Hell Bound

Start by pulling him out of the fire and
hoping that he will forget the smell.
He was supposed to be an angel but they took him
from that light and turned him into something hungry,
something that forgets what his hands are for when they
aren’t shaking.

When is a monster not a monster?
Oh, when you love it.

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38. Chapter Thirty Eight

I wasn’t sure when I was going to see Bucky again, but I had the general sense of what he was doing. I didn’t believe that he’d left just to protect me. He still had those “time sensitive” issues he’d been dealing with before his injury forced him to take a break. Now that he could move well enough on his own, there was no reason for him not to get back to it. But I was certain whatever he was up to now involved me too. Maybe it always had, but I wasn’t sure until he dropped his speculations on me. And when I got home from work I realized he’d taken Russell’s book with him.

Clara called me while I was waiting for Graham to finish with his job interview. I was sitting in the car bored out of my mind, trying to find a decent station on the radio. Then JARVIS cut through the music.

“Miss Hayes, forgive me for interrupting,” he started. “Your sister would like to speak with you.”

“You can put her through, JARVIS,” I told him. Then I flopped back into my seat since I could no longer play with the radio.

“Right away, ma’am,” he said.

“Jo?” Clara’s voice said through the speakers.

“I’m here,” I replied.

“Why are you in your car? Are you eating lunch?”

“No, I’m just—hanging out at the Arby's.” She was silent for a second.

“Are you messing with me? It’s hard to tell sometimes.” I laughed and leaned my arm against the window, but it just made my shoulder hurt.

“I’m waiting for Graham to finish with his job interview.”

“Oh okay. That explains it.”

“So what’s up? What’s going on?”

“Um. Well. You never called me back like you said you would.”

“Oh, right. Sorry. I forgot.”

“I figured.”

“So what’s up?” I really hated talking to her through the car. Unless I was driving. I had nothing to do with my hands and my shoulder hurt. I moved so that I could rest my head against the window instead and thumped as she took her time answering.

“I just had something I wanted to talk to you about. Something kind of important,” she explained. Here we go.

“Is this about the uh,” I started. I waved my hand even though she couldn’t see me. It was a nervous reflex. “The gremlin? Growing in your body?” She was silent for a moment.

“How did you know about that?”

“I kind of figured it out.”

“But how?”

“Well, first you started wearing regular shoes, which was the first red flag. Then you started getting unnaturally lazy. Going to the bathroom a thousand times a day. All things I could have easily overlooked if it wasn’t for the fact that you switched to decaf.”

“And that made you think I had a gremlin in my body?”

“You guys always seem to forget that I had medical training.”

“Yeah, but I thought you just learned how to stitch people and pull bullets out.”

“That was my specialty, yes. But it’s kind of obvious when a woman you’ve known as a caffeine junkie your entire life suddenly decides to up and quit for no reason. Cold turkey even. That must not have been easy.”

“How did you know that caffeine was a no-no, though?”

“Seriously? I just got done saying I was medically trained. You guys really need to write that down somewhere.”

“But they taught you that in the army?”

“They taught me a lot of things.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“About training or your gremlin?”

“The gremlin.”

“Because it wasn’t my business.”

“Sorry I didn’t tell you sooner. I was just—trying to figure out what to do.”

“Are you keeping it?”

“Yeah, that much I know. It’s just—hard to tell with Tony. I think he’s happy, but I also think he’s really freaked out.”

That explained a lot. Of course it wasn’t just luck that kept Tony away while Bucky was at my house. He was preoccupied. Now I was certain that if he hadn’t been distracted by Clara’s predicament, he probably would have confronted me about the stranger in my house face-to-face.

“I can imagine that he’s freaked out,” I said. “I would be too.”

“That probably had to do with the fact that you refer to children as gremlins.”

“Some gremlins are cute.”

“Some.”

“The one.”

“Which one?”

“Yours will be cute. I’ll like that one. Especially if you name it Gizmo.”

“I’m not naming my child Gizmo.”

“Gizmo Stark is a good name.”

“Not happening.”

“At least a middle name. Anthony Gizmo Stark Junior.”

“I’m not naming it after Tony either.”

“Fine.”

“You can call it Gizmo. But only you. Like a nickname.”

“Deal. When is it going to come screaming through your vagina?”

“Jesus Christ, Jo.”

“It’s a valid question.”

“You could have asked it a little differently, don’t you think?”

“Nothing like brutal honesty to remind you of the horrors of childbirth.” She sighed audibly.

“I don’t have a due date yet. I don’t really have anything planned at all yet. But I have an appointment. I’ll let you know once I know.”

“Good plan.”

“Will you be there? For the birth, I mean?”

“If you guys want me to.”

“Of course I want you there. You’re my sister.” I thumped my head again and shut my eyes. Sister. Right.

“I’ll be there. Just tell me when and where,” I promised.

“You won’t be grossed out?” she questioned.

“Medically trained, Clara!”

“Okay, alright.”

“I’ve seen much worse than your vagina, I’m sure.”

“Can you stop talking about vaginas please?”

“You should probably get used to it.”

“Ugh. Well, now that I got that out of the way. What’s going on with you? How’s work? How’s the guy friend?” I almost groaned. I thumped my head on the window again.

“Work is good. Same old same old,” I told her.

“Guy friend?” she asked.

“Graham is good.”

“I’m not talking about the kid.”

“Other guy is—complicated.”

“How so?”

“He comes, and he goes. Goes more than he comes.”

“Is that a euphemism?”

“No, you pervert. I just meant—he’s not around a lot.”

“You said the word ‘vagina’ like nine times and I’m the pervert?”

“Vagina is a medical term.”

“I don’t know why I even bother. So you like this guy that goes more than he comes?” No, I hated it. I missed him more than I thought I would. I couldn’t sleep at night. I couldn’t stop thinking about him. I felt pathetic.

“Yes,” I lied. “It makes things easy.”

“Right. So no luck getting him to accompany you to mom’s Thanksgiving dinner?”

“Not a chance in hell.”

“Not ready to meet the family?”

“Nope. I might bring Graham, though.” The front door of the Arby’s opened and I wanted to sing at the sight of my lanky young friend.

“Will he ever be ready to meet the family?” Clara asked.

“Graham? Sure.”

“Not Graham, you dork.”

“Don’t know. But I have to go. Graham’s done with his interview.”

“Alright. Call me back. If you can remember.”

“I will.” Graham popped the door open and slid into the car. The screen went back to normal, showing me that Clara had disconnected. “Hey, how’d it go?” I asked him.

“Well, the good news is that I got the job,” he told me as he buckled up.

“What’s the bad news?”

“Bad news is that I’m strictly forbidden from throwing things at people.”

“How unfortunate. When do you start?”

“I need to come back tomorrow to get my uniform, and then I start on Thursday.”

“Awesome. I’m so proud of you.” He sighed and leaned into the seat as I pulled out of the parking lot.

“I thought I blew it. I’m so bad at interviews. I think they wouldn’t even have hired me if I wasn’t military. I’m not good at anything.” I shrugged.

“Take advantage of it, kid. No one is naturally good at anything. You’ll learn to be good at things.”

“I’m going to give you my first check. Since I’ve been eating all your food and sleeping in your spare bedroom. And you gave me the MP3.”

“I don’t want your money. I just want you to rebuild your independence. I know what it’s like to be young and not have any idea how to do anything. It’s easier when you have someone helping you get on your feet.”

“Yeah, but you can’t be making enough money for the two of us.”

“I worked for Stark for half a year. I have enough money to last us. I did think about getting another job, though. Just so I can have something to do on weekends. Especially if you’re not going to be around much anymore.”

“You should apply at Arby's.” I shot him a dark look.

“I would last about five minutes at Arby's. You think throwing burritos is bad.”

“That’s right. You’re the knife throwing girl. Got that Hawkeye aim.” I snorted.

“I don’t think I was ever that good.”

“Did you ever meet him too?”

“No. I did meet Romanoff a few times, though. I think that’s it for Avengers.”

“Daaaang,” he whispered.

 

 

I know this is a tad filler-y. But I wanted Clara to actually confirm Jo's suspicion and I apparently left it out in the first draft. So I was initially just going to add a brief conversation about it to the next chapter but it sort of turned into a whole one. And it made me laugh so I kept it. I think this is a bit of a hint of pre-war Jo too. She shines through every once in a while. And she was kind of a sarcastic little shit.

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