Archaic Kinds of Fun

a demonstration of awesomeness

September 15, 2014

“Your optimism is appreciated.” Thor’s smile was quick and bright, and Loki almost didn’t continue. Almost. “And foolish. No one in that house wants my presence.”

“That is not true, brother.” He has to stop himself from correcting Thor every time the title slips from his lips, because they are not brothers. Not really.

“They hate me, for good reason.” He tore the Avengers apart. They may have managed to come back together, stronger, but his actions affected all of them.

“We will tell them the truth. What happened was not your fault.” Foolishness. He’s not even sure why he’s surprised.

“I sent the Destroyer, I fell, and I promised the Tesseract to Thanos.”

“You had no control!”

“I own my actions!” A rough cough caught their attention, and they both turned to look at the doorway to the bedroom they were currently in. The female mutant, Jo, was leaning against the doorway with her arms crossed. Behind her was Hulk’s human counterpart, Dr. Banner.

“Problem, boys?” Her voice was a hoarse drawl as she raised an eyebrow, and Loki met her green eyes with his own.

“I am merely trying to get Thor to see reason,” Loki said quietly.

“Loki thinks that he is unwanted in our home,” Thor told the woman.

“Well, he’s right.” Loki turned to Thor and smiled, because he was right. “Clint’s never gonna be his biggest fan. He’ll always see the people that he killed while he was brainwashed. Since Clint will never really like him, Natasha probably won’t either. Solidarity and all that. Tony’s still a little upset about being thrown out of a window, and don’t even get me started on that whole portal into space thing. Hulk doesn’t appreciate being used as a destructive distraction. So, yeah, there’s going to be some tension. They’re also some of the only people that’ll understand what it’s like to be controlled by something else, to have your choices limited. They’re not going to just up and forgive you. What you did cut too deep. I think you can redeem yourself though, if you try. Or you could just, I don’t know, run away?”

“Is she trying to goad me into redemption?” The woman’s whole speech was said calmly and without ever looking away from his eyes, and Thor smiled over at him.

“I believe she is. What say you, brother?” Loki looked away from Thor’s bright eyes, and he caught Dr. Banner’s eyes for the first time. The man has been silent this entire time, and Loki can’t read his expression.

“Tell me, Hulk, will your housemates attempt to kill me in my sleep?” The woman looked over her shoulder to meet her lover’s eyes and shrugged, and Dr. Banner looked back across the room at him.

“No. They’re more straightforward than that. They’d kill you to your face, and I’m Bruce. Hulk is the green one.” The quiet and timid doctor isn’t so quiet or timid anymore. Good. It’s more interesting this way.

“I suppose living with a house full of people who want me dead is better than a prison cell on Asgard.” A large hand clapped against his shoulder, and he stumbled forward a step at the force of Thor’s excitement.

“Well said, brother! When do we return?”

“After breakfast? I don’t know about you two, but I’m starving. Bruce?” Loki knows everything about the woman, and she knows everything about him. About Thor. He’s surprised that her mind can actually hold so much.

“After breakfast works for me.” Dr. Banner and the woman turned around to walk away, and Thor motioned for Loki to follow after them. He has a feeling that this situation will turn out disastrous, but he’s curious to see how long it’ll last. His current estimate? Less than a day.


“I guess we’re running a little late, huh?” Jo asked as she walked into the kitchen. Breakfast was served about an hour ago, and all the kids are in class now. Anna Marie should probably be teaching a class somewhere, but she’s in the kitchen instead.

“I think you’re allowed to sleep in after swapping brains with a super old alien,” Anna Marie said with a wide smile.

“Super old god. Don’t go insultin’ my religion.” She knows Thor and Loki are right behind her, which is a little surreal, and she watched the way that Anna Marie straightened up as her eyes narrowed.

“You picked a religion?” She’s never been anti-religion, exactly, but…she was never in a hurry to visit a church either.

“Yeah. Thorism.” She grinned over her shoulder at the blonde god and caught the look of absolute confusion on Loki’s face. The dude has no idea what he’s in for.

“You are insane. Eat your poptarts.” Jo caught the silver packet that was tossed to her and frowned. Poptarts just don’t seem the same after eating Thor’s pancakes, so she gently placed the packet on the countertop next to her elbow.

"What? No leftovers?" Yeah, blueberry poptarts are great and everything, but she was hoping for something a little hotter. Possibly some kind of meat.

“Not for you. The Professor wants to have a word before you leave. He’s waiting in his office for you.” Anna Marie’s eyes are a brighter green than hers but still somehow darker; it’s something that Jo has never been able to figure out. Not that it matters. Her adopted little sis is a looker. Jo reached forward to ruffle Anna Marie’s shortened hair, dodged the swipe at her own braided hair, and barreled into Bruce’s side.

“Have fun eating all the good food without me,” she said and popped up onto her toes to smack a kiss on his cheek. She knows why the Professor wants to talk to her, thanks to Bruce, and she’s not really looking forward to it. After she stepped away from Bruce, Thor laid a giant hand on her shoulder. She blinked before trailing her eyes up his arm to his eyes, and the god was already smiling at her.

“Fear not, Jo. Once we return home, I will prepare a feast for you to rival the great feasts of Asgard.” Thor’s memories, and Loki’s, are the most jumbled. Every time she catches a flash of something, it slips away from her. It’s like she’s trying to put a puzzle together without looking at the box first, which is nearly impossible when the puzzle has over a billion pieces. Despite that, she can see flashes of long wooden tables literally weighed down with mountains of food.

“And that is why you’re my one true god.”

She could still hear Thor’s loud laughter behind her as she left the kitchen, and her fingertips reached out to idly touch against the walls. A small part of her thought that she’d never come back here, and she never imagined it’d be under these circumstances. Still, it’s good to be back. Nothing has really changed. The technology is probably better, but the house looks the same. Feels the same. This is a safe haven for mutant kids; a place to learn, and a place to be accepted. If she whipped around fast enough, would she able to see a younger version of herself running down the hall? With Kitty thrown over her shoulder and Peter right on her heels as they hurry to class?

“You could still be happy here.” The quiet sound of the Professor’s voice chased away the memory, and she looked down to meet his eyes. He’s waiting just outside of his office, and she reached up to lightly rub the back of her neck. She’d planned on coming back when she first left, but it didn’t exactly go as planned.

“I’m not an X-Man, sir.” She’s not an Avenger either, but the Avengers are her family.

“You are still a mutant, and we will always be here to welcome you home.” She knows the words are sincere, and she can feel her eyes burning. The Professor reached forward to grab her hand, just something to anchor and comfort her, and then he moved back into the office. She took a deep breath and followed after him, but she left the door open. They’ll both know if someone gets close.

“I gotta tell you, sir, I don’t envy you at all. Telepathy isn’t anything like I thought it was,” she said as she carefully lowered herself into a chair in front of his desk. She’s used to just flopping down onto surfaces, she blames Tony’s bad influence, but she’ll always respect the Professor too much to just fall and sprawl all over his furniture.

“No, I think most people misunderstand what it is like. How intricate and all-consuming it can sometimes be.” Intricate is just a fancy way of saying confusing. People’s thoughts are all mixed up and mostly nonsense, and sometimes just picking up surface thoughts is enough to give her a headache.

“Yeah, I still get surprised about how much people have going on up there at any given moment,” she said and tapped her temple.

“It’d be easier to control if you studied.” When the Professor spoke, everything else went quiet. She’s pretty sure that she’s not that good, but two can play this game.

“Didn’t wanna study. I wanted it gone. Even you have to admit that I’m not supposed to have it, sir. This isn’t some secondary mutation. This was a bunch of doctors trying to play God.” Her mental voice is still quiet, not as strong as the older telepath’s, but she knows that he can hear her.

“Then why use it now, Josephine? What changed?” If it was anybody else, she’d tell ‘em to mind their own business. Her reasons are her own, but…if there’s anyone that can understand, it’s him.

“I wasn’t a good bodyguard. I didn’t need the telepathy to kill people. It was easier not to use it then. Listening to people scream as they died slowly, in pain? Wasn’t anything compared to the silence when they were gone. Just…gone. I didn’t know how to protect someone, so I let the walls down. Tried to understand him. Wound up drowning in him instead. It kind of spiraled out of control, but I think it all worked out for the best. I saved him, and he saved me.”

There were images to accompany her little speech, and she knew the Professor could see them. War torn cities filled with screams of the dying, even the ones that didn’t have a throat to scream with. That deafening silence whenever she snapped someone’s neck. Then there was Tony’s thoughts. First the anger and the fear when he was drunk, mixed in with her own sense of helplessness. Them learning how to talk with small touches and quiet whispers of Tony’s thoughts, because sometimes the words were just too hard to get out.

“Then I suppose I owe Mr. Stark my gratitude.” She snorted at that, as delicately as possibly, and slumped back in her chair.

“You didn’t look for them earlier, but you can look for them now. I won’t let you in, wouldn’t be very ethical, but you can see them.” So many doors are locked up inside of her mind. Each one unique in its own special way. Each one hiding away secrets and memories that should never be shared.

“Dr. Banner informed you of our conversation?” He noticed the doors, but he didn’t go anywhere near them. That’s good. She doesn’t want to be angry with the Professor.

“We’ve got a very honest relationship. I knew what I was doing, sir. I could feel it, each time I created another link. I understood the risks. Still do. One of them goes down and a part of my brain turns to mush. Something monumentally huge goes down? I probably won’t survive it. Lately, I’ve been so tired that it hurts to lift my feet. To breathe sometimes. I know I overdid it, but I wouldn’t take any of it back. They’re safe, and I’ll heal.”

“You can’t heal everything, Josephine.” Like the rough sound of her own voice. If she’s scalped, only her skin will grow back. Not her hair. Some things just don’t heal.

“Maybe not, but I’m strong enough to handle this. Believe in me, Professor.” He smiled at her then, something gentle and real, and she felt like a student again. Studying her ass off to try and pass a calculus test.

“I have always believed in you, Josephine. Can’t an old man worry about one of his favorite students?”

“Favorite, huh? Are you just saying so that I’ll come back and visit before another ten years pass by?”

“That is so cool! You guys have been staring at each other for like fifteen minutes and having a completely silent conversation! I know you were talking too, because your auras were all…whoo-whoo-whoo.” The girl now standing to the side of the Professor’s desk had her cheeks puffed out as she made the weird sound effects and moved her hands through the air, and Jo raised a brow as she looked over at the Professor. The girl literally appeared out of nowhere, and Jo can’t hear her. Not a peep.

“Josephine, you remember Illyana Rasputin?” The dark blue eyes should have given it away; Illyana’s eyes are the exact same shade as her big brother’s.

“Little Yana!” Jo yelled as she stood up. Her arms easily went around the girl’s shoulders to pull her in for a hug, and she felt small hands settle against the middle of her back. Illyana is five-five, the same height as Darcy, but she doesn’t have Darcy’s curves. She’s not stick-thin or anything, but she’s still a tiny little thing.

“I’m legally an adult now,” Illyana pointed out as she pulled away. Jo hasn’t seen Peter’s little sister since she left the mansion, and Illyana was only about eight then. She looks grown up now though. Her blonde hair reaches her shoulders, and she blew a section of dark blonde bangs out of her dark eyes.

“Barely.” She used to give this kid piggyback rides to class, and Illyana used to get a kick out of painting her toenails. Badly.

“Still counts. Peter said that you’d help me.” She crossed her arms as she raised her chin, and Jo wracked her brain for her conversation with Peter from the previous day. Missing mentor. Right.

“I’m more like a middle man. A friend of mine might be able to help, but I haven’t had a chance to ask him yet.” Doing a mental link with a thousand year old god, who could have possibly been evil but thankfully wasn’t, took priority over her thoughts. Then she slept pretty heavily until her nightmares forced her awake, and it’d taken her a little while to fall back asleep. She’s been doing her best not to think about anything too hard since waking up.

“You and your guests should stay, at least until lunch. The children would like to spend some more time with Hulk, and I believe Ororo mentioned something about showing up Thor?” The Professor said the last part of the inquiry with a teasing smile, and Jo threw her head back in a laugh.

“Yeah, okay, lunch. The kids can climb Hulk, Thor can marvel at the awesomeness that is Ororo, and we’ll call Tony. Sound good, little Yana?” The blonde narrowed her eyes, but the glare didn’t last long. She laughed quietly as she stepped forward again, and Jo held still as the girl hugged her.

“No one calls me that anymore,” she said and turned to walk away. Jo glanced at the Professor, and he nodded to let her know that it was okay for her to go. Jo smiled and hurried to catch up to Illyana while yelling after her.

“I think it’s makin’ a comeback!”


“How’s it going?” Sam visibly jumped at the sound of his voice, and Tony tried not to cackle as he fell into the chair across from the startled man. Breakfast was over about an hour ago, forty-three minutes ago, and Tony was proud of himself for holding out so long before cornering Sam again. Surprisingly, in the library. Sam must know that Tony can find him here, since he just did it yesterday.

“You mean with the counseling thing?” Breakfast had been…subdued. Quiet. It might be because Maria attempted to make breakfast in Thor’s absence, and Tony is tempted to ban the woman from the kitchen altogether. They could still smell the smoke in the dining room after that fiasco. They’d had cereal instead, and Thor has really been spoiling them all because Tony had still been hungry when he was finished with his bowl.

“What else would I be asking about?” He’d already agreed to the counseling thing, so he didn’t stick around after his disappointing bowl of Wheaties. So he’s not sure who approached Sam and who didn’t.

“Darcy and Skye agreed first, which isn’t that surprising. Doreen told me to sign her up and then actually winked at me before leaving. Steve and Maria both just stared me down before nodding, once. Just dipped their heads and stalked off. Logan laughed and said he didn’t need therapy from a guy a fraction of his age. Clint caught my eye when I walked into the kitchen, jumped up onto the counter, and disappeared into an air vent. Natasha has been a complete no-show. Pepper sent me a text and said she’d agree to therapy, but only after work hours. So, I guess that’s everyone except for the assassins and the current missing members.”

“Clint and Natasha will come around.” Sam raised a skeptical eyebrow, but Tony knows these people. Sort of. “Maybe. You can put Jo and Bruce down too, since it was Jo’s idea and Bruce agreed. Not so sure about Thor and Loki.”

“I’ll work them in at the end.” There was a notebook spread open in front of Sam, and Tony leaned forward to get a better look. It was a chart, and a very detailed one at that.

“Do you want a tablet or something? Probably make that a lot easier.” Sam looked up and over at him, and Tony met his stare head-on. If they’re really going to do this, he might as well get used to looking the guy in the eye.

“Some of us like doing things the old fashioned way.” Tony made a face, and he knows that he made a face because Sam started cracking up. He just doesn’t see the point in carrying around a notebook and a pen when you could have something digital. He doesn’t even need a tablet anymore. It’s all in his brain.

“You’re boring, Wilson. So, do you charge by the hour?” The smile slowly faded from Sam’s face, and Tony resisted the urge to shift. He’s too cool to shift uncomfortably in his chair.

“I’m not charging anything.”

“Man’s gotta make a living,” Tony pointed out. Sam crossed his arms as he leaned back in his seat, and Tony stayed perfectly still. He’s not even sprawling.

“I got my veteran’s benefits and some savings. I’m not gonna charge any of you. Doesn’t seem very team-like.”

“Pro-bono work then? Suit yourself.” He pressed his palms flat against the table as he got to his feet, and Sam twirled his pencil between his fingers.

“See you tomorrow after breakfast.” They’re starting that soon? There’s really no point in putting it off, but…he agreed to this. He agreed to this, and he’s going to go through with it.

“See you at dinner.”

When he got back to the lab, Skye was already there and clearly not waiting on him. She was sitting cross-legged on top of a table, three screens were surrounding her, and she was fixing Dum-E’s sweater for him without ever looking away from all of the fast moving information. Tony loves Darcy, loves her in some kind of weird paternal-sibling mix (but mostly paternal at this point), but he can admit that she wasn’t happy here in the lab. She enjoyed watching him work and actually listened to his explanations, but none of this was her cup of tea. Skye, on the other hand, seems to thrive up here.

“Tony! I think I’ve got something!” She waved her arms in the air, like he couldn’t already see her, and Dum-E zipped off as he got closer. He hasn’t tried to remove the sweater in weeks, so the little guy needs to stop being so paranoid.

“What’d ya find, kid?” Her nose wrinkled a little at that, but it just keeps slipping out of him. Skye hasn’t asked him to stop though, so he’s not going to try.

“This is Bruce’s file, right? It’s just a bunch of numbers instead of names, but there’s a lot of gamma talk. It’s not really making sense though. Something about containment?” She squinted as she turned to another screen, and she quickly adjusted the area she was referencing to make it bigger. Only a few words jumped out at him, but they were enough to confirm his working theory.

Containment. Not safe. Cube.

“This is Emil Blonsky’s file. He was originally given a low dose of knock-off super soldier serum and was sent after Hulk. He failed, spectacularly, and got an upgrade. A stronger serum increased his strength and caused some deformities, but he still wasn’t strong enough to stand against Hulk. So he got dosed with some of Bruce’s radioactive blood and became the Abomination. He and Hulk kind of broke Harlem.”

He pulled up a video, the same one that he first watched two years ago before he ever saw Hulk in person, and watched the way that Skye’s eyes widened as she took in the destruction. Tony knows that Hulk didn’t want to destroy the entire area, but Abomination didn’t exactly give him a choice. Seeing the fight is still…breath taking. So much raw power.

“What happened next?” Skye asked, without looking away from the screen.

“Well, Bruce ran off, because that’s just how Bruce was. Abomination was locked away in the Cube apparently.”

“The same Cube that was just recently broken into so that all of the prisoners could escape?” This is not good. This is like the definition of not-good.

“The one and the same.” When a loud ringing suddenly echoed in the lab, they both jumped. Skye laughed as she pressed a hand over her chest, and Tony rolled his eyes as he connected the call. Using his brain.

“Yo, Tony! Still in one piece, boss?” Jo’s rough voice was loud in the lab, and Skye was already focused back on the screens around her.

“Completely whole. How you holding up, sweetheart?” Skye snorted at the term of endearment but didn’t turn to look at him.

“Pretty good, all things considered. The Professor is currently canceling morning classes so that we can all witness the power of Thor and Storm, so don’t be surprised if there’s any freak weather.”

“You mean I’m stuck in a lab, slaving away, and you’re playing with the weather?” Skye laughed outright at that, and Tony raised his index finger to spin around as a way to tell her to turn around and mind her own business.

“You love that lab, and you know it. I have to literally drag you out of there at night, and there’s not enough money in the world that could make me miss watching Ororo take on Thor. This is gonna be one for the ages.” Jo sounded genuinely excited, and Tony was happy for her. His indestructible bodyguard has been looking more than a little tired lately, so she deserves some happiness.

“Hey! Don’t forget about the actual reason you’re calling!” another voice shouted in the background. Female. Hard to tell the age.

“Right! Sorry, Yana.” There was the sound of a frustrated scream, so Tony’s going to guess either a young woman or possibly even a teenager.

“Everything okay?” He can still hear the faint sound of the unknown girl yelling, but he can’t make out the actual words. Sounds Russian.

“Yeah, well, I’m not sure. Remember how I told you about my friend Peter? Big guy? Can turn his body into metal?” Even before seeing Jo’s memories, she told him about her friends from the school.

“I know who Colossus is.” He hasn’t met very many mutants, but he’s done his research.

“Right. His little sister, Illyana, is a mutant too. Completely different mutation. She’s a recent graduate, and she’s been looking for her mentor. Her mentor is completely human, but she’s a witch. She’s been missing for a few months, and Illyana says it’s not like her to just up and disappear. Think you can do that nifty facial recognition thing and find her?”

“Some people would say that my facial recognition software is unethical.” Jo huffed, which only made Tony smile. “Yeah, I’ll get right on it. Bring her with you, and I’ll see what I can do.”

“You’re the best, boss!” There was some high-pitched squealing in the distance, so either the girl heard him or Jo gave her some kind of sign.

“I know I am. What’s her full name? I’ll go ahead and start looking.” There was some shuffling, a few quiet grunts, and then the girl’s voice came over the speaker.

“Her name is Jade Howland. That’s H-O-W-L-A-N-D. No middle name. Her birthday is August sixteenth. Nineteen eighty-nine. Thank you so much for helping me, Mr. Stark!” More shuffling, more yelling, and Jo was back on the phone.

“That good enough to start with?” Jo sounded a little breathless, but she also sounded…happy. A little lighter.

“I think I can work with it. You planning on coming back anytime this year?” He knows that they just left yesterday, but he and Jo haven’t been apart since…since…since she started working for him.

“Be home right after lunch. The jet’ll have us back in, what, half an hour? I’ll be there, Tony.”

“See you then.” He was getting ready to disconnect when Jo’s loud yell stopped him, and he saw Skye looking at him over her shoulder. “What now?”

“I love you!” Skye collapsed onto her side in unrestrained laughter, and Tony rolled his eyes despite the warmth in his chest.

“Love you too, sweetheart. Tell Thor I’m cheering for him.” Jo was still laughing when the call disconnected, and Skye was wiping tears away from the corner of her eyes as she continued to laugh.

“You two are ridiculously sweet, you know that? I mean I get it, but, dude. I thought those kinds of relationships were for sickly sweet movies or unrealistic books, but you two are real. With the cuddles, and the pet names, and the willing to actually die for each other. You’re both so unreal,” Skye rambled out while her hands waved around. Tony hummed as he moved over to where she was sitting, and he propped his hip against the side of the table.

“I grew up alone. I had a father, a mother, nannies, tutors, drivers…the whole nine yards. Charmed life, right? My parents loved me, my mother showed it more, but it always felt impersonal. Then they died, and I was alone. It was easier being alone, but I’ve got a feeling that you already know that.” Skye fidgeted with the edge of her sleeves, which were pulled down past her fingers now, and nodded her head.

“It’s easier when you have no one. Can’t get hurt that way.” He’s not one for comforting. His way of dealing with emotions is to make a joke, laugh it off, and then walk away. He’s not going to change that completely, but he can change his MO just this once.

“Yeah, you can. I kept everyone at arm’s length, and I still wound up with this.” He tapped the center of his chest, listened to the way his flesh tapped against the metal even through the cotton of his shirt, and sighed. “Jo was the first person that was just…there. She didn’t want anything from me, other than to keep me alive. She had no expectations, no demands, nothing. All she wanted to do was keep me safe, even from myself. That kind of unselfish and undemanding love? It’s special.”

“I keep thinking that I don’t belong here. Gods, superheroes, super geniuses, mutants…I’m no one. Right now I should be sitting in a cubicle and hating my life. Because this? I don’t know when or how, but this is going to hurt me.” Yeah, that’s something that he’s been afraid of too. Still is, sometimes, when he stops to really think about it.

“Then make some happy memories to look back on.”

“Pep talks aren’t your thing, huh?” He’s pretty sure he remembers saying something similar to that to Jo once.

“Not really. Now, let’s take down Abomination’s file and move him into the Shit-To-Deal-With-Later pile.”

“We have a pile for that?!”


“Ho-ly. Shit,” Illyana whispered next to her. Jo cut her eyes over at the younger mutant and then pointedly looked at the rather large gathering of children close to them.

“Young ears! Watch your language!” Illyana rolled her eyes but still managed not to look away from the spectacle in front of them. Thor and Ororo were facing each other in the middle of the open field, and Thor’s laugh seemed to shake the ground every time Ororo did something new.

“He has not even reached for his hammer,” Loki muttered on her other side. She’s flanked by the god and Illyana, and she’s got a perfect view of the morning’s festivities.

“Because this isn’t a fight. It’s a demonstration,” Jo muttered back. Thor might be in his Asgardian gear and looking the part of a god, but this isn’t even a friendly spar. They’re just showing off. The sky above them is dark, and lightning keeps lighting up all around them. Jo knows that no one is in danger of being struck though, because Ororo or Thor would never let something like that happen.

“It’s a demonstration of awesomeness,” Illyana whispered and started bouncing lightly on her toes. Jo was getting ready with a comeback when a force slammed into her back, and she instantly reached up to grab the legs currently wrapped around her middle.

“Come on, Storm! Show ‘im how us mutants do it!” Anna Marie yelled over her head. Her adopted sister is currently attached to her back and holding on with just her legs, and Jo listened as Remy stepped up to Illyana’s other side. White eyes flashed over at them as Ororo smiled, and Jo watched on as she raised one hand towards the sky.

“Looks like it’s about to get interestin’,” Remy drawled and crossed his arms. A large bolt of lightning struck Ororo’s outstretched arm, and her body twisted as she threw the energy straight at Thor. Grooves of grass were ripped up as Thor caught the ball of lightning with his bare hands, and the ground actually did shake as he raised his foot and stomped down. Ororo rolled with the movement and dodged the lightning that Thor tossed back, and Jo actually gasped as they flew at each other. Sparks flew as they started trading blows, but she knew they were doing it for the kids. The little ones were cheering like they were watching a fireworks display.

“Child’s play,” Loki huffed. The god still isn’t looking his best, too thin and pale, but his eyes are a brilliant green again. It’s progress.

“Well, they are doing it for the children,” Jo pointed out.

“We haven’t had a demonstration like this in forever,” Anna Marie said and propped her chin on top of Jo’s head.

“Yeah, because no one is crazy enough to go against Storm. She can make a hurricane,” Illyana said while her eyes danced back and forth.

“I think Thor could handle a hurricane,” Jo mused. Loki made some kind of noise, it was too dignified to be a snort or a huff, so she’s guessing that he agrees. Jo looked away from the localized destruction and to the left, and she smiled over at the large grouping of children. All of the younger children are surrounding Hulk, who’s sitting on the ground and looks perfectly content as a dozen mutant children crawl all over him. Well, they’re mostly being still at the moment, but they keep rearranging themselves to see better.

“That is the sappiest face I have ever seen, and I was the flower girl at Kitty and Peter’s wedding,” Illyana said after knocking her shoulder against Jo’s arm.

“I thought they had a courthouse wedding?” Kitty and Peter had basically the same personality. Neither one of them liked to make a fuss or be the center of attention, so they got married quietly.

“They did, and I threw flowers at them when they walked out. Point is, your face looks dopey.” She probably does have some kind of dopey smile on her face, but she can’t help it. She loves it when Bruce and Hulk are both happy, and she can actually feel how happy and content they both are. She can’t hear their thoughts or anything, but there’s a lingering feeling spilling out of Bruce’s door of happiness and contentment. Anna Marie huffed and slipped off her back, and Jo watched her slump against Remy’s side before addressing Illyana.

“I love Hulk, so I’m allowed to look dopey.” When she turned back to see Thor and Ororo shaking hands, she caught the contemplative look on Loki’s face from the corner of her eye. “And what is that look for?”

“I just find it strange that you easily proclaim your love for the monster but not for the man.” Her first instinct was to punch Loki, but she managed to hold back.

“Hulk’s not a monster. Call him that again, and we will throw down. Got it?” Most of her feels bad for Loki. She saw the way that he was tortured, over and over again, and she can sympathize with that. No one badmouths her Hulk though.

“You truly do love him.”

“Of course I do, and I care about Bruce too. We’re currently the only ones on your side, so you should try to be a little nicer.” Loki hummed but didn’t say anything as Thor moved over to them, and Jo noticed the burn spots on his armor. Go, Ororo!

“Have fun?” Illyana asked the god with a big smile. Jo’s gotta hand it to the girl, she’s fearless. Thor looked down at her and grinned, wide enough to show his pearly whites, and nodded.

“The lightning she calls forth is different from my own, and she is a formidable warrior.” He’s not wrong. She’s never really seen Ororo in a real fight, but she’s heard stories. Stories that gave even her goosebumps.

“That she is. Yana, if you’re coming with us, you’d better go tell Peter and pack a bag. We’re leaving after lunch.” Illyana snapped off a salute and bounced off, and Jo shook her head. Illyana’s still so young, only nineteen, but she’s tough. She’s strong. “Alright, I’m gonna go grab Hulk so that Bruce can eat. After this meal, we’re going home.”
♠ ♠ ♠
I won’t lie to you wonderful people; I wrote the majority of this chapter while I was half asleep. Literally. Propped up in a recliner with my eyes drooping, talking out loud as I typed and possibly scaring my dog, the whole nine yards. So that’s why there were so many speeches (my sleepy brain tends to ramble), but I like this chapter. It shows that what Jo did isn’t something to be taken lightly, but she’s going to power through it. There’s also the Loki bits, which have been a mixture of fun and challenging. As for the Thor and Storm thing, I highly recommend googling some images of the two of them. There’s some pretty amazing panels out there with the two of them; I just wish I’d been able to expand on their scene and show them really facing off. (Maybe in a future chapter?)

The Abomination-Hulk stuff mentioned during Tony and Skye’s talk is from The Incredible Hulk. I know it’s not Marvel’s best work, but I actually enjoyed the movie. (I do love Ruffalo’s portrayal more…if we could just get him to do a solo Hulk movie, my life would be complete.)

The mutant introduced in this chapter, Illyana Rasputin, is owned by Marvel. She’s the younger sister of Peter Rasputin, and her mutation is complicated. I’ve simplified it some, or a lot, for this story. More will be explained as the story progresses. I just want to make it clear that she is from the Marvel Universe. I like to picture her as Britt Robertson, but you're free to picture her however you want.

One last thing, I posted another story! It's a one-shot about Thor and Doreen, and it's completely unrelated to this story. If you'd like to read it, the title is The Day That Monkey Joe Ran Away.