Archaic Kinds of Fun

alright, here we go

“You know he will not allow it.” Thor paused at the edge of the Bifrost and looked over at Heimdall.

“I do not take orders from him. Not anymore.” The palace rose above him as he continued forward, and he met no resistance as he walked into the palace and started towards the dungeons. Loki’s cell was the first one on the left, and he could see his brother sitting against the far wall. Their eyes locked, but Loki didn’t seem surprised to see him. He also didn’t say anything.

“He still does not speak.” Thor didn’t turn at the sound of his father’s voice; he just continued to look at his brother. His hair has grown longer and is unruly; his clothes are plain and simple. His brother is better than this.

“I have a friend who has agreed to aid him. I am taking him back to Midgard.”

"You still think he can be saved? Redeemed?” He turned to look at his father, and he noticed that his father’s body was angled away from Loki’s cell. As if he did not want to notice his presence at all.

“You do not?” His brother has done wrong, but Thor still has hope.

“Come. See your mother before you leave. One more night will not make a difference.” Odin turned and left the dungeon, and Thor turned back to face Loki once more.

“I will fix this, brother.” He thought he saw Loki’s eyes widen, but it could have been his own hopeful desires. He tried to smile, despite Loki’s impassive face, before turning to follow in his father’s footsteps. He will see his mother and then he will take Loki to Jo.


“Seriously, thank you for taking care of him,” Rhodey whispered. Tony was talking to Coulson, loudly, so Jo wasn’t sure why the Colonel was being so quiet. Then again, Tony does have the strangest ability to know when people are talking about him.

“Eh, he grows on you after a while, doesn’t he?” she whispered back. She respects James Rhodes. Being in the military isn’t easy, but she’s glad that Rhodey is going to be the liaison between the Avengers and the U.S. Government. Mostly because she knows that Rhodey will always be on Tony’s side.

“Like a fungus,” Rhodey agreed.

“I heard that!” Tony managed to yell at them over his shoulder while still carrying on a separate conversation, and her annoyed huff sounded exactly like Rhodey’s. Looks like it’s a sound that comes from being around Tony Stark for extended periods of time.

“Colonel Rhodes!” Sam walked up to them, and Jo watched on as the two men shook hands. Sam noticed her curious stare, but then it clicked. So many memories; it’s hard to keep them straight sometimes. Rhodey trained Sam, back when he first joined the Air Force, so they’re kinda like old friends. Jo excused herself after a moment and walked over to where Bruce was talking quietly with Maria and Steve. Looks like they’re filling Maria in on everything.

“So, a mind meld, huh?” Maria asked her when they were through. Jo was leaning her head against Bruce’s shoulder and trying to stay awake, so she nearly missed the question.

“Mhmm. I’ll scan the new team first, but we’ll need to do it before you go to bed tonight. So far, Viper’s only attacked when people are unconscious so no one is allowed to sleep in the mansion until they’ve been protected,” Jo drawled out. She feels like she could sleep for a week, and she might do just that once everything is said and done.

“You got it,” Maria said with a forced smile. Jo knows it’s forced because her face looks tight, and she gets it. Having someone in your brain isn’t fun, and Jo’s not looking forward to it either. Not because she doesn’t like Maria, she likes the woman and respects her, but her head already feels too full.

“Captain Rogers? Can we talk?” Jo tilted her head so that she could see Agent May, and Steve politely excused himself before walking off with the woman.

“Whole new era,” Maria said as the three of them watched Steve and May talk.

“A better one,” Bruce added. Jo nuzzled his shoulder to show her agreement and reminded herself to stay conscious again. That new team better hurry up, because she’s dead on her feet.


Skye walked around the block, then went a little farther, and finally stopped after a good half hour of walking. There was a bench sitting off to itself, kind of in front of a monument, and she plopped herself down onto the rickety wood. The monument was large and bronze, but she was on the wrong side to really see what it was. There was a horse and a dude on top of the horse, but that was all she could tell. The bench placement really didn’t make any sense, but she didn’t feel like moving. Even when someone sat down on the opposite end, because she got here first.

“You look sad.” She startled a bit at the voice, most strangers keep to themselves, and she glanced over. The voice had been masculine, and that was definitely a man sitting next to her. A blue baseball cap was pulled down pretty low over his face, so she couldn’t see his eyes, but she could see the little bit of scruff on his cheeks and chin. His hair was brown, almost to his shoulders, and looked unwashed. His clothes were dirty too, and he was wearing layers. Baggy layers.

“I’m sitting on a bench positioned in front of a horse’s ass. What’s there to be happy about?” The guy laughed, but it sounded rusty. Like he hadn’t laughed in a long time. He tipped his head back, and she saw his Adam’s apple bob as he looked up at the sky.

“Sun’s out. Weather’s nice.” He looked over his shoulder, facing away from her, and shrugged. “Nothing’s on fire.”

“Nice weather and no explosions. That’s all it takes to make you happy?” He shrugged again, and she listened to the way his layers rustled at the movement. It’s not really hot out, but he’s got to be burning up in all of that.

“Why aren’t you happy?”

“Who says I’m not?” His eyes flicked over to her, but it was too fast for her to catch the color.

“You’re frowning.” She’s not frowning; her resting face just happens to look a little frowny sometimes.

“I’m not frowning.” He stayed silent, which made her bristle for some reason. “Okay, maybe I’m frowning a little. It’s just, my whole life has literally just been turned upside down. I should be super psyched, but instead I feel like I’m going crazy. I must be going crazy, because I’m complaining about my not-problems to a homeless guy on a bench.”

“I’m not homeless.” She raised a brow at that but chose not to comment. “What are your not-problems?”

“I’m not telling some stranger my life story.” He slumped down on the bench a little and spread his knees, and his gloved hands ran up and down his thighs.

“Sometimes it’s easier to talk to a stranger, and I didn’t ask for your whole life story.” Okay, so the not homeless guy is giving her a little sass. She could hear it in his tone. She huffed and crossed her arms, and she slumped down against the bench so that she was nearly mirroring his position.

“I grew up in foster homes. Put myself through college. I’ve been alone my whole life. Now, due to some really freaky circumstances that I am totally not getting into, I’ve found my family. Like, real family. A twin sister and a grandfather. There’s also all these other people around, and they’re so nice and it’s like they’ve already accepted me into the family. But they don’t know me, except that they do. And I don’t know them, except that I kind of do. It’s just a lot to absorb at one time, and I have to keep telling myself not to run away from it all. I’ve always been alone, and I was safe. What if having a family makes me not safe?”

“Do you want my honest opinion?” She turned fully on the bench, so that the metal arm of the bench pressed into her lower back, and pulled her feet up onto the bench as well. Her thighs pressed against her chest, and she looped her arms just under her knees. She’s looking directly at the stranger now, but she still can’t really see his face. It’s frustrating.

“No, I just poured my guts out in the hope that you would sit there silently and judge me. Yes, I want your opinion. If I don’t like it, I’ll just ignore it.” His stubbly cheek twitched, like he wanted to smile, and the fingers of his left hand tapped against his knee.

“You’re scared because you have something to lose now. If you open up to them, love them and let them love you, you give them the power to hurt you. It’s a valid fear.”

“Damn, do you charge by the hour?” His eyes flicked over at her again, but he still looked away too fast. There was a part of her that wanted to grab his face and force him to meet her eyes, but a larger part of her told her that was a very bad idea.

“I’m not wrong. That’s why you’re deflecting.” Yeah, the stranger has a point. If she decides to go all-in with this new family dynamic, there’s a good chance that something horrible will happen. What if the only reason she was given a family was to have them ripped away?

“Would it be worth it? What if I only get a few months with them? A year or two? Wouldn’t it be easier to just leave now, before losing them hurts?” She likes Darcy, her twin sister. She knows that becoming really close to her won’t take long at all, and Logan’s even starting to grow on her a little. Tony’s been going out of his way to make her laugh, and Jo acts like a protective mama bear. All of the others have been amazing so far too, and she’s terrified of it all.

“It’s worth it. Being alone…it’s not any way to live. It’s just surviving. You should live.” The stranger’s voice was quiet and quite possibly the saddest tone that she’s ever heard.

“Talking from personal experience?” He reached up to tug at his cap, pulling it even lower, and she huffed. His eyes are even more shadowed now.

“You should go home.” Home. Tony had everything from her old apartment shipped to the mansion, so the Avengers Mansion really is home now. She signed paperwork to make her Tony Stark’s official assistant, and her family is there.

“Wanna walk me? I hear the streets aren’t safe.” She’s a mutant now, but she still hasn’t tested any of her mutant abilities. That’s not why she asked him to walk her home though. For some reason, she wants to stay beside him for just a little bit longer. Maybe get an actual look at his face.

“After you.” She uncurled from the ball she’d pulled herself into, and she twisted around to stretch her back a little once she was standing. The stranger didn’t stand up until she started walking away, and he stayed next to her but a little behind her too. So that she still couldn’t see his face.

“Do you always give random advice to people on benches?” They’d been quiet for the whole walk, but she can see the mansion now. They’ll be at the gate any moment now, but the walk hadn’t felt awkward. She’d strolled and hummed, and she could see the stranger from the corner of her eye for the entire trip.

“Only the ones facing horse’s asses.” Her laugh was startled out of her, and she thought she saw the stranger smile. It was hard to tell since his whole face was shadowed by his hat.

“Well, maybe we’ll meet again someday, mysterious stranger.” She turned around to fully face him, but he knew just how to hold himself so that she couldn’t really get a good look at him.

“Maybe.” He placed two fingers on the corner of the hat’s bill and dipped his head towards her, and she watched as he turned around to walk back the way they’d just come from. It’s not the weirdest thing that’s happened this week, but she’s adding it to the list. The gate opened easily, and she pressed her thumb against the front door. JARVIS let her in, and she could hear voices in the dining room. Darcy was the first one to notice her, and she jumped out of her chair to rush towards her. Skye tensed up at first, but Darcy just threw her arms around her shoulders.

“I was looking everywhere for you! Jo’s scanning the new SHIELD team, and Tony just ordered a ton of food! As soon as everyone’s cleared, we’re having a party!” Darcy clapped as she jumped up and down, and the excitement in the room was a little contagious. (A party with the Avengers, but minus alcohol. Jo’s outlawed it in the house, for Tony, and Skye’s okay with that. She has a feeling that the party can get a little wild without any extra help.)

“With balloons and streamers?” Skye quipped. At least, it was meant to be a quip. Darcy’s face turned thoughtful, and Doreen edged closer to them.

“Don’t have any balloons, but there are poster boards and glitter in Jo’s room. She’s scanning people in the gym, so we could totally get into her room and make banners for Coulson. Who’s with me?” Darcy looked back and forth between them, and Skye glanced over at Doreen.

“Sure, I’m game.”

“A chance to cover a mansion in glitter? I’m definitely in,” Doreen grinned. Darcy led the way to the elevator, and Skye shook her head a little. Maybe the stranger was right. Maybe all of this really is worth the potential pain.


“Agent Morse, it’s been a pleasure, as always.”

“We’ve seen each other naked. You can call me Bobbi, Jo.”

“For the last time, that was an accident. Clerical error.”

“Yeah, they accidentally sent us on the same mission, where we were pitted against each other in a pit of Jell-O. Definitely an accident.”

“It was all Clint’s fault.”

“Hunter helped.”

There’s a pop-up table in the center of the gym, because it’s a little more intimidating. That’s what Tony said, anyway. The woman on the other side of the table, Bobbi Morse, is one of Jo’s favorite SHIELD agents. They worked a few missions together, but the one earlier discussed had been accidental. They were infiltrating some millionaire’s birthday party, because he had some kind of high-tech in his basement, and they were both scheduled as the entertainment. It was a pretty unforgettable night.

“So glad you’re not Hydra,” Jo said and reached across the table to shake Bobbi’s hand. The other woman is completely human and tough as nails, so Jo’s glad they’re friends.

“Likewise. I’ll send in Izzy next.” Jo watched Bobbi walk from the room, and Izzy strolled in next. The senior agent sat down in the chair with a small smirk, and Jo plopped her hand in the center of the table palm up.

“I feel like I’m getting my fortune told,” Izzy said as she slid their palms together.

“Sorry, Agent Hartley, but I only do the past and present.” Jo gave her a comforting smile before closing her eyes, and she made sure to scan Izzy’s mind very carefully. Senior agents are good to hiding things, but there’s not much that can be hidden from Jo. Especially now that she’s had so much practice. After quite a bit of digging, Jo pulled back and slowly blinked her eyes open.

“Am I clear?”

“Like anyone ever doubted you to begin with?” Agent Hartley has always been upfront about her opinions, and Jo’s always trusted the older woman. The fact that she cleared wasn’t a surprise at all. It’s the younger agents, and the non-agents, that she’s a little worried about.

“Shaw’s next, then Weaver. The kids start after that. Have some fun with them.” Izzy gave her a little wink before walking off, and Jo cracked her neck as she waited for the next agent.

Agent Charles Shaw is a senior SHIELD agent, a quiet and reserved man, and he passed with flying colors. Agent Anna Weaver, who was the Head of the Science and Technology division at the SHIELD Academy, also passed. Jo was surprised that the woman made it out of the SHIELD Academy. From what she could see, Hydra agents hit it pretty hard. She’s glad the older agent made it, because SHIELD needs all the agents it can get.

“My favorite students are up next. Be nice to them.” She gave Agent Weaver a lazy salute and was surprised when a young man walked into the gym next. He didn’t have the look of an agent, so this must be one of the scientists.

“Hello, my name’s Jo,” she said as he sat down.

“Fitz, Leo. Well, Leopold actually, but I prefer Fitz. Can’t believe I’m meeting The Tank.” He said her more fun codename with true reverence, which got a grin out of her. He also had an adorable Scottish accent, so she was already rooting for him.

“Just relax, Fitz. I’ll have you out of here in no time.” He smiled at her as they clasped hands, and scanning his mind almost felt like being inside of Tony’s head. His mind was a little more organized, but there was still that constant swirl of ideas. Under that, the kid was completely loyal to SHIELD. She easily pulled out of his mind and smiled again. “You should talk to Tony about that death-ray thing. He’ll get a kick out of it. Might even help you build it.”

“I’m going to meet the Tony Stark?” She grinned and put a finger to her lips, and she could have sworn the kid had a skip in his step as he left the room. The next person in was a young woman, and she shifted a little nervously in her seat.

“Sorry, it’s just, I never even knew that telepathy was a real thing. I know mutants are real, I’ve seen the reports, but I’ve never actually met one. It’s all a bit fascinating, really.”

“Another scientist?” Jo asked with a gentle smile.

“Bio-chem. Is it true that Dr. Banner is here? I’ve always wanted to talk to him about his work on anti-electron collisions.” Oh, she can’t wait to tell Bruce that he has a fan with the cutest little English accent. She also already knows quite a bit about Jemma Simmons from Fitz’s memories. It’s like their two halves of one whole.

“Clear the scan, and I’ll introduce you to him myself.” Jemma actually squealed a little as she reached a hand out, and it didn’t take Jo long to scan the young woman’s mind. Her first love was definitely science, and she was loyal to SHIELD. Loyal to the people who took her in and challenged her. She wants to help.

“When this is over, I’ll take you and Fitz up to meet our resident geniuses.” Jemma thanked her, at least three times, as she walked out of the gym. The next person in was an agent that Jo had heard of but never personally met, but she knows that he was trained and worked under John Garrett. Unfortunately, Garrett was revealed to be Hydra. He’s still running around out there somewhere, but Antoine Triplett refused to follow him.

“Eris.” He nodded at her as he sat down, and she held her hand out.

“Agent Triplett.” She scanned his memories, from the time before he joined SHIELD until right before he walked into the mansion. He grew up listening to his grandfather tell stories about Captain America and Peggy Carter, and all he ever wanted to do was follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. He was completely loyal to SHIELD; he was loyal to SHIELD before he even learned how to ride a bike.

“That felt weird.” Under his serious agent face, he’s a really laid back guy. Funny, smart. He also has medical training, which could help the team.

“It’s weird for me too,” she said and cracked a smile. He smiled back, and Jo wiped her hand against her skinny jeans as she waited for the next agent. She should be almost done by now.

“Tank. It’s nice to put a face to the agent that kept me employed for so long.” The man walking towards her was massive, but he had a lazy stride and an easygoing smile on his face.

“Mack. I’m sorry I destroyed so many things that you had to repair.” She caught his name skittering across the surface of his mind, and she’s heard a lot about Alphonso Mackenzie. He’s one of SHIELD’s best mechanics, and he was usually the one that had to repair the various things she broke around SHIELD.

“Nah, we used the stories to scare the newbies so it was worth it.” His hand completely engulfed hers, and his mind was easy to scan. He was completely open and didn’t try to hide anything from her, so it didn’t take long for her to scan everything she needed. She doesn’t need to know about his childhood.

“Glad you’ll be staying with us, Mack.” He shook her hand before leaving, and Jo sat up a little straighter in her chair as the next man walked inside. She could see the obvious enhancements, and May filled her in a little. Mike Peterson, codenamed Deathlok, was drafted into Project Centipede by John Garrett. The experiments were similar to the Extremis experiments, some with the same explosive results, but Mike Peterson survived. Now it’s her job to see if he really has switched sides.

“I’m Mike.” He held his hand out towards her, and she clapped her palm against his.

“Jo.” Getting into his mind was a little difficult, because of the enhancements, but she was able to see his memories. He didn’t know what Project Centipede was really about, didn’t know that it was set up by Hydra, and only worked for Garrett because Hydra had his son. His son is now with Mike’s sister and safe, and Mike wants to make up for the wrongs he was forced to do. He’s loyal to SHIELD.

“You’re smiling. I’m guessing that’s a good thing?” His smile was tentative, and Jo lightly squeezed his hand.

“Not many people get a chance at redemption. I’m glad you are.” His smile turned a little more genuine, and he shook her hand before leaving the room. That should be just about everyone, except for…

“They saved the best for last!” Jo groaned at the sound of the British accent, and she kept up her glare as the last man sauntered into the room and collapsed into the empty chair. “Don’t give me that look, love. Me and you? We’re even.”

“You shot me,” she reminded him. A gut shot too, which was not fun. Very messy.

“After you broke my leg.”

“I didn’t break your leg. You jumped off a building.”

“I yelled for you to catch me.”

“I had better things to do, like distracting trained killers from killing you. Worst mercenary ever.” Lance Hunter grinned at her, propped his elbow on the table, and pointed a finger at her.

“Worst catcher ever.” Jo grabbed the finger that was centimeters from her face and then moved her hand down so that her fingers were wrapped completely around his fist.

“Just be glad I didn’t drop you on your head,” she said before diving into his mind. Hunter started out in the Special Air Service, which is impressive. After a mission involving Bobbi, he retired from the SAS and married Bobbi. He also became a mercenary, which is how they met. She knows that he and Bobbi got divorced, the two normally argue whenever they’re in the same area, but they still care about each other. They wouldn’t agree to work with each other otherwise.

“Well, Tank, am I all cleared?” Hunter’s cocky and sarcastic, usually annoying, but he’s a good man. A loyal man.

“If I tell them no, do you think they’ll let Bobbi take a few swings at you before taking you out back?” Hunter threw his head back with a laugh, and Jo got out of her chair.

“Always liked you, Jo. Even when you were throwing me to the wolves.” Hunter hooked an arm around her neck as they walked out of the gym together, and she lightly slapped him upside the head. Lightly, because he is only human.

“From what I remember, it was your idea to run through the woods that just so happened to be filled with wolves. Do you know how long it took for my thigh muscle to grow back?” She could feel the others in the hallway looking at them, and the younger agents had wide eyes as they went back and forth.

“Yeah, three hours, because you complained the whole damn time. And I had to carry you.”

“Only reason they caught me was because I was carrying your dead weight,” she shot back.

“Agent Holbrook. Report.” She literally felt her spine straighten at the sound of Agent May’s voice, and she could see Coulson trying to fight down a smile. Maria and Steve were standing next to them, and the two of them looked like they were fighting down smiles as well.

“All agents have been fully cleared. They’re loyal to SHIELD,” Jo declared.

“Guess that means we can all go enjoy my surprise party,” Coulson said and rubbed his hands together.

“It’s not a surprise if you know about it,” May pointed out. Jo ignored all of them and walked over to the two whispering scientists.

“Ready to go meet Tony Stark and Bruce Banner?” Fitz and Simmons both looked at her with wide eyes, and that’s a look that she likes. Excitement and joy. They could use some of that. “Right this way, people!”


“I’m pretty sure this place is filled to capacity,” Doreen whispered to Jo. Well, she spoke at a normal volume, but it’s so loud in the dining room that it sounded like a whisper. Just as they planned, Doreen helped Darcy and Skye make a banner for Agent Coulson using giant poster boards and a lot of glitter. That glitter is now sprinkled all across the room and is on most of the guests.

“Probably a little past that,” Jo agreed. Her fellow mutant was watching two young scientists chatter excitedly at Tony and Bruce, and Doreen had to admit that it was cute. Tony was obviously loving the attention, and Bruce looked both shy and excited at the same time. Most of the SHIELD agents were gathered together and telling old “war” stories, except for one big guy. Mack, that was the guy’s name. He was sitting next to Skye and Darcy, and Doreen’s pretty sure they’re talking about video games. Pepper is talking quietly with Natasha and Maria, and it looks like everyone is having a grand ol’ time.

“Do you think Thor’s okay? He’s been gone all day.” Their meeting was this morning, and he left right after that. They’re moving past dinnertime now, and the god is still MIA.

“He hasn’t been home in a while, and he didn’t exactly leave on good terms. I’m sure he’ll be back soon,” Jo said and smiled over at her. The woman’s all smiles, but she still looks tired. She’s gotta do another mental link tonight too, and that’s not going to be easy on her.

“Are you going to be okay? The mental links aren’t gonna make you crazy, are they?” Doreen’s always been a blunt kind of person, and there’s no point in changing that now.

“I don’t think so. I just need to sleep for about a week.” She huffed out a laugh and even that sounded tired.

“Don’t overdo it, Tank. Even you have limits.”

“Josie! Come tell these amateurs about that time we took over an entire city!” Clint yelled across the room. Jo turned to look at her and raised a brow, and Doreen rolled her eyes.

“Okay, so maybe your limits are a bit farther out than most peoples’, but I stand by my statement,” she said and crossed her arms.

“Duly noted,” Jo whispered. She turned to face the more packed side of the room and raised her hands to cup them around her mouth. “Yo, Clinton! You mean the city in Scotland or the city in Brazil?!”

“Crazy ass SHIELD agents,” Doreen muttered as Jo joined her old teammates. Or are they new teammates now? They’re supposed to be some kind of joint force, right? They should probably work the specifics of that out at some point. For now though, she’s going to enjoy the party.


“Someone’s gotta clean this up, and it’s not going to be me.” Jo looked around at the wrecked dining room, at all of the bits of food and mountains of glitter, and shook her head.

“Nope. We’ve got business to attend to.” Jo was leaning against one side of the doorway, and Maria was propped up on the other side. Coulson and May left with their team about twenty minutes ago, so it’s just them now. The Avengers. Well, mostly everyone has gone up to their rooms by now. Steve and Sam are gone, Tony and Pepper are upstairs, Thor’s still in Asgard, but the others are still in the dining room.

“I’ll clean up. The glitter was my idea,” Darcy said first.

“Yeah, and I helped so I can clean up,” Skye added.

“Guess that means I have to clean too,” Doreen sighed.

“I’ll stay and supervise,” Logan said and let out a rare smile. Jo nodded at that; four people should be enough to clean up a dining room. Bruce walked up to her, and she leaned forward just enough to drop her forehead against his chest. She felt his hand come up and squeeze the back of her neck, and she sighed as some of the tension eased out of her.

“Do you want JARVIS to alert me when the mental link is done so I can come get you?” He asked it quietly, but it was still loud enough for Maria to hear him.

“Depends. You wanna cuddle with me all night, Maria?” The hardened agent smirked at her and propped a hand on her hip.

“Don’t think I’ve forgotten that mission in Alaska. You’re a blanket hog.” Jo’s laugh sounded rough even to her ears, and she felt Bruce’s laugh since she was still leaning against his chest.

“Yeah, fair enough. Ready to do this?” She straightened up completely, and she saw Maria nod her head.

“Now or never, right?”

“Pretty much. See you in a couple of hours.” She felt Bruce’s lips press against her forehead, and she forced her tired body to follow Maria to the elevator. One more mental link and then she’ll rest. She’ll need to rest, because she’s gonna have to dig into the mind of the God of Lies.

“Come on, Holbrook. Let’s get this over with.” Maria still had the same room on the third floor, which is good because the third floor is pretty much full now. Maria, Skye, and Darcy are on the right side. Logan, Sam, and Doreen are on the other side.

“Just don’t fight me, okay?” She sat cross-legged in the middle of the bed and closed her eyes as Maria went ahead and changed into her pajamas. It’s a good idea. The agent joined her a few minutes later, and she copied Jo’s sitting position.

“I trust you.” Jo grinned at that, because it’s always nice to know that someone trusts you enough to completely take over your mind, and she laced her fingers through Maria’s.

“Alright, here we go.”


“Miss Jo is ready for retrieval, Dr. Banner.” He glanced at the ceiling on reflex, something that he’s picked up from Jo, and heard his neck pop. Instead of going up to the lab to work on one of his projects, he stayed downstairs and helped the others cleanup. It didn’t really take all that long, and the girls went up to bed about an hour ago. He’s been sitting in the den with Logan, occasionally talking. Both of them are okay with silence.

“Do you love her?” Bruce was preparing to stand up, to go get Jo and go to bed, but the question caused him to pause.

“I don’t know. We know everything about each other, good and bad, and she’s still the first thing I want to see in the morning. The last thing I want to see at night. She loves Hulk.” Logan huffed at that, and Bruce turned to look at him.

“And Hulk loves her?” Bruce nodded, because he knows that the other part of him loves Jo completely. “How can one side of you love her, and the other side not know?”

“I don’t know.”

“I do. Hulk is instinctual, and you think too much. Love isn’t logical, Banner. It just is. Try to keep that in mind.” Bruce took that as the dismissal that it was, and he rode up to the third floor with Logan’s words replaying in his mind. Maria had the first room on the right, and the two women were lying side by side when he walked inside. Maria was still awake, barely, and Jo was out cold.

“I saw her afterwards, but it was worse than I imagined,” Maria whispered as he bent down to pick Jo up.

“She looked up to you for never babying her. You treated her like any other agent, and she respected you for it.” He saw that much in Jo’s memories, and Maria smiled tiredly up at him.

“I respect her too. That’s never changed.” Maria shuffled under her blankets, and Bruce called out a quiet goodnight as he closed the door. Jo was nearly completely limp in his arms, and he had to carefully shift her so that he could open her bedroom door.

“Mmm, muffins on the side please,” Jo mumbled as he gently laid her on the bed. She’s still wearing her skinny jeans and a black tank top with a purple bow and arrow on it, and he knows that she won’t be comfortable sleeping in that. She grumbled a little as he carefully pulled her jeans off, but she sighed happily when he unhooked her bra and managed to get it off of her without removing her shirt.

“Jo’s done too much. Needs more rest.” Hulk’s voice was a quiet rumble at the back of his mind, and Jo nuzzled against his chest as he picked her up to pull the blankets back.

“She just wants to keep everyone safe.” Bruce could have easily answered inside of his own mind, but the words filled the empty room instead.

“Hulkster keeps me safe. Mmm, want Bruce.” He smiled as Jo sleepily made grabby hands, and he quickly stripped out of his slacks and button-up. Jo immediately curled up to him, arms and legs wrapping completely around him, and he turned his head to rest his cheek against the top of her head. Oranges and the faint metallic scent of blood.

“I love you.” The words felt right on his tongue, his lips shaped the words with ease, and there was a comforting warmth in his stomach.

“Love you too, Brucie baby.” The words were muffled against the side of his neck, and Jo was definitely still asleep. Maybe there was something to be said for instincts and subconscious after all.
♠ ♠ ♠
Writing from Thor’s POV is really hard, so I hope I did okay. I really enjoyed writing Skye’s scene, and can we all guess who the mysterious stranger is? Because I know I’m not that subtle.

Okay, here’s a quick list of the SHIELD Agents just in case you want to google them: Bobbi Morse/Mockingbird, Izzy Hartley, Charles Shaw, Anna Weaver, Leo Fitz, Jemma Simmons, Antoine Triplett, Alphonso Mackenzie, Mike Peterson/Deathlok, and Lance Hunter. They are not going to be regulars in the story, but they might be randomly mentioned throughout since they’re going to be the new core of SHIELD. Once again, nothing like the show, Agents of SHIELD.

My favorite part of this chapter? The ending! I hope it wasn’t too cheesy, because I saw the opportunity while I was writing and took it. I’d love to know everyone’s reactions!