A/N- Wow, this has been sitting on my computer for wayyy to long- but I finally added more!

Disclaimer: Nope, don't own.

Johnny has to turn his phone off on the way back to the Baxter building. It rings non-stop, vibrating angrily in his hand as he receives message after message, like he knows what's going on. He nearly melts it before Ben gently tugs it out of his hand, powering it down. Pete has them leave first, sneaking out the fire escape. He promises to meet them at the building as soon as he can. Matt Murdock scowls after them.
"How're you going to get him to the Baxter building?" Johnny asks, as he's half out of the window.
"I'll figure something out." Peter aims for a reassuring smile but it falls flat. He glances back at the man stuck to his kitchen chair and grimaces. "We'll get there."

"Sue?" Johnny asks into the communicator.

"Reeds on his way home." She replies, tense, worried.

Johnny nods though she can't see him and they head straight for the infirmary.

Sue's already there when they get in, Tommy Sheppard on a bed in the far corner and looking somewhat better, magazine open on his lap but curious gaze following them as they move about the room. She moves equipment around, creating a space around one of the main beds, surrounding the head of the bed with machines Johnny vaguely recognizes.

"Tony's coming here then?" Sue nods, confirming what he already knew.

"They should be here within the hour."

"What happened?" Ben asks, frowning. "Some kind of attack?"

"We're not ruling it out." She says. "But Reed doesn't think it is."

"So we just hang out here until they show up?" Johnny dodges out of the way as another machine slots into place, ready to settle in but Sue shakes her head, stepping back from the array she's set up.

"Ben's going to stay here and wait. Tony's stable as far as Reed can tell, everything is set up and Ben can help out if needed. We," She gestures at Johnny and then herself. "Are headed to Westchester."

"Professor Xavier's school?" Johnny guesses.

"I was about to head there when Reed called. A few of their students and staff are sick and they've asked for our help."

"A few kids have the sniffles and they're calling us in?" Ben asks, sceptically. Johnny kind of shares their scepticism; they have bigger problems than the flu.

"It's a little more serious than that." Sue shoots them both a look and heads for the doors of the infirmary. "I'm grabbing my bag, I'll meet you in the garage in five minutes."

Johnny turns back to Ben, fingers curling around the phone in his pocket and tugging it out. There are over thirty un read messages from heroes, unknown numbers, people he's known over the years and given his number to for some reason or another and one sole one from Jarvis. He actually opens that one to find three paragraphs asking that someone please phone as soon as possible.

There are none from Cap but then again he isn't sure how the lessons in instant messaging have been going and Johnny would be surprised if the man didn't just show up in person.

"There's always some crisis, isn't there?" Ben asks and even though he knows the question is rhetorical, he nods.

"Jarvis wants someone to call him and Cap will probably be here soon," he scrubs a hand through his hair- it falls into his eyes and he makes a mental note to get it cut soon, but Ben gently brushes the errant strands out of the way so maybe it isn't so bad- and sighs because Pete is on his way with Daredevil and it's never just one thing with their lives, is it?

"And if Daredevil is still trying to kill everyone we'll have to restrain him or lock him up or,"

"Hey," Ben interrupts him, pulling him closer. Over Ben's shoulder, Tommy pretends to be studying his magazine intently. "Breathe- you're starting to sound like Suzie."

"I'm honestly not sure how I feel about that." He replies, wry, but leans into the embrace easily. Something warm and content blossoms in his chest, a feeling he's come to associate solely with Ben. "You probably shouldn't let her hear you say that though…"

Ben chuckles and Johnny goes to step back, to head downstairs, but Ben sobers suddenly, holding on and looking suddenly hesitant. Johnny's stomach twists at the look and he frowns, sensing that something is wrong, just not sure what.

"Ben," he starts but Ben talks over him, gaze suddenly intent.

"You're gonna stay in my room tonight, right?"

Johnny flushes and wonders if they're about to have that talk in front of a seventeen-year-old boy because he is totally on board for that talk and what hopefully follows after but he'd rather avoid giving Tommy Sheppard any of the details.

"Yeah, if you want me to." He grins, wide and toothy and Ben blinks and flushes a little and Johnny honestly just wants to kiss him, press him up against the infirmary bed and kiss him until he's breathless but, Tommy Sheppard. Right.

He's trying not to scar the younger generations.

Too much.

"Yeah, I do matchstick." Ben mutters, voice gruff, like when he's the Thing and finally releases Johnny, who doesn't move. Not yet. "Cause there's something I wanted to talk to you about."

Johnny smirks and Ben rolls his eyes, shoving his shoulder lightly.

"Get your mind out of the gutter, torch."

Johnny just grins even wider, and then ruins it by sneezing. And then sneezing again. And again- and by the time he's done, Ben is laughing at him and Tommy has given up on pretending he's reading his magazine and is now blatantly staring at them.

"No sympathy from anyone." Johnny pouts.

"You're the one that's always bragging about how you can't get sick." Ben points out, and Johnny has the sudden, intense urge to trace his laugh lines. They rarely get to see them.

"Karma." Tommy helpfully supplies and Johnny points a finger at him, saying,

"You don't get a say in this. Weren't you moving in slow motion last night?"

Tommy smirks and flaps his arms a little.

"Feeling a bit better."

"Of course." Johnny turns and heads for the door, waving over his shoulder. "I'll call you when we're done. Hopefully Sue's over exaggerating again and we'll give them flu shots and be home for dinner."

Ben waves and Tommy blows him kisses and Johnny slips into the elevator, already planning on posting pictures of Tommy sleeping with a giant teddy bear on every Young Avenger fan site he can find later.


He grabs a coat from his room, deciding that if he's going to have this cold, he's not going to suffer through it, so he's fighting the ridiculous chill he's developed and jumps back in the elevator for the basement.

Turns out it's occupied.


Johnny stares and stares and then opens his mouth to yell or alert HERBIE or something, but then Loki arches one delicate eyebrow at him, pleasant smile slipping into something darker, and Johnny reconsiders.

"Are you getting in?" The Norse god asks, with the same air of calmness that has Johnny's skin crawling and he thinks, what the hell, because the only way he's going to get answers about his stalker is probably to ask said stalker in person. God. Whatever.

So Johnny gets into the elevator, ignoring how idiotic his plan is and how much his sister and Ben are going to kill him (because lets be honest, Reed is more likely to be fascinated by it all) and watches as the doors slide shut.

"So…" He decides to bypass the awkward silence and vague posturing/threats for the most part because he has no doubts that by the time the elevator reaches the parking garage, Loki will be long gone. "Is there a reason you're stalking me?"

He doesn't really expect an answer so it surprises him when Loki answers with,


He isn't disappointed a moment later when Loki continues (and blatantly changes the subject) with,

"You've been trying to contact Thor."

Johnny knew something had been weird with their inability to get a hold of Thor when he was in New York. They'd gotten a hold of the Inhuman's and they'd been in another galaxy. New York should not have posed such a problem.

"Yeah," Johnny draws out the word and puts on a false bravado he doesn't feel. "Just wondering if he knew you were in town. Or, you know. Just why his brother would be stalking me."

Loki appears amused at this, perfectly elegant even as he leans back against the elevator wall across from Johnny. He studies him for a moment, corners of his lips quirking up before he finally says,

"You fear me."

More than a little. But he'll be damned if he ever admits to it.

"Dude," Johnny mimics his pose, leaning back, arms crossed but with far less elegance. At the very least, he consoles himself with looking infinitely cooler in his uniform and jacket. "I've gone up against Galactus. I've fought a guy who can control the elements. I've faced Doom and invading aliens and things from other dimensions that smelt worse than Ben's shoes after a long day of running around the city; you are a guy who lurks in my room and probably watches me get changed- which my boyfriend isn't very impressed with by the way and I'm the only one that's allowed to rile him up -so if I were to make up a list, right now of all the scary things that keep me up at night, you would be at the very bottom. Under lemons."

Loki continues to stare at him, amusement never slipping and Johnny spends his entire speech expecting for the amusement to fade into anger and irritation because, Loki? Never used to take being mocked well. So he's slightly winded by the end of his speech and Loki just smiles and says,

"You amuse me."

Johnny gapes at him.

"That's why you've been stalking me?"

"No," Loki says and just as Johnny realizes this elevator ride has gone on far too long, they come to a stop, the doors slide open and Loki disappears before his eyes.

The garage is empty when he exits the elevator, Sue having not made it down yet, and he gratefully sinks down onto the bumper of one of his cars, back bent, head between his knees and he doesn't care if Loki is in the shadows watching him, because he's too focused on breathing and not freaking out.

He figures he's doing somewhat okay, considering.


"They have at least three positive cases and another possible two but they're all showing different symptoms," Sue explains as she weaves her way through traffic. The amount of cars on the road start to thin out and the looming buildings of down town are left behind and replaced with trees and quaint houses. Johnny watches it all go by in silence, the wind ruffling his hair and sunglasses shading his eyes from the glare of the sun.

"- so we're not positive it's the same sickness but it'd be a hell of a coincidence otherwise. Which is why we're headed up there now. We'll take some tests, compare data and see if there's anything we can do to help,"

He rests his elbow on the door, propping his head up, heavy under the sun and watches as even the houses thin out and disappear as Sue handles the convertible. The road grows less smooth the further they are from downtown and eventually resolves itself into first potholes and then something like gravel. In the distance he can see the looming shape of Xavier's mansion and he watches as it grows larger the closer they come. It looks perfectly normal from there and nothing like the controversial school for mutants.

"-or if there's a risk of the sickness spreading to the general population or even lions and tigers and bears."

"Oh my." Johnny replies and Sue grins at him, taking her eyes off the road for a brief moment. He can't see past her sunglasses but he gets the feeling she's rolling her eyes at him.

"Just checking to see if you were still paying attention."

"Different symptoms, general public, yadda yadda." He recites and Sue frowns a little.

"This is serious, Johnny."

"I know, I know." He holds up his hands in the universal sign for peace, which unfortunately means he has to lift his head to do so. He lets it loll back against the headrest with a sigh and Sue darts another quick look at him.

"You seem tired." Johnny makes a noncommittal sound and lets his eyes close. A nap sounds pretty good right about now. "Still feeling sick?"

"It's just a cold." He mutters, scowling.

"I've been feeling under the weather too." Sue admits. "Maybe I'm getting whatever you caught."

They pull into the lane leading up to the mansion and through the heavy, wrought iron gates. The large, green lawns are littered with students. A few of them turn to watch them drive by, but for the most part they're ignored. A small child hangs from a large oak tree, green scales shining in the bright sunlight. He waves as they drive past and Johnny waves back.

Bobby Drake breaks off from a small group gathered around the front doors as they pull up and Sue turns off the engine. He grins, wide and toothy and Johnny scrambles out of the car, suddenly eager to meet his friend half way and pull him into a hug.

"It's good to see you guys." Bobby says, moving to hug Sue next. "Even if it is under these circumstances."

"We'll have to grab Pete and go out some time." Johnny grins, the fatigue from earlier slipping away like a distant memory.


Together they head up the front steps and the group gathered there watches them go. Johnny recognizes Rogue easily but the others are unfamiliar faces. He catches her eye but winces at the memories it brings back and they both hurry to look away.

"Where's Professor Xavier?" Sue wonders aloud as they're led down one hallway after another of rich, mahogany paneling and carpet so thick it muffles their footsteps. Inside it's cool and Johnny shrugs deeper into his jacket as the persistent chill from earlier returns, cramming his hands in his pockets. They see a few children but for the most part the school is surprisingly empty. Johnny frowns, looking around before realizing that they're being led down back hallways and corridors, away from the rest of the student body.

"He's up in his office. Trying to get a hold of someone." Bobby explains and taps the side of his head to show that in no way are phones involved. "The doors been locked all day; it's all kind of smoke and mirrors, which is weird for the Professor, but when we sent Kitty up to check on him, he stopped her before she could make it into the room. Told her he was fine and sent her back down to us."

Johnny's steps falter as a sudden wash of happysafefine drifts over him and he blinks, shaking a little because he sure as hell didn't feel that way a minute ago.

Next to him Sue looks just as shaken, brushing her long hair out of her face with a hesitant smile.

"What the hell was that?" Johnny demands and Bobby scrubs a hand over his face, shaking off whatever it was, faster than the two siblings.

"Every so often the Professor sends that out, just to the immediate area, so we know he's still alright. Storm thinks it pops up whenever someone is really starting to worry."

"That just makes me worry more." Johnny mutters and Bobby huffs out a little laugh that really means, me too.


"So." Johnny says as Bobby leads him through a confusing maze of corridors, probably with the sole intent to get him lost and then leave him for dead. Sue is down in the main lab with Storm and Bobby had easily volunteered to take Johnny down to where they were keeping one of the other patients- separate from all the others.

Bobby glances over at him; eyebrow arched and replies with,


"What's the story here?" Johnny asks and Bobby looks away but not before Johnny catches a glimpse of something across his face.

"I mean- I get why Storm is working on this, and Sue. I'm here as a glorified lab assistant," he waves the scanner Sue had handed him before they had parted ("Point and click," she had said and Johnny had protested that Reed was dumb-ing down his inventions for Johnny's use. "Do you really want to put out the effort to learn how these things actually work?" His sister had asked in that knowing voice that he kind of hated, but he had to grudgingly admit that, no, he did not.).

"What I'm trying to figure out," he continues and Bobby pauses outside of a door with a keypad on the wall next to it, before rapidly typing in a string of numbers before Johnny can take them in. The door opens to a set of stairs leading deep down into the bowels of the school. "Is why instead of working on screening the students or liasing with the other teams, which Wolverine is doing a crap job of doing by the way since we just found out, you're knee deep in all of this and look like you haven't slept in days."

And it's true, Bobby looks pale, paler than normal and his blue eyes are dull with exhaustion.

"There are three confirmed cases here so far," Bobby says and leads the way down the stairs. Johnny bites back the retort that springs forth when it appears that everything he just said is being ignored. But he remains silent and listens, something he's been working on.

"Scott- Cyclops, a younger student named Cassandra, and a case that literally showed up on our doorstep a couple of nights ago." He pushes through a set of doors, the light glinting off the tiny square windows set in them and for a moment, green eyes stare back at him. Johnny clenches his jaw and hastens after his friend, ignoring the gaze on the back of his neck. Through the doors is a long white corridor and along the corridor are,

"Cells?" Johnny blinks in surprise. Eight cells in a neat row, empty as far as he can see. They may have some sort of clear barrier instead of bars, but he knew a cell when he saw it. It brings back unpleasant memories and he takes a reflexive step back before reminding himself that he's being ridiculous- this is the Xavier school, no one's out to get him here (as far as he knows); then again up until a moment ago, he hadn't even considered that a school promoting peace and equality could have cells underneath it.

"Containment rooms." Bobby grimaces a little. "I didn't know about them until a couple of weeks ago. They don't really get used."

"So you guys don't go all bad guy on unsuspecting children and lock them up against their will." Johnny can't help but shooting back.

"When they do get used, it's only to keep the mutant, the person from hurting themselves or others, and it's never permanent." Bobby defends. Johnny clamps his mouth shut and stops himself from egging his friend on, for demanding answers about who could be so dangerous, especially when he has a few ideas. Bobby waits a moment, probably to see if he's going to reply with some smart assed comeback, and then looks surprised when he realizes he isn't. Well, Johnny thinks somewhat smugly, he has done some growing up too.

"The case that showed up at our doorstep got moved down here. It wasn't…safe to keep him anywhere else."

Bobby leads the way past the first seven cells and then stops in front of the eighth, and final one. Inside is one of the beds from the infirmary, some medical equipment and a man, around their age.

The man is laid out on the bed, blankets pushed down around his feet and hospital gown soaked with sweat. His bleached hair sticks to his forehead, eyes half open and caught in a fevered dream. He shifts restlessly, weakly, on the mattress- an IV taped to his arm, hands clenching and unclenching at his sides.

Something about him is irritatingly familiar.

"Do I know him?" He asks and tries to peer closer.

"Yeah," Bobby hesitates. Johnny gives him a pointed look and he continues. "It's John. St John Allerdyce; he used to be my roommate. You met him a couple of times."

Johnny blinks, remembering the scrawny kid with the bad attitude that had stared at Bobby with hearts in his eyes when he thought no one was looking. Johnny had tried to talk to him a few times, when they were all hanging out, but John had been too angry and Johnny had been too, well…, and the conversation had died a spectacular death every time.

And then John had stopped joining them and Bobby had disappeared for awhile and-

"Isn't he a known mutant terrorist?" Johnny demands and Bobby winces, scowls and crosses his arms. "You're harbouring a fugitive."

"He's locked up," Bobby uncrosses his arms long enough to rap lightly on the clear wall separating them. "He can't get out and he needs help. It's John." Bobby's eyes go soft and pleading, pleading for Johnny to understand. Maybe John hadn't been the only one with hearts in his eyes.

"So, what, he just showed up here by himself?"

"Magneto dropped him off."

Johnny honestly isn't sure how to reply to that. The government already doesn't trust Xavier's school and now they're harbouring fugitives? Giving one reason after another to be shut down, or worse.

"Out of the goodness of his heart?" Johnny asks, wry. "He's switching sides, joining your cause? Retiring?"

"The man walks around in a purple cape." Bobby replies, relaxing a little and allowing humour to seep into his voice. "He loves his job."

Johnny turns back to the cell- containment room- and studies the man in the bed. He doesn't look much like the man wanted in connection with a series of bombings on anti-mutant buildings, a year ago. He looks small and fragile.

"Alright," he says after a moment. He waves the scanner in his hand and gestures at the cell. "Let's get Sue's readings."


It's late by the time they make it back to the Baxter building. The sun has long since set and Johnny's limbs feel like lead, heavy from exhaustion. Sue doesn't look any better, eyes glazed from staring at slide after slide through a microscope, moving like each step is an insurmountable task.

He grips the metal case tighter and somehow they make it to the elevator.

The lab is in chaos as they step out. Reed has stretched himself around the lab and both Hank Pym and Hank McCoy are running around, somehow avoiding the stretched torso and limbs with practiced ease. Tommy is curled up off to the side, somehow asleep through it all and curled in a tiny ball on his bed and, in the center of it all, is Tony Stark.

The bright lights make Tony appear deathly pale with dark bruising around his eyes. He doesn't as much as twitch at the doctors poking and prodding, taking their samples, conferring with one another around him. If not for the gentle rise and fall of his chest Johnny would swear he wasn't alive.

"Reed!" Sue calls out. The three men all pause and turn, taking in the new arrivals.

"Sue." Reed unravels himself from where he's wound around the lab and hurries over with what Johnny would describe as a manic glint in his eyes.

"Shouldn't he be in a hospital?" Johnny watches the still figure, worried. While he had agreed that the Baxter building was probably the best place to help Tony originally, it's hard to believe that with the pale man lying still before them.

"We have everything set up, anything Tony could possibly need and a few extras as precautions." Reed reassures him, reaching out to squeeze his shoulder gently. Johnny nods.

"Do you know what's causing this?" Sue hands over the brief case and Reed secrets it away to some far section of the lab. Johnny assumes either Sue will be working on it or Reed will look over their samples once he gets a chance.

Reed shakes his head, face grim.

"It's almost like his cells are breaking down," Reed explains, going into a long jumble of scientific facts that have Johnny's eyes glazing over even as he tries to understand what his brother in law is saying. He shoots Sue a helpless look and she thankfully takes pity on him.

"It's almost like Extremis is acting up, and has locked down his body."

"That computer has been more trouble than it's worth." Johnny mutters. Sue nods.

"It did help us find you when that Warlock kidnapped you." Reed offers, already distracted by something Hank Pym is showing him. Johnny suppresses a shudder and ruthlessly shoves those memories aside. Sue reaches out and flicks Reed, who aside from sending her a wounded look remains oblivious.

Johnny clears his throat.

"Do you know where Ben is?"

"He offered to make coffee." Pym calls out.


"I believe he was feeling frustrated with being unable to help." Reed supplies. Johnny nods, understanding that feeling all too well.

"If you guys don't need me up here, I'm going to go find the big lug."

Reed waves him off and Sue gives him a knowing look. He winks at her and heads back to the elevator, stepping inside. Johnny waits until the doors have closed to sag back against the wall, a wave of dizziness hitting him. He blinks, rubs his hands over his eyes and decides that he really needs to get some sleep. Preferably with Ben.

He opens his eyes and Loki is leaning across from him.

"Again? Really?"

Unlike before where the god was dressed in his regal clothing, Loki is only in a pair of jeans and a green Henley that looks soft to the touch now. Johnny wonders why the change.

"You know," Johnny continues before he can reply. "If you want to confess your undying feelings for me, now would be the time- although I should warn you that I'm going to shoot them down. Brutally."

Loki's lips curl up into what Johnny could almost swear was a smile and he pushes off from the wall, stalking closer. Johnny forces himself upright and stands his ground. His teeth grind together. He can't attack, can't fight no matter how much his body is screaming at him to do so. Fighting in an elevator with a god who can disappear without a moment's notice? Even he knows better.

"You humans are so weak." Loki muses, studying him. Johnny tenses, not liking the direction the conversation is going. "Fragile and selfish and cruel."

"I'm sorry," Johnny blurts out, unable to stop himself. "But have you met yourself?"

Loki's eyes narrow but he doesn't strike out. Johnny doesn't relax just yet.

"I do not understand my brother's fascination in you."

Johnny knows better than to assume Loki means him. He shrugs, pastes on a charming grin and says,

"Must be my fabulous personality."

Loki actually rolls his eyes at this and takes a step back and another until they are on opposite sides of the elevator again.

"You should get that cold look at." The god says and then disappears, leaving Johnny wondering what the hell his life has become.


He finds Ben in their kitchen staring at the coffee maker like it has somehow wronged him. Johnny waits in the doorway for a moment, leaning against the wall and just watching as his boyfriend fights with the electronic. Ben grunts and jabs at a button. The coffee maker makes a high pitched whirring sound but otherwise does nothing. He's starting to think they shouldn't have let Reed update it.

"Are you gonna stand there all day Matchstick or are you gonna help me with this?"

Johnny grins and pushes off the wall.

"I was enjoying the view." He admits and slides up behind the older man, wrapping his arms around his waist and peering over his shoulder. "And I have no idea how to work this thing."

Ben sighs and leans back into the embrace.

"Think those eggheads up stairs can survive without caffeine for now?"

Personally Johnny suspects the moment they realize Ben isn't coming back with coffee it will be total anarchy.

"Yeah, they'll be fine." He grins and presses a kiss to the column of Ben's neck. The other man sighs and tilts his head wordlessly asking for more. Johnny is more than happy to oblige; he presses another kiss and another, biting lightly at the tanned skin as he goes. He sucks his earlobe into his mouth, biting down and smirking at the growl it elicits.

Ben turns until their chests are pressed together, hips slotted tight, and kisses him. It's hot and wet and Johnny parts his lips, allowing Ben entrance, moaning. He walks them back until he hits the counter; Ben's hands go to his hips, boosting him up until he's seated, and then steps into the V of his legs. Johnny ducks his head and kisses him again, hands with a white knuckled grip on Ben's biceps. He wraps his legs around the other man's waist and yes Johnny is a genius. Ben grinds against him and Johnny breaks the kiss with a gasp as sparks shoot up his spine and fry his brain.

Someone clears their throat from the doorway.

Ben jerks back, startled and Johnny is left sitting on the counter, legs splayed and confused.

Captain America has his eyes carefully averted and face scarlet.

Oh god, Johnny winces, flushed and turning red from embarrassment, Captain America just caught them humping like teenagers- he's never going to live this down.

"Sorry," Steve says, eyes trained on the ceiling. "I didn't mean to interrupt but could someone please direct me to where Tony is?"

Worry and frustration and something heartbreaking slips into his voice and Johnny immediately feels like an ass.

"Yeah, sure." He slides off the counter. Ben catches his hand as he goes to pass, squeezing it and pressing a quick kiss to the palm. It calms Johnny, helps balance him again and he smiles, squeezing Bens hand back.

"Come on." He leads Steve out of the kitchen. "Let's get you upstairs."


Peter manages to show up with a much calmer and contrite Matt Murdock shortly after Steve arrives. Reed is multitasking between Tony and Matt with Tommy's scans running in the background. Matt is nothing if not a good patient, doing as asked and not complaining about the battery of tests or about Reeds bedside manners, which tend to be severely lacking.

Tommy wakes up, bored and lethargic, so Johnny and Peter park themselves next to his bed and set about keeping him amused. He's moving in slow motion again, like each movement takes an incredible amount of willpower.

"Do you want me to call the YA?" Peter asks.

Tommy blinks at him for a moment, watching the movement of his mouth. It's like there's a lag there as the words are processed.

"No," he finally says. It's almost painful to watch as he shakes his head, a slow back and forth motion. "I've been texting them, they're coming by tomorrow."

Johnny nods and makes a note to let Sue know.

"Hey." Matt joins them. Johnny is impressed with how well he can navigate Reed's lab and sneak up on them until he remembers exactly who Matt is.

"So what did the doc say?" Pete twists in his chair, tone light but expression worried.

"Clean bill of health." The red head frowns. "Nothing to explain my,"

"Mood swing?" Johnny supplies. Matt's lips thin.

"Right. So I'm free to go."

Peter climbs to his feet, clapping Johnny on the shoulder and bumping fists with Tommy.

"I'll get you home."

They leave, followed closely by Hank Pym- if Johnny were Pym he wouldn't want to leave Wasp waiting either, great woman but terrifying. Cap has a seat pulled up next to Tony's bed, out of the way of Reed but close enough to hold his hand. It looks like he's settled in for the long haul. Tommy drifts off again and Johnny is left with nothing to do.

"Get some sleep." Sue man handles him out of his chair as his eyes start to droop. "You look like you're about to fall over."

Which, with the way he's feeling, could happen. He doesn't complain as she leads him to the elevator but snags her wrist as she tries to leave him there.

"You need to get some rest too. You look like shit."

"Thanks." Sue replies, voice dry. "That's what every girl wants to hear."

"What can I say?" Johnny gives her a tired smile. "I'm charming."

"You're something alright." She agrees. Sue runs a tired hand through her hair and glances back at Reed who is still knee deep in everything and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

"You know nothing is going to get him to sleep right now."

"I know," she agrees. "I'll turn in, in a bit."

Johnny leaves her in the lab, too tired to drag her out of there himself.


He lets himself into Ben's room, stumbling his way through the dark. He strips off his shirt and pants, climbing into the warm bed and sinking into the mattress with a happy sigh. Ben is already in bed; he rolls over, snaking an arm around his waist and pulling him back against his body. He's a wall of heat behind Johnny and he burrows back into the warmth, fighting away the chill that's been following him around all day.

"Jesus," Ben huffs out tightening his hold. "You're cold."

Johnny hums and presses his toes to Bens calves, twining their legs together.

"That's playing dirty Torch."

Johnny would come up with a witty remark but he's too busy trying not to fall asleep just yet, fighting to keep his eyes open even as he pulls Ben's arm tighter around himself like an extra blanket. Ben seems to sense this and brushes a soft kiss against the back of his neck and oh- Johnny would love to continue what they started earlier, but he's definitely not up for it.

"Get some sleep." Ben's voice is quiet, hoarse like there's something he's holding back. Johnny makes a questioning sound.

"It can wait." Ben reassures him. He decides to take his word for it and a moment later he's asleep.


The alarm is blaring when he wakes.

Midmorning sun is streaming in through the partially open blinds. Ben is already on his feet, grabbing his pants and shifting until he's the rocky Thing again.

Johnny blinks, mind muddled as he tries to piece together what is happening.

"Come on Torch, up." Ben tosses him his uniform.

"What's going on?" Johnny moves on autopilot, dressing. Ben crosses over to him, reaching out with one rocky hand to flatten down Johnny's bed head, a fond expression on his face.

"There's an attack happening downtown." Sue appears in their doorway. There are dark circles under her eyes and her skin is pale- it doesn't look like she's slept. "The Avengers are busy in Jersey so it's just us."

"I thought I told you to get some sleep?" Johnny asks pointedly as they file out into the hall.

"I could say the same about you." Sue snaps. She winces at Johnny's flinch. "Sorry. I went to bed shortly after you; guess I didn't sleep very well."

Johnny nods, accepting the apology easily. Even though he slept through the night he still feels like he didn't get enough rest.

"Is Reed coming?" Ben asks as they head for the car. Sue shakes her head.

"He's on standby in case we need the help."

Great, Johnny thinks moodily, not only are they down a person- they don't even know exactly what they're heading into. Ben catches his look, slinging an arm over his shoulders and grinning at him.

"Ah, come on Matchstick- it'll be a breeze." He winks and Johnny finds himself grinning back, bad mood gone.

Yeah, he thinks, it'll be fine. Maybe it'll even be mostly cleared up by the time they get there.


There are cars on fire.

Windows are smashed, graffiti sprayed across walls- people are screaming, shouting, crying. The police are fighting to keep everything under control but they're fighting a losing battle.

Johnny blasts one doombot back but another takes its place and then another. The crowd surges forwards and its complete chaos in the streets. Ben is across the road taking on the other half of the robots while Sue tries to keep the angered and hysterical crowd back.

Johnny's exhausted already and they have a long way to go before they get anything under control.

A woman breaks through the barricade past Sue. She has a crowbar in one hand and she's waving it over her head. She can't be much older than Sue herself. Johnny tries to keep her back, careful not to touch her with his flames but she keeps coming- he tries to lift up but then there's a doombot behind him. He blasts it, melts it down, but doesn't move in time as the woman reaches out and grabs him.

Her scream is like an electric shock. It jolts through him, makes him sick, makes his head rush and he flames off because she won't let go but it's already too late and the smell of burnt flesh makes him gag and shudder and want to crawl away and hide.

She stumbles back, clutching her hand. Johnny can see the flesh blistering and broken from where he stands. He reaches out, helpless, sick but she jerks back, eyes wild. The yelling changes- the roars become people screaming at him, telling him to stay back, not to touch them. They call him a menace, a monster.

Sue stares, wide eyed and shocked before she moves, scooping up the woman in a bubble and carrying her to the paramedics.

Nausea rolls in his stomach. He stumbles, disoriented and unsure.

"Johnny!" Ben roars over the crowd. He latches onto the sound like a drowning man, latches onto Ben's voice. He turns towards the other man to find him already charging his way.

Johnny opens his mouth to call back.

He doesn't see the doombot until it's too late.