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 twelfth 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 tries to clear his name. He really should know better by now.
Warning(s): Spoilers up to the season one finale and for the Avengers movie; spanking; fighting/battle scenes.
Co-Author’s Website: BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page
Fitz woke up earlier than he would normally... if lying awake for most of the night before finally getting up could be called 'waking'. He eventually decided that, no matter how tired he was, just lying in his bunk wasn't going to help. Besides, if he was awake anyway, he might as well get on with some work.
Getting showered and dressed, Fitz headed through to the lab, yawning as he began setting up for the day.
Ward was on his way to the rec room for his early morning workout when he saw Fitz going into the lab. Frowning slightly, he'd never noticed Fitz up this early before when there wasn't an assignment, he leaned against the door and stuck his head in. "Hey, runt...you ok?" His voice was concerned.
Fitz jumped, a startled look coming over his face. He hadn't even noticed anyone approach. "I'm..." He hesitated, not quite able to say fine; but really, how weak would it sound if he said he was having bad dreams? "I didn't sleep well..." That seemed like a safe response.
Ward glanced away, sensing what wasn't being said. "I have that problem a lot..." he admitted. "…In fact, it happens more often than I do sleep well." He sighed.
"How do you... deal with it?" Fitz asked hesitantly, before trying to hide a yawn behind his hand.
"It really depends on one major factor..." Grant hesitated, a slight blush on his face. "If Coulson doesn't know and isn't likely to find out, I lay awake till it is time for me to get up. If Coulson knows or is likely to find out..." Grant finished the last part of his sentence in one quick breath. "Igorunningtohimlikeafrightenedfouryearold." His blush darkened.
Fitz blinked, taking a few moments to decipher that last comment. "Well... at least you have your dad here so you can turn to him." Fitz somehow couldn't see himself running home every time he had a bad dream.
Ward winced. He hadn't meant to make Fitz feel bad. Sighing, he ran a hand through his hair. "I know I'm very lucky..." he finally admitted. "…But you aren't exactly alone," he continued. "Coulson, May, Simmons... heck… every single person on the bus would be there if you needed and wanted them. I would be. You're my little brother." He smiled kindly at the younger man.
Fitz nodded. "I know. I just..." He sighed. "It's not like I have that many reasons to have trouble sleeping. I mean, it's far more understandable for you than me." Actually, the only real traumatic event Fitz had experienced was when he'd been dropped into the ocean. That was possibly why that was featuring so much. If only he could figure out why he was having these bad dreams...
"Just because you haven't gone through what I've gone through doesn't mean you haven't gone through enough trauma for dreams, Leo..." Ward said softly, immediately thinking of what he'd done to his friend. "They weren't even sure you would live and here you are having proved them all wrong...but there are always scars of some sort."
"I know, but I don't understand why it's happening now," Fitz said. "I haven't... had that kind of trouble sleeping in a while..."
Ward bit his lip uncertainly. "Maybe you should tell someone...we've had a lot of contact with various Hydra agents as well as other odd things...maybe something set it off..."
Fitz nodded slowly. "Maybe..." He hesitated before asking, "Does it help? When you go to Coulson?" Maybe that was something he should start doing if nothing else helped.
This was something Ward could answer easily and without embarrassment. "Always," he stated simply, with a smile.
"Why don't you go to him all the time, then?" Fitz couldn't imagine not taking advantage of a family member being willing to help like that.
"It..." Ward wasn't entirely sure how to explain. "For my entire childhood, I'd learned early that if I had a problem, I was to keep it to myself...and if I did tell someone, it better not be my family and I better make sure they never found out," he finally admitted. "Then there was Garrett and all perceived weaknesses had to be 'trained' out of me." He left it to Fitz's imagination what the training entailed. "Coulson actually wants me to come to him when I need help...insists on it, even; says it isn't weakness to rely on family. Problem is, I had thirty years of being taught the opposite. Sometimes I just do what I've always done because doing otherwise 'feels' wrong...even if it isn't." He looked down and shrugged slightly.
"Oh," Fitz said quietly, not needing the details... his imagination could fill those in well enough. "Have you ever thought of using a codeword, so you don't have to say what's wrong but Coulson knows what it is?" he suggested after a moment. "It might help... if saying outright what it is feels wrong."
Ward blinked. "Actually... no. I hadn't thought of that..." His voice trailed off and he gave Fitz a crooked grin. "I came in here to help you, and here you are helping me..." He laughed softly.
Fitz smiled, smothering another yawn. "You could figure it out with him after breakfast, maybe?" he suggested.
"Tell you what," Ward negotiated. "I'll talk with him first thing when I see him this morning...if you talk to someone too. It doesn't have to be one of the team. But if this just started and you weren't having problems before...there might be a reason for it and you should know."
Fitz nodded after a brief hesitation. "All right... I will. So long as you do talk to Coulson," he added.
Grant nodded back with a smile then gave a short wave. "Well, I'm going to go do my workout. I'll see you at breakfast."
"See you then," Fitz said, giving a slight smile.
# # #
Ward had worked out, making certain not to go too hard. His arm was nearly back to full strength since being shot and then reinjuring it when his older brother Clint had been visiting. Even so, he was very careful not to overdo it. Until his doctor gave him the go-ahead to resume full activity at his regular level, he would play it safe.
He'd just finished showering and put on clean jeans and a white t-shirt, then padded barefoot toward his father's bunk area. He was afraid he'd chicken out of this conversation if he waited till other people were in the room. Softly, he knocked on Coulson's door.
Coulson, just finishing off reading some reports, glanced up as the knock came, welcoming a distraction. "Come in," he called, putting the reports to one side.
Ward opened the door and stepped into the room, quietly shutting the door behind him. "Morning, dad." He smiled. "Do you have a minute?"
"Of course," Coulson replied with a welcoming smile. "Would you like to sit down, son?" He patted the bed next to him.
Ward smiled back and quickly went to sit next to his father, before glancing at his hands. "I ran into Leo earlier this morning- a lot earlier than I normally see him up," Ward started out.
Coulson frowned, somewhat concerned. "Did he have a particular project to work on?" He wrapped an arm automatically around his son's shoulders, squeezing gently.
"No..." Ward frowned, not certain if he should be telling Leo's secrets or not. "He's having bad dreams. I promised that I'd come talk to you about something if he'd choose someone to talk to himself. Just in case the dreams aren't just normal dreams. Since they just started apparently."
Coulson nodded. "There are plenty of people here who will talk to him." Himself included in that, of course. He made eye contact with his son. "What were you going to come to talk to me about?"
Grant fidgeted. "I'd mentioned that I had nightmares and that it wasn't something he needed to be embarrassed about...and then he asked how I handled them. I kinda mentioned that when you knew something was up or if there was a chance you'd find out...I'd go to you. When he asked if it helped, I told him always...because it always does help." He bit his lip. "So then he asked me if it always helped when I went to you, why I didn't go to you all the time instead of just when you knew something or when I thought you'd find out...." Ward fidgeted again.
Coulson tightened his embrace around his son. "I know it's still very hard for you to admit to anything you were taught is a weakness. Changing the habits of a lifetime is difficult."
Ward nodded. "That's what I told him. So he asked if I'd thought about maybe giving you a code word. Something that I could say that wouldn't involve long explanations...but if I said it, you'd know immediately I was having nightmares again or something.... When I told him I'd never even thought of it, that's when he made the deal with me. So...I promised him I'd talk to you about it and here I am and now I feel kinda silly, but.... Do you think it would work? Using a code word, I mean?"
"I think that's a very good idea," Coulson replied. "If you used it, it would mean I know more when you need me and I don't think that would ever be a bad thing. Using the comm doesn't always tell me when you have bad dreams." He stroked Grant's hair gently. "But what do you think?"
"I..." Ward hesitated, almost bashfully. "I think it's a good idea too." He glanced at his father and smiled crookedly. "I might find it easier to say something if I'm not having to spell it out...as ridiculous as that may be." He sighed. "I know sometimes I don't say anything because there is someone with you and I don't want to sound like a baby. The only reason I told Leo is because I knew it might help him..." he admitted softly.
Coulson nodded. "I'm proud of you for trying to help Leo," he said softly. "I know it's hard to admit when something's wrong." He squeezed him gently. "Do you have any ideas about what kind of codeword to use?"
Ward wrinkled his nose thoughtfully. "Not really..." he admitted. "I know it should probably be something that can't be confused with anything else...beyond that...." He shrugged slightly, leaning into his father affectionately.
"Hmm..." Coulson thought about it as he held his son close and continued to stroke his hair. "You could always use something like Code Black," he suggested.
Ward slanted his head in consideration. "I guess if I only use it on the Bus, that would be ok. Although I'd want to make certain we don't use it in public.... Don't want panic occurring or anything...." He thought again. "Not to suddenly sound weird or anything...but you know I like to read. Maybe whenever I'm having a problem I can work 'Piers Anthony' into the conversation. Or carry his book "Nightmare" with me where you can see it. Since I own it and all...." He looked slightly embarrassed at the admission; he doubted anyone knew that he enjoyed that particular author.
Coulson smiled, nodding. "I think that would be a good idea," he agreed. "Anything I can do to help you, son."
Ward smiled. "I actually haven't had too many nightmares recently," he said softly. "At first, I thought it was the medication knocking me out so thoroughly that I just didn't remember...but now I think it is more likely because of you..." He glanced at Phil. "When you adopted me, maybe it finally sunk in that you were with me for the long haul...." He shrugged only a tiny bit, not wanting to dislodge his father's arm. "I dunno...maybe realizing that I really do belong with you...because you made it so I'm legally yours...I feel safer and some of the dreams I was having have calmed down. Not that I don't still have some, but..." He shrugged again, not certain if he was making sense.
Coulson tightened his embrace a bit. "Sometimes making something official, no matter how much you know it to be true, has an effect like that. I still saw you as my son even before it became legal... but now, there's nothing that can take that away. From either of us."
Ward leaned his head on his father for a bit longer. "I love you, Dad..." he finally said quietly before reluctantly standing. "I'm going to go start breakfast...I'm suddenly really hungry," he said with a grin. "Is there anything in particular you would like?"
"I love you too." Coulson kissed his head just before Grant stood up. "And anything is fine for breakfast. I'll come and help you with it," he suggested, standing up as well.
Grant gave his father a grin, his happiness that they could spend more time together- even if it was only making breakfast- obvious on his face.
Wrapping an arm around Grant's shoulders, Coulson moved from the bunk, walking alongside his son.
It hadn't taken long to begin getting things together...Ward noted that he and Coulson worked well together, instinctively knowing what the other was about to do and either helping each other or moving out of the way as needed. Soon, the smell of freshly cooked food was wafting through the Bus, enticing everyone else to come join them.
# # #
Fitz hadn't been avoiding talking to anyone, but Coulson had taken Ward, May and Trip to a meeting with Agent Hill and that meant the younger members of the team were still on the Bus... along with Natasha and Clint, but they'd disappeared to meet with Tony Stark and Steve Rogers.
Heading to the lab, Fitz paused as he noticed Simmons there. Before he lost his nerve, he spoke quickly. "Can we... talk?"
Jemma looked up from the experiment she was working on curiously. "Fitz! Of course we can talk...I noticed you seemed a bit preoccupied at breakfast and I wondered what could be the matter because we haven't really had any problems- at least that I know of - for several weeks...once that alien tech was turned over and all and..." She glanced at him, then smiled sheepishly. "...and how about I actually let you tell me what you want to talk about. Sorry..." she finished quietly.
Fitz smiled at her. "It's all right. I..." He hesitated. "I've been having trouble sleeping... bad dreams," he admitted. "I mentioned it to Ward... he told me I should talk to someone about it..." He shrugged, still feeling like he shouldn't be having the dreams... but at least Ward had made him feel better about them.
Simmons frowned, trying to think back on the last few months to see if something might have happened to cause nightmares. She came up empty. Biting her lip, she asked, "Do you remember what they are about?"
Fitz shrugged. "They're nightmares... night terrors. Mostly of things I... just fear, rather than what happened. But..." He hesitated. "Also... about the ocean..." He didn't want to go into detail about that.
Jemma swallowed hard and nodded, not really wanting to talk about it herself. Instead, she asked, "Did something remind you of that...to maybe make you dream of it? It's been a long time for you to suddenly start dreaming of it again...unless you've been having the nightmares for a long time..." Her voice was concerned.
Fitz shook his head. "No. I mean... there were a few bad dreams when Coulson rescued Ward, but those weren't of that... time. I haven't had nightmares in a while, so it... I mean... something must have triggered them..."
Simmons frowned in worry. "Yes...there has to have been a trigger. I just can't think of what it might be...unless Ward said something or did something right before they started that reminded you.... I mean, the only thing we've worked in the last few weeks was the alien tech and...." Her voice trailed off, her eyes widening.
Fitz frowned, also remembering that alien tech. "Do you think it might have... infected me?" he asked.
Jemma quickly got out her scanner as well as a needle and syringe. Swabbing his arm with disinfectant, she quickly but carefully drew blood, while the scanner tried to read any abnormal frequencies on or emanating from her best friend. "If it is the alien tech, there's bound to be some residual elements either in your blood or somewhere around you...I haven't been affected."
Fitz held still as Jemma worked. "I can't understand why I would be affected, though... I took every precaution, same as you." What did it say about him that he was affected when the rest of the team wasn't?
"I dunno, Fitz....unless you were more susceptible because of having been in a coma..." She frowned again as the scanner picked up a very low frequency emission. It's like they would never have discovered it if Fitz hadn't told her about the nightmares. "Well...there's that," she said, a hint of worry in her tone. "Just let me compare the blood samples to what we have on file..." She tried to keep her voice reassuring, but the thought that something else bad might be happening to her best friend was scaring her.
Fitz sighed. "At least we know what's causing this..." He tried to be optimistic, but it was hard when he didn't know anything else.
"We'll figure it out, Fitz..." Jemma said softly, giving him a quick hug. "I'll contact the base...see if anyone there has reported feeling oddly, now that the tech is there...."
# # #
Coulson ended the call with a rare flush of anger. It wasn't as if he didn't understand Fury and Hill's suspicions. Both of them knew Grant, but not in the same way Coulson did; and there were still many members of SHIELD who couldn't look past the betrayal to the broken man who was still healing.
Despite no longer being the director of SHIELD, Fury had no problems saying what he thought and the situation with Grant was something the other man had a lot of opinions on. Despite Coulson's own insistence that he trusted Grant, the former director refused to see past the fact that Grant had been a HYDRA double agent... no matter that he'd never truly believed the doctrine.
The files being taken was worrying. So many HYDRA agents had infiltrated SHIELD, Coulson wasn't sure finding the culprit would be easy. It would be even less so if suspicion was being cast on someone Coulson and the rest of the team trusted completely.
And this, on top of Fitz being infected with the alien tech, was yet another burden on Coulson.
Ward swallowed hard, anger at being accused of something he hadn't done vying with resignation that, no matter what he did, all but the closest of friends and family would look at him with suspicion for the rest of his life. It wasn't like he hadn't expected it- he even felt he deserved it- but it still hurt.
On top of that, right before his father had received the call about the missing documents, Jemma had called to inform him about Fitz being affected by alien technology. Ward knew the older man was worried about the young scientist.
Ward wondered if there was anything he could do to help his father, but the only thing he felt remotely qualified to do, he knew would be forbidden...unless he did it without asking permission? "Is there anything I can do, Dad?" he asked; partly because he did want to help and partly to keep his father from becoming suspicious at the way Ward was so obviously thinking.
Coulson took a deep breath and then turned to Ward, placing a hand on his shoulder and squeezing gently. "I know you're going to worry about this, but I know this wasn't you. The rest of the team do as well," he promised. He knew Ward knew that he believed in him, but it couldn't hurt to reassure him.
Ward smiled crookedly. "I know, Dad. That's the one thing I am certain about." He reached over and hugged his father tightly, wanting to offer his support to the older man.
Coulson hugged his son tight in return, glad that Ward knew he trusted him. "Everything will be fine," he said soothingly.
"I know, Dad," Ward said confidently. Especially if I'm able to find the missing files...he thought resolutely.
Coulson kissed his forehead affectionately. "And we know what's wrong with Fitz, too... that's better than not having any answers."
Ward grinned and looked at his feet, a bit bashful at the affection, but relishing it at the same time. "I've got some things I need to take care of...do you need me for anything?" he finally asked.
Coulson shook his head. "Just remember, I'm here for you. If you need or want to talk... or even just spend time with."
"I will, Dad." Ward smiled before leaving the office and heading down to the cargo bay.
# # #
Ward wondered, briefly, if he shouldn't inform his father that he was leaving the Bus and that he was heading toward the base where the files had gone missing. But he didn't want the older man to worry any more than he already was and he figured this 'mission' shouldn't take very long at all. It certainly wouldn't put him in danger.
Because of this, he was a bit surprised when, just as he was about to enter the building, Iron Man landed in front of him- carrying his older brother in full Avenger gear. Ward blinked. "Uh....What are you guys doing here?" he asked inelegantly.
"I could ask you the same thing, young Padawan...." Ward could hear the smirk in Tony's voice through the electronic filter of his mask.
Clint rolled his eyes. "Basically, Tony has been keeping an eye on all of you- but especially you, given your penchant for attracting trouble- and when JARVIS informed him that you were leaving the Bus without anyone else accompanying you and you KNOW that's against your probation...he told me and I got him to give me a lift to intercept you, so that if anyone complains about said breakage of rules, I can inform them that he was with his family and everything is fine." Clint's stare was so stern, Grant couldn't help but squirm. Of course, his squirming caused the older man to crack a grin.
"Let me guess. You're looking for proof that you didn't do anything wrong? Don't look at me like that- we hear rumors." Tony snorted. "Well, Clint and I can help with that...as well as be your alibi. Because you know when you find the files, or proof of what happened to the files, they're going to say the only reason you found the stuff was because you were the one who took it in the first place. You know that's the first thing they'd do."
Ward blinked. He hadn't thought of that possibility, really. "Um...ok. Thanks?" His voice was hesitant. He still was getting used to the whole idea of friends and family that actually cared about him and wanted to help without any ulterior motives.
Clint reached over and clasped his shoulder. "Let's just get this done before Dad finds out, yeah? Because I don't think he'd be overly impressed and I'd rather him not find out."
Tony had raised his mask by this point so they could see his face. "You don't think he'd be mad at me if he found out, do you?"
# # #
Coulson worked for a while, but after some time, he realised that his concentration was ebbing. He was worried about his son. As much as Grant acted like everything was fine, Coulson knew it wouldn't feel good that he still wasn't trusted outside of the team and, more than likely, the Avengers.
With that thought in mind, Coulson began searching for his son. Concern grew into worry that became outright fear as he gradually realised that Ward was nowhere on the Bus... and no one had seen him in a couple of hours.
Just as Coulson was prepared to leave the Bus himself, his comm activated. He answered automatically, surprised to realise it was JARVIS... and surprise quickly turned to dismay as he realised just what his sons (and Tony) were up to.
Thanking JARVIS, Coulson didn't hesitate as he put a call through to Steve. The Captain answered immediately and, when he heard the situation, offered to meet Coulson at the SHIELD headquarters.
# # #
Tony frowned, glad that he'd worn the armor that could fold up into a suitcase....since they'd managed to run into a group of people who were up to no good and didn't like the idea of the two Avengers and one SHIELD agent snooping for the missing files. The nefarious group had been hiding some type of device that literally fried the systems on Tony's armor. He'd been lucky to retain enough power to activate its removal, or he would have been a metal statue and a sitting duck all in one. Not to mention he didn't want his armor falling into enemy hands- he had been relieved he had been able to get it to fold up into the suitcase neatly. Only problem now was that he didn't have his armor. Which pretty much took out his protection and his weaponry all at once. Luckily, he'd been working out with the other Avengers as much as possible, so if it came down to a fight, he wasn't totally helpless. He was helpless enough that Clint had shoved him behind him and Ward, though...and then promptly shoved Ward behind himself so that he was the first line of defense. His eyes darted around, trying to see if there was anything at all he could do to assist his family.
Ward wasn't happy. Clint had unceremoniously shoved him behind himself in a bid to protect his younger brother. Ward didn't want to be protected, though; he wanted to help protect. He'd never forgive himself if something happened to Clint while he was hiding behind him. He was pretty sure Tony wasn't happy about the situation either, but at least the genius seemed to have found some way to be useful. The sad fact was, Grant hadn't brought any weapons with him- he hadn't expected to run into any bad guys after all. Clint was currently the only one with functioning weaponry. Grant had to console himself with keeping an eye out and warning his brother when it looked like he might have missed something...and wait for the moment when it became hand-to-hand combat.
Clint was doing everything in his power to keep the enemy from getting close enough to engage in active fighting. While he knew his brother and Tony were capable of fighting and protecting themselves, he didn't trust that these goons didn't have other items that would prove lethal to his family...so he kept firing his arrows and did his best to keep the enemy at a distance. He was wishing heartily that he'd encouraged Grant to contact their father, however. Or called their dad himself. Or had Tony call him. Or heck...convinced Grant this was a bad idea and not gone in at all. Hindsight being twenty-twenty and all. Then again, if Dad showed up and they got out of this alive- well, alive and sore butt was infinitely better than dead- but if they could get out of this without their father ever knowing, that would be even better. Unlikely, but better.
# # #
Coulson met up with Steve outside the SHIELD headquarters. He wasn't sure if there was anything wrong, but he'd brought May and Trip with him as well... just in case they might run into any trouble. And, having sent a message to Natasha, he was relieved to see the other spy turn up, armed with her guns.
Steve quietly informed Coulson that he'd enter the building first and, after Coulson nodded his acknowledgement, the Avenger slipped inside. Natasha followed on behind him and Coulson brought up the rear after allowing May and Trip to precede him.
The sounds of fighting reached them within moments and the group quickly turned down the corridor the sounds were coming from. Steve could see the enemy Clint was holding off and he quickly grabbed his shield, throwing it to disable the goons threatening the other group. He shifted his body to the side to allow Natasha, May and Trip to engage them in a gun fight.
Clint was glad to see their backup- until he realized his father was behind said back-up. Then he was glad and nervous. So much for keeping Coulson from finding out what had happened. He continued to fight, while Ward and Tony continued to be a second and third set of eyes and ears. Clint could tell Ward was itching to get out from behind him and go fight, even if he didn't have a weapon. But the younger man had seen Coulson as well and was uncertainly staying back, not sure if his father would be even more angry with him if he jumped into the fray.
Tony, meanwhile, was attempting to at least get his pulse reactors working again so that he'd have a weapon. When he finally got them to work, he handed one to Ward and then promptly shot one of the goons who was sneaking up on Natasha while she was dealing with a different goon.
Ward did the same to one that was getting ready to shoot Trip. At seeing the man- who could only be Hydra- fall to the ground unconscious, Ward shared a grin with Tony and then the two moved up beside Clint instead of behind him, carefully aiming and taking out whatever goons weren't directly fighting Steve, Natasha, May, Trip, or Coulson.
Trip was having a blast, although he would never say so to Coulson. He'd been getting bored and this fight was what he'd needed to liven things up. Again, he'd never say that to Coulson...but he couldn't help but give Ward a huge grin from across the room as he took out one of the enemy.
May was quietly decimating her target. She'd disarmed them fairly quickly, but irritated that the enemy had yet again gotten into SHIELD headquarters, she hadn't dispatched any of them quickly, choosing instead to do it slowly and painfully. There was a tiny grin on her face when the man finally fell unconscious.
Coulson expended his ammunition quickly but carefully, making sure he didn't risk hitting one of his family members. He wasn't really happy about his sons coming here, but he could hold off the scolding until they were safely out of here.
Steve put his shield to good effect as he took out the goons, protecting the others where and when he could. There wasn't time for talk as he fought and killed. These were goons, so he didn't care overmuch about leaving survivors.
Natasha fired, wounding with each bullet that hit its target. She ducked and dodged out of the way, keeping careful count of the amount of ammunition she had left.
Tony was the one to get the last man standing, letting out a crow of delight as the man fell to his pulse beam. He clasped Clint on the shoulder and then patted Ward on the back. "Now that's what I call a party...glad you all could make it!" he burbled happily to the other Avengers and agents standing over prone bodies. He managed to get serious long enough to ask, "Is anyone hurt?"
Ward smiled at Tony, but winced at the exuberance of the other man. He could tell his father was decidedly unhappy and if Tony didn't shut up, he was liable to make it worse.
Clint didn't wince, he just turned to Tony, gave him a look and mouthed 'shut-up' at him while slanting his head toward Coulson.
Trip and May quickly began removing weapons from the bodies, tying the ones that were still alive up so they could be imprisoned and interrogated later.
Steve put his shield back and walked quickly over to Tony. "I'm not going to ask for what happened here, but we will be going to the tower... and you will be explaining this to me in further detail." The look he gave Clint strongly suggested that, were it not for Coulson, they would be having their own conversation.
Coulson walked over to his sons, looking over them to make sure neither were hurt. "I don't need to ask what you're both doing here, but we will be 'discussing' this in further detail back at the Bus."
Natasha didn't bother backing up her brothers, knowing full well they deserved whatever scolding and punishment their father decided to dish out. Instead, she walked over to help May and Trip with the goons.
Tony, Clint and Ward blinked at Steve, but before Tony could say anything, Coulson had come up and pretty much said the same exact thing to his sons. Tony's mouth dropped open and he glanced from one man to the other. His sense of self-preservation (which was never all that good to begin with) failed him. "Dude...have you two been been taking parenting classes together or something?" It was only after he said it that he realized what he'd just implied about him and Steve and faintly blushed, quickly trying to dig himself out of trouble. "I mean- not that Steve's my parent or anything...even if he is chronologically old enough to be my grandfather...physically he's not and..." He glanced at Ward and Clint, who were giving him horrified looks. "...I'm just going to shut up now and please don't kill me?" he said to Steve in a high-pitched voice.
Clint took a deep breath and nodded at Steve, acknowledging the look he'd been given by the man. Then, he turned to his father and straightened his shoulders. "Yes, sir," he said quietly.
Ward did the exact opposite, slumping like a child that knew he was about to receive the scolding of a lifetime. "Yes, sir," he mumbled, staring at the ground.
May and Trip finally walked up to the group, all the goons having been disarmed and tied up (or confirmed dead). May turned to Coulson. "That one over there had a thumb drive...how much you want to bet there are some missing files on it?"
Coulson gave his sons one more stern look and then turned his attention to May. "We'll take it back to the Bus and check before confirming anything." He kept his tone calm and level, but his anger and fear were pricking at him again. He wasn't anywhere close to losing control, but he was definitely upset.
"I don't think you should be worrying about them right now," Steve said to Tony, his voice exasperated. "We will discuss this back home."
Tony winced and scuffed his feet, actually looking at the ground himself. "Yes, sir..." he said softly, before realizing what he'd just said and blushed again. "I mean Cap! Oh, please...just shoot me now..." He groaned and walked to within grasping range of Steve, fully expecting that the other man was going to march him out like a naughty child.
Ward glanced at Coulson and could tell how angry he was...and he could also sense the fear. But for some reason, he wasn't worried or afraid by it. He gave Coulson a tentative smile. He may not have been worried, but he did feel guilty for putting his father through that. He didn't say anything or apologize, though...it didn't seem like the right time.
Clint knew it wasn't the right time and just kept quiet, waiting for Coulson to tell them when they should head for the Bus.
May nodded, pocketing the drive before glancing at Trip. "Did you call SHIELD security?"
"Sure did," the other man answered with a grin. "They should be here right about...now." Soon the room was swarming with agents.
Steve stayed just long enough to make sure he wasn't needed and, after exchanging a sympathetic glance with Coulson, placed his hand on Tony's shoulder and began guiding him from the building.
Coulson patted both his sons gently on the shoulder, before turning to explain the situation to the agents, quickly taking the blame for the mess on his own shoulders. He wasn't questioned too much and they were able to leave without any hassle.
Natasha extricated herself from the group, making herself scarce after telling Clint to come find her when he was free.
Tony, for once, hadn't argued...going quietly where Steve directed. The look on his face would have made someone think he was on the way to the gallows.
May and Trip had decided to go with Natasha. When she heard from Clint, they'd know it was safe to return.
Ward and Clint both felt guilty that Coulson was taking the blame for their actions, but they remained quiet, knowing it was necessary. When he finally led them out, the rest of the group was gone.
Ward swallowed. "I wonder if Jemma found out anything about Fitz," he remarked, in a hesitant attempt at conversation.
"It seems that the residue is going away gradually on its own," Coulson replied, as he headed back to the Bus. "They're hopeful that the effects will go away on their own, but Jemma's still checking." His voice was a little clipped, but he still gave his sons his full attention and stayed close to them, not wanting either to think he was going to withdraw from them.
"That's good..." Grant's voice was subdued, but relieved. He truly had been worried about his friend, but as there had been nothing he could do to help him, he'd decided to try and help clear his own name. He sighed softly and moved closer to his father. He knew his father was upset with him...angry. But he'd been in this position often enough by now that he knew the older man wasn't just going to dump him as a lost cause; and he wasn't going to use fists on him, either. Even though what was going to happen was painful and humbling and emotionally draining, the only lasting effect was that he'd feel like he'd paid for his misdeed and wouldn't feel guilty and he'd be reminded again of Coulson's position in his life. Not really bad things. So he wasn't dreading anything, either. He was just sorry that he upset his father.
Clint glanced at his father and brother then moved closer himself. He'd reached the point it appeared Grant was reaching long ago. He trusted his father, knew he wouldn't damage him or harm him, and knew he would always forgive him. He was sorry to have upset the older man again, so soon after the first time- they hadn't been reunited all that long- but he wasn't scared either. He was relieved. And he felt loved. Still....
"To be fair..." Clint began. "We honestly didn't think that there would be HYDRA agents in SHIELD headquarters again. Tony and I were there as Grant's backup and alibi and we honestly thought we would be enough.... Although I do know that we should have told you before leaving- since it wasn't an authorized op and all. So I know we deserve to be in trouble, but I just wanted to make sure what we were in trouble for was.... I wanted to make sure I understood why I was in trouble. In case I missed something...." He finally sighed and shut up, looking at the ground like his brother.
They walked to the car, Coulson in the middle of two repentant men who were walking beside him like thoroughly scolded naughty children.
Coulson automatically slid an arm around each of his sons' shoulders, squeezing them gently. "I know you didn't expect there to be HYDRA agents in the headquarters again, but there were before," he pointed out. "It's something you should have considered as a possibility, because when it happens once, it can happen again."
Reaching the car, Coulson unlocked the door as he continued speaking. "But I know there was no way of knowing for sure. What you're both in trouble for is coming here without authorisation... without letting me know, so I could figure out what kind of backup you needed exactly so something like this didn't happen."
Clint winced at the quiet words. "Of course, sir. It will always be a possibility that HYDRA is hiding in our own agency- I just didn't want to entertain the thought that it would happen so soon." He sighed. "But that's beside the point, because I know I should have called you for authorization to go ahead with our plan. It's a very bad habit I've gotten into, doing operations without the necessary approval...and I really have no excuse. I've just gotten used to doing what I think is needed without any care to what my superiors might say. Which, when my superior is also my father...well, it's doubly disrespectful." He sighed again then ran a hand through his hair. "I don't know if it makes it better or worse that I didn't even think of any of that, though. It wasn't deliberate...."
Ward hadn't looked up from his feet once, even when Coulson was explaining what they'd done wrong. He knew he'd done a bit more wrong than just what was mentioned, though. Finally, swallowing, he commented quietly, "I should have gotten approval and authorization before doing anything...but I also shouldn't have just left the bus without getting your approval or authorization. I would have been completely alone when the Hydra agents attacked had Tony not been keeping tabs on everyone and told Clint that he'd noticed me moving off the Bus and you weren't moving off the Bus. The fact that Clint and Tony came immediately to be my back-up and alibi wasn't due to my being smart and calling them to be my back-up or alibi. I didn't even think of that. I didn't think period...." His shoulders slumped even more as he thought about how things could have gone.
Coulson just nodded, glad that they both understood where he was coming from. "I don't think either of you were thinking," he said quietly. "It's a habit you both need to break." He indicated the car. "We'll go back to the Bus and deal with it there. I'm very glad you're both all right," he added.
Twin, 'Yes, sirs,' were said as the trio walked to the car.
Clint was lost in his thoughts of everything that could have gone wrong, especially since Tony had been neutralized from the beginning and he was the only one with a weapon.
Ward was thinking about how, every time he attempted to avoid adding to his father's stress and worry by not telling him stuff and attempting to handle things on his own, he inevitably made the stress and worry worse.
They both got into the car quietly. They were subdued the whole trip back.
Coulson drove back to the Bus in relative silence, then parked and got out of the car, waiting for his sons to get out as well before he headed onto the Bus, using the comm to let the remaining team members know to avoid the lounge area for a little while as he headed in that direction.
Clint and Ward followed him to the lounge, not saying anything.
Ward was still staring at his feet. He knew what was going to happen. He knew he deserved it. It didn't mean he wanted it to happen, though. If he could have come up with one good excuse to convince his father to let him go with a lecture, he would have. But he knew he couldn't; and to be honest, he felt guilty enough that he really did want to be punished. Not that he'd admit such a thing. Maybe.
Clint was standing tall, staring straight ahead, although every so often he'd glance at his father and brother from the corner of his eye. He knew he deserved what was about to come as well. He knew he deserved it and wasn't thinking of ways that he could somehow stop it from occurring. He was more concerned with the fact that his brother continually stared at the ground whenever he was in trouble, as if afraid to face their father.
Clint knew Coulson loved both of them and that while he was able and willing to administer correction when needed, it would never change his feelings for them or his desire to have them be his sons. Ward acted as if he was still afraid of being sent away whenever he messed up. Clint knew the younger man knew better, but he also knew it would take time for what Grant knew to become so ingrained that he didn't automatically respond as if he feared the worse. Clint forced himself to look away from his younger brother, becoming irate at the people who had caused the younger man to believe so much that he was disposable and unworthy of love to the point that he had a hard time believing the opposite.
When they reached the lounge, Clint automatically went to the corner and stood facing it; more because he needed to calm himself down before he said something that might upset his brother than because he believed Coulson would ask him to.
Coulson recognised and knew the look on Clint's face, so he wasn't surprised when his oldest walked over to the corner. Taking a deep breath, he turned to his youngest, resting a hand gently on Grant's shoulder. "Is there anything you'd like to add?" His voice was gentle and reassuring as he squeezed Grant's shoulder gently. He'd managed to calm down during the drive back, even if letting go of his fear was still hard.
Grant finally looked up from the ground and into his father's face. His eyes were glassy, as if he were having a hard time controlling his emotions. "No, sir," he said softly. "I screwed up. Again. I'm sorry that...that I keep scaring you. I know I'm supposed to tell you before I take off to do things. I know I'm supposed to clear it with you before I go on any type of mission. I...I don't know why I keep doing the opposite of what I know I'm supposed to do...." His voice trailed off and he swallowed as his voice started to get raspy.
Responding to the sound of Grant's voice and the look on his face, Coulson didn't hesitate in drawing his son close for a tight hug. "Acting on impulse isn't necessarily a bad thing, but you shouldn't disappear without a word," he said, his voice gentle, rather than scolding. "I need to know that you're safe. I love you and nothing could change that."
Ward nodded, even as he wrapped his own arms around his father and hunched over, hiding his face against his shoulder. "I know...I know that. I know it even when I'm doing it and I can't seem to...I just do it anyway!" Grant was frustrated with himself and the fact was coming through in his voice.
Before Coulson, the only man he'd ever had to rely on had been Garrett and he'd quickly learned that he shouldn't rely on him, since Garrett was more than likely only going to be reliable if it furthered his own cause. The man had said numerous times not to trust anyone- including himself- and had gone on to prove, more than once, that if Grant should believe anything he said, he should believe that.
Coulson was different, but he'd been in the habit of doing his own thing and taking chances with his own life for so long, even though he knew what he should do- what he needed to do- he still did things the way he'd done them before his father took him in. He huffed in annoyance at himself, wondering if there was anything at all that could be done, since his own brain didn't seem to be enough incentive to change.
Coulson pressed a gentle kiss to Grant's head. "It will take time to change the habits you've been learning for so many years now. It doesn't matter how long it takes, or how many times something like this happens. We'll deal with what happens and it won't change anything between us. Making mistakes is not the end of the world, son."
"I know..." Grant said softly. "...and I know it won't change anything between us...." He swallowed, some tears sliding down his face despite his efforts to control them. "I just hate disappointing you, or scaring you, or frustrating you so much that you have to take time before saying anything because you don't want to yell at me...even if I deserve to be yelled at..." he admitted in a tiny voice.
"Grant..." Coulson tightened his embrace around his son. "You don't deserve to be yelled at. When I'm angry, it comes from being scared of losing you. Even when I take the time to calm down, it doesn't mean anything's different. You're mine. Nothing is ever going to change that or take you away from me."
Grant sniffled, burrowing even further into his father's embrace. "I feel like I deserve to be yelled at, or hit, or something for being such a screw up...." he admitted hesitantly, knowing that his father would not be happy to hear him say it. But he did feel like he deserved worse than he was getting, considering how many times he was making the same bad decisions. Garrett would have left him black and blue if he'd done something he'd already been warned against...to keep repeating it, he would have been lucky not to end up in the ER.
Coulson took a seat on the couch so that he could cuddle Grant more effectively on his lap. "You aren't a screw up, Grant," he said, softly but no less sincerely. "You've been deeply hurt and you're still healing. Just because the wounds aren't visible doesn't mean they aren't there. I'm not going to yell at you. I'm not going to hit you. When it's necessary, I will punish you, but nothing like what's been done in the past. I love you and you're mine. And I will protect you with everything I have."
"I love you too, daddy..." Grant whispered hoarsely...barely holding in the tears. He slumped against Coulson bonelessly...letting the older man support him completely as he soaked up the affection being freely given.
Clint clenched his teeth, grinding them together. The more he heard, the more he wanted to hunt down the people who had treated his little brother in such a way that he felt he deserved to be beaten. He had come to the corner to calm down so he wouldn't upset Grant. It wasn't working.
Coulson cuddled Grant tightly, stroking his hair and back. He could see the stiff way Clint held himself and knew his oldest was as bothered about Grant's suffering as he was. "Clint... why don't you come and sit with us for a few minutes?" he suggested, hoping having them both there would help Grant in some small way.
Clint swallowed hard, uncertain if he could keep a reign on his temper...but a glance over his shoulder, seeing the way Grant seemed so lost and small and broken, had his feet moving before he'd fully made his decision. He sat down next to his father and then twisted around so that he could wrap his arms around the younger man from behind...cocooning Grant between him and their father.
Coulson smiled gratefully at Clint and then spoke to Grant as he continued gently stroking his hair and back. "You have a family now, no matter what. People who love and care about you and want to see you safe. Even if coming without letting me know was the wrong decision to make, Clint still came after you because he didn't want anything to happen."
Clint smiled crookedly against Grant's back. "Yeah, Runt...I always wanted a little brother. I couldn't let the best one in the world go off by himself and maybe get hurt. You're important to us, bro!" His tone was teasing, but the underlying sincerity and concern was obvious.
Grant sniffled again, lifting his head just enough that Clint could hear him. "I'm sorry I got you into trouble with me...."
Clint blinked and leaned back so he could see Grant's face, then looked at Coulson. "Hey, kid...I got myself into trouble. There was nothing preventing me from calling dad, or Steve, or even Nat and letting them know what was happening. Nothing except my own stubborn pride in thinking there was nothing there that could take me down. And it's something I've been warned about before...so...." He sighed.
Coulson nodded. "But we'll deal with it and then it'll be over. It won't be brought up again and everything will be forgiven," he promised. "And it won't ever change how much I love you both."
Clint smiled. "I know, dad."
Ward finally sat up and wiped his eyes on the back of his arm. "I want it to be over and be forgiven..." he said softly.
Coulson brushed a gentle kiss against both of their foreheads before speaking. "Clint... you can either go back to the corner, or wait outside until I've finished with your brother."
Clint gave his father a grateful look and stood. "I'll wait in the next room, sir." Giving Grant a quick hug, he left the lounge area and went straight to the kitchen.
Coulson nodded and then, once Clint was gone, gave Grant another tight hug before gently moving his son across his lap.
Grant hugged back then let himself be guided into position. Reaching down, he wrapped his hands around his father's leg. He couldn't help but feel some relief that soon he would be punished for his wrong doing and that he'd be able to move on.
Coulson rubbed his back gently for a few moments and then pulled his pants and underwear down, wrapping an arm around his son's waist to draw him gently against his stomach. Lifting his hand, Coulson brought it down in a firm swat, holding back to make sure he didn't use his full strength.
Ward whimpered when his father bared him, knowing what was going to immediately follow. Even knowing that it was coming, he could never be completely ready. When the first swat landed, he let out a tiny gasp.
Coulson landed a second and third swat, still keeping them at the same force. He continued landing the swats, going down to Ward's thighs before he started over a second circuit.
Ward couldn't help but squirm as Coulson punished him...but he somehow managed to keep tight control over his emotions. He deserved everything he was getting and was determined not to cry or even whine about it. He was tensing up in his efforts, but he managed to keep his tears inside.
Coulson finished a third circuit of swats and then paused to shift Ward forward slightly so that he could begin addressing sharp swats to his son's sit spots. As he did, he spoke quietly. "I don't ever want to be in the position where I might lose you, son. The situation could have gone much worse today, but it was fortunate nothing did happen. Seeing you put yourself in that kind of danger is very scary. If it happens again, so will this."
Grant couldn't help but whimper at his father's words, even though he'd managed up to that point not to cry. But the reminder of how he'd scared the older man caused him to lose the control he'd tried so hard to keep. Tears seeped out from under tightly closed eyes. "Yes, sir..." he managed to force out between breaths, before groaning slightly and tensing up further, stubborn in his desire not to 'give in' and therefore make things easier on himself.
Coulson shook his head and began using a bit more force behind the swats - still not his full strength, but harder than they had been before. "You're mine, Grant. That means you talk to me before you do something that could end with me losing you." He didn't raise his voice, but the words were serious.
"Y...yes sir..." Grant's voice cracked and he couldn't help but squeeze his father’s leg hard, even as he closed his eyes even more tightly together, his father's words seeping into his heart and weakening his resolve not to give in. Even so, he obstinately continued to try and keep himself together. Even if he wanted to submit, to let go and let his father see him cry out his remorse, he was positive he didn't deserve to. He couldn't be childish and get leniency.
"I love you," Coulson said, his hand never ceasing or slowing the swats. "No matter what, that will never stop being true. I'm not going to let you take yourself away from me. No matter how scared I am, or how angry I seem, I'm not going to throw you away or stop caring about you. We might be in this position over and over again, but that will always be true."
"I....I love y..you t..too....." Grant let out a shivering sob as his father's words overcame his resolve. "...Daddy..." he whined out pathetically, before finally going limp over Coulson's knee and just crying.
Coulson stopped and then, without any hesitation, tugged his son into his arms, hugging Grant close and tight, stroking his hair and back.
Grant sobbed in his father’s arms, shivering for several moments before he managed to quiet down. Weakly putting his head against his father's chest, he whispered, "I was trying not to be a baby...so you wouldn't have to go easier on me than I had coming...but I didn't do a very good job. I'm sorry.... And I'm sorry I made you have to punish me...and I'm really sorry I scared you and did something that could have taken me from you...and I'm sorry I have such a hard time learning my lessons..and...well, I'm just sorry." He sighed and hid his face against his father's chest.
"Grant..." Coulson stroked his hair and kissed his head affectionately. "Crying when you're being punished doesn't make you a baby. It means it's having the right effect. As for the rest, I know you're sorry. And I forgive you. I still love you."
Grant relaxed at his father's words, never thinking to question them. He was just so tired and drained and...sorry. "Ok, dad...." he said softly. "I love you too...and thank you...for forgiving me."
He couldn't stop the yawn that escaped his mouth...the combination of stress from being unfairly blamed, worry about Fitz, the huge fight he'd participated in and the emotional upheaval from all his unintended confessions and punishment were too much.
Coulson pressed another soft kiss to Grant's head before speaking. "I think you should have a rest. You've had a very long, stressful day."
Grant nodded. "Ok," he whispered, then yawned again and snuggled closer. He knew he should stand, fix his clothes and go to his bunk, but he felt so safe and loved and comfortable, he didn't want to move.
Coulson stroked his hair as he spoke. "You could always sleep in here." He was silently giving Grant permission to fall asleep on him, but didn't say that out loud, not wanting to embarrass his son.
"Clint's waiting for you," Grant mumbled against Coulson's chest, before reluctantly getting up and fixing his clothing. He didn't look happy about having moved, though; it was obvious he would have taken his father up on his offer if there hadn't been anyone else involved.
Coulson stood, wrapping his arm gently around Grant's shoulder. "I can always come and see you in your bunk after I've spoken to Clint," he suggested.
"I'd like that..." Grant gave a tremulous smile, leaning into his father before giving him a bashful kiss on the cheek. "Should I send Clint in on my way to my bunk?" he asked quietly.
Coulson kissed his head before nodding. "I think that would be a good idea."
Smiling at his father, his eyes still watery but a look of relief and calm he hadn't had before he was punished on his face, Ward gave Coulson one last hug before leaving the lounge. He stopped by the kitchen on his way to his bunk.
"Dad is ready for you," he told Clint quietly.
Clint only had to look at his younger brother to see that the punishment had done its job. He gave the younger man a tiny smile and squeezed his shoulder on the way to Coulson.
"Thanks, kiddo. I'm glad you're ok. You know that, right?" He hesitated briefly.
Ward smiled and clasped Clint's arm. "Yeah. I know." Smiling again, he turned and went to his bunk, lying on his stomach.
Clint smiled crookedly as he watched the younger man walk away then took a deep breath and walked into the lounge. He went straight to his father, standing by his knee.
"I know what I did wrong, dad. I know I'm not in trouble for going to help Grant; I'm in trouble for not letting you know I was going to help Grant. And I know we've had this problem with me keeping you informed before. I'm sorry. I wish I could promise it wouldn't happen again, but since the problem is my lack of thinking...." He sighed softly and looked down, before undoing his jeans and waiting for further instructions.
Coulson had taken a seat back on the couch as Grant left and he held eye contact with Clint, nodding in response to his oldest’s words. "I'm glad to know you realise what you're in trouble for," he said softly. "And I'm proud of you for going to back up your brother. But you're right. You should have let me know. If I don't know the situation, I can't protect you. If JARVIS hadn't made contact with me, I might not have even known anything was wrong until it was too late."
Grasping Clint's wrist, Coulson gently pulled his son across his lap, rubbing his back gently before he pulled his jeans and underwear down. "There are risks you take in everything you do and as much as I want to protect you from those, I know it's not always possible. But there are ways you can make yourself safer... and one of those ways is by keeping me in the loop."
"Yes, sir," Clint readily agreed. What else could he do? He knew his father was right. Even though he'd had Tony with him, he should have called Phil. He knew better.
He let his father guide him over his lap, quickly grasping the older man's leg for balance. He then closed his eyes and waited.
As he had done with Grant, Coulson wrapped his arm around Clint's waist, drawing him against his stomach, before he brought his hand down in the first firm swat then repeated it.
Clint gasped out at the first smack...and then proceeded to let out tiny grunts and gasps with every smack following.
Coulson continued down to Clint's thighs before he started over from the top, holding back his strength, because even if they had had this 'discussion' many times before, he couldn't bring himself to be too harsh with either of his sons.
Clint couldn't help but whimper when Coulson smacked his thighs. When his father started over again, he started to squirm...he tried to hold still, though. He knew his father wasn't being as harsh as he could be.
Coulson landed another two circuits in the same pattern and then shifted Clint forward slightly to begin swatting his sit spots. Knowing that Clint wasn't in the same head space as Grant, Coulson didn't scold as he spanked, aware that his son knew what he'd done wrong and what he was being punished for.
Clint's squirming became more pronounced the longer Phil spanked. By the third circuit, he'd begun whimpering and his eyes were watering. When he began on his sit spots, the watery eyes turned into actual crying. It wasn't loud, but Cling didn't attempt to hide it either. He'd decided long ago that he'd rather his father see how affected he was, instead of preserving foolish pride. "I'm sorry, dad..." He finally spoke in a quivery voice.
Coulson stopped and then, without any hesitation, drew Clint into his arms, cuddling him close. "It's all right. It's over. I forgive you. I love you," he said softly, stroking Clint's hair and back.
Clint quickly wrapped his arms around his father and hugged him back tightly. "I love you too, dad..." he said softly. He snuggled for long enough that Phil would realize he was ok (he'd deserved every smack, after all), then carefully stood and righted his clothing.
"Would you like me to call Nat and let her know it's safe to come home?" he asked with a quirk to his lips.
Coulson smiled, standing up and wrapping an arm around Clint's shoulders, kissing his forehead affectionately. "I'm sure that's fine... unless there's anything else you need to confess to me," he added, a teasing note slipping into his voice.
Clint slanted his head, as if thinking about it. "Not unless you want to hear about the date I had last Friday night with this stewardess..." He gave Phil an impish look.
Coulson snorted softly. "I think I can do without that kind of information." He gave Clint one last squeeze before gently releasing him. "Grant should be resting... I said I'd check in on him when we'd finished. Are you going to call Natasha, or would you like me to stay a bit longer?" Both his sons were important to him and he had no problems giving them what they wanted or needed, so if Clint wanted him to stay a bit longer, Coulson would gladly.
Clint smiled and leaned over to kiss his father on the cheek. "I'm fine, dad. I'm going to call Natasha. I'll make dinner for everyone in about..." He looked at his watch... "Two hours."
He smiled. While he enjoyed spending time with his dad, he was secure in his knowledge that he was loved and cared about. His little brother needed their dad more at the moment.
"I'll wake you both up when it is time to eat. You may as well get some rest, too, while you're with him," he suggested slyly, knowing the stress Phil had been under.
"Provided nothing else happens," Coulson replied, a bit wryly. He pressed another gentle kiss to Clint's forehead and then slipped out of the lounge, heading to Grant's bunk. He didn't worry about knocking and instead simply opened the door and slipped inside.
Grant was still awake, but barely. He gave his father a sleepy smile and sat up, scooting over to make room.
Coulson settled on the bed and then simply reached out to draw Grant into his arms once more. Holding him close, he spoke softly into his ear. "I was able to make an appointment to see a service dog."
Grant snuggled close lying his head on his father's chest. "When?" he asked quietly, interested even if his eyes wouldn't cooperate and stay open.
Coulson stroked Grant's hair and back as he continued to cuddle his son. "Two days' time. There was a lot of paperwork to fill out, which is why it took so long."
"You've actually got a meeting faster than I thought would happen," Grant admitted as he gravitated toward his father, gradually sinking against him as the affection calmed him and slowly put him to sleep.
Coulson kissed his head. "Sleep, son," he said softly. "We'll go to the appointment." And then maybe Grant could make some good memories to help with the ones that still hurt.
"Ok, Daddy. Love you..." Grant mumbled. And then the only sound to be heard was his quiet breathing.