Archaic Kinds of Fun

everything was chaos

“Quiet!” Jo nearly flinched at the sound of her own loud yell, but it had to be done. For the past five minutes, they’ve done nothing but yell over each other. Jo’s the only one standing in the middle of the room, and she’d only been able to pick out a few of the yelled words. It was mostly just Loki’s name mixed in with some curses.

“You really want us to forgive him? Just like that?” At her blank stare, Clint huffed and crossed his arms. “No offense, Josie, but you weren’t there. You didn’t see what he put us through. Put me through.”

“No offense, Clinton, but you didn’t see what he went through. I know it’s hard to accept, but he did the best he could under the circumstances!” She can feel all of those old memories slithering around in the back of her brain; flashes of the fight that took place less than twenty minutes away from where she’s standing, and snapshots of Loki’s torture as he willed himself to wait long enough for his plan to succeed.

“He opened a portal into space!”

“It turned out alright!”


“We’re never going to make progress like this.” Jo and Clint both turned their heads at the same time to stare at Steve, who had no problem meeting their angry stares.

“He’s right, you know. Squabbling like children will get you nowhere.” Jo felt her body tensing as she turned to look in the entryway, where Loki was standing with Thor just behind him.

“I asked you to wait upstairs until we were ready for you,” she bit out. She’s down here defending him, so the least he could do is follow a simple request.

“I grew tired of waiting. Show them what you have seen. If they still want me gone afterwards, I will leave.” Thor looked like he wanted to protest but kept quiet, and Jo felt her brows drawing together. Show them? That?

“It doesn’t seem right. What happened to you is private. You don’t have to—”

“They will never believe it otherwise, and some of them may feel better if they see me…what’s the expression? Taken down a peg or two?” Loki’s smiling, but she feels like she’s going to be sick.

“You’re not some kind of sideshow, and we’re not going to treat you like one,” Doreen said quickly. Well, at least there’s one other person on her side. Jo turned her eyes on Tony, and he shifted a little under her gaze.

“Don’t look at me like that, sweetheart. I still have nightmares about space. You know that,” Tony said just for her to hear.

“Why can’t all of you just believe me?”

“You know why.” Jo sighed as she pulled away from Tony’s mind, because he’s right. He’s right, and she hates that he’s right. The Avengers were formed to take down Loki, and it left a lasting impression. Not a good one.

“Are you sure, Loki?” She met the god’s green eyes, and the color looked almost feverish in his pale face.

“I wouldn’t have suggested it if I wasn’t sure.” She nodded and squared her shoulders, and she realized that she was tensing up like she would to prepare for a fight. “And, Jo? Don’t hold back.”

“I won’t.”

Once her eyes closed, she reached out to all of the doors locked up inside of her mind. It took a minute, but she eventually got them all to open. She couldn’t hear anyone’s thoughts, but she knew that they’d be able to see what she did. Then she reached out to Logan, who was nice enough to lower his own mental defenses for her. Getting everyone connected didn’t take long at all, she thought it would be harder, and she locked her teeth together as she focused on Loki’s memories. Not the ones from long ago. Nothing from his childhood. She only showed brief glimpses of his realization of his species, skimmed his short rule of Asgard, and then paused at his time with Thanos.

Kneeling on broken kneecaps. Laughter. Always laughing as they break his body, because he is more than just bones and flesh. Bones that are broken, shattered, removed. Everything heals, in time. Flesh is ripped away, burned, laid to waste to show who he is inside. It will take more than this to truly break him.

The scepter has power; the power to break him. The power to break his mind. He knows what Thanos wants, knows where it is and how to get it, but he can’t let Thanos have it. Thor will find a way to Midgard, and Thor will protect the clueless planet. He has to be strong, just long enough for Thor to find passage.

He knows his failures. Has seen them again and again. Greed and pride twisted him into something ugly, into something that he despised. He is not that monster.

The scepter is able to twist his mind. Makes him see things that are not real. (Sees them all lying dead, broken bodies and blood on his hands. Is this his future?) They take him apart and put him back together, but it’s the destruction in his mind that keeps him weak. More so than the destruction of his psychical body. (He flinches at every sound, constantly ready for the next attack.)

Once the scepter was in his hand, he saw the end. Saw a grouping of people in front of him; a sharp point was right in his face, and his battered face smiled. He knows he was the only one to see it, because Thanos allowed him to leave. Allowed him to travel to Midgard.

The first time he saw Clint Barton was in his flash of the future; the man holding the arrow pointed at his face. The second time he saw Clint Barton was moments after he arrived on Midgard, and he knew what path to take. He needed Clint Barton.

He has to be careful about who he kills. He cannot spare them all; it would look suspicious, and Thanos would end him. Death would be a mercy, but Thanos will not stop with him. Loki must see this through. He’s careful to only kill the snakes. The ones that lie in wait. The traitors.

His body is not his own. Every gesture is made from within chains; every word a mix of lies and truth. They look at him with such hate that they can’t see the truth. Can’t see that he is just as much a pawn as they are.

When it is over and he is confined to his cell, Thanos rages. Laughter, even as the mad titan attempts to break him again. Feels his blood boiling as his body fights to get free, but he keeps that image hidden. He can’t let the others know how weak he is; they can’t see how far he has fallen. After a time, he becomes still. Loki is confined, and Thanos can’t use him. Not anymore. Never again.

Jo slammed all the doors shut and pulled away from Logan, and she bent over with her hands pressed tight against her knees. She could taste blood at the back of her throat and something that tasted like dirt but somehow different, and she could hear her own rough breathing over the sound of her heartbeat pounding away in her ears. None of that was pleasant, and she feels like puking and then sleeping for a week. Once she was sure that her lunch was going to stay down, she pushed herself up straight and slowly looked around the room.

“I don’t forgive his actions. He’s done more than his share of wrong, but he was desperate. He did the only thing that he believed he could. He hurt you, and I know he did. I’ve seen it. Felt it. So I’m not asking you to make friendship bracelets with the guy. All I’m asking is for you to try and be a little understanding. If anyone needs me, I will be in the theater with Illyana. Alone.” Her eyes flicked between Bruce and Tony as she said the last word, and the two scientists quickly nodded to let her know they understood. Good.

“Thank you, Jo,” Thor said quietly as she approached. She didn’t meet his eyes or Loki’s, but she did nod as she quickly moved around them. She needs a break, and she feels like she’s earned it.


“Okay, everyone, take five. Hours. Whatever. Avengers disassemble!” The room slowly started to empty after Tony’s loud yell, and Tony held still as Pepper pressed a kiss against the top of his head.

“I have some work I need to catch up on. I’ll be in our room if you need me,” she said quietly. Tony didn’t look up until the sound of her heels faded and then he looked over at the seat next to him, where Bruce was still sitting.

“That was…” Bruce started.

“Yeah,” Tony finished. He’s not going to feel sorry for Loki, but he can admit that Jo made a good point. None of them are perfect, right? They’ve all done horrible things, but Loki isn’t the one he’s concerned about right now. “Is she okay? She didn’t look okay.”

“I’m sure she’ll tell you later.” Bruce winced even as he said it, and Tony narrowed his eyes. That sentence is all kinds of foreboding. “It’s not my place, Tony.”

“It’s only been a few weeks and you’re already whipped.” He said it lightly, to let Bruce know that he was joking, and his fellow scientist just smiled.

“Worse things have happened to me.” Tony reached up to grab Bruce’s shoulder, just a moment of simple human contact, and then stood up.

“Okay, so Loki’s here to stay. Jo also brought home another mutant, which means we’re running low on rooms. Who would have thought this place would get too small?” His mind was already thinking of ways to improve; they’ll need something bigger so that they can move freely, because sometimes they need their own space.

“I don’t think I like that look,” Bruce said slowly.

“Now is not the time to lose your sense of adventure, Banner. To science!” He’s not going to stop worrying about everything, but he can distract himself for just a little while.


“Your eyes are literally sparkly. Is that a god thing?” Darcy leaned from side to side and watched as Loki’s eyes tracked her movement, and she could hear Skye giggling on the floor in front of her. They’re on the fourth floor now, where Thor and Steve’s rooms are, but they’re sitting out in the common area. Darcy and Thor are sitting on a couch, Skye is sitting on the floor with her back against Darcy’s shins, and Loki is sitting in a chair across from them.

“How many gods have you met?” Loki sounds nice enough, but his lips do this mischievous little tilt thing every time he smiles. She realizes that doesn’t really make sense, but she can’t think of any other way to describe Loki’s smile.

“Just you and Thor. Well, I saw those others in New Mexico, but I didn’t get a good look because of all the explosions. Are you making them sparkle?” Seriously, that’s not normal. Skye snorted as she continued to laugh, and Darcy even heard Thor’s deep chuckle.

“They’re just eyes,” Loki said with a sigh.

“Sparkly eyes,” Darcy corrected.

“This is why you left Asgard? To cavort with giggling girls?” Loki looked away from her and over at Thor, and she squealed as the lights bounced off of his eyes. Skye was pointing at the god’s face as she laughed now, and Darcy kept leaning forward to get a better look.

“She is paying you a compliment, brother. The polite thing to do would be to say thank-you.” It sounded like Thor was barely holding in his laughter, and it’s good to hear Thor so happy. Darcy really loves the big god, so she’s glad that all of this is working out. Even if she is actively repressing the sight of Loki’s broken body laid out against dark gray rocks. Yep, repressing it all right now.

“Since when do you care about proper manners?”

“It’s like little disco lights,” Skye said and tipped her head back against Darcy’s knee. Darcy met Skye’s eyes, upside down, and hummed.

“Or sparklers.”

“Are all mortals this intolerable?”

“I’m totally tolerable!” Darcy yelled.

“Yeah!” Skye backed up. Loki sighed again, something deep that sounded like long-suffering, and Darcy grinned. She knows everyone is having mixed feelings about all of this, but she made up her mind to stand by Thor. Thor, and Jo, both believe that Loki deserves a chance. It’s the least they can do, right?

“Don’t you two have something better to do?” Loki finally asked them.

“I’ve done enough work for one day, and I’ve missed Thor’s pretty face.” The god next to her held still as she lightly patted his cheek, and Loki rolled his sparkly eyes.

“I could do some more hacking, but I’ve had a really long day. I’m also starving. Who’s going to cook dinner? Please tell me it’s not Maria,” Skye said quickly. Darcy agrees with her on that one; the senior agent might be skilled at many things, but cooking isn’t one of them.

“Normally Steve and Jo cook dinner, but I’m not so sure about tonight. JARVIS?”

“Captain Rogers and Master Logan are tending to dinner, Miss Darcy.” Okay, so the food is going to be delicious. Good to know, because she had a light lunch. Possibly no lunch. Oh Thor, she’s turning into the scientists! Thor laughed, quietly, and Darcy realized that he probably heard her. Neat.

“A sit-down dinner with the whole team. Should prove entertaining.” Loki’s doing that mischievous smile thing again, and Darcy smiled back at him. She really hopes all of this works out.


“Dinner is about to be served, Miss Jo.” Illyana jumped a little, and Jo had to hold back her laugh.

“Yeah, JARVIS takes a little getting used to. He’s the best though,” Jo said as she slowly stood up. She’s been watching Disney movies with Illyana since the end of the team meeting, so they only watched two movies.

“Think Mister Stark could build one for the school?” Jo paused and felt Illyana bounce off her back, and she thought it over. Tony definitely had the ability to do such a thing, but JARVIS is special. They can’t have a JARVIS in every home. The world would fall apart because everyone would forget how to do stuff, and robots would take over the world. She’s not stopping another robot rebellion.

“We’ll brainstorm later,” she said and started walking again. Illyana was quiet as they stepped onto the elevator, but Jo could feel the girl’s eyes on the side of her face. “What, Yana?”

“I hate that name, and you’ve looked like shit for the past several hours. I know you were talking about something serious with the Professor; yours auras were all dark and troubled. Are you dying?”

“No! You can’t just ask people stuff like that!”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s rude, and because I am not dying. The house is just really tense right now. A lot of shit has gone down recently, and we’re all still trying to figure it out.” A lot of shit doesn’t even begin to cover it. Most of SHIELD was actually HYDRA, and now they only have a handful of agents running SHIELD. Half of the people in this house feel betrayed and lost, Steve is freaking out over the reappearance of his best friend, Tony is repressing stuff again, Loki has literally everyone on edge, they were wrong about Skye’s mutations and she could have been seriously injured because they just assumed that she’d be able to heal, and her brain is going to explode.

“Then why bring me here? You could have turned me down. I’d understand.” Illyana shrugged when Jo looked over, and she felt like kicking herself after seeing the lost look on the younger girl’s face.

“Because we could use a win right now.” When Illyana looked over, she offered the girl a small smile. It probably wasn’t convincing, but Illyana smiled back anyway. Then she screamed as Jo was pulled out of the elevator. “Dammit, Clinton!”

“No yelling. Just twirling.” The elevator had opened up on the first floor, and Clint was spinning her around the foyer now. Her first instinct was to take a peek and see what he was thinking, but she quickly pushed the urge away. It doesn’t matter if they made a mental link, or if she can feel the archer’s mind just on the edge of her own. Clint’s got a thing against other people messing around in his brain, which is something that she understands.

“What the hell are they doing?” she heard Illyana ask. She pointed a finger at the girl as she was spun around, because the younger mutant has a seriously bad potty mouth. Bruce and Tony were standing on either side of her, and Jo felt a little better at seeing both of them. It didn’t last long, because Clint spun her around a little more.

“Working through their issues. Dining room is this way,” she heard Tony say from behind her. She knew when they were gone, because Clint started humming quietly next to her ear. She also knows that everyone else is in the dining room, but she can wait a few minutes before joining them. This, dancing with Clint, is important.

“I’m sorry that I yelled at you, earlier. In the den,” Jo said after Clint pulled her up out of a dip. The fingers of her right hand are laced through his, and she can feel his hand pressing tight against the small of her back. She can feel how tense he is from the grip she has on his shoulder, but it’s slowly starting to slip away.

“I’m sorry that I yelled at you too. I do not envy your position.” Jo pulled back just enough to meet his eyes, and it seemed like they both breathed a little easier afterwards.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” The hand on her back moved and raised up, but they continued to move as he pressed two fingers against her temple.

“You can see all the angles. We have pieces, but you have everything. What’d you do to yourself, Josie?” Clint’s known her for a decade; they’ve been dancing through conversations for years, and Clint can always read her when they’re moving together.

“I think I really screwed up this time, Clint.” Clint, not Clinton. No more joking around. He pulled her so close that she had to balance her toes on top of his booted feet, and she dropped her head onto his shoulder to hide her tears.

“Are you gonna be okay?” She’s got thirteen different lives crammed into her brain, and she keeps getting triggered at the weirdest moments. The memories aren’t hers, but they feel so real. Like when she was watching The Lion King and nearly started crying as she remembered not being allowed to watch it with the older children. Only, it wasn’t her memory. It was Darcy’s.

“I honestly don’t know.” Clint’s arms tightened to a point just shy of pain, and she held on just as tight.

“We’ll take care of you. You know that, right? You took care of us, and we’ll return the favor. It’s gonna be okay, Josie.” She felt like she was choking, like she couldn’t pull in a full breath, so she kept her reply silent.

“It’s really not.”


Dinner was subdued. Bruce has never enjoyed loud noises or yelling, but he actually missed the usual clatter of noise that usually echoed in the dining room. Everyone is looking down at their food and eating quietly; the only sound came from silverware against the plates or someone asking for something to be passed, and the tension is clear. Jo’s sitting next to him, between him and Tony, and she hasn’t even tried to sneak any food off of their plates. Darcy and Skye exchanged glances every once in a while, but they never said anything.

“Enough!” Jo’s palms slapped against the table as she got to her feet, and everyone at the table visibly jumped before turning to look at her. “The world out there may be a little topsy turvy right now, and maybe we’re all on edge! But that does not mean that we have changed! So someone better start talking, or I’m going to start throwing mashed potatoes around!”

The room seemed to hold its breath as a glob of mashed potatoes hit right in the center of Jo’s forehead, and she reached up to wipe it away as she glared down the table at Illyana. The youngest person at the table still had her spoon raised, but there was an innocent smile trained on her face. Jo reached forward, into the nearly full bowl of mashed potatoes, and flung a handful in Illyana’s direction. The mutant got hit the most, but Maria got hit as well. Maria stood up with a quiet cry and hurled a bowl of gravy at Jo, and the rest of the table got splattered before the bowl hit the center of Jo’s stomach.

After that, everything was chaos.


“Best food fight ever!” Darcy yelled and collapsed back onto the table. The move was only possible because all of the dishes are scattered throughout the room. Clint raised his fist, because he’s lying on the table but facing the opposite direction, and Darcy tapped it with her own pea covered fist. She could hear Jo and Tony giggling, actually giggling, from somewhere directly below her. When she turned her head to the left, she could see Skye sitting propped up against Logan. The older mutant was sitting with his back against the wall and carefully picking pieces of carrots out of Skye’s hair.

“I worked really hard on that pot roast.” Steve’s voice sounded like a mixture between amusement and exasperation, and Darcy heard Maria snort quietly from close by. There was a smacking sound, followed by a hum, but Darcy can’t tell from who.

“Tastes pretty good,” Sam said.

“Little dry,” Natasha countered.

“I thought it was just right, Steve,” Pepper defended.

“I think someone put too much salt in the mashed potatoes,” Tony called out.

“Burns a bit,” Jo agreed.

“No one likes bland mashed potatoes,” Bruce said quietly.

"Here, here!" Doreen backed up.

“You’re all madmen.” That’s Loki, but he participated just as much as the rest of them.

“Then you should fit in nicely.” Thor’s statement was followed by a quiet fwump, so she’s assuming that Thor just slapped some part of his brother in revelry.

“Food fights are a normal American past time.” Darcy laughed and then ignored the way that Clint narrowed his eyes at her.

“You guys didn’t do so bad for your first time.” This time it was Jo’s turn to laugh at Illyana’s quiet musing, and Darcy could hear some protests starting up.

“Alright, time for cleanup.” She could hear Steve shuffling around, probably attempting to stand up, and she groaned quietly. Cleaning all of this up is going to take forever, but it was worth it.


“Are you sure?” Jo caught the question as she was leaving the room with dishes stacked in her arms, surprisingly unbroken, and she knew that Bruce was still in the dining room behind her. It was easy to hear him, and it sounds like her own mental voice is still getting stronger. That’s good.

“Only if you’re comfortable with it.” Bruce is, without a doubt, the nicest guy she’s ever been with. She hasn’t really dated anyone other than Johnny, but the point remains.

“If it had been up to me, we would have been sharing a room after our first night together. If you’re sure about this, then I am definitely on board.” The mansion is a little full at the moment, which is a weird thought to have…how can a mansion be full?

“You okay?” She jumped a little at the rough voice and blinked a few times to clear her vision before smiling up at Logan.

“Yeah, I’m peachy. Just listenin’ in to hear the new room assignments,” she said and managed to hold the dirty dishes with one arm so she could tap her temple. Logan’s eyes narrowed, but she smiled and stepped around him to set down her load of dishes. Dish water has already been run, and she started scrubbing while Logan waited next to her to rinse.

“Do I need to move?” Logan asked after a moment of silence. Bruce is letting her hear everything, and it sounds like it’s going well.

“I think they’ve just about got it. Bruce is going to move in with me, so Darcy and Skye are going to take his old room. Steve is going to move into Darcy’s old room, Illyana is going to take Skye’s room for now, so it’ll just be Thor and Loki on the fourth floor. Yeah, that should work.” Sam is talking to Darcy, Skye, Thor, and Loki now. He’s explaining about the new counseling schedule, which isn’t mandatory but recommended, and…Natasha and Clint haven’t agreed to it yet. She gets that, their lives depend on them being secretive, but this could be really good for them.

“Place is gettin’ crowded,” Logan huffed. He’s never liked feeling cramped, not even at the school.

“Illyana is only staying until we find her mentor. You know anything about that?” she asked as she passed over a plate.

“Know she went missing. Her mentor’s human. Peter tried to prepare her for the worst, but she’s a stubborn thing.”

“Did you tutor her or something?” Logan glared at her, but Logan’s glares are like a big hug. She nudged her shoulder against him and then continued to wash the dishes, as she listened in. Skye’s first session is tomorrow, after lunch. Then Darcy’s session is after dinner. Thor and Loki are agreeing to the sessions as well.

“I know you’re not okay.” She froze for just a moment, seconds, before picking her pace back up.

“Don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.”

“I’m talking about the bags under your eyes, how pale you are, the way your whole body is slumping over.” She made a point of squaring her shoulders, and Logan grunted. “You look like shit, kid. If you need to get out of here for a while, there’s no shame in that.”

“I’m not gonna—”

“Just grab your doctor and go. Take him to your hideaway in Rio. Live like a normal woman for once.” Whatever anger had been building fell away at the sound of Logan’s worried tone, and she reached over to grab his hand with her own soapy one.

“That sounds like an amazing idea, but the timing isn’t right. Maybe, once things have calmed down, I’ll bring the idea up to Bruce. I can’t leave them now.” She just went through all the trouble of protecting them, possibly at the cost of her own future sanity, so she’s not about to bail now. They’ve still got a little ways to go.

“I’ll look after them. Make sure no one decides to go after the emo alien, help with Hydra, keep an eye on Rogers, stop Stark from blowin’ himself up…It’s not all on you.” Her shoulders are feeling a little overburdened, but it’s a good feeling. These people actually need her. For the first time, she’s needed. Not just wanted for her destructive power.

“I’ll go on vacation when I’m good and ready.” Logan looked like he wanted to argue but decided against it, and Jo gave herself a mental pat on the back. She’s sure Logan will try to talk her into taking a break again soon, but she’s in the clear for now. “And where did you even learn the word emo?”


“You don’t have to do this.” Jo hummed in the back of her throat but didn’t slow her movements, and Tony sighed as he slumped back against her.

“I like doing this. It’s good to know that even when everything’s gone to shit, I still have this. Still have you.” Her fingers lightly pushed against his scalp as she worked the conditioner in, and he walked his fingers across the top of her foot.

“Jo. You just told me that we’re going to cause you to go insane.” She pushed him to sit forward so that she could rinse his hair, and he numbly moved where she put him. They have an honesty policy, so she told him about the Professor’s warning. He knows that Jo’s been looking a little tired lately, but he thought she’d heal. She always heals.

Once his hair was clean, she pulled him back into the cradle of her body. Her thighs were warm against the top of his ribs, and her strong arms gently wound across his shoulders. He could see her hands pressed over the arc reactor, hiding the light, as her cheek pressed against the top of his head. She’s completely surrounding him, and he could fool himself into believing that this is just like every other time that she’s washed his hair. He could, but he can’t get her rough words out of his head. He’s always been good at running the numbers, but he didn’t this time. Jo has thirteen sets of memories, thirteen sets of lives, in her head. If anything happens to just one of them, she might not recover.

“I never paid much attention in school, but I always paid attention to the lessons on limits. My father died because he was pushed past his limit, so I knew there was a chance that the same thing could happen to me. I have made it a point to always know my limit, physically and mentally. I knew what I was doing was dangerous, but I wouldn’t take any of it back. You hear me? I made my choice, boss. I’m going to keep all of you safe.” Her arms tightened around him the longer she spoke, and he was tightly gripping her forearms now. Like he could keep her with him forever if he hung on hard enough.

“We’re eventually going to die. We’re going to die, and it’s going to kill you.”

“No one lives forever, Tony.”

“Tony, are you—Oh, sorry, I thought you were out. Is everything okay?” Tony managed to twist around enough to see past Jo to the doorway, where Pepper was standing. She’s still wearing the skirt and blouse she went to work in, but her feet are bare and her hair is down.

“The Professor is worried about how many mental links I created. He’s worried that I made myself vulnerable, but he’s wrong. I’m going to be just fine.” Pepper looked away from Jo and met his eyes, and Tony forced himself to smile. It felt fake, and it must have looked fake because Pepper didn’t smile back. At least he tried.

“When one of us kicks it, her brain is going to turn to mush,” he clarified. Jo smacked the back of his head, but he’s not taking it back.

“My brain is going to do no such thing. Now get out.”

“I’m going to go change for bed.” Pepper closed the door behind her, and Tony glared up at his bodyguard.

“Why’d you tell her?” He doesn’t want to keep anything from Pepper, but he doesn’t want to worry her either. Especially since Pepper’s been so understanding about Jo.

“Honesty policy. She deserves to know. They all do, actually, but I don’t think I’m ready for that yet,” Jo said as she helped get him dry. He recognizes that this is a weird thing for two adults who are not together to do, but he’s past caring. Has been for a while now.

“You really think that you’re fine?” She looks normal, for the most part. She took a quick shower between the food fight and scrubbing him clean, so her long hair is balled up on top of her head. She tugged on one of his black ACDC tees and a pair of green flannel pants that looked like Bruce’s, so her usual mixed set of pajamas, but she looks a little off too. She moves slower, a little more carefully, and her eyes look darker and huge in her too-pale face.

“Yes. I just need a few days to adjust, that’s all,” she shrugged. Shrugged. The decision she made to keep them safe from mental attacks is probably going to end up with her braindead, but she’s just shrugging it off. Like it’s nothing.

“How can you be so calm about all of this?” He’s wearing actual pajama pants for once, red cotton, but that’s all. So he could feel Jo’s heat from her palms against his bare shoulders as she shook him a little.

“You really think I’m just going to sit back and let all of you die? C’mon, boss, you know better than that. I didn’t keep all of you safe just for you to die, so stop worrying.” Her smile was crooked, it showed the dimple in her left cheek, and she moved one hand to the back of his hair so that she could push his forehead against hers.

“You’re not allowed to die. Not ever, sweetheart.” He knows it’s not practical. Everyone dies. Even tanks die.

“Right back atcha.”


Jo shifted against her sheets, reached down to brush off the stubborn crumb on the bottom of her foot, and then flopped over onto her stomach. A warm hand gently gripped the back of her neck, which was exposed since her hair was put up, and she melted a little from the gentle massage. Leaving Tony’s room had been hard. She knows that he’s in good hands, but he’d looked so worried. Maybe she shouldn’t have said anything. No, she did the right thing. Tony needed to know the truth, just in case. She’s hoping that nothing happens to anyone, but she’s also a realist. They’re superheroes, for crying out loud! There’s a good chance that one of them is going to get hurt and not make it, but she’ll deal with that when the time comes. Worrying about it is not going to do her, or anyone else, any favors.

“Are you okay?” Bruce’s voice was quiet in the, mostly, dark room. The only light is coming from the tablet that he’s working on, but she can tell that it’s on the bedside table now.

“I’m just tired. I feel like I could sleep for a week.” Her muscles are tired in a way that she’s not really used to, and her head feels…tight. Bruce’s thumb touched against her cheek, and she twisted around to lightly kiss the pad of his finger.

“Then why are you awake?” She sighed, from her diaphragm, and squeezed her eyes shut.

“What if I have another one of those nightmares? About them? I won’t convince Tony that I’m perfectly fine if I’m having the nightmares meant for everyone else in this house.” She can hear the frustration in her own voice, because she doesn’t like feeling like a failure.

“Everyone has nightmares.” The bed rocked a little as Bruce laid down, and Jo wiggled over until her cheek was pressed against his chest. She could hear the steady beat of his heart, and her fingers absently tapped it out against his ribs.

“But they’re not my nightmares. I can barely handle my own. How am I supposed to handle theirs?” Bruce was a warm and solid weight against her, and she had to bite down on a yawn. Falling asleep right now would be so easy, but she can’t stop worrying about what might happen when she finally does go unconscious.

“You don’t have to handle it alone.” The light from the tablet is gone now, so she can’t see Bruce’s eyes or any other part of him really. He sounds sincere, and that’s the kicker.

“I can’t just put all of my shit on you, Bruce. I know we’re partners in this and everything, but it feels a little unfair.” When he shifted, Jo ran the statement over in her head and groaned. “A little unfair to you. You deserve someone who’s…who’s…”

“Problem free?”

“Yes! That, exactly.” Arms wrapped around her upper body and held on tight, and she clung back just as hard. She might think the situation is unfair to Bruce, but that doesn’t mean she’s planning on letting him go.

“No one is problem-free, unless they’re lying to themselves. I’m not going to run just because things are a little messy. Never again.”

"I don’t know what I did to deserve you, but I’m damn glad I did it.” Bruce’s quiet laugh in the dark room helped her relax; it was a sound that was slowly becoming home, which should have been a truly frightening thought considering they’ve been together for less than a month, but she held onto the good feeling anyway.

“I think you saved a narcissistic billionaire from himself.” A small part of her misses the old days, but it’s just a small part because Bruce was just on the phone back then. (They didn’t even have Darcy, or the others.)

“Oh, is that all?”

“I think that was the start of everything.” He’s not exactly wrong, so she’s not going to argue with him. What she is going to do is snuggle in as close as possible and try to get some sleep. Hopefully she won’t have any nightmares. Thor, save her.
♠ ♠ ♠
I’m still iffy about this chapter. I’m still learning how to write for Loki; if anyone thinks that I’m messing up his characterization, please let me know! As for the food fight, I threw that in there because this chapter was getting too angsty. I need fluff and balance.

I realize that this story is crowded and probably seems disorganized, but there is a method to my madness! There’s a very big plot brewing, and all of the characters being mentioned will be important. So, enjoy all of the random fluff while you can! Also, there will be some time skips coming up. Mostly good ones though. Promise.

If there’s anything that anyone wants to see, I’m happy to take requests! Do you want to see Logan grumpily following behind Darcy and Skye at the mall? Do you want Nat and Maria to be out with the group and scare the ever living daylights out of someone trying to hit on them? Do you want Doreen and Loki reading in a tree together? Do you want Clint to fall out of an air vent during a very serious conversation between [insert whoever you want here]? Do you want Bruce to walk in on Tony waltzing with Dum-E? I’m up for writing anything!