappeared into his hair.

“You really do care about her.” Tony and Jo both joke about Darcy being their daughter, but Tony’s pretty sure that they both mean it. Darcy is young and innocent compared to them, and there’s nothing that neither of them wouldn’t do for her.

“Yeah, I do,” he sighed.

“I’ll look after her while you’re gone, I promise,” Pepper whispered. The timing for this could not be any worse; he just proposed to Pepper, they’re finally getting their lives back on track, and now he has to leave. “Now you promise me that you’ll be careful out there.”

“I promise to be careful, and Jo will be there.” Tony’s sure that Jo would jump between him and an explosion; the thought is both terrifying and comforting.

“I just want both of you to come home.” Tony looked up, so that his chin was lightly pressing into Pepper’s stomach instead, and smiled.

“You like her.” Tony knows that Pepper likes Jo. Pepper doesn’t have a problem with Jo practically bathing him, so she has to like the other woman.

“She saved you, and she loves you. How could I not like her?” Tony’s glad that the two women get along, because he can’t imagine having to choose between them. The way he feels for them is so different that choosing would be impossible.

“So, think we have enough time to say goodbye before someone comes looking for us?” Pepper’s laugh was light and warm, and this is what Tony is going to remember when he’s gone. Well, this and what comes after.


Despite taking a timeout to roll around on her closet floor, Jo and Bruce were the first ones back downstairs. The only person waiting in the dining room was Remy, and Jo squeezed Bruce’s hand a little as they walked into the room. She explained who Remy was a little more while Bruce packed, and she tried not to leave anything out. Remy is a friend, even if he did get off to a rocky start with the X-Men. A thief from her home state, really good with violence, and a pair of red eyes hiding behind sunglasses. He’s good with energy. To be more specific, good with making things explode using energy. She’s been on the receiving end of one of his cards, and it’s not a pleasant sensation. Remy’s a good guy now, and he’s been dating Anna Marie for the past few years. Three, actually. It makes things between Remy and Logan a little tense sometimes, but Jo thinks they’re cute together.

“So, does Logan know you’re datin’ the Hulk?” She could feel Bruce shifting next to her, because he told her about Hulk running into Logan in some woods near Toronto.

“It’s just Hulk, I’m dating Bruce, and he knows,” Jo said with a little shrug. She dropped her duffel onto the dining room table, and Bruce carefully sat his suitcase on the floor. Remy raised a brow at her, and Jo had to resist the urge to cross her arms. Holding Bruce’s hand helped with the urge.

“You actually called him and told him?” He’s laughing at her; she can tell.

“I sent him a text,” she confessed. Remy threw his head back in a laugh, and this time Jo squeezed Bruce’s hand to keep from socking the asshole right on the jaw. “It’s not that funny!”

“Explains his mood,” Remy said as the laughter died down. At her confused look, he raised his hands and gentled his smile. “Don’t look at me like that, le char. You know the old man better than any of us. You’ll always be his little girl.”

“I do know him better, which means I know that he needs time to process things. I’ll call him when I’m good and ready,” Jo said. She loves Logan, she really does, but he has a tendency to be a little rash sometimes. He actually punched Johnny the first time they met.

“So, Banner, she treatin’ you good?”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“She treats me the best,” Bruce said and smiled over at her. That’s the kind of smile that makes her insides all fluttery, and one little smile should not be able to do that.

“Are we late?” Jo looked over her shoulder as Tony and Pepper walked in, and she smiled. Well, looks like her and Bruce weren’t the only ones that said a proper goodbye. She’d recognize that glow anywhere. Wait…is she glowing?

“Right on time,” Clint said as he walked inside. Darcy was right behind him, and she was carrying Jade. Thor was right behind her, and the god was in his usual battle gear. It’s a good look. Jo’s a little jealous of the red cape; how can anyone look that good in a red cape?

“Everyone packed?” Maria walked in next, with Steve and Natasha behind her.

“I’ve got two jets on standby,” Tony said and smiled over at the agent.

“And my suit?” Jo asked him. He patted one of his cases, so they’re all covered. Jo kissed Bruce’s cheek before letting go of his hand, and she walked over to Darcy. She felt Tony’s arm brush hers, and Darcy looked back and forth between them.

“I expect both of you back in the same condition you left in,” she finally said.

“I think we can manage that. You just take care of yourself while we’re gone,” Jo said and leaned forward to give her a hug.

“And no wild parties. We’ll know, no matter how much you clean,” Tony said as he hugged her. Jo let her thoughts touch against Tony’s, and they both reached forward to rest a hand on her shoulders.

“We love you, kid.” Darcy reached up with the hand not holding a chicken to grip Tony’s wrist and leaned her cheek against the top of Jo’s hand.

“I love you too. Now, go kick some Doom ass.” They both hugged her, just one more time, and then moved back over to Bruce and Pepper so she could say her goodbyes to Thor.

“You okay?” Bruce whispered once she was back at his side.

“Yeah, I just hate having to split up. It’ll probably just be for a couple of days, right?” She can hear everyone talking around her, but she’s mostly focused on Bruce right now. She’s really going to miss him.

“Probably,” Bruce agreed.

“Cars are here!” Tony called out. Two cars were waiting outside, one headed for the airfield and the other to DC. Maria, Steve, and Natasha got into one car while all the others piled into the other car. Jo tried not to look back at Pepper and Darcy, standing alone in front of the mansion, but she couldn’t help looking over her shoulder. Just one more time.

Tony drove, with Clint in the passenger seat, so Jo sat in the back with everyone else. She was mostly plastered against Bruce’s side and idly running her fingers through the back of his hair while Remy told them more about Arcade. Jo never had to fight him, not that fighting him is the problem. Arcade doesn’t have any kind of superpower, except for a high intelligence. No, it’s his creations that are the problems. Jo knows that he’s killed his fair share of people by trapping them in the macabre amusement parks, and she’s worried about the kids. They might not be kids that she personally knows, but they’re like her. Just some mutant kids that wanted to see a little bit of the world, and it all went horribly wrong.

“See you soon?” The car ride went by too fast, and she really doesn’t want to say goodbye. She’s got a job to do though; all she has to do is kick Victor von Doom’s ass, again, and then she can come home.

“Sooner than soon,” she replied with a smile. They’re on a tight schedule, so Jo barely had time to kiss Bruce goodbye before she was being pushed onto one of Tony’s jets.

“JARVIS, get us in the air.” Tony’s sitting in the pilot’s seat, and Jo collapsed into one of the seats behind him. They were quiet during takeoff, and Jo waited until they were streaking through the air before standing up.

"So, uh, before we get there...we should talk. I kinda dated Johnny Storm, for a little while. For a year.”

“What?!” It’s gonna be a long ride.


“It’s so quiet with everyone gone.” Darcy’s voice was quiet, but it still echoed just a little in the foyer. Pepper’s bare feet made a little sound on the tiled floor, and Darcy tipped her head just the tiniest bit to meet the other woman’s eyes. She still doesn’t know what to make of Pepper sometimes. Tony loves her. Jo trusts her. She can’t be that bad, right?

“Then let’s make some noise, hmm?” The redhead’s smile had a little bit of mischief in it, and Darcy raised a brow. Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.


“Alright, guys, we’re going in under the radar so it might take a little while. Get some rest while you can,” Clint announced. He’s their pilot, because he’s the only one of them that knows how to operate a jet. Bruce scooted down in his seat just a little, to get more comfortable, and closed his eyes.

“You don’t have to worry about Jo.” When Bruce looked over, Remy was slumped in his seat and looked like he was sleeping. It was hard to tell because of the sunglasses.

“I’m not worried about Jo.” He knows that Jo is a capable fighter, and she’s not fighting alone.

“You sure ‘bout that? I know where she’s goin’.” Oh. No, Bruce isn’t worried about that either. He trusts Jo, completely.

“I trust her,” Bruce said simply. Remy hummed but didn’t say anything else, so Bruce closed his eyes again.

January 2007

Regeneration. It’s a fancy way of saying that she heals up real quick, but she doesn’t always get to choose what regenerates. She can slow down her healing or force it to speed up if she wants to, but the only thing that heals is what her body considers to be a wound. Gun shots? Heal. Broken bones? Heal. An exploding fucking arrow in her throat? Heal. A shaved head? No heal. It’s been a little over two months since she was rescued (it was a rescue, it was), and her hair has grown just a little over an inch. The light brown strands are soft to the touch, but it’s not enough.

Everything about her is wrong. When she speaks, she doesn’t recognize the gravel tone of her own voice. When she looks in the mirror, she flinches back from the angry dark eyes and the sharp jut of her bones. Whenever she relaxes, even if only for a moment, voices swarm into her mind until she starts to drown. Every part of her is tense, her mind is an angry snarl under a constant attack, and she jumps with every little movement. That one agent, Clint Barton, he helps. He treats her like she’s just another person, but that’s because he doesn’t know. He didn’t know her before, so he doesn’t know that she’s wrong.

The Professor knew. When she stepped off the plane in New York, behind Logan and Anna Marie, he was waiting for them. Maybe it’s because he’s a better telepath than her (it’s wrong), but he knew she wanted to run. She was never going to go back to the school; she can’t sleep in the same place where the old her slept, because it’s wrong. She’s not the same person; something is missing. (She’s still missing.) The Professor sent her away, to someone that could help her. Dizzy Mears was a telepath and completely insane, and the woman made her feel like she was being buried alive. Kept pushing her to learn control, to learn some new tricks, but she doesn’t want to learn. So Dizzy taught her how to put blocks in her mind, to keep the voices out, and threw her out. Told her not to come back until she got over herself and was ready to really learn.

She brought in the New Year with Dizzy, but she’s not hiding out in the mountains anymore. Clint found her, wandering around in a country that she couldn’t pronounce. He’d grabbed her hand from the shadows and pulled her into a warehouse that should’ve been condemned, and they danced. There was no music, so they took turns humming and singing, and it’s the closest she’s come to peace in a really long time. She needed to get back to New York, to Logan and Anna Marie, but she’s still not herself. They knew her, but she doesn’t know who she is now. Clint offered her a job, with SHIELD, and she took it. Logan doesn’t really trust SHIELD, says they just want to use mutants to do their dirty work, but maybe she needs a distraction.

The guy they’ve put her with is only a few years older than her, and he’s new to the whole superpower thing. He’s got the control part down, but he’s still learning. He wants to use his powers to help people, so he asked Fury for a job. (That was her end game, before. Travel around a bit and then return to the school, to offer her abilities to the Professor. To help others like her.) She doesn’t like Johnny Storm. He’s loud, too loud to be any kind of undercover agent, and he won’t stop laughing. Mostly at her. He doesn’t know who she used to be. Doesn’t understand that her short hair wasn’t a choice, that she’s tense because she doesn’t want to hear anything, and that she’s angry because those doctors took something away from her when they added the telepathy. They might as well have killed her, because she can’t even recognize herself.

“You gotta lighten up, Holbrook,” Johnny said as he tossed himself backwards onto the bed. Honeymooners. They’re supposed to be newlyweds. Who honeymoons in Greenland? The resort is nice, but she hates the cold.

“Don’t use that name, you idiot! We’re—”

“Yeah, yeah, I know, but there’s no one else around. Tell it to me straight.” He’s twisted around now so that he’s lying with his head at the foot of bed, and his feet keep bouncing off the headboard. She’s sitting in a chair, so that she can look out the window. She doesn’t like the look in his blue eyes. “Have you ever smiled in your life? Like, ever?”

“I’ll smile at your funeral. Big grin. Teeth and all,” she promised and looked away from him. Her cheeks are still sunken in, because she can’t seem to keep food down. Everything tastes like…ashes. Before, her cheeks were round. There’s a dimple in her left cheek when she really smiles. Is it still there?

“Such a downer.”

February 2007

“It’s not my fault, you know,” she said with a little giggle. More of a chuckle. It would have been a giggle, before, but her voice is too rough for such a delicate sound now.

“What’s not?” Johnny asked with a laugh of his own. They went to a party that the resort hosted, and they were able to get some more information on the other guests. There were drinks, a lot of drinks, and she can’t remember the last time she felt this light.

“The…grr-ness. Not my fault,” she clarified. They’re walking down the hallway, weaving and leaning against each other, but they’re almost to their room now.

“Whose fault is it? I’ll fight ‘em!” Johnny yelled as he tripped through their doorway. She followed in after him and leaned against the closed door. Johnny is sprawled out on the floor, but he twisted around so that he’s lying on his back and looking up at her.

“Can’t. They’re all locked up now, and it serves ‘em right! Locked us up, didn’t they? I hope someone is cuttin’ into ‘em. Chippin’ off pieces of ‘em. ‘Til they can’t even recognize themselves anymore. That’s a fittin’ punishment for ‘em. The bastards.” Johnny’s eyes had widened throughout her slurred speech, and she can see it in his eyes. The recognition.

“The facility that SHIELD took down a few months ago. The one that was experimenting on humans and mutants. You were there?” Her arms wrapped around her ribcage, and she’s still too thin. Too tense. Too angry.

“You would’ve liked me, before. I was nicer. I smiled more. Everyone told me I had pretty hair.” They took it all away from her. She heals, she always heals, but not this. Not her hair. Not her ruined body. Not her changed brain. Johnny sat up and reached for her, and she let her palms slide against his. She’s still stronger than a human, but she doesn’t have the same strength she used to.

“I know you now.” Johnny pulled down on her until she was kneeling in front of him, knees between his spread thighs, and his hands are hot against her cold skin. She’s always cold here. “And I like your hair.”

“Liar.” It’s said with a sob hidden behind a laugh, and Johnny reached up to rub a hand across the top of her head. Her hair has grown about two and a half inches now, but it’s not enough.

“It’s soft,” Johnny said with a smile. She felt like crying, but she learned that crying doesn’t help anything. So she leaned forward to thank Johnny with a kiss, that never really seemed to end.

July 2007

“Can you believe them?” She’s spread out across a bed and popping bites of pizza into her mouth. Johnny is spread out next to her, and she can feel his bare skin sliding against hers every time he reaches for the pizza box.

“They made a few good points.” She huffed, but he’s not wrong. Their undercover mission was a distraction, so that Clint and Natasha could actually sneak in and get the bad guys. According to Clint, that’s a good thing because her and Johnny suck at the undercover thing. (Natasha made a remark about it being a good thing they actually started sleeping together or the case would’ve completely fallen apart.)

“I think we were an okay team,” she said and smiled over at him. They were a horrible team, because neither of them are good at lying or at being subtle. Still, these last few months have really helped her. Johnny’s been good to her. He holds her when she wakes up from her nightmares and then chases the thoughts away with his heat. The first time he fed her while they were in bed, she tasted cherries instead of ashes. Her curves are starting to come back, and her hair is growing. It’s close to her chin now.

“We’re definitely compatible,” he agreed. Johnny makes her laugh, which is something she forgot how to do for a while. She’s not sure if they’ll work out in the real world, outside of their undercover bubble, but she’s willing to try.

“So, you’re done with SHIELD work.” Johnny sighed and rolled onto his back, and she hooked a foot over his leg.

“Yeah, I’m done. You?” She met his eyes, his pretty blue eyes, and shrugged a little.

“They promised no more undercover work, so I think I’ll stick with it. Just for a little while.” She’s still not who she used to be, but there’s echoes of that girl in her now.

“And when you’re not working?” Johnny’s smile was teasing and beautiful, and she laughed as he rolled on top of her. Maybe this can work.

November 2007

“Your sister hates me,” she whispered. She’s joining the Fantastic Four for Thanksgiving dinner, and Johnny’s sister has mastered the art of glaring. (It’s nothing compared to Natasha’s glare. Or Fury’s. Or Logan’s even. But she wants this to work.)

“She doesn’t hate you. She just…we hear the rumors, you know. Tank, really?” Johnny’s looking at her with an eyebrow raised, because they’re hiding in his bedroom. Susan Storm had said she didn’t need any help with the cooking, so she ran. And Johnny ran with her.

“It wasn’t my idea.” She kinda likes the nickname, actually. Before leaving school, they gave her the name Eris. For chaos. The Tank imagery is a little bit more fun.

“Have you earned it?” They call her Tank because she rolls over her enemies and leaves nothing but broken bodies behind her. It took a couple of months, but they found her specialty. She doesn’t like weapons and she sucks at being a spy, but she’s really good at killing. Too good.

“Little bit,” she admitted. Johnny sighed, but he still shuffled his feet over to her. The heat of him always calms her down, and she buried her face against his neck. Johnny doesn’t like that she kills people, so they don’t talk about her SHIELD assignments. When they’re together, it’s just the two of them.

“Love you,” he whispered into her hair. She tightened her fingers in the fabric of his shirt and took a slow breath.

“Love you too. Now, let’s go see if we can set the table or something. Anything to get me into Sue’s good graces.”

“Maybe you should start by not calling her Sue?”

April 2008

“Why’d you do it?” Jo felt her arms tensing at the quiet words; she’s pretty sure that she’s never heard Johnny sound that quiet. It’s not in his nature.

“They were mercenaries, Johnny. They were hired to kill Reed. Not to kidnap him and talk about their big plan just long enough for the rest of you to show up and save him. They were going to kill him.” She showered, scrubbed herself down twice, but her hands are itchy. Like they’re still covered in dried blood.

“You could have just subdued them. You didn’t have to—”

“Didn’t have to what?” She’s standing now, so that only their bed is standing between them.

“Kill them. You didn’t have to kill them.” His eyes looked away from hers as he said it, and Jo felt her hands clenching into fists at her sides.

“Those were my orders.” SHIELD gave her orders, and she followed them. She did as she was told. “Don’t look so surprised. You’ve always known what I do. Like this is the first time?”

“I didn’t want to see it!” His eyes are so bright, and the room feels a little bit hotter.

“So you can know about it as long as it doesn’t affect you?! Is that it?! We’re supposed to be partners! My burdens are yours and all that! Remember?!”

“Reed asked you not to. I asked you not to! You didn’t have to do that!”

“Maybe I wanted to!” She just took on a dozen mercenaries for these people; parts of her body are still sore from gunshots, and all she wanted was to forget about it all for a little while with Johnny. Instead he’s attacking her.

“I know that place really fucked you up, but—”

“Yes, it fucked me up! But I’m not some kind of monster! They wanted to hurt Reed, to hurt you, so I took care of it! What’s so wrong with that?!” She caught a flash of disappointment in Johnny’s eyes before he could look away, and Jo just couldn’t stop the anger that was crawling up her throat. “The least you can do is look at me!”

“I don’t even know who I’m looking at!”

“The same girl you’ve been looking at for the past year!” They’re staring each other down now, breathing hard, and Jo’s starting to sweat from the heat in the room.

“Dammit, Jo, I love you! But not like this!” The words feel like a slap, and Jo actually took a step back. Not like this…he loves her, but not the killing part of her. Too bad for him, that’s pretty much all she is these days. They don’t call her the Tank because she cuddles her enemies into submission. She’s a killer. A killer.

“You love the idea of me. You think I’m just some broken little girl that you can save? That you can fix? This is who I am! When I’m not with you, I’m out killing someone! If you can’t accept that, can’t accept me…”

“What?! Don’t stop there! Finish it!” Jo marched around the end of the bed until she was within grabbing distance, and she reached up to place her hands on either side of his face. His beautiful face, that’s twisted in anger. Anger at her. At them.

“I use this hands to kill, and I’m very good at it. I’m not gonna stop, Johnny, just because you don’t like it. Can you deal with that? Or am I wasting my time here?”

“Jo.” His hands twisted in her hair and pulled hard enough to make her eyes prick with tears, and his kiss was so rough that she tasted blood when he pulled back.

“Say it, Johnny. You gotta say it,” she whispered. His forehead is pressed against hers, they’re pressed together from chest to knee, and she’s holding onto his shoulders so tight that her fingers are starting to hurt.

“Goodbye, Jo.” She wants to cry, she can feel the need to scream clawing at the bottom of her throat, but not here. She tore herself away from Johnny before she caved in and swore to never kill again, and she grabbed her bag from the closet. Her bag that’s always packed, ready to be picked up so she can move on. It’s been a little over a year, but she’s always been ready to go.

“Goodbye, Johnny.”

December 2008

“What do you want, Johnny?” She’s sitting on top of the Statue of Liberty, watching the lights under her and tipping her head back to look at the stars. (Tony Stark is hidden in a cave, with an ache in his chest that never goes away and plotting his escape. Bruce Banner is in South America, trying desperately to be good and to find a cure. Darcy Lewis is sitting in a bedroom alone, headphones blaring to keep her focused on a mixture of high school work and college essays.)

“Can’t let you spend your birthday alone, can I? Even though we’ll never top last year.” Jo laughed, a quiet and feeble thing, and resisted the urge to look at him. She got to spend her twenty-first birthday with Johnny Storm, and it was a good night. A night that she’ll never forget, even though thinking about him hurts sometimes.

“I’m getting used to being alone, and it’s just another day.” She felt Johnny sit down next to her, even though he never actually touched her. The heat of him is almost like a physical thing.

“It’s the celebration of your birth.” He knocked his foot against hers, and she felt herself tense.

“Yeah? And who’s going to celebrate that?” Her eyes met his, and she felt like jumping. It probably won’t kill her, but it’s still tempting. It’s been a rough few months since she left Johnny.

“The people that love you.” She snorted, just as indelicately as always, and let her head fall back. Logan and Anna Marie tell her that they love her, but it’s been a long time since she saw either of them. She doesn’t want them to see her; to see who she is now, because they know who she used to be. She thinks that Clint loves her, sometimes, when they’re dancing. It’s a fleeting thing, just when their hands are touching, and she’s always alone after the music stops.

“Not many of those left.” Sometimes, she’s worried that she made a mistake. Maybe she never should have left that day. She can’t give up the SHIELD assignments though. Having a job to do, some kind of purpose, is the only thing that keeps her sane most days. She loved Johnny, probably still does, but it wasn’t enough.

“I’m still here.” She looked over at him, with her head still tipped back, and he smiled at her. Not one of the smiles that was aimed at her with the purpose of getting her into bed; it was one of his rare smiles, that just wanted to let her know that he meant what he said.

“Are we going to be friends now?” she asked with a smile of her own.

“Why not? If other couples can pull it off, we definitely can.” Johnny’s smile has always been infectious, and the pulling muscles on her face feel foreign. It’s been a while since she smiled this much.

“I haven’t changed, you know. I’m still the same ol’ killer I’ve always been.” When she was younger, her mother told her that her strength would help her protect others. Like a brave knight. It’s a good thing her mother can’t see what she’s become.

“Yeah, I know. So, friends?” He looks so hopeful, and Jo’s never been able to resist a pretty face.

“I guess we can try it out.” Johnny whooped, loud enough to get a small laugh out of her, and she didn’t tense up when he threw an arm around her shoulders. Friends. Yeah, maybe that could work. She could use some more friends.

June 2011

She was sitting out on the balcony, one leg thrown over the railing, and looking up at the sky. There’s something about the sky that just calms her, at any point. Fluffy blue clouds, dark storm clouds, shining stars…all of it is comforting to her. Puts her at peace. She was in the same place when she heard the balcony door open, and she tore her eyes away from the sky to smile at the owner of the balcony she was currently perched on.

“I retired, officially. I’m done. I’m free.” She worked for SHIELD for five years, and she never once complained. She’s not a model agent, true, but she always got the job done. Now it’s time for her to rest.

“Did you sneak up here to win me back, Holbrook?” The years have barely touched Johnny at all; he stills looks just as good as he did on that first job, in Greenland. A smirk on his face and a promise in his blue eyes. Falling back in love with Johnny would probably be easy, like diving into water, but it’s too late for that.

“Our ship sailed long ago, and caught fire. I’m here, as a friend, to ask another friend his thoughts on Amsterdam?” Her smiles have been coming easier, like a weight has been lifted off of her.

“Amsterdam, huh? That’s how we’re gonna celebrate your retirement?” Johnny braced his hands on the railing next to where her foot is keeping her balanced, and she dropped her chin onto her upraised knee as he smiled at her.

“Just a thought. You can always say no,” she shrugged.

“Well, as your friend, I can’t let you go alone.” The feeling that’s wrapping around her is warm, different than what she’s used to, but she likes it. Her only plan is that she has no plan, for the first time in five years, and she’s with a friend.

“Hey, Johnny?” He met her eyes, and she rose up so that she was sitting with her back straight. “Catch me.”

“Dammit, Holbrook!” She was laughing when Johnny caught her in midair a moment later, and the sound came from somewhere under her sternum and echoed in the air around her. She’s free.

September 1, 2014

“Doesn’t sound like a simple breakup to me, sweetheart.” Jo narrowed her eyes at him, but Tony’s not taking the statement back. Tony knows breakups, and that one was rough. Jo and Johnny might be friends now, but it’s a lucky thing.

“Okay, so, maybe simple wasn’t the right word. Johnny and I are okay now though. Me and Ben are cool too. It’s the other two that don’t like me so much,” she shrugged. He’s butted heads with Richards a few times over the years. Despite that, he’s always respected the other man. If he says something mean to Jo, Tony might have to kick his ass. No one talks about his bodyguard.

“Because you killed a few hired killers?” Yeah, it sounds a little bad no matter how he says it. None of them are sparkling clean, and he’s not going to judge Jo for her past. Or her present. Or anything she might do in the future.

“That’s Reed’s biggest problem with me, yeah. Sue mostly dislikes me because I broke her brother’s heart, which is kinda ridiculous. Maybe it wasn’t the easiest breakup in the world, but we both moved on. Johnny got over it, so I don’t know why Sue can’t,” Jo huffed and crossed her arms. Looks like his all-powerful bodyguard is pouting.

“Family thing?” He’s obviously going to take Jo’s side if anything comes up, but he’s not going to lie to Jo now.

“I guess. Don’t you do that honorable defending thing if one of them says something. I can handle myself just fine.” They’ll be landing soon, and the Fantastic Four will be there to meet them.

“And pass up the opportunity to fight for you for a change? I don’t think so.” She rolled her eyes at his wide smile, but he’s actually serious. If Jo can put herself between certain danger and him, he can at least make sure that no one badmouths her.

“Hey, we’re fighting together this time, remember? Teamwork and all that.” Her hand went in a circle as her wrist rolled, and she looks so peaceful. Like they’re not about to meet up with her ex and people who think of her as some kind of murdering monster. Not to mention the going after Doom thing.

“How do you think the others are doing?” he asked her. It’s not easy for him to be away from Pepper, so he can’t imagine it’s easy for her and Bruce. Especially since what they have is so new.

“I imagine they’re sitting around, telling old war stories, and sneaking into China because Clint doesn’t know what subtlety is. Then again, that was mostly Uncle Wade’s fault.”

“And what is that?” How does one get banned from an entire country?

“Classified.” Jo’s smile dimpled her left cheek, and it was Tony’s turn to roll his eyes with a huff. He’ll get it out of her before they go back home.

“Alright, prepare for landing.”


“Ready for your first meeting?” Darcy is standing just outside of her closet and looking into the mirror hanging on the back of the door, and she can see Pepper framed in her bedroom doorway.

“I look ready,” was her answer. She’s wearing a business suit, dark blue pants and jacket with a pale pink blouse under it. Her hair is pinned up behind her, and it looks a lot neater than one of Jo’s sloppy buns. Low heels. Light makeup.

“You’re going to do fine, Darcy. You’re just observing today.” Pepper’s smile is so gentle and calming; where did she learn to do that? Pepper interviewed her last night, in between baking a lot of cookies and dancing across the foyer in their socks. It was loud, and it was fun. Louder and more fun than she was expecting. She should know better by now; you can’t judge a book by its cover.

“I know, but I want to do this right.” For herself. For Tony. For Jo and Thor. She wants to make her makeshift family proud of her, and she wants to feel proud of herself too.

“You will.” Pepper’s hand on her shoulder was a warm light weight, and Darcy met her eyes in the mirror. They all believe in her, and she can hold onto that until she learns how to really believe in herself. (Without reaching Tony’s level of narcissism, of course.)

“Alright, let’s do this!”


“Lookin’ good, Holbrook!”

“Never as good as you, Johnny!” He caught her in a hug just as she stepped off the jet platform, and a little bit of the tension she was carrying eased as he spun around twice before setting her on the ground. A rocky hand clapped against her shoulder, and she smiled up at Ben. “Hiya, Grimm. How’s it been?”

“Been good, kid, until recently.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll help you take care of Doom. I can’t believe he got free.”

“We had the same thought, Josephine.” The voice was calm, and Jo felt something near the base of her spine tingle.

“No need for the passive aggressive, Sue. I haven’t forgotten our last conversation.” It was right after Amsterdam, when she was dropping Johnny off. Susan Storm, because she hadn’t married Reed yet, made sure that Jo knew what she thought of her. None of it was good.

“There’s no kind of aggression here, Jo,” Reed said with a placating smile. The man has never been a fan of confrontation.

“Does that mean you’re okay with my…what was it? choices now?” She’s an adult, and those old words don’t hurt the way they used to. Still, confrontation is what she’s good at.

“We’ll always see things differently, but I am glad to have your help.”

“Good, because I never travel without my bodyguard.” Tony draped an arm around her shoulders as he stopped beside her, and she leaned so that her hip was pressing against him. That’s the boss she knows and loves.

“Mister Stark. Thank you for coming.” Reed’s so nice, even if they do disagree on some things, and Sue won’t even look at her anymore. Johnny’s wiggling his eyebrows at her. She gives it twenty seconds and he’ll be making kissy faces too.

“Well, Jo said she likes you four alive, so we decided to come.” Yep, there’s the kissy face. It’s good to know that Johnny hasn’t changed a bit since the last time she saw him.

“Thank you both.” Sue’s eyes flicked over to her but quickly moved back to Tony. Fair enough.

“We’re here because we want to help. So, where’s Doom been lurking?”


The jet touched down outside of Beijing, near an abandoned amusement park. From what little Bruce could see, it wasn’t even halfway finished before becoming abandoned. The jet was put down in an empty parking lot, and they all took a moment to get ready. Thor and Remy already had what they needed, Clint was packing on weapons, and Bruce stripped down to his Hulk shorts. Once they were ready, Clint opened the platform and led the way out. They didn’t get far.

“Boo!” Clint moved so fast that Bruce could barely track him, raising his bow and firing a shot just as everyone else registered the shout, and a figure fell from the top of the jet. Loud cussing filled the air, and a man jumped to his feet so that he was standing in front of Clint. With an arrow through his head.

“Hey! You’re banned from here too!” Clint yelled and pointed at the man with his bow. Red suit that completely covers him, a shot through the brain that hasn’t killed him or slowed him down, this has to be…

“Deadpool, what are you doin’ here?” Remy asked. Jo likes to call him Uncle Wade. She hasn’t talked about the older mutant much, just enough for him to know that Jo genuinely cares for him.

“That ban was totally unfair, for starters. For two, I heard,” he paused to finish pulling the arrow out and tossed it back to Clint before continuing, “that Arcade asshat had some little mutant babies. I’m just here for the children.”

“You could be working for him for all we know,” Clint pointed out. Deadpool gasped and raised his hands to cover his heart, and the mutant is impossible to read.

“I would never! Well, maybe once, but that was different! Those douche canoes deserved it!”

“We should not turn down a friend,” Thor said quietly. Like Bruce, the god is looking at Deadpool like he’s some kind of undiscovered species.

“Deadpool ain’t a friend. Isn’t that right?” The mask shifted so that it looked like Deadpool was glaring at Remy, but it sounded like he was humming when he looked back at Clint.

“C’mon, Clinton, you know I’d never let anyone kill ya. It’d make our little Josie sad, and we can’t have that. Just here to help. Pinky promise.” Deadpool actually extended his pinky finger, and Bruce felt more than a little confused when Clint stepped forward and shook the mercenary’s little finger with his own. Is this something they do regularly?

“That goes for everyone, Uncle Wade. We all come out.”

“Scout’s honor! To the kids!”

“Wait! How long have you been here?!” Clint was following Deadpool into what looked like a replica of a medieval town, and Bruce just shrugged when Thor looked down at him. He doesn’t really know what to make of Deadpool, but Jo trusts him. No, not trust, not completely. Jo loves him, so that will have to do for now.

“Hitched a ride on the jet!”

“You were on the jet?!”

“Since Spain!”

“He’s gonna get us all killed,” Remy said with a sigh and started after them.

“If he cannot be trusted—”

“Jo trusts him,” Bruce said before Thor could finish. It’s a small lie, since Jo said she was never sure just how trustworthy Deadpool was at any given moment.

“Then we shall have to trust her,” Thor said with a little smile. Bruce nodded and finally got Hulk to stir. It’s time for him to take the backseat now.
♠ ♠ ♠
This one was pretty long and had a lot in it, so take a moment to let it all sink in. Okay! So, more was revealed about Jo’s past. If there’s any questions about the flashbacks, I’m more than happy to answer! There was a little bit of Darcy, because I can’t leave her out. And Deadpool! He’s going to be around for a few chapters, so you know there’s some fun scenes to come. Thank you to everyone reading!

Oh! Last time I forgot to put that “le char” is French for “tank.” At least, I think it is. If it’s a bad translation, please let me know and I’ll change it immediately.