Authorís Note: This was written as an RPG (roll playing game) between co-authorís Hope1iz and BlackFox12 (aka Cat). Set after the season one finale. Fifteenth in the Redeeming Grant series.
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 disobeys his father. Again.
Warning(s): Spoilers up to the season one finale and for the Avengers movie; spanking
Co-Authorís Website: BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page
THE MORE THINGS CHANGE, THE MORE THEY STAY THE SAME
Finally getting the cast off his leg was something of a relief for Coulson. Not only had his healing leg been itching maddeningly under the cast, but he was getting tired of having to hobble around or be helped everywhere.
Knowing that his son was likely to be in the lounge area, Coulson carefully walked in that direction, making sure he didn't put too much weight on his newly-healed leg. He hadn't failed to notice that Grant had slept on the floor of his bunk every night since they'd been trapped in the cave. He'd been concerned about his son's comfort, but he also knew that Grant had been worried and if that gave him peace of mind, Coulson wouldn't protest against it.
Though maybe if something like this happened again, it would be worth looking at getting a bigger bed, so Grant didn't have to be uncomfortable on the floor.
Grant was looking through some files on some of the operations against Hydra that the few SHIELD teams still functioning had undertaken. He wrinkled his nose as he went through the one currently open on his lap. It was missing so much information. Too much...how they were supposed to finish the operation when they didn't have nearly enough intel was a worrisome question. He glanced up as his father entered the lounge area.
"You're cast free!" He grinned, knowing how much the cast had been bothering his dad.
Coulson smiled, walking over to sit on the couch and wrapping his arm around Grant's shoulders. "I have to be careful about putting too much weight on my leg, but it's a relief for the cast to finally be off. Though that doesn't mean you have to stop sleeping in my bunk," he added, not wanting his son to think he had to stop if he didn't want to.
Ward blushed slightly. He'd thought he'd been waking up early enough every morning to sneak back out before his father caught him. He should have known the older man would know what he was doing, no matter how sneaky he thought he was being. "I won't be in your way?" he finally asked, deciding that if his father didn't care then he wouldn't stop. At least not until his father was at one hundred percent and he stopped having nightmares of his father being crushed by a cave-in.
Coulson shook his head, squeezing Grant gently. "Not at all," he replied. "But being on the floor can't be comfortable... I don't have a problem getting a bigger bed so you don't have to camp out there."
Ward's blush darkened, but he smiled even as he looked down at his hands. "I don't want you to have to go through any trouble. I just..." He shrugged. "Now that you have the cast off and are feeling much better, maybe I'll not be so...I dunno...scared...to let you out of my sight. But if the dreams don't stop, I'll probably end up on your floor again at some point, so...there's that." He let out a tiny, self-mocking snort.
"It isn't any trouble, son," Coulson said sincerely. "And neither is you coming into my bunk. If I have a bigger bed, at least then you have the option and can be more comfortable if you do have a bad dream. Besides... it seemed to work when we went on the family retreat," he added.
Ward slanted his head, then nodded. "You're right. It did help...if it isn't any trouble, then I'd appreciate it," he finally said softly. He grinned as Copper got up and went to nuzzle the director's leg, as if checking to make certain it was really getting better.
Glancing down at the file in his hand, he frowned again. "Not nearly enough information in this file to be of use. We really could use a bit more..." His tone of voice suggested that he was thinking of going out and gathering said information.
Coulson smiled, petting Copper even as he kept his other arm around Grant's shoulders. "Which file are you looking at?" he asked. His voice was mild, but there was a slightly serious look on his face.
"The one on the Cybertech research facility that was discovered in Alabama," Ward answered, his eyes darting up to Coulson's. "The only real information in this file is that there is a facility. We don't know what they were doing, what they were working with, who they were working with, if it's a legit facility or a cover for one of Hydra's numerous laboratories...." His voice trailed off in frustration. "If we could get someone on the inside to get more concrete information, we'd know if it was worth going after them or not...."
Coulson frowned, his arm still around Grant's shoulders as he considered Grant's words. "I'm guessing you want to be the one to do that... but I'm not sure it's a good idea. If it is linked to HYDRA, someone might know who you are... and our relationship isn't exactly a secret."
Grant slanted his head toward his father in acknowledgement of what he said. "True. But of everyone on the Bus currently, I'm the best one suited for that type of operation...other than May...and, well, you. But you're almost as well known as I am, if not more well known, so...."
"I know," Coulson replied. "But capturing you would be a really easy way of getting to me, because there is nothing I wouldn't do to keep you safe. Why don't you at least start with contacting Tony Stark? He might be able to get his lawyers to look into the company."
Ward couldn't help but smile at his father's words, even if they were said to thwart his plans to go undercover. He slanted his head, then nodded. "I'll do that. Right after I get something to eat and feed Copper. You hungry?" He tossed the file back onto the stack of files on the table in front of him and stood up with a stretch, before looking at his father and holding out a hand to help him up.
Coulson put his hand in Grant's, allowing his son to help him up. "I am," he replied. "We can eat together." He pressed an affectionate kiss to his son's forehead. "I love you, son."
Ward smiled again, an impish gleam in his eye. "I know." He wrapped an arm around his father's shoulder and squeezed gently as he walked with the man toward the kitchen, Copper at his heels. "I love you too...." he said quietly.
He began pulling out various items to begin cooking. By the time he was done, there would be enough for everyone.
# # #
Ward had given himself another hour to pack a bag, before he'd hopped on his bike to head to the Avengers' Tower to see if he could get Tony's help. He'd told Coulson he was going so the other man wouldn't worry, especially since the tower was at least six hours away by motorcycle and he'd be gone overnight.
He'd left Copper in Fitz's care, as the younger man was still having the occasional dream and the dog seemed to help.
When he'd finally reached the tower, he parked in Tony's private garage; the man had set it up so that Coulson and his team could come and go on the group floor of the tower...and had also set up guest rooms on that floor for when they needed a break and wanted off the Bus.
Jumping in the elevator, he pushed the button to head up. "Hey, Jarvis?" he said hesitantly to thin air.
"Yes, Mr. Ward?" the AI responded.
"Is Tony in?"
"Mr. Stark is currently on a mission with other Avengers. The only one in residence at the moment is Mr. Barnes."
"Oh." Ward was disappointed. He'd hoped to begin gathering that information sooner than later.
"Shall I tell Mr. Barnes you are in residence?"
"Sure. Thanks, Jarvis."
"You are welcome, sir."
# # #
Steve took a few moments to reflect on the fact he really wasn't used to doing this. According to what he'd researched about dating in this century (and, yes, it was kind of pathetic he was actually researching how to date), it was normally the woman who took the time getting ready. Maybe most men actually had some idea of what to wear.
The problem was, there was so much... more to do in this time. And Steve wasn't sure what kind of clothes would be appropriate to wear.
Bucky leaned against the door frame, watching his friend with some amusement. Not that he was the overly social sort, but he remembered a few ops where he'd had to go on a date and he had a small idea of what was done in this day and age. "Where are you taking her?" he finally asked Steve.
"Dinner and a movie." Steve glanced at Bucky, noticing the amusement, and sighed. "I can't find anywhere that tells me what's appropriate to wear in this time." And he couldn't really face the idea of telling Tony, knowing the younger man would tease him.
"Well...guess it depends on the Dame and where you are going for dinner..." Bucky noted. "If she's a high maintenance type- you know, into fashion and stuff- and if you are going to a fancier restaurant, then a suit and tie is never amiss. If she's the girl next door type and is just as happy going to a mom and pop diner instead of a five-star restaurant, you can wear jeans and a nice shirt and carry a sports jacket."
Bucky slanted his head and narrowed his eyes. "If you aren't sure what type of Dame she is because this is a blind date, then go with the suit and tie; you can always take off the tie and jacket later if she's more casual. Whatever you do, unless you want her crawling all over you, do not wear that shirt that brings out the color of your eyes..." he teased.
"I might go for that option..." Steve mumbled, picking out a suit he thought was a relatively safe option. "She was my neighbour here... at least until I discovered she was a SHIELD agent who'd been stationed here to keep an eye on me." Which possibly wasn't the best basis to build a relationship on... but he was willing to at least try dating her.
"Now that is a nice suit. Not too fancy, not too cheap and it can work pretty much any setting...Tony would be proud," Bucky teased again, before frowning thoughtfully. "So she knows everything about you and you know nothing about her? Hope that works out for ya, kid."
Steve shrugged. "I know more about her than I did... I don't know if anything can work out between us, but I've been 'encouraged' to date more." He still wasn't sure he was completely ready for it, but they didn't have to go past dinner and a movie.
"Encouraged, huh? By who?" Bucky asked curiously. "I mean, not that it's a bad thing...but you're so busy being Captain America, it doesn't leave much time for yourself. If you don't really want to be dating, that's time you could use for things you do want to do. Course, if you do want to be dating, it's all good...." He shrugged. Even if he wanted to go out and meet women, he was too messed up himself to make a real attempt at it.
"I think it might be good to try for some semblance of normality," Steve answered. "Natasha seems to think it would be good for me... and there's not much she's wrong about."
Bucky smirked. "I guess..." He left his opinion of Natasha not being wrong and Steve saying as much to himself. It wouldn't be nice to accuse a man of being sweet on one woman while he was getting ready to take another out.
"I'm gonna hang out at the tower tonight, if you need to call for any pointers. It's been a while, but I don't think I've lost my touch..." Bucky smirked again as he reminded Steve what a playboy he had been, back before he'd fallen from that train.
Steve shook his head. "I don't think I'll need to call for any pointers." He finished getting dressed and checked that there wasn't too much out of place, before gently clasping Bucky's shoulder. "The same goes for you. If you need me... call."
"Sure...I can do that..." Bucky smiled, clasping Steve's forearm in a firm grip. "You have fun. Don't do anything I wouldn't do...which leaves you plenty of options!" Bucky chuckled at the look on Steve's face as he backed out of the door and made to leave the apartment.
Steve shook his head, smiling a bit. "What is there you wouldn't do?" he retorted, before heading out himself.
# # #
Ward dropped his bag on the bed in the room he'd chosen as 'his' for the times the team stayed over, although he suspected Tony was preparing separate floors for Phil's team so that this floor could remain the 'common' floor. Tony had a big heart and once you'd got past his barriers into his affection, he looked on you like family. Ward considered himself lucky to be included in that after what he'd done.
"Jarvis? Where is Mr. Barnes?"
"He is currently in Captain Roger's quarters, sir. I can ask him to meet you in the media room, if you would like."
# # #
Bucky had come nearly immediately, which indicated he was bored and looking for something to do...not a good combination when paired with Ward's desire to gather more information and the lack of any other 'supervision' that might remind him it wasn't a good idea to go in himself. Especially when Bucky had an axe to grind with Hydra and was more than willing to go with him as backup.
It hadn't taken long for the two men to form a connection and decide to head to Alabama on their own. The only concession Ward made to admitting he wasn't doing something he should was to leave a message with Tony asking him to look for any info he was able to gather...and to tell him what he and Bucky were doing.
# # #
A group of HYDRA agents had convened to a meeting at one of their bases. There were guards outside the room they were in, but there were security cameras set up inside and it didn't take long for the approaching car to register on the screens.
Grant Ward and James Barnes were both known to HYDRA agents, by reputation if not personally. As soon as they were spotted, plans were made to capture the two if possible... disable them outright if not.
# # #
Grant stopped the car well away from what should have been regular parameters for any building. Something felt off, but he was damned if he could figure out what it was. He and Bucky were some of the best in what they did...and they'd taken every precaution and then taken extra precautions. He stiffened up and glanced at the man riding shotgun next to him. "Do you feel like your back is itching?" he asked softly.
Bucky snorted, but his face was serious as he looked around suspiciously. "You feel it too, huh?"
"Maybe we should put off this operation for a few days...watch from a distance for a little bit longer, just in case...." Ward finally muttered under his breath.
Bucky was just about to agree when heavily armored vehicles came screeching out of nowhere, surrounding their car on all sides. The Winter Soldier winced. His one word was foul, but it summed things up quite nicely.
HYDRA agents quickly got out of the vehicles, pointing weapons at Grant and Bucky. Despite having been burned up, Brock Rumlow stepped forward, aiming his own weapon at the two men. "You really shouldn't have come here." He gave a nod to some of the HYDRA agents. "Take them. We'd like to take you in alive," he addressed the two. "But alive doesn't mean unharmed."
Ward swallowed, glancing around at all the men surrounding them. They could fight- might even take out a good portion of the force surrounding them- but in the end, they were massively outnumbered and he had no doubt Rumlow would love to put a bullet in both of them. Their chances of escape weren't good if they didn't attempt to escape now...but they weren't good if they did try and escape. He slowly held his hands up in surrender. He wasn't surprised when Bucky did the same.
"Steve's gonna have my hide for this..." the other man muttered under his breath.
Ward snorted. "Coulson's gonna have my hide and then ground it for the next millennium..." he muttered back, to the older soldier's amusement.
The HYDRA agents quickly cuffed and bound Grant, disabling Bucky's mechanical arm before doing the same to him. They then dragged the two back to the vehicles, even as Rumlow headed back to the base to figure out exactly what they were going to do with the hostages... and how much they'd be worth.
Ward was furious; at himself. Coulson had pretty much said that he didn't want Ward to go investigate, that it was too risky because if anyone knew who he was, they'd take him; that they could use him against his father. And instead of obeying like any sensible adult would when faced with such objections, he decided to grab the first person who agreed with him and go on the mission anyway. And it wasn't like Bucky was a low-profile individual, either. If they knew who Grant was, then of course they'd know who the Winter Soldier was. It was just so stupid. Coulson would be furious and worried and disappointed and if they used Grant to get at the older man, he'd be in danger; and if something happened to him because Grant behaved like an irresponsible, rebellious teenager, Grant would never forgive himself.
Bucky watched the younger man. The kid was good; it was nearly impossible to figure out what he was thinking from his face. Nearly impossible. He could tell the kid was angry and he could understand that. Bucky was angry, too- at himself. How the hell was boredom a good reason to go off on a half-cocked mission without telling anyone else? Especially given the fact that he had been on constant watch for people who were after him ever since moving into Stark's tower? Just because he had a partner in crime who had a reputation of being a badass didn't make it a smart move. He'd call it a temporary case of insanity. That would be his excuse. If he had a chance to give excuses.
Rumlow had acted on his own in capturing the two men, but he knew he needed to check with HYDRA's leaders about whether his plan could get the go-ahead or not. He used a scrambled frequency on his comm unit to make sure and then sent a message directly to SHIELD headquarters, carefully making sure to keep his identity and where he was calling from scrambled.
# # #
Coulson was doing some paperwork when the call came. Answering almost absently at first, he quickly focused when he realised what the subject of the call was.
Moving almost before the call had ended, Coulson headed through to the cockpit of the Bus, where he found May and Trip. "HYDRA has Ward and Barnes." He spoke urgently as he updated them on what he knew.
May turned around and stared as if she hadn't heard right.
Trip shook his head, then ran a hand over his face. "Your boy's got a serious problem with his hearing.... Has anyone contacted Steve?"
"I'm about to do that," Coulson replied. "I need..." He took a deep breath. "I've been told that the HYDRA agent is going to contact SHIELD again with the demands. I know I can't be a part of the negotiations. I'm emotionally compromised." He spoke as calmly as possible, but the panic was obvious on his face and in his voice.
Trip nodded in understanding. "I'll handle negotiations, sir, unless you'd like to ask Tony Stark. I'd suggest Fury, but I don't know if he's still trying to stay 'dead' to Hydra..."
Coulson nodded. "I'll call Tony Stark about it anyway..." Clint, too. He needed to hear from his oldest, as well as to update him. Putting action to words, he tried Stark first, figuring Steve might be there. If not, Tony would probably know how to contact him.
# # #
Tony was standing in the middle of the common room with the rest of the Avengers. They'd ended being called in when some super-soldiers (f-u Hydra) had decided to rob a bank. It had interrupted everyone's date nights and by the time they'd finally taken care of the idiots, it was too late to go anywhere else, so they'd convinced their respective dates to come back to the Tower for homemade pizza and games.
Tony had taken a short amount of time to answer his messages. He was just about to tell Steve where their two friends had gone when his phone rang.
"Please tell me the kids are back home, Phil," he answered the phone. He didn't expect good news. Phil wouldn't be calling this late if it was good news. "Hold on...I'm putting you on speaker so Steve and the others can hear..."
"HYDRA captured them." And no matter how hard Coulson tried to sound calm, he knew he couldn't hold back his worry and fear. "An agent contacted SHIELD headquarters... he said he'd call back with the demands. His voice and the frequency he was using were scrambled..."
Steve immediately turned to Tony, trying to hold back his own worry. "Are you able to unscramble frequencies?"
"I am." Tony, realizing that Coulson was holding on to his emotions by a thread, didn't react in his normal smart arse way. "If the are calling you back, then I'll have Jarvis connect to your phone and monitor it. We'll get them back," Tony was speaking as much to Steve as Coulson.
Coulson took a deep breath and then let it out slowly before speaking. "It... will be better if someone else handles any kind of negotiations. I'm too emotionally compromised." Too desperate. Because all he could think of was that his son was in the clutches of his enemies... those who would hurt him without a second thought.
Steve continued to look forward, but he pulled Clint to one side to suggest, "Maybe you should go to the Bus... support him."
"Two steps ahead of you, Cap," Clint said softly, holding up a small bag that he kept packed and ready for times when he needed to leave quickly. "If you want to come with me, we can both be there."
Tony, having noticed the other two, answered Phil. "No problem, Agent. Clint, Steve and I will be there soon. I'll take care of the negotiations. Jarvis can do what he does best and let me know through my suit." He smiled at Pepper, who had gone and gathered his own small bag while he was talking to Coulson. He motioned at Steve to grab whatever he needed quickly, even as he was snapping the bracelets for his armor onto his wrist and calling it to him.
Steve simply grabbed his bag from his quarters and then stood ready to leave, fighting back his own worry as he thought about how he'd just found his best friend... only to now risk losing him once again.
"Alright, fellas. Normally, I'd say hold on tight, but we've got a bit of a distance to go and I plan to go fast, so maybe you'd like to tie yourselves to me somehow? Before we take off?" Tony waited for them to do that, then, carefully walking to the balcony with them, looked back at the remaining Avengers plus dates. "We'll call you as soon as we have any new information..." was all he said, before wrapping his arms around his two friends and then blasting up into the sky.
Steve hadn't bothered to dress in full Captain America uniform, but he had brought his shield with him and he had it attached to his back as they took off. His face was grim as he tried not to imagine what Ward and Bucky might be going through... both of them as important to him as any members of his family.
Clint was subdued and didn't say anything the entire trip to the Bus. Not that any of the others were talking. He'd just got his little brother and he didn't want to lose him so soon. And Steve had been so happy when Bucky had come back into his life and moved into the tower. He didn't want to see what it would do to the man if he lost him again.
Tony was busying himself flying to the Bus as quickly as possible, but he was also keeping his attention to the communications in his suit. So far, no one had attempted to call Coulson again. He hoped they would wait another thirty minutes. He was making good time, despite having passengers, and if they waited, he could take over negotiations with his full attention.
Steve didn't bother asking Tony if there'd been any communications. He knew that the younger man would tell them if so. Staying silent meant that he couldn't stop thinking about their captured family members... but talking wasn't an option, because he didn't know what would come out.
Tony was never more thankful when the Bus came into sight and he was able to lower to the ground and let his two companions detach from him. Lifting his faceplate, he glanced at Clint, who seemed anxious to head up into the plane, but was waiting for the rest of his team. "Go be with your dad, man..." he prodded, then set about removing his armor and putting it into the suitcase.
Steve detached himself carefully and then looked at Tony. "I guess there's been no contact yet?" he asked softly.
Tony shook his head. "No. Not yet. But as soon as there is, I'll be ready." He gave Steve a weak smile, then stormed up the ramp into the plane so he could speak with Phil before the call came.
Steve nodded and followed Tony onto the Bus, trying not to let his fear and worry show.
Coulson had alternated between pacing and trying to get rid of his worry and fear in the rec room. Skye had retreated to a corner and was working on hacking into the company's system... just to try and do something to help.
Tony nodded at Skye, giving her what he hoped was an encouraging smile. "Hey, mini-me. Find anything we can use?"
Trip had watched as Clint came on board, telling him to head to the rec room as that was the last place he'd seen Coulson. The archer hadn't wasted any time heading that way.
May came out of the cockpit to meet the new arrivals. "They were in Alabama...but it is possible they've been moved..." she said in her usual calm and stoic manner. Only the tightness at the corner of her eyes and mouth gave away the fact she was worried. She moved closer to Steve. "Everything I've read indicates Bucky has a strong will and survival instinct...they only broke him before because of that machine. He'll be ok." She wasn't entirely too sure about Ward...he'd been broken and molded from the time he was old enough to walk. She supposed this was where they found out if Coulson's love was enough to keep the boy together.
"The system's protected well," Skye replied, without looking up from her laptop. "I've tried sending Trojans in... no luck so far, though. I'm hoping for a hit with the security cameras." Of course, she was worried they would be moved. But if she could access the cameras, even for a short period, they might get an idea of the whereabouts.
"They might still have access to the machine," Steve replied quietly. He knew how strong his friend was... but against that kind of brainwashing, even the strongest will could shatter.
"Huh..." Tony walked over to Skye, looking over her shoulder, then... "Do you mind?" He leaned over without actually waiting for her to give her permission and started typing rapidly and talking. At first, it sounded like he was muttering to himself, but closer inspection revealed a tiny comm device. "You getting this, Jarvis?" he said softly. "Thanks, buddy...."
Tony hit one more button and stepped back, grinning at Skye. "You're good, kid. You cleared the way and Jarvis was able to do the rest. Voila!" He pointed at the screen, which showed security feed from cameras all over the base that Ward and Bucky had gone to.
May frowned slightly at Steve's words, having considered that possibility herself. Trip spoke up in disagreement. "They didn't know that Ward and Bucky would be the ones to come to that facility. In fact, they couldn't be sure anyone from SHIELD would ever go to that facility...Unless they have more than one machine- in which case, we have a lot more to worry about than we originally thought- I don't think they have the machine there...so Bucky should be safe from that threat, at least."
Skye didn't protest Tony taking over, relieved that she could let someone else handle it. She smiled as the security cameras came up, then started clicking through the feeds, trying to see who they were dealing with... and where Ward and Bucky were being held.
Steve nodded, even if he couldn't entirely let go of that fear, and glanced over at Tony. "Anything?"
"We've got cameras, but so far noth... wait a sec..." Tony pointed at the top corner of the screen. "Camera 3... what does that look like to you?" he asked Skye, a cautious hope in his voice.
May and Trip walked over to stare over the two 'techies' shoulders.
"The picture's not good and the angle's slightly awkward, but I think it's them," Skye answered. She tapped a few keys to bring up the guards for the prisoners.
The first thing Trip noticed when he looked at the screen was that she was correct; the picture wasn't good, but it was them. The second thing he noticed- and he doubted Skye noticed it, although he was sure May, Steve, and possibly even Tony noticed- was that the two men looked tense and ready to move. If they didn't get a call soon and have some sort of negotiation going on, the two would likely attempt an escape on their own; and given how many guards he could see on the other cameras, they likely wouldn't survive without a lot of damage to themselves.
Steve motioned Tony to one side, so he could speak to him without Skye overhearing. "It might be a good idea to move this rescue mission to your private jet," he said quietly. "If we take Coulson with us... you can start negotiating, but we can be ready to move if a rescue becomes possible."
At that moment, a call began coming through... from Rumlow.
# # #
Clint had quickly made his way to the rec room and stepped in. "Dad...." His voice was soft and he waited till Coulson turned to face him before holding open his arms in a clear invitation.
Coulson wasted no time, quickly heading to his oldest and grabbing Clint in a tight hug. Working out hadn't helped the tension at all. Not only was he having to face the possibility of not getting Ward back, but he had to consider the shape his youngest son might be in if they did finally get him back. He hugged Clint tightly and spoke softly. "Thank you for coming."
"I wouldn't be anywhere else!" Clint said, softly but forcefully. "We'll get him back, dad. But that isn't what you are most worried about, is it?" Clint held Phil more tightly, kissing the other man just above his ear.
Coulson's own embrace tightened around his son. "Grant has been under the control of a HYDRA agent since he was fifteen. I don't know what kind of shape he'll be in... I don't know what kind of damage I'll need to undo. Or if I'll see him revert to who he was in the past." He wasn't ashamed to take the affection and support his oldest so easily offered. Clint being here helped.
Clint frowned slightly, pulling back to look into his father's face. "There are many possibilities, dad. He may have been able to resist them and will come home a bit physically battered, but mentally fine. They may push all the right buttons and he'll come home in the same place he was when you first decided to rescue him. I do know one thing, though. Your love for him and persistence and patience and whatever other word you want to use is stronger than anything HYDRA will be able to use and you'll bring him back and he'll be ok. Maybe not immediately, but he will be ok. You'll make sure of it...and I'll help you. So will the rest of your unorthodox family...."
Coulson nodded. "I know..." He sighed. "I don't know what they're doing to him and all I can think of is that I'd give in to any of their demands if it means I get him back safely." That was why he'd realised he had to back out of the negotiations.
Clint gave his father a crooked smile. "I know, dad. But the fact that you realized that and immediately called Tony in to handle it proves that you'll do the right thing, no matter how hard it is for you. I believe he will be ok...in fact, I'm fairly certain that he'll be more than ok and the only worry you'll have once you get him back is if you tan his backside immediately and in front of everyone, or wait long enough to get him in private." His voice was teasing, but he hoped his father took away the main thought from what he said; that Grant would be ok and the worst wasn't going to happen.
Coulson nodded, taking a deep breath. "I hope you're right. I hope I've proved to him enough times that it doesn't matter what happens... I'll come for him each and every time."
Clint nodded at Coulson and gave him one last hug. "I hope so too, dad. But if he needs to have it proven again, well- you're just the man to prove it. Ready to go out and wait for that call?"
"I'm ready." Coulson kissed his forehead gently. "Thank you. I love you."
Clint kissed his father back; then, wrapping an arm around his shoulder, led him back out. They managed to catch Rumlow's demands and hear Tony's reply.
# # #
Grant paced from one end of the cell to the other while Bucky watched him silently. It had taken every once of his willpower not to just attack the soldiers who had taken him and Barnes captive. The only thing keeping him from doing so was the fact that he knew they were outnumbered and he knew that Coulson would be hurt deeply if he was killed. And until they knew more about the situation they had found themselves in, the likelihood of them dying if they attempted an escape was too high.
It didn't help that some of the soldiers had been given intel on his relationship with the director of SHIELD and had taken to taunting him about how he had been fooled. It was obvious that the director only adopted him and cared about him because of what he had to gain through it...he didn't really love or care about Ward and as soon as Ward was no longer useful, he'd find himself abandoned, or in jail on some charge. Ward didn't believe them; of course he didn't...but enough of what they said about him was true that it was hard to ignore the stuff he knew wasn't true. Or that he thought wasn't true. They'd done the same with Bucky, telling him how, after everything he'd done, there was no way he could be forgiven and that Steve Rogers would soon realize that and cut him loose.
Bucky cleared his throat after the last batch of soldiers who had come to heckle left. "You believe what they're saying?" he asked softly, curiously.
Ward shook his head, angry and frustrated at the situation. "No...I know it's not true," he finally answered, although there was just enough hesitancy in his voice that Bucky knew some small part of Ward did believe it; he just didn't want to admit it.
Bucky frowned. "I don't believe what they've been saying to me either..." he said, although his tone was the same as Ward's. Some small part of him did believe it. He just didn't want to admit it.
# # #
Tony nodded at Steve before muttering, "Got it. JARVIS, are any of my private jets in my vicinity? There's one? Good. Get a pilot to it immediately and have them fuel it. And ready my private airfield for the Bus to land there and tell everyone at the tower to expect guests. Their floors are completed, so Pepper can show them where to go." He gave Steve a cheeky grin. "See? Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy..." He clapped his hands together and looked expectantly at the phone, letting it ring one more time before picking the receiver up.
"What are your demands?" he asked seriously, not even bothering to introduce himself.
Rumlow didn't bother wasting any time in small talk. He still kept his voice scrambled over the call, even if he did expect the agents to be trying to break in. "There are HYDRA agents still held by SHIELD. And I want all of the information SHIELD has handed over."
Tony motioned for a piece of paper and quickly wrote- Steve, Agent and Clint with me. The rest of you fly back on the bus to my tower. Meanwhile, he spoke. "You should realize that all but a few of those agents you speak of are being held by agencies not SHIELD. And our pull in having any say about them is next to non-existent." He didn't comment on the information.
Approaching with Clint, Coulson raised his eyebrows at the instructions on the paper, but didn't make a comment. He glanced at Skye's laptop screen long enough to assure himself that Grant hadn't been hurt, at least physically, and then quickly scribbled on the piece of paper. Ask if you can speak to them. It wasn't just because he was desperate to hear his son's voice. If they didn't ask for something like that, it would raise suspicion.
"I'm not going to list everything I know about you and your 'pull', Stark," Rumlow replied. "You asked for my demands. Those are them."
Tony frowned at the fact Rumlow knew who he was immediately...then again, he was rather hard to forget and was well known. "Fine..." Tony said shortly. "Before I agree to anything, I'm going to need an act of goodwill. You will allow us to speak to them."
"I'll call you back with my answer," Rumlow replied. Without saying anything else, he disconnected the call.
"Rude..." Tony muttered, before quickly doing something to the laptop only Skye could see and then grabbing it and the phone. "You get a location, J?" he asked briskly, grabbing Steve's arm and starting to drag him out of the room.
"I did, sir..." Jarvis's voice came out of the laptop. "...and have updated the flight plan to take that into consideration. Also, Ms. Potts is expecting Agents Trip, May, Fitz, Simmons and Skye and their floors are ready and waiting."
Tony grinned at Skye just before stepping through the door. "Ok, Agent Agent... You're with Cap, Hawk and me....only because I was afraid you'd taze me if I told you to go to the tower. But you gotta let us take the lead. We can't afford for the director of SHIELD to be captured by HYDRA." With that, he dragged Steve out of the bus and to the car he had waiting outside, fully expecting the other two men to follow.
Trip stared as Tony dragged Cap away, then asked in consternation, "What just happened?"
"Follow Tony's instructions," Coulson directed the team members. "I'll keep you updated as much as possible." He quickly headed after Tony, relieved the man didn't intend to try leaving him behind.
Steve got in the car straight away. "Do you have any thoughts about a plan yet?" he asked.
Tony frowned...thoughtfully, not saying anything until Coulson and Clint were also in the car. "You know my plans usually involve me blasting my way into somewhere." He wrinkled his nose. "As often as you've blistered my arse for it. I was kinda hoping you'd have an idea..." he reluctantly admitted. "I'll negotiate my butt off, but I doubt Rumlow plans to keep his end of the bargain...."
Steve nodded. "He's unlikely to give up his advantages." He was silent for a few moments before speaking. "So how about you get Rumlow involved in the negotiations? I'll contact Banner, Thor and Natasha... we break in and break them out." It lacked any kind of elegance, but while the negotiations were going on, they hopefully wouldn't be completely expected.
Tony nodded. "I can do that, easy..." He smiled crookedly. "...If its ok with Agent?"
"As long as we get them back, any plan that might work and won't give them more hostages is fine with me," Coulson answered. He wanted to be a part of the team going in, but he knew that would be a bad idea.
Clint, knowing what his father was thinking, put an arm around the older man and squeezed gently.
The car pulled up to a waiting jet and stopped.
"Ok. Agent will stay with me and help if I run into any problems." Tony didn't expect to have any problems, but knew the man needed to feel as if he was doing something to help his son. "Jarvis, if you could let Widow, Thor, and Brucie know they're needed ASAP..."
"I took the liberty of giving them the coordinates and your plan when you had me contact Ms. Potts, sir. They are already en-route and will likely reach the destination a few minutes before you." If an AI could sound smug, JARVIS did.
Coulson responded by putting his own arm around Clint, thankful for his son's support. "Be careful," he said softly to Clint. He knew he would be, but Coulson was struggling enough just with having Grant taken. He couldn't fathom something happening to both of his sons.
Tony smiled crookedly at Clint and Coulson, a small frisson of melancholy washing over him for a few seconds (he would never admit to jealousy). Swallowing it down, he led the men to the private jet and quickly walked up the steps and into the cabin, knowing they'd follow.
Soon, they were on their way. Tony kept the phone close in case Rumlow called again.
Clint noticed the look in Tony's eyes that indicated the man was about to get moody. He knew the man would hold out till they'd rescued Ward and Bucky...but if he followed true to form, he'd be disappearing into his workshop when he got back to the tower and if Pepper or Steve weren't able to get through to him, it could be weeks before he resurfaced. He frowned, glancing at Coulson and Steve. They had too much to worry about, not to mention Tony would not thank him if he said anything. Still....
Steve might have had a lot on his mind, but he also noticed the look that passed briefly across Tony's face. Stepping over to the younger man, he clasped his shoulder gently. "You're doing good here. I'm proud of you."
Coulson nodded his agreement. "If I didn't have you and the rest of the Avengers to turn to, I'd be making a hypocrite of myself to my sons when I tell them not to rush headlong into a situation without checking it properly first," he said honestly.
Tony blinked in surprise at the two older men, but couldn't help but smile almost bashfully as the melancholy eased some. "I'm just glad I can help..." he finally said softly before clearing his throat. "My jets tend to go faster than most, so we should be reaching our destination in about an hour."
Clint smiled at the other men. He should have known they'd notice, too...even if they were preoccupied.
# # #
Ward was becoming antsy. He kept looking for moments when he could make his move, but so far, the opportunity just wouldn't present itself.
Bucky watched the younger man closely. He was obviously a very well trained agent, but his youth was catching up to him. Bucky would have to be ready to step in if the youngster cracked and did something not recommended.
Rumlow surrounded himself with fellow HYDRA agents as he returned to the room Ward and Bucky were held in. He called back and then, when the phone was answered, put his on speakerphone before saying, "You've got five minutes. Talk."
Tony put his own phone on speaker so that Coulson could hear his son, but motioned for him to let Tony begin the conversation. "Ward, Barnes....What's your condition?" He kept his voice calm and steady.
Bucky glanced at Grant, nodding at him to answer first.
"I'm able to walk. They were a little enthusiastic in taking us captive, but nothing life threatening and that won't heal in a few days..." Ward answered just as steadily. He wondered why his father wasn't doing the negotiations, but then realized that it was better if he didn't have to go through that and was thankful for Tony doing it.
Barnes answered immediately after. "They disabled my arm, but it doesn't appear to be damaged. Otherwise, I'm in the same state as Ward."
Coulson listened intently, his eyes narrowing as Ward mentioned the injuries. He wanted to speak... to tell his son to hang in there... but no matter how difficult it was to keep silent, he let Tony take the lead. They only had a short amount of time and he didn't want to be responsible for losing any information.
Steve stayed quiet as well, but his reasons were slightly different. He didn't want HYDRA to know he was there. They had a better chance of getting Ward and Bucky out if his presence was an unknown.
Tony glanced at the two men listening so intently, asking one more question and hoping they'd be able to answer. "Have they given you anything to eat or drink?" Tony asked, as if it was something that should be done, but was actually hoping they hadn't been.... There was less chance of them being drugged that way.
Bucky quickly answered, "No," before Rumlow could take the phone back away.
Rumlow pulled the phone away and left the room, leaving the HYDRA soldiers guarding the two prisoners. "About those prisoners and the files." He waited, the tone of his voice indicating he wasn't prepared to accept any nonsense.
"I'll need a list of which prisoners you are requesting freed so I can find out exactly who has them," Tony said calmly. "As for the files, we can hand those over when you give us back our men. Forgive me for not trusting you, but I'm not an idiot."
# # #
While Tony kept Rumlow busy with the negotiations, Steve took Clint to meet up with the rest of the Avengers. They couldn't exactly be quiet with the Hulk on the team, but at least he'd be good when it came to smashing through the walls.
Steve had memorised the camera feed so that he could guide the others to where Bucky and Ward were being kept. He acted quickly to take out as many HYDRA agents as he could, his main thought about getting their men out.
Ward heard the sounds of fighting at the same moment Bucky did, both of them straightening up and moving away from the door of the cell. They weren't sure who would be the one to open their cage up, but if it was Hulk, they didn't want to be in the way of flying debris.
Steve found the room Ward and Bucky were locked inside and quickly used his shield to take out their guards, before kicking in the door. The sounds weren't going to go unnoticed and he needed to concern himself with getting them both out.
# # #
Tony glanced at Coulson. He was getting really irritated with Rumlow and if it weren't for the fact that he wasn't sure how far along in the rescue the other Avengers were, he would have started talking to the bastard like her really wanted to. As it was, he kept his "diplomatic" demeanor that he tended to use in tense and controversial board meetings. As soon as he heard that their two men were safe and in Avenger hands, he was going out there in his armor and destroy some things. Just see if he wasn't....
Rumlow hadn't missed the sound of the fighting, but instead of getting involved himself (not that he wasn't incapable, but he was unwilling to risk falling into SHIELD clutches and giving his information away), he left, even as he continued the negotiations with Stark that he knew weren't going anywhere.
Tony was in the process of another round of blather to keep Rumlow occupied when JARVIS broke in. "Excuse me, sir, but the individual you are talking to is making his escape out the eastern side of the building. My calculations suggest that he will be in his vehicle and leaving before you have time to get your armor on."
Tony's voice faltered for only a second before he raised an eyebrow. "Are you trying to back out of our negotiations, Rumlow?"
"I have no plans to stick around so that you can take me in," Rumlow replied, before tossing his phone and getting into his car, leaving the scene. If there was one thing he'd learned since coming out of hospital, it was when to cut his losses and run.
Tony shook his head. "Steve, you have our men?" Tony finally asked through the comms that they all took to wearing whenever they went anywhere at all. "And do you need two more helpers, or should we wait on the plane?" What he was really asking was if it was safe to take the director of SHIELD out into the fray; one stray bullet and they would be looking for a new director.
"We're just about done," Steve replied, guiding Ward and Bucky out as he protected them with his shield. He'd also grabbed two guns from fallen HYDRA agents, so that at least the men were armed.
Coulson's strain was showing on his face, even if he wasn't saying anything. His hands were clenched on the back of the chair so tightly, his knuckles had gone white.
"In that case," Tony said, patting Coulson on the back, "I'll have the pilot start the engine." He went up to the front to do just that.
Ward and Bucky each took a weapon and followed Steve closely. There weren't many HYDRA left; most had either already been taken out of the equation by the Avengers, or they had run when they realized their leader had left... but there were enough for both Ward and Bucky to take their frustration out on.
Soon, they were out of the building and running up the steps into the jet, assuming Clint and Steve weren't far behind. Ward came down the aisle quickly, stopping a few feet in front of his father. He swallowed hard, his desire to throw his arms around the older man warring with his guilt at having disobeyed him.
Coulson didn't hesitate. Instantly moving forward, he pulled Grant tightly into his arms, though made certain he didn't hurt the injuries his son had. Hugging Grant tightly, all he could feel right then was relief that his son was safe... and how much he loved Grant.
Grant released a breath he didn't know he was holding and wrapped his own arms around his father, holding on as tightly as he could. He knew he owed the other man an apology, but he couldn't say anything yet. He was too relieved that his father had him.
Coulson cuddled his son tightly, pressing a kiss to his forehead. "I love you... I'm so glad you're safe," he said softly in Grant's ear. He didn't care if the others saw them like this. He had no problem showing his affection.
Steve ushered Clint in front of him and followed the archer onto the jet, checking for any more signs of pursuit.
Tony watched the reunion for a few seconds before turning away to give them some privacy, wandering back to where the jet's bar was and pouring six drinks.
Bucky moved to the side, looking away from the family reunion as well, taking the drink that Tony handed him quietly.
Clint moved close to the hugging men and clasped both of them on the shoulder briefly, before going over to join Bucky and Tony, taking his drink readily.
Tony held up Steve's drink to the other man, once he was fully in the jet and had closed the door so they could take off. Then, taking one of the remaining drinks and handing it to Clint to give to his father, he picked up the last drink and walked over to hand it to Ward.
"To family..." he said quietly, lifting his own drink up.
Coulson let go of Grant with one hand so that he could take his drink, but he kept his other arm around his son, knowing he was going to have to deal with his son's disoebedience when they got back to the Bus. For now, he brushed shoulders affectionately with Clint before lifting his own drink, echoing the toast before drinking some.
Steve clasped Bucky gently on the shoulder before he also joined in the toast.
Downing the drink in one go, Tony put his glass in the jet's sink, then clapped his hands. "Ok, Gents, we'll probably want to sit down. We'll be taking off in just a few seconds."
# # #
During the whole trip back, Coulson stuck close to both his sons, thanking Tony when the other man told him that each team member had their own floor in the Tower. At least that meant he could have some privacy to deal with Grant.
As they left the jet and entered the Tower, Coulson squeezed the nape of Grant's neck gently and then grasped his shoulder. "Come with me."
Ward's stomach dropped at his father's words. His time of reckoning was coming immediately, then. He wasn't sure if he was relieved at the fact or scared. After all, he had deliberately disobeyed an order...again...and this time it had not only put his life in danger, but every life of those who had come to save him, as well as potentially compromising his father and his father's position. He swallowed hard and walked beside his father, not arguing. "Yes, sir..." His voice came out in a nervous rasp.
Coulson kept his hand on Grant's shoulder as he guided his son to the elevator, pressing the button for his floor. He stayed quiet as he guided Grant off the elevator and, after a brief hesitation, through to the office room, before he finally turned to his son. "Were there any extenuating circumstances behind this?"
Ward winced and looked at his feet, biting his lip before looking up into his father's eyes. "You mean like my learning that they planned to destroy an entire city and kill the people in it and wasn't able to get hold of anyone else to tell you so I went to stop it before it was too late type of extenuating circumstance? Or I came to ask Tony to look into the facility and discovered everyone was gone except for Bucky and he was interested in finding out more information too and we decided to go because we were bored extenuating circumstance?" He winced again. He hadn't meant to sound like a smart-arse.
"I'm going to assume it was the latter," Coulson replied, his voice mild, but still stern. "And that is not a good reason. I told you why I didn't want you going there. I thought you understood." His voice dropped slightly as he continued, "I can't explain to you how scared I was when I found out what had happened. I thought I might have to face losing you."
Ward didn't have anything to say to that. He knew he had done the wrong thing and he knew he had caused a huge amount of trouble to his father and the rest of the team and the Avengers. He still had a hard time, sometimes, believing his father cared so much that he would be that frightened, but he believed what the man told him and that, combined with his knowledge of how wrong he had acted, served to make him feel extremely guilty. He couldn't face Coulson, looking at the floor again.
Coulson wanted to pull Grant into his arms again and cuddle and protect him... but he needed to stay consistent with his son and Grant knew that this was something he should be punished for. Gently squeezing his son's shoulder, Coulson guided him over to the corner. "I want you to stand here and think for a few minutes." He shifted his hand to the nape of Grant's neck, squeezing gently.
Grant closed his eyes as he stood in the corner. Had his father not been touching him and showing affection every second he had a chance, he would have been afraid that the man was putting him in the corner because he was too furious to deal with him right away. As it was, he didn't think that...and so he was forced to consider his own actions and what he had done. It was only a matter of a minute before his shoulders were slumping with the knowledge and a deep guilt settled on him. He'd had even less reason to disobey and go to the facility than he had to disobey and explore that cave. At least in the cave, they were trapped and he was attempting to find a way out. Going to the facility had been an action of pure, deliberate disobedience for no other reason than he didn't want to obey. He (and the others) had been safe. Going into the facility was what had put everyone in danger. His shoulders slumped even further and his eyes began to water.
Coulson waited for a few brief seconds and then leaned in to kiss the back of Grant's head. "I love you more than I could ever put into words," he said softly. "I couldn't do anything but worry about you." It was why he wasn't angry. The fear and worry and now relief had kept any anger from coming through, even with Grant safely back.
Grant shivered at the kiss, relaxing slightly at the affection, then slumping even more. His father's words served to make him feel safe and secure in his position as Phil's son, but they were a double edged sword. They also made him feel even more guilty at what he had put his father through for no good reason. His watery eyes overflowed and tears started streaming down his face. "I love you too, daddy..." he whispered hoarsely. He wanted to say he was sorry, that he regretted his actions; but he didn't want it to seem like he was just saying it to get out of a deserved punishment, so he kept the words to himself.
Coulson could tell immediately that Grant was crying and he tugged his son back and into his arms, hugging him tightly again and kissing his head. "I'm very glad you're safe," he whispered in Grant's ear. "Even though you disobeyed me and I'm going to punish you, it doesn't change anything."
Grant couldn't help but turn in his father's arms and hold onto him as tightly as he could, hiding his face against his chest. "I know nothing is changed," he said softly. "I just...I wish...I regret...I'm sorry," he finally said. "I'm so sorry, I actually want you to punish me..." He flushed slightly, his eyes darting downward. It was embarrassing to admit such a thing, even if it was true.
Coulson held Grant just as tightly, kissing his head yet again. "I know you're sorry," he said soothingly. "We'll deal with it and it'll be finished. I won't love you any less. I won't be any less happy to have you safely back with me."
"...I'm more than happy to be safely back with you..." Grant said against his father's chest, still holding on tight. "I'm beginning to think I should never leave your side...every time I do, I end up in trouble." He couldn't help but smile slightly at the thought, as he carefully loosened his grip and stepped back from his father, then turned to face the corner again. He hadn't been told he could leave it yet, after all.
Coulson let his hand move to the nape of Grant's neck once more, squeezing gently as he let his son stand there for a few more minutes before gently guiding him out. "This isn't the first time you've disobeyed and endangered yourself doing so," he pointed out, his voice serious.
Ward couldn't look his father in the eye. "I know," he said, almost in a whisper.
Coulson sighed quietly before speaking. "I want to try and make sure this doesn't happen again, so this spanking is going to be a bit more severe." He glanced at the desk, looking for and finding a ruler.
Grant couldn't help but look up in surprise and a little bit of nervousness at the words. "Daddy..." His voice shook slightly, but he bit his protest off before it could escape his mouth. He deserved this. He knew he deserved it...and he trusted his father, so there was nothing to be said, really. He swallowed hard, unable to look at the ruler in his father's hand and unable to look into his father's eyes. He ended up staring at his feet again.
Coulson kissed his head gently. "I don't want to ever risk losing you, son. I never want to go through this again, not knowing if I'd even get you back or what kind of shape you'd be in." He didn't say it, but he wanted to make this just memorable enough that Grant would remember it the next time. Still, it was hard to force himself to step over to the chair and sit down to place his son over his lap, when all Coulson wanted to do was hug him and protect him.
Ward swallowed again. His father's affection calmed him and made him feel safe. At the same time, every time he heard how much he'd scared the older man, it made him feel that much guiltier. And looking at the ruler just made him nervous, because the only implement Coulson had ever used when disciplining him had been the belt...then again, that hadn't been about discipline; that had been about saving him and getting him out of the control of HYDRA. Which made Grant think even harder; how many times did he have to be rescued from HYDRA before he quit putting himself in positions where they could grab him and hurt him or use him to hurt Coulson? He wasn't stupid...he just didn't seem to have any sense of self-preservation. Which made him feel guilty again, because his father obviously cared what happened to him and would be hurt if he were killed. If he couldn't be careful for his own sake, the least he could do was be careful for his father.
Shaking slightly, shoulders slumping, he didn't wait for Coulson to direct him to come to him. He walked over to his father's side, standing by his knee, then undid his jeans. He looked at the ruler again and, despite his best intentions, he couldn't make himself do anymore. He shifted from one foot to the other, trying to calm his nerves, and waited for his father to either put him over his lap himself or direct him to place himself over his lap.
Coulson reached up to take Grant's hand, looking into his son's eyes. "I love you, Grant, very much," he said softly, before bracing his other hand against Grant's back to encourage his son to bend at the waist over his knees. Once he had Grant settled, he pushed his jeans and underwear down, rubbing his back gently before he started to swat his son's bottom in hard, crisp smacks.
Ward had quickly braced himself by putting one hand on the floor and wrapping the other gently around his father's leg. When his father bared him, he couldn't stop the shiver that coursed through his body. Phil gently rubbing his back helped some in calming and focusing him, but it was still a shock when the first swat fell. He couldn't help the hiss that escaped his lips.
Coulson left the ruler to one side as he continued the swats down to Grant's thighs before starting over from the top again. For now, he didn't say anything, deciding to let his son concentrate more on the punishment itself.
At first, Ward was glad his father didn't say anything. He couldn't imagine that whatever the man might say wouldn't make him feel more guilty. That gladness soon changed with each progressive smack. His father was always firm in his punishments and this one was not an exception. By the time his father had started the second circuit, Grant was hissing softly under his breath with each smack and all he could think about was how much it stung and how much more it was going to hurt before his father was done.
Finishing the second circuit of swats, Coulson paused to shift Grant forward slightly so he could address more swats to his sit spots. He then paused to pick up the ruler, rubbing Grant's back gently a moment or two. "The next time you think about disobeying me to do something dangerous, I want you to remember this... as well as how devastated I would be if I lost you." His voice was quiet, but no less intense, as he waited long enough for those words to sink in before bringing the ruler down.
Although Coulson felt he needed to make this punishment more memorable, he couldn't bring himself to be too hard on his son, so he held back enough that the ruler didn't sting a lot more than his hand, aiming more for the effect of using the implement.
Ward whimpered at his father's words. When the ruler snapped against his already heated bottom, he couldn't keep from gasping.
A small part of his mind recognized that Phil was actually not using anymore force than he had with his hand- it was possibly less, since the sting felt the same- but his father's words, added to his already considerable guilt, plus the fact that the ruler was impersonal and cold and still hurt, caused Grant to begin squirming almost immediately, tiny whimpers and whines escaping his throat. He clenched his father's leg tightly and squeezed his eyes tightly shut in an effort to hold the tears back, but it didn't work. Soon, his tears were blinding him.
Coulson brought the ruler down a total of six times and then couldn't force himself to continue. He dropped the ruler and quickly brought Grant up and into his arms, hugging his son tightly and stroking his hair and back.
Ward was quite honestly surprised when Coulson ended the spanking so abruptly. Normally, he would have continued until Ward had either gone limp and submitted, or at least was crying vocally. Quickly realizing that his father had stopped because he was hurting from having to punish his son brought Grant to repentance faster than continuing the spanking ever could have. He couldn't help but go limp in his father's arms, gripping onto him tightly and sobbing out how sorry he was, over and over.
Coulson cuddled Grant close, taking advantage of having his son safe in his arms. He pressed a kiss to Grant's forehead. "I love you, Grant. I can't lose you," he said softly. "I love you so much..." His embrace tightened as he rocked Grant gently, as if his son was much younger than he truly was.
"I love you, Daddy...I'm sorry...I love you...so sorry..." Ward continued to cry, choking out the words and snuggling as close as he could. He was so ashamed of what he had done, he didn't know how he could ever make up for it. The only thing he could do was tell his father how he felt and hope that he was believed.
Coulson just hugged Grant tightly, kissing his head again and again. "I love you so much. I forgive you. I'm just so relieved you're safe here with me." He continued rocking his son, reiterating how much he loved Grant over and over again.
Grant's sobs slowly ebbed till he was just crying silently, but tears were still streaming down his face. His father's forgiveness helped him calm down the most...after that, he was able to accept and soak in the affection. He still kept repeating his 'sorrys' and 'love yous' though, not sure his father could ever believe it when he had behaved in such a manner.
Eventually, the continuous rocking motion lulled him into a numbed half-awake state. "Love you, daddy..." His voice was hoarse and thick from his crying, to the point it could barely be heard. Normally by this point, he would have stood up, fixed his clothing and everything would be ok. He still felt guilty though and... needy. And he couldn't bring himself to pull away from his father. He just kept clinging tightly as if he was afraid of losing Phil to some phantom his mind had conjured.
Coulson didn't loosen his hold on Grant, continuing to gently stroke his hair and back and kiss his head, as well as rocking him slowly. "I love you, son. And you're back safe with me. And I'm going to be keeping you close for a while," he added, having already made that decision... but Grant's actions made him think that it was the right one.
Grant nodded his head weakly, nuzzling against his father's chest and shivering. He hadn't been scared when HYDRA had him; Bucky had been with him and he'd truthfully felt more irritated than anything... but hearing what his actions had done to his father had brought it home how reckless his actions had been and how much danger he truly had been in. Still...he wasn't afraid for himself; he was afraid for what it could have done to his father.
He made a promise to himself to try harder not to ignore his father's concerns and wishes. He'd not ever been denied something that Coulson didn't have a very good reason for denying and he needed to remember that. "What do I need to do?" he finally croaked out. "...to make up for what I did wrong?" he finished the thought softly.
Coulson threaded his fingers gently through Grant's hair. "If I tell you not to do something, you need to listen to me. I have reasons for saying no to something. I don't think I need to tell you you're grounded for the foreseeable future, I'm sure," he added. "And for the duration of that, you'll be staying with me. Including at night."
Grant nodded again. "Yes, sir...." Being grounded was more than fair and he couldn't argue against it, even if he'd wanted to; which he didn't. Knowing that he would be under his father's watchful eye until the older man felt him capable of doing the right thing- because since there wasn't a time limit, he was pretty certain that was going to be the criteria for getting ungrounded- knowing he was grounded somehow eased the guilt he was still feeling to a tiny, nagging presence.
Sitting up slightly, he blinked his eyes and then reached up and rubbed them with the back of his hand; they were gritty and sticky from his tears. He looked all of ten years old...emotionally, he felt all of ten years old. He supposed it was time to act like the adult he was supposed to be, though. Wincing slightly, he made himself stand up and pull his clothing back into place, but he couldn't help the whimper that escaped when the material rubbed against his sore bottom.
Coulson stood up as well and wrapped his arm gently around Grant's shoulders. "I think it might be a good idea to head to the bedroom now," he said softly, kissing his son's head. "Fitz still has Copper... you can get him in the morning. It's been a long day for both of us."
"Ok, daddy..." Grant wrinkled his nose. "But all my stuff is still on the Bus...and if I had anything in the tower, it's probably on the floor Tony gave me..." He started walking toward the bedroom anyway.
Coulson kept his arm around Grant's shoulder as he led his son into the bedroom, noticing that someone (he guessed one of the younger members of the team) had left some of Grant's clothes, including his pajamas, on the bed.
Grant let out an amused snort. "Guess they knew what was going to happen without being told...." he muttered, only slightly embarrassed, because it was nice to have his 'family' thinking of him enough to take care of little details like this. He quickly started to change, not caring that he wasn't alone in the room...any shyness he might have once felt pretty much disappeared with all the times his father had to take care of him, either because of his health or because of punishing him.
"You might feel better to wash your face," Coulson suggested, as he changed into his own sleep clothes. "Otherwise you might wake up with your face feeling quite stiff."
"Yes, sir." Grant smiled and walked to the bathroom to do just that. Since he was already there, he brushed his teeth as well. He walked back out into the room and glanced at the bed. It hit him suddenly how tired he really was.
Coulson stepped through to brush his own teeth and then came back, settling on the bed and simply holding an arm out to his son.
That was all the invitation Grant needed. He quickly crawled into the bed, then shifted until he had crawled under Coulson's arm and was pressed against his father, his head on the older man's chest. "Night, daddy...." he said in a whisper, his eyes closing. Within seconds, he was asleep.
Coulson wrapped his arms tightly around Grant, kissing his son's forehead as he allowed his own eyes to close, slipping into sleep fairly quickly.
# # #
Bucky watched the younger man walk away with his father and slanted his head, before looking at Steve. "He in trouble, then?" he asked softly.
Steve nodded. "Coulson and I have very similar ideas about how to deal with disobedience and someone we care about endangering themselves."
Bucky nodded. "Yeah. I get that. Remember having to use that a few times myself before you became all super-soldier...." Bucky gave Steve a smirk, before sighing. "Seems unfair that he gets into trouble when I was there right along with him, though."
"I'm inclined to agree with you," Steve said. "You handed yourself right back to HYDRA. I already lost you once."
Bucky nodded. "I don't know what to say. It was a foolish decision and I knew better." He sighed, then shifted his feet. "Should I wait for you on your floor?" he finally asked quietly.
"I think that would be a good idea," Steve agreed, before adding, "But Bucky? I'm glad you're back safe."
Bucky nodded. "I know..." He smiled at Steve, allowing the man to see through the mask he usually wore- the fact that he was sorry and he felt guilty for what he'd just put his friend through; the fact that he was grateful for Steve coming for him; and the fact that he cared about the other man just as much as he was cared about. Nodding once, he headed up to Steve's floor.
Steve sighed quietly and then walked over to Tony, unwilling to leave him without a word. "Why don't you try and get some rest?" he suggested, clasping the younger man's shoulder. "It's been a long day."
Tony blinked, looking up at Steve in surprise. He'd pretty much expected that he would follow Bucky. Clint had already headed up to the common area to let the rest of Phil's team know they were all back and safe. Natasha, Bruce and Thor had arrived before they did and were already up there. The fact that Steve had waited long enough to show concern for him was...well, it was kind of nice, actually. He gave a crooked smile to the other man. "Is that an order, Cap? Or just a really strong suggestion? Cuz I kinda figured I'd go up and have a couple of drinks first...." He was teasing...sort of...he did plan to have one drink, but he hadn't planned to tell Steve. Steve tended to worry about his drinking habits.
Steve frowned. "You had a drink earlier on the jet," he pointed out. "I think you can skip having a drink now. If I have to make it an order, I will," he added seriously.
Tony's smile grew, his eyes lighting up at Steve's words. He'd never admit it, but he actually liked when someone cared enough to call him on irresponsible behavior- it was one of the reasons he loved Pepper so much- so Steve caring enough to tell him to skip drinking and telling him that he'd make it an order if he insisted...Tony didn't see any reason to argue. "Ok, Cap," he agreed easily. "I won't drink. I do want to say goodnight to everyone else before I head to bed, though. I'll see you in the morning...." He smiled again, stuffing his hands in his pockets almost self-consciously before heading for the elevator to go to the common floor where everyone else was meeting.
Steve smiled, squeezing Tony's shoulder gently. "Thank you. I'll see you in the morning." He then headed to his own floor, seeking out Bucky.
Bucky was stood in Steve's living room, hand stuffed in his pocket. His prosthetic arm was still not functioning. He'd likely need to have Tony look at it and fix it, since whatever Rumlow's men had done had gone beyond just turning it 'off'. He was frustrated at himself. A seasoned professional like himself should not have just walked into a situation the way he and Ward had done. He'd deserve every harsh word if Steve decided to lay into him about his idiocy.
Steve stepped into his living room, taking a deep breath as he focused on his friend. "I would have come back if you contacted me," he said quietly.
Bucky smiled crookedly at Steve. "I haven't had anyone to contact and 'come back' in so long, it just never occurred to me..." he admitted, a slight sheepish tone in his voice.
Steve nodded slowly. "You still shouldn't have gone to a HYDRA base with only one person as backup. They clearly knew who you were and you might have ended up being brainwashed by them again..."
"Yes..." Bucky quickly agreed, knowing Steve was right. "Not that I don't already know, because your clues were fairly obvious...but can you confirm what are you going to do? I know I deserve something for my actions; it isn't right that I get away with it when Coulson's kid gets his butt handed to him..." he finally asked firmly, if very quietly.
It was odd. Even though he thought he knew what Steve planned to do, he wasn't scared or irritated or any negative emotion one would normally associate with being punished. If anything, he was relieved...he was being treated like any one of the other member's of Steve's 'family' and 'extended family' would have been. It was...comforting.
"I'm going to spank you." It had been a while since Steve had actually said those words out loud. By now, when one of his family members did something they knew would get punishment (though most of the time, it was Tony), they knew what was coming.
Bucky nodded. It was what he had expected, then. Part of him thought he should feel offended...physical age aside, he was almost a century old. On top of that, he hadn't been kidding when he'd teased Steve about having dealt with him in that manner before the super soldier serum...Steve hadn't ever been one to back down from a fight and there were a few occasions when Bucky had needed to scramble to save his friend's life because he'd not been careful enough. Those occasions almost always finished with Steve up-ended over Bucky's knee.
He knew if it had been Steve who had done what he had and Steve who had got captured by HYDRA, he would be spanking the other man. He couldn't be surprised that Steve would do the same for him. So he didn't argue.
"Ok," he said softly and nodded again. "Where do you want me?"
Steve stepped over and sat down on the couch, looking seriously at his friend. "I'd like you to come over here." Despite the phrasing, it was more of an order than a request.
Bucky's eyes widened at the tone in his brother's (and that's what Steve was, blood aside) voice. Licking his lips, suddenly nervous, he walked over to the other man and stood by his knee.
Steve paused, not sure what would be less embarrassing for Bucky, and indicated his pants. "Do you want to take those down? Or would you rather I do that?" he asked gently.
Bucky blushed faintly, but decided if he was submitting to this because he didn't want to be treated differently than anyone else, then he should be treated the same in every way. "What do you normally do?" he finally asked.
"It varies," Steve answered. "It depends on who I'm doing it too... and if I'm fighting them over it or not," he added wryly, remembering Tony's numerous attempts to run.
Bucky raised an eyebrow at that comment. "Let me guess. Tony runs a lot, doesn't he?" He sounded amused and he didn't really expect an answer. The unspoken rule about family discipline always was that it remained between the one doing the disciplining and the one being disciplined. He slanted his head. "I'm not fighting you over it and I'm not planning to...I just..." He sighed softly. "I just don't want to be treated differently than anyone else...." He didn't say anymore, embarrassed to admit that he wanted to be part of the group that Steve 'took care of'.
Steve nodded. "I know. I'm treating you like anyone else... except that I'm asking, rather than waiting to see which way you'd prefer to go. Whichever way it happens doesn't change the fact that you're still part of my family and still my brother."
Bucky nodded. Thinking about it for a few seconds, he decided that it would be a bit ridiculous for him to expect Steve to bare him...he was submitting to this, not fighting it, knew he deserved it and he didn't want to make things any harder for his brother than necessary. Steve was probably already feeling badly that he even needed to take Bucky over his knee...even though he would do it. Giving Steve a cocky if a bit nervous grin, he undid his jeans and then pushed them and his underwear down to his knees before lying across Steve's lap. He shifted slightly, suddenly uncomfortable as the full import of where he was and what was about to happen sunk in. "Can't believe I pretty much asked for this..." he muttered softly.
Steve gently rubbed Bucky's back as he spoke. "I think putting yourself in danger pretty much asked for this," he commented, though whether he would have gone through with it if Bucky hadn't recognised the need, he couldn't say.
Rubbing his brother's back a few more times, Steve then lifted his hand and brought it down in a firm, hard swat, before repeating it.
Even expecting the swat, Bucky couldn't keep from grunting at the sudden sting that flared in his hind-quarters. "Got quite a swing there, Steve..." he hissed out in amusement, trying to keep himself under control, breathing deeply and hoping that he didn't end up behaving like a child before it was all said and done.
"I've had a lot of practise," Steve replied, a trace of amusement in his own voice, as he settled quickly into a rhythm, bringing his hand down in the firm, hard swats down to Bucky's thighs before starting over from the top.
Bucky tried to hold still...he really did. But every so often, one of the smacks landed on a particularly sensitive area and he couldn't keep from wincing or wriggling in response. His deep breathing had only worked so long; it was more ragged now as he found himself holding his breath before each swat and then letting his breath out in a hiss after each swat. When his eyes began to water, he knew he'd lost the fight. "Dammit," he muttered under his breath and slumped slightly as he refocused his efforts on not beginning to cry vocally, since it was already too late not to cry at all.
Steve completed three circuits total and then paused to shift Bucky forward, beginning to swat his brother's sit spots. "I lost you once already, Bucky. I don't want to risk that happening again and definitely not because you don't think through something.
Bucky took a shuddering breath, then choked out... "I know, Steve....I'm sorry...." And going limp over his brother's lap, he realized he truly was sorry. He hadn't meant to worry or hurt Steve because of his carelessness. With that realization, his tears finally became vocal...not sobbing exactly, but heartfelt and penitent.
Steve stopped and, after another gentle rub of Bucky's back, helped his brother up and into a tight embrace. Just like he would do to any of his other family members after a punishment.
Bucky quickly gulped back his tears and wrapped his arms around Steve, hugging him tightly. He shivered every so often, but it didn't take long for him to regain control over his emotions. He noted that he did feel as if a weight he didn't know he'd been carrying had been lifted from his shoulders. Stepping back long enough to fix his clothing, he wrapped Steve into another hug. "I love you, brother..." he said in a rough whisper.
Steve immediately wrapped his arms around Bucky once more. "I love you too, brother," he said softly. "And I'm so glad you're here and safe."
Bucky finally stepped back for good and smiled at his oldest friend. "I'm kind of tired..." He motioned vaguely toward the couch. "Mind if I stay on your floor tonight?"
"Not at all... though you can always share the bed," Steve offered. He knew they'd had times that was necessary in the past and he also knew he himself had found it a comfort.
Bucky's smile widened as he remembered all those times as well. "If you don't mind..." he answered cautiously.
"You're my best friend and my brother, Bucky. Of course I don't mind," Steve replied honestly, voice and face sincere.
Bucky leaned over and gave Steve one more hug. "Thank you." He said simply, then waited for Steve to lead the way.
Steve smiled at his brother, then started out of the living room and to his bedroom.
# # #
Clint had asked Jarvis to let him know when it was safe for him to go to his father's floor to talk with him and see with his own eyes that his brother was ok. As soon as the AI had given him that notice, he'd jumped onto the elevator and headed to see his father. He kept quiet as he walked down the hall, sneaking up on his father's room.
Coulson had woken up, but he lay in the bed still with his arms around Grant, holding his sleeping son close, letting himself feel that Grant was back safe with him. Holding his son while they both slept had gone some way towards calming the memories that still threatened to overwhelm him at times when he had to face the possibility of something happening to either of his sons.
Clint carefully opened the bedroom door and snuck in, teasingly giving his father an 'aw shucks' grin. Then, becoming serious again, he signed to his father, not wanting to wake his brother up by speaking. Does he know the hell you had to relive because of his actions? Does he know why you were so scared? Because if not, you should tell him....
Coulson carefully freed an arm from Grant so that he could sign back to his eldest. He doesn't know. It doesn't seem the right time to tell him. He then held the arm out to Clint, inviting his eldest in to cuddle as well.
Clint frowned at the answer, but nodded. If Phil felt the time was wrong, then he would know best. At Phil's invitation, Clint's eyebrow went up. He was wearing his pajamas, though, so he quickly crawled into the bed on the other side of his father and cuddled close.
One never got too old for affection from one's father, after all.
Coulson drew Clint in close, pressing a kiss to the top of his head before whispering, "I love you," making sure his voice was quiet enough that he wouldn't wake Grant.
Clint grinned and hugged closer. "I love you too, dad...and I love my little brother.... Our family just keeps getting bigger and better...." Clint whispered, ending with a yawn. "Good night, dad...."
Coulson smiled, cuddling both his sons close. "Good night, son," he replied.