Author’s Note: This was written as a RPG (roll playing game) between co-authors Hope1iz and BlackFox12. Set after the season one finale. Nineteenth 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: Clint does his own thing.
Warning(s): Spoilers up to the season one finale and for the Avengers movie; spanking
Co-Author’s Website: BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page
THE NOT SO GOOD IDEA
Simmons was still working on trying to figure out exactly what Grant had been given, but so far hadn't had any luck isolating the compounds she'd found in his blood. Some of them had never been seen before and she was worried that he'd been infected with something alien. She'd said as much to Bruce Banner. "Should we tell the Director? I mean...I have no proof it is alien. I have no proof of anything...and I don't want to tell him something only to have it be false. At the same time...." She bit her lip.
Bruce looked at her, then sighed. "I'll speak with Phil. I'll explain exactly what we've found or haven't found. He should know...at the same time, it isn't much to go on."
Unknown to either of the two scientists working on the dilemma, Clint had been hanging out in the air vents again and overheard just enough of what they were talking about to know that they didn't have enough information and that it might be alien in nature. Without letting either of them know he'd overheard, or informing anyone of what he was doing, he went to the tower armory and geared up. He ran into Grant on his way out.
"Where are you going?" Grant asked in confusion; he hadn't been told of any mission and, in fact, could have sworn his father said that everyone would be home for the week because he wanted everyone to rest up before the next big operation he was planning for the following week.
"I'm going to get more information from HYDRA. Simmons has hit a brick wall and they really need to find out what was done to you." Clint's tone was matter of fact and didn't leave much room for argument.
Grant tried anyway. "Clint...I don't know if that's a good idea. If you wait, maybe dad can actually get a team together...."
Clint scoffed good naturedly. "By the time he did that, I'll have already got in and out with whatever there is to find. I'll be careful, kid. I'll be back before anyone even knows I'm gone. Don't worry." And with that, he was gone.
Ward frowned. "Don't worry...yeah...right." He sighed and continued on to the rec room, where he was meeting Tony and Steve for a bit of sparring.
# # #
Coulson put the paperwork away with a sigh. He'd been trying to concentrate, but every attempt just ended in failure as his worry for his son took precedence over everything else. At least the effects of the truth serum had faded enough that Grant was no longer blurting out the first thing that came into his head... which was a weight off everyone's mind.
It was as Coulson left his office with the intention of finding Clint, though, that he began worrying. After checking his oldest's usual 'haunts', Coulson asked JARVIS if he could scan for the archer's presence... only to be told that Clint had left Stark Tower.
It was possible that Clint was just out... for a walk; or on a date. Coulson certainly didn't expect Clint to check in with him every second of every day. But so soon after Grant had been captured and infected with the truth serum, Coulson still couldn't help worrying.
After a few minutes, Coulson found himself headed towards the rec room. He entered to see Grant sparring with Tony and Steve and paused, leaning against the wall to watch.
Tony wheezed as he landed on his back again, for the sixth time in the last thirty minutes. He lay there, trying to catch his breath, a disgruntled look on his face. Finally, he'd caught his breath enough to speak. "Ok. Remind me again why I need to do this? I've got my armor, I've been working on shielding the system so that EMP's and other stuff like that can't turn it off, and I'm hopelessly outclassed by nearly everyone in this tower when it comes to hand to hand. Just hand me a freakin' gun and I'll shoot anyone who manages to get me out of the armor...." he grumbled in embarrassment.
Ward glanced at him sympathetically. "What happens if they get your gun?" was his quiet retort as he held out a hand to help the older man back up again. "I really wouldn't want anything to happen to my favorite cousin...." His smile was impish; and apparently contagious, as Tony couldn't help but smile back, even as his back cracked in protest at the action.
Tony sighed then turned toward Steve, noting Coulson standing against the wall. He directed his question to both of them. "Any ideas for retraining a mostly physically-fit but totally untrained in anything-but-boxing middle-aged body, that doesn't involve me using Icy-hot and ice-packs the rest of the day?" he asked hopefully. "That whole practicing every-day thing is starting to make sense now..." he muttered under his breath "...Guess I should really start doing it."
"Training every day, even a little, is going to be best for your body," Coulson said. "If you push yourself that much further each time, it'll soon become second nature."
"You won't be able to rely on your armour all the time," Steve said. "Particularly if you end up needing to protect someone else with it."
Tony nodded. "Yeah. I seem to be doing that a lot more than I had expected when I originally made the armor..." He grinned crookedly. "JARVIS, make a note that I have a standing appointment at..." He suddenly looked confused. "What time do you all usually practice your sparring?" he said to the room at large.
Grant had a curious look on his face when Steve mentioned needing to protect someone else with the armor- wasn't that what Tony already did?- but he didn't say anything. "I usually come here around five a.m.," he answered the older man.
Tony's eyes widened and he whimpered slightly before groaning. "...A standing appointment at five a.m. to practice sparring." He supposed he could come in on his own, or set up times with whoever was available; but he knew himself and if he didn't do it now, he'd find valid excuses to put it off later.
Grant grinned. "You and Skye really are a lot alike...." he commented.
"Mini-me? Smart girl. Knows the value of sleeping in." Tony nodded seriously, a twinkle in his eyes. He turned toward Coulson and grinned. "Not that I'm not happy to see you, Director Agent... but you aren't dressed to spar. You need one of us for something?"
"I noticed Clint isn't in the tower," Coulson replied. "I just wondered if any of you had seen him or knew where he was." He didn't let himself show how worried he felt... there wasn't any reason to fear that HYDRA had his oldest, after all.
"I haven't seen him," Steve replied. "He might have gone for a walk or something."
Tony shook his head. "I haven't seen him either."
Grant was bent over, tying his shoe, when his father had asked his question, so he was able to hide his initial reaction. Apparently, Clint hadn't informed their father where he was going or what he was doing. Which left Grant with a dilemma- tell on his brother, or keep the information he knew to himself. It didn't really sit well with him, not telling his father. At the same time, Coulson didn't appear worried; and Grant knew the minute he heard what his oldest was doing, that would change. And Clint had said he wouldn't be gone long....
But if he said he'd seen Clint and that he'd said he wouldn't be gone long, his father would want to know where he was. And while Grant really didn't know where he was, he knew what he was doing and his father would be able to figure out where he was from what he was doing and....
...and he'd been spending entirely too much time bent over his shoe. Everyone was looking at him oddly.
"Uh...I'm sorry. I missed your question?" He blushed and tried to play it off as him zoning out.
Coulson frowned, eyeing Grant and trying not to show just how suspicious he felt. Was it possible that Grant knew something about Clint’s whereabouts?
It wasn’t in Coulson’s nature to accuse someone of lying… and certainly not one of his sons. Deciding to give Grant the benefit of the doubt, he quietly reiterated what he’d asked. “I noticed that Clint had left the Tower. I was wondering if any of you had seen him or knew where he was going.”
Grant decided to try and keep as close to the truth as possible and shook his head. "I saw him earlier today. He was going out, but he didn't tell me where he was going.... Just that he'd be back and shouldn't be gone too long."
Tony eyed the two men silently. He could tell Coulson was suspicious; he could tell a suspicious father or father-figure from a mile away, having had that look on himself enough times to become familiar with it. He could also tell that Grant was hiding something...having been the one to try and hide things more than once. Clearing his throat, he ran a hand through his hair. "Well, I hope you find him, sir...I'm going to go take a shower and then head to a board meeting that I can't avoid any longer." He winced at the thought of being stuck in a stuffy board room all afternoon, but if he tried to skip out, Pepper would have his neck.
By now, Coulson knew Grant well enough to be aware that his son was hiding something. The ability to see through Grant wasn’t something that Coulson would give up… He’d told his son, on more than one occasion, that lying wasn’t something he could tolerate from him. From any of the family members, really… but given Grant’s past, it was that much more serious.
“I want you to come and see me when you’ve had a shower and changed, Grant,” Coulson directed. “I’ll be on my floor.”
“I’d better go join Bucky… we were going to go running,” Steve commented. He looked at Tony and clasped the younger man on the shoulder. “You’re doing well. I’m proud of the progress you’ve made.”
Tony smiled at Steve. "Believe it or not, as tired as I am, I'd rather go running than be in this board meeting..." He laughed. "Oh...if you could ask Bucky if he's still on for Poker tomorrow night?" Tony gave a brief wave then headed for the showers.
Grant blinked at his father uncertainly, unable to tell by his tone or his words if he just wanted to see him...or if he suspected something and didn't want to confront him in front of everyone else. "Yes, sir..." He gave a tentative smile, the first twinges of guilt already sinking in. He was already regretting not telling on his brother; keeping secrets like this from dad never ended in anyone's favor. "See you all later." He waved at Tony as he left and then at Steve, before grabbing his own gear and heading to his floor to take a shower.
Steve nodded. “I’m sure it’ll still be fine… but I’ll check.” He left after Tony.
Coulson watched the others leave and then, with a quiet sigh, headed to his own floor, picking up his paperwork once more.
# # #
Grant took his time in the shower, wanting to put off seeing his father as long as possible in the hopes that Clint would come back and tell his father what he'd been doing on his own, making it unnecessary for Grant to have to choose on telling his father everything or hiding things (which he knew his father viewed as lying). On top of that, he was sure his father was going to ask him a point blank question and if he had to lie directly to his father, he wasn't sure he'd be able to do it. But Clint was only out there searching for information because he wanted to help him and the idea of snitching on his brother.... It was enough to give him a headache. He already felt guilty and he wasn't even sure his father suspected anything.
Finally, he couldn't put it off any longer. He'd showered, got dressed in his most comfortable sweats, combed his hair. He was out of things to slow him down and he knew if he waited much longer, his father would come looking for him, so taking a deep breath, he headed for the elevator and to his father's floor.
The elevator ride was quiet and gave him too much time to think. When the bell dinged to let him know it had stopped and the door was open, he took a deep breath, then stepped off and went in search of his dad.
Coulson had gone into the living room area, with a drink and some paperwork. He had left the door open, as he often did when he was on his floor… he wanted anyone to be comfortable enough to just walk in if they needed him.
Slowly, Grant walked into the living room, observing his father and looking for any sign that his father suspected anything. "You wanted to see me, daddy?" he finally asked softly.
Coulson nodded, holding his arm out to Grant after putting his paperwork away. “Come and sit down.” He hadn’t missed Grant’s use of ‘daddy’ and he knew that his son tended to use the more juvenile form of address at times he was feeling vulnerable. If Coulson had needed further proof he wasn’t getting the full story… this was it.
Giving his father a tiny smile (he only hoped it didn't look as nervous as he felt), he walked over and sat next to his father on the couch, leaning into the older man before clasping his hands together on his lap and looking at them, afraid to look his father in the eye because he was positive he'd give himself away if he did.
Coulson wrapped his arm around Grant’s shoulders and gently tugged Grant in close, kissing the top of his head. “You know… I have a fairly good idea of when you’re hiding something from me,” he said softly into Grant’s hair. “And I know we both know that lying by omission is still lying.” Despite the serious note in his voice, his tone was still loving.
Grant couldn't help but stiffen at his father's words and close his eyes tight. His father did suspect. But...maybe...should he just tell him what Clint was doing? Clint hadn't said he couldn't tell him.... But then, if Clint had wanted their father to know, he would have told him. Was it really Grant's place to say anything? Clint assured him he wasn't going to do anything dangerous, hadn't he? He frowned slightly. He couldn't really remember now. If Clint was doing something dangerous, then their father needed to know...still.
"I...I don't know what you're talking about, daddy..." he finally whispered out hesitantly. "I told you the truth...." Of course, he'd told the truth. Nothing he'd said was a lie. But his father was right. He had omitted telling him what his brother was doing. Just because his father hadn't directly asked that question didn't mean he could pretend it didn't matter if he kept it to himself. He knew this. And now he'd just lied to his father's face by trying to pretend innocence. What in the world was wrong with him? He closed his eyes again and tried not to tense up even further, but it was difficult. He knew better and he had lied for no good reason. He didn't even want to. And now, when his father finally did ask him directly, he'd either have to admit to that lie, or lie again.
He felt sick inside.
“Son… you don’t want to dig yourself deeper in this.” And Coulson’s voice was still serious, but also still filled with affection. “I know you, Grant. And I know when you’re lying to me and trying to hide things. If it’s about Clint… it isn’t your job to protect your brother if he’s doing something he shouldn’t. But we both know how important it is that you be honest and that I can trust you to tell me the truth.” He still kept his arm tight around Grant’s shoulders, running his fingers through his son’s hair as he kissed his son’s head again.
Grant bit his lip hard, listening to his father's words. He wanted his father's trust...needed it. And Clint hadn't even asked him not to say anything.... But he'd already started lying and the thought of having to admit that hurt. The fact that his father knew he had already lied hurt. Continuing to try and cover it up wouldn't do anything but make it harder for his dad to trust him and... He put one hand over his stomach and closed his eyes tightly, hunching in on himself.
"Clint...he told me he was going to get information on what was given to me by HYDRA. But I really don't know where he went; he didn't tell me where he was going to get the information...." He slumped, completely ashamed of himself. Oddly enough, the queasiness in his stomach started to go away.
"I'm sorry I lied, daddy..." he admitted weakly.
Coulson tugged gently to pull Grant into his lap, wrapping his arms tightly around his son and kissing his head again. "I know you are, but it's a habit we need to break," he said, seriously but no less lovingly. "Any kind of lying is unacceptable."
"I know..." Grant wished he could have sounded less scared and like a child, but currently, he wasn't feeling very brave; and he felt very childish. It wasn't like he hadn't known he was doing something wrong, or that his father would eventually find out. He leaned against his father, wrapping his own arms around Phil and holding just as tightly. "I knew better and I did it anyway..." he said in a tiny voice.
Coulson nodded, threading his fingers through Grant's hair. "I still love you as much as always," he said softly. "This doesn't change that. But I have to trust you to tell me the truth. That's why I'll punish you... spank you... every time you don't."
Grant swallowed, not surprised and a little relieved. He felt so guilty, he knew the only way he'd be able to face his father any time soon was if he was punished for his lie. "Yes, sir..." he finally said, reluctantly pulling out of the embrace so his father could position him.
Coulson pressed another affectionate kiss to his son's head before gently guiding Grant across his lap. He secured Grant with an arm wrapped around his waist, before tugging down his pants and underwear. Lifting his hand, he brought it down hard on Grant's bare butt before repeating the swat.
Grant gasped when the first swat landed, but he managed to keep from whimpering, barely. He knew this was going to be a hard spanking; he'd been in this position too many times before for his father to go easy on him. Reaching down, he grasped hold of his father's leg and held on and tried to keep still. He was under no illusions...he knew himself well enough to know he'd be sobbing before too long, but he wanted to at least try and take his punishment like an adult.
Coulson gently rubbed Grant's back a moment and then settled into a rhythm, landing hard, sharp swats down to his son's thighs before starting over from the crest of Grant's backside.
Grant tried, he really did...but between the guilt he had felt before the spanking even began, the vulnerability he always felt over his father's knee, and the fact that it hurt...he wasn't able to keep still for long. When his father started over, he whined pathetically and threw his hand back. He couldn't help himself even though he knew it wouldn't accomplish anything.
Coulson paused to move Grant's hand out of the way, holding it against his back before resuming the hard swats. "I love you, Grant, so much... but I cannot tolerate lying from you. Not after what happened in the past. Trust is important in any kind of relationship."
"I know...daddy...I know...I'm so sorry..." Grant let his head fall forward as he slumped. "I know...I'm so sorry...please, daddy...." he whispered, unable to say anything any louder for fear that he'd start sobbing.
Coulson tightened his hold on Grant. Not to keep him still, but so that his son could feel him there and his support. He completed another circuit of swats and then paused to shift his son forward and begin swatting his sit spots. "I know. And I forgive you, son. I love you," he reiterated.
It was the affirmation of his father's love that did him in. He almost was able to make it through the spanking without completely losing control, but hearing that he was forgiven and loved, even as his father set his sit spots on fire, was too much. He was only able to focus on two things...his father's hand smacking his very sore backside...and the fact that he wanted to be in his father's arms. Grant went limp, all fight and control evaporating as he began to sob sorrowfully.
Coulson stopped and, without any hesitation, gently brought Grant up and into his arms. Hugging his son tightly, Coulson began rocking Grant just as he had before, pressing a kiss to his son's forehead and whispering how much he loved his son into Grant's ear.
Grant shivered and held onto his father tightly, embarrassed at how needy he was, but wanting the comfort too much to fight it. "I love you, daddy...." he said in a soft voice, putting his head on his father's shoulder. Slowly, he calmed down until he was just sniffling every so often. When he thought he could speak without his voice quivering or beginning to cry again, he asked contritely, "Am I grounded again?"
Coulson pressed an affectionate kiss to Grant's head and stroked his hair softly. "I think so," he replied. Though, to be honest, the grounding was less about punishment and more about keeping Grant close so that his son didn't feel Coulson was still upset with him. "But I love you. Very much."
Grant snuggled closer. "I love you too. But...if you're grounding me as part of my punishment, I have to admit...it doesn't really bother me that much. Since it means I get to be with you more...." He gave his father a sheepish smile.
Coulson smiled, kissing his head again. "Keeping you close is part of the reason for grounding you," he said. "It's not about punishment as much as keeping you close, where I know you're safe and you know I've completely forgiven you and aren't upset with you any more."
Grant sniffled one more time and hugged his father tight before kissing him on the cheek, then gingerly standing up and carefully righting his clothes. "I'm going to have a hard time sitting tonight," he admitted with a blush. "You'd think I'd learn...." He huffed slightly then gave his father an embarrassed smile. "Even if it wasn't the totally wrong thing to do and you didn't care, I still would never be able to pull off an effective lie with you. You know me too well." He shook his head, not upset about that fact.
"Which makes the fact that I still try to lie, when I know it's completely wrong and I know I'm going to get caught...a bit stupid really." He sighed.
Coulson simply held his arms out to Grant again, to indicate the comfort was still there if he wanted it. "There are going to be setbacks," he said reassuringly. "But no matter how many of those there are, it won't change anything. I won't stop loving you. I'll never give up on you."
Coulson hadn't stood up yet, so Grant hovered for a few seconds, trying to decide if he was going to be an adult and sit next to his father, or sit on his lap again...and then figured his father had seen him at his worst, didn't seem to mind him being childish as long as it was childish in his need for affection, and would have patted the seat next to him if he didn't want him as close as possible... so he carefully sat on his father's lap again, wrapped his arms around the man's middle, hid his face against his chest and snuggled. "Sorry I'm such a baby..." He sighed, but didn't seem overly upset by the fact.
Coulson wrapped his arms around Grant and cuddled him tightly. "There's nothing wrong with accepting comfort," he said gently. "It doesn't make you a baby. You've had years of not having anyone willing to take care of you. And now you have that. I'm not going to think any less of you for accepting the affection you know I'll willingly give you. And I actually like holding you like this... even before we found out you're biologically mine."
Grant smiled, nuzzling into his dad's chest. He liked being held like this, although it was hard to admit it out loud. He'd tried for so long not to 'be weak' that accepting the affection he craved went against how he'd been taught for so many years. He was so grateful that his father was patient and understanding...even when doling out punishment. "Clint told me he wouldn't be gone too long...but he left this morning. Can I help you look for him, or do you want me to stay here?" he asked quietly.
Coulson pressed a kiss to Grant's head. "I trust you to have my back and help me look for him... but if you come with me, you need to stay close. Even if you see a lead, you need to stay close and tell me, rather than following it on your own," he said seriously.
Grant nodded. "Ok, daddy. I'll stay with you and won't go off on my own," he promised. It was a fairly easy promise to make. After what he went through the last time HYDRA caught him (and he had been with the group then, not on his own), he was leery about getting separated from any of the team when going after HYDRA. They seemed to have it in for him.
"Good. I want to keep you safe," Coulson said, tightening his embrace. "I've come too close to losing you too many times already."
"I know. I want you safe too," Grant admitted. "Want me to get Nat to go with us?"
Coulson nodded. "That would be a good idea. Let me know when you're ready to get up." He pressed a kiss to his son's forehead.
"How about never?" Grant laughed softly, even as he carefully stood up then held a hand out to help his father up. "The longer he's gone, the more worried I am that his quick 'in and out' isn't quick and he isn't out. I should have told you immediately what he was doing...." He winced, realizing that if his brother was in trouble, he'd just prolonged the time it took to get him help by hiding things.
Coulson took Grant's hand and stood up, squeezing his son's hand gently before releasing it. "You did the right thing eventually," he pointed out gently, moving his hand to the nape of Grant's neck and gently squeezing. "We'll find him."
Grant didn't say that he should have done the right thing immediately. They both knew that, just as they both knew that there would be moments when Grant would need 'reminding' of what the right thing was. Instead, he addressed JARVIS. "J? Do you know where Natasha currently is? And could you let her know that dad and I are looking for her?"
"Certainly, sir." The AI was quiet for a moment then spoke again. "She is on her way to meet you both."
"Thanks, J...." Grant smiled at his father.
Coulson smiled, pressing an affectionate kiss to Grant's forehead. "I love you," he said softly, before turning to face the doorway as he heard the sound of the elevator.
A few moments later, Natasha was stepping into the room.
Grant smiled at his father before turning to face the elevator. When Nat stepped through, he smiled at her as well. "Hey, Nat..." he began. "Clint didn't happen to tell you where he was going this morning, did he? Because I kind of expected him back by now...."
"He said he was leaving... he didn't specify where, but I can take a guess," Natasha said. "Do we need anyone else?"
"I'll ask the others to be on standby in case we need backup," Coulson said, doing just that.
"Will we need any specific gear?" Grant asked, as he started walking toward the elevator.
"We should take some gear with us, to be on the safe side..." Coulson answered, walking between the two of them.
"I've got several Icers. Do we want anything more lethal?" Grant asked, getting into mission mode.
"I should grab some gear." Coulson glanced at Natasha. "Do you have everything?"
"Of course." Natasha smiled. "Just grab what you need on the way down."
They had reached the armory and Grant had got a few more items that he thought might prove useful, while Coulson gathered his own gear. It was while they were gathering the last of the items that Clint slunk into the armory to begin cleaning and putting his gear away. He looked surprised to see them. "Uh....did we get a mission and I miss the announcement?" he asked with a confused smile.
Natasha glanced at Clint and then looked at Coulson, but chose to keep any comments to herself, waiting to see if she was still needed.
"Where were you?" Coulson asked his oldest calmly.
Clint was tempted to make a story up, but the fact that his younger brother was gearing up to go with his father, and the fact Natasha was there, clued him in that the other man had likely got the story out of Grant already. Plus...there was no reason to lie. He was a seasoned operative who had done numerous operations on his own before...granted, they had been assigned to him so that someone knew where he was at all times, but still.
"I was gathering information from that HYDRA base we learned about when Grant was taken. Trying to find out if there was any information on what they'd injected him with." He tried to act assured and like he hadn't done anything wrong, although he knew his father wasn't likely to be happy at him going off alone and without telling anyone where he was going. "Everything I could get is on this thumb drive. You can thank me later...I want to go take a shower first...." His grin was cocky. If he'd been thinking, he would definitely not have gone with 'assured and cocky' as the way to greet his father when the man had obviously been about to come hunt for him.
Natasha didn't need to look at Coulson to know what might be going through his head. She shot a quick glance towards Clint and then addressed Grant. "Want to come with me to the rec room, little brother?"
Coulson focused his attention on Clint, a much more serious look coming over his face. "I think we need to go to my floor and talk."
Grant's eyes widened as he heard Coulson's words and, looking between his older brother and father, he quickly moved to Natasha's side. "Yeah, I think I'd like that, sis...."
Clint's own eyes widened at his father's words and then he slumped and ran a dirty hand through dirty hair. "Yeah...ok. Can I take a shower first? I'll even shower on your floor if you prefer, but...I got cobwebs in places they shouldn't be..." he said, with a slight whine, and pouted.
Natasha headed out of the armory, walking alongside Grant, having replaced the gear that she didn't normally carry with her.
Coulson looked at Clint and nodded. "I'd rather you shower on my floor. Are you hurt?" He scanned Clint's body for any signs of injuries, worried.
Clint watched Nat and Grant leaving with a longing look on his face. He knew what his father's 'discussions' usually entailed and even if he knew he probably, more than likely- ok, did deserve it- he'd be lying if he said he wanted this discussion. He blinked, realizing he hadn't answered his father's question. "I don't think I am?" he said hesitantly. "I wasn't shot or anything noticeable, anyway...some of the places I was crawling had sharp edges and weren't very clean and I got jabbed in an area that I couldn't see to check on myself, but I can look at it when I get to a mirror...." He finished cleaning and putting away his gear then turned towards the door, hesitating slightly so his father could walk beside him.
"I still have a change of clothes in your place?" He tried to change the subject with a question he already knew the answer to.
"You always have changes of clothes on my floor," Coulson commented, drawing level with his oldest and wrapping an arm around Clint's shoulders. Leaning in, he pressed a gentle kiss to Clint's head. "After you have a shower, I'll check and treat any injuries. I'm glad you're back safely," he added seriously. "I was worried. I really don't want to lose you. I love you."
"I know..." Clint gave his father a sheepish look. "I didn't mean to worry you. You weren't supposed to know...I thought I'd get in and out before anyone missed me." He knew admitting that was likely to get him in more trouble, but he also knew his father deserved to know everything. It didn't take long, his father leading him the whole way, to reach the elevator and get back to his father's floor. Leaning over and kissing his father on the cheek, he walked toward the shower, "I'll be quick..." he muttered, as he disappeared into the bathroom.
Coulson sighed and went to retrieve his first aid kit before he waited for Clint to come out of the bathroom, allowing himself to feel the relief that his son was back safe.
Clint was true to his word, cleaning up rapidly. It couldn't have been more than ten minutes later he was walking out of the bathroom and heading to his father. He'd dressed himself in a pair of his oldest, loosest pajama pants, but that was it. He had felt the sting on his back and knew that he had scraped himself pretty badly (if not worse) and he would need his shirt off for his father to take care of it. He stood awkwardly for a few moments before asking, "Where do you want me?"
"Where abouts are you injured?" Coulson asked, placing a hand gently on his son's shoulder and guiding Clint into the living room, carrying the first aid kit in his other hand.
"My back...I think. It stung in the shower, so I'm assuming I scraped it at the least..." Clint glanced over his shoulder, but he obviously wasn't going to be able to see anything. He let his father direct him, curling his bare toes up at the coolness of the floor.
Coulson gently squeezed his shoulder. "Sit down on the sofa so I can see," he directed, wanting his son to be as comfortable as possible.
Nodding, Clint carefully sat on the sofa and turned so that his back was to his father. He bit his lip, wondering if he hadn't been wounded worse than he originally thought. Now that the adrenaline had worn off from the op and he'd scrubbed himself thoroughly (and he'd done his best to ignore the rusty red color of the water when he'd washed his back off), it was stinging...no, aching... in a way that it hadn't been before. He hoped that was just because surface wounds tended to hurt more than deep wounds and not because he'd done bad damage to himself.
Coulson frowned in concern, though he was relieved to see that the wound wasn't too deep. Still, as he began cleaning it out, he spoke. "I might call Dr. Banner up to take a look... When was your last tetanus shot?" He did his best to be gentle, even though he knew it would still hurt.
"Um...I had to get one right after the battle for New York..." Clint admitted. "Aren't they supposed to be good for ten years?" He couldn't help the hopeful tone of his voice. Wounds that came as part of his job, he could handle with a cocky grin on his face; let him need to get a vaccination and he was reduced to a five year-old looking for every way possible to get out of it.
"It's likely... but I'd still prefer Dr. Banner to take a look and see what he thinks." Coulson squeezed Clint's shoulder gently. "I don't want anything to happen to you. I love you."
Clint huffed in resignation, but gave his father a smile anyway. "I know, dad. I love you too." He glanced down, considering then looked at his father from the side of his eye. "While we wait for Bruce to get here, is there anything you want to ask me? I'm pretty sure I'll be confessing all my sins soon enough, although that will probably need to wait till Bruce leaves, since you're probably going to be irritated if not downright angry at me." He couldn't help if his voice sounded sheepish and a bit regretful. He never liked to upset his father, even if he tended to do things that upset the older man more often than he should.
"JARVIS? Can you ask Dr. Banner to come to my floor, please, to take a look at Clint?" Coulson addressed the AI and then spoke to his son, keeping his hand on Clint's shoulder. "I want to know everything that happened. Start from the beginning."
Clint nodded, not having expected anything else. "Well, like I mentioned, I went to get information on whatever that stuff was they injected Grant with," he started. "When I arrived, there weren't too many HYDRA agents there; I believe they are in the process of abandoning that base, since you know where it is now...but there were enough that I knew I couldn't just waltz in and get the information easily. So... I found a way into the buildings vent system. I was lucky that they hadn't yet disabled all the computers...I managed to find one that was still connected to whatever system they had going. And downloaded everything they had that seemed like it might be useful onto the drive. Unfortunately, I nearly waited too long to get back up into the vent; when I heard a large group of Hydra soldiers moving towards me, I had to rush my escape. It was at this point that I caught my back on the rusted grating that covered the vent. Somehow, I managed to get up and out of sight and even replaced the grate and then held still while they ran around trying to figure out where I'd gone and how I'd gotten away. They assumed I'd jumped out the window and so, as soon as all of them had finally left the room, I quickly made my escape through the vents and came back home."
Clint could have gone into a lot more detail, admitting that the large group of soldiers had nearly caught him, since it was only seconds after he'd got into the vents that they'd entered the room... or telling that he hadn't been able to leave through the vents to make his escape for a good three hours because there was just no way to get out of the building and back to his cycle because the building was surrounded by swarming HYDRA soldiers. He figured what he'd said was damning enough and his father could probably figure out what was unsaid just by the fact it had taken him so long to get back home.
Coulson listened in silence, frowning as he could imagine just how much danger Clint had been in. "Why did you decide to go without telling anyone other than Grant what you were doing?" he asked directly, a disappointed note in his voice.
Clint opened his mouth to answer then frowned himself. "I...I really don't have an answer to that...." he admitted reluctantly “…It was a spur of the moment decision to go and do it; and Grant was the first person I saw. I could have looked for you... should have looked for you... to tell you, but I didn't want you to worry. And maybe a part of me was worried you'd tell me no?"
Coulson sighed. "That doesn't surprise me, but you know that if I tell you no, I normally have a good reason for doing so. As it was, the only reason I found out about it was because I made Grant tell me. I'm sure you didn't tell him not to say anything, but he felt that he had to lie to me to protect you."
Even though Coulson was still bothered about this, his hand on Clint's shoulder was gentle. "If you had been captured, keeping this a secret could have meant you were in bad shape by the time I got you back."
Clint winced. "I never told him not to say anything..." he muttered "…I'd never ask him to lie to you for me. I guess I need to talk with him later and make it clear that I don't ever expect that or want that from him...." Biting his lip, he glanced at his father again. "I may not have asked him to lie for me, but I guess I kinda figured he wouldn't say anything until it was too late for you to stop me...which is almost as bad," he admitted reluctantly.
Coulson nodded. "As soon as you've been checked over, we'll deal with what happened. And that'll be the end of it," he said reassuringly. "I know what you're capable of... but I need to know if you're on a mission, so I can sort out any backup you need. And have a team on standby in case something goes wrong."
"Yes, sir." Clint didn't attempt to argue against his father's decision. He knew he was in the wrong here. It was just another version of his rushing into trouble without thinking scenario. Even if he had thought this through a bit more thoroughly, he'd still made it impossible for his father to help him if necessary, or have back-up ready, or anything else. Sighing softly, he gave his father a wide-puppy-eyed stare. "Is it going to be...hard?" he couldn't help but ask.
Coulson nodded. "This isn't the first time we've had to deal with a similar situation." He leaned in to press an affectionate kiss to Clint's head, hoping to take some of the sting out of his response.
Clint sighed softly, but nodded. He hadn't really expected anything different. Before he could say anything else, the elevator pinged and Bruce was stepping out and walking into the living room.
"You needed me, Director?" the reserved man asked quietly, glancing at Clint curiously.
Coulson shifted so that he was out of the way as he explained, "Clint scraped his back quite badly on a rusted grating over an air vent. I've cleaned it, but I wondered if you could take a look in case something more needs to be done."
Bruce glanced at Clint, one eyebrow raising in surprise. "Since I know that the tower doesn't have any rust on it, I can only assume you were doing an op. You usually don't get wounded by something this simple, though. Leave in a hurry?" Bruce's tone was deadpan with a tiny hint of teasing underneath. He was rewarded with Clint's dark blush.
"Yeah, yeah..." Clint rolled his eyes. "It's probably nothing, but... you know." The archer tried to downplay the wound.
"I'll be the judge of that." Bruce's voice was clipped and to the point as he walked over and looked at the wound closely. "You did a good job of cleaning it, Director," he finally said in approval. "I do think it may need a couple of stitches...luckily not many. If I remember your file right, you had a tetanus shot a few years ago...but it wouldn't hurt to get a booster just in case. Luckily for you, JARVIS warned me I might need one and I brought it with me."
Clint twisted around to look at Bruce's face. "You don't have to look so pleased with yourself!" he grumbled, before Bruce made him turn back around.
"Oh, believe me. Stitching up you Yahoos when you do something stupid is far from pleasing...." the doctor muttered, giving Coulson a long-suffering and sympathetic look.
Coulson nodded and sighed. "I'll just be relieved that it's nothing too serious." He stood as close as he could to Clint without being in the doctor's way, offering his son silent support.
Clint grit his teeth as Bruce quickly sterilized the area that needed stitches then proceeded to sew him up. It wasn't like he hadn't been stitched before. And Bruce was adept at it. He had- as he'd said - stitched up all the yahoos on his team several times. Although it was usually Tony getting the stitches. For someone who wore metal armor, the man was surprisingly adept at getting wounded. He hadn't even realized Bruce was finished until the man was giving him the tetanus injection. If his father and Bruce hadn't had a strong grip on his arm, he might have tried to pull away, even with the needle already inserted...but he couldn't move. It was all over with more quickly than he expected.
Bruce packed up all his supplies and then gave a big smile to both men. "All done, now if you don't need me for anything else, I have a video-chat date in thirty minutes and I would like to clean up for it."
Coulson gave Bruce a grateful smile. "I don't need you for anything else... thank you for treating my son." And he was particularly grateful. After all, he didn't want Clint wounded at all... but if his son did get hurt, at least they had one of the best doctors on their team.
Bruce nodded. "I won't say it's my pleasure- since I don't like my 'family' getting hurt." He eyed Clint. "But I'm happy that I am able to help." Nodding at both men, he took all his things and left.
When Clint was sure it was just him and his father on the floor again, he sighed then looked at his dad. "So...I was hurt a little more than I thought. How much worse am I in trouble, now?" He sounded resigned to his fate.
"Even if you hadn't been hurt, you'd still be in trouble," Coulson said, looking into his son's eyes. "It was still dangerous, whether any consequences had occurred or not. But this is something we've had to deal with on several other occasions," he added.
Clint slumped. "I know, sir," he finally said quietly, any hint of bravado or cockiness disappearing at the tone in his father's voice.
"You are far too important to take risks with your safety. I love you and I'm your father... but it isn't just me who would be upset if anything did happen to you," Coulson said seriously, giving some thought to grounding his son.
Clint winced at the words but nodded. "Yes, sir," he finally said, unable to come up with any reasons or excuses to justify what he'd done.
Coulson leaned in and kissed his forehead. "I think we should take care of this now," he said, gently but still with a serious note to his voice.
Clint nodded quickly, not wanting this to hang over his head any longer than necessary, and carefully stood up next to his father's knee. "I'm sorry, dad. I know you'd be happier if I thought about how sorry I'd be before I do stupid crap like this, but I am sorry...."
"I know," Coulson replied gently. "It doesn't change anything. I don't love you any less." He knew Clint knew that already, but he still hoped that his son would gain some reassurance from the words. Reaching up, Coulson guided Clint into position over his lap, careful not to strain or put any pressure on his wound.
"I know, dad," Clint admitted softly. "I'll never doubt you love me...doubt you'd even do this if you didn't love me." Clint cringed slightly at that admission, but then allowed his body to go lax, so that his father could correct him without worrying about hurting his wound. It wasn't like he didn't deserve what was coming.
Coulson rubbed Clint's back gently, mindful of his wound, before tugging down his pajama pants. Wrapping an arm around his son's waist to hold him still, Coulson brought his hand down in the first sharp swat.
Clint let out a quick exhalation of air, but managed not to voice any discomfort. He knew his father and if Coulson thought he was causing any unnecessary pain to his son, he would stop the punishment immediately. And Clint didn't feel right about that happening. Not when he knew he was wrong, why he was wrong... and in fact had known he was wrong while doing it. Which made him wonder why he had done it in the first place. It wasn't like he wanted his father to punish him; he didn't did he? Clint frowned at that thought.
Coulson settled quickly into a rhythm, swatting hard down to Clint's thighs before starting over from the top. It was then that he began speaking. "You're part of a team, Clint, but more than that, you're part of a family. And you shouldn't have just left without checking in with me."
Clint grunted a few times at the first of the swats...they were definitely harder than usual; it would be difficult not to break down crying, but possible, if his father didn't talk. But his father always included firm but loving lectures with his punishments and it was this that let Clint know he was in for a very difficult time.
By the time his father started over, Clint was reduced to grunting at every swat, although his grunts had taken on a pathetically weak and whiny sound. He clinched his eyes tightly together in an attempt to keep tears back and tried to answer his father with a clear voice. He failed at that; his voice was wobbly, hoarse sounding, heavy with unshed tears. "I know, dad. Believe me, I know...."
"Do you?" Coulson asked directly, continuing the hard swats. "This isn't the first time something like this has happened. Your safety is important and there are times you don't seem to understand that." Even though his voice was stern, it was still loving and filled with affection. He shifted Clint forward to start addressing firmer swats to his sit spots.
Clint blinked rapidly as his father started swatting his sit spots, trying to keep the tears back; but they fell anyway, blinding him. It was his father's words that caused him to lose control, though, although he wasn't sure exactly why. It wasn't like his father was accusing him of lying. It wasn't like his father was saying he didn't believe him. And yet, it kinda felt like that's what was being said. The fact that his actions might have his father questioning his truthfulness hurt and he finally started crying.
The fear that his father might not believe him- even if it was only disbelieving his own intentions regarding his own safety- made him feel small and vulnerable in a way that not much else did. It was reflected in his words when he finally gasped out, "I do know! I do. I'm sorry...I was...I don't know why I deliberately...I knew better...I just did it anyway...and...I... I don't know why...I just wanted you to...I'm sorry, daddy!" He fell limp over his father's lap, his body shaking with his tears.
Coulson stopped, surprised by the name Clint hadn't used since he was a teenager. He gently pulled his son into his arms, cuddling Clint tightly. "I love you, son." Still mindful of Clint's injury, he just held him. He intended to ask about that half-formed comment, but for now, he just held his son.
Clint grabbed hold of the front of his father's shirt, tightly pressing as close as he could and hiding his face against his father's shoulder. He wasn't shaking as badly, having managed to regain enough control over his body that he was able to hold still, but he couldn't stop his tears. "I'm sorry...." he whispered "…I did know better and I still did the wrong thing. I didn't want to be a disappointment..." His voice was sad and lost.
Coulson hugged Clint tightly, kissing the top of his head. "You aren't a disappointment," he said softly into his son's hair. "I love you and you are so incredibly important to me. I was worried something had happened to you."
"I didn't mean to worry you," Clint said softly. "I just wanted you to...." He bit his lip and pressed closer to his father.
"Prove that I'm still your father, even after finding out that Grant's mine by blood?" Coulson looked into Clint's eyes, still stroking his hair. "You're still mine."
Clint gave his father a weak smile then looked down in shame. "Yes, sir...." he finally admitted "…I knew...I know I'm your son, I just...." He sighed softly. "I guess I just needed a physical reminder...."
Coulson pressed an affectionate kiss to Clint's forehead before drawing back to look into his son's eyes. "After I was... brought back... seeing you was one of the only things on my mind. That's why I kept asking Tony... and even when we were here, looking after Grant, I still tried to seek you out." His embrace tightened around Clint. "Any time you need reminding, whatever form that reminder takes, I'll do that each time."
Clint pressed closer to his father, holding onto him tightly. "I love you, dad," he whispered. "I...I should have just come to you...." he admitted, ashamed of himself.
Coulson cuddled Clint. "I understand it's difficult for you," he said gently. "This actually isn't the first time you've acted out as a way of testing me... though it's been a while." He threaded his fingers through his son's hair. "I'm not angry or upset with you."
"I shouldn't have needed to test you...I'm an adult...I know you love me. I just..." Clint sighed. "I missed you so much...."
Coulson pressed another kiss to Clint's head. "I missed you as well," he said softly. "And I wanted to see you. I'm glad you finally chose to do the right thing and give Tony your number... though I was close to exerting any influence I had to get either your location... or you to be here, where I could get to you."
"I should never have waited so long to come to you, no matter how guilty I felt." Clint couldn't help but snuggle. "I had finally outgrown all this childish need to make you prove yourself and ever since...New York...I regressed." Clint sighed.
"That's a fairly understandable reaction," Coulson pointed out gently. "I did die. I might have come back, but it still had an affect on you. I think it'll help for us to spend more time together."
"I want that..." Clint admitted. "I....I really would like it."
Coulson nodded. "I would as well. And even if something like this does happen again... it won't make any difference. You'll be punished and then we'll move on."
Clint nodded, then finally stood and pulled his pajama pants back up. "I...I know I have my own floor and all, but could I stay here tonight? I'll sleep on the couch if needed..." He was hesitant in his request.
Coulson smiled. "Of course you can stay here... and you don't have to sleep on the couch. Even though Grant's sleeping here as well, the bed's big enough for the three of us."
Clint raised an eyebrow, but smiled. "Maybe...I don't know...maybe if Grant won't feel uncomfortable."
"He didn't seem uncomfortable when he woke up to find you on the other side of me after we got him and Bucky back," Coulson pointed out. "I don't think he'll mind. You're brothers, after all."
"If you're sure.... Then yeah." Clint smiled again.
At that moment, JARVIS interrupted. "Excuse me, Director, but your youngest son would like to know if it is safe for him to return to your floor. Since you have grounded him and he is tired."
Clint looked at Coulson in surprise. "You grounded him? Why do I feel guilty about that?" He wrinkled his nose.
"It's fine for Grant to come back," Coulson replied to JARVIS, before addressing Clint. "It was his decision to lie to me... and lying is something that really can't be tolerated. Not from anyone... but especially from him. And being grounded means I can keep him close." He looked into Clint's eyes. "I'm halfway tempted to do that with you. At least I know you're safe if you're with me."
Clint smiled sheepishly. "Maybe I deserve it. He was trying to help me, misguided as it was," he said softly.
"It's not like it'll be a hardship to have you both close," Coulson commented. "And it'll give us more time to spend together."
"It wouldn't exactly be a punishment." Clint smiled, turning toward the elevator as the doors opened and his little brother stepped out.
Grant gave a sheepish smile and ran a hand through his hair. "Nat wore me out." He grinned.
Coulson smiled at both of his sons before addressing Grant. "How did it go apart from that?" He could tell that Grant looked tired... but also happy.
Grant smiled widely. "It was awesome, dad! She taught me how to get out of this one move that she does...she says I'm a bit too tall to try doing it myself, but at least I can counter it if someone else tries it...."
Clint grinned. "She taught you that already? It took me a year before she taught me how to escape one of her moves!"
Grant blushed faintly. "I already took a shower and changed on my own floor, but I was hoping maybe we could have a snack or something before bed; maybe talk?"
Clint looked interested in that idea and turned puppy-eyes toward his father, elbowing Grant to do the same. Grant whispered, "Wait a second," then whistled and Copper came padding into the room and sat near his feet...then both Grant and the actual dog turned pleading puppy-eyes toward Coulson.
Coulson had already been halfway convinced, but couldn't help laughing at his sons' puppy-eyes... and Copper's, too. "I'm sure we can stay up to have a snack and talk for a little while... but it has been a long day, so we won't be staying up too late." He stepped over to his sons, clasping them both gently on the shoulder.
"Alright!" Clint fist bumped Grant then rubbed Copper's head. "Good job, boys!" He grinned, teasing.
Grant rolled his eyes then leaned into his father. "Popcorn?" he asked.
"I'm sure there's some in the kitchen," Coulson answered, squeezing them both. He always made sure he kept supplies of food both his sons liked... and plenty of dog food for Copper... Then again, he tended to keep track of what everyone in the extended family liked and made sure to keep plenty on hand.
Grant grinned. "Thanks, dad..." He leaned over and kissed his father on the cheek. "I'm gonna go get my pajamas on, and meet you in the living room?" He didn't wait for permission, though, figuring it was already given. "Oh...and dad? I kinda slipped to Nat that I was going to ask you if we could do this, in case she- you know- wanted to come spend time with you too. So she might be calling you in a minute...." He grinned again. He'd obviously had fun with his 'sister'.
Clint blinked at that then looked down at his bare torso. "I guess I better go get a t-shirt on, or she'll never leave me alone about getting wounded by a hunk of metal..." he said sheepishly and followed after Grant to get said shirt.
Copper just sat on the floor and stared up at Coulson curiously.
"Come on, Copper, let's get you fed." Coulson headed into the kitchen to fill up the dog's food and water bowls then began filling bowls with popcorn, after checking with Natasha to make sure she was coming.
Grant hadn't taken long to change and had quickly joined his father in the kitchen, gathering drinks to go with the popcorn. He also snuck Copper a couple of dog treats when his father wasn't looking, although he knew full well Coulson knew what he was doing. "Want a beer, Dad?"
"I do...." Clint said as he came into the kitchen as well. "And I heard the elevator, so Nat's probably here and I'm sure she'll want one "
Grant grabbed beers for everyone else then waited for his father's answer.
Coulson nodded. "A beer would be great," he answered, glancing up as Natasha appeared in the doorway and smiling at her. "Did you tire yourself out as well as Grant?"
"Only a little," Natasha replied, taking a beer from Grant and grabbing one of the bowls of popcorn.
"It was a lot of hard work, taking her down," Grant admitted. "And I'm not entirely sure she didn't just 'allow' it at the end because I was being stubborn." He grinned at his sister, handing Clint and Coulson a beer, before taking his own and grabbing one of the bowls of popcorn.
He followed Clint into what he was starting to call the 'family' room.
Natasha smiled at Grant, but didn't confirm or deny anything as she followed her brothers into the other room.
Coulson picked up his own popcorn and followed his kids.