Author’s Note: This story was written as an RPG (roll playing game) between co-author’s Hope1iz and BlackFox12 (aka Cat). This is the eleventh story in the ‘Redeeming Grant’ series, which is set after the season one finale.
Disclaimer: We don't own anything from Marvel: Agents of SHIELD or The Avengers and we're not making any money from this fic.
Summary: Grant meets his older siblings. Trouble ensues
Warning(s): Spoilers up to the season one finale and for the Avengers movie; spanking; fighting scenes
Co-Author’s Website: BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page
MEETING THE OLDER SIBLINGS
Getting the paperwork sorted for Coulson adopting Ward (and the not-so-legal probationary period) went a lot smoother with the use of Tony Stark's lawyers. After it was made clear that there were no loopholes that could be exploited, Coulson turned to Tony and extended a hand to shake the other man's. "Thank you for the use of your lawyers. I'm sure it would have taken much longer to get this sorted if we went through the normal channels."
Tony grinned, taking Coulson's hand in a firm shake, but then used his other hand to clasp the man on the shoulder and squeeze. "Anytime, Agent. Mi casa es su casa and that goes for all your new 'rug rats' too. It's funny. When I first met you, I didn't realize how important it would turn out to be; but you've managed to bring me an entire family of my own and...well, I'm not about to call you Dad or anything, but I do see you as family of a sort. Maybe an older brother. Or a very young uncle. Or something. And I'd do anything to help you. You just need to let me know."
Tony cleared his throat, then gave his mega-watt grin and backed away, putting on his playboy, devil-may-care attitude again. "I think you have two other family members who haven't got to see you in too long that really want to see you. And meet their new brother..." Tony grinned again before slipping out of the room without giving any further information...but there was a piece of paper folded up with Phil's name on it that Tony had slipped into his hand just before leaving. Inside was a phone number.
Coulson smiled at Tony, appreciating the offer and responding with a grateful acknowledgment. He knew he could count on the other man for help.
Glancing at the number and committing it to memory, Coulson put the piece of paper away as he left Stark Tower. Instead of going straight back to the Bus, though, he took out his cell phone and dialed the number he'd memorized as he walked along the street casually.
"Yeah...What can I do you for?" came a familiar smart-aleck tone over the phone.
Coulson smiled at the familiar voice, but merely said, "It's Coulson. I assume you wanted to talk to me," he teased gently.
The other voice paused slightly before answering, a smile in his tone, "Always, sir. But I'd really like to see you...and maybe my new baby brother, if the rumor is true." Clint's grin was so big, it could be heard.
Coulson laughed softly, before saying, "Well, I've just left Stark Tower, so if you're close enough you can meet me on the street. Or back at the Bus... though I might have to warn Grant you're coming," he teased once more.
"Or I could just walk with you..." The voice on the phone suddenly became clearer and closer as Clint fell into place next to Coulson. "And why warn him? Surprises are so much more fun!" The archer grinned at his old handler, before wrapping him in a hug. "I was so glad when Tony and Bruce told us you were alive..." His voice trailed off.
Coulson paused so he could return the hug, pulling Clint in close. "I'm alive and well... you can't get rid of me that easily." He squeezed him gently before asking, a bit wryly, "And where's your partner in crime?"
"Right here," Natasha said from the other side of him.
Clint smiled at Natasha, pulling her into the hug with them before kissing her on the nose. "So...baby brother? I heard the official reports. How did you discover he'd be one of your 'Lost Boys'?" His tone was serious, but he was still smiling.
Natasha willingly came into the hug, nudging Coulson's shoulder affectionately. "I hear he's got a past."
"Doesn't everyone?" Coulson replied. "He needed someone to care about him... And he was already one of my team. I just chose not to give up on him."
Clint smiled crookedly, a slightly haunted- but not as haunted as a few months prior- look in his eyes. "That seems to be going around a bit...the whole not giving up on people thing. He's lucky he was one of yours."
Coulson wrapped an arm gently around Clint's shoulders. "He's said something similar in the past."
"Then he's smart as well as lucky." Clint grinned. "So again, I have to ask. When do I get to meet 'baby brother'?"
"If you have the time, you can meet him now," Coulson said.
Natasha met the eyes of her partner in crime. "We have the time." She didn't say that they'd drop everything and come the moment Coulson even gave the hint he was going to call on them... but the implication was there.
"We'll always have time for family..." Clint added...knowing that Coulson had to have gotten Natasha's underlying meaning, but wanting to make certain it was known he agreed with her.
Coulson nodded with a smile. "Then, since I'm heading back to the Bus anyway, there's plenty of room for you two." He started walking back in that direction, keeping one on either side of him. It hadn't occurred to him how much he'd missed Clint and Natasha until seeing them again.
Clint fell into step beside Phil and began a running commentary on all the goings on that Phil had missed since he'd taken charge of his other team. He knew Phil had seen Tony and Bruce a few months prior and they had caught him up on quite a bit and he believed Steve had even spoken to the other man after one of his operations...but he knew none of them would give him the same in depth information that he could give to him; namely, the little intricate details that most people tended to miss and didn't pass on.
Such as how Tony had gone through a rough patch after New York that had led to him nearly committing suicide via homicidal mad man. (Tony could deny all he wanted that he wasn't suicidal, but what the heck did you call it when you gave your home address out to terrorists and then dared them to come get you?)
He also told how Steve's entire outlook had changed when he realized he really wasn't alone out of time; that his childhood best friend had jumped on the train to the new century as well...and needed Steve's help. Steve may not be all updated on current things, but he no longer felt as if he would never fit in; simply because he wasn't the only one in his situation.
He told how Thor had chosen to come back to Earth- Midgard- and given up the throne so he could be with his lady love and help out the Avengers, who he viewed as family. He didn't mention Loki at all...although Thor had told them of his brother's death and how, in the end, he had died attempting to help. Thor believed there was good in his brother at the end; and who was Clint to argue with a man about his dead brother?
Every so often, he'd glance at Natasha to see if she wanted to add anything, but overall, Clint just couldn't stop talking. He would never admit it was because he was nervous.
Coulson listened intently, giving Clint his full attention. He knew that, out of the two of them, Clint was the one who talked to distract himself, while Natasha stayed quiet and watchful. He still made sure to include Natasha, though, as he always had done in the past.
They reached the Bus fairly quickly, the time passing fast as Coulson listened and made comments where appropriate. He knew both would know they'd reached their destination and didn't concern himself with pointing it out.
"Wow...this is a nice set-up you have here...Director..." Clint said teasingly as they walked onto the Bus. "And I see you still have Lola..."
"Why change what works?" Coulson replied.
Natasha looked around, taking in everything. "So... where's he likely to be?" she asked Coulson.
"We'll try the rec area first." That was the direction Coulson headed in.
"Rec area. So we can probably assume he isn't a scientist or computer geek...so he didn't adopt Tony or Bruce..." Clint said to Natasha, just loudly enough for Coulson to hear then grinned unrepentantly. He did follow the older man, however.
Ward and Trip were both in the rec area, practicing the more obscure Okichitaw, using practice blades in place of their usual knives. Ward's arm was still healing; but it had been a clean wound and except for a bit of soreness in the muscle, you couldn't tell by looking that he'd been wounded. He'd been practicing with Trip and May a lot more frequently to get his arm back into pre-wound shape...but his favorite times were when he could spar against his father.
They both heard the talking indicating they were about to get visitors at the same time, but decided to keep practicing. If Coulson needed them to stop, he'd say something.
Since it would be impossible to enter the rec area three at a time, Coulson shifted forward to enter first, stepping aside to allow Natasha and Clint to enter behind them. "That's Grant." He nodded towards Ward, not bothering to hide the proud note in his voice.
Ward heard his name being mentioned, but he and Trip kept up their workout, both of them wanting to 'show' the director the new form they were practicing and hoping he might have a few pointers. They finished up the more intricate and possibly dangerous portion and then stepped away from each other, glancing over toward Coulson. It was then they both realized who was in the room with the director and both of them straightened imperceptibly (hoping that they'd impressed the three, but not wanting to appear eager to impress). Grabbing their towels, they dried off and then walked over to where the three were standing. Since Grant had heard his name, he decided to introduce himself first.
"Hi. I'm Grant Ward..." He held out his hand, quickly shaking Hawkeye's hand. "This is Antoine Triplett...we call him Trip..." He held out his hand toward Natasha as Trip shook Clint's hand.
"Natasha Romanov," Natasha replied, shaking Ward's hand and then Trip's in turn. "I noticed an unconscious favouring of one your arms," she commented. "Were you wounded?" Almost everyone wouldn't have realised, but Natasha prided herself on noticing things about people they wanted to keep hidden.
Ward blinked, his eyebrows going up as he glanced at Coulson, but then he turned back to Natasha with a slight grin. "Either I'm not improving as much as I'd hoped, or your reputation was nowhere close to the truth..." he finally said. "…I was shot several weeks ago. I'm working on getting the muscle back into the shape it was before I got shot," he added on when he realized he hadn't actually answered her question.
"My whole life is about observing people," Natasha commented. "Most people wouldn't have noticed anything different." She glanced at Clint, knowing he was one of the few people who would have noticed it.
Clint nodded in her direction as if in agreement. "If Phil doesn't mind, maybe Nat and I can stick around for a little while. Give you some tips to hide the condition even from us...I think about the only person better than us at seeing things like that, or keeping them hidden, is the Director..." His tone took on that teasing note again. He was just so amused - and happy - that Coulson's loyalty and hard work had got him the ultimate promotion.
Ward glanced at Coulson, as if to ask if they could stick around. It was obvious the two were fond of the other man.
Coulson smiled. "If the two of you would like to stick around for a while, I at least would like to have you here." It would give them some time to catch up... as well as get to know their 'little brother' properly.
"Do you think I want to miss a chance to ride on this Bus?" Clint crowed. "Of course I'd like to stick around...How bout you, Nat?" He shouldered his partner gently.
Natasha shrugged. "I put my vote in for staying," she replied lightly. "It's not like we have any missions for a while."
Ward smiled at the two then glanced at Trip. "This is going to be awesome..." he whispered to the other man, thinking of all the tricks they could learn from the two master spies.
Trip nodded serenely; he had taken especial note of the matching gleams in Ward's and Barton's eyes, however. He glanced at Coulson, wondering if the other man had noticed... The next few weeks were going to be pure chaos if the gleams were anything to go by.
Remembering the reason he'd been in Stark Tower in the first place, Coulson handed the paperwork over to Ward so that his son could look over it. "Everything's official now, son." He'd also taken note of the gleams, but so long as nothing too bad happened, he wasn't all that worried. And it would be better for all his kids to get along.
Ward read the documents and swallowed hard, then looked back up at Coulson. His expression was one of complete happiness, thankfulness...and relief. He hadn't been entirely certain they would be allowed to proceed with the plan; there was still the very slim chance that his blood father would try and contest it (even though Ward was an adult and his blood father shouldn't have any say over him at all)...just because the man would like nothing better than for Ward to be miserable and alone. But nothing had hindered it and here was the proof. He was officially the son of Philip Coulson. He swallowed again. "I can't believe it's actually real..." he finally whispered.
Coulson smiled, placing his hand on Ward's shoulder and squeezing gently. "It is real. In every way that counts," he promised. "Tony Stark had his lawyers check everything, on this and the other paperwork." Which wasn't actually legal, but Stark didn't tend to worry about that kind of thing.
Ward blinked at the last bit. "His lawyers checked on the non-legal custody to make sure it was legal?" He shook his head and snorted. "That man is scary sometimes..." he muttered. He was fond of Tony...but he could only be glad the man was on their side. Because Lord help them if he ever decided he preferred to join Hydra...or do something worse.
Clint snorted along with him. "You aren't kidding. But he's a good man to have in your corner. And a pretty good friend. Once he lets his guard down and stops trying to keep you at a distance, anyway."
Trip glanced at the paperwork then slapped Ward on the back. "Great news, bro. Nice to see everyone else acknowledge what we've all known to be true for the last bit of forever. If you all will please excuse me, I'm going to go take a shower and then hunt up some food." He waited just long enough to get nods from most of them, before disappearing into the bowels of the plane.
Coulson nodded to Trip then turned to Ward. "Do you need to clean up as well? We could all eat together," he suggested.
"I'll have a look around before eating," Natasha offered. It couldn't hurt to have someone check over the Bus' defenses, after all. If anything needed to be upgraded, she and Clint could talk to Coulson about it.
Ward nodded. "Yeah. I need to go shower and change...meet you all in the kitchen area?"
"Sounds good to me," Clint said. "I'll wander around with Nat. You're probably already outfitted with most new technology, but Stark's come up with some stuff that isn't available to anyone yet; except his teammates, of course. And I'm sure he wouldn't mind giving you all the necessary tweaks to bring your traveling base into the twenty-fifth century like the rest of us being dragged along on his Buck Rogers trip...."
Coulson nodded. "I'll go and start preparing the food, then... I'm sure I don't need to tell you where the kitchen area is."
"We'll just follow our noses." Natasha grinned then looked at Clint. "You coming?"
Clint grinned. "Is the Hulk green?" He turned toward Coulson. "See you in a bit...'Dad'..." He ducked to avoid getting swatted and headed for the door to the rec-room.
May, having realized that not only was Coulson back but he'd brought company, was heading down the hallway toward the rec-room to find out who was on her plane.
Coulson shook his head, more amused than annoyed, and followed Clint and Natasha to the door. Spotting May approaching, he waved the two aside. "Let me just go and explain to May we've got company." He headed out of the rec room and approached her.
"I think she's already figured it out..." Clint opined then waved at the approaching woman.
May just raised an eyebrow before stopping next to Natasha. "Do I need to be worried?" she asked the other woman with a straight face. Closer inspection would show the twinkle in her eye.
Natasha shrugged. "We wanted to come see our new little brother. I can't say you shouldn't be worried about Clint and Grant, though... they seem very similar." She smiled then turned a bit more serious. "We'll be staying here a while. We were just going to take a look round and see about upgrades."
May's glance became more interested. "Really? Mind if I walk around with you? There are a few things I've been thinking about requesting for an upgrade...but if you're aware of something better than what I'd thought of, I'd like to hear about it."
Clint made a face at Natasha's comment about him and Grant, but then shrugged slightly and smiled at Coulson. Nat was right. While Grant seemed a bit more reserved than he was, he did seem interested in the same types of things...and he had a feeling the reservation was more to do with his background and training than his natural inclinations. A person could be trained to behave a certain way, after all. "You going to come walksie too, sir?" he asked Coulson.
Natasha nodded. "That would help. You know this place better than we do, after all."
"That depends on how hungry you are," Coulson replied. "Do you want to eat straight after looking around, or would you rather wait a while?" In a way, he was also asking if they wanted his company, too. Knowing that they were going to stay for a while meant he didn't have to make the most of the short time they could be here.
"Well..." Clint pondered the question for a moment. "I could go either way, but I think the kid is likely going to be hungry, given the workout he and his buddy were doing. And I did hear Trip say he was hungry. I think Nat and Mel have things covered as far as figuring out upgrades for the ship. Maybe I'll go help you fix dinner?"
May glanced over toward the men. "That might not be a bad idea, sir. You know how your boys get when they're hungry..." She left it to everyone's imagination if she was including Clint in that statement or not.
Coulson nodded. "That sounds like a good plan to me." He looked at Natasha. "Let me know if you run into any problems."
Natasha smirked. "Of course, sir." She turned to May. "Coming?"
Coulson turned to start heading towards the kitchen.
Clint followed Coulson to the kitchen.
Ward had finished his shower and changed and was walking to the kitchen. He wanted to talk to the two spies who had been so close to Coulson, they had refused any other handler after he had 'died'. The stories about the two were legendary.
# # #
May glanced at Natasha. "Where would you like to begin? The cockpit? Or the laboratory; I can introduce you to the other three kids on the Bus...Skye handles most of our electronic and computer related items, although you probably already knew that if you've talked to Stark. Simmons and Fitz handle the science items. So they'd be better able to tell you what they would be most interested in."
Natasha nodded. "I can meet the others." She would eventually anyway, but it would be good to observe them in their 'natural habitat'.
May nodded, having had the feeling that Natasha would agree to that. She would have picked to meet the others as soon as possible in the area they worked as well. She and Natasha had a lot in common, she thought. "This way, then." She led the other woman to the labs.
Natasha followed, looking around and taking in everything as she did so. Part of it was simple curiosity... but she was also scanning for any weaknesses that could cause a problem.
# # #
Walking into the kitchen, Coulson looked at Clint. "Is there anything in particular you'd like to eat?" They had plenty that both Natasha and Clint liked, but Coulson decided that, on his next trip out, he'd pick up some of the foods he knew were their favourites.
Clint shrugged. "I haven't got a preference, no. I'll just eat what everyone else wants." He smiled again. "To be honest, I'm just so happy to finally be able to see with my own eyes that you are alive and well..." he admitted sheepishly. "Tony and Bruce told us everything they could possibly think of to mention, but it just isn't the same." He hopped up onto the counter and began swinging his feet, as if he lived on the Bus.
Coulson smiled at Clint as he began preparing the food. "I know the two of you have been on missions... I thought you'd find a way of letting me know when we could meet." He rested a hand on Clint's shoulder, squeezing gently. "I'm glad to see you."
Clint looked down almost bashfully. "That's what Nat said..." he remarked softly. "I just...if I hadn't...if Loki hadn't...you wouldn't have..." He huffed, exasperated at his inability to form a coherent sentence. "I didn't know how to face you," he finally admitted.
Coulson slid his arm around Clint's shoulders. "That wasn't your doing. You wouldn't have had any way to defend yourself against that kind of attack. I don't blame you." He never had.
"I know in my head that it wasn't my doing...that I couldn't stop him. And I know you don't blame me. But the part of me that isn't my brain..." Clint avoided using the term heart. He always had a hard time admitting to 'feeling' things. "...that part keeps telling me that if I'd fought a little harder, maybe he wouldn't have got hold of me and so many of my friends and you wouldn't have been hurt or died." He shrugged slightly, frowning. "Seeing you...it helps. At least your death is one less thing I can feel guilty about; and you seem to be doing really well, so...."
"I have been... and more so with the rest of my family here now," Coulson said honestly. "Even if I would have liked to see you sooner." He squeezed Clint gently. "I understand dealing with guilt is hard." He knew that Ward was still affected by what had happened when his treachery had been revealed and wondered if his boys might be able to help each other.
Clint smiled slightly. "Well, Nat did keep calling me an idiot for not trying to make contact sooner."
He paused as if considering what he was about to admit. "You can actually thank Tony for the fact that I'm here now. Said something to the effect that he'd done a lot of crummy things in his life that were his fault and everyone was willing to forgive his past and give him a chance now. And it was their choice to do so. And what right did I have to take away your choice...and...well, somehow he made me feel guiltier for not contacting you than I felt for what had happened." Clint frowned in confusion as he thought about that. "That and he threatened to call you and have you wait for me in my bedroom at the tower and surprise me. I don't like surprises. Well...not surprises that are waiting to jump me in my bedroom at any rate."
Coulson snorted softly. "I wouldn't have jumped you." He paused, considering. "I might have spanked you." Actually, talking to Clint now, he still hadn't entirely decided against that idea. What had happened was still clearly bothering the archer... and Coulson wondered if he would need it on an emotional level. Still staying close to Clint, Coulson added, "I'll have to remember to talk to Tony if you disappear again on me."
Clint swallowed, not entirely sure how he felt about that information, but before he could say anything in his defense (and there was precious little defensible about avoiding his father-figure), Ward- who had stepped into the kitchen right at the moment Coulson made his declaration - coughed uncomfortably, then blushed.
"I'm sorry...I didn't realize you were having a private conversation. I'll come back in ten minutes..." Ward stammered and began backing out of the door. He'd almost decided to just quickly leave before they'd noticed him, but he didn't feel right overhearing their conversation and them not knowing that he'd heard. The glance he gave Clint was a mix of empathy, curiosity and almost horrified surprise. He'd thought that eventually, one day, he'd outgrow the need to be spanked; or at least Coulson wouldn't feel the need to use that method of correction...but if Coulson was still spanking Hawkeye... an Avenger...!
Coulson turned to face Ward, squeezing Clint's shoulder gently before releasing him. "There's no need to leave. We can continue our discussion later." He motioned Ward over to join them as he resumed preparing the food.
Ward gave them both an uncertain look, but came in and sat at the table. "Can I help?" he asked quietly.
Clint figured he would need to talk to the younger man about their father's methods...but now wasn't the time. He grinned and swung his feet a little bit more. "You just saved me from a serious chiding!" he teased Ward and Coulson both.
"It's fine," Coulson replied warmly to Ward. "I've nearly got everything ready." As he finished plating up the food, he commented to Clint, "I think you mean postponed."
Clint visibly swallowed, then conceded the point. "Ok, postponed my receiving a serious chiding, which...I have to admit I deserve." He sighed, but was smiling. "Remember this, young Padawan...do not go for over a year without contacting our father. It is...foolish in the least." Clint gave a crooked smile.
Ward couldn't help but smile. It would be nice having an older brother who actually liked him… and he got the idea that Clint was looking forward to playing that role.
"That's a good thing to remember," Coulson agreed. He began setting out the plates of food on the table, glancing up as more members of the team began filtering in. He'd made a deliberate point of preparing Grant's favourite meal... after all, they were celebrating his official adoption of the younger man.
May and Trip had noted the food choice the minute they walked into the kitchen, leading the younger members of the team as they nattered away to the Widow about various items they had thought about purchasing or making for the lab. Clint barely refrained from laughing at the look on her face as Jemma went into great detail explaining about some sort of scope.
"And congrats again, sir, on a bouncing not-so-baby boy!" Trip teased. Ward shot him a glare, but anyone could tell he was happy and not really irritated.
Natasha listened to the younger team's ideas about the upgrades, trying not to let her eyes glaze over too much. She then snagged a plate for herself and went to join Clint, while Skye drew Jemma into a discussion about what she thought might be good upgrades.
Fitz got his own plate and settled at the table. He was surprised to find himself quite hungry... but he had been working quite hard on analysing various types of material.
"I'm just glad that everything went without a hitch," Coulson replied; though if there had been any problems with Ward's biological father, he knew they would easily be able to bring any pressure required.
"Me too..." Grant said softly. He knew if any problems had arisen, it wouldn't have been because his biological father actually wanted to have any type of connection or relationship with him. It would have only been to make Ward miserable. He took his own plate and sat down next to Coulson, looking around at his team and extended team. His family. He was so content and happy, he was almost afraid to admit to it for fear that something would happen to ruin the perfect moment.
Trip, seeming to catch Ward's somber- if happy- mood, turned to the two spies and asked, "So how long are you two able to visit?"
Coulson placed one hand on the back of Ward's neck and squeezed gently, in much the same way he normally did to reassure his son, before he started eating. He glanced towards Clint and Natasha at the question as well, wondering how long he'd have to spend with them this time.
Natasha shrugged. "A lot of it depends on the next mission we get sent." And probably also on Clint and Coulson... though she didn't say that.
Clint grinned at that. "Well, considering who the new Director is and the fact that he'd be the one to send us on any missions...since we finished the last one that Fury gave us before he disappeared...."
Ward looked from Clint and Natasha to Coulson and back again. "So you can stay as long as Dad wants to keep you here, then.... Or until an emergency happens." He smiled innocently and stuck a forkful of food into his mouth.
"You're both welcome to stay as long as you want," Coulson said. He would personally want them to stay for good, but he didn't want them to feel pressured to stay permanently if they didn't want to... so long as he actually got to see them more regularly.
Clint smiled at Natasha then looked at Coulson. "Well, we are officially living in Stark's Tower... 'Avenger Tower' is what they are calling it. Tony likes to complain about the name change, but I think he secretly likes it. Anyway...Tony knows we're with you, so if something comes up and the team needs us, they'll call...until then..." He shrugged. "I figure we can stay for a few days to a week, at least, before we get antsy and start begging you for an assignment." He grinned unrepentantly and took a bite of his own food.
Coulson gave a slight smile. "That's about the amount of time I expected. So long as you don't disappear without contact again..." His voice was mild, but considering what they'd just been talking about, he was clearly serious. "You can always come back here any time."
Natasha looked at Clint, almost as if she were saying, 'I told you so'.
Clint made a face at Natasha then gave Coulson his own slight smile back. "I know, sir, and I'm sure we'll be back more often now that we know for certain how to get hold of you." He didn't comment on the disappearing without contact part; he still felt some guilt over everything that had occurred and didn't want to bring the rest of the group down. Everyone was happy and he wanted it to stay that way.
Coulson nodded. "Good," was all he said, before he returned to eating, engaging people in conversation.
# # #
Most of the team members had gone to bed. Natasha disappeared off somewhere, presumably to sleep, but she could have taken it on herself to patrol first. Coulson knew that she didn't tend to need much sleep; and he also knew that she would stay out of the way while he talked to Clint.
Shortly after Natasha disappeared, Ward had begun favouring his arm a bit more. Aware of the workout that had probably put a lot of strain on the healing limb, Coulson had suggested his son go to bed to rest it up, suggesting that they spend some more time together in the morning. Ward hadn't voiced an argument, which meant his arm was probably more sore than he was letting on.
And now, it meant that Coulson was alone with Clint.
As soon as he was certain Ward had gone to his bunk, Coulson turned an even look on the archer. "More than a year is far too long to disappear for."
Clint looked down at his feet, abashed, before straightening up. "To be fair, I didn't even know you were alive for part of that year..." He offered a weak defense. He knew it was a weak defense. As soon as he'd found out the truth about Coulson being alive, he should have attempted to make contact; it wasn't like Coulson hadn't left messages for him at the tower as soon as he'd been cleared to tell people he was alive. Clint had just not wanted to face his father-figure, knowing what he'd done under Loki's control and having believed for so long that Coulson had died and it had been at least partly his fault.
Coulson shook his head. "I know you would have got the messages I left for you. I imagine Tony passed them onto you." He spoke quietly, but no less seriously. "I only knew you were still alive and well because Tony knew I was worried and let me know when he heard anything."
"Yeah..." Clint swallowed and looked at his feet. "Sorry about that...I...I knew Tony was talking to you, so I made sure I kept him informed...I...I just didn't know how to face you myself," he finally admitted. "I'm sorry...."
"I know." Coulson was silent for a moment or two, wondering if the decision he'd made was the right one. But Clint had to understand that that kind of silence was unacceptable. And Coulson also guessed that his older boy had a lot of negative emotions he'd been unwilling, or unable, to let go of. "But I'm still going to spank you."
Clint winced, but he didn't argue against it. In a way, he felt relieved. As many times as he'd been told- by Nat, Steve, Tony, Bruce...even Thor had chimed in to tell him- that he wasn't responsible for anything he'd done under Loki's control...he still felt guilty. As much as he disliked the idea, the thought that maybe he could somehow make things right with Coulson was stronger than his aversion to the method. "I understand..." he finally answered in a near whisper.
Coulson nodded. He was already seated and instead of moving this from the lounge area to his office (his bunk wouldn't work), he simply held his hand out to the archer. "Come here." His voice was gentle, but still firm.
"Shi..oot...." Clint glanced around the room nervously and caught his language just in time before walking to Coulson, standing by his knee. "Please tell me that they won't think anything is weird about this if someone overhears..." he muttered softly, not arguing against it; but a bit nervous that someone else might hear or walk in. Nat knew how Coulson dealt with his 'children'... and he suspected Ward knew. But he wasn't sure about the others.
Coulson reached out to grasp Clint's wrist, gently tugging him forward and across his lap, wrapping an arm around his waist and drawing him against his stomach. "The rest of the team tend to make sure they're far away when this becomes necessary." Rubbing Clint's back gently, he then proceeded to pull down his pants and underwear.
"Aw...Dad..." Clint couldn't help but whine slightly when he felt his clothing being lowered, but he didn't say anything else; just slumped slightly and put his hands forward to brace himself. He'd been in this position enough times to know the drill. It irritated him slightly that he still managed to get into enough trouble that Coulson felt the need to correct him in this way. He wasn't exactly young any longer.... At the same time, he felt relieved that his and Coulson's relationship hadn't been changed by everything that had occurred in the last year, or by his refusal to face his mentor; the fact that Coulson was treating him exactly as he would have before the whole mess began was comforting.
Coulson didn't bother pointing out that, with very few exceptions, this was always the way he spanked one of his children. He did take another moment to gently rub Clint's back, before bringing his hand down in a firm swat. He didn't use his full strength, but he intended to impress on Clint how seriously he took this kind of going off the grid.
Clint was never one to hold anything back with people he trusted- namely Coulson and Nat- and in the past, he'd never attempted to 'keep control' of himself or anything of the sort. When it started hurting, he let it be known it was hurting by squirming any way possible to avoid the swats and by vocalizing. This time, however, he didn't want to draw attention to the fact that he- a member of the Avengers and one of the oldest people on board the Bus at the moment, barring Coulson and May- was getting his butt blistered. So he bit his lip and tried not to make any noise, although he couldn't help but whimper at the swat.
Coulson knew that Clint was trying not to make any sound, but it didn't concern him too much. He knew it was unlikely that resolve would last and he settled quickly into a rhythm, swatting firmly from the crest of Clint's backside and working his way down to the archer's thighs.
Clint was only able to hold out for so long- he never had been one to hide his discomfort around Coulson - and he was shortly squirming uncontrollably, the one whimper turning into several until muffled grunts, whines and sniffles rose, from where he'd pressed his mouth against his forearm, up to Coulson's ears.
If he was honest, it wasn't really that painful. Well, it was painful...but it wasn't as painful as some other situations he'd been in. It never was. What always made the difference- and what always reduced him to a quivery, crying mess- was the fact that he was in this position because he'd done something to upset, worry or in some other way hurt the man who had saved him when he was a teen and who had raised him to be the man he now was. Coulson had been his guardian and mentor before he became his handler; and he'd never really given up that position, even as Clint aged and no longer needed him in the same way...because really...Clint would always need him in that way.
Coulson shifted Clint forward slightly so that he could begin addressing swats to his boy's sit spots. As he did so, he spoke quietly. "You should never break contact with me like that again, Clint. It doesn't matter how guilty you feel, whether it was something you had control over or not. That kind of silence is never going to be acceptable."
At those words, Clint gave up. He knew it was wrong. Natasha had reminded him often enough it was wrong...but he'd let his guilt dictate his actions and in the process made things worse. Going limp over Coulson's knees, he allowed himself to cry without muffling it; even though it still wasn't very loud because he was shaking so bad, the sound couldn't leave his body. "I'm sorry, dad...I really am...I just...what happened...what I did...I...I couldn't..." He finally gave up talking and just cried, accepting whatever his mentor decided to give him.
Coulson's hand slowed and came to a stop. With very few exceptions, he couldn't continue when one of his boys was in tears. Without any form of hesitation, he gently tugged Clint into his arms, hugging him tightly and stroking his back.
Clint didn't need any encouragement to hug Phil back, putting his head on his shoulder and holding on tightly. "I know it wasn't my fault, but it still feels like it was...." he admitted. "I've talked to I don't know how many SHIELD therapists...and Tony even gave me the number for the one he goes to for the issues he started having after New York and then that whole Mandarin thing... but it doesn't help. Because even though I know there was nothing I could do, I saw everything that I was doing, as I was doing it; and it felt like I was making the decision to do it. It felt like it was me. And no matter how many times I tell myself it wasn't...I just..." He clenched his teeth and hugged more tightly, closing his eyes and shuddering.
Coulson nodded, tightening his own embrace around Clint. "I know," he said softly. "But I'm here for you, Clint, even when you'd rather I wasn't. Grant went through a similar thing that you did," he added. "I understand how scary losing that control is. Maybe spending the time here will help you, in some small way, to heal."
"I hope so," Clint whispered brokenly. He'd put on a brave front for the last year, not wanting anyone to see how torn up he was about what had happened. The only people who really knew how bad it was were Nat, because she'd held him after each and every nightmare... and Tony, because for all the reputation he had of being narcissistic and uncaring about anything not directly relating to him, the man was very observant and cared about his team (or his family, if he was being more accurate). "Now that I'm back with you, maybe..." He shrugged slightly. Coulson was his father-figure and had held him together more than once. Maybe being with the man and seeing first hand how his mentor wasn't dead and wasn't wounded would at least put that part of his nightmares to rest.
Coulson didn't so much as loosen his hold on Clint. "I meant what I said. I know you have a home in Stark Tower, but you also have one here... whenever you want or need to come. And you know I'll come immediately if you need me." Having Grant didn't make a difference to that; it just meant he had two sons he'd drop everything for when they needed him.
Clint nodded and gave one last squeeze before standing up and righting his clothing. Swallowing, he looked into Coulson's eyes. "Thanks, dad. I...maybe I'll stay a little bit longer than a few days- Nat doesn't need me to tag along all the time...and I'd like to get to know my 'baby brother' a bit better." His grin was cheeky.
Coulson smiled and stood up, wrapping an arm around Clint's shoulders. "You know I'll be happy for you to stay as long as possible. I'm also sure Grant would like to get to know you, too," he added.
"Well...he's gonna need a big brother to show him how to get out of trouble...if he's as prone to trouble as his big brother is," Clint teased. "Thanks, dad." He leaned into Coulson. "I should have 'come home' months ago...even if home right now is a plane that moves from place to place constantly."
Coulson nodded. "Yes, you should have. But you're here now and that's what's important. Grant's family situation before we met wasn't the best," he warned, wanting Clint to be aware and prepared. "There are still a lot of issues he's struggling with." He imagined Clint and Natasha had both read the file, but seeing the effects in reality was a lot different.
Clint nodded. "The file wasn't pretty...and there is pretty much nothing on Garrett and what he did, but given the man's affiliation and the way his past trainees paled whenever his name was brought up, I can imagine it was worse than I read.... Tony told me a bit about him from the time you all spent there getting him over that virus... from what little I read and heard and comparing it to what I saw today, you've made a big difference in his life, dad. I'm late to the party, but I want to help too."
"The rest of the team have helped him a lot, too," Coulson said. "And Skye's idea means that we don't have to hide his presence here. I think you'll be good for him. He could use a proper big brother."
"It was a good idea. And it gave Tony the chance to give you my number and force me to do the right thing." He gave a sheepish grin. "And I look forward to getting to know all of them a bit better...but I think, for now, I need to get some sleep. We'd only been home a couple of hours from our last op when I got your call...haven't really slept much in the last three days," he reluctantly admitted, knowing that his father would not be impressed with him staying up even longer than necessary once the op was over.
Coulson sighed, eyeing Clint. "That's something else that's going to change," he said firmly. "You are going to start sleeping properly." At least Clint had eaten a healthy amount. Coulson had kept an eye on him to make sure of that. While speaking, Coulson began steering Clint from the lounge area.
Clint bit his lip. He could have argued that the only reason he didn't get sleep after returning from his op was because he came home with Coulson and felt reconnecting with his family was more important....but he was honest enough to admit this wasn't the first time he'd gone without sleep and his reasons usually weren't as good. Instead, he just gave a contrite, "Yes, sir," and let Phil guide him to his bunk.
Reaching Clint's bunk, Coulson steered his son inside. "Don't get up too early," he said, gently rather than scolding. "You need the rest and nothing's going to happen."
Clint nodded. "Yes, sir," he said with a smile then hugged Coulson one last time. "You should get some sleep, too. You're taking care of a plane full of children, after all..." he teased.
Coulson hugged him close before gently releasing him. "I'm going to. I'll see you in the morning. Sleep well."
Clint nodded, returning the hug before heading into the bunk. It didn't take him long to fall asleep at all, exhaustion finally taking over. For the first time since New York, he didn't have nightmares.
# # #
Ward woke up early the next morning. Between the euphoria of officially having a father who not only loved and cared about him, but wanted the world to know and the fact he'd gone to bed early, he'd not been able to sleep any longer. Noticing that everyone else was still asleep, he got dressed and went to the kitchen to start breakfast. Practice indeed make perfect- his eggs and bacon were perfect and soon the smell was wafting through the plane, enticing everyone else to wake up.
It didn't take long for Coulson to wake up, as much from the smell of the cooking as from being a natural early riser. Heading through to the kitchen, he wrapped an arm around Ward's shoulders. "Morning, son."
Ward smiled in welcome, leaning toward his father in an armless 'hug' while plating some food for the older man. "Morning, Dad...." He grinned at the thought of being able to say that and having it be legal. "Did you sleep well?" He moved all the food to a warming plate before turning the stove off and plating his own food. He'd made enough for the entire Bus and hoped they woke up in time for it to still be fresh.
Coulson nodded, stepping back to give Ward room to move as he took his plate. "I slept fine. What about you? How's your arm doing?" He was concerned that the training the previous day might have put a bit too much strain on the healing wound.
Ward smiled sheepishly as he took his own plate and sat at the table next to his father. "I'm afraid to admit I overdid it a bit. It's still sore. Are you upset with me?" he asked hesitantly.
Coulson wrapped an arm around Ward's shoulders once more. "I know it's difficult to hold back when you want to be at full health and strength. I'm not upset with you, but I don't want it to happen again," he said seriously.
Ward nodded. "I'd rather it not happen again myself..." He took a bite of food, enjoying the quiet and the presence of his dad. There had been very few times in his life where he had felt fully able to let his guard down and completely relax...but it was becoming more common. Now that he didn't have to be afraid of being dragged away from his family, it would likely become normal.
Coulson squeezed Ward gently, then returned to eating, glancing up as Natasha came in with Skye, the two women talking intently. Skye grabbed a plate and slid in on the other side of Ward. "Morning."
Natasha looked around the room, then picked up her own plate and sat down at the table. "He managed to sleep through the night," she commented to Coulson.
Coulson nodded. "I kept my comm on... in case."
"Morning..." Ward responded, before raising his eyebrows in question at Natasha and Coulson's comments; but didn't say anything. He knew if it was something he needed to know, Coulson would tell him...but as he knew they weren't talking about him (although he was fairly certain Coulson kept a comm on to listen for him at night), he couldn't help but be curious what might bother his older brother enough that their dad would listen for him as well. Maybe they had more in common than just Coulson.
Trip wandered in at that point, followed by Jemma and May. The only two not present and accounted for were Fitz and Barton....and Barton might easily sleep in until noon if someone didn’t wake him up. Jemma glanced around curiously as everyone began filling plates. "Shall I go retrieve our missing members?" she asked cheerfully.
Coulson glanced down at his plate, which was empty, and then stood up. "I'll go and retrieve them," he said, figuring there was no point in any of the others missing out on breakfast. Besides, it would give him the chance to check for himself how Clint had slept.
Jemma smiled and nodded, moving to get herself a plate of food. "Thank you, sir," she said softly. She'd been on her best behavior ever since her 'grounding'. She'd hated that Coulson had been upset with her (and Skye, although it was difficult to remember that he'd been upset at the other woman as well. She had internalized his displeasure so thoroughly it felt as if he was only upset with her).
Ward smiled at Jemma and patted the seat next to him. "What don't you come tell me about all the exciting upgrades you're going to get...?" he asked with a slight smile. He knew he was opening himself up to hours of terms that he hadn't a clue about, but he wanted to get to know all his teammates better; and that included the things they were interested in.
Coulson ended up meeting Fitz as he left the kitchen. Patting the younger man on the shoulder, Coulson watched to make sure Fitz took plenty of food before he made his way to Clint's bunk.
There was little point in knocking on the door. If Clint was awake, he would be too restless to stay in his bunk. Coulson pushed the door open and moved to his older son's side.
It said something to the level of trust Clint had in Coulson and how relaxed he felt on the Bus that the spy wasn't awake and ready to pounce on the older man immediately when he came into the bunk area. As it was, the archer only opened one eye and stared blearily at his father. "Don't tell me it's morning al'edy..." he mumbled, almost incoherently.
"I'm afraid so." Coulson placed a hand on Clint's shoulder, squeezing gently. "I'm glad you managed to sleep through the night, but you should come through to the kitchen now and have breakfast." Although his voice was gentle, he knew Clint was aware of how important Coulson viewed proper food and rest.
Clint groaned slightly, but got up immediately and began to get dressed, exchanging pyjamas with jeans and t-shirt rapidly. When he was done, he stepped over to Phil and gave him a quick hug. "Feeeeed me, Seymor!"
Shaking his head, Coulson nevertheless returned the hug, giving Clint a quick squeeze before releasing him, instead wrapping an arm around his shoulders. "Grant made plenty of breakfast... hopefully, it won't be cold yet." He steered him gently from the bunk.
"Well, even if it is, I'll eat it. Won't be the first time I've eaten cold food..." He grinned, then preceded Phil out of the room and went to join everyone else.
# # #
Breakfast had been a leisurely event, everyone taking the time to get to know each other better. But soon there was no food left, everything had been cleaned up and the women had disappeared to go over more items they wanted to upgrade. Trip had gone to meet up with Steve Rogers to tell the hero about what had happened to his grandfather after Steve had been frozen, as well as find out from Steve all the stories his grandfather hadn't told him (although he had told him a lot).
Clint had convinced Ward and Fitz to go out on the town with him by saying it was okay with Coulson. Of course, he was just assuming it would be ok. He hadn't actually asked the older man.
Coulson had retired to his office to take care of some paperwork. As he was, though, there was a knock on the door and Skye opened it when Coulson called a distracted, "Come in."
Smiling at Skye, Coulson waved her inside. "Is everything all right? Did you talk to Natasha about those upgrades you wanted?"
Skye nodded, but didn't say anything.
Coulson noticed immediately that something was bothering the young woman and he put the paperwork to one side, giving her his full attention. "What is it?"
"It's just..." Skye hesitated, not wanting to be accused of telling tales, but neither did she want Ward to get into trouble for violating the terms of his custody agreement. "Natasha told me... that Clint took Fitz and Ward out. I'm worried. I don't want him to get arrested."
Coulson held back a sigh, but smiled reassuringly at Skye. "I'll take care of it," he said gently. "Don't worry."
Coulson stood up and walked round his desk, pulling Skye into a quick embrace. "It'll be fine. Clint wouldn't know he needed to get my permission about it. I'll fix it," he promised.
Skye nodded. "All right. I trust you." She stepped back and then left the office as Coulson headed out after her, a more worried look coming over his face.
# # #
"So.... We were...." Clint's voice trailed off as he noticed a woman exiting the bar they were heading to.
Ward and Fitz had noticed where his attention had gone immediately. "There a problem?" Ward finally asked.
"That woman is on Roger's capture list..." he remarked quietly. "…If we catch her for him...."
Ward straightened up. "Would she have friends nearby?"
"I don't see anyone with her." Clint shrugged.
Ward smiled. "Let's do it, then."
Fitz looked a bit worried. He didn't really want to look like he was whining, but he was (almost) certain that Coulson wouldn't be too impressed about them going after someone with just the three of them. He fingered his comm a moment or two, wondering if he should inform their leader about what they'd spotted... just in case.
Ward had a second's pause where he thought maybe he should contact Coulson; but Clint was already heading after the woman and he didn't want to leave the man without backup. Besides, if they couldn't handle one woman between the three of them, they were in sad shape.
Clint didn't even think of contacting Coulson. He'd got entirely too used to running operations on his own in the last year, when he had no contact with his father, and had got out of the habit of checking in with him. He thought for a moment that maybe he should research the woman a little bit more- just in case- but she was small and didn't look like an overly athletic type and she was alone. There was no reason they shouldn't be able to bring her in... and he wanted to help Steve out.
Fitz didn't immediately follow after Ward and Clint. Taking out his comm, he quickly used to contact Coulson.
"Fitz? Is everything all right?" Coulson asked.
Fitz hesitated a second, before saying, "Clint spotted a woman who was on Captain Rogers' capture list. He and Ward are going after her... Should I... go with them? Or wait for backup?"
"Go with them for backup," Coulson directed. "I'll collect May and Natasha and then come to your location."
"Yes, sir." Fitz put his comm away and hurried after the others.
# # #
Coulson put his comm away with a sigh and then started in the opposite direction to the one he had been heading in, tracking down May and Natasha with Simmons in the lab.
Natasha looked up the moment Coulson walked in and then straightened up. "Where are we going?"
May stood straighter as well, but kept quiet. Natasha had already asked what she would have and she would wait for Coulson's answer before asking anything else.
Jemma blinked, suddenly worried as she noted the other two women had gone still and seemed ready for battle.
"Barton, Ward and Fitz have gone after someone on Steve Rogers' capture list," Coulson explained. "Fitz contacted me. We need to head to their location." Since he had a track on Fitz's comm, he knew exactly where the three of them were going to be.
Natasha took one of the guns from its holster. "Lead the way, sir."
Coulson nodded and started out of the lab.
May frowned, muttered something about careless children, and grabbed her own weapons. "At least Fitz had some sense left..." she grumbled.
As much as Coulson agreed, he didn't make any comment as he quickly led the way off the Bus and followed the signal.
# # #
Grant debated telling Clint that his arm was still giving him problems, but it seemed important to the other man that they capture this woman for his friend Steve and Grant didn't want to leave him a person short. Even if the woman was hiding elite skills, such as those Natasha and Melinda had, there were three of them and that should make it easier. Of course, as soon as they turned the corner into the alley where the woman had disappeared, he wished he hadn't followed Clint quite so closely, as there were six men waiting for the woman and they all turned to face him and his brother. He quickly looked behind himself to make certain there weren't more men behind them- and also to see if Fitz had come more slowly and was out of the range of attack- before quickly facing the men again.
"Crap..." Clint muttered as he realized his 'quick and easy' capture was about to turn into a possible death trap. He felt a flare of guilt for dragging Grant and Leo into the situation...if he'd been honest with them and said he hadn't actually asked Coulson if they could go, they likely wouldn't have joined him...or they might have asked Coulson themselves and then the man would be aware of where they were and someone would come looking, eventually. But he'd just assumed his father would agree and led the younger men to believe that the man had agreed.
Then there was the whole assuming this was an easy catch. If he'd given them just a little more time to research- or watch from a distance- they wouldn't be in this mess now. He'd got too used to doing things on his own the last few months and got too used to taking chances that he really shouldn't have been taking...and this time, he'd brought his brothers into the mess with him. Coulson would have his head for this and rightly so.
Fitz, a little way behind them, spotted the trap just in time and ducked to one side, away from the alleyway. Hoping that he hadn't actually been spotted, he took out the comm to whisper an update to Coulson before looking around.
It took Fitz moments to decide on a course of action. He headed to the pub and quickly purchased the strongest alcohol the bartender had, using his ID to back him up. Leaving the pub, he began making the alcohol into fire bombs.
It hadn't taken the six men long to attack...Ward and Clint held them off as long as possible and held their own for a good five minutes. But then Ward felt a horrible pain in his arm. It caused him to lose his grip and then he was being held by two men while the third pummeled him. Clint, distracted at his brother's sudden 'capture', lost his focus just long enough for the same to happen to him.
Things were not looking good.
Hoping that Coulson and the others would get there soon, Fitz, having made a few fire bombs, checked quickly on the situation in the alley. Seeing that it didn't look good, he grabbed one of the bottles and threw. He didn't aim at any of the men, being too afraid of hitting Clint or Ward, but instead aimed above. Maybe he could just distract the men and prevent them from doing anything to the others until rescue came.
It had indeed been a distraction. Unfortunately, the men were smarter than they looked. Three of them went in search of whoever had thrown the firebombs, while three stayed behind to subdue Grant and Clint. They might have been able to get away, but one of them held Grant's injured (and at the moment useless) arm in a grip that would break it if he tried to get away, as well as holding a gun to his head. If Clint made one wrong move, his little brother would be dead...so of course Clint held still. Grant and Clint locked eyes, waiting for a moment when they could break away. They could only hope and pray that Fitz wasn't caught.
Fitz had moved the moment he'd thrown the fire bomb. Leaving the remaining ones, he'd darted quickly round the corner and lost himself in a group of young people that were heading towards the pub. He might have lost his makeshift weapons, but the last thing he should do was give the men another hostage.
The men had searched, but Fitz had covered his tracks well. There was no way the men were going to go into the pub and take everyone there hostage, especially if they had no proof anyone in that pub was responsible for the firebombs that had been thrown, or the ones that had been found abandoned. Grousing to themselves they'd made it back to where the other three were still holding Clint and Grant. By this time, the woman had made her way to the group and was observing the two men like a predator observed its future meal.
Ward swallowed and tried not to shift, his arm having gone numb because of the way his captor was holding it. He'd be lucky if there wasn't real damage done to his arm (he really should have told Clint) and all he had to do was wear a sling for the next month. It was frustrating and humbling and, to be honest, a bit worrisome. And that was only in regards to if his arm would heal or not. He didn't even want to contemplate what his father would have to say about the situation.
Clint, by this time, had noticed the way Ward was favoring his arm and realized what had happened. He was kicking himself for not noticing that Ward was still recovering and dragging the younger man along with him. He could have easily called Coulson and arranged for a team to take out the woman. Or called Steve. But he wanted to capture her and turn her in on his own. His pride had gotten in the way and now, everything had gone to hell. He'd be happy if he could somehow get Grant out of this mess and keep Fitz out of it. Even if it meant he didn't get away himself. He glanced around to see if there were any options available where he could get that to happen.
By now, Coulson, using Lola as transport, had tracked down the signal from Fitz's comm to the pub. The young scientist had been keeping watch from inside the doors and as soon as he spotted Coulson, he left the pub, relieved, and quietly updated the older man on the situation.
As soon as she knew the score, Natasha had her second gun out and in hand. She moved swiftly and silently towards the alleyway, taking the situation in at a glance before acting.
The most important move was to prevent the men being able to use their hostages. With that thought in mind, Natasha fired two shots, one aimed at the man holding Ward... the other at the one holding Clint. Her next target was the woman, who seemed to be in charge.
Everything had happened so fast that it took Grant several precious seconds to realize that the man who'd been holding his arm with a gun to his head was on the ground and not moving. The two shots his hearing had registered were not him and Clint being shot, but two of their captors. Clint was already moving, quickly grabbing the gun closest to him and shooting the next two thugs that were closest to Ward.
Ward quickly grabbed a gun himself and aimed at one of the men who was about to take Clint out. Being short an arm and in pain wasn't helping his aim. It took two seconds longer than it normally would have to pull the trigger; luckily, those two seconds didn't end with Clint's brain splattered on the pavement. The last man left had moved to the woman in an attempt to protect her and Ward couldn't get a good bead on him....or the woman, for that matter. Instead, he attempted to crawl out of the line of fire...the beating he'd taken causing him to move slower than he'd like (even if it was still faster than 98% of the rest of the planet.)
Natasha didn't waste any time in taking out the man protecting the woman with a quick shot. Knowing that the woman was on Steve's list for information, she didn't take her out with a fatal shot, instead just disabling her with a shot to the leg.
Directing Fitz to stay where he was, Coulson had quickly hurried over to the alleyway. Even though his first instinct was to run to Ward's side, he waited just long enough to be sure he wouldn't be in Natasha's way before he hurried to help his youngest, even as he quickly cast a glance over Clint to make sure he wasn't in too bad shape.
Ward grimaced and held his injured arm against his torso...against his battered abdomen. He forced himself to look up when he saw well worn but polished shoes stop in front of him. He gave his father a crooked grin. "How much trouble am I in?" he finally asked, not ready to go into great detail about his health (he didn't want to receive the chiding he knew he had coming in public).
Clint snorted at the question, but quickly looked away from his father and brother, not wanting to draw attention to himself any sooner than necessary.
May walked up and glanced around with a little irritation. "You couldn't save anyone for me to shoot?" she teased Natasha.
"We'll discuss the amount of trouble later." Coulson crouched down to help Ward carefully to his feet, wrapping an arm around his shoulders for support. "Right now, those injuries need to be looked at." His voice was mild, but still serious. He also included Clint in his glance, making it quite clear that he held both his sons equally responsible.
Natasha smiled at May. "I'll save some for you next time." Keeping an eye on the woman, she took out her comm to call Steve and let him know to come pick up the prisoner.
Ward didn't bother trying to hide the fact he was in pain. He was surrounded by family and none of them would have been impressed by the effort and likely would have been upset if he had. He noted that Clint seemed to be exaggerating his injuries...whether in a bid to get sympathy or draw attention away from Ward, who was uncomfortable receiving so much attention, Grant wasn't sure.
Ward leaned into his father and sighed. Now that the adrenaline was wearing off, he could almost literally feel the bruises forming where he'd been kicked and beaten. The burning ache in his arm wasn't a good sign of future freedom, either. "I'm guessing saying I'm sorry really won't help much..." he said softly. "Especially since I really don't want to have to admit what I did wrong...." His voice was sheepish and he looked everywhere but at Coulson.
Clint limped up to the other side of Ward and put an arm around his waist so he could help Coulson help his brother...for some reason, while they'd beaten on Clint too, they'd focused a larger portion of the violence on the younger man. "You'll be confessing all your sins before Dad's finished with you." He nodded sagely. "May as well do it quickly. Speaking of confession....did you know those thugs? They seemed to take great pleasure in working you over...almost as if they had a personal vendetta."
Ward blinked. "I don't think so? I mean...it's possible...." His voice trailed off uncertainly and he glanced back at the woman May and Romanov were guarding.
"If they're working with HYDRA, it could be personal." Looking over both his sons - Coulson could tell Clint was hurt, even if he was exaggerating just how much - he quickly vetoed his first thought about taking them back to the Bus. He wasn't an expert, but from the way Ward's arm looked, he guessed it was in a pretty bad state.
As Coulson headed past Natasha and May, he stopped to make sure the two women were all right waiting with the prisoner until Steve arrived. Fitz, who had made his way over now that it seemed safe, put in his vote to stay as well, after making sure Coulson didn't need any help.
Heading over to Lola, Coulson helped first Ward and then Clint into the backseat. "We're going to one of SHIELD's hospitals." He spoke in a voice that didn't really allow for any argument.
Ward sank down into the seat, not saying anything. Even if he had wanted to argue going to the hospital, he knew he was already in enough trouble and didn't want to make things worse for himself. Clint evidently felt the same way, as he refrained from arguing as well. Ward did manage to give a grateful smile to Fitz, letting the younger man know he appreciated what he had done. He didn't want the young scientist afraid that he was angry he'd called Coulson in.
Clint squirmed around, trying to find a comfortable position before reluctantly putting on his seatbelt. "You need help buckling that?" he asked Ward; but then, without waiting for an answer, reached over and buckled it for him anyway.
Ward winced, but nodded. "Thanks..." He swallowed and looked out the window, suddenly nervous. If his arm was hurt badly enough to go to the hospital, could he have done irreparable damage to himself? He didn't want to end up in a desk job, but if his injury was severe enough, that was where he could very well end up...and he'd have no one to blame but himself. He should have told Clint he was still having issues with the arm. Better yet, he shouldn't have gone after the Hydra agent at all...not without calling his father first. He was the director of SHIELD now and needed to be kept in the loop about developments and what missions people were going on, impromptu or otherwise. He'd really screwed up...and if his father's reticence in speaking was any indication...well, he wasn't sure what was worse. Knowing he deserved his father's wrath and not getting it immediately...or the possibility that his father might decide at any moment to start the discussion that he was dreading.
Coulson drove in silence after putting his seatbelt on, though he continually checked on his sons in the back. He used the time while he was driving to calm himself down, though he had to constantly remind himself that both his sons were still alive and safe... even if they both had been hurt.
Once they were close to the hospital, Coulson called ahead to let the doctors know they were coming in. His voice was calm, but that didn't mean he felt particularly calm. It didn't matter that he'd got to them in time. It shouldn't have happened in the first place.
Parking outside the hospital, Coulson quickly got out of the car and walked round to help his sons out.
The closer they got to the hospital, the quieter Ward got. He knew his father was upset and was just trying to calm down before addressing things with them, but it was scary. As glad as he was that Coulson was nothing like his biological family...or Garrett...he didn't really know how to deal with someone who was patient and tried to handle things in a calm manner in an appropriate time. And as often as he'd gotten into trouble with his Dad, he'd not yet done something where the man had felt the need to wait to say his mind because he needed to calm down first. Not obviously, anyway.
Clint could tell his younger brother was working himself into a nervous mess and he suspected he knew why. It had taken a while for him to realize that when Coulson postponed a scolding or punishment to calm down, it didn't mean he was withdrawing his affection or love...and it didn't mean that things would be worse when he finally did address things. But that was something that only time and experience could teach. He reached over quietly and squeezed his brother's hand before whispering, "You mention a word of this to anyone and I'll shorten your sheets...."
Opening the back door, Coulson helped Ward out, giving him a quick though tight hug. "We'll get both you and Clint treated and then, when we're back on the Bus, we'll talk," he said gently, kissing Grant's forehead before he stepped round to the other side to help Clint out. Although his oldest didn't need the same kind of reassurance he knew Grant did, Coulson nevertheless gave him his own hug and kiss to the forehead, before moving to help both inside.
Clint couldn't help but grin at the way his dad 'fathered' him. Even if he didn't need the reassurance, it still made him feel good inside to know the older man was ready and willing to provide it. And that he wasn't afraid to show how much he cared, even if someone else might see.
"Ok, Dad..." Ward whispered, relaxing slightly at the sign of love and affection Coulson gave to him. He still wasn't certain putting things off wouldn't mean things would be worse...but then again, if Coulson was making sure he knew he still loved him, it couldn't be that bad. He followed Coulson into the hospital, going with the doctor that he was directed to and did exactly what he was told without question. He just wanted to get this over with and go home.
Coulson explained what had happened, without going into too much detail, and stood by as both of his sons were examined. It was something of a relief to learn that, although a lot of strain had been put on Ward's still-healing arm, no permanent damage had been done... though it was strapped up once more, with strict instructions not to put any strain on it.
The rest of the injuries were easily treatable. Although they looked bad, the men had been professionals and had avoided breaking any bones or hitting any vital organs. There would be bruises for a while, but nothing that wouldn't eventually heal.
Grant was relieved and his stance was considerably straighter and more confident leaving the hospital than it had been going in, even if he still looked a bit nervously at his father whenever he thought Coulson wouldn't notice. Clint had noticed and gave his brother a cheeky grin. "So we just need to pick up these pain meds and muscle relaxers for Ward's arm...and then we can go back to the Bus..." he said nonchalantly.
"Ugh...I really can manage without the pain meds. They make me so loopy. So do the muscle relaxers, really, but at least those are for something I can't control...." Grant mumbled, not happy about the fact that he'd probably be Bus-bound for as long as he was on the meds...since they did affect his ability to function.
"The pain meds are non-negotiable," Coulson replied. "You were very lucky not to do any permanent damage to your arm and we're not going to take any chances with getting it healed up. Reaching Lola, he helped his sons into the backseat once more before getting in the driver's seat, pulling out of the lot as he spoke. "Now that you've both been looked at, maybe you'd like to explain exactly how 'bonding' turned into 'let's try and take down a HYDRA agent without letting anyone know'."
Ward didn't react to his father's edict; he'd expected as much and he really didn't want to irritate his father complaining about something he was going to end up doing no matter what anyway. When Coulson asked his question, he realized he didn't have a good answer and looked toward Clint for help.
Clint cleared his throat. "Um...it's really a rather funny story...." He cleared his throat again.
Coulson didn't have to turn round to give Clint a stern look. He managed quite well using the mirror. "Anything ending with one or both of you being hurt is not funny. Grant, you certainly shouldn't have been going after a target when you knew how bad your arm was. Clint... I'm going to guess you headed in without properly checking the situation first." That was an issue he'd repeatedly had to address with his oldest.
"Well...I mean..." Clint tried to find a way to defend himself, but knowing that was exactly what he had done made it very difficult. "She was alone...I didn't think there would be all that much situation to check...." he finally said.
"I didn't want Clint going after her alone...even if she was alone...and I knew he wouldn't go if I told him about my arm still being weak, so I didn't tell him..." Ward admitted. "It seemed important to catch her and I didn't want to be the reason she got away..."
"You could have done exactly what Fitz did and called me, or Steve," Coulson pointed out. "Even if you'd taken a car to follow at a safe distance in case they left, that would have been better than rushing in headlong. If Fitz hadn't thought to call me, this could have ended a very different way." His grip on the steering wheel tightened, but instead of sounding angry, it was the fear for his boys that came through.
Ward glanced at Clint, his eyes wide, before he looked back at his father. "I'm sorry, Daddy..." he whispered. He never meant to scare his father. In fact, he'd never meant to be anything but helpful, but look how that had turned out.
Clint winced at the tone in Ward's voice. It was hard hearing how the man beside him became so lost and childlike when he felt like he'd done something wrong, like he had a total lack of confidence that anyone would continue to care about or love him if he messed up. If he'd had one moment alone with Garrett, the other man would have been ruing the day he messed with his little brother.
Coulson took a deep breath before speaking to Grant, his voice becoming soft and gentle, just as if he were talking to a child. "I know you are. What happened doesn't change a thing, son. I still love you. You're still mine. Nothing could ever change that."
Grant looked down and took a deep breath, flushing at the fact that he still needed reassurance when his father had done nothing but prove to him over and over that he loved him and would never leave him. "I know, sir.... I'm trying not to forget that...." he finally said softly.
Clint sighed. "Give it time, kid. Dad has more patience than a saint. He'd have to, dealing with me." He smiled crookedly in an attempt to cheer his younger brother up.
"Grant... it doesn't matter how much reassurance you need. I will always provide it," Coulson promised. "There might be other times when I'm angry or scared, but I won't shout at you or lose my temper. And if something happens, we'll deal with it and then move on." Catching Clint's eye in the mirror, Coulson gave his oldest a smile, knowing Clint would understand he was proud of him for being so supportive of Grant.
Grant nodded. He still felt badly about needing so much reassurance...surely Coulson was getting tired of having to repeat to him how he loved him and would never leave him and all the things that Grant didn't even know he needed or wanted to hear until they were being said. But he trusted Coulson and if Coulson said that it didn't matter and he would always provide whatever reassurance Grant needed...then Ward knew the man would do that. "Do you want my story before or after we get back home?" he asked softly.
Clint sat back and waited for Coulson's answer, knowing that his own confession would be even worse than Grant's.
"Start telling me after we've picked up the pain meds," Coulson said, since they were at the place now. He got out of the car and headed into the pharmacy to pick up the pain meds and muscle relaxants. Fortunately, since this pharmacy was also owned by SHIELD, Coulson didn't have to wait too long.
Coming back, Coulson got into Lola once more and, after pulling out, directed Grant to tell him his side.
"Well...as you know, we were going out to a sports pub, to get to know each other...a sort of guy’s day out. You were doing SHIELD related items and Trip actually had gone to meet up with Steve Rogers to talk about his grandfather and compare stories...so it was Fitz, Clint, and I," Ward started, unaware that Clint hadn't actually ever asked or even told Coulson what they were doing; he'd just let the other two believe he had mentioned it to the older man when he told them that Coulson wouldn't mind them going out.
"Anyway, we'd stopped at a few shops and were about to go into the pub, when we saw the woman leaving. Clint recognized her immediately as being on Steve's list," Ward continued softly. "He wanted to go after her. I knew it was important to catch her, but I also knew if Clint knew my arm was still weak, he'd drop his plans because he wouldn't want to put me into a position of hurting my arm...so I didn't tell him it was still injured enough that I shouldn't go after her." Ward gave Clint an apologetic look when the archer just looked at him, shocked that he would hide his health from him so he could endanger himself.
"So...I guess that's two things I shouldn't have done..." He sighed. "I lied about the status of my injury to my brother...and I didn't call you or anyone else to report seeing the woman and decided following Clint into an unreported, unknown mission, was a good idea." He glanced toward his father, looking specifically at his hands and the set of his shoulders, positive that he'd see the man tense and fighting anger...or, at the least, irritation.
Coulson had calmed himself down by now, so he wasn't showing any signs of anger. Having listened intently to Ward's explanation, he sighed, but didn't immediately comment on it. "Clint... tell me your side."
Clint grimaced, but did as told. "Well...as you've probably figured out, I told Fitz and Ward that you didn't mind us going off the bus for a little 'time with the guys'...and let them assume that I'd actually asked you instead of just assuming that it would be ok." He could feel Ward's open mouthed stare. He did feel a bit guilty about 'fooling' the other two. "Then we had a fun afternoon, until I saw that Hydra chick from Steve's list. I knew I should call Steve and let him know...or you and let you know...but..." This time, his shoulders slumped. "...I wanted to handle it on my own, even if my brothers helped. Just to prove that I was back to what I was before New York. You don't know how people have been treating me, Dad..." he finally admitted. "It's just I wanted to prove that I could do it without having anyone 'watch' over me to make certain I didn't 'lose it' again." He sighed. "So no, I didn't research the woman we were about to apprehend. I just assumed she was alone and an easy catch and went with it. Maybe I'm really not ready to go without the supervision...I dunno." He sounded dejected.
Coulson gave a quiet sigh. "Checking the situation before rushing in headlong is something I taught you to do a long time ago... and I remember each and every one of those conversations. I'm sure you do too. You being capable isn't something that's being called into question. Both of you are good at what you do. But things could have gone a lot worse." For now, he left aside the issue of leaving the Bus.
Clint didn't retort or try to defend himself, knowing that his father was right. He'd been taught long ago the importance of checking a situation before going in...several times, in fact. It was something that he'd always had a problem with doing and his father had always handled it the exact same way whenever he'd had to be reminded. He glanced at Ward. The younger man had a chagrined and resigned look on his face...like he knew what was coming, too. It amazed him how alike the two of them were. "Hey...Mini-me. Things are going to be ok; you know that, right?"
Ward blinked at the nickname, then gave Clint an affronted look. "How come I get to be mini-me? I'm taller than you!" Snorting, Ward tried to find a more comfortable position, but riding in a car really wasn't all that comfortable after being beaten up. "And I know. I'm not afraid, if that's what you think. More...dreading what I have coming, but not afraid..." he finally admitted, not worried if Coulson heard him or not.
Despite the situation, Coulson couldn't help a slight smile at the banter between his sons. "I'm personally glad that you're not afraid," he said to Ward. "I'd rather you never be in the kind of situation where you're afraid of me." His voice was serious, despite his smile only a moment earlier.
Ward smiled crookedly. "The only time I had to be afraid of you was just after you found out about my helping Garrett...and even then, I knew you wouldn't do anything to me that I didn't deserve..." He shrugged then looked out the window. "Now...I don't think I could ever be afraid of you. If I ever did anything where I had to be afraid of you, I'd have bigger problems to worry about then..." He sighed.
Clint smiled at that, knowing exactly what Grant was talking about. He felt the same way.
Coulson smiled at them both in the mirror, but didn't feel it necessary to say anything further as they reached the Bus. Parking Lola, he got out of the car and then moved round to get both of his sons out.
Clint undid his own seatbelt and opened the door, gingerly getting out of the car. He could tell Grant was having a more difficult time of things and motioned to Phil that he was ok and the older man could take care of the youngest without Clint having any problems.
Grant, meanwhile, was trying to undo his seatbelt, but it was on the side where his bad arm was; and twisting around so that he could use the arm that wasn't bad hurt all the bruises he'd got in the fight. He huffed in frustration, feeling like a toddler...not able to even undo a seat belt.
Coulson's phone rang. It was May.
Coulson ignored the ringing of his phone long enough to undo Grant's seatbelt and help him out of the car. Wrappiing one arm around his youngest's shoulders, he took out his phone, checked the display and then answered. "Coulson here."
"Just wanted to inform you that Steve Rogers has the woman in custody, as well as her six goons...or their bodies, in the case of those who didn't live..." May intoned. "Natasha, Fitz and I are going to go back with him and Trip to make sure she is secured and then maybe get some lunch. If you want to send Jemma and Skye over to that pub where we met up with the boys, we can take them with us."
Grant leaned on his father, more for the emotional support than because he couldn't walk; although it was very painful to walk.
Clint listened quietly and waited for instructions.
"I'll do that," Coulson replied, fully aware that Jemma and Skye wouldn't want to be on the Bus while he took care of his boys. He guided Grant on as he finalised the arrangements with May and then guided his sons through to the lounge area. "Wait here," he directed, then headed through to the lab, hoping at least one of the girls would be there.
Jemma had been trying to explain one of the experiments she was working on to Skye, trying to distract her from what could very easily be a big mess outside the Bus. Being the only two left behind really sucked sometimes, although she understood the reason for it. It was hard not to know what was going on, though. When she looked over Skye's shoulder and saw Coulson through the glass wall, she tensed up, preparing for the worst.
Ward and Clint carefully sat down on one of the couches in the lounge and avoided looking at each other, both knowing what was about to occur and not wanting to admit that they were still disciplined in that manner at their age...but feeling a sense of comradery that they weren't alone in being the only adults still being disciplined by their father in a childish way.
Coulson stepped through to the lab, immediately noticing the worried looks both women turned on him. "Everything's fine," he said immediately. "There was a run-in with a woman on Captain Rogers' capture list. She's been captured and May, Natasha and Fitz have gone with him to make sure everything's all right. Do you two want to go and meet them?"
"What about Ward and Barton?" Skye asked.
"We'll be eating here." After he'd dealt with what happened.
Jemma nodded, knowing that if Grant and Clint hadn't stayed with the other three, something must have happened to make Coulson want to bring them back to the Bus...something that she likely didn't want to be a witness to. "I'd like to go meet up with them, actually. Captain Rogers tells some interesting stories...and maybe Dr. Banner and Mr. Stark will be there as well and I can pick their brains for ideas with this experiment I'm working on..." She smiled crookedly at the Director.
Coulson smiled. "Well, you can both stay out as long as you want to."
"Okay." Skye smiled then glanced at Jemma. "You ready to go?"
"Yes!" Jemma smiled, excited at the prospect of being able to socialize with some other people for a change. Not that she didn't love her family (and they were all a family...even if it was taking them a while to figure out which roles they played; and if she thought about it, the Avengers could be considered extended family). She quickly grabbed her jacket and her handbag and looked at Skye. "You ready?"
Skye nodded, having grabbed her own jacket and handbag, and quickly headed off the Bus, walking next to Jemma.
Sighing quietly, Coulson headed back to the lounge area. He thought, briefly, about sending one of his boys out of the room while he dealt with the other one, but then decided against that. They had both got into trouble together, after all, and it was no secret how he punished them.
Walking into the lounge, Coulson moved one of the chairs, turning it so that it was facing the corner. Given the state both boys were in, he wasn't going to make them stand facing the wall. After a split second, he decided to take care of them in age order and walked over to Grant, helping his youngest up. "I want you to sit over here while I deal with Clint." He helped him over to the chair.
Grant bit his lower lip and lowered his head submissively. "Yes, sir..." he said softly. He wasn't about to argue with his father at this point; any chance he'd had at changing the man's mind would have been in the car...and he really didn't have a good enough excuse to warrant what he'd done, so arguing wouldn't have done anything but make things worse. He carefully sat down on the chair, grateful that his father actually cared about him and would do whatever he could to keep him from unnecessary pain.
Clint swallowed hard, realizing that he was going to be dealt with first and that his younger brother was going to be in the room when it happened.
Gently squeezing the nape of Grant's neck, Coulson kissed the top of his head lightly, wanting to reassure him of his love even when it was necessary to punish him. He then walked over to sit down next to Clint, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. "Is there anything you'd like to add?"
"Well...I could say that I'm too old to be spanked, but we both know that's not true. I could say I promise it will never happen again, but I'd rather not turn into a liar if I can avoid it. I could say it was completely necessary...but again...don't want to lie." He looked down and flushed in shame. "So...no, sir. I don't have anything to add...just that I'm sorry I disappointed you again...and that I dragged Grant into it." Clint slumped against his father then reluctantly stood up, knowing what was expected. He undid his jeans, but couldn't bring himself to push them down...then positioned himself next to Phil's knee.
Taking Clint's hand, Coulson gently pulled his son across his lap. Wrapping an arm around Clint's waist, he pulled him gently against his stomach before then pulling his jeans and underwear down. Rubbing his son's back gently, he then brought his hand down in the first sharp swat at the crest of Clint's backside.
Clint had decided that he wasn't going to try and 'be brave' or any other nonsense, just because his brother was in the room. He knew if he did, then Grant would attempt the same thing and the kid was stubborn enough that it would cause the punishment to have to go on for much longer than necessary. When the first swat fell, he let out a grunt of discomfort (as if being bare over your father's knee wasn't uncomfortable enough). He was grateful for the gentle back rub he'd got right before, though. It allowed him to remember that his father did love him. That made it a lot easier to submit to the discipline....
Coulson settled quickly into a rhythm, covering Clint's entire backside, including the tops of his thighs, with the stinging swats before he started over from the top.
Clint's quiet grunts quickly became gasps of pain as his father lit his backside on fire. He was soon squirming over his father's knee, helpless as the swats continued to fall and, to his chagrin, tears formed in his eyes a lot more quickly than he would have liked. It was one thing not to fight the punishment; it was quite another to fall apart nearly immediately...no matter how much practice his father had at bringing him to this point and response, or how good at it the man was.
Coulson landed another circuit of swats and then paused to shift Clint forward slightly to begin swatting his sit spots. As he did, he spoke. "Rushing headlong into a situation without checking it out first is foolish and dangerous, more so if you're taking your brothers with you. If we'd only been a little later, both you and Grant could have been killed." Although he kept his swats at the same force, the note of fear creeping into his voice was very real.
The words were nothing he hadn't heard before in different situations. For some reason, rushing headfirst into situations was something he had never quite been able to cure himself of, no matter how many times his father blistered his backside for it. But the mention of taking his brothers with him and Grant possibly dying because of it and the genuine fear that he heard in his father's voice? Clint immediately broke, knowing how he'd scared the man. Coulson was one of the bravest people he knew and he had scared him. Letting out a choked cry, he went limp over his father's knee, just accepting the punishment and not trying to squirm away any longer. His eyes were streaming...and while he wasn't loud, it was still obvious he was crying.
After a final few swats, Coulson stopped. He'd never hesitated over giving comfort after a punishment and he didn't now. He quickly drew Clint up and into his arms, settling his oldest on his lap and hugging him tightly, more relieved than he could put into words that he hadn't been too late... that his sons might have been hurt, but it was nothing that wouldn't heal with time. And now he could cuddle Clint and reassure himself that he hadn't lost him.
Clint winced as his well smacked backside connected with his father's lap, but he didn't pull away. Instead, he pressed closer, accepting the comfort that was offered as well as offering his own comfort to his father, knowing the older man had been scared about losing him and his brother and needed reassurance that they were ok, just as much as they needed the reassurance that he forgave them. "I'm sorry, dad..." he whispered against Coulson's ear before quieting and holding onto his father tightly.
Ward sat in the corner stone still. He could hear every smack and, at the end, he could hear every sniffle...and he'd heard Coulson's words. He hadn't meant to make his father worry or, worse yet, frighten him and it was only listening as his brother was punished that he realized not only had he done just that, but he'd done it badly. The guilt over the fear that he'd caused his father overwhelmed him quickly and he began crying silently at about the same time that Clint had given up and started crying not-so-silently. He slumped, regret and shame making their presence felt as well. At this rate, he'd be bawling before the first smack.
Coulson tightened his embrace around Clint, kissing his forehead affectionately. "I forgive you. It's finished and I'm very glad you're safe. I love you. You and your brother are incredibly important to me." Although his voice was quiet, he knew Ward would be able to hear him as well. The reassurance was for both his sons.
"I love you too, dad..." Clint said softly, nuzzling against his father's shoulder affectionately before standing up and putting his clothing right. He glanced toward Grant and noticed the tear stains already on the younger man's face, then gave Coulson a worried glance as if to ask if he was ok.
Coulson stood up, squeezing Clint's shoulder gently to reassure him he'd handle Grant. Walking over to his youngest, he carefully pulled Grant into his arms, mindful of his injuries, but held him tight.
Grant couldn't help it. The minute he was in Coulson's arms, he started crying, hard. He was ashamed at losing control of his emotions; but mostly, he was just ashamed of his actions. He still found it very difficult to understand how his father could forgive him so easily and that the man actually cared about him. The fact that he'd hurt the older man through his actions- even if it was only in scaring him- was just too difficult to take. "I'm sorry, daddy..." he apologized weakly, unable to catch his breath. "…I never meant to...I didn't want to...I'm so sorry."
Coulson tightened his embrace as he gently pulled Grant over to the couch, sitting down so he could cuddle his son on his lap. He pressed a kiss to Grant's head. "I know you didn't mean it. I was scared because I love you so much and I don't want to risk losing you."
Grant nodded and managed to get his crying under control, but his grip on his father didn't loosen at all. "I love you too...I didn't want to h..hurt or scare you..." he admitted softly.
Coulson gently stroked his hair and back. "I know. And I forgive you. What happened doesn't change a thing between us, I promise. You're still mine. That will never change." Still holding his youngest, he motioned Clint over, figuring Grant could use some affection from his big brother, too.
Grant snuggled closer and shivered, slowly, very slowly, calming down.
Clint nodded at Phil and walked over, careful to make certain that the younger man saw him coming. "Hey, kiddo..." he finally said, running his fingers lightly through Grant's hair. "…You know...I appreciate you having my back today, even when I shouldn't have dragged you out there in the first place. And I'm proud to have you in my family now." He carefully slid his hand down so that it was on Grant's shoulder. "I can see why Dad loves you and wanted to make you his...ours.... You're MY brother now, so you're stuck with me. Good and bad." He wrinkled his nose, not sure what else he could say, and ended up just squeezing Grant's shoulder gently.
Grant swallowed. "You mean I'm yours too?" He blinked and glanced at Clint skeptically.
Clint grinned. "Of course- and Phil here is both of ours. We're a family. We belong to each other...with each other...whatever. You know what I mean..." He waved his hand haphazardly around, then shrugged.
Grant gave a tentative smile then hugged Coulson tight again, putting his head on his shoulder and taking several deep breaths. Finally, he swallowed. "I'm ok now, Dad...I...if you wanna take care of business now...."
Coulson nodded, squeezing Grant gently. "All right. We'll get this done and then it'll be over," he promised. He looked at Clint. "You can sit in the other chair until we're finished," he suggested.
Clint obediently went to the chair in the corner...fair was fair, after all, and as much as he didn't want to hear his brother punished, Grant had needed to listen to him be punished. He sat down with a slight wince, mostly due to the bruises forming on his torso. The spanking had hurt, but not so much that he couldn't sit down (even if it still stung a little to sit).
Grant swallowed then looked up at Phil before standing up next to the older man's knee and undoing his jeans with one hand. He didn't even bother trying to lower them, his injured arm protesting before he even made the move.
Taking hold of Grant's uninjured arm, Coulson gently pulled him over his lap. Pulling over one of the cushions, he positioned it so that his son's arm could be properly supported. Wrapping an arm around Grant's waist to hold him securely, he tugged his son's jeans and underwear down, rubbing his back gently before landing the first sharp swat.
Ward was already emotionally drained, all the very good and the very bad events of the day piling one on top of the other. Just being put over his father's knee caused his eyes to start watering again, though he tried valiantly not to cry so soon. It wasn't as if he didn't deserve the spanking his father was about to give him...he knew he did. Maybe that was part of the problem. Even though he knew his father had forgiven him and loved him, he still felt guilty about what he'd done, because he knew it had worried his father unnecessarily. The fact that the other man was being so careful not to hurt him further (beyond the pain he was about to apply to his backside, at any rate) was staggering to Grant. Once again, he was reminded of how much he had missed out on growing up without a loving family and how lucky he was to have it now. He was so focused on thinking how lucky he was, he didn't notice when Phil raised his hand. When the first sharp swat fell, it caught him by surprise and he couldn't help but put voice to it.
"Ooow!" he whined, then blushed darkly at having whined.
Just as he had with Clint, Coulson settled quickly into a rhythm of swats, covering Grant's entire backside down to his thighs. He kept the swats carefully controlled, at a force no harder than he'd given his oldest. All the while, he kept careful watch on Grant's injured arm to make sure it wasn't being jostled.
Grant was already crying; he was positive his tears were soaking his father's pant-leg...but he didn't want to get less than he deserved and so he tried to keep it inside as much as possible. He'd forced himself to stay limp and accept the punishment, because tensing up made his arm hurt worse, but it was impossible to stay still. He wriggled as much as Coulson's tight grip on him would allow. (Which wasn't much. The man was being very careful of his arm). And despite his best efforts to not fall apart immediately, soon after the spanking began in earnest, he was letting out tiny little grunts and whimpers.
As he had with Clint, Coulson landed two full circuits of swats before he shifted Grant forward and began swatting his sit spots, still careful to make sure there wasn't too much strain on his injured arm.
As soon as his father began swatting his sit spots, any control Grant might have had left. He dropped his head and his crying became vocal...hiccuping out, "I'm sorry," every few moments, staggered with gulping breaths as he tried and failed to regain control of himself.
Coulson finished with a final few swats and then stopped. Still careful not to cause his son any more harm, he tugged Grant up and into his arms, cuddling him tightly and stroking his hair and back.
It didn't take long for Grant to stop crying once the comfort began...he pressed close to his father and soaked in the affection, sniffling every so often and still murmuring that he was sorry.
Coulson didn't so much as loosen his hold on Grant, still stroking his hair and back. "It's over now. I forgive you and I still love you. I'm very glad that you're safe," he said softly, kissing his forehead gently.
Grant shivered, giving one last hug to his father before reluctantly standing and attempting to right his clothes with his one good hand. He was worn out. Between the beating he and Clint had taken, the adrenaline rush that came from fighting and nearly losing his life, the medication that the doctors prescribed and the emotional upheaval of the last hour...he was just wrecked. He blinked at his father blearily, before asking a plaintive and almost embarrassed, "Help...?"
"Of course." Coulson stood up and helped his son with his jeans and underwear, then called Clint over from the corner. "Food or sleep first?" he asked, resting a hand on each of their shoulders.
Clint came over quickly, took one look at his younger brother, then back at his father. "Sleep. We can eat something right before he has to take his next dose of medicine, since I believe it needs to be taken with food."
Grant opened his mouth to object- he was standing right there and didn't need his brother making decisions for him- but then thought better of it. He actually would rather go lay down than eat anything. "Yeah...sleep sounds good," he said softly, unable to keep the irritated pout off his face.
Coulson nodded. "I think that would be a good idea," he agreed. "When you wake up, we can all eat something together and then take it easy for the rest of the day." He looked at his sons, trying to gauge if one of them might need him to stay until they fell asleep.
Clint grinned slightly. "Ok, sir. I'm going to take a shower first, if that's alright. If you want to tuck the rug-rat in." He gave Ward a cheeky grin.
Ward's eyes widened. "I'm not...you can't...why...Dad?! Tell him to stop picking on me!" Grant finally huffed before realizing just what he'd done. He blushed darkly. "I'm...just...gonna go lie down now..." he muttered and turned toward the door, before stopping. "…May I go now, sir?" He remembered to ask Coulson, just in case his father had anything else to say.
Coulson shook his head, nudging Clint's shoulder gently. "Don't pick on your brother." He looked at Ward. "But if you'd feel better for me to stay with you until you fall asleep... I did that plenty of times with Clint." Just to make things fair.
Ward bit his lip then nodded hesitantly, not liking to admit what he felt was a weakness on his part, but wanting his father to be with him more. "If...if you don't mind, sir..." he said softly.
"Sorry, kid..." Clint muttered. "I only tease you cuz I like you. Although I have to admit I may be picking up a few bad habits from Tony..." He gave Coulson a sheepish look.
Coulson squeezed Ward's shoulder gently. "I never mind spending time with you." He looked at Clint, rubbing his shoulder gently so that his oldest would know he wasn't unhappy with him. "I know you don't mean anything by it. Just... go easy." He didn't remind Clint that Grant's actions now were fairly similar to how Clint had acted when he'd first 'claimed' him.
"Yes, sir," Clint said softly and nodded to show that he understood what wasn't being said also. He gave one more nod, clasped the older man on the shoulder, patted the younger one on the back and then walked out, his back straight, and headed for the showers.
"Thanks dad." Ward smiled crookedly then slowly made his way out the door and to his bunk, knowing that Coulson would follow him.