Archaic Kinds of Fun

loki makes thirteen

One small child, with light purple skin and nearly translucent wings, had taken up residence on top of Hulk’s head. She didn’t pull his hair, she stayed on mostly by keeping her legs tight around the side of his neck, so Hulk didn’t mind. Other children danced around his knees and grabbed onto his arms, and he lifted them up and spun them around. Did pretty much whatever they requested. A few children were tossed into the air, and Hulk’s giant hands easily caught them as they came back down. The whole time, the small child on top of his head clapped and laughed.

“Mind meld was successful. I’m fine, Thor’s fine, Loki’s apparently kind of a good guy, and I’mma take a nap. Professor will talk to you soon. Nothing to worry about. Come cuddle me later.” Jo’s voice was stronger in his mind, has been stronger ever since the mental link, and Bruce felt Hulk’s satisfaction at knowing that Jo was safe. Hulk was also happy for Thor, that his friend could finally have some peace with his brother. Even if Hulk was still cautious of the other god. Bruce was too, so he was looking forward to hearing what happened.

“Rest, Jo. I’ll be with you soon.” Bruce knew that she heard the words, because he felt a deep sense of contentment that didn’t come from him or Hulk. He could also smell oranges, just for a moment, before his mind quieted.

“Alright, kids! That’s enough for today! Bruce needs to go see the Professor!” Some of the children groaned, but they all waved goodbye to Hulk before hurrying over to surround Kitty. The small child on his head smacked a kiss into his curls before fluttering over to the other children, and Hulk waved as Kitty led them away. When he reached the steps leading to the back of the mansion, Anna Marie smiled up at him.

“For some reason, I ain’t even a little surprised that Jo’s datin’ someone who turns green.” She said it as he shifted back, and Hulk rumbled out a laugh as he receded back into Bruce’s mind. Bruce felt a little exposed in just his shorts in front of Jo’s little sister, and the woman continued to smile at him as he walked over to where his clothes were neatly folded on a table on the porch.

“Because green is her favorite color?” His pants easily went over the shorts, and he pushed his arms through the sleeves of his button-up shirt.

“That, and you look really good shirtless.” Anna Marie laughed as Bruce blushed, he could feel the heat in his cheeks, and he quickly finished buttoning up his shirt. “Don’t be so bashful, Bruce. I’m just messin’ with ya. That’s what family does, right?”

"Family takes care of each other.” Anna Marie’s eyes narrowed just a little, because that’s something that Jo has told her many times over the years. It’s what Anna Marie said to the older mutant after Jo retired from SHIELD. Bruce finished buttoning his shirt, and Anna Marie smiled as she hooked her arm around one of his.

“Yeah, that’s what family does. You joinin’ the family, Bruce?” She sounds like Jo, just a little. Anna Marie’s accent is a little thicker, her speech is a little slower, but he can hear echoes of Jo in her words.

“I don’t know. It’s still new, but I’m not planning on leaving her side anytime soon.” The answer must have been a good one, because the woman just lightly squeezed his arm as she led him back inside the school.

“I can still remember the first time Logan brought me here. It looked big and scary, and then there was Jo. Long hair and big dark eyes; she didn’t even let Logan finish explaining who I was before she jumped forward to hug me. Our cheeks brushed. Just a little bit, but it was enough.”

“You started crying when she fell over, and she cried so that you wouldn’t have to cry alone. Logan got you both ice cream and made Jo promise to be more careful around you. To take care of you.” Some of his memories of Jo are growing hazy, fuzzy around the edges, but he remembers that one well enough.

“That’s exactly what she’s always done. After what happened to her, I thought I’d lost her. She was still breathin’, but she wasn’t right. Now? Even though she looks a little dead on her feet, she looks more like herself. Did you do that?” Anna Marie stopped in front of a door, and Bruce looked down at her.

“No. Tony Stark did.” Being with Jo, being with all of them, makes Bruce feel better. About himself. About everything really. He thinks it’s the same for Jo. There’s something about all of them being together that’s changing all of them, but it started with Tony and Jo.

“Eh, I guess we can still keep you around. Have fun talkin’ to the Professor.” She reached forward to open the door, and she winked at him before walking off. Bruce watched her back for just a moment before turning towards the open doorway, and clear blue eyes met his as he stepped into the office.

“Dr. Banner.” Bruce closed the door behind him and walked over to the large desk, and he smiled as he lowered himself down into a chair.

“Professor Xavier.”

“Has Josephine told you what happened with Loki?”

“All she said was that the mental link was successful and that Loki was a good guy?” It’s something he’s still having problems believing. He remembers Loki. Remembers watching as the god was slammed into the floor of Stark Tower, repeatedly. Remembers the destruction left in his wake.

“That is the simplest answer, yes. I would like to contact Mr. Stark and tell you both what happened.” Bruce nodded, because it seemed like the easiest and most logical solution. “If you would join me on this side, please.”

Bruce moved around to the other side of the desk, so that he was standing next to the Professor, and watched as a screen appeared out of the middle of the desk. A moment later, Tony’s face was taking up most of the screen. After a quick explanation about the meaning of the call, Tony called for the others. Slowly, several more faces appeared around him. Looks like the whole house has been gathered together to hear the news. Bruce stayed silent while the Professor explained what he was able to see, and it was a lot to take in. Loki wasn’t exactly innocent, but he wasn’t to blame for what happened in Manhattan. He may have used them, but…it was the right call.

“When do I get my bodyguard and science bro back?” Tony asked once the explanation was over.

“They will be returned to you once Josephine and Loki are both conscious. I estimate sometime tomorrow,” the Professor said. Tony nodded, locked eyes with Bruce, and then cut off the connection.

“Are Loki and Thor resting too?” Jo told him that she was taking a nap, which he expected after she made another mental link. She always sleeps after that.

“They are. I know you want to join Josephine, but there is one more thing I would like to discuss with you first. If you don’t mind.” Bruce was already back on the other side of the desk, and he sat down in one of the cushioned chairs for the second time since entering the office. The Professor’s tone of voice makes him think that he might need to be sitting down for this.

“Is something wrong?” The Professor laced his fingers together and settled them on top of the desk, and Bruce resisted the urge to bring his hands together and check his pulse. Old habits are hard to break, but he’s trying.

“Not yet.”

“That sounds…ominous.” He was hoping to break the tension, but the Professor’s expression didn’t change. Now he’s really worried.

“How many mental links has Josephine established?” Bruce quickly counted all the names and shifted a little in his seat.

“Loki makes thirteen.” The Professor’s eyes closed, briefly, before meeting his again.

“I will speak to her before she leaves, but Josephine has always been strong-willed so I am going to ask for your help. You care for her?”

“Yes.” That’s the second time he’s been asked that today, in one way or another.

“Do not let her create another mental link. Her mind has already stretched well past its limits. Creating another link could destroy her mind permanently. Do any of you understand what she has done to herself?” Bruce couldn’t think of anything to say. His so-called genius brain was silent, because he feels like some kind of chastised child.

“Is she okay?” Jo’s looked more tired lately, but it makes sense considering how much has been going on. Then again, it’s possible that they’ve all rationalized it that way and avoided looking any deeper into her changes.

“For now, she appears to be okay. Creating just one mental link is dangerous for a telepath, and Josephine has created thirteen. If any of you were to get hurt in any kind of major way, she would be affected. I sincerely hope, for Josephine’s sake, that she is the first to die among you.” Bruce could hear Hulk growling in the back of his mind, rebelling against the idea of Jo’s death, but Bruce felt mostly numb. “If you or one of the others were to die first, a part of her mind would die as well. What if she is the last standing among you? She won’t even be herself. She will be lost. If I had known she’d already made so many mental links, I never would have allowed her to create one with Loki.”

“Can they be reversed?” Even as he asked it, Bruce already knew the answer. The Professor shaking his head just confirmed it. “No more mental links, and I’ll keep an eye on her.”

“Josephine is strong, but everyone has limits.” The sound of a throat clearing came from behind him, and Bruce turned his head to see Dr. McCoy standing in the now open doorway. He had two suitcases, his and Jo’s, in his hands.

“I’ll take you to Josephine, Dr. Banner.” The Professor nodded at him, and Bruce rose on unsteady legs. The mutant doctor was quiet as they walked through the hallways, and he opened a door that didn’t look any different than all the others. The suitcases were set down right inside the door, and Dr. McCoy smiled briefly at him before closing the door behind him.

Since the light was on, he could make out the small lump under the blankets on the bed. Jo’s hair was piled on the pillow behind her, and he could just see the tip of her nose over the thick blanket. She didn’t move as he eased himself down on top of the blanket, but he was still careful not to jostle the bed too much as he laid down beside her. She was breathing evenly and deep, but her skin was paler than usual and dark smudges were under her eyes. She didn’t even stir when he reached up to brush a stray piece of hair away from her cheek, and he kept repeating the Professor’s words in his mind. Over and over.

“We’ll keep her safe.” Hulk sounded unsure, and Bruce reached out to pull Jo against him. She nuzzled against his throat before falling still again, and Bruce hoped that Hulk was right.


“Wait! One more quick team meeting!” Tony tried not to smile as everyone literally froze in the act of leaving the room, and Darcy raised a brow at him. The plan was to do this after dinner, but they’re already all together. Tony looked away from Darcy and over at Sam, and the man crossed his arms as he nodded. Alright, here goes.

His eyes flicked around the room as he brought up the idea of counseling, and the reactions varied. Darcy and Skye seemed the most open to it, and he could actually see Clint and Natasha shut down. Maria looked a little fidgety, and Steve’s jaw was clenched pretty tight. He knows none of them are good at talking about their problems, but they’re gonna need counseling. Especially since Loki just got cleared. No one said anything once his speech was done, but they all looked around at each other in tense silence.

“I’m not saying I’m crazy about the idea, but can any of you actually say that you’re mentally sound?”

“More mentally sound than you are,” Clint threw out. Tony narrowed his eyes, and the archer huffed. “Yeah, okay, we’re all pretty fucked up. How’s talking about it going to help?”

“Won’t know that until you try.” It’s about time Sam spoke up! Tony was tired of treading water on his own. He gets why Clint is upset though. The Battle of Manhattan messed most of the Avengers up, Tony included, but none of them went through what Clint did. None of them were literally brainwashed into doing some very not-good things.

“Why Sam and not Jo? She’s the one that knows literally everything about us,” Skye said and then glanced over at Sam. “No offense. Just curious.”

“Jo’s the best, but she’s not a therapist. You all saw her memories too, right? Her idea of an intervention involves fist fights. It worked for me, once, but I think we need a different approach. Sam’s the only one of us with actual experience in this kind of thing.” Normally, Tony is all for standing in the spotlight. Loves being looked at. Ironically, he hates being exposed. It burns inside every time he remembers that everyone in this room has seen him at his lowest point.

“I think it’s a good idea. As long as Sam is willing,” Steve said quietly.

“Wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t willing.” When the silence stretched out again, Sam huffed and let his arms fall. “It’s not mandatory. No one is going to make you talk about your feelings. If you wanna try it out, that’s cool. Take the day to figure it out. Tomorrow, after breakfast, tell me if you’ve decided to try it. Once everyone has decided, I’ll come up with a schedule. If you wanna wait a while, that’s cool too. I’m just here to help.”

“Meeting over. Go back to whatever you were doing,” Tony said and waved his hands. The room slowly emptied, until it was just him and Sam. Tony stepped next to the man that was willing to play therapist for a bunch of emotionally repressed superheroes and grinned. “I think that went well.”

“This is a madhouse. A madhouse!” Sam yelled as Tony walked off, laughing all the while. He’s not wrong.


“Is it weird that I want to try therapy?” Skye’s dark brown eyes rose to meet hers, and Darcy stopped twirling her hair around her finger. Her and Skye are in her room, but they’ve been working on separate projects. It’s just nice to be in the same room. Darcy almost wanted to take the question back, but she wants Skye’s opinion. Wants her twin sister’s opinion, and it’s going to take a while to get used to that.

“Your pseudo family is made up of superheroes, you recently found out that you were a mutant because you were shot in the head, and you just discovered that you have biological family around. I think it’d be weirder if you thought you were perfectly fine.” Well, when stated like that, therapy seems like the logical choice.

“So you’re gonna go for counseling too?” Skye drummed her fingers against her knees for a minute and then slowly nodded her head.

“Yeah. It’s not like it could hurt, right?” Sam seems nice enough. He helped out Steve and Natasha during the whole SHIELD-is-HYDRA fiasco, and Jo cleared him.

“Right,” Darcy agreed. Therapy. Should be fun.


It’s headed straight for her. Big horns. Big teeth. Dark red skin. They’re gonna collide any second now, and she can’t stop laughing. Let it test her strength! She will show the beast who the true warrior is! Flesh connects with her and—

—she twists away from the body attempting to pin her. Small fingers reach for the places that can hurt her the most, but she’s faster. Her body moves in a graceful arc as she strikes, and she watches as the girl hits the ground. Listens to the thud of her unmoving body. Just like that, the fight is over. Just like that, she’s—

Ringing. It echoes in her ears. Loud ringing drowns out everything around her, and her chest burns as she screams at the sky. Their bombs can’t put a dent in her, but the fire makes her ache deep inside. The looks of fear cut at her, and she’s just. So. Angry.

The ground shakes under her feet, and she can smell burned flesh and burning wood in the air. Her fingers creak as she tightens her grip on the bow, because she was too late. Too late to save anyone. Always too late. Something crunches under her boot, and she reaches down—

She’s reaching, stretching as much as she possibly can, but it’s not enough. He’s falling, a dark shadow against a sea of white, because she couldn’t reach him. Her fingers close around empty air. He’s falling. Falling.

She’s falling, and she can hear her own heartbeat drumming against her ears as wide eyes get farther away. She’s falling into the fire. Falling. Falling.

Over the edge of the Bridge. Falling into nothingness.

Falling from the sky. Silence.

“JO!” She pushed against the hands holding her down, because she can’t see. She can’t see anything. It’s too dark, too bright, too loud, too quiet. So many sensations are overtaking her senses, and it hurts. Everything hurts, and she just wants to make it stop.

“Please. Make it stop.” She could hear the rough sound of her own voice, and she could hear Bruce’s soothing voice whispering against her ear. She couldn’t make out the words, but just the sound of his voice was enough to calm her down. Her eyes are slowly adjusting to the darkness, and she could feel Bruce’s hair in between her fingers. “Bruce?”

“I’m here.” She felt her whole body shudder, and Bruce’s arms tightened around her middle. They’re in a bed, at the school. She’s safe here. She’s always been safe here. Bruce is sitting up against the headboard, and she’s curled up in his lap. She’s safe.

“It was like a nightmare, but none of it came from me. It was theirs. Thor, Natasha, Hulk, Clint, Steve, Pepper, Loki, and Tony. All of it got so mixed up, but it was more than just seeing. I was them, Bruce. It was like I was reliving all of it,” she whispered and curled closer to him. She needs Bruce’s warmth and strength right now, but she can feel him shaking against her.

“Do I need to go get the Professor?” It wasn’t easy to do, but she managed to pull herself away. They were still pressed together, but she could see Bruce’s dark eyes now. Something’s not right.

“What happened?” One of Bruce’s hands lightly cupped the back of her head, and she kept her eyes opened as he leaned forward to press his forehead against hers. She could taste green as his mind opened to her, and she listened to the Professor speak. He thinks that she overdid it, and he might be right. Her head feels too full, and she feels tired in a way that’s completely new. She didn’t even think that was possible at this point in her life. “I’m going to be fine.”

“Would you tell me if you weren’t?” Jo’s always considered herself to be honest; she’s definitely not the best at lying.

“Yes. If I start to feel like I’m slipping, I’ll tell you. I am not slipping right now. I had a nightmare because I’ve crammed a lot of horrible memories into my head in the past week, not even a whole week, and I just need time to adjust. Okay?” Her hands were steady as they framed Bruce’s face, and she could feel his hands tightly gripping her hips.

♠ ♠ ♠
Another chapter down! This chapter is a little shorter than usual, because the last one was a lot longer than my average chapters. Once everyone is back together again, the chapters will get longer. Are you okay with very long chapters? Because some of them might get really long.

I can’t think of anything big that I want to address. If you have any questions about anything, please don’t hesitate to ask!