Author’s Note: This was written as a RPG (roll playing game) between co-authors Hope1iz and BlackFox12. Set after the season one finale. Twenty-second 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 gets wounded. What happens after is less than ideal.
Warning(s): Spanking; spoilers for Agents of SHIELD and Avengers Assemble; mentions of drug abuse and semi-descriptive withdrawal.
Co-Author’s Website: BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page
It was unusual for Coulson to wake up without one or both of his sons in the bed with him, but this was one of those rare mornings. Coulson headed through to the bathroom to have a shower and then got dressed, heading down to the common room area.
It wouldn't be long before the rest of the family began coming through for breakfast, so Coulson began cooking, making pancakes and eggs and bacon. He had a meeting at SHIELD headquarters, but that wasn't until the afternoon, so at least Coulson could relax and enjoy the morning with his family and extended family.
Tony came wandering in, all bleary eyed and bed-head....still dressed in yesterday's clothes. "You're up early, Director Agent!" he said half manically. It was obvious he'd been up all night without sleeping. "You usually don't get up until I've gone for my morning workout with your kids or Steve." He glanced at his watch as he took a sip of the very hot coffee he had just poured, then nearly choked on the coffee as he realized what time it was. "Crap. Nat's gonna tie me up in knots tomorrow for missing practice...." he whined quietly. "Hide me from your daughter, sir! It's a matter of life and limb!" Tony was joking...sort of.
Clint came wandering in with Grant at that moment, both freshly showered after having finished the workout that Tony should have been at.
"Hey, dad..." Grant smiled, leaning over and giving the older man a quick hug, before glancing at Tony.
Clint snorted. "Don't think it's Nat you'll have to worry about, Einstein. Steve's been trying to locate you for the last fifteen minutes and you told JARVIS not to tell him where you were." He walked over and kissed his father's forehead. "Good morning, father!" he said poshly, with an impish smile.
Tony winced. "I'll just...um...JARVIS was gonna tell him where I was...I just asked for fifteen minutes so I could move locations!" he admitted reluctantly.
Coulson smiled at the three 'youngsters' who'd arrived, giving both his sons a tight hug. "Breakfast's just about ready," he commented, before addressing Tony. "Maybe if you go and find Steve now, he'll be less tough on you." Joking aside, there was a serious note in Coulson's voice. Training was important... and particularly for someone who'd spent a lot of time relying more on his technology than keeping in shape.
"Yeah...I probably should do that..." Tony sighed, rubbing at his eyes and fighting a yawn. He took another sip of the very hot coffee to bolster his energy. "J? Where's Cap?" he asked the AI quietly.
"I have informed Captain Rogers that you are in the common room kitchen and he will be arriving to your destination shortly, sir. I do not recommend leaving, because he seems very agitated and will not be happy if he arrives here and you have gone somewhere else." The AI's tone was chiding and slightly worried. He'd not wanted to keep Tony's location a secret from Steve in the first place and had only agreed to give Tony the fifteen minutes because he knew the genius would need coffee to try and clear his thoughts enough to be able to answer any questions the Captain had.
Pepper chose that moment to walk into the kitchen, dressed for the office. She'd planned to see if Tony wanted to have breakfast on their floor, but after the night they'd had and the fact that Tony had disappeared into the lab and not returned after the incident, she had a feeling she would need the back up of the 'family' to get Tony to see reason, so she'd come to join everyone in the common area. "Good morning, Phil." She walked over to Coulson, giving him a hug and a quick kiss on the cheek, before smiling at Clint and Grant. "Boys..." She turned to look at Tony, her eyes going worried, sympathetic, but full of love. "Tony...."
Tony couldn't face his fiancé, staring at the ground and bringing his arms up around himself in an almost self-hug and taking another huge sip of coffee so that he would have an excuse not to say anything.
Grant looked at Clint, then at his father, his own eyes taking on a worried sheen. "Breakfast smells great, dad..." he said with a smile, attempting not to stare at the older man.
Clint wasn't so kind; he did stare. "Sheesh, Stark. You look like you killed your best friend. What's wrong with you?" he teased slightly, only a hint of his own worry in his tone.
Tony and Pepper both flinched at the words.
Coulson's eyes went to Tony and Pepper and then he moved forward, lightly grasping his oldest's arm to draw his attention away from staring at the other two. It was obvious that something had happened and he couldn't help his own worry as he glanced at Tony... who was very much like a nephew to him.
Having finally been informed of Tony's location, Steve appeared in the doorway... but any scolding he might have given died on his lips as he took in Tony's appearance at a glance. He stepped forward and reached out to place his hand on his boy's shoulder. "What happened?" His voice was gentle and filled with concern.
Pepper bit her lip and glanced at Steve, before answering for Tony, certain by the self-loathing she could see in his eyes that he wouldn't want to say anything; or, if he did, that he would make himself sound as horrible as he could. "Tony had one of his bad nightmares last night," she answered calmly. "He couldn't wake up from it and I woke up and saw what was happening, so I tried to wake him up." She swallowed and started to reach toward Tony, but he backed away from her, pulling even further in on himself. If Steve hadn't been behind him, with a hand on his shoulder, he probably would have fled the kitchen entirely.
"I almost killed you, Pep!" he finally said in a burst of emotion. "I...I had my hands around your neck and you couldn't get away and..." He nearly slammed his coffee cup onto the counter, before throwing both hands over his eyes in an attempt to regain control and not begin crying.
Steve reacted automatically to Tony's outburst, wrapping his arms around the other man and drawing him in close.
"Has he been seeing anyone?" Coulson asked Pepper quietly. He thought about suggesting another dog, given how much Copper had helped Grant... but he left that suggestion for now.
Tony couldn't bring it in himself to pull away from Steve, too tired and heartsick not to take the comfort the other man was offering, even if he felt like he didn't deserve it. He slumped against his friend and just tried not to cry.
Pepper bit her lip even harder, then whispered to Coulson, "The last time he spoke to a professional about it was several months ago. You know Tony...he has such a hard time opening up to people. I think he believed that as long as the dreams were mild and could be handled by sleeping next to someone, he was doing ok and didn't need to talk about it." She carefully walked towards her future husband, trying to catch his eye. "You didn't kill me, Tony...you woke up and as soon as you were awake, you released me. And I don't blame you. I know better. I know that when I need to wake you up, I'm supposed to get out of the bed and have JARVIS wake you. We'd agreed that's what I'd do. I just was worried because you haven't had a dream like that in a very long time...and I forgot. I'm ok, Tony. You didn't hurt me...."
"You're wearing a scarf..." was Tony's quiet rejoinder, his voice shaky. "I can't.... I..." He began to shake. "I'll move my stuff into another room today while you're at work. I can't..." He shuddered as tears escaped his eyes.
Clint had been watching everything his worry growing. "I don't know how that will help anything," he muttered softly to his father. "He's only able to sleep when Pepper is home with him; the rest of the time, he has to stay with Steve, or he ends up not sleeping at all...."
Grant kept quiet. He knew how Tony felt, having his own problems with nightmares. Sighing softly, he took a sip of his drink then glanced at his dad.... "Maybe I should loan Copper to him for a bit?" he whispered. The dog in question- who was never far from Grant whenever he was in the building- looked up curiously and wagged his tail gently.
Steve kept his arms around Tony as he spoke quietly to him. "We talked about you seeing someone already," he said gently. "I think that's something we need to look at doing. You don't need to move any of your stuff. There are other things we can try before having to look at changing the sleeping arrangements."
Coulson smiled at Grant and moved his hand to the nape of his son's neck, squeezing gently. "That is a good idea... but I think Tony having a dog of his own might be a better one," he said softly.
Tony moved weakly to attempt to protest. "I can't sleep next to Pepper when I know I could kill her!" he finally choked out, finally allowing himself to cry; even if it was extremely quietly.
Pepper winced, then moved forward so that she could wrap her arms around Tony as well, leaving him stuck between both her and Steve. "I am not moving out of our bedroom and neither are you!" she said firmly. "I know you left after you woke last night and you never came back. You spent the night working in your lab, didn't you?"
Tony didn't answer, just nodded his head, silently admitting that that was what he had done.
"Well, you can't go without sleep..." Pepper sighed. "I'm not letting you move out...but if it will make you feel safer, I will have JARVIS keep an eye on us at night. If you have anymore dreams that you need to be woken from, I will likely wake up first. I'll just have JARVIS remind me to get out of bed and let him wake you so that you don't do something while you're still half asleep that you will blame yourself for in the morning. Then, once you are awake, if you still feel too scared to go back to sleep because you are afraid of hurting me, instead of going to your lab, you'll go to Steve. I know you usually only go to him when I'm not around, but I'd rather have you spend the night with him and actually sleep, than stay up working on things when your concentration isn't at one-hundred percent." Her voice was worried again.
Grant smiled at his father. "Maybe you can suggest it. I think it would sound better coming from his 'uncle' than his younger cousin..." He leaned into his father, always ready for whatever affection the older man was able to give.
Clint drank his coffee, staying quiet and doing everything but look at the huddle of three. Tony was one of his best friends and he hated seeing him like this. He unconsciously moved closer to his father as well.
"I think that's the best idea," Steve said. "But you should probably ask JARVIS to wake me when it happens as well." He knew Tony... and he knew the chances were good that Tony wouldn't go and wake him up on his own.
Coulson nodded, tugging both of his sons in close and pressing an affectionate kiss to each of their foreheads. "I'll talk to him about it," he promised. "And after breakfast, maybe we could play some cards together before I have to leave for my meeting."
Grant smiled. "I'd like that." He plated up food for Steve, Pepper and Tony, placing it around the table so that it would be ready for them as soon as they were ready to release Tony, then plated up food for his father, brother and himself, making sure that they were sat next to each other.
Clint nodded his agreement, before getting silverware for everyone and putting it next to the plates.
Tony didn't say anything, just cried softly onto Steve's shoulder. He did manage to move one of his arms so that he could clasp Pepper's hand and hold onto her with a firm grip. Finally, he just nodded his agreement to Pepper and Steve's solution.
Pepper pressed up against Tony's back, squeezing his hand and kissing the back of his neck, before asking for Steve, "JARVIS? Did you hear Steve's and my plan?" in a quiet voice.
"Yes, Ms. Potts. From now on, in the future...should Sir have nightmares which he needs woken from, I will: wake you and remind you to move out of the way; wake Sir; if Sir is afraid he will hurt you and does not wish to go back to sleep in your presence, I will wake Captain Rogers and inform him that Sir will be joining him and then remind Sir that the Captain will be waiting and it will be in his own best interests not to try and disappear into his lab." The AI finished listing his instructions with an almost chiding tone.
Grant couldn't help but snort at the AI, looking at his father. "Wow. JARVIS is like a babysitter that can see everything and is willing to tell on you the first chance he gets.... You don't have him watching me, do you?" He suddenly got a worried look on his face.
JARVIS answered Grant immediately. "I watch everyone, Agent Ward. I just do not tell anyone what I see unless it is a matter of life and death of the person I am watching. Or unless their caregiver has asked me to watch and report on them specifically and they know that I will be reporting on their behavior."
Coulson gave a slight smile, guiding both of his sons towards the table. "I don't need JARVIS to report on you," he commented to his youngest. "The bracelet takes care of that for me." He sat down between his sons, but didn't immediately start eating, still concerned about Tony.
Steve squeezed Tony gently. "You see? We have a plan in place already," he pointed out. "And we'll look at a therapist for you... and perhaps getting a dog to help." He'd heard Coulson, even though his entire focus had been and still was on Tony.
Grant got a sheepish look on his face and blushed. "Oh...yeah. I keep forgetting about that, I'm so used to wearing it now." He grinned crookedly. He didn't start eating immediately either, noting his father's concern for their family member and concerned himself.
Clint smiled slightly, waiting along with the others; might as well eat at the same time, after all. "He probably has JARVIS keep an eye on me, though..." he teased their father. "I would if I were him...."
Tony nodded again, starting to calm down a bit. "Ok...that's...that's a good idea," he admitted. "I'm ready to admit I need that...." he said, sounding completely beat. He finally straightened and turned so that he could face Pepper. "I'm sorry, sweetie...so, so sorry..." he said to her, his words filled with worry and guilt.
Pepper shook her head. "I forgave you before you were even out of bed..." She smiled sadly, leaning forward and kissing both of his cheeks before giving him a lingering kiss on the mouth. "Do you want me to cancel my meetings today?" she asked softly.
Tony shook his head briskly, trying to get himself back on an even keel. "No...no. I...I'll probably hang out in the common area, maybe take a nap." He gave her a tiny smile. "You need to eat breakfast, Missy. The most important meal of the day, you know...." He swallowed, then licked his lower lip and glanced at Steve. "Thanks, Cap..." he said softly.
"Only when I need to make sure you're not going to do something stupid." Coulson smiled, resting a hand on each of their shoulders, mostly teasing. "Sometimes it's good to have that extra person watching your back."
Steve nodded, squeezing Tony's shoulder gently. "I'd like you to eat some breakfast as well, before going back to sleep," he said, his voice filled with concern.
"Yes, sir..." Tony blinked his eyes blearily, falling back into his habit of being very respectful of Steve when he was feeling at his most vulnerable. Slowly, he made his way to the table and sat down, waiting till Pepper and Steve had joined him before picking up his fork. He glanced at Phil, Grant and Clint and smiled faintly. "Sorry to mess your morning up..." he said quietly.
Clint grimaced then pointed a fork at his friend. "You didn't mess anything up and you better not try and give me some apology hug, cuz if you do I'll put an arrow in your butt!" he teased, before smiling and taking a bite of egg.
"We worry about you," Coulson said softly. "That's what family does. When you're having problems, I hope you know you can talk to any of us at any time." He smiled reassuringly at Tony, squeezed his sons' shoulders and then began eating.
Steve sat down next to Tony, clasping his shoulder gently before beginning to eat himself.
Tony relaxed at Coulson's words and smiled at him, then took a bite of his own food.
Pepper stayed as long as she was able, eating slowly, but eventually, she needed to head to work. Giving Tony one more kiss, she said, "Call me if you need me-at all!" She waited till she had his nod then glanced at Steve, silently asking him to keep an eye on Tony.
Tony soon finished as well and waited for everyone else, not wanting to be alone. He figured as soon as they were done, he'd figure out what everyone else was doing then follow Steve.
When everyone had finished eating, Coulson began clearing up. "We were going to play cards," he said to Tony. "You and Steve are welcome to join in if you're not planning to sleep straight away."
"I think sleep should be the first thing on the agenda," Steve said, standing to help with the cleanup. He looked at Tony. "I thought we could go to my floor."
Tony smiled at Phil, helping as much as he could without getting in the way. "Thanks for the offer, sir, but I'm not gonna argue with Cap on this...especially not when he is right." He smiled again and couldn't help but yawn. "I'll go wherever you want me," he said to Steve.
Clint helped with cleanup too, leaving Grant to take care of Copper.
Coulson nodded. "I'll make sure to invite you next time," he promised.
With so many of them cleaning up, it was done quickly and Coulson wrapped an arm around each of his sons' shoulders. "Why don't we go and see if Natasha wants to join us?" he suggested.
Steve placed his hand gently on Tony's shoulder. "My floor," he said, beginning to steer the other man from the common area. "When you wake up, we can talk about a therapist and a dog," he added.
Grant nodded. "I'm surprised she didn't come for breakfast, actually," he said. "I have to take Copper on his walk, but I'll stop by her floor and ask her real quick. I should be back in thirty minutes. Is that ok? Or would you like to go with me?"
"I'm sure you can't get into much trouble taking Copper for a walk," Coulson joked, then kissed Grant's forehead. "If you'd like me to come, then I'd go with you," he added, not wanting his son to feel like he couldn't invite him.
"Maybe not...but I'm sure I could find some if I looked hard enough," Grant teased. He whistled to Copper, holding up the leash. "We'll be back soon; most likely with Nat." He waved at his father and brother and disappeared with the dog.
Coulson smiled after Grant and then turned to his oldest, clasping Clint's shoulder. "Is there anything in particular you'd like to do?"
Clint grinned. "Naw, not really. I have a meeting with a couple of junior agents to train them in the bow this afternoon, but I'm free until then. Maybe we can let Nat pick this time."
Coulson nodded. "That sounds like a good idea." He wrapped his arm around Clint's shoulders. "I don't expect the meeting will run for too long..."
# # #
Tony followed Steve quietly, letting the other man steer him to the elevator and eventually his floor. "Thanks, Cap." His voice was quiet and tired and filled with fond gratitude.
Steve gently steered Tony to his bedroom. "You can wake me up any time you need to. I hope you know that," he said. "I understand how hard the nightmares are for you." As well as the after-effects.
Tony toed off his shoes, then took off his jeans and folded them, putting them on the nearest chair; he'd sleep in boxers and t-shirt without embarrassment. He then crawled onto the bed and lay down on his stomach, burying his face into Steve's pillow. "I do know," he said, giving Steve a crooked grin. "From now on, I'll come to you if I need to, even if Pepper's home..." His voice trailed off and he started blinking as his eyes wanted to close. "Will you stay with me?" His voice sounded a little scared and a lot embarrassed, but he asked anyway.
"I was intending to do that anyway." Steve settled on the edge of the bed, resting his hand on Tony's shoulder. "I'll be here," he promised. "You don't have to worry." His voice was gentle and fond.
"Thanks, Steve...luv ya, man..." And then Tony was out like a light.
Steve stayed sitting on the bed, but took out his phone so that he could give Bucky a call and let his brother know they'd have to postpone running for now.
# # #
Fitz was working on one of the computers in the lab when an e-mail came through addressed to him. Opening it, Fitz frowned at the message, a bit confused by the abrupt tone... but then again, maybe Coulson had had only a minute or two to send the message and that was why it seemed so terse.
Whatever the reason, Fitz found himself quite excited at the prospect of going on a mission with Grant. Their first mission together hadn't started out as well as it could have done, but now that they were all closer, he thought it might go quite well.
After clearing his throat, Fitz addressed the AI. "JARVIS? Could you ask Ward to come and meet me in the lab, please?"
Ward had gone to the lab immediately after Fitz requested him curious as to what the scientist had found that needed his attention...he wasn't the most scientifically informed of the team, after all. Walking in and glancing around, he made his way to Fitz. "What's up, bro? Did you need me to do something?"
"I had an e-mail come through from Coulson," Fitz explained and gestured towards the computer screen, stepping back so that Ward could read the message.
Grant read the email, then shrugged. "Seems pretty straight-forward. Do you need further instructions from him or shall we go get our gear and head over?" He smiled at the scientist. There was a part of him that questioned why Leo would be sent an email from his father with instructions for an op... but it wasn't often the younger man was involved as a main agent in an op and he seemed so excited, Grant didn't want to 'throw cold water on him'.
Fitz shook his head. "No. I mean... we should let one of the others know we're leaving." Though he was certain Coulson would have informed Steve and May, they might not have passed that onto the others.
"Yeah... I think Tony was on the common floor when I got the message from JARVIS. We can let him know we're on our way out," Grant agreed, heading for the elevator.
It hadn't taken long for them to reach the common floor and Grant got off, heading into the living area where Tony was slouched on a couch, sort of reading a book, but mostly dozing. He waited for Fitz to catch up so that the younger scientist could tell Tony and show him the message before they left.
"Wuzzup, kiddos?" Tony grinned crookedly, his voice weary.
Fitz had printed off a copy of the e-mail and followed Grant into the living area. "Coulson asked us to go on a mission," he said, gesturing to himself and Grant, before passing the copy of the e-mail over to Tony, already thinking about what equipment he was going to need.
"Ah...and you want me to tell anyone that asks about you what you're up to?" Tony asked curiously. There was something that seemed off about the email, but for the life of him, he couldn't figure out what was bugging him about the situation.
"That probably works better than tracking down everyone to tell them," Fitz said. He glanced at Grant to see if 'big brother' had anything to add.
"Works for me..." Grant shrugged, then smiled. "Thanks, Tony." He motioned Fitz toward the elevator so they could head downstairs to get one of the vehicles and drive to their rendezvous point.
"No problem...have fun, kiddies!" Tony waved them off, closing his eyes and sighing.
# # #
And things had gone wrong really quickly.
The two of them had reached the rendezvous point really quickly, but the moment they'd arrived, it was clear they'd been expected... and that the e-mail sent had been a trap. (Which, really, Fitz thought he probably should have guessed... Coulson didn't do abrupt, even when he was in a hurry).
If Grant had been alone, Fitz thought he'd probably have tried to fight... and maybe succeeded. But there had been both of them and a lot of people pointing guns at them. And now they were in a helicopter and their comms were down...
Fitz tried to reassure himself that, the moment Coulson returned from the meeting, the others would be working on finding them... the problem was, he didn't know how long that would take.
Grant wasn't too worried- as long as the tracking device in his bracelet wasn't blocked, they still had a slight chance of finding them. Of course, that was if their captors didn't think the bracelet suspicious and remove it from him themselves...which was a possibility. As much as he didn't want to think it possible and they'd done everything they could to make the bracelet inconspicuous...it was hard to say what these creeps would do.
What worried Grant the most was that they would hurt Fitz. His protective instincts were kicking into overdrive and he had to force himself not to act while he waited for the right moment to escape.
# # #
Tony had lay on the couch, semi-dozing for another half-hour when the odd feeling he'd felt ever since reading the email gelled into an outright panic. He knew why that email had seemed so weird now! Coulson would never have sent instructions for an operation through an email to Fitz, even if the kid was meant to be a large part of it. He would have called...and he most likely would have communicated the instructions through Steve if he didn't communicate them directly. Simply for the fact that Coulson would have wanted back-up in case things went wrong. As far as Tony could tell, the only ones who knew about this operation were Leo and Grant; and himself, because they'd bothered to tell him where they were going.
Jumping up and running toward the elevator so that he could get to his computers (and his suits if needed) he immediately had JARVIS do a group call- including Coulson, Cap, and Fury in the transmission. When the connection was made to all three, he didn't even wait for any of the other three to speak before he blurted out. "They've gone to a trap!" He then explained what little he knew.
Coulson responded to the call, even though he was in the middle of the meeting. As soon as Tony explained the situation, though, Coulson put an end to the meeting to return to the tower.
"Grant still has the bracelet," Coulson said as he drove back. "As long as no one removes it, we should be able to track him using that." He was incredibly worried, but as long as he could feel like he was doing something, he could keep the panic at bay.
"I'm concerned about who sent the e-mail," Fury said.
"I am as well," Steve said. "Tony... do you think you and Skye could see if you can get more information from the e-mail? I'd imagine Fitz would have kept it."
"Already on my way, Cap..." Tony said, as he got off the elevator to the lab where Bruce and Jemma were researching, JARVIS having told him that's where she was.
"I've also asked JARVIS to let everyone else still in the tower know what has occurred, so that they can be ready to go on a moment's notice," Tony continued, as he walked into the lab and waved at Skye urgently.
Skye had been informed by JARVIS of what had happened and she quickly headed over to Tony. "What do I need to do?"
# # #
The helicopter that Fitz and Ward had been taken in was finally in approach to a building. He knew if they were going to make their escape, it would need to be before they were dragged into the building. He watched their approach, trying to figure out their options, but they did not look good. Swallowing, he looked at the pilot of the helicopter and the few guards that were in the helicopter with them. Their kidnappers had apparently figured that once they were in the air, they wouldn't be as likely to try anything, so they hadn't sent many guards. There was a large amount of guards gathering where the helicopter was to land, though.
Glancing at Fitz, Ward gave a tiny smile. "Time to brace yourself..." he whispered, giving Fitz just enough time to assume a crash position, before he threw himself forward and attacked the pilot.
Fitz didn't argue or question or hesitate. He trusted Ward completely and he quickly braced his position. It was awkward, with the handcuffs, and the metal dug painfully into his wrists when he tried to move his hands... but he managed to brace himself.
The helicopter went down like a rock in a lake...Ward only just managing to keep enough control of the thing that, even though it landed with a crash, it did not explode or tear to pieces immediately and he managed to get by without being knocked out or worse. The pilot wasn't as lucky, since Ward had knocked him out in order to cause the crash. Neither were the few guards on the helicopter with them; they had been in the midst of attempting to stop Ward and hadn't been prepared for the impact. Without a second thought, Ward dislocated his thumbs and removed the cuffs, popping them back into place with a grimace.
He then immediately pulled out the thin metal tool that was hidden in his shoe and ran to Leo, picking the locks on his cuffs while talking to the man worriedly. "Can you run, Leo? I estimate we have about one and a half minutes before the guards that were on the roof make it out the front door of that building and swarm us. We need to get to the woods...." he said quickly, looking into Leo's eyes as the last cuff fell off his younger friend.
Fitz had managed to remain more or less unhurt, only uncurling when they were on the ground. He stood as soon as the last of the cuffs had fallen, rubbing at his wrists as he nodded. "I can run." He waited for Ward to exit first, trusting the other man to lead the way.
Nodding, and trusting that Fitz would follow, Ward grabbed the few weapons he could find without a more thorough search and exited the helicopter, plotting a zig-zagging course to the woods. He clenched his teeth through the pain he felt. There was no time to stop and take stock of injuries...he just had to hope the pain was nothing serious.
Fitz followed Ward quickly, copying his movements and taking care not to look behind him... just in case there were people following them. And as his attention was focused on 'big brother', he could see that Ward wasn't moving the same way he would normally... as if he'd been injured.
Ward wasn't sure how long they had been running. It had already been mid-afternoon when they had left for the mission. It was now late afternoon/early evening; it was already very dark, however, the heavy woods making it very difficult to see.
Between the darkness and the injury that Grant was fairly certain was an internal bleed (making breathing very painful), they had needed to slow their progress a lot. Only the need to try and insure that they didn't stay in one place too long and risk being found kept them moving.
It might have been too dark to see properly, but Fitz could hear the change in Ward's breathing. He kind of wished he'd thought to build a light into the bracelet.
There wasn't any sound of pursuers and after a while, Fitz spoke up quietly. "Are you bleeding anywhere?"
Ward winced, having hoped Fitz wouldn't hear the problems he was having. He answered honestly, however. Fitz would need to know what he was dealing with if something happened. "Without being checked out by a doctor...I can take a guess that yes, I am. Unfortunately, it is inside my body and I can't do anything for it just yet."
Fitz bit his lower lip worriedly. "Surely we should stop... at least long enough to check? If you're already bleeding internally, this kind of running is only going to make it worse... And maybe I could look at the comms," he suggested.
# # #
Tony had given Skye clear directions on what she needed to look for in attempting to figure out who was behind the email. Meanwhile, he was attempting to get a signal from the tracking bracelet, or get some type of comms connection. He'd quickly realized that the comms weren't working and probably wouldn't be; everything indicated that they had somehow been fried. They would have to hope the tracking ability was still working.
Skye was working as fast as she could to trace the real sender of the e-mail, forcing aside the worry she felt for their teammates as she did so. If there was one thing they could rely on, it was that, if there was a way to escape, Ward would find it.
Coulson arrived in the lab as they were working, already using the bracelet controls to access the video feed. He didn't know how they would communicate, but at least he would then be able to see what kind of situation the two were in.
"Any luck figuring out where the email came from, kiddo?" Tony asked Skye, as he tried yet another frequency and location in an attempt to get a connection with the tracker.
"Not really," Skye admitted. "Whoever it was covered their tracks well. This could take a while..."
Coulson managed to get the video feed up on the control and frowned, noticing how dark the picture was. He assumed Fitz had included a contrast control and began working on it.
"Well, keep it up. I'm sure if anyone can find any information out, it will be you," Tony encouraged Skye, before he let out a happy yelp. "Finally! I've connected to the tracker! JARVIS, if you'd please pull it up satellite imaging so everyone can see?"
A large area of woods was brought up on the viewing screen, a tiny blinking dot indicating where the tracker was. "J? Please show all heat signatures in the woods. I need to see how many are in pursuit and how far away they are." Within moments, glowing forms of what were obviously two people showed where the blinking light was. The next obvious person was far away from their position; either their captors had gotten confused and went the wrong way looking for them, or they had decided hunting at night was a bad idea. Tony would have been relieved, until he noticed just what the two heat signatures were heading toward at a fairly rapid clip.
"Crap! Phil! Look what they're headed toward!" Tony said, in obvious fear for his two younger teammates. "Is it only the comms busted, or did all the functions on that bracelet wipe out?" His question was hopeful.
"I have the video feed." Coulson looked at the screen, fear showing on his face, however briefly, before he forced it away. Panic wouldn't help anyone right now. He wasted little time in swiftly pressing the button to 'stop' Grant. Freezing his son in place would hopefully cause Fitz to stop as well... and at least no one was close to them.
# # #
Ward shook his head. "We can't afford to stop. We don't know how far away they...." He gasped as his arm suddenly started to feel heavier; even fighting the bracelet when it was at the lowest possible setting of 'gravity' was putting more pressure on his injuries. He wasted no time in stopping and dropping to the ground, even though the bracelet had yet to reach the full level of 'heaviness' that Fitz had put into it to stop him. He could have continued walking for a bit further before he would finally be stuck to the ground, but he saw no point; especially not when fighting it would put pressure and tension on what was an unknown wound. "...On second thought, why don't we sit here for a little bit?" he gasped out and then stretched out so he could breathe.
Fitz looked worried, but he quickly crouched down next to Ward. "That function on the bracelet is keyed only to your dad," he said, having made sure to implement a fingerprint scanner so that anyone who might try to steal the control wouldn't be able to use it to hurt his friend.
Ward took a shallow breath then smiled crookedly. "Yeah...I hope this means they have been able to locate us and will be able to get us soon. You may as well see if you can fix the comms, though, since I can't move."
Fitz looked quite concerned, but he nodded, beginning to work on the comms. At the very least, maybe he could get through to the others that Ward needed medical attention... "Maybe you should sign to them that you're injured, in case video feed is on, so they can bring Doctor Banner?" he suggested.
Ward nodded. "Good idea." With that, he began signing to where the video camera would be in the bracelet, hoping that it wasn't too dark for his message to be seen.
# # #
Coulson had managed to lighten the contrast enough so that he could make out the details of Grant and Leo. Even without his son signing into the camera, he could see the evidence of pain on his son's face. There were no visible wounds, which meant there was a good chance Grant had been wounded internally.
Relieved that Bruce was there in the lab as well, Coulson addressed the doctor. "Grant was injured. I'll need you to come with us to check him over. I can't see any visible injuries, but he's signing to me that he's hurt and I think it might be internally."
Bruce nodded and quickly began gathering medical supplies. "If he is internally wounded, we should get to him as soon as possible." Bruce glanced at Phil.
Tony frowned. "If he is internally wounded, then I shouldn't fly him out. We'll need the jet."
"I'm going to go." Coulson spoke without any hesitation. It was his son who was hurt... and he couldn't stay behind and let the others go after Grant and Leo. He looked at Skye. "How are you getting on?"
"I'm just trying... Got it," Skye said. "I traced the e-mail account the person used."
"Of course," Tony answered. No one would have ever suggested otherwise. "Who else will be going?" He moved over to see what Skye had discovered.
Skye moved aside to let Tony see the details.
"I'd like May or Steve to come as well," Coulson said. He trusted everyone in the tower, but May and Steve probably had the most level heads... and that was going to be important. "Maybe Clint as well." His oldest could provide some cover from the trees, while Tony's suit would be a bit more difficult to hover in the air with the trees quite densely packed.
Tony nodded, "I won't be as much help in this situation. Shall I stay back with Skye and the others and try and put a name to our attacker?"
"That might be best," Coulson agreed, before addressing JARVIS. "JARVIS? Can you ask Clint and May to meet me and Bruce at the jet, please?" He made the decision fairly quickly to take May. Steve was probably better to stay with Tony... just in case the other man decided to try and take matters into his own hands.
"Of course sir. I have informed them," the AI stated calmly. "The Captain is on his way to join Mr. Stark. If anything is found that needs immediate attention he will form a team to address it."
# # #
Grant was finding it more difficult to breathe through the pain. It was also becoming more difficult to hide the pain from Fitz. "Any luck with the comms?" he asked hopefully.
Fitz flinched back at a spark that escaped from the comm link he was currently working on. "Nothing so far," he muttered. "I'm trying to re-route the frequency... but it wasn't a simple jamming device, otherwise we'd probably be out of range by now." He looked up at Grant, not even trying to hide his worry. "What can I do?" He hoped Grant would realise he wasn't talking about the comms... that he was referring to the other man's injuries.
Grant winced. "If you could help me sit up a bit...maybe it will help..." he said quietly.
Fitz nodded, quickly moving over to Grant's side to help him to sit up. "Do you think water might help? I grabbed a couple of bottles... have some food, too. No sandwiches, though." He gave a kind of half-smile as he remembered the first op they'd done together... and it seemed so long ago now.
Grant blinked. "When did you manage to grab food and water?" He couldn't keep the surprise out of his tone, although his impressed feeling came through as well. "I don't think I could eat, but I could use some water," he finally said, giving Fitz a pained smile.
"I had some in my pack. I grabbed it just before we ran," Fitz said. "I made sure I knew where it was, in case we had a chance to escape." He put his pack on the ground and took out one of the bottles, removing the cap without really thinking about it and passing it to Grant.
"Thanks, Leo..." Grant said softly, smiling crookedly and taking the water, sipping carefully. He winced as the pain got stronger. "I...I'm not sure what is going on with me...I..." He couldn't help but wince again. "I'm not feeling very strong. The bleeding must be worse than I thought..." he admitted with a slight, very slight, tone of fear in his voice.
Fitz looked even more worried, but tried not to show it. He wasn't used to seeing Grant scared. He took his flashlight out of his pack as he spoke. "Where's the pain located? I could have a look... see if there's any outward sign. Like bruising or swelling." He tried to sound more confident than he felt.
Grant winced again, then lifted his shirt up to expose his abdomen. He knew Fitz wasn't a doctor and there likely wasn't a lot he could do, even if he did see something, but the younger man did spend quite a bit of time with Simmons when she was nursing team mates; and if nothing else, should Grant pass out, he'd be able to show whoever came for them what and where the problem was. "The biggest pain is right below my ribs, just above my stomach...it hurts to breathe, so... but really, my stomach hurts too...and my kidneys. When the 'copter crashed, I was thrown onto the control and I'm not sure how I avoided being stabbed...." he admitted reluctantly.
Fitz moved forward carefully, shining the flashlight on Grant's abdomen. "There's quite substantial bruising," he said. "Maybe... if I can get the comms working, I can tell Doctor Banner about your symptoms... or you can... and get some idea of what to do..." He paused, thinking. "It might be easier to repair the comm on your bracelet. I put the video feed on a separate frequency... and if I can change the comm to the same frequency..." He wasn't completely sure that the video feed was working, but there was a good chance it was.
Grant nodded. "Go for it, bro. If anyone can figure it out, it'll be you..." He swallowed and lay back down to see if that helped his breathing at all. Nothing really seemed to be helping, though and the pain was getting worse. Not bad enough to cause him to blackout, but he was starting to feel faint...the last time he'd felt like this without being sick first, he'd been shot and lost a lot of blood. That more than anything told him that he was bleeding internally a lot more badly than he wanted to admit to Fitz. He didn't want the younger man more afraid for him than he already was and there really wasn't much that could be done until help arrived.
Fitz began working on the bracelet. It was more difficult while it was on Grant's wrist, but he eventually managed to access the comm. Frowning in concentration, he worked for a little while longer and then a hopeful look came over his face. "I think I might have it..."
Grant merely grunted, his weariness to the point now that it was all he could do to keep his eyes open. Running through the woods full-speed had definitely not done his wound any favors. He tried to give Fitz an encouraging grin, but he doubted he succeeded.
Fitz patted Grant gently on the shoulder and then tried using the comm. "Sir? Can you hear me?" He held his breath as he waited.
# # #
It was as he was getting on the jet that Coulson heard Fitz on the comm. He'd been watching on the video feed and could see that Grant was in a bad shape. His worry for his youngest was spiking... and knowing that he couldn't do anything to help his son had been hard. "I'm here, Fitz," he responded. "What's the situation?"
"Grant's about ready to pass out," was Fitz's worried reply. "Is Doctor Banner there? Is there anything he can suggest for me to do?"
Bruce frowned. "Fitz, try and keep him still...and if you have anything that can be put over him to keep him warm so that he doesn't go into shock. We are boarding the jet now and know exactly where you are, so we will be there as soon as possible. I know Clint will be flying as fast as the jet is able to go..." He smiled faintly at Coulson, hoping his words would help the older man as well as the younger scientist.
Coulson still looked really worried, watching the video feed anxiously and trying not to show how impatient he was. He knew Clint was flying them there as fast as he could, but knowing that one of his sons was suffering and not able do anything about it made him feel helpless.
# # #
Ward shivered slightly at that moment, murmuring softly, "'m cold..."
Both packs had had a blanket placed inside them... just in case. Fitz had only managed to grab his, but now he took the blanket out and quickly spread it over Grant, rubbing the other man's shoulders and arms to hopefully try and keep him warmer and then carefully draping an arm over Grant... just in case he started trying to move.
"You're a good brother, Leo...." Grant murmured, so quietly it would have been impossible to hear had the woods not been so quiet. "'m sorry I wasn't able to help you more..."
Fitz moved closer to Grant, trying to use his body heat to keep his brother warm. "You helped me a lot," he whispered.
# # #
Clint did fly the jet as fast as it would go and then a bit faster. While the helicopter had taken an hour to reach the destination it had been aiming for, the jet, fitted with the latest Stark thrusters and engines, managed to cut off over half that time... arriving to the area that the tracker indicated within twenty minutes. He slowed the jet so that it would hover over the location. "The trees are too thick for me to land, so you will need to somehow get him up here through some sort of harness. Luckily, Tony thought to add a gurney harness to the jet, so you won't have to move him much except to get him onto the gurney and then hook him to the pulley so that I can bring him up into the jet." He kept his tone concise, but under it all, everyone could hear his worry.
"At least one of us should go down as well to help Fitz get him into the harness." Coulson really wanted to go down and reassure his son, but he knew it would be better if Bruce went down, since the doctor would be able to see just how Grant could be moved.
Bruce nodded at Coulson, knowing how much the other man wanted to be there for his child, but also knowing he needed to get there as soon as possible to make certain everything was done right. "I'll get him to you quickly, Phil," he promised quietly.
With that, he hooked the pulley to the gurney, riding it down quickly. As soon as he was close enough to the ground, he jumped down and made his way to Grant's side, carefully taking his vitals. Finally assured that they did have enough time to get him onto the jet so they could get him to the medical wing, he motioned Fitz to bring the gurney closer. "I am going to need you to help me move him onto the gurney, Leo," he directed calmly. "You will take his feet, while I take his torso."
Fitz bit his lip, having moved out of the way so that Bruce could properly examine Grant. "I understand," he replied, crouching down and carefully grasping hold of Grant's feet, waiting to be told when to lift.
"And on three. One... two... three…" Bruce, along with Fitz, quickly but gently lifted Grant, placing him onto the gurney then beginning the process of strapping him down so that he wouldn't move and fall off in transit. Once he was sure that the patient was secured, he looked at Fitz again. "We need to carry the stretcher over to where the pulley lines are and attach it to them so that they can take him up into the jet. After that, they will send down a harness for the two of us. Make sure you have everything that you need..." He waited just long enough for Fitz to gather whatever he needed, before taking the head of the stretcher and waiting for Fitz to take the feet so that they could lift it up.
Fitz quickly packed everything into the backpack, strapping it on, before he grabbed the foot of the stretcher to help Bruce carry it over to the pulley.
"And on three again," Bruce directed. "One… two… three..." He lifted the stretcher up and began to carry it back to the pulley. It took little time at all to connect it to the correct levers and before too long, he was sending the order back over the comms... "Pull him up!"
He watched as the gurney disappeared into the night sky. Five minutes later, the harness was lowered back down to them. "Ok, Leo...it's our turn!" Motioning the younger man to come to him, he quickly attached the young scientist to the harness then connected himself. "Pull us up!" he was finally able to direct.
Coulson had quickly removed the harness from the gurney, sending it back down as he sat next to his youngest and held Grant's hand, worried and concerned. He knew Clint was drawing the others back up into the jet and he'd move out of the way to let Bruce look over Grant properly... but right now, Coulson didn't want to let go of his son.
# # #
Bruce had finally been able to properly treat Grant and Coulson was now sitting next to his son's bed in the hospital wing. Clint and Natasha had been in the room, but Natasha had dragged Clint away to get some food and bring it back for their dad, knowing that Coulson was never willing to leave one of his children's sides after they were injured.
Bruce had run numerous scans and, in the end, had performed surgery on Grant's spleen; the pain in all the other areas of his body had been due to the impact, but the majority of the bleeding had come from the spleen. Once he had sewn the tear and drained off the excess blood, the danger was past. He had kept Grant sedated for a few days after the surgery, however, to ensure that the younger man rested and allowed his body to heal. This morning, he had decided it was time to allow Grant to wake up.
Waking was a slow process...his eyelids not wanting to lift... but finally, Grant had his eyes open and was glancing around himself at the room. "I'm in the hospital?" he croaked out through dry lips...mostly to himself, as he hadn't turned his head enough to see if anyone was with him.
Coulson squeezed Grant's hand gently and then used his free hand to pick up the cup of water that had been brought, since he'd known that Grant would need something to drink after being woken up. "You're in the hospital wing in the tower," he said soothingly, before carefully placing the straw between his son's lips so that Grant could drink.
Grant obediently sipped the water, letting out a happy sigh as his mouth suddenly felt much better. He drank until his father pulled the cup away, likely to keep him from drinking too much at once, then swallowed. "Leo ok?
"He's fine." Coulson put the cup down for a moment so that he could gently stroke Grant's hair. "Worried about you. We've all been." He leaned in to kiss his son's forehead. "I'm glad you're all right."
Grant sighed again, leaning into his father's kiss. "Me too...I wasn't sure I would be..." he admitted softly. "…Fitz was wonderful...thinking on his feet and making sure we had supplies when all I was worried about was getting us away..."
"Getting away was important as well," Coulson said, squeezing Grant's shoulder gently. "I'm just glad the tracking device worked... you were quite close to a cliff edge. That's why I used the 'stop' feature."
Grant smiled at his father, shifting his arm so that he could grasp for the older man's hand. "I knew you had to have a really good reason for using it...and since the comms were broken, it was the only way I knew for certain that you had figured out where we were and that help was coming." He swallowed. "And when it slowed me down was when I realized just how wounded I really was. I hadn't slowed down enough before to give my wounds a chance to affect me; I hurt, but I was hoping it was just bruising. I hated doing that to Fitz...getting so weak and..." He sighed, blinking his eyes. They may not be sedating him anymore, but he was still pretty tired.
Coulson squeezed Grant's hand gently, before kissing his forehead once more. "It wasn't your fault you were hurt," he said softly. "I know you did what you could. I'm just glad to have you safely back here." He resumed stroking his son's hair, aware of how tired Grant was and hoping to soothe him back to sleep.
Grant couldn't help but lean into his father's hand, his eyes drifting shut as his father soothed him asleep. It didn't take long; he was still tired and he never felt safer than when his father had him...there was no reason to try and stay awake.
Tony- who had started to come in, but stopped when he noted that the kid was awake and Phil was trying to get him to sleep again- finally entered the rest of the way into the room, putting his hand on Phil's shoulder to let him know he was there, then motioning that he'd like the older man to follow him out of the room for a minute. He didn't want to risk waking the kid up with this conversation.
Coulson didn't speak, just nodded, gently freeing his hand from his son's and standing up. He followed Tony out of the room, but didn't go far. "What is it?" he asked, his voice soft even though they were outside.
"Mini-me was able to trace where the email came from....and we have determined who is responsible now." Tony's voice was quiet, but firm; still, it was obvious he felt guilty and agitated about what had been discovered. "A.I.M." Tony bit out the word then looked toward the wall, a frustrated glare on his face...unable to face Coulson. He had thought when he'd killed Aldritch Killian that any problems from the man's organization would go away with him. He hadn't thought to keep tabs on them...and because of that one of his family- Phil's son- had been hurt. He couldn't help but feel responsible.
Automatically, Coulson placed a hand on Tony's shoulder and squeezed gently. "You weren't responsible for what happened," he said gently. "And we got both Grant and Leo back... and Grant is recovering now. None of us thought something like this might happen."
Tony's wincing grimace indicated that he didn't believe he wasn't responsible. At the same time, he didn't argue with Phil. "Yeah. We got them back..." The glare on his face softened somewhat as he glanced through the door to his sleeping 'cousin'. "Anyway, I just wanted you to know...we figured out who it was and they are now on our radar...." Tony gave Phil a tiny smile that didn't quite reach his eyes; his eyes had a shifty gleam in them, as if he was planning something. "I'll ask Happy to bring you up some lunch, if you plan to stay here the rest of the day?"
"I think Clint and Natasha were going to do that." Coulson kept his hand on Tony's shoulder. "Tony... I'd like you to talk to Steve. Before you decide to do something that you really shouldn't." Actually, Coulson was prepared to call Steve himself... but he thought it might be better to give Tony the opportunity first.
"I'll make sure they are going to, just in case." He smiled at Phil, not remarking right away on the older man's other comment. He knew he should listen to Phil's request and talk to Steve. He knew what he was thinking of doing would get him in no end of hot water with the Cap, not to mention get Pepper and who knows how many others upset with him. But he didn't want to be talked out of his idea, either...he wanted payback for his younger friends; his family.
Reaching up, he put his own hand on Phil's hand and squeezed gently, then sighed and slumped slightly. The man hadn't removed his hand from his shoulder and was wasting time worrying about him when he should be next to his son, worrying about Grant. "Ok, sir. I'll talk to Steve..." he finally reluctantly agreed.
"Ask JARVIS to contact him now." Coulson spoke calmly, but he had no intention of leaving Tony alone until he knew the younger man's own anchor was there to take care of him. Tony might not be his son, but Coulson still cared about him.
Tony blinked at the order and finally looked back into Coulson's eyes. There was a firmness in Phil's gaze that let Tony know the older man wouldn't back down from this...he was going to talk to Steve either willingly or unwillingly...and he had a feeling unwilling would involve him facing the ground and bawling his eyes out, so it best be willing. Swallowing, he nodded hesitantly at his 'honorary uncle'. "Yes, sir..." Sighing, he swallowed then slanted his head slightly. "JARVIS? Could you have Steve come get me?" He winced at how childish he sounded.
Coulson squeezed Tony's shoulder gently and then waited until JARVIS relayed that to Steve and the Captain arrived... which didn't take very long.
It didn't take much for Steve to realise that Coulson had probably encouraged Tony to call him. He walked over to Tony and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "Let's go and talk."
Tony just bit his lip and waited for Steve to arrive, feeling almost as if he'd been caught by his 'uncle' doing something wrong and was waiting for 'dad' to come take care of it...which, considering he hadn't done anything wrong (yet, anyway), was an annoying way to feel. He gave Phil a weak smile at the way the older man kept his hand on him. He was pretty sure Phil was doing so just as much to make sure he didn't take off as he was to show how much he cared about Tony (and Tony knew he cared...people who didn't care usually didn't stick around all that long where he was concerned).
When Steve arrived and wrapped his arm around him, Tony knew it was a lost cause. He was going to end up spilling his plans to the other man- likely with very little encouragement- and then Steve was going to tell him no. And then Tony was going to be stuck with wanting to do his plan anyway and disobeying a man that he really cared about the opinion of and didn't want to disappoint...and knowing that, he figured he should be able to refrain, but he knew he wouldn't. Sighing softly, he gave a tiny wave to Phil and let Steve lead him away like a guilty child.
Coulson gave Tony a sympathetic, caring smile and then went back to his son, taking his seat by Grant's bed and holding his son's hand again. He was still worried... but at least he knew Grant was going to be all right.
Steve steered Tony gently to the elevator, speaking once they were inside. "Skye told me what you discovered. I know you well enough to know you want to do something. What are you planning?"
Tony gave Steve a reluctant look...he knew his plan was dangerous in the least. Add in the fact that it was highly illegal and would cause all manner of problems if he was caught, he knew Steve would never allow it. That, plus the fact that he apparently was so obvious with his intentions that all the father figures in the building were keeping an eye on him made him feel childish. Petulantly, he whined, "I don't wanna tell you."
"I know," Steve replied calmly. "But you are going to tell me. However it is you're feeling... you don't have to face it alone. I'm not going to let you do something dangerous because I care about you. I care about what happens to you."
Tony crossed his arms over his chest and frowned, attempting to look resolved and firm, like an adult who knew what he was doing would. Unfortunately for him, his frown didn't have the firmness in it he wanted and he wasn't standing straight enough to look resolved. He appeared more like a pouting child than an adult. "Why would I tell you when I don't want to? I know you care about me and what happens...but sometimes situations need to be taken care of no matter the risk...." He would have preferred his voice not to have the hesitancy he knew was there.
He didn't want to admit it to himself, but he knew if Steve really wanted him to talk, there wasn't much he could do to avoid talking. Especially if Steve felt that not talking would be problematic and lead to danger for him. If the man didn't manage to guilt him into spilling the beans, he wasn't entirely certain he wouldn't employ other means to get him to talk.
As the elevator stopped on his floor, Steve guided Tony out and towards the living room. "Even if something does need to be done, it isn't up to you to act on your own. You're part of a team... a family... and these kinds of decisions are ones we make together."
Tony really didn't have an argument for that. Biting his lip, he tried to come up with something a little more convincing than, "If I had taken care of them when they first became a problem, none of this would have happened. It's my responsibility...." Oh. Oops. He hadn't meant to say that last bit out loud. While he was trying to come up with an objection that might actually convince his friend, part of him was wondering if he shouldn't be attempting to get away from Steve. Being led to Steve's living room by Steve seldom led to anything that was comfortable; and often led to him having difficulty sitting for a few hours.
Steve stepped over to the couch and sat down, pulling Tony down to sit next to him. "Is HYDRA's actions my responsibility?" he asked softly. "Or Phil's?"
Tony blinked at the question before looking at Steve oddly. "Of course not.... Neither of you knew they were hiding in plain sight and there was no way you could have known...." His voice trailed off suspiciously as he realized where Steve was headed with his questioning.
"Then why do you think you're responsible for A.I.M.'s actions?" Steve asked. "When there was no way you could have known what kind of threat they would be."
"Because I knew Killian couldn't have been working alone...and I didn't bother looking for any of his cohorts after everything happened..." Tony argued, refusing to let go of the belief that it was his responsibility, even though he knew Steve was right.
"Even if you had looked, there's no guarantee you would have found anything," Steve said. "This is not your responsibility, Tony."
Tony listened to Steve's words and wanted to believe that it wasn't his fault. He never would have blamed anyone else if they were in his position, but Tony always had been harder on himself than anyone...and it was hard for him to let go of the idea that he should have known and should have done something to stop A.I.M. before they did something that harmed one of his family. He knew that if he didn't at least pretend to agree with Steve, he'd never get out of Steve's apartment so that he could go and do what needed doing, though, so he sighed and nodded. "Ok. I'm not sure I really believe it isn't my responsibility, but I'm willing to entertain the idea that there was nothing I could do." he finally said.
Steve didn't believe that Tony was giving in for one moment and although Tony had said one of the right things, Steve was pretty certain that was because he was just telling him what he wanted to hear. Still, he gave him the benefit of the doubt. "What were you planning to do?"
Tony frowned. "It doesn't matter..." He tried to deflect the question. He didn't want to lie, but he was hoping that his agreeing with Steve would have convinced the man that he wasn't going to go through with the plan. It was a bit frustrating that he went straight back to asking him what the plan was.
"It does matter," Steve replied. "I need to know what you were planning." He was deadly serious about it.
"Well...I still don't want to tell you." Tony shrugged and crossed his arms over his chest again. It would have had more impact if he'd been able to face the other man, instead of letting his eyes dart around, looking everywhere but into Steve's face.
"Tony... I'll give you one chance to tell me." Steve's tone held a heavy note of, 'or else'.
Tony bit his lip, knowing by Steve's tone what the other man would do if he refused again. He couldn't say anything, though. If he told Steve, Steve would forbid him from doing it...and then, when he did it, he not only would he be putting his life at risk (which he knew was unacceptable), but he'd be disobeying a direct order from his team-leader and the man who had, for all purposes, become his guardian. In Tony's eyes, that would be even worse, because it would show a lack of respect for Steve's position and role in his life that he didn't feel. He respected Steve a great deal. The only option was to not tell Steve and hope that the man would give up trying to get him to talk...although his hope in that actually occurring was very small to non-existent.
"No...I...I'm not telling," he refused again. He wished his voice had sounded stronger with the refusal and less nervous, but it was what it was.
Steve sighed. Dropping the issue wasn't really an option. He was pretty sure that Tony's plan was a dangerous one and if he didn't push, it would be the same as giving the other man permission to put his life at risk.
Without any further hesitation, Steve gently tugged Tony across his lap, wrapping an arm around his waist to secure him.
"Crap..." Tony muttered under his breath, although he'd really been expecting this outcome and wasn't sure why it surprised him. He didn't even bother to fight it, just reached down to grip Steve's ankle with one hand and brace himself against the floor with the other.
Steve tugged Tony's pants and underwear down before taking a tighter hold on him. He lifted his hand and brought it down in a swat that was more stinging than truly hard.
Tony winced with a grunt, his hand tightening around Steve's ankle. This was embarrassing...and if he felt guilty about his responsibility for letting A.I.M. exist, he was starting to feel guilty about defying Steve too. Which caused a dilemma. If he was feeling guilty about defying Steve, it wouldn't take long at all for him to 'break' and just tell the other man what he wanted to know and his refusing to talk in the first place would be pointless.
As embarrassing as it was, he couldn't help but feel some relief that Steve was taking him in hand. He was positive he deserved some sort of punishment for his failure to contain A.I.M. and he felt he deserved something for his defiance as well- even if his defiance was done so that he would be able to go after A.I.M. later.
Steve lifted his hand again and brought it down a second and third time, still keeping the swats at the same level. He settled quickly into a rhythm of the swats, continuing down to Tony's thighs before starting over from the top. It was then that he started speaking. "You are not expendable. Whatever your reasons, doing something you know is dangerous is not acceptable."
Tony blinked at the words, surprised that his eyes were watering already. The spanking wasn't even as hard as it normally would have been. The fact that Steve was speaking about him doing something dangerous made it clear that the other man had some idea of what his plan might be, even if he didn't know specifics. Tony swallowed hard. He wasn't certain if he was grateful Steve hadn't requested him to tell him his plan again or not. He wasn't at a point where he felt he could give in and 'confess'...at the same time, Steve hadn't asked a question, so Tony didn't feel justified in trying to make excuses or even try to defend himself. All he could do was lay over his guardian's knee and accept the punishment he had earned himself. He let his head drop a little further, trying to control his breathing...and hopefully keep himself from crying.
Steve began a third circuit of swats. "I'm quite willing and able to stay by your side for the whole next few days," he said. "Not because it's a chore... but because I care about you and I don't want anything to happen to you."
"Crap..." Tony muttered, so softly under his breath that it was only Steve's serum enhanced hearing that would have allowed him to hear it. Tony had felt slight guilt at having defied Steve before; that slight guilt had just turned into full-fledged, rock-in-his-stomach guilt with his friend's words. He never fully understood how Steve could care about him so much and be so protective of him, but he never ceased to be grateful that the other man did and was. And how did he repay him for that care and concern? He bullishly tried to hide things from him because he didn't want to be told no...actively planned to disobey, even if Steve did find out his plan and tell him no...he didn't deserve Steve's love. "I'm an ungrateful brat..." This was muttered just as softly as the curse word and Tony slumped completely over his disciplinarian's lap after saying it. He wasn't crying...yet...but he was fully accepting of what Steve was doing.
"You're stubborn and determined to go your own way," Steve said, shifting Tony forward to begin targeting his sit spots. "Sometimes that's a good thing... but not when you put yourself in unnecessary danger to do that. And I know I'm not the only one affected by your disregard for your own safety."
"Yes, sir...I...I know that too," Tony admitted, his voice catching. It was becoming more and more difficult not to start crying vocally...but Tony knew as soon as he did, that it was all over. He'd confess everything Steve wanted him to confess and then he'd be left with the option of giving up his plan completely, or disobeying a man who had become so important to him, the idea of disobeying him physically hurt.
Steve increased the force behind the swats, just a little. Still not anything like as hard as he could give out, but enough to emphasise his next words. "You will tell me what you're planning and then we will figure out where to go from there. I'm not suggesting we ignore it, or pretend it never happened... but the days of you endangering yourself are long gone."
Tony tried to hold out, but between the guilt he'd felt for what he felt like as his failure with A.I.M.; the guilt he felt at what he'd decided was disrespectful defiance of Steve; and the pain that had built up from the spanking he was still receiving, he couldn't control himself anymore. He'd already gone limp over Steve's lap...he let out one choked cry. Once that cry had escaped, there was no holding anything back and he began to sob, speaking in between each gasp. "Alright.... I'll tell you.... I'm sorry I dis..dis..disobeyed.... I'll...I'll talk!"
He wished he could claim his agreement came out sounding adult and conciliatory. He knew he sounded like a scared child who wanted 'daddy' to stop being mad at him. It was humiliating, but he couldn't seem to help it. That's sorta what he felt like.
He didn't wait for Steve to stop spanking or lift him up off his lap. He wanted to get everything out and into the open quickly. To that end, he began explaining every part of the plan he had wanted to follow. Every last dangerous, illegal, and possibly unethical part of it. He knew Steve would be ashamed of him. He was ashamed of himself.
Steve stopped, his hand shifting to Tony's back. He rubbed gently as the other man talked, not saying anything until Tony was finished. He then lifted Tony off his lap, settling the man on his lap, instead of over it, and hugged him close. "You don't need me to tell you that plan is not a good one," he said quietly. "We will form a team and we will hit them. Together. With other team members. Not alone."
Tony hid his face against Steve's chest, sobbing quietly and listening to what his leader said. He just nodded his head in agreement. What else was there to say? Now that Steve knew everything he'd planned, the only way he would be able to do it now was to directly disobey the other man; and while he had figured that would be an option before he'd been spanked...the spanking had altered his perception enough that he knew he couldn't do that. It wouldn't just be disrespectful and disobedient, it would break Steve's trust in him and he really didn't want to lose that. Still crying, he swallowed and forced himself to take a deep shuddering breath so that he could speak. "Y..yes, sir. I won't go alone an..and I'll let you form the plan...an..and I'm sorry." The shame he felt was clear in his voice and he shivered slightly.
Steve rubbed Tony's back gently. "I know you are," he replied. "We've dealt with it and it's over. I don't care about you any less," he promised. "I know this has been hard on you, but you aren't alone to have to deal with it."
"Ok." Tony's voice was quiet and hoarse from crying, but his belief and trust that Steve would help him 'deal with it' enabled him to finally calm down. He swallowed again and let out a tiny laughing huff. "I shoulda just told you immediately...now you still know everything and I'm gonna have a hard time sitting the rest of the night." He sniffed once then hid his face against Steve again, cautiously wrapping his arms around the other man, embarrassed at the fact that he always felt so childish and needy with his childhood hero.
"Do you ever wonder what might have happened if you'd been found forty years earlier?" He kept his tone light and curious, but what he was really wondering was if he'd have ended up so screwed up emotionally if the Captain had been found and been in his life before his parents had died. Then again, knowing now that his parents had been killed by Hydra, he figured maybe it was a good thing Steve hadn't been found earlier. He might have been killed too and Tony really needed him around right now.
Steve responded by tightening his own embrace around Tony. It was nice that they'd come far enough from that first time that Tony was more comfortable about accepting the comfort and reciprocating... even if the other man was still a bit cautious about it.
"Sometimes I do," Steve answered. "If I'd been around earlier, I could have been a support system for you back then as well. But I am here for you now. And that isn't going to change."
"Thank you," Tony finally said in a whisper. "I...I really think I'd be dead or in an asylum right now if it weren't for you. Well...you and Pepper, but she really can't seem to get me to listen the way you can, so..." He shook his head slightly and finally sat up straighter, not able to face Steve, still ashamed at what he had planned to do.
Carefully, he stood and pulled his clothing back into place, then bit his lip. "I still wanna go and make them pay...." he admitted reluctantly.
"I know." Standing up, Steve wrapped an arm around Tony's shoulders. "And we will take them down," he promised. "But not alone. Not by putting anyone at risk. I am not going to risk losing you."
Tony nodded then gave a crooked smile. "Ok. You're in charge, Cap." He said it in a teasing tone, but inside, he was really thankful that Steve was in charge. He wasn't sure anyone else would have the same level of patience or acceptance of him. And he knew if Steve said something would happen it would. And if Steve said something was a certain way, it generally was. Maybe he really didn't need to feel guilty for missing the fact that A.I.M. was still actively gunning for him and those he cared about.
But even if he had needed to feel guilty, he didn't anymore. Reaching back, he rubbed his butt and gave Steve a slight pout. "One of these days, I'm gonna learn not to push...."
Suddenly, he got an odd expression on his face and looked back up at Steve. "Am I grounded?" After trying so hard to hide his plans from Steve, he wasn't certain if the other man trusted him not to try something anyway. It hurt to think that he might have lost trust...but he wouldn't have been able to blame Steve if he was worried that Tony might do something despite everything- especially when Tony wasn't entirely trusting of himself.
"You're grounded in the sense that we're going to be spending more time together," Steve replied. "But not as punishment. I think you'll benefit from staying with me a bit more... and not hiding yourself away in your lab." He knew how easy it was for Tony to get absorbed in his work and he didn't want to run the risk of any residual negative emotion causing the other man to start withdrawing.
"Ah..." Tony said thoughtfully then slanted his head. "So I'm not really grounded. I'm kinda being rewarded in a way." He smiled innocently.
"That probably depends on how you view spending time with me," Steve replied, not entirely serious, and squeezed him gently.
Tony grinned and hugged him back. "Like I said..." He sang the last word out, "...rewaaarded."
# # #
Grant had recovered enough to leave the hospital wing and Coulson had both his sons on his floor. He was currently cooking food for them and Natasha, who'd also showed up to check on her little brother, and making sure he was preparing their favourites. Well... the favourites that worked together in a meal.
Grant was thankful to be out of the hospital wing and back on his father's floor, although part of him was wishing he'd been allowed to go to his own floor. He loved his father dearly, but after a week of being under observation and not having one moment alone where he wasn't being watched, he really felt like he needed some time to himself. He didn't say anything, though. As much as he wanted some time alone, he also knew that if he got that time alone, he'd more than likely go searching out his father or brother within an hour anyway. His emotions were so stirred up and confused at the moment he wasn't sure what he really wanted. He sat at the kitchen table, quietly watching his father cook.
Clint placed two tablets in front of him. "Time for your meds, kiddo."
Sighing softly, Grant picked up the pills and downed them with a few gulps of water. "Thanks, Clint..." he said quietly, if a bit listlessly.
Coulson made it a point to know what was going on with his kids and he was pretty certain Grant's emotions were all over the place. He also knew that, as much as Grant did need his family, he also needed some independence as well.
Having put the food on plates, Coulson set them in front of his kids and then took his own seat. "Depending on how you're feeling, Grant, maybe you could take Copper out for a walk?" he suggested, knowing the dog was well-behaved and wouldn't pull on the leash.
Grant smiled, his eyes brightening a little. "I'd like that, dad...I've missed taking him out." He reached down and scratched the dog behind the ears, grinning when Copper's tail thumped placidly against the floor.
Clint slanted his head, watching his brother then glanced at Natasha. "Think you'd be up to watching a movie tonight? I was thinking someone really needed to get Steve to watch Princess Bride...and I think we're just the ones to do it." He poked Natasha in the side, while grinning at Grant.
Coulson nodded in understanding. "I know." He squeezed Grant's shoulder gently. "And I understand how frustrating this past week has been for you. You won't need to be smothered for much longer," he promised, joking a little with the use of the word, but still serious because he knew how much his son had been affected.
Natasha responded by poking Clint gently with the end of her fork, though her eyes gleamed. "That sounds fun," she said innocently.
Grant smiled at his dad and began to eat.
"Great...you can be the one to drag him in to watch. Or convince Tony to drag him in..." Clint grinned impishly at his sister.
"I'm sure I can get Tony on board..." Natasha mused.
Coulson smiled as he began eating his own food, relaxed and happy to have his kids close to him.
Grant slanted his head as he ate, swallowing before asking, "Why the Princess Bride?"
Clint blinked at the question, coffee poised halfway to his lips before he spluttered, "Why the Princess Bride? Why the Princess Bride?" He glanced at Natasha, as if to ask, 'Where did I go wrong?' then turned back to his younger brother. "She gets kidnapped...he gets killed...but it all ends up ok!" Clint glanced at his father, then leaned closer to Grant and impishly finished, "...sides. They fight with swords...!"
Grant blinked owlishly then took another bite of his breakfast. "Sounds interesting. Never saw it myself..."
Clint's mouth dropped open, the look on his face comical.
Natasha laughed outright at the look on Clint's face. "It looks like you'll be watching with us," she said to Grant, speaking between mouthfuls.
"I remember encouraging you to watch movies you missed," Coulson commented to Clint... though he didn't mention that he'd also spent a lot of the time encouraging Clint to act his age when he first adopted his oldest.
"I also remember getting grounded for watching movies that I 'missed' because I was too young to watch them..." Clint groused, but the look on his face was amused.
"Dad caught you watching 'Debbie Does Dallas', didn't he?" Grant asked in all seriousness, only his eyes giving away the fact he was teasing.
Clint blinked and stared at his younger brother, eyes wide. "How'd you...?" He looked suspiciously at Nat.
"I didn't tell him," Natasha said, completely innocently.
"Yes, well, you knew what was on the approved list," Coulson replied, smiling.
"Yeah, yeah...well we all know how well I follow orders." Clint snorted then laughed. "To be honest, I was just testing to see if I could get away with it. I only started the movie five minutes before you were meant to get home and I spent most of that five minutes looking out the window to see if you'd arrived yet," Clint admitted years after the fact.
Grant shook his head with a smile, but didn't say anything. Instead, he finished off his breakfast.
"I suspected that," Coulson commented. "You spent an awful lot of that time testing me and pushing the boundaries." He'd spent a lot of time standing his ground and proving to Clint that, no, his son was not going to succeed in driving him away.
"Yeah...sorry ‘bout that." Clint actually looked sheepish. "It really shouldn't have taken me as long as it did to believe you were for real. My instincts kept telling me to trust you...I had just been burned before and, well...," he shrugged slightly.
"I have a feeling we all have tested dad for a lot longer than probably makes sense, considering he's never let any of us go...." Grant smiled crookedly, knowing he'd done his own share of 'pushing'.
Coulson gave each of his kids a gentle squeeze to their shoulders. "None of you had 'normal' family lives," he pointed out gently. "I don't blame any of you for pushing the way you did... no matter how uncomfortable it was." He was never going to break... or even bend.
Grant slanted his head. "That's cuz you're one of a kind, dad..." He smiled, indicating that was a very good thing, then stretched and pushed back from the table. "May I take Copper on a walk now?" He felt a bit childish, asking for permission to leave the building, but since everyone had been so worried over him and still was worried to some degree, he didn't feel right just taking off.
Coulson nodded, squeezing his arm gently. "Don't go too far, all right? You're still healing..." He was worried about Grant putting too much strain on himself.
Grant sighed and took a deep breath, pushing his annoyance down because he knew his father was worried about him. They all were...and they'd had good reason to be. "I won't..." he finally said with a crooked smile, "…Come, Copper!" He motioned to the dog, clipping the lead onto his harness and walking carefully to the elevator.
Coulson watched Grant a few moments, but knew that, as worried as he was, he couldn't keep hold of his son... not unless he wanted Grant to resent him. He had to trust that Grant wouldn't push himself too much.
Observing the look on their father's face, Natasha reached across the table and squeezed his arm, eliciting a fond smile and gentle squeeze of her hand in return.
# # #
Grant had enjoyed the walk with Copper. It wasn't that they had gone far; they hadn't. Even with as much as he wanted and needed a little alone time, Grant knew he would tire himself out if he went too far and that would just be foolish on his part. But he had found a bench in a tiny little park near the tower where he had sat down to enjoy the fresh air, Copper curled at his feet, and he'd ended up staying out longer than he'd planned. As he re-entered the building and got onto the elevator, he could only hope his father hadn't begun worrying about him. He had an appointment to meet with Bruce now- it was the main reason he'd finally returned- and so he decided to go straight to the medical floor where he was to be examined.
Although Coulson did trust his son, he wanted to be there in case Grant wanted some support. After eating and spending some time with Clint and Natasha, he made his way to the medical floor, knowing Grant would let him know if he wanted to see Bruce alone.
Most of the tension Grant had been feeling had seeped out of him while he sat outside in the fresh air and sunshine. The remainder had disappeared as he played with his dog, the simple act of being 'normal' and not being watched as if he was going to collapse at any moment helping him. When he walked onto the medical floor and saw his father waiting for him, he smiled. He knew he could ask the other man to leave, but he wouldn't. His father had been worried and if hearing Bruce pronounce him better helped his father feel better then he was willing to have him witness his final examination. "Hey, dad," he said quietly, with a tiny smile. "I'm ready for you to tell me I'm ok, Brucie!" he teased his doctor.
Bruce blinked at the nickname, but didn't say anything. Tony had a way of rubbing off on people; this he knew. "Ok, if you'd please change into that gown...and then hop up onto this table."
Grant grimaced at the hospital robe, but took it and went behind the nearby screen to do as asked. "Drafty...we really need to look into getting non-drafty examining clothes...." he muttered to no one in particular.
"I can ask for the temperature to be turned up a bit after I've taken your temperature...or is it the fact that you're afraid you're going to flash us?" Bruce asked in amusement.
"Naw... the both of you have seen enough of me, it seems pointless to be worried about my modesty." Grant laughed. "And the temperature is fine too. I just don't like the gowns," he admitted and shrugged, glancing at his father.
"I'm not sure anyone really does," Coulson commented, standing close enough to Grant so that his presence would be felt, but not close enough to crowd his son. Even if Grant did look better, Coulson knew and understood how difficult this past week had been on him.
"How was your walk?" Coulson asked, genuinely wanting to know.
"It..." Grant slanted his head so that Bruce could look into his ear. "It was what I needed...thanks for understanding...." He gave his father a crooked smile, before opening his mouth so Bruce could stare down his throat.
"Take a deep breath...." Bruce directed as he began to listen to Grant's lungs and heart. It didn't take long for the 'basics' to all be out of the way, including blood pressure, and then Bruce was directing Grant to lay back onto the table, a thin sheet placed over the lower half of his body, covering just to his hip-bones and leaving his abdomen exposed. The faint scar from the operation he'd needed shone pink against pale skin.
Grant couldn't help but grimace as Bruce began to poke and prod his mid-section.
Coulson shifted so that he could be next to his son, though not in Bruce's way, and squeezed Grant's shoulder gently. "I know how important it is for you to have independence," he said softly. "And if there is something I can do to make you feel better, then I'll do it." Within reason, of course.
"Does this hurt at all?" Bruce asked, quietly and calmly, as he pushed against the area where the scar was.
"Not hurt, exactly..." Grant winced. "It's uncomfortable, a little sensitive, but only when you are pushing on it and it stops feeling that way when you stop pushing..."
"The sensitivity will likely be there for a bit longer," Bruce stated. "It appears that you are healing nicely, though. I wouldn't recommend any boxing matches where you might be hit in the stomach, but overall, I think you are ready to go back to work." The doctor smiled at Grant. "I'd like to start weaning you off the pain medication as well..."
Grant nodded his head, willing to agree to anything if it allowed him to get back into his regular routine.
Coulson stayed quiet as he listened to Bruce, his hand still resting on Grant's shoulder. He was relieved to know that his son was healing well, though, and that he wouldn't have to keep worrying about his son over-exerting himself... at least not any more than he did already.
"So what are my instructions, Doc?" Grant finally asked when the older man lowered the gown back down and indicated he could sit up.
"Start building your strength back up gradually... you can work out and train, but limit yourself to fifteen or twenty minutes at most in the beginning and work your way back up to what you were doing before. Eat regular and healthy meals...make certain you get at least seven hours of sleep at night... and because I want you to stop taking the pain meds, from now on, you will need to come to me if you need one. I only want you taking them if the pain is excruciating and makes it so that you can't function. Unfortunately, the pills are highly addictive and you've been on them long enough that it could become a problem." Bruce kept his tone even and watched Grant to make certain he understood the instructions and that there weren't any questions.
Grant nodded. He wasn't certain he liked the idea of having to go to Bruce when he needed the medicine. He'd been doing just fine taking it on his own. Granted, he was taking a pill every four hours, which maybe wasn't the best, but it hadn't hurt him. If he had to go to Bruce anytime the pain hit, then it would become obvious how much pain he was actually in and then he knew he'd be smothered; between his immediate family and Bruce worrying, he'd likely have a bunch of his 'non-immediate' family worrying as well. It was so much easier to just take the medicine without having to go through Bruce. He agreed to Bruce's terms, though, not feeling like arguing. He knew where the medicine was kept and could get a bottle later if he needed to.
Coulson looked at his son with some concern, but didn't say anything, knowing how much Grant had been feeling smothered right now. He dropped an affectionate kiss to the top of Grant's head. "I'm not sure if you want to have some alone time right now, but I'm sure Clint, at least, will try and drag you into watching the movie later," he warned him.
Grant smiled at his father and shook his head. "Actually...the walk was exactly what I needed. If Clint wants to watch the movie later, I'm game." Grant felt fairly optimistic with Bruce's decision regarding his health. The only thing he was uncertain about was the need to go to Bruce for any pain medicine...but it wasn't a situation that would dampen his spirits. He didn't think he'd need to take it, anyway. "May I get dressed now?" he asked Bruce.
At the doctor's nod, he quickly hopped off the examining table and went behind the curtain to put his clothes back on. "You two going to watch the movie later too?" he asked from behind the curtain.
"I probably will... unless something happens, of course," Coulson commented, not actually expecting anything to happen. And unless it was a real emergency, he was more interested in spending time with his family.
# # #
They had watched the Princess Bride and Grant had to admit it was an amusing movie with a lot of little hidden 'jokes' that Clint had to explain to Steve, since so many of the jokes had to do with the period of time Steve had still been frozen. They had enjoyed themselves, at any rate.
Grant had followed Bruce's advice and gone to his floor for an early night. If he had been honest with himself, he would have admitted he really wanted to be with his dad; but at the same time, he couldn't take having everyone hovering around him watching to make sure he was ok. His father really wasn't as bad as all that; most of the problem was in the fact that Grant had needed to curtail his own activities to adjust for his wounds and he was feeling useless and antsy...ready to move. Sighing, he popped another pain pill into his mouth, swallowing it dry before crawling into bed. He'd noted that the bottle was almost empty. He'd either have to find a way to get another bottle, or he'd be stuck going to Bruce like the older man had requested. Grant really didn't want to have to do that. Tossing and turning, he finally fell asleep an hour later.
# # #
Coulson had a better night's sleep than he had done for the past week and woke up at his normal time. He headed to the common area, meeting up with Natasha, who had finished her workout early and had gone to start on breakfast for people.
It wasn't very often that Coulson had a chance to spend some time with his daughter one-on-one and he joined her in the kitchen to talk, both fairly relaxed and joking around with each other.
Grant had taken two more pills in the time after he'd initially gone to sleep and when he officially got up and dressed, heading to the common area. Part of him wondered if this wasn't an indication that Bruce was right and if he shouldn't tell the older man what was going on; but the other part was so tired of being weak and dependent on everyone that he was determined he'd control his own pain and the method he used to control it. He'd made a point of asking JARVIS where Bruce was at, though, and as soon as he was assured that the older man wasn't anywhere near the medical floor, he'd gone and retrieved another bottle of the pain medication, zipping it up into his jacket pocket before heading to the common area to join everyone for breakfast.
When he walked into the kitchen, he noticed his father and sister having an animated conversation. Grinning, he walked over and poured himself some coffee. "Need me to do anything?" he asked with a smile.
"Not unless you want something different for breakfast," Natasha said, beginning to put the food onto plates.
"How are you feeling?" Coulson asked his youngest.
"Never felt better...." Grant smiled again. It was true too. He'd taken a pain pill as soon as he'd gotten up and it had quickly done the job; he felt great. "Any plans for today?" he asked curiously.
"I have a meeting at SHIELD headquarters," Coulson said. "A team's due to come back with intelligence they've gathered about a project that may or may not be linked to HYDRA."
"If you need others to go in, I could take Clint," Natasha offered, putting the plates on the table. She looked at her little brother. "I had plans to go to that coffee shop. Want to tag along?"
Grant nodded at his sister. "That actually sounds fun. If you don't mind a tag-along, then I'd love to come." He smiled then glanced at his father. "And if you need anyone else, I'm ready and willing..." he offered. He doubted if his father would take him up on the offer- likely wouldn't need him- but he wanted to put it out there just in case.
"I wouldn't offer if I wasn't happy to have you along," Natasha replied, waving them over to sit down.
"I'll have to see what the report I get back is like," Coulson replied, taking a seat. "But even if I don't need you this time, there'll be other missions." He loved his children, completely and unconditionally, but he also knew that each of them were good agents and as long as he was satisfied they had appropriate backup, he wouldn't try to hold them back.
Grant nodded at his father. That's all he expected...that if he was needed, he'd be allowed to do his job. Smiling at Nat, he went and sat down. "Smells good," he said.
Natasha smiled at her little brother and sat down on the other side of their father. She'd left food plated up for Clint, Steve and Tony, pretty sure they'd be coming in soon. Despite his obvious dislike of getting up so early, Tony was generally a good sport about it.
Grant took a bite of the food and let out a pleased sigh. "This is good, Tash..." he finally said with a smile.
Clint chose that moment to waltz into the kitchen area and sat down at one of the plates, grinning at everyone. "Steve and Tony should be here soon, if they don't have to take a detour due to Tony's stubbornness..." he said, apropos of nothing, and started eating without further explanation.
Grant raised an eyebrow and stared at his brother.
Coulson looked at his eldest as he started eating. "Just general stubbornness, or is there something in particular wrong?" he asked, concerned that Tony might still be feeling guilty about A.I.M. He knew that Steve would handle Tony... but everyone here in the tower was part of Coulson's family, even if some were more extended than others. And if one of them was hurting, it affected all of them.
Clint slanted his head, thinking then frowned slightly. "You know...I don't know. It could be related to the whole A.I.M. thing. Apparently, Tony stayed up all night last night doing research; let Pepper believe he was with Steve and let Steve believe he was with Pepper... and then he came to practice this morning and was acting as if he'd gotten plenty of sleep... He only admitted to the lack of sleep when he accidently ended up cutting himself somehow; not sure how, since we weren't using any sharp objects in practice. But then he proceeded to argue with Steve that it was 'just a flesh wound!'" Clint snorted. "I don't think Steve appreciated the humor. As I was leaving, Steve was giving him an ultimatum, but I didn't hear exactly what." He shrugged.
Grant sighed. "I wish he wouldn't try and take responsibility for what happened. If I'd been paying attention, we never would have gone and then it wouldn't have been an issue." He stabbed a piece of bacon with his fork then shoved it into his mouth, an unhappy frown marring his face.
"Grant..." Coulson reached out, covering his youngest's hand with his own. "What happened wasn't anyone's fault. I saw the e-mail. It wasn't too far off what I might have sent, so it's understandable how you and Leo were deceived. The only real difference was in the tone of the e-mail and the form of address... but both of those are things you could realistically explain away as the sender being distracted. Or in a hurry."
Coulson squeezed his son's hand gently. "I'm just relieved I got you back safely... and even though I know having us keep a close eye on you is difficult, at least you weren't hurt worse."
"Other than the fact that you wouldn't have sent instructions like that in an email in the first place..." he muttered under his breath, but then forced himself to look up at his father and smile. Just because he felt guilty about falling for the trap didn't mean his father deserved his bad temper. "I know why everyone was keeping a close eye on me...I won't say it was or is easy...but I understand." He sighed softly, squeezing his father's hand back.
Grant took a deep breath then continued to eat. He had been feeling calm and in control, but even the slight mention of what had occurred had him anxious again. He had already taken one of the pills not more than an hour before and really shouldn't take another for at least another five hours...but they did help him to relax and he needed to be relaxed... He'd need to wait until he was done breakfast and could go to the restroom where no one would see him, though. He quietly reached down toward his jacket pocket, just to make sure the bottle of pills was still there then moved his hand to pick up his drink, hoping that no one else had been watching his movement.
Coulson nodded. "Once you're completely recovered, you won't be as stifled," he promised. "I know important independence is." His attention was still on Grant and he frowned as he noticed the movement his son made. He didn't comment on it... but he did wonder if he needed to follow his son after breakfast and see what he did.
Grant had finally finished his breakfast and was sipping his juice and was enjoying being in the presence of his family. He didn't realize his father had noticed what he'd done and was trying to come up with a way to 'disappear' for just enough time to take another pill and then come back again.
Tony slowly and quietly came into the room, noticing the plates already on the table and looked up with a questioning look. "One of those for me?" he asked, subdued. There was a rather large bandage on his arm, confirming Clint's prior revelation of him having cut himself; the size of the bandage belying the comment that it 'was just a flesh wound'.
Natasha nodded. "Help yourself," she said.
Coulson noticed how subdued Tony looked and guessed that he and Steve had had words. He glanced towards the door as Steve stepped in after Tony, looking more serious than anything else... but he didn't add to the scolding he'd likely already given 'his boy'.
Tony smiled at Natasha, sitting down carefully and picking up a fork. "Thank you. It smells wonderful..." He picked up a bite of food and put it in his mouth.
Grant bit his lip. He didn't like seeing Tony acting not-like-Tony. The man was usually gregarious, charming, ready to smile. Right now, he just looked worn out and worn down. He wanted to say something to cheer his 'cousin' up, but didn't have a clue what to say, so he kept quiet.
Clint didn't suffer from the same problem. "So did you get your 'flesh wound' all taken care of?" he asked in a snarky tone. He was smiling, however, so when Tony gave him a sharp glance, he didn't snark back. Tony just gave a chagrined look and shrugged before continuing to eat.
Steve sat down in the seat next to Tony, placing a hand on his shoulder and squeezing gently before beginning to eat his own food. "No wounds are only flesh wounds where family is concerned," he said gently. "And I think we'll go to my floor after we've eaten." He didn't say 'for a nap', even though he knew most of the others would probably know that was what he meant.
Tony rolled his eyes and huffed. "Yes dad." He had a small smile on his face however, so it was obvious he didn't mind Steve taking charge like that. He even seemed a bit pleased at the attention.
Clint snorted at his friend and poured himself another glass of juice. "I do agree with that...some family members don't seem to realize their own worth!" He gave Tony and then his own brother a stern smile.
"Some family members aren't used to people seeing their worth," Coulson commented. "It isn't the end of the world when something happens, or when the boundaries are pushed." He smiled at them, including Tony in that. "I'll say it again... it's not too late. For anyone."
Tony smiled at Coulson and nodded. "We're learning, though," he said quietly in response and ate another bite of breakfast.
"Excuse me for a moment?" Grant finally said, standing up and heading to the restroom. Once in the bathroom, he closed and locked the door, then pulled the bottle of pills out. Swallowing one dry, he then flushed the commode and ran the water in the sink; just in case anyone was close enough to listen. The fact that he was attempting to hide his taking the pills should have clued him in to the fact it wasn't a good idea, but he wasn't thinking of that.
Coulson thought about letting Grant off the hook, but he was concerned about his son. Excusing himself, he left to head to the restroom, stopping outside to wait for Grant. He was hoping that his suspicions were unfounded... but he knew he had to check.
Grant put the bottle of pills back in his jacket pocket before opening the door and stepping out into the hall. He couldn't help but get startled at finding his father standing right outside the door. "Dad!" He nearly yelped, an irritated look flashing across his face before he could swallow the irritation down.
Coulson looked steadily at his son, now certain he knew exactly what Grant had been doing. "Where are the pills, son?" he asked, his voice gentle but still serious.
It was only years of training (marks second only to Natasha, don't ya know) that allowed Grant not to give his father a poleaxed look and immediately cave to his 'DAD superpower' of knowing everything. Somehow, he managed an innocent look and a calm, curious answer. "What do you mean? Bruce took them."
He wasn't about to admit to stealing them back.
Coulson gave his son a look that was equal parts fondness and exasperation. "I saw you put your hand towards your jacket, Grant. And you also know not to lie to me. If you'd wanted to steal them back, it wouldn't have been hard."
It was only force of will that kept Grant from caving immediately. He wasn't entirely certain why he felt the need to keep what he'd done secret, especially when his father already had figured it out. All he knew was that taking the pills was the only thing he'd had control over since he had been wounded and he didn't want to give that up. On top of that, they helped him relax and helped him feel calm, even though he felt guilty at falling for the trap that had been laid for him and Fitz.
And he didn't really see the problem with him having them, either. It wasn't like he was addicted. He'd been addicted to illicit substances before and he was fairly certain he wasn't now...he hadn't even been taking the pills that long.
Smiling and laughing in what he hoped was an easy going (and not nervous) manner, Grant shook his head. "Sorry, dad, but I think you must have been seeing things....I don't have any pills." He made to move around his father.
Coulson reached out and gently grasped his arm. "Grant, son, I wouldn't ask JARVIS to keep an eye on you... but what do you think he'd say if I asked him if you had taken pills from Doctor Banner?"
Grant let out his breath in a quick exhale. JARVIS, of course, would know everything done in the main areas of the tower. The AI did attempt to not keep tabs in the private residences...but the medical lab where medicine was stored was not private in any sense of the word. And JARVIS would not lie if asked...not if he felt someone's life might be negatively impacted keeping the secret.
Swallowing, Grant looked everywhere but at his father. "He'd say I had done it. That doesn't mean I have them in my pocket, or that I'm using them." Of course, it didn't mean he didn't have them in his pocket or wasn't using them, either. His voice was tight and agitated.
Coulson moved his hand to the nape of Grant's neck, squeezing gently. "You know how important it is to be honest with me, Grant. I think we need to continue this discussion on my floor." A note of disappointment crept into his voice.
Grant looked at his father, wide-eyed, uncertain as to why he would press on this matter. It wasn't like he'd done anything wrong. Had he? Sighing in semi-irritation, he ground out irritably, "Fine...let me go tell the others goodbye, since I said I was coming back, and I'll meet you on your floor." Spinning around, he pulled out of his father's grip and walked toward the kitchen. It was all he could do to keep his hands at his side and away from his jacket pocket, or away from his skin. He felt a bit itchy.
Walking into the kitchen, he smiled at the rest of his family. "I'm heading off with dad, so I'll see you all later!" He ignored Tony's sharp eyed stare, waved at everyone and then left again.
Clint looked at the door, a slightly worried look on his face. "Did he seem to be breathing funny to any of you?"
Coulson sighed quietly. He knew he couldn't let this slide, but that didn't mean being 'stern Dad' was easy. He put his head round the door of the common room area. "I'm going to be keeping Grant on my floor for a little while," he said to the others. "If you need me, just use the comms... or ask JARVIS to contact me."
Tony nodded, his expression a bit sad but serious. "You got it, sir....Don't be surprised if you're there longer than you thought you would be..." he said inexplicably.
Clint gave Tony a strange look, his worry about his brother growing. "You need me, dad?" he finally asked quietly.
Grant felt himself growing more agitated at the fact that his father had to go and 'tell' everyone else where they would be. Now they were probably wondering what he had done to get into trouble. Not waiting for his father, he quickly walked away while his father was busy with the others (he hoped that they all had questions; it would give him a bit more time to put space between him and his dad) and went into the stairwell. He wasn't going to be stuck on the elevator having his dad giving him disappointed looks the whole way to his floor. He didn't think he could handle that. Taking the stairs two at a time, he slowed down as he approached his father's floor, but then kept going.
He had to get rid of the pills. The only problem was, where? Feeling nervous- his sense of Euphoria disappearing due to the nerves- he took out another pill, dry swallowing it even as he tried to figure out where to hide the bottle. He was so busy trying to find a place to stash the contraband that he tripped on the stair and landed hard; he was quickly up again and continuing ever upward. He was a bit surprised that the fall hadn't hurt even a little, but didn't pay much mind to it...or the fact that there was now blood dripping off a cut on his hand that he didn't feel either.
Coulson hesitated. Under normal circumstances, he would have reassured his oldest that it was all right and that he could handle Grant... but considering his youngest was acting so out of character, Coulson figured it might be good to have his oldest there as well. "Maybe you'd better come, Clint," he said softly. He was fairly sure that Tony, at least, had an idea of what was going on with Grant... but he didn't explain just yet, choosing instead to do it when he and Clint were alone.
"Of course..." Clint quickly agreed standing and making his way to his father.
Tony's expression got a little more sad if it were possible. "If you need any suggestions from someone that's been in his place, have JARVIS contact me, yeah?" He didn't say any more, although he was pretty sure he'd have to explain at some point.
Grant was feeling frantic by this point. There was nowhere in the stairwell to hide the bottle of pills. He couldn't hide them in his quarters...if his father suspected like Grant was pretty sure he did, he'd search there. Maybe the roof... the only time anyone went up there was if they wanted to get away from the bustle of the city but didn't have time to actually leave the city. He continued heading ever upward...more slowly this time because he'd found it was a little difficult to breathe. Plus...he wasn't entirely sure why he was going up to the roof to hide the bottle anyway...maybe...yeah. It would be better to hide the bottle in the garage...he'd be able to get it back easier that way. Turning abruptly, he began walking back down the stairs.
Coulson smiled gratefully at Tony, not needing to ask the other man why he was making that suggestion, and nodded. "Thank you." Stepping out with Clint, he explained the situation as he suspected it. "I don't know if I'll need your help in a physical aspect... but I think it's going to be important for Grant to have the support," he finished with.
Clint shook his head. "It's been what? Two days since Bruce decided to officially take him off the pills? You don't think he's gotten that bad that quickly, do you?" His tone was hopeful and worried all at the same time.
"He's been outright lying about the pills," Coulson replied. "If he was thinking clearly, he'd remember that lying can't be tolerated." He sighed. "I imagine he won't be thinking clearly... maybe he'll try and hide the pills..."
Clint nodded briskly as he headed toward the elevator. "He obviously didn't want to wait for you to go to your floor together...JARVIS? Could you tell us where my brother is, please?"
The AI responded immediately. "He is in the stairwell on his way back downstairs from the top floor. His earlier direction indicated he would be heading to the roof, but he is now going in the opposite direction. He is also breathing rather slowly and seems to be having difficulty focusing. My estimates will place him on the landing to Director Coulson's floor in approximately three minutes if he keeps heading down at the speed which he is currently traveling."
Coulson immediately began heading in that direction, concern for his youngest driving his steps. Even if the difficulty focusing was due to the pills, he couldn't help worrying. Sometimes he felt like he spent half of his time worrying about Grant... but he wouldn't change his relationship with his son for anything.
Grant had to slow down, his breathing not able to keep up with his movement. It was a bit worrisome, really, the fact that he was breathing so shallowly and slowly and he wondered if maybe that last pill wasn't one too many. Part of him wanted to go to his daddy, confess and get help; but the other part didn't want to admit to anything that he'd been doing the last two days. It wasn't like he hadn't known better after all. Knowing it was a bad idea hadn't stopped him, though and now....
Of course, he might not have a choice. He could hear footsteps coming up the stairwell. Should he turn around and go back up again? Should he continue down and hope that it wasn't his father coming up? Should he just give up and stay sat on the steps and wait? Because somehow, he'd ended up sitting on the steps and he didn't remember sitting down. He closed his eyes and focused on breathing.
It didn't take Coulson long to find Grant on the stairs. Stepping over to his youngest, the very first thing he did was pull Grant into a tight embrace. The second thing was to ask Clint to get his first aid kit, so that he could treat the cut on Grant's hand.
Grant blinked up at his father in confusion. "You found me?" He seemed surprised by the fact, even though he really shouldn't have been. His speech, while not slurred completely, was slower than normal; as if he was having to try really hard to speak clearly. The pupils of his eyes were small and he was squinting as if it was difficult to see. He glanced down at his hand. "Oh wow....when did that happen? It doesn't even hurt...."
Clint shook his head, giving his father a sympathetic look before quickly heading to get the first aid kit from his father's apartment. It didn't take long at all...soon he was handing his father the kit- as well as a wet washcloth and a mixing bowl filled with warm water.
"Thank you." Coulson squeezed Clint's arm gently and then set about cleaning and treating Grant's wound. "Did you fall over?" He was reasonably sure that was the case, but while he was treating the wound, he was also taking in every bit of his youngest that made it quite clear Grant had been using the pills too much.
Grant looked into his father's face, confusion clear. "Maybe? I don't remember...." He swallowed several times. "I think I'm gonna be sick..." he muttered, right before throwing up all over himself; only missing Clint because his brother realized what was happening and jumped out of the way before he could be bathed in vomit.
Clint glanced at his father- who hadn't moved from Grant's side- to see if he'd been in the line of fire- and also to see how close to finishing the bandaging he was. "Maybe we should get him into the shower and cleaned up before we put a bandage on it...just in case he hurls again and we need to re-clean it."
"I can get m'self to a shower..." Grant mumbled.
Clint snorted. "You can't even stand right now...."
"I think the bath might be better than the shower." Coulson had managed to get quite a lot of vomit on him, but since there was no indication that Grant wouldn't throw up again, he didn't follow his first instinct and take his shirt off.
Coulson wrapped Grant's arm up, to make sure nothing got in the wound, and then stood up, carefully helping Grant to his feet. He wrapped his arm around Grant's shoulders and, carefully avoiding any places that were covered in vomit, pressed an affectionate kiss to his forehead.
This wasn't the first time Coulson had found himself in the position of taking care of his sick son. He was already thinking about the best way of cleaning Grant up. He looked at his oldest. "Do you want to talk to Bruce on the comms? In case he has any suggestions?"
Grant was miserable. The nausea had abated, for the moment; and the confusion, while still present, was not as bad as it had been...but it was still difficult to catch his breath; and he was itching in places he didn't think it was possible to itch; and he was covered in his own sick; and....He glanced at his father in guilt filled embarrassment. "...I'm so sorry...." he finally muttered, conceivably because of covering his father in vomit, but possibly for any number of other things as well.
Clint just glanced at his brother and shook his head slightly as he called Bruce up on the comms to see if he had recommendations, then moved to help his father get Grant up and into his father's apartment while he listened to the doctor.
Coulson gently squeezed the nape of Grant's neck. "I love you," he said simply, because it really was that simple. His face showed nothing but loving concern as he got Grant onto his floor with Clint's help.
Part of Coulson's attention was on Clint's conversation, but most of it was on helping Grant to the bathroom. He started running the bath, making sure the water wasn't too hot or too cold.
Grant swallowed hard. He hadn't wanted to admit anything, because he wanted to be 'in control' and he didn't want to see his father's disappointment. His body was rebelling against him, however and he knew his father was very disappointed. It hadn't exactly worked out the way he wanted. Finally, he admitted what his father had known all along...what he should have confessed from the beginning. There was no way to hide it. "They're in my jacket pocket," he said listlessly.
Clint looked at his father. "Bruce said there are a variety of different symptoms Grant could experience as he gets weaned off of the pills." Clint shook his head and gave Grant a look that was between sympathetic and exasperated. "He has Methadone that he can give to help in the detox...but basically, we just need to treat the symptoms as they occur."
"Don't want more drugs..." Grant shook his head slightly. "I abused the pills, but I'm not an addict. I don't crave them...I'll go off the pills without any other drugs." Somehow, he managed to keep his voice firm.
Coulson nodded. "We won't use Methadone unless it's as a last resort," he promised. He squeezed Grant's arm gently and then began helping his son to undress. "Can you tell me what you were thinking?" His voice wasn't accusing... He was trying to understand so he could help his son better.
Grant couldn't face his father; his reasons seemed so childish and unnecessary now. "I just wanted to have some small control over what was happening...over what I did. Taking the pills gave me that control...and they helped me relax, so I didn't think it was so bad. If I started feeling like I had to have them...if it became a craving...I was going to tell you. At least that's what I told myself..." he admitted with a whisper. "I...I don't know why it seemed like such a good idea now. Just...I fell for that stupid email and I know you say it isn't my fault; that I couldn't have known...but I feel like I should have known. It was something I couldn't control and Leo could have died and...I could have died. I have so much more to lose now...I could have handled dying before, but now...I don't want to die..." He blinked and swallowed rapidly, realizing he was rambling.
He felt as naked emotionally as he was physically. Taking another shallow breath- he really didn't understand why it was so hard to breathe- he carefully got into the tub.
Coulson helped his youngest into the tub, pressing a kiss to his forehead. "None of us want you to die either, Grant... but we don't want you to hurt yourself in other ways, either. Whatever form that takes." Now that his son was in the bath, Coulson pulled his shirt off, putting it with Grant's clothes to be washed.
Satisfied that his brother was cooperating- at the moment- and that his father had everything under control, Clint gathered the soiled clothing together to put in the laundry, then went to get his father another shirt and his brother a pair of pajamas. His father hadn't said anything, but Clint knew he wasn't going to let the younger man out of his sight until he'd gotten past the detox.
Grant looked everywhere but at his father...his judgment may be cloudy at the moment and there was still a bit of confusion- although throwing up seemed to have helped a little- but he knew what he had done wrong...had known the moment he'd started down this path... he'd just been ignoring his conscience regarding the pills to focus on the guilt he'd felt for falling for the trap and putting Leo in danger.
If he'd been ashamed before, it held nothing to the shame he felt now. Especially after hearing his father's calm words and receiving his care and love even after the lies and the running and the hiding of the contraband and then... "Sorry I threw up on you..." he said, with a touch of embarrassment bleeding through. He concentrated on his breathing and slowly began to wash himself, but it was in a very slow way, as if he'd been sedated...and then his skin was itchy again and he grimaced, almost clawing at his skin in an effort to relieve the uncomfortable sensation. He barely managed to swallow down the nausea.
Crouching back down next to the bath, Coulson placed his hand gently on Grant's to still the movement, taking the washcloth from him. "I know you would normally be able to do this yourself, but I think it's better if you let me. Just this once." This wasn't the first time Coulson had been in the position of cleaning Grant up. When his son had been sick, cleaning his face had been the very least of it.
Coulson reached out for the bucket he kept in the bathroom and carefully handed it to Grant, threading his fingers through his son's hair before he dipped the washcloth in the water and began using it.
Grant let out a tiny sniffle as his father began to bathe him. Everything was just so frustrating...and knowing it was his own stupid decisions that had put him in the position of needing to be taken care of like a young child wasn't helping. His emotions were starting to overwhelm him and he quickly wiped at his eyes before stilling.
The scary thing was, he'd done all of this because he wanted to feel like he had some control over himself...but he had less control over himself now than when he'd begun to use the pills. Now, he actually welcomed his father stepping in and taking control, because he had a feeling things were going to get worse; if his father didn't take control, he'd be completely adrift and...well, he had a feeling taking care of himself was going to be very difficult.
"I'm so stupid..." he muttered in shame, holding the bucket close enough that if his stomach decided to rebel, he could pull it to himself in time.
Coulson leaned in to press a kiss to the side of Grant's head. "You aren't stupid. You made a few bad decisions, but they aren't the end of the world. I'm here for you... and Clint is as well. And Tony offered to talk to you as well." Continuing to wash his son, he carried on speaking with a note of wry humour in his voice. "I missed out on you growing up, including the 'teenage' years. I figure we're making up for lost time."
Grant couldn't help the giggle-snort that escaped at his father's wry words. "My teenage years were not...something you would have wanted to experience," he admitted softly. "Although I might not have been as bad if you had been there...I don't think you would have let me do even a third of what I did...." He finally turned his face so he could look his dad in the eye. "I...I want to apologize in advance...I may not be addicted- I don't think I am, I know what that feels like- but I doubt the withdrawal will be any easier...." He looked away again, face flushed.
"It doesn't matter how hard it is," Coulson said softly. "It's not going to change anything. You're still my son. I still love you. There is absolutely nothing that could change that. You don't need to be embarrassed around me. This isn't the first time I've needed to take care of you. It isn't a chore."
"Ok..." Grant said softly. He doubted he could avoid being embarrassed at the fact that his father was taking care of him in such a manner; the fact that he needed the care. He often felt like a child around his father, but at moments like this, he felt younger than a child.
He swallowed and just held still waiting for his father to determine that he was satisfied with how clean he was. He was actually feeling better at the moment, the drugs slowly leaving his system. He knew it was a temporary reprieve, though. His body would be letting him know it wanted more shortly...and it wouldn't matter that he knew he didn't actually need the drugs or that he didn't want them...he would crave them just the same.
Biting his lip, he looked away and asked quietly, "What are the chances you'll let me have a pill? Just to cut the edge off...?"
"That isn't going to happen." Coulson's tone was loving, but still firm. "The more you take them, the harder it will be to stop completely. I know it's not going to be easy, but that doesn't make a difference. I signed on for the good and the bad with you. You're mine. There is nothing that's going to change that."
Having finished ensuring all of the vomit (and any dirt) was off his son, Coulson put the washcloth down and reached for the towel. Letting the water out of the bath, he then helped Grant out of the tub and wrapped him up in the towel.
Shivering slightly, Grant leaned against his father, needing the comfort and closeness. He knew he'd messed up...again. He glanced up as Clint knocked on the door frame, holding a shirt for his dad and the pajamas he'd found for Grant. Grant wrinkled his nose and snorted. "Does Bruce know there are Hulk pajamas for sale and that you bought them?"
Clint laughed. "Don't look at me...these were in your drawer." (Clint and Grant both had finally been given a drawer in their father's dresser when he got tired of pulling out their clothes while looking for something to wear).
Clint and Grant both shot their father a suspicious look then Grant took the clothes and attempted to get dressed, still feeling a bit sleepy and finding it difficult to breathe.
Coulson squeezed Grant's shoulder gently and then began helping him into the pajamas. "You'll probably feel better to brush your teeth... would you like some water? Or juice?" He didn't bother suggesting anything stronger. He didn't think it would be very good on his son's stomach.
Once Grant was in his pajamas, Coulson took his shirt from Clint, gently squeezing his oldest's shoulder. "Thank you."
Grant leaned against his father again before shuffling to the sink to brush his teeth. "Water would be good, please...." he said quietly, as he stared at the toothpaste on his toothbrush, trying to decide if he needed the bucket again or if he'd be ok.
Clint gave his brother a sympathetic look, before saying, "I'll get it for him...you want a bottle, dad?"
Coulson nodded. "Thanks. Make sure you get yourself something, too," he added, leaning in to kiss Clint's forehead. He then turned his attention to Grant, squeezing his youngest's shoulder. "Do you need me to grab the bucket for you?"
Grant took as deep a breath as he was able- some of the shallowness of his breathing was finally starting to even out- and swallowed. "I...I think I'm good..." he muttered, before beginning to brush his teeth. By the time he had finished, he was feeling nauseous again and had to lean over the sink till the feeling went away. He then straightened up and gave his father a pathetic look; a look that blended his shame and guilt with a need to be held and cuddled that he didn't want to admit to, all tied together with uncertainty and a hint of confusion, as if he didn't understand how his father could be so concerned about him when he'd done this to himself.
Clint returned with the water then looked at his brother. "How bout we get Junior into bed and then I'll give him the water?" he finally asked.
Coulson nodded. "I think that sounds like a good idea," he agreed, sliding his arm around Grant's shoulders and tugging him in close. He gave Clint a slight smile. "I remember having to do similar when you woke up suffering from a hangover." The main reason for bringing that up was to show Grant that he wasn't the only one who ended up in this position due to his own actions. He patted Clint's shoulder gently as he helped Grant from the bathroom, snagging the bucket on his way.
Clint looked sheepish. "More than once..." he muttered then chuckled. "…I'm always surprised that you don't turn me over your knee once the hangover is gone, just because I'm such a pain in the ass when you're taking care of me." He grinned at his brother. "Junior here is a lot better behaved... so far, anyway."
Grant gave Clint a crooked smile, but it took a lot of effort. Most of his effort was spent making sure he didn't move too quickly and set his stomach off again. Once they had finally reached the bed and his father had helped him into it, he leaned back into the pillows with a sigh. The itching had finally quit shortly after his bath...and the shortness of breath was finally straightening out... but the queasiness hadn't completely left and was starting to get worse again. And he was tired. Taking the water bottle from his brother, he took a few cautious sips before handing it back to his father and closing his eyes. "Can I sleep?" he asked in a whisper.
Coulson sat on the edge of the bed, gently stroking Grant's hair after putting the water bottle down. "Go ahead," he said softly. "We'll be here." He leaned down to kiss his youngest's forehead. "I love you," he whispered. "And I'm glad you're here with us. No matter what happens... I will always take care of you."
# # #
Grant had perhaps an hour of peaceful sleep before he woke up, glancing around anxiously. And then his stomach was rebelling and he was grappling for the bucket, positive he was about to make a mess again.
Coulson hadn't moved from Grant's bedside. Immediately aware of his son waking up, he grabbed the bucket for Grant to use, smoothing the hair out of his son's face so it wasn't in his way.
Grant expelled what little was in his stomach...which was very little. Whimpering slightly, he finally lay back, closing his eyes. His muscles were beginning to hurt. He knew it could only get worse, though.
Coulson put the bucket where it wasn't likely to be knocked over and resumed gently stroking Grant's hair. "Do you want to try drinking some more water?" he asked softly.
Grant shook his head feebly, not wanting to have his stomach start heaving again. He knew he probably should drink more...he was covered in a fine sheen of sweat and he didn't need to get dehydrated on top of everything, but the thought of hanging over that bucket again at the moment was more than he wanted to face- especially with his muscles beginning to ache. He shivered.
Coulson leaned in and kissed Grant's forehead. "I know it's an unpleasant thought, but drinking water is going to be important." He spoke softly and lovingly. "How about I put pillows behind your back, so you have some support to sit up properly? Or you could lean against me," he offered, figuring that might be a bit more support.
Grant felt a hint of irritation creeping in that his father was pushing the point of the water, but he managed to push it down. "Ok..." he said and swallowed hard. Maybe if I sit up a little..." he agreed with a whisper. Slowly, so as not to get his stomach rolling again, he leaned up enough that his father could either put the pillows behind him, or move behind him himself. At this point, Grant didn't much care as long as he wasn't heaving into the bucket.
Coulson carefully slid in behind his son, resting his hand on Grant's shoulder and carefully drawing him back so that Grant was supported against him. He then reached out and picked up the bottle of water, taking the cap off and passing it to his son. "I know I'm pushing you, son, and you're probably feeling bothered by that. But you know I wouldn't push you on something that wasn't important." He pressed a kiss to the back of Grant's head. "I love you. And I hate seeing you suffering," he said softly.
Grant let out a tiny huff. He was really trying not to be bothered by his father's care and concern; the older man was right. He did need to drink water. He was just...everything was irritating at the moment. He had a feeling it was the pills, but didn't want to admit to it. Carefully drinking the water from the bottle that was offered to him, Grant shivered slightly, the cold air on his sweaty skin cooling him. He'd just put the cap back on the water bottle when the abdominal cramping hit. He couldn't help but moan and double up, curling into the fetal position. And then he was off the bed and moving toward the bathroom as fast as he was able to move, hand on his stomach and half bent over from pain.
Coulson wasn't all that surprised, though he was worried about his son. He didn't follow Grant to the bathroom, but he did move to the door of the bedroom, so he'd be able to hear if Grant did need him. He sighed and leaned his hand against the doorframe. He never expected things to be easy when he first went to visit Grant in prison... but there were times even he got frustrated. He wouldn't change it for anything. Of course he wouldn't. But when he felt this helpless... Well, sometimes he wondered if he was even doing the right thing. It wasn't like any of his kids had come with a 'how-to' manual.
Grant was grateful his father hadn't followed him...since he would have had the added mortification of his father seeing him fail to reach his destination in time. Carefully, he removed his soiled pajamas, rolling them up and putting them in a plastic bag so he could take them to the laundry when this whole mess was over then turned on the shower. Once under the water, he cleaned himself as best he could, then slowly sank until he was sitting under the unrelenting spray, frustration and irritation mixing with the constant presence of guilt and a feeling of hopelessness. The shower's spray mixed with his tears as he began sobbing softly, the cramping and muscle pain getting stronger.
Coulson wanted to check on Grant, but he knew that his presence was probably becoming quite stifling to his son, given how desperate Coulson was to take care of him. After pacing up and down for a few moments, he figured out a compromise and went to see his oldest in the kitchen, knocking gently on the doorframe to announce his presence.
"Clint... do you mind checking in on Grant for me? He went into the bathroom, but I think I'm making him feel stifled. He might find it easier if you talk to him." As much as it bothered Coulson that he was helpless to protect Grant, he was forcing those feelings away to figure out what was the best thing for his youngest.
Clint blinked then nodded. "Ok, dad...but I'm not sure it's you making him feel stifled as just a natural result of what he is going through affecting his mood. Maybe you should talk with Tony...he did offer..." Clint smiled crookedly at his father, putting a hand on the older man's shoulder and squeezing before leaning over and kissing him on the cheek. "I can guarantee when this is all over, he'll be feeling guilty and needing you to 'stifle' him..."
Taking a deep breath, Clint headed toward the bedroom and stood outside the bathroom, listening quietly for a moment. It didn't take him long to recognize the sounds of crying through the sounds of the shower running. Opening the bathroom door, he noted the bag with the pajamas and let out a sympathetic sigh that he'd never let his brother hear, then quickly went back out again and gathered another pair of pajamas for his brother and a dry, fluffy towel before returning. Setting the pajamas on the counter, he walked to the shower and carefully turned the water off before opening the curtain and wrapping the towel around his brother before lifting him up.
"Let's get you dried off and dressed, kiddo..." he said softly, ignoring the tears that were still streaming from his brother's eyes.
Coulson thought about taking Clint's suggestion, but he didn't want to leave his sons alone... even if talking to Tony might help. He'd felt helpless before... but never quite on the scale of this. He wanted to be able to do something...
Grant cooperated as much as he could, but his body ached so badly and the abdominal cramping kept causing him to stiffen in place and then he was leaning over the toilet, throwing up what little water he'd drunk before.
Clint got a washcloth and gently washed his brother's face, then helped him stand again, giving up the idea of him getting dressed right away. Grant was having too much difficulty moving and Clint couldn't hold him up and get him dressed at the same time. He'd get the younger man into bed and then dress him in the pajamas once there wasn't the danger of him falling and hitting his head.
Wrapping Grant's arm over his shoulder, Clint half-carried, half-dragged the younger man to the bed and helped him sit down on it, then began the process of putting pajamas on him. He had a whole new level of respect for his father now, knowing how the older man had dressed both his little brother and himself on several different occasions when they weren't able to do it on their own.
"Where's daddy?" Grant finally whispered, nearly whining. "I chased him off, didn't I?" He sounded so lost and forlorn, Clint couldn't help but cringe.
"No...he's still nearby. He didn't think you wanted him helping you...was trying to give you some space so he wouldn't upset you further," Clint answered quietly. "Do you want me to get him for you?"
"Yes..." Grant admitted in a tiny voice. As irritating as he had found his father's hovering and pushing and making him do things (that really needed to be done, he could admit), the older man's presence had been comforting as well. He hadn't felt quite as scared about what his body was doing to him, with his father nearby.
Clint nodded, but not wanting to leave his brother alone, quietly asked JARVIS to let his dad know his youngest wanted him.
Coulson responded immediately when JARVIS told him that Grant wanted him. He hadn't gone too far, so it was only a few moments later that he was coming back into the bedroom. He stepped over to the bed and took his seat next to Grant, reaching for his son's hand. "I love you, Grant... do you need anything?" he asked softly.
Grant just whimpered and leaned into his father. "Hurts...." he said softly. He wanted to ask for another pill, positive that if he could have just one, the pain would lessen, if not stop. He knew his father wouldn't go along with it, though, so he didn't ask; although it was very difficult not to. When he thought Clint was about to get up and leave, he reached over and took his brother's hand, holding onto it weakly. "Thanks..." he whispered to the archer.
"No problem, kiddo..." Clint said quietly, giving his father a look that would have said 'I told you so' if he'd been inclined to say such a thing to his dad. "I'm going to take the laundry and get it washed. No….You do not need to worry about it; and it really needs to be done sooner rather than later." He smiled to take any sting out of his words, or to stop Grant from worrying about his brother having to 'clean up' his mess.
Grant swallowed. "Thanks..." he finally said, before whimpering again, curling up against his father and then moaning as another vicious cramp nearly bent him double.
Coulson wrapped his arms around Grant, gently stroking his hair. "If you need to go to the bathroom, let me know. I'll carry you there if I have to," he promised. He leaned over to kiss his oldest's forehead. "Your support means everything, Clint. I love you."
Grant couldn't help but let out a tiny huff of amusement at his father's words. He had no doubt the older man would carry him if needed... but considering they were at least the same size- and Grant might be slightly larger- it would not be easy for him to do. Hopefully, it wouldn't come to that. "Maybe I should just put a sleeping bag down in the bathroom..." he mumbled, even as he snuggled closer to his father, closing his eyes as he rode out another wave of pain.
"I love you too, dad...I love both of you..." Clint said quietly, before gathering up all the laundry. "Have JARVIS contact me if you need me..." he directed, before heading to the laundry room.
Coulson leaned over to press a kiss to Grant's head. "I'm not sure that will be very comfortable. But even if there are any problems, we'll deal with it. Don't be ashamed of what happens. Don't be ashamed of having to lean on me. I wasn't able to be there for you while you were growing up. It took me a long time to find you, but now that I have... there is nothing I wouldn't do to keep you safe."
"Alright..." Grant said softly, the pain deciding to ebb for long enough that he could get some rest. Snuggling closer to his father, he fell asleep again.
# # #
Tony had stuck close to Steve, like glue, the entire day...worried about his younger friend. Coulson hadn't contacted him to ask any questions; he assumed that was because Coulson already had some idea of what to expect...being a trained super-agent-spy, he probably had to know the effects of various drugs on a person in case he was kidnapped and his kidnappers tried to use the drugs on him to make him talk. Or something. He wasn't sure, but he figured if Coulson needed answers, he knew where Tony was. Even so...this whole situation was bringing back memories.
Steve had made a point of staying close to Tony, after making sure the other man got some sleep. Now, he was working on making food for the two of them. Noticing how quiet Tony was, he spoke quietly to him. "What's on your mind?" He could guess, but he wanted Tony to talk to him.
"Just...wondering if Director Agent needs any help...how the kid is doing..." Tony shrugged slightly. There was a lot in his past that he'd not admitted to any of the other team...he suspected the spies already knew it, although he'd erased as much of his background as he could from SHIELD servers. Steve didn't know, though and even though it had occurred before Steve had been found...he couldn't help but feel the familiar twinges of guilt that he felt whenever he did something that he knew would disappoint the other man.
Steve reached over and squeezed Tony's shoulder gently. "It's more than that, though, isn't it?" He spoke quietly but calmly. "I know how you look when something's bothering you personally. And I also know that I don't know everything that's happened to you." Finishing making the two plates of sandwiches, he handed one to Tony.
"Yeah... I kinda sorta know what the kid's going through," Tony admitted in a hesitant whisper. "Unlike him, though, I didn't really have anyone paying close attention to what I was doing at the time, so when Obie finally stepped in..." He shrugged. "I was in one of those rehab places for several months. They kept it all very hush-hush. Didn't want stock prices to fall or anything. Anyway...Coulson figured it out in time that it shouldn't take that long to straighten the kid out, hopefully." Tony shrugged slightly. "Just remembering...it's...not easy." He sighed, then took a bite of the sandwich he'd been given.
Steve nodded. He wrapped an arm around Tony's shoulder and steered him gently over to sit down. "I pay close attention to you now," he commented. "But I know the memories are difficult to deal with. Still, I'd like you to talk to me about anything that's on your mind."
Tony smiled crookedly. "Yeah. I know you do. It's why I'm not more worried. I know I channeled my addiction- and I was addicted- into the alcohol...and now I'm doing my best not to drink either. I don't know why it bothered me so much..." He sighed then took another bite of the sandwich. "My addiction of choice from that time is nowhere in the tower now...so it isn't like I could easily relapse. Especially since you are watching me..."
Steve sat down next to him. "I'm sure Coulson will appreciate any support you're able to offer," he commented. "It might also help Grant to talk to you. Maybe not right away, but when he's feeling a bit better. That way, he can speak to someone who's experienced it as well."
"Maybe..." Tony said hesitantly. "I guess I kinda slipped to Coulson that I had gone through it at one time, when I offered to help him. I didn't actually mean to admit to anything, though...I... it isn't something I'm proud of by any means..." He shrugged. "But I will definitely be there if either of them need me...." He swallowed.
"Tony..." Steve squeezed his arm gently. "Everyone here is part of a family. We all have bad things in our past. The people here accept you, despite what they know... and even when someone finds out something new, that isn't going to change. If you want proof," he continued, "look at how everyone's treating Grant, despite what he did to some of them."
"Yeah...I...I know. I just...I have to keep reminding myself of that. I guess." He gave Steve a sheepish smile. "You know...I don't thank you nearly often enough for taking me on..." His voice was slightly amused, but the words were genuine and he was thankful. The tone of his voice and look on his face conveyed that easily.
Steve smiled. "I think that gratitude is lacking when you're in trouble... but I wouldn't change my mind," he said seriously. "I know we didn't get on well at first, but you're my responsibility now." The same way Grant (and Clint and Natasha) was Coulson's responsibility... even if he didn't say that out loud.
"Well, duh!" Tony gave Steve an impish grin. "When I'm in trouble, my butt is on the line, usually literally. It's hard to be properly grateful when you know you're going to be finding it hard to sit in the near future!"
Steve laughed. "That's understandable. But it doesn't matter how often you get into trouble. There's no limit." He was serious. He cared about Tony unconditionally... and he was glad he'd taken the time to get to know the other man.
Tony looked down almost bashfully then looked up again with a smile. "Yeah. I get that. I hope you know that it goes both ways...I mean...whenever or however you might need me....I'm there."
"I know," Steve replied. "And that means a lot." He patted Tony's shoulder gently, before directing softly, "Eat."
Tony immediately began eating, following Steve's directions having started to become second nature to him...not that he'd ever admit that.
Satisfied, Steve began eating his own food. "I was thinking about taking Bucky to a movie theatre," he said between mouthfuls. "He hasn't had a chance to experience one yet. It would be nice to have you join us."
Tony blinked then smiled crookedly. "Are you sure? You two don't really get to hang out just the two of you that much, what with living with everyone else in the building. Besides. You know how the paparazzi follow me around...you might enjoy it more if you can sneak in unnoticed...."
"You're a part of the family too," Steve said. "Bucky and I spend time together on our own sometimes, but it's good to spend time all together as well. And we'd enjoy it more with you along," he added.
"If you're sure..." Tony said hesitantly, but it was obvious he was pleased by Steve's words. "Are you wanting to see a newer movie? Or do you think you'd be interested in going to one of the Classic Film showings?"
"I'm sure," Steve replied. "And as for movies... the classic films will feel more like the ones we used to, so the newer ones would be a change."
Tony's grin grew bigger if it were possible. "Then I have just the film for both of you!" He went on to suggest the newest science-fiction movie that had come out.
# # #
Somehow, Grant had got several hours of sleep before the abdominal cramping and muscle pain woke him up again. Unfortunately, along with the cramping and pain, the nausea and sweating, he was now also feeling an extreme craving for the pills. Swallowing nervously, Grant carefully got out of the bed and looked around for his jacket; hoping, hoping that his father had not removed the pills from his pocket and that he could get one before his father would notice or could stop him. His limbs shook slightly, trembling out of his control.
Coulson had only been dozing lightly, so he felt it when Grant got out of the bed. His eyes opened and he turned to watch his son a moment then steeled himself for what he was fairly certain was going to be a difficult time.
Standing, Coulson wrapped his arms gently around Grant. "I know your body feels like it needs the pills, but I can't let you take them. If you take even one, it'll be harder and harder to go through withdrawal."
Grant looked at his father anxiously, almost with fear, at the words that told him his pills weren't easily accessible, then the irritability came back and he gave his father a disgruntled glare. "It won't be any harder and it really isn't your decision; it's mine..." He narrowed his eyes and thrust his hand into the pocket of his jacket, where the pills had been, only to discover he was right; his father had taken them out.
Turning on his father with a glare, he snarled impatiently, "Where did you put them? You can't take them from me, they're mine!"
Coulson ignored the tone Grant used and hugged his son close. "I know logic doesn't have a place in how you're feeling right now, Grant. And I know you think you need the pills. You don't. Your body's just telling you that you do because you've grown dependent on them."
"Let go!" Grant didn't exactly yell- but he definitely wasn't quiet- and he emphasized his words by attempting to jerk out of his father's arms so he could go look for the pills. Slight tremors coursed through his body, but he ignored them in his quest to find the tiny bottle. Then the nausea and cramping suddenly got a lot worse and he was attempting to run toward the bathroom again.
Coulson could tell immediately and this time, he quickly wrapped his arms around Grant, steering him to the bathroom. He wasn't quite carrying his son, but he was definitely moving quickly enough.
Grant felt complete humiliation as he failed to make it in time, again; and to make it worse, this time he wasn't able to pretend it hadn't happened and take care of himself. Not only was his father witness to the situation, but the tremors were becoming strong enough that they were making it difficult for Grant to move, let alone clean up after himself.
Unable to face his father after his body's most recent betrayal, Grant could feel tears begin streaming from his eyes. He'd been able handle the pain and sickness without tears, but being reduced to having to be cared for like an infant was the last straw. Tears quickly turned into choked sobbing. "Please, daddy...please...just one. It hurts so bad...." he begged brokenly.
Coulson kissed Grant's head, feeling like a horrible father, even though he knew he was doing the right thing in preventing his son from further abusing the pills. "I know it hurts, son. You need to trust that I wouldn't put you through this if it wasn't the right thing. I love you." He began carefully cleaning up, focusing on his son foremost and getting him cleaned and changed into a new pair of pajamas.
Grant felt a flare of irritated anger at the words and would have argued, possibly accused his father of lying about loving him- his mind only able to focus on the current pain and sickness- but his stomach rebelled again and he ended up on his knees throwing up into the toilet. Eventually, he was reduced to dry heaving...finally falling to the side with a weak whimper.
"Daddy...please..." He wasn't sure what he was begging for anymore; he just knew that he hurt and his dad was the only one who could help.
Coulson crouched down next to Grant, stroking his hair out of his face and kissing his forehead. "I'll get you some water... you can swill it around your mouth to get the taste out," he suggested gently. "I'm right here, Grant. I'm not going to leave you alone," he promised, pressing another kiss to the side of Grant's head.
Grant watched through blurry eyes as his father got him the water...obediently swishing it to rinse his mouth out. Every so often, he'd double up into himself and his quiet whimpers would become full-throated moans. He didn't ask for the pills directly anymore; he knew he wouldn't be given any.
That didn't stop him from begging indirectly, though. At first frequently and then not quite so frequently as his body became worn out from the pain and the tremors, he'd whimper or cry, "Daddy, please..." in one variant or another.
Coulson didn't try moving Grant from the bathroom, knowing that with the accidents his son was having, staying in the bathroom for now might be better. Instead, he cuddled Grant, though careful to make sure he didn't prevent his son from going to the toilet when he needed to, and stroked his hair, kissing his head gently.
Grant lost all track of time as the drugs slowly gave up their grip on his body. He lost track of how many times his father had needed to help him as he attempted to throw up what felt like his entire insides...or help him in other ways when he couldn't control his own body. Somewhere along the way, he'd stopped begging, weakly crawling into his father's arms whenever he wasn't occupied in his misery. Eventually, the worst was over and he whimpered in exhaustion, unable to move.
Clint had been coming in and helping where he could. When it finally looked as if his brother would no longer be throwing up, he asked his father quietly, "Do you need me to help bathe him again? I've got the laundry cleaned, so you can put him in fresh pajamas."
Coulson nodded, cuddling Grant close and stroking his hair. "I think that would be best," he whispered. "And then maybe he'll be able to sleep." He gave Clint a rather tired smile, having been pushing aside his own feelings of tiredness to take care of Grant. "It's made it a lot easier to have your help. Thank you."
Clint smiled sadly. "I wish there was more I could have done. I wish I had realized what he was doing before he'd taken so many pills he almost overdosed and made the withdrawal all that harder. Maybe I could have told him some of what I'd seen that convinced me not to take drugs when I didn't need them. I'm just glad you caught him before he'd been doing them for weeks and actually was addicted." Clint sighed softly then moved to help his father undress his baby brother and get him into the tub.
"I was being stubborn and foolish..." Grant whispered, giving them notice that he wasn't completely out of it- just mostly. "...Not sure I would have listened even if you did find out and tell me."
Grant helped as much as he could, but as weak as he was, he couldn't help much. He felt ashamed and humiliated that he literally had to be cared for like a baby...but at the same time, he was grateful. He knew if this had happened when he had been with Garrett, the other man would have left him to his own devices and he might not have survived the result.
Coulson carefully undressed Grant (not that there was much to take off) and got him into the bath with Clint's help, after running the water. "Sometimes things happen that we wish didn't. It wasn't your fault you didn't notice, Clint." He squeezed his eldest's shoulder gently and then began washing Grant. "You're here. And that's enough."
Clint nodded at his father, giving him a considering look. "Once we have him clean and dressed, I'll help you get him into bed..." He looked at Grant. "Hey, buddy... does your stomach feel up to handling a little bit of water?"
Grant winced, but then thought about how he was feeling. "I...I think I'm starting to feel a little better..." he admitted. "…At least I don't feel as nauseous as I have been feeling...and it still hurts, but either I'm used to feeling horrible now, or it's starting to ease up a bit...." He tried to help his father out, but was so weak, the most he could do was shift when his father indicated he should do so.
Clint nodded. "I think the worst of it is over. You'll still feel achy and a little sick, but you should be able to sleep now...here...drink this." Clint held the water bottle to his brother's lips, careful to make certain the younger man didn't drink too much at once. "If it hasn't upset your stomach within the next five minutes, I'll give you a little bit more."
Grant swallowed, relieved when the nausea didn't return as soon as he'd drunk the water. He fought to keep his eyes open, leaning listlessly toward his dad.
Coulson finished cleaning Grant off and then carefully helped him out of the bath, wrapping the towel around him to dry him off. He then helped him into the clean pair of pajamas. "Come on, we'll go back through to the bedroom." He pressed a kiss to Grant's head then looked closely at Clint. "Have you eaten anything?"
Clint shook his head. "Not a lot. I made a sandwich earlier...I actually made you one, too; but you were asleep when I came by to give it to you. I was thinking of making some chicken soup, if you think he can handle it. While I'm making that, you can have the sandwich...." He reached over and draped one of his brother's arms over his shoulder so that he could help his father carry the younger man back to bed. "Oh...and I changed the bedding while 'pipsqueak' here was paying his respects to the toilet...." he teased lightly, relieved when his brother gave him a snort and the middle finger. If the kid could react to his jokes, then he must be feeling at least somewhat better.
Grant kept quiet. Now that he was starting to feel better, it was starting to dawn on him just exactly what he had done...and his shame increased ten-fold.
Coulson nodded. "That would be good. The sandwich and the chicken soup... at least to try and see what happens." He carefully guided Grant through to the bedroom, helping his youngest to settle in the bed with pillows behind his back so he could sit up slightly. "We could all eat in here," he suggested to Clint. "I'd like you to eat a bit more." That was less of a suggestion.
"Oh, believe me...I was planning on it. I figure once he eats, he can sleep some more and you can sleep. I can keep watch for a while." Clint's voice wasn't really a suggestion, either; although he did try and keep his tone respectful while he made demands of his father.
Grant leaned back into the pillows, watching the other two men. "I..." He swallowed and looked down, deciding to save his apologies for later, "...I'm not sure I can stay awake until I've eaten..." he said instead.
Clint glanced at him. "Well, then I guess I better hurry up and get the food done!" He smiled, leaning over and ruffling his brother's hair, before standing and heading for the kitchen.
Coulson sat on the edge of the bed, reaching out to gently stroke Grant's hair. "Don't try to force yourself to stay awake," he said gently. "If you can't, you can eat when you wake up." He leaned forward and kissed his son's forehead. "I love you."
Grant couldn't stop himself from crying again; not because he hurt, but because he felt overwhelmed by his father's care and love for him. It wasn't the first time his father had taken care of him like this...but it was the first time it had been done while he was aware of what was happening. "I love you too, daddy..." he finally said, his voice shaky. Leaning into his dad's hand, he closed his eyes and was soon asleep...this time peacefully so.
Coulson stayed on the edge of the bed, looking down at Grant. He continued to stroke his youngest's hair as he used the comm to let Clint know that Grant was sleeping and would eat when he woke up.
Clint came in carrying the sandwich and a bowl of soup for his father, a bowl of soup for himself also on the tray. "That's fine, then. I have plenty in the kitchen waiting for him to wake. You, however, should eat now; you haven't had anything since breakfast yesterday, if I'm not mistaken." Clint smiled crookedly. "When he wakes up, we can eat again if you want to keep him company."
Coulson nodded and smiled, holding his arm out to his oldest to encourage Clint to join him. "You're right. I've been worrying so much... my appetite hasn't been good. I'll eat now," he promised.
Clint handed his father the tray with food on it, then went and pulled a chair over closer to the bed, not wanting to jostle Grant. "I should probably let Nat and Tony, at least know that the worst is over. Nat came by earlier... and Tony has been having JARVIS get updates from me about every other hour, although he's made a point not to come in person. I guess he's afraid of intruding." Clint made a face then took a sip of his soup.
Coulson began to eat his own food. "Tell Tony that I said he's welcome to come by any time," he said softly. He reached out and put his hand on Clint's knee. "I love you. Thank you for being here. I know it means a lot to Grant as well."
Clint smiled, reaching over and squeezing his father's hand. "There's no other place I'd be..." he said softly. "My place is with my family."
# # #
Now that the worst was over, full recovery hadn't been too far off. Over the course of the next two days, everyone had dropped in at one point or another to check in on Grant.
Coulson was currently cooking breakfast for his kids, finally able to do a proper meal for Grant. Clint had been there constantly, but Natasha had joined them for breakfast after her morning workout with Tony and Steve.
Grant, his strength back after having had several good meals and sleep, got out of bed and walked slowly into the kitchen; not sure if he was allowed out of bed yet, but wanting to join his family. He smiled at Natasha, leaning over to give the woman a hug, before clasping his brother on the shoulder and smiling hesitantly at his father. "Can I eat in here? With everyone else?"
Coulson smiled at Grant. "I was going to come through and see if you felt up to joining us in here, so that answers my question. Have a seat," he invited, beginning to put the food onto plates.
Grant's smile widened and he quickly went to where he usually sat. "Thanks, dad..." He smiled up at Coulson, waiting for everyone to be seated and have their food before starting to eat. He glanced up and slanted his head. "Tony sent me a message through JARVIS..." he said out of nowhere, sounding a bit confused; uncertain why the billionaire would use JARVIS instead of just coming to talk to him direct. It wasn't as if he hadn't been by to visit several times already.
Coulson put plates in front of each of his kids before taking his own seat with his food. "Tony offered to talk to you about what you were going through," he said. "Was the message about the two of you talking?"
Grant blinked then shook his head. "It doesn't say anything like that... just that if I want to have lunch with him, he'd like to come by and see me for more than five minutes...if it's ok." He glanced up at his father and bit his lip. "Tony was acting a bit odd when he came to see me the last few times...is he ok?"
"I think it's brought back some memories for him," Coulson said. "I haven't had much of a chance to talk to him outside of when he's visited. But I know Steve will be taking care of him." He looked to Natasha for confirmation, knowing his daughter would have been watching the other occupants of the tower.
Natasha nodded, taking a mouthful of food and eating it before speaking. "He's getting Tony out of the tower... doing things with him; or with him and Bucky."
Grant winced. "I knew what I did hurt you all..." He glanced around at his family apologetically. "I didn't think it had hurt anyone else too..." He sighed softly, toying with his food a moment before slowly beginning to eat again.
"Yeah...well. Everyone in this tower is family. Maybe not immediate...or by blood even...but they're family. And they all care about you, whether you want to believe it or not..." Clint said calmly, taking a sip of his juice.
"You made a mistake, Grant," Coulson said. "Everyone here is affected by what happened because you're a part of this family... but I do know you sometimes have difficulty truly believing that." He knew how much his son had suffered in the past. Healing was going to take a while.
"I'm trying to remember it..." Grant said softly.
Clint smiled, tossing a tiny bit of egg at his brother. "Good...."
Coulson shook his head, amused. "No throwing food," he said, mock-scolding. He continued eating, smiling fondly at his kids.
"Sure thing, dad..." Clint agreed easily, taking a bit of honey on his finger and wiping it on Natasha's cheek. Well...technically, he'd obeyed.
Grant's eyes widened...not so much at his brother skirting around his father's order (since his father hadn't sounded all that upset)...but more so that Clint had actually done that to Natasha. "I'm going to miss you, bro..." he said, deadpan, giving Nat a tiny grin.
A mischievous smirk showed briefly on Natasha's face, gone just as quickly as it had appeared. She wiped the honey free with one hand and used the other to take a bit of egg on her fork... which she flicked into Clint's hair.
Clint yelped in surprise, not having expected Nat to retaliate in that manner. Glancing at his father from the corner of his eye, he flicked a tiny bit of potato at his siblings.
Grant, having been expecting something of the sort, used his spoon to bat it away...hitting his father square on the nose.
Clint threw his hands up. "And it's a home run! The crowd goes wild!" The archer made strange hissing noises that anyone hearing could only assume were supposed to be cheering fans.
"I give up," Coulson said in mock surrender. "Maybe I'll just retire to the bedroom, where it's relatively safe," he teased.
Natasha smiled. "Who says anywhere's safe with them around?"
"I don't think you can lay the blame entirely on them," Coulson said.
Natasha immediately looked angelic... innocent... like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.
"There...that's the look I need to perfect!" Grant stuck his thumb in Natasha's direction. "Can you imagine if I could learn how to look that innocent at will?"
"I shudder to think," Clint said seriously then proceeded to shudder quite visibly.
Grant wrinkled his nose. "Ha, ha!" He stuck the last bite of egg into his mouth then looked at his plate in surprise. He hadn't thought he'd be able to eat everything his father had given him.
"One of my kids able to perfect that look is scary enough," Coulson said. "I'm glad neither of you have quite figured that out yet." He smiled as he noticed Grant's empty plate. "Would you like some more? There are a few leftovers."
"No, thank you." He smiled. "I didn't think I was that hungry, but I am definitely not hungry now. It was very good..."
He slanted his head, watching his father for a moment, then looking at his brother and sister. "I...I haven't said it yet...but... I'm sorry for everything I put you all through. It was selfish to think that what I did wouldn't affect you...and...well...thank you. For taking care of me. I know that's what family does and all...but still...thank you." He glanced around the table again, his cheeks going red as he remembered everything that they had done for him.
Coulson reached across the table to cover Grant's hand with his own. "I would never have been able to just leave you alone to deal with this. Taking care of you isn't a chore. I love you."
"It's good to see you looking much better," Natasha said softly.
Grant squeezed his father's hand, turning to smile at Natasha. "It's good to be feeling better. In fact..." He glanced at his father. "...As soon as dad says it is alright, I plan to be back in our practice sessions."
"Good," Clint said. "It isn't the same when you aren't there." He grinned then stood up to begin clearing all the plates. "I think Tony wants to have a BIG family dinner in the common area tonight...if you feel up to it and if dad approves." Clint glanced at their father.
"I can't see any reason why not," Coulson replied. "As for the practice sessions... I'd like you to get checked out by Bruce. If he says it's all right, you can start joining the others again." Coulson was reasonably sure Grant would be all right, but he'd prefer to check with their resident doctor for confirmation.
"Yes, sir. Bruce wanted me to come by and see him anyway. I..." Grant fidgeted. "I really owe him an apology for stealing from his supplies." He winced. "And I'm sure I have a lecture coming from him..." He sighed. The doctor was so mild mannered most of the time that all of the kids hated to upset him.
Grant swallowed hard. "But before I do that...I think maybe I need to talk with you, dad..." Grant admitted with a sigh. "I'm sure you are wondering what in the hell I was thinking...."
Clint glanced at his brother and then at his father. "Well.... Thank you for breakfast, dad. Tony said he had some new arrows he wanted me to test out, so I should probably go hunt him down. I think he mentioned having something for you as well, Nat...."
Natasha stood up as she nodded. "We'd better go and talk to him." She hugged their dad and then squeezed Grant's shoulder sympathetically before following Clint from the room.
"It might be fairly safe to say you weren't thinking," Coulson said quietly once they were alone. "I'm sure you know about the dangers of drug abuse."
Grant swallowed hard. "More than you probably wish I did..." he admitted softly. "This isn't the first time I've..." He shrugged, shame coloring his face. "It wasn't prescription drugs the last time, though.... I should have known better. If you hadn't stopped me when you did...It would be so easy for me to become an addict again...." He sighed softly, putting his elbows on the table and then hiding his face in his hands.
Coulson stood and stepped round the side of the table, wrapping his arms around his son and pulling him in close. "You mentioned about that before," he said softly. "And you're right. You should have known better." He spoke seriously, but there wasn't any cruelty in his voice. "You used very bad judgment, son."
"I know, daddy..." Grant whispered, pressing closer to his father and putting his head against his chest. "I just felt so out of control of everything...and instead of telling you and finding some way to...to feel more in control that was useful...I decided to..." He shook his head slightly. "I tried to take control by doing the one thing guaranteed to make me not have any...." His voice was small. "I'm so ashamed of myself and...what you had to go through because...I don't... I'm just so sorry...." he finally admitted. "I have no excuses that will ever be good enough...."
Coulson kissed the top of Grant's head. "I know it was hard on you, son. What happened with the e-mail wasn't your fault. I wasn't here so you could check with me. Neither you or Fitz are to blame for falling for the e-mail. And I know being hovered over with your injuries was hard. I understand you needed space. As much as I love you - and I do, completely and utterly - I also know having independence... having control... is important." He kissed Grant's head again as he continued, "But the pills were not the right way to go about that."
Grant swallowed hard. "I know..." he finally whispered. "I disappointed you, I disappointed everyone else...I disappointed myself.... It was a foolish, risky stunt that didn't accomplish anything...and did the exact opposite of what I wanted." He shivered slightly. "I should have told you and listened to you...as hard as it was, it wasn't as bad as the last few days have been...."
"They weren't pleasant, but I would never have been anywhere apart from by your side," Coulson said honestly. "I signed up for everything. The bad along with the good." He stroked Grant's hair. "You are going to get spanked... but for misusing the pills and using the bad judgment. Not for what happened the past few days." He was sure Grant understood what he meant, but he thought it best to clarify. Grant wasn't going to be punished for being sick. He was going to be punished for his actions in causing himself to be sick.
"I understand, daddy," Grant said softly, snuggling even closer. "I deserve it..." he admitted with no hesitation, shame coating his voice.
Coulson pressed another kiss to his head. "When you're ready to deal with this, let me know." He was happy to hold his son as long as Grant wanted and needed him to. After all, he'd missed out on years of being able to hold his little boy.
Grant snuggled closer then swallowed hard. "I...Can we get it over with, daddy? I'm so sorry and I just...I need to know that it's taken care of and isn't between us anymore...." he said softly, before looking up into his father's eyes.
Coulson nodded, leaning in to kiss Grant's cheek. "I love you, son." He straightened up and then helped Grant out of his seat, wrapping an arm around his son's shoulders to guide him into the living room.
"I love you too, daddy..." Grant answered softly. He let his father guide him to the couch, then stood quietly, looking at his feet while waiting for his father to put him where he wanted.
Coulson took a seat on the couch and gently took hold of his son's wrist, bracing his other hand on Grant's back to direct him to bend over his lap. Once he had his son in position, he rubbed his back gently a few moments before baring him.
Grant couldn't help but whimper...his father had seen too much and done too much for him, for him to be embarrassed at the lack of clothing...and after being reduced to the helplessness of a baby, being punished like a child wasn't as distressing as it usually was. Even so, the hands that had been providing care for the last several days were about to provide a different sort of care soon; and knowing he deserved it wouldn't make it hurt any less.
Swallowing hard again, Grant reached down and grasped his father's ankle with one hand while bracing himself with the other. "I'm sorry, daddy...I really am."
"I know, son," Coulson replied gently. "And when we're finished here, it'll be over. We'll move on. I won't be angry with you." He rubbed Grant's back a moment or two more, then slid his arm around his son's waist, drawing him tight against his stomach, before bringing his hand down in the first sharp smack.
Grant let out a tiny gasp at the first swat. He didn't attempt to fight the punishment- he felt too deeply that he deserved it- so he lay limp over his father's knee and tried not to move or shift away. His eyes began watering immediately.
Coulson wasted no time in repeating that swat and then continuing, not using any discernible pattern with the swats, but making sure he covered every inch of Grant's backside, down to his thighs. Finally, he began speaking, though his hand didn't still. "You know better than to let yourself become reliant on pills, Grant. Things could have gone so much worse. You could have ended up going back into surgery to get your stomach pumped."
Grant choked back a sob at his father's words, shuddering. He'd known better, but even so, he hadn't thought out all the possible outcomes of his actions. "I..." But he stopped talking, not knowing what to say. Tears streamed from his eyes.
"Everyone here was worried about you," Coulson continued, not even so much as slowing the swats. "You had plenty of people you could have turned to instead of harming yourself and not taking your own health seriously enough." He gentled his tone, if not the swats. "I understand it's difficult to rely on people. I know what your past was like. Making a mistake isn't the end of the world, but any other time you make a bad judgment, particularly one that has you hurting, you'll be right back in this position."
"Ok, daddy! I understand..." Grant spoke through a sob, his voice completely contrite. "I'm sorry..." He continued to cry, gripping his father's ankle as tightly as possible.
Coulson paused, but he couldn't bring himself to continue. Not hearing his boy crying and knowing how hard the past few days had been on him. He lifted Grant into his arms, settling him on his lap and hugging him tightly.
Grant immediately curled up into his father, holding onto him tightly and hiding his face against his chest, soaking his father's shirt with his tears. He said, "I'm sorry," in a tiny, sorrow-filled voice one more time then didn't say anything, just soaking in his father's love. He'd been in so much pain going through the withdrawal that the spanking hadn't hurt him nearly as much; it was knowing how much he'd disappointed, scared and hurt his family that hurt the worse...and that hurt on such a deep level he couldn't stop crying; even if it wasn't vocal any longer, just a steady stream of tears and shivering.
"How could anyone trust me fully after this?" he said in a lost, broken whisper.
Coulson kissed his head and cuddled him close, stroking his hair gently. "Because you're loved," he said softly. "And deeply cared about. And there is absolutely nothing that could ever change that."
"...Love you, daddy..." Grant murmured into his father's chest, still reluctant to let go of him. He knew he needed to 'confess' at least one more thing and it felt like it might be easier if he was doing it while being held. Finally managing to stop his crying enough to clear his throat, he tried to explain himself...not sure if it made any sense. "I...I know I shouldn't blame myself for falling for that trap...I can't seem to help it, though. I feel like I should have known. Like I did know stealing the drugs and taking them the way I did was wrong."
He finally leaned back slightly, the slight sting he felt on his backside oddly comforting. "I dunno...maybe I was trying to punish myself for messing up..." He couldn't face his father, finding one of his fingernails extremely interesting. "I told myself it was to get control over at least one thing in my life, but I'm not stupid. I know that's the fastest way for me to lose all control over myself.... So, I dunno; maybe I wanted to hurt myself because I had been fooled and no one else was as mad at me for that as I was mad at me...." He bit his lip, still not able to look his father in the eye.
Coulson gently stroked Grant's hair, leaning in to kiss his forehead. "I understand how you were feeling," he said softly. "Sometimes telling yourself that it wasn't your fault isn't enough... even when other people tell you it's not your fault." Coulson was speaking from personal experience. He'd blamed himself for his wife's murder and his baby's disappearance for a very long time, after all.
Grant finally looked up into his father's eyes again, his own red-rimmed and still a bit wet. He managed a tiny smile. "How do you keep from making things worse? When you feel guilty and no one else thinks it's your fault? I just...what if something happens again and I have a hard time believing that I'm not at fault and can't let it go, even when you tell me it isn't my fault?"
"Well..." Coulson continued to stroke his son's hair and back as he spoke. "You've got an entire family around you who would be willing to help and support you. You can talk to any of us at any time. One of the things you shouldn't do is close yourself off from your family. Fury didn't let me wallow when I lost you... and although there were times I almost hated him for that, I can appreciate what he did now."
Grant swallowed then looked a bit sheepish. "I know that...it's just hard to do sometimes. I...I never really had anyone to talk to until you claimed me....Even John, he didn't talk. If I'd come to him with any of the things that bothered or worried me, he would have said I was being weak and..." He shrugged slightly. He was aware now that what John had done to him was abuse and that he couldn't base his life and what he did now on what Garrett had 'taught' him... but he had five years of 'training' with John's ideas and before that he'd been in a family that was worse than Garrett, so it was hard to change. "I'll try..." he finally said hesitantly.
Coulson tightened his embrace. "I know it isn't always easy, son. I know that there are going to be mistakes. I know that things aren't going to be perfect all the time. It isn't the end of the world. I love you and having you here makes me happy. I'll gladly take the bad along with the good when it means I get to hold you and spend time with you."
Grant relaxed into his father's hold and snuggled closer. "I know. Sometimes I wish I could become a little kid again, though...so I could learn all the things you are trying to teach me without having to unlearn all the other crap I've learned over the years." He sighed softly.
Coulson pressed another kiss to Grant's head. "You're doing very well, Grant. I know it's difficult, but you are doing better. Even compared to the act you had when you first joined the team. I've seen the way you are with our younger members... and I know they look up to you a great deal."
"I...they mean a lot to me, too," Grant admitted softly, putting his head back down on his father's chest again. He wondered if he shouldn't get up and fix his clothes- his father's legs had to be falling asleep by now- but he couldn't bring himself to move.
"I know," Coulson replied, threading his fingers through Grant's hair. "Leo was really worried about you. It might make him feel better to spend a bit of time with you in the next few days," he suggested. "So he knows that you're all right."
"I'd like that," Grant rumbled softly, contentment making him pliant to suggestions (not that it would take much to get him to agree to spend time with his little brother.)
Coulson kissed his head. "And now that you're feeling better, perhaps we could go and get a coffee together? Later today or tomorrow? Since you missed out on going with Natasha."
"I'd like that too, daddy..." Grant finally sat up and gave his father a big smile, before carefully standing and pulling his pajama pants back up. He rubbed his backside slightly, a sheepish look on his face. "Do you think I'll ever reach a point where I don't need you to spank me?" he huffed, but he didn't sound upset.
Coulson wrapped an arm around Grant's shoulders, squeezing gently. "I think there'll be a point where I don't need to spank you very much," he said. "But no matter how old you get, if it is necessary, it will happen." He kissed his son's cheek. "I love you."
Grant smiled again, leaning into his father. "I love you too, dad..." Turning, he wrapped his arms around his father and hugged him tightly.
"So...coffee this afternoon, then? I think I might need to stop by and see Tony before lunch, then go see Leo so he can be certain I'm ok.... Then...talk to Bruce." Grant sighed at the name of the last person he needed to see. Even though the older scientist/doctor had been by to see him several times since his foolishness, making sure that the drugs hadn't done any damage that couldn't be seen, he hadn't really talked to the older man or properly apologized. "I...I have no clue what to say to him," he admitted softly.
"Explain that you weren't thinking clearly and that it's been dealt with," Coulson said, hugging his son tight. "Apologise and promise that next time, you'll listen to him." He stroked Grant's hair gently. "I know you feel bad, but Bruce isn't going to be angry with you. You just might have to promise not to steal pills from him again."
Grant gave his father a chagrined look. "If I was ever tempted to steal pills from him again, I'm not sure a promise not to would stop me...." he admitted reluctantly. "…But...I will apologize. And see if maybe he'd like me to help out in the lab or something as a way of making it up to him...."
Reluctantly, he pulled away from his father. "Funny...as much as I thought I needed my own space and to get away a few days ago, now I don't want to leave your side." He laughed softly and shook his head. "Go figure. I should go find Tony before he gets stuck in meetings or something."
"You were feeling torn and restless," Coulson said, gently releasing his son. "But I will always be here for you. When you've talked to Tony, Leo and Bruce, come and find me and we'll get that coffee." He kissed his son's cheek. "I love you," he repeated.
Grant impulsively threw his arms around his father for one more quick hug, kissing him on the cheek, before backing away and heading toward the bedroom to get dressed. "I love you too, dad...." He smiled over his shoulder before disappearing into the other room.
# # #
Grant was waiting in the lobby of 'Avengers' Tower for his father to meet up with him. His father had a lot of business to attend to after several days of worrying over him in medical; and then the extra time that he'd ended up having to take because of Grant's foolishness with the drugs.
Grant had ended up talking to Leo first...as Tony had been on his way to a meeting that he'd promised Pepper he'd attend. He'd enjoyed catching up with the younger man, although it hadn't been quite as enjoyable explaining his actions with the drugs. He'd been afraid that the younger man had been disappointed in him, but Leo had assured him that he had just been worried; and was a bit sad that Grant still had a hard time believing that everyone cared about him and would be there for him if he needed to talk.
They'd spent most of the remainder of the morning talking; catching up on what was going on and also talking about parts of their lives before SHIELD. When Tony found them again, it was nearing lunch time and, knowing his father would want him to eat, he'd joined Tony and Pepper on their floor. It had been enjoyable, for the most part. He could see why Tony was smitten with his fiancé.
It wasn't as enjoyable when Tony brought up the drugs; but then Tony had gone on to explain his own history with addiction and Grant finally understood why the older man was so concerned when he'd figured out what was going on with him. One thing led to another and the two of them had ended up going to speak to Bruce together- Grant to apologize and then Tony so that they could make a request of their friend that they thought they might both benefit from.
Bruce had been more than gracious and forgiving, going so far as to give Grant a huge hug even as he chided him with a teasing threat to turn him over his knee as soon as his father was finished doing so if he ever did something so foolish again. Grant wasn't entirely certain that he wasn't serious. It wouldn't be an issue though, hopefully, as Bruce had readily agreed to Tony and his request.
Tony had walked with him down to the lobby and then disappeared to yet another promised meeting, so Grant was left to play around on his phone and wait for his father to arrive so they could walk to the coffee shop together.
It had taken a while, but Coulson had finally managed to take care of his jobs. He had the rest of the day to spend with his son and he'd managed to grab a bite to eat before heading down to the lobby, smiling when he spotted his son there waiting for him.
Coulson walked over to Grant and wrapped an arm around his son's shoulders. "Ready to go?" he asked. "Have you eaten?"
Grant smiled, bumping into his father gently. "Yes, sir. I ate with Tony and Pepper, actually..." he said with a grin. "He's a lucky guy..." Grant blinked, then blushed, realizing he'd said that last out loud.
Coulson smiled, squeezing him. "I think Pepper's really good for him." He started guiding his son out of the tower. "How did it all go?" he asked softly.
"It went....good," Grant said with a tiny smile. "Leo and I had a good talk. Tony explained a bit more why he was so worried about me...and then he went with me when I went to talk to Bruce." He looked at his father sideways.
"And how did that go?" Coulson rubbed Grant's shoulder gently as they left the tower and walked along the street towards the coffee shop.
Grant laughed softly. "It went well. Bruce gave me a hug, told me never to do something so foolish again and basically said if I ever stole drugs from him again, he'd be spanking me as soon as you had finished." He said the last in a whisper as he glanced around to make certain no one else was listening. "He then agreed to the idea Tony and I had and then I came to meet you." He smiled again.
Coulson raised his eyebrows at the repeated threat, but didn't comment on it. "What idea did you and Tony have?" he asked.
Grant ordered coffee for both his father and himself as well as two brownies. As soon as they had their drinks and dessert, they went to a back corner table, where Grant collected his thoughts. Slanting his head, he glanced at his father as he took a sip of his coffee then asked, "How much do you know about Tony's history before Afghanistan?"
"Not very much," Coulson replied, having taken his seat opposite his son. "Tony doesn't tend to talk about his past and it's not always easy to know when the right time is to push."
"Yeah," Grant said softly. "Well, I guess he won't mind me telling you, since our idea pretty much involves you and Steve and he had to know that you would wonder why we were asking it.... I...I wasn't the only one who had a problem with taking things I shouldn't have been taking when I was a teen...." He shrugged slightly, figuring his father would know what he meant.
"Tony, though, was apparently in worse shape than I was...and doesn't really trust himself not to relapse. End result: it doesn't matter how much pain he's in; he refuses to take any type of medication for it beyond alcohol. And lately, he's been avoiding that, too...so...a lot of times he's in a lot of pain. Anyway, after my issues this week, he thought maybe we could both benefit making a pact with each other. Neither of us takes anything that hasn't been prescribed by Bruce or a doctor that knows our situation and that we trust...and if we do get a prescription, we aren't in charge of it." He watched his father closely, to see if he had any questions, before continuing.
Coulson listened intently to Grant's explanation, not interrupting and giving his son his full attention. "I think that's a good idea so far," he said quietly. "I'm proud of you for taking steps to manage yourself. Tony, too."
Grant relaxed visibly at his father's approval. "I'm happy to hear that. Because I was hoping you'd be willing to be in charge for me...." He smiled crookedly. "Bruce liked our idea, too and said he was willing to be in charge in situations where you couldn't be...but he thought it might be easier on both of us if we had our fathers be in control of things otherwise.... You should have seen Tony's face when Bruce said that, considering the fact that Steve is meant to be in charge for him." Grant took another sip of his drink then shrugged.
"Anyway...long and short of it, we'd be given medicine like patients in the hospital are; as needed and in the dosage needed. No holding onto the bottles for us or having access to the bottles. And Tony has informed JARVIS that, from now on, if anyone other than Bruce gets into the medicine locker- without using Bruce's specific code to do so- then JARVIS is to inform you and Steve immediately. Even if it's not me or Tony doing it." Grant blushed and gave his father another crooked smile.
Coulson reached across the table, covering his son's hand with his own. "You know I would do anything for you, son. If this is something you think is a good idea, then I will be in charge of the medication. I saw how hard the past few days were for you. I'll do what I can to make sure you don't have to go through that again," he promised.
"I think...." Grant slanted his head. "I think you trust me a lot more than I trust me at the moment and...I'll feel better knowing that there is a plan in place...just in case." He turned his hand over so that he was clasping hands with his father then gave a quick squeeze before reaching for one of the brownies. "I hope taking so many days off unexpectedly hasn't left you swamped with work..." he said, before taking a bite.
Coulson smiled affectionately at his son before taking the other brownie and biting into it. "It hasn't... but even if it had, it wouldn't matter. You're far more important than my job as director."
Grant set the brownie down for a moment, just looking at his father, memorizing his face...a tiny smile on his own face. Finally, he looked back down, picking up the brownie again. "Thanks, dad...for everything. You're the best thing that ever happened to me and I love you," he said softly, before taking another bite. The afternoon was gorgeous, he was in the company of his father and everything was right in the world. He knew he was going to be ok.