Archaic Kinds of Fun

just a small part of a bigger plot

September 5, 2014

Friday, finally. Skye Bennet looks forward to Fridays for the same reason that all people who hate their jobs look forward to the last day of the work week. For two days, she’ll get to sleep in. She won’t have to answer calls and ask people to turn their computer off, then back on again. All of that time spent at university, wasted. She works at a call center, she has a regular routine…she’s not like she thought she’d be when she grew up. Wasn’t her life supposed to be exciting? Meaningful? Not this. She watched as her clock ticked over to six, and she slapped the snooze button before the blaring alarm could reach past her thin walls and wake up the neighbors.

One more week down. An eternity of boredom left to go.


“Please tell me I’m not the only one that’s dying of boredom,” Doreen groaned and slumped over the table. Thor lightly patted the girl on the back and then returned to his lunch, and Jo could see a calculating look in Clint’s eyes. That look always means trouble.

“Well, with the scientists all holed up, it has been pretty boring. I can only spar so many times,” she sighed. Bruce and Tony spend pretty much all of their waking time in the lab with Reed and Sue, which is totally fine with Jo. They’re helping Reed and Sue, and it’s a pretty important cause. Still, she’s sparred with all the others. Took on Johnny and Ben at the same time yesterday in a tag-team match with Doreen. It was pretty fun, but she does feel a little stir crazy.

“Maybe we should take a field trip?” Clint asked. Doreen and Johnny both perked up, but Ben started shaking his head.

“Nope. I’m staying out of this one,” the big guy said before walking off. Jo pouted, because Ben is the only person that can really keep Johnny in check, but she understands his refusal. Clint’s ideas are usually a combination of the best and worst ideas ever; it’s just hard to tell the different until it’s all over.

“What’d you have in mind?” Doreen asked with a similar look in her eye. Oh Thor, there’s another one. Thor met her eyes after the little thought, and she shrugged at the god’s curious gaze.

“If you get arrested, I’m leaving you there overnight this time. No matter how much you beg,” Jo told him.

“I don’t beg,” Clint said and stubbornly crossed his arms.

“You do when you’re drunk, look like a drowned rat, and have just been placed in a cold cell.” Clint rolled his eyes but didn’t argue with her, so she’s taking that as a win.

“Do you want to hear my amazing plan or not?”

“Yeah, let’s hear what brilliance you’ve come up with this time.”


“You know I only get an hour on my lunchbreak, right?” Darcy said as she quickly shoveled in a bite of a granola bar. Okay, so she might, possibly, still be doing some paperwork. It’s light paperwork though! She’s also still eating, because she’s not gonna turn into Tony and depend on someone to literally bring her food to her to remind her to eat. She’s not that far gone yet.

“I promise to take tantalizing pictures of Clinton,” Jo sang over the line. That’s just…well, rude and presumptive. Which is what she told the other mutant and sent her into peals of laughter. She should’ve known better. “I’ll throw in some fun pictures of Thor while I’m at it.”

“You’ll make sure the big guy has fun?” Darcy’s not really sure where she’d be without Thor. He’s the one that dropped her name to Tony, and that one decision has really changed her life. She has a family, as weird as they might be, and she’s changed. That’s obvious, what with the recently discovered mutant genes and everything, but she has changed without really changing at all. If anything, she feels more like herself than she ever has before.

“You know I will, kid. We’ll all be careful, safe, and somewhat responsible.” That got a laugh out of Darcy, which is what Jo was probably aiming for.

“Okay, fine. Did you pack anything that’s not leggings and Tony’s shirts?” Her tone sounded skeptical, because that’s pretty much all that Jo wears these days. Well, sometimes there’s a pair of shorts or one of Bruce’s shirts.

“Oh, ye of little faith,” Jo said and Darcy heard the sounds of clothes rustling.

“I can’t tell if this is the best or worst plan ever,” Darcy said as she waited for Jo to find what she was looking for.

“Probably a mix of both. That’s how Clint’s plans always go.”

“This is Clint’s plan?!” Jo’s laughter sounded like it could shake the phone, and Darcy leaned back in her chair and away from distracting paperwork. Time to get the whole story.


Skye isn’t a big fan of lunch. The other employees don’t really like her all that much, so she normally eats alone. She’d tried being friendly when she first started working, but the employee roster was mostly made up of struggling college students that resented her degree and people twenty years her senior that resented her youth. Both were annoying, but she’d still tried. Nothing worked though, so she resigned herself to lonely lunches behind the big building. There’s a nice picnic table out in the sunlight, and she likes to feel the warmth on her skin.

“Hello.” She nearly choked on the grape she was chewing as her eyes popped open, and she spun around to look at the other side of the table. Bright green eyes met hers, and the woman is absolutely stunning. She doesn’t work in the call center; Skye would remember. Maybe she works somewhere else in the company?

“Oh, um, hi,” Skye said once she realized she was staring. The woman smiled, her full lips parting just enough to show perfectly straight and white teeth. She’s pretty sure she’s never seen someone with such perfect bone structure.

“Skye, is it?” The woman’s bright green eyes had flicked down to Skye’s nametag, but this woman isn’t wearing a nametag. All she can see is a dark green blouse and a black jacket, and her brown hair is in a professional looking bun.

“That’s me,” she said with a little smile.

“Such an odd name. Your given name is much prettier, don’t you think?” Skye felt something like ice run through her veins; she suddenly felt cold and a little shaky, but the woman just kept on smiling at her.

“Given name?” Skye asked.

“Yes, the name your birth mother gave you. It’s prettier than the name that your adoptive family gave you, so I don’t know why you kept the changed name. It’s not like that family kept you, did they?” No, there’s no way…this woman can’t know anything about Skye’s past. Skye deleted all of her old records, all of them, so she could start over. She didn’t want to just be some orphan, who was nearly immediately adopted by a family and given back to the orphanage just a few weeks later.

“How do you—”

“Shh, Skye, now is not the time for your questions.” The woman raised an arm up and her jacket slid back enough to reveal a small watch on her thin wrist.

“Who are you?” The question slipped out of her, and she saw the woman smile again as she tapped a finger against the glass plate over the watch.

“My name is Viper.”

“I’m guessing that’s not your given name,” Skye couldn’t help herself from saying. The smile was gone when the woman looked back up, and there was something dark in her bright eyes.

“You should probably start running now, Skye. You might have a chance if you go now.” Skye felt her brows pulling together in confusion, right before a small explosion hit the center of the picnic table. No, not an explosion. Smaller. A bullet. “Then again, maybe it’s too late for you.”

The person is shooting at her, and she doesn’t have time to find out why. She heard the woman laughing as she scrambled to her feet and started running, and she stumbled as a bullet tore through her hand. A neat hole went through her left hand, but she didn’t let it slow her down. The pain was like nothing she’d ever felt before, but she can’t stop running. She won’t make it easy for whoever is after her to kill her. She ducked into an alley just as another bullet hit the sidewalk next to her, and she heard a few people screaming as they realized what had happened. So much for another boring day at work.


“Ugh, I am exhausted,” Darcy groaned and let her head thunk against the countertop. She’s sitting at the bar, her heels have been kicked off, and she’s ready for the world’s longest nap. Who knew being a CEO’s top assistant would be so draining? She thought she’d be fetching Pepper’s coffee and answering calls, but Pepper has given her so much responsibility. Possibly too much. When did she become an adult?

“I’ve got some bath salts to help with your feet, if you want to use them after dinner?” Darcy forced her head up, so that her chin was on the bar, and met the woman’s pretty blue eyes.

Everyone has been gone for nearly a week, like one day shy of a week, so she’s spent a lot of time with the older woman. Pepper is nothing like Jo, who has become some weird mixture of Darcy’s older sister and mother figure, but there are a few similarities. Blink and you’ll miss them. Pepper is a bit quieter and has a more dry sense of humor, which is the opposite of Jo’s loud presence and ability to laugh at even the dumbest of jokes. (Which are normally told by Clint, or Darcy herself.) They’re both really protective though, in their own ways. Darcy knows for a fact that Jo would stand between her and an army, and she’d do it all with a smile on her face. Pepper takes care of her in little ways, and she’s just now picking up that this is how Pepper shows that she cares. Leaves little snacks at Darcy’s desk, places a comforting hand on her shoulder before meetings, and now something to help with her achy feet.

She’s still a little wary of Pepper though. She makes Tony happy, which Darcy is all for, but she also knows that Pepper is the one that put him in a really dark place. Jo and Tony don’t talk about it, but Darcy isn’t an idiot. The closeness between Tony and Jo? That had to come from something pretty bad for them to bond so quickly, telepathy be damned. Pepper’s just so nice though! She can’t hate the other woman. Not when she makes Tony’s eyes light up and goes out of her way to make sure that Darcy is okay. Besides, Jo would know if Pepper was out to hurt Tony.

“That would be ah-mazing. You’re the best, Pep!” She’d barely gotten the sentence out when her phone beeped, and she quickly pulled it out. The longer she watched the video that had just been sent, the more her eyes watered and the more her ribs hurt.

“Darcy? Is something wrong? What happened?” She was laughing so hard that no sound was escaping her, and she wrapped her arms around her middle as she doubled over. She managed to swing her phone around, and Pepper gently pried it from her shaking fingers. She must have adjusted the volume and pressed play, because Darcy heard Jo’s voice ring out a minute later.

“Yo! I present to you, from the finest club that London has to offer, the magnificent battle between The Avengers and The Fantastic Four! Get ‘em, Clinton!”

In the video, Thor had Clint perched on his shoulders and the guy that had to be Johnny Storm was sitting on Ben Grimm’s shoulders. Jo said they had a hard time talking him into coming, but they must have won him over. From the looks of it, they were dancing. Thor and Ben had locked hands, and they were moving to a very loud beat in what looked like a waltz. Clint and Johnny had locked hands as well, but it looked like they were trying to push each other off. Like a strange game of chicken. Darcy lifted her head as Pepper came around the counter, and they both watched the video together.

“Aww, they suck at this! Should we show ‘em how it’s really done?” Darcy didn’t recognize the voice, but it has to be that other mutant that Tony told them about. The one that took down Doom with squirrels.

“Damn straight! Darcy, baby, always remember this: do as I say, not as I do. Because I’m about to do something that mere mortals can’t handle!” The phone was handed off to a bystander, there were quite a few of them standing around to watch the spectacle, and Jo came into view. The dress she was wearing wrapped around her curves and was a dark purple, but the other woman was just in a pair of black skinny jeans and a green vest. Without any help, the other woman launched herself into the air and landed perfectly on Jo’s shoulders.

“That must be Doreen. She’s going to be fun to have around,” Pepper said as Jo jumped between Thor and Ben. When Darcy glanced over, Pepper was smiling. Really smiling.

“Whoever is watching this, your friends are amazing!” she heard the random bystander say. Jo, Thor, and Ben had joined hands to form a circle while the three people on their shoulders fought to knock their partners off. The camera zeroed in on Jo, and she blew a kiss before the screen went dark. Pepper handed her phone back to her, and Darcy let it lay against the counter.

“I’m surprised they haven’t been kicked out yet,” Darcy said and slid back down to rest her cheek on the counter again. Whatever Pepper is cooking smells delicious, but she’s too tired to sit up straight. She’s saving that energy for when it’s time to eat.

“I’m just glad they’re having fun. I wish the boys would relax like that. Knowing those two, they’re in Reed’s lab and refusing to come out.” Pepper definitely has a point there. She doesn’t know Reed and Sue, so she can’t really speak for them, but she knows Tony and Bruce. Getting out and having some fun would be good for them. Maybe, when everyone comes back, they can have a day out. Like at a beach!

Darcy and Pepper were still conspiring on the beach idea when JARVIS interrupted them, and they both raised a brow at the sound of the AI’s voice. Yeah, JARVIS might be a computer program or whatever, but he’s more human than some actual humans that she’s met. Darcy sat up fully on her stool, and Pepper moved the food off of the stove. Because that tone? That tone means something really bad has happened.

“What is it, JARVIS?”

“There appears to be a young woman just outside of the main gate, Miss Potts. I cannot read her vitals from this range, but I believe she is severely wounded.” Darcy nearly slipped as she hurried to get off the stool, because what?!

“Call an ambulance, JARVIS.” Pepper’s voice was calm, but Darcy noted the way that her hands shook just the tiniest bit.

“I am afraid that might not be in Master Stark’s best interests.” Instead of waiting for one of them to ask for clarification, a hologram projection appeared in the kitchen. There was a body slumped against the front gate, but Darcy couldn’t see any of the girl’s features. She was just a lump that nearly blended in with the dark gate, since the sun had already set.

“I don’t under—” JARVIS zoomed in, and Darcy felt bile biting against the back of her throat. Taped to the woman’s torso was a note large enough for them to read.

To: Tony
Love, Viper

Darcy saw a flash of bright green (the woman’s eyes) and a flash of white behind pink lips right before everything went dark. Right before she got shot in the head, by Viper. Now some other girl is suffering because of that bitch, and Darcy was moving before she’d fully decided to go help her. She heard Pepper calling out to her, warning her that it could possibly be a trap, but she wasn’t slowing down. The front door opened easily, and she ran down the stairs and the walkway in her bare feet. The gate opened for her, and the woman fell flat against her back. Dark hair was matted with blood, probably from the wound on her left temple. Her skin was pale, but Darcy was willing to bet that was the blood loss. A large white piece of paper was stuck to her midsection, and Darcy leaned down to get a better look.

“Stop!” There was a hand gripping the front of her blouse, and bloodshot eyes met hers. Nails, small and thin ones, were holding the note in place. There was also blood showing through her khaki pants, a hole was in the left shoulder of her shirt, and her left hand was lying limply next to her body. Because there’s a hole in the center of it.

“Oh my Thor, what did that bitch do to you?”


The epic game of chicken fight dancing was over, so Jo was dancing Clint. Ben was at the bar, surrounded by admirers much to the big man’s surprise, Johnny was leading a group of people around the room in a train, and Thor and Doreen were dancing next to her and Clint. Her and Clint were pulling out their more professional moves, because they don’t get too many chances to really let go. As for Thor and Doreen, she had her feet braced on top of his boots so that she could barely reach his shoulders. It was super adorable. She managed to get her phone out and sneak a shot, and she slipped it back into her tight pocket.

“Getting pictures to sell on E-Bay?” Actually, that’s something she hasn’t thought about.

“Nah, souvenirs for Darcy.” Clint’s smile turned into something less playful and more bashful, and that’s one word she thought she’d never use to describe the assassin. She was just getting ready to start teasing him for what’s starting to become an obvious crush, when she noticed Thor was frozen next to them.

“Thor, you okay? Oh, God! Am I hurting your toes!” Doreen tried to jump back, but Thor’s arms were locked around her back and holding her in place. After a moment, the god’s eyes cleared and he looked over at her and Clint.

“It’s Darcy. She just prayed to me, and she sounded afraid.” Jo felt Clint tense up against her, and Jo felt her own temper rising. Darcy better be okay, or there’ll be hell to pay.

“Is she okay?” Doreen asked, since it looks like her and Clint are a little speechless at the moment.

“The fear is not for herself. It is for someone else.” Someone else? The only person with Darcy is Pepper, unless something happened to Natasha and Steve.

“Maybe we should call and check in.” Jo was struggling to get her phone back out of her pocket when the back wall of the bar exploded, and the club was filled with the sound of screams and panic.

“HUMAN TORCH!” There was a man standing on top of the bar, but it was impossible to see his face because of the mask he was wearing. Jo waited for Ben to knock the idiot down, but the big guy was frozen still. Johnny was standing closer to them now, and she felt the length of his body press up against her from behind.

“I know you’ve been working on your telepathy,” he quickly whispered. “That guy, legally changed his name to Wizard. He’s a genius, and he’s got all kinds of gadgets. We can handle the flying and laser lights, but that helmet? He uses it to control minds. Can you keep him out?”

“I don’t know,” Jo whispered back just as quickly. She could see Ben throwing chairs and tables at the running club goers that were fleeing in panic, and the maniac standing on the bar was laughing like he’d just won free tickets to Disneyworld.

“Try!” Johnny whispered and stepped out from around her. The bar was emptied in minutes, except for them. Clint and Doreen were on either side of her, and she could feel Thor standing just behind them. Ben was standing in front of the man that was still standing on the bar, the guy that named himself Wizard, and Johnny was slowly walking forward.

“Where’s the rest of the gang?!” Johnny spread his arms as he called out, and Jo fought the urge to roll her eyes. Now is not the time to be antagonizing.

“Oh, they’re around.” Jo really doesn’t like that smile. Sand on the floor started to swirl until a hulking figure of a man stood next to Ben, so that’s gotta be Sandman. She’s heard of him.

“What the—Hey!” Doreen screamed as something wrapped around her wrists and ankles, and the woman was pinned to the wall when Jo looked back. The man next to her was looking over her restraints, as if to make sure that they were perfect, but Jo couldn’t see his face either. It was covered by a purple mask that wrapped completely around him and left only his eyes showing.

“I’ve got him,” Clint whispered. Knowing him, there is a bow and several arrows hidden on his person.

“Thor, I’m gonna need you to go after Sandman. I’m gonna try to free Ben from Wizard.” She felt a large hand squeeze her shoulder, and Thor moved around her to charge at the other man.

“And what about me?” The woman now standing in the room was absolutely gorgeous. Tan skin, long blonde hair, and she looked strong enough to take down an entire city.

“You must be Medusa’s replacement. Wanna dance?” Johnny and his cockiness. Soon, the sounds of fighting were all over the place. Clint was facing off against Trapster, Johnny was fighting a woman that said her name was Thundra, Thor was punching Sandman, and…Ben was headed right for her.

As soon as Ben was close enough, Jo jumped up onto his shoulders. Her legs locked around his neck, and she held in her screams as his rocky fists beat against her thighs. She pushed her hands against the top of his head and did her best to get inside of his head. She normally has to picture something before she can enter someone’s mind. Before, it was a bridge. Now she just has to picture Tony or Bruce. (And occasionally Darcy.) She knows their minds. She doesn’t know Ben’s. What if she messes up?

The wall behind her back cracked as she was slammed into it, and she wrapped her arms completely around Ben’s head. She could feel his mind, and it’s full of rage at the moment. No, this isn’t the Ben that she knows. He’s the calm one. The sensible one. This rage doesn’t belong to him, and she’s going to get it out. But how?

“Tell me what it sounds like, what it looks like, what it feels like.” That’s what Bruce said to her all those months ago, when she found Tony hallucinating in a bathtub and freezing nearly to death. She’d been so panicked and lost, but Bruce’s calm voice had kept her centered.

Ben’s mind sounds like a rock slide; a continuous echo of rocks hitting against stones. She can see the vibrations bouncing across his mind; it’s like throwing a rock into a river and watching the ripples, but these ripples are red and violent. It feels like the ripples have spread out everywhere and taken over everything. She can’t feel anything under the ripples, so Ben can’t either. He can’t find himself under the onslaught. She has to make the ripples go away. A box isn’t going to work for this, but she can think of something else. She has to.

As Ben slammed her body against the floor and pounded at her with his fists, she pictured a whirlpool. A giant whirlpool in the center of his mind that drew in all of the angry ripples. All of the red was sucked in, slowly, until nothing remained. Ben’s mind was blue, not red, and she felt when he finally came back to himself. He went completely still, and his hands held her up instead of trying to push her away. She only groaned a little as he pulled her off his back and held her in his arms, and she smiled up at him.

“Go kick his ass, Ben. I’ll make sure he can’t use anyone else as a shield.” She reached out to everyone else’s mind, which was a little easy since they were all in a confined space. Twice, something bounced off her own mind, and she turned to snarl at Wizard. He must have realized what she had done, what she was still doing, because he tried to run. It didn’t work. Ben caught his ankle, and Wizard’s helmeted head crashed against the bar. Within seconds, Ben had the helmet torn off and smashed beneath one giant foot.

Everything else seemed to mostly be in hand. Clint had Trapster all tied up, with some of his own equipment and possibly some of Trapster’s too. Thundra was lying on the floor, parts of her were still smoking, but she was okay. She won’t be unconscious for long though. Thor was holding off Sandman, and Doreen jumped between some of the sand and plucked out a single grain. With that, the giant man collapsed to the floor. Everyone turned to look at Doreen, but the woman just shrugged.

“A friend of mine beat this guy up once and told me what to go for. This little grain is his conscious mind. If you have it, you have him. I don’t suppose we have a jar or something, do we? And maybe some cuffs for the others?”

Jo reached up to touch the small stud in her tragus and heard the tiny click. She quickly told Tony what happened, who was not happy at being told after the fact, but he did promise to come extract them. Along with the prisoners. Wizard, Trapster, Sandman, and Thundra were all escaped prisoners. They even have a team name, the Frightful Four. And she thought the Fantastic Four was bad. Ugh, and the U-Foes. There’s just no good names anymore. After she completed her little talk with Tony, she stumbled over to the bar and dropped onto a stool. Clint moved to sit next to her, and Doreen was on her other side holding an empty liquor bottle. Well, mostly empty. There was a speck of sand in it.

“Everyone okay?” There were various grunts of assent, and Jo noticed that the other three prisoners were handcuffed. Huh, looks like Clint’s. It’s good to know that he always comes prepared.

“No offense, your tankness, but you look like shit,” Doreen said and smiled at her a little. Ben looked like he was going to apologize, but Jo waved him off. It wasn’t his fault.

“Well, look on the bright side,” Clint said and slung an arm around her shoulders.

“My side’s always bright!” Johnny yelled. Clint pulled her a little closer, and she dropped her head onto his shoulder. She’s so sleepy now.

“What’s the bright side?” Doreen finally asked. Thor had joined them and was looking into the giant tequila bottle.

“We didn’t get arrested.” As if waiting for their cue, loud sirens started blaring. There’s a possibility that the sirens aren’t meant for them, but Jo seriously doubts it. “Maybe I spoke too soon.”


Bloodshot brown eyes were still staring up at her, and Darcy was starting to panic. Her chest and throat were burning as she forced her breath in and out at a fast pace, and she could hear Pepper talking on her phone behind her. It sounds like she’s trying to get ahold of Tony, but it doesn’t sound like he’s picking up. This girl really needs to go to a hospital, note for Tony from some psycho bitch be damned! Darcy held both of her hands out, to show that she didn’t have any kind of weapon, but the other woman wouldn’t let her go.

“My name is Darcy Lewis, and that’s Pepper. We’re going to take you to the hospital.” At that, the girl’s eyes widened and she yanked Darcy forward. Darcy yelped as her palms scraped against the pavement on either side of the girl’s body, and she could smell stale sweat and blood.

“No hospitals. Not safe,” the girl said from between clenched teeth. She must be in so much pain, but she’s refusing the hospital? Darcy heard the click of heels, and she twisted her head to look up at Pepper.

“Darcy, you’re stronger than me. You’ll have to carry her inside,” Pepper said quietly. Yeah, Darcy has that whole super strength thing going for her now, so this should be easy. The girl looks like she might be an inch over Darcy’s five feet and five inches, but Darcy’s got a few more curves. The girl was still clutching her blouse in one hand, so Darcy shifted on her knees so that she could reach under the girl’s knees. Her other arm went around the girl’s back as she stood, and she tried not to flinch at the sound of the girl’s screams.

“Med facility?” Darcy asked as they quickly moved to the front door.

“I think that would be best.” Once they were in the elevator, Pepper tried to call Tony again and still didn’t get an answer. “JARVIS, where is Tony?”

“There was an attack in London. Master Stark and Doctor Banner are on their way to assess the situation.” An attack? In London?

“But that’s where the others are!” The words jumped out of Darcy’s mouth, and she could feel her heart pounding in her chest. Some unknown woman could be dying in her arms for all she knows, all of her friends (her family) could be under attack, and she feels so useless.

“I’m sure they’re fine,” Pepper said with a quick smile. Darcy followed the redhead off the elevator and towards the med facility, and this is a place she never wanted to visit again. This is where she died, if only for a brief amount of time. This is where Tony nearly died. Where Clint and Natasha screamed in pain for hours. She went into the first room on the right, and she laid the girl down as carefully as possible.

“Now what?” Darcy doesn’t know anything about helping someone with injuries like these. There’s no telling what kind of internal damage there is.

“We don’t have any doctors on call. If we did, I wouldn’t know if we could trust them. Tony said that Bruce was their primary doctor, but he isn’t here.” Pepper spoke quickly, just under the level of panic, and Darcy swept her hair out of her eyes. They need someone that they can trust, fully. Someone that can keep a secret, because this is obviously something big. Someone left a dying girl outside of Tony’s house, with Tony’s name literally nailed to her! There’s got to be some—

“Oh! We can call Logan. He’s like Jo’s father, and he works at that mutant school. They probably have a doctor there, right? And they’re good at being discreet,” Darcy rambled out.

“It’s worth a shot,” Pepper agreed. JARVIS was already connecting the call, and Darcy watched the way that the girl’s chest moved. She’s not breathing right. Too slow. Her eyes have been closed since they got on the elevator, and she looks really pale under these lights.

“What do you want?” The voice was deep and brusque, and Darcy felt her mouth go dry. How do you ask a stranger for help with something like this?

“Hi, uh, my name’s Darcy. Darcy Lewis. I’m a friend of Jo’s, but she’s not here right now. We have a problem, and I didn’t know who else to trust. Jo trusts you though, so I thought you might be willing to help. Because if you don’t, I am all out of ideas. I am completely out of my element here, but Jo’s always talked about you like—”

“I know who you are. Get to the point, kid.” Well, this guy definitely isn’t getting any points for being patient. Then again, she is rambling.

“Logan, this is Pepper Potts. Tony, Jo, and all the others are still out on missions. Roughly ten minutes ago, we were alerted that a woman was outside of our gate. We can’t tell the full extent of her injuries, and there was a note on her addressed to Tony from Viper. She needs a doctor, but a hospital is not a safe choice since we both know who sent her here. Can anyone there help us?”

“We’ll be there in twenty minutes.” The line cut off, and Darcy felt a small bit of tension leave her shoulders.

“We should try to clean her up, see where she’s hurt the most,” Pepper said after a beat of silence. Makes sense. Darcy walked up to the girl’s side and lightly shook her shoulders. Hazy eyes slowly opened, and Darcy tried for a comforting smile. She probably failed.

“We have someone on the way to look you over, someone that we trust. Before they get here, we need to take off your clothes and see where you’re hurt. Is that okay?” The girl seemed confused for a moment, but her eyes quickly cleared. Very quickly. She leaned her head up to look down the length of her body, and she groaned as her head thumped back against the bed.

“Can you get the nails out first?” Darcy felt like she was going to hurl just at the thought of having to pull nails out of someone’s skin, and she felt a light hand on her back.

“I’ll take care of it,” Pepper whispered. She moved around the room until she found something suitable for gripping the small nails, and Darcy moved up closer to the woman’s head. She held her hand out, and the girl’s right hand gripped hers.

“Don’t worry about squeezing too hard,” Darcy said just as Pepper pulled the first nail free. The girl bit down on her lip and squeezed Darcy’s hand so hard that her fingers went numb, and it went on like that for eleven more nails. Twelve in all. When it was over, the girl’s lip was bleeding and Darcy’s hand had turned an unnatural purple color.

“The guy was scary, but the woman was worse. She could’ve used glue instead of nails,” the girl mumbled as Pepper removed the piece of paper. It was splattered with blood, but the message was still clear.

“Guy? What guy?” Darcy asked as Pepper started cutting the girl’s red shirt off. Maybe the conversation will keep her distracted.

“The shooter. Never saw him. He was like a ghost, you know? Every time I got shot, I looked for him but couldn’t find him. Wanna know the weirdest thing? No kill shot. Got my hand, grazed my ribs, went right through my shoulder, got my leg once, but no kill shot. What kinda sniper doesn’t go for a kill shot?” The girl was slurring now, eyes rolling back in her head, and Darcy was feeling colder with every word that came out of the girl’s mouth.

“What about the woman?” Pepper was working on getting the girl’s pants off now, and this time the girl’s eyes were clear when she looked up at Darcy.

“Said her name was Viper. I thought she was beautiful at first, you know? I think it was her bone structure.” Yeah, Darcy remembers the woman’s beauty. She also remembers how it feels to have a bullet go through her skull. “I’ve been running since lunch, from him. Then it started getting dark, and I thought I was safe. Until she showed up. She said something, in Russian maybe, and hit me in the head. I think it was a pipe? When I woke up, I was in a van and she was putting those nails in me. Then she just threw me out on the street. Just like that.”

The girl was completely bare now, except for a bra and panty set with cartoon cats on them, so Darcy could see the damage. There was a graze on her right ribcage, about as thick as two of Darcy’s fingers and only about two inches long. There was another graze on her right calf, but it looked more like a cut than anything. The hole in her left shoulder looked small, but Darcy was willing to bet that the exit wound was a little bigger on her back. There was still a hole in her left hand, and Pepper was moving now to pack the wound with gauze. Twelve circular holes were in a square on the girl’s stomach, and there was a small cut on her left temple.

“The jet has just landed, Miss Potts.”

“Thank you, JARVIS. Please, direct them here.” Darcy looked back down to realize that the girl was still looking at her, and they were still holding hands.

“I don’t understand. Why me?” It was something Darcy was wondering too, because she’s got a feeling that this is just a small part of a bigger plot. “I’m no one, so why me?”

“I don’t know, but if anyone can figure it out, it’s Tony Stark.” If they ever get ahold of him, that is.
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So many things to address in this chapter. Where to start? Okay, first off, it is my own personal headcanon that Clint really does come up with insane ideas when he’s bored. Those ideas either turn out absolutely amazing or land him in jail. There is no in-between. (Either way, whatever incident occurs from the idea winds up on the news.)

A few people have mentioned that they don’t trust Pepper, and I completely understand. Maybe I should have handled her leaving better? I needed her and Tony to break up so that Tony could bond with Jo, and I always planned on bringing Pepper back in. Darcy is still a little wary of Pepper, so I’m trying to use Darcy’s perspective to help people warm up to Pepper again.

Skye is officially in the story! (Why do I torture my favorite characters?) She’ll be sticking around for a long while, and you can tell in this chapter that I’ve completely changed her backstory. I’ll explain more later, because I don’t want to spoil future chapters. Also, for anyone who’s forgotten, I picture Viper as Angelina Jolie.

The normal driving distance from Xavier’s School to the Avengers Mansion is approximately one hour. Logan says they’ll be there in twenty because they’re taking the jet.

Since I didn’t really go into detail about the Frightful Four, I’ve decided to put their descriptions here. There’s been many different members of the Frightful Four, so I went with these four. If you’d like to know more, feel free to Google them.

Wizard (Wears Helmet): anti-gravity disks that allow him to fly, gauntlets that unleash potent electrical blasts, body armor, helmet that allows him to control minds

Sandman (Blonde, Giant): uses sand and earth to protect his body, can create a sledgehammer out of sand, nearly impossible to defeat-have to find the one grain of sand that contains his conscious mind

Trapster (Wears Purple Mask): uses glue like web-slingers, can walk up walls, anti-gravity disks, explosive caps, various other mechanical traps used to restrain or entangle opponents

Thundra (Blonde, Tall, Strong): superhuman strength, speed, stamina, agility, and reflexes, has a sword, prefers to use three-foot linked chain attached to a bracelet on her left forearm