Authorís Note: This was written as a RPG (roll playing game) between co-authors Hope1iz and BlackFox12. Set after the season one finale. Twenty-fourth in the Redeeming Grant series.
Disclaimer: We donít own anything from Marvel: Agents of SHIELD or the Avengers and weíre not making any money from this fic.
Summary: Readjusting isnít always smooth.
Warning(s): Spanking; spoilers for Agents of SHIELD and Avengers Assemble
Co-Authorís Website: BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page
BACK TO SQUARE ONE?
Grant rode the elevator down to the briefing floor, having been summoned by his father. Apparently, there was a mission that needed doing. He was happy about that fact, really. Coulson and Fury had done their best to give the teams a chance to readjust to being their natural ages, so it had been over a month since they'd done anything more than a bit of reconnaissance. Everyone had taken advantage of the time, to be sure. The 'family' groups were all closer than ever before and something about having the security of a loving family had helped even the most aloof of the group to bond with the others. They were like a well-oiled machine. Now it was time to see if some of the parts were just as smooth when separate from the main body.
Clint was waiting for him in the briefing room. "Hey, bro. Dad said he'd be here shortly. He's gathering the last of the intel the two of you will need to proceed."
"Come to see us off, then?" Grant asked his brother with a smile.
Clint pouted and crossed his arms over his chest. "Since I'm not going with you, I guess I am." He turned toward the door as their father entered.
Coulson stepped into the room and smiled when he saw his sons there. "I have all of the Intel," he said to Grant. "We're hitting a warehouse HYDRA has used for storage of samples they might use for that virus." He passed the map over to Grant and then smiled at Clint. "I'll take you next time."
Grant straightened up, his face going serious and his eyes clouding over with worry at the mention of the virus. "You think they might be trying to reproduce it again?" He remembered what it had done to him; the thought of the virus getting out into the public where those with weaker immune systems could be exposed to it was frightening. He'd barely survived and he'd been at the peak of health prior to succumbing to the virus. Children and senior citizens would be very vulnerable, as would those who were already sick with other ailments.
Clint looked between his father and brother, his own eyes worried. "Are you certain you don't need a third set of eyes? I'm not sure I like the idea of the two of you going in there without any other backup...even if the warehouse is supposed to be empty of people...."
"Since it's empty, I don't think we'll run into much trouble," Coulson said. "But it'll be good to have you on standby, in case we do end up with more than we can deal with."
"Alright," Clint reluctantly agreed. "But I want you to leave me your location and I want a time when you will check in with me, so if you don't check in, I'll know to get the rest of the gang together to stage a rescue..." His tone was insistent.
Grant couldn't help but smile at Clint's behavior; if he didn't know better, he would have thought Clint was the parent and not Coulson. It was obvious that Phil had influenced his older son quite a bit.
Coulson stepped forward and wrapped his arm around Clint's shoulders, giving him a tight squeeze. "I'll keep in regular contact and you can check the map to see where we're going to be," he promised.
Clint glanced at his brother's arm. "You still haven't put the bracelet back on, after we all re-aged and it would fit again..." he noted. "Not that I think Grant really needs it anymore, but it does enable us to track him easily if something happens...." He didn't want to ask that his brother put the bracelet back on, since Grant had been much better about not jumping head first into situations without thinking, but he had to admit, if only to himself, that the fact that his brother could be tracked had been a source of relief to him. "Would wearing trackers negatively impact your mission at all?" he asked, trying for a nonchalant tone, but sounding worried all the same.
Coulson squeezed Clint gently, aware of how worried his oldest was. "We can wear trackers," he said, wanting to reassure Clint and knowing how important it was he know they were safe.
"Good..." Clint sighed in relief. "I was hoping you'd say that...." He gave his father a sheepish look as he pulled two trackers out of his pocket and held them out to Coulson; they looked like watches. "I know it is possible to take them off and hopefully that won't be necessary, but with such short notice and with you needing to leave right now, there likely isn't time for Bruce or Jemma to insert a tracker under your skin...." He shrugged slightly. It was obvious he would have preferred the more 'secure' tracker, but he'd take what he could and just hope that none of it was needed.
Coulson smiled fondly at Clint as he put his tracker around his wrist and handed the other to Grant. "They look more like watches, so if anyone does see them, they might not realise what they do. And we will be as safe as possible," he promised.
Grant smiled at his brother, then reached over and gave him a gentle punch on the arm. "We'll be seeing you again before you know it... so don't you go doing anything silly yourself. Right?" he teased lightly, putting the watch on his own wrist, then double checking to make certain he had the rest of his equipment situated where he wanted or needed it.
Coulson pressed an affectionate kiss to his oldest's forehead. "We'll keep in contact when we can," he said. "And if anything goes wrong, I know I can count on you to have our backs."
"Always!" Clint nodded, giving his father a smile before gently punching Grant back.
Grant glanced at his father, before grinning at his brother again and then turning to head to the elevator. This was going to be a simple mission- and hopefully it wouldn't take long for them to find the information they were seeking.
Coulson gave Clint one last hug and then went after Grant, catching up with his youngest as Grant reached the elevator.
Clint watched them both get on the elevator and leave. He still wasn't happy that they were going on this mission by themselves, but at least they had trackers on them now. He'd done what he could...and he'd be keeping an eye on them. "JARVIS... keep an eye on them both, will you, please? Let me know if something strange happens with the trackers...that might be the only warning we get if something happens to them." Of course, that didn't account for something happening that the trackers couldn't 'tell' him about, but it was the best option they'd had at the time. He could only hope his misgivings were unfounded and that nothing went wrong.
Even prepared for the possibility that things had gone wrong, there was still a trap they had missed in the warehouse. A step on a loose floorboard triggered a mechanism to fire and Coulson had the split second warning of a whistle through the air, right before a dart was piercing his neck.
Grant hadn't had much chance to do anything after that point. Eight armed guards had stormed their location and Grant, not liking being on the defensive and wanting to get his father to safety, had immediately gone on the attack, even as he stayed protectively in front of Coulson.
Coulson could feel the effects of what had coated the dart affecting him, but he was able to keep enough presence of mind to direct Grant to disengage from the fighting so that they could find a safe place to regroup... even as he felt a sedative of some kind taking hold.
Grant had heard his father's direction, of course he had, but he wasn't sure that the guards wouldn't raise an alarm if he didn't incapacitate all of them (and that was assuming they hadn't already raised an alarm). Because of this, he blatantly ignored the directions, continuing his fight with the guards until every one of them was unconscious. He hadn't earned his reputation by chance, after all. As soon as the guards were no longer a problem, he turned to help his father.
They needed to find a place to hide, as he could hear the radio on one of the guards crackle with static before a voice came over, stating that their entry had been discovered. They wouldn't be exiting the same way they came in. Wrapping an arm around Coulson, Grant lifted him up in a fireman's carry and started down a hall that was opposite where the guards had entered from. His eyes darted around as he quickly walked, trying to find a safe hiding place.
Coulson was too out of it to be able to offer his son much help. If he'd been completely aware, he would have commented on Grant disobeying him... but it was likely that, if he'd been fully aware, he would have agreed with his son's actions.
Grant had immediately removed the dart as soon as he'd stopped the guards- before he'd begun carrying his father- but he had no clue what had been in the dart or what problems it could possibly cause. He'd carefully wrapped the dart up in a cloth he'd found then stashed it with the other items they had been carrying. If something happened later on, it would be better if Bruce or Jemma had something to work with.
The effects of the sedative were wearing off, but Coulson began tensing, eyes darting around as if he was looking at something only he could see. There was a kind of sick horrror on his face as he began shifting, as if preparing to try and pull free from Grant's grasp.
Grant had been watching his father closely, even as he had been keeping an eye on their surroundings. He had been ready to move them both at a moment's notice if it looked like their hiding spot had been discovered. Unfortunately, that possibility seemed more and more likely, with Coulson's reaction to the sedative. Grant still didn't know what had been administered to his father, but the look on his father's face was not encouraging.
He shifted his grip so that he could maintain a hold on his father without having to struggle or grip the older man too hard. He was afraid if he let go completely, Coulson might bolt and give their location away; but at the same time, he didn't want to hurt his father by holding too tightly if there was a struggle. "Dad? It's ok. You're ok. You're with me...your son..." he whispered softly, hoping that his voice might break through whatever fugue Coulson was falling into.
"My son..." Coulson's voice sounded distant, as if it was coming from far away. "He's gone... she's dead..." There was a heavy weight of guilt behind his words. He tensed up even further, still tugging, but not as hard as he could have.
Grant was confused for a short moment, before realization hit him. He swallowed, wincing as he realized his father was thinking about his mother and when he had been taken as a baby. "I'm not gone anymore, dad...I'm here. You found me and took me home..." he told the older man, his voice gentle as he carefully maneuvered Coulson so that his father was leaning back against him and his arms were around the other man in a semi-loose hug.
Coulson remained stiff, but didn't try to pull away, as if recognising his son even with the effects of the hallucinations. But he began muttering again. "He's sick... I have to save him. It's not hopeless... it can't be..."
"You're right, it wasn't hopeless...you did save me..." Grant tried to reassure his father, although he wasn't entirely sure which time his father was referring to; it was a bit embarrassing how often he had been injured or gotten sick since his father and him had reconnected.
Coulson's hand dropped, perhaps subconsciously, to cover one of Grant's, though he continued to speak as if he had no idea his son was with him. "It was my fault..."
"No....it wasn't, daddy. You did everything you could...it wasn't your fault. I don't blame you and I never will...." Grant swallowed hard, hating to hear his father talk like this. He wasn't sure what to say or do to help, and wasn't sure what he was doing was helping.
Coulson closed his eyes, gripping Grant's hand tightly. "I should have looked harder... you were out there... I should never have rested until I found you..." he whispered, though it was unclear if he was talking directly to Grant, or a hallucination.
"You did find me...and you saved me. I love you, daddy...and I don't blame you for what happened. Please don't blame yourself...." Grant answered him as if he wasn't hallucinating. He really didn't know what else he could do, but the fact that his father was suffering from what appeared to be some sort of hallucinogen was very worrisome. He bit his lip, weighing his options. If it didn't look like his father was going to start coming out of the drug's effects soon, he might have to change his idea of hiding out in a safe location and waiting for rescue. He couldn't imagine just sitting here and not trying to get out of this mess and find his father help.
Coulson stayed tense, but his fingers slowly laced through Grant's, as if hearing him on some deep level. The next moment, a sound, almost like a stifling cry, escaped him... as if the hallucinations had grown worse.
Grant just held onto his father's hand, squeezing gently even as he held him in a tighter hug. He felt so helpless right now; they needed help...but to get help, he needed to move his father and himself to another area of the building; an area that didn't block radio transmissions. He needed to find a location where the radio they had in their gear was able to pick up a signal. But he didn't want to move until his father was able to move on his own without too much difficulty...and right now that didn't seem likely.
Coulson seemed lost within whatever hell the drug had conjured up, but although he was mostly quiet (apart from a whimper every now and then), there was quickly the sound of footsteps moving towards their hiding place.
Grant heard the footsteps and despite his reluctance to move his father while the man was under the influence of whatever drug had been given him, he knew they didn't have a choice any longer. "We have to move, daddy...the bad guys are getting closer and we need to get away and hide from them..." he whispered, even as he stood and shouldered on the back pack and then quickly lifted Coulson into a fireman's carry again. He would apologize later for the uncomfortable position; they needed to move fast and this was the fastest way to carry his father and also be able to carry their equipment and have his hands available if he suddenly needed to fight.
Soon, they were moving at a rapid clip down another hallway, as Grant tried to find a safe spot that was near a window so that he could get reception on their communication device.
Coulson didn't make much noise, but that horror was spreading across his face once more. If anything, the hallucinations were getting worse and he wasn't able to help his son out very much at all.
Grant's worry was growing with each minute his father became worse. Part of him wanted to fight their way out and take Coulson home immediately; the other part was worried that something worse would happen to his father if he left him alone long enough to take out the enemy. Finally, he'd found another abandoned area of the building that had windows which would enable him to observe the outlying areas. Keeping his father close so he could hold his hand, he surreptitiously looked out, trying to decide if they'd be able to escape through the window and get to their vehicle without being found.
As soon as the two were within radio range again, the comms crackled with Steve's worried voice. "Coulson? Grant? We lost contact with you there for a while... is everything all right?"
Grant quickly took the radio and responded, making certain to keep his father's hand in his own and watch the older man, not positive that Coulson wouldn't sneak off if he wasn't watching, even while he answered Steve. "We ran into a problem: guards happened onto us and while I was able to take them out, I wasn't able to do so before they alerted the rest of the building. On top of that, my dad was shot with a dart with some drug on it that is making him hallucinate. Getting out of here will be more difficult, because I will need to carry him." His explanation was brief and to the point.
"Can you give us your exact coordinates?" Steve asked. "Bucky and I will come and get you." He broke off to page Bruce on the comms, figuring it would be best to have him along as well... in case the dart carried something even more sinister.
Grant quickly gave them the coordinates, but then added, "Clint gave both of us trackers in the form of watches that we are wearing. If you find him, he can activate them and it should lead you right to us...."
"I'll do that," Steve said. "Make sure you stay put. It'll be easier to find you that way."
A more distressed look was coming over Coulson's face and he pulled his hand free of Grant's, quickly moving to his feet. The effects of the drug seemed to have increased his strength, however temporarily, and he was running off.
"No! Wait!" Ward attempted to grab his father before he could take off, but the older man was too quick. "Damnit, Dad! Come back!" Ward whispered as loudly as he dared, before chasing after his father. He knew Steve had said to stay in place, and he knew the older man would likely be frustrated that he didn't...especially if they both got caught...but he couldn't just let his father run off alone. The older man was guaranteed to be caught.
Steve heard Grant call out and he quickly realised that whatever Coulson had been given, it had caused him to wander off. And Grant had obviously gone after him. Steve could understand why, but if they both got captured, it would be a big problem.
"JARVIS? Can you call Bucky, Clint and Bruce and ask them to come meet me?" Steve asked.
"Of course, sir," the AI responded quickly. Not more than twenty seconds later, he was talking again. "I have asked them to come to you and all three of them are on their way. Do you wish me to call anyone else?" the AI asked.
Steve hesitated. "Let the others know the situation. I don't think we'll need anyone else, but I'd rather they know what's going on."
"Very well, sir," JARVIS answered and then stopped speaking, presumably to follow Steve's instructions.
Tony came walking in with Clint a minute later, as they had been on the practice range when Steve's call went out. "What's up, Cap? Anything I can help with?" Tony inquired, noting that Clint seemed a bit more worried than he normally would be and wondering why.
"Coulson and Grant ran into some trouble on the mission," Steve explained. "They were spotted and Coulson has been hit with a dart that seems to have caused him to hallucinate. Clint... can you activate the trackers they're wearing? I suspect Coulson might have wandered off and Grant went after him..."
Clint nodded, immediately pulling out the unit that would actually do the tracking. "If dad wandered off, I can guarantee Grant went after him. Hopefully, they didn't wander right into enemy hands..." he muttered, worry clear in his voice. Once the tracking unit was on, he handed it to Steve.
"JARVIS? Do you think you could give us a more pinpointed location, homing in on their trackers?" Tony asked curiously.
"I can. If Captain Rogers would like to take a comm that allows me to communicate with him, I will be able to lead the rescue operation directly to them. Although I am not certain I will be able to warn them of incoming enemy unless they also take along a scanning device or video," the AI stated calmly.
By this time, Bucky and Bruce had both arrived as well.
Bruce looked nervous but determined. "You want me to go on this rescue mission, so I can help either give Coulson a counter-agent to what he was drugged with, or safely tranquilize him until we can get him to a secure and safe location for the drug to wear off..." he stated, not bothering to ask in question form.
Steve nodded. "I don't know if there are any other symptoms, but if it's bad enough that Coulson is leaving Grant, sedating him might be the best option." He took the tracker from Clint and then paused, addressing the archer. "I know you're worried... do you want to come along as well?" He knew they wouldn't run into many problems, but he also knew that, if the situation involved Tony and Bucky, he'd want to go along as well.
Clint looked at Steve gratefully. "Please..."
Bruce, realizing time was important, quickly excused himself to gather his supplies. "I'll meet you all at the Quinjet?" He waited long enough for Steve to confirm which vehicle they were taking before leaving to get the items.
Tony, looking determined but hesitant at the same time, finally asked, "I know you didn't ask JARVIS to have me come here...do you need me to go as well, or do you need me to stay here in case something goes wrong and you need back-up?" He wanted to go with them and help, it was obvious, but he also knew that he might be needed more elsewhere. His ability to act as a 'team-player' and not as a hot-shot lone ranger had improved greatly, especially once Steve had taken charge.
"I think it'll be better to have you here, in case something does go wrong," Steve answered after a moment's thought. "I know you're capable of coming along with us, but in this situation, we need to avoid as many potential hostages as possible. It'll be far more helpful for you to be on standby."
Tony nodded briskly. "Got it. In that case..." Tony handed a tiny zippered case to Steve. "Here are the comms JARVIS was mentioning. There is also a tiny tracker in there that will let JARVIS see where you are in relation to Coulson and Grant. You keep in contact with him, he'll keep me informed on if you need anything from me." Tony gave Steve a tiny grin. "I will most likely be in meetings with the board since Pepper is currently on her way to Tokyo, so I will welcome any excuse to leave early." His grin grew a bit larger and impish.
Clint smiled crookedly at Tony then looked at Bucky and Steve. "I have everything I need as soon as both of you are ready to go." His bow and quiver were already on his back.
Steve squeezed Tony's shoulder gently. "Thank you." Stepping back, he picked up his gear that he kept stashed in the same room whenever he was on standby for a mission. "I'm ready now," he said firmly, then glanced at his brother. "Bucky?"
Bucky held up his prosthetic arm and made a fist, before then ghosting a hand over the weapons that were holstered on various parts of his body. "I'm ready."
Steve nodded. "Good." He started towards the elevator.
It hadn't taken long for Grant to catch up to his run-away father. Unfortunately, despite catching up to him, he hadn't been able to get a good grip on him to stop his movement. His father proved, with little effort, how he had become one of the top SHIELD agents. Grant might have a reputation rivaled by few other than Natasha, perhaps; but his father? Not only could he rival Grant's abilities, he could do it with ease. It was a bit embarrassing, really. Rolling his eyes, Grant was reduced to trailing after his dad and neutralizing any 'threats' they ran across in the process.
Coulson didn't really seem to see the danger around him, even though, in normal circumstances, he would know to keep out of sight.
Steve used the comm Grant had to keep him updated, since he wasn't sure Coulson would be able to keep his from being heard.
Grant was doing his best to direct his father into less dangerous areas, but eventually, they had reached a hallway with only one door, that Grant knew would lead to their capture. He told Steve as much before he attempted to tackle his father in a last bid to stop him.
Using the trackers and Grant's information, Steve and the rest of the team were able to track down the two of them. Seeing that Grant was probably going to have trouble holding Coulson, Steve directed Bruce to sedate the older man as he quickly moved to hold off any potential attacks.
Grant gave Steve a relieved grimace as the other man began to help fight off the enemy. He also nodded at Bruce, Bucky, and Clint. The majority of his attention was on preventing the enemy guards from reaching his father. "We never reached our objective..." he finally said to Steve. "With you all here, I should be able to get the information quickly..." He took off before Steve could order him not to go. He hated the thought of his father being drugged and possibly hurt and having nothing to show for it.
A look of frustration came over Steve's face as Grant took off. Unwilling to let Grant go alone (and knowing that Coulson would want his son protected), Steve clasped Bucky on the shoulder. "Can you stay with Bruce, Coulson and Clint while I go and retrieve Grant?"
The look on Bucky's face was a blend of irritated amusement. He gave Steve a brisk nod, deciding that saying anything was unnecessary.
Bruce shook his head at Grant's actions. "I thought he'd got beyond the whole acting without thinking things through problem..." he said mildly.
Grant, by this time, was fighting his way to the lab, where the information they wanted was supposedly stored. He thought it a bit odd that the guards were decreasing instead of increasing the closer they got. By the time he'd reached the lab, there was no guard in site and he was easily ably to plug the portable drive into a computer and begin downloading the information. A few moments after starting the download, he noticed the bomb that was timed to go off in two minutes. "Oh, you gotta be kidding me...." he muttered in frustration, before beginning to look the bomb over to see if he could diffuse it.
Steve tracked Grant down to the lab in time to see the kid looking over a bomb and he quickly headed over to the other man. "Let me see," he directed, before using the comms to contact his kid. "Tony? I've got a bomb here that needs to be diffused."
"Do I have time to get there, or do you need me to walk you through it?" Tony quickly replied, proving that he was just waiting on the comms for someone to contact him.
"I need you to walk one of us through it." Steve looked at Grant, hiding the irritation he felt. "You carry on getting the intel you came for." He knew Grant was capable. He also knew Coulson wouldn't want his son near a live bomb.
Grant wanted to argue, but even though the other man had kept his face fairly neutral, Grant could sense that he was unhappy with him about something and decided that it would be better to just follow orders without comment. Luckily, the information was almost through downloading onto the drive. It wouldn't take him long to disconnect the device and put it safely in a zippered pocket and rejoin Steve.
Tony had wasted no time in walking Steve through the steps needed to disarm the explosive, with the caveat that if the people who'd left the bomb had added a second detonation device to it- that Steve didn't see- there was the possibility that they would set off an explosion anyway. "I'd much prefer you just grab everyone and run, Cap..." Tony admitted, trying to hide his worry (and failing miserably).
Steve quickly agreed and grabbed Grant, telling everyone else through the comms that they needed to get out of the building as fast as possible as he guided the younger man towards the exit, knowing he could trust Bucky and Bruce to get Coulson out.
"But...!" Grant was about to protest...the download was almost completed. Given that Steve hadn't given him a choice, though, and begun dragging him toward the exit, all Grant could do was yank the drive out and hope that he hadn't just lost everything he'd been trying to get in the process. He then ran beside Steve, slowing only long enough to shove the drive into the waiting pocket and zip it up.
Bucky had listened to Steve's orders immediately, throwing Coulson over his shoulders in a fireman's carry and almost shoving Bruce ahead of him. "Go...exit...now!" he barked shortly.
Bruce ignored the shortness and the tone...too worried that they might not make it out in time to take offense. Although he had no doubt he would survive. He could feel Hulk in the back of his mind, wanting to get out.
Steve ignored Grant's protest, tugging the younger man behind him while he carried his shield in his other hand... just in case he needed to make an exit. He only concerned himself with Grant, knowing Bucky would get the others out.
The effects of the drug were wearing off enough that Coulson didn't fight being carried. More alert now, he realised something else had gone wrong.
Grant ran beside Steve, his own frustration palpable. "There was only a few seconds left to go..." he finally muttered.
Bruce had tried to keep control. He really had. It had been in vain, though. More guards had shown up to block their way. One second, he was running toward the exit in front of Bucky and Coulson; the next, Hulk was throwing the blocking guards against the wall and grabbing both Bucky and Coulson.
Hulk had a good grip on them both and soon had them safely out of the building. The problem was, he wouldn't stop running. Bucky sighed and nearly huffed in frustration. With their luck, they'd end up in northern Canada before Bruce regained control and put him and Coulson down.
Steve didn't say anything as they reached the exit and left the lab, though he had the urge to shake the younger man. "Any kind of intel is not worth your life," he said as they reached the outside.
"I would have gotten out in time!" Grant protested. "It was almost done..." His words were cut off however, as an explosion rocked the building and the force from it blew outside, knocking him off his feet. "Son of a..." Grant was stressed, or he never would have started; but once he had started, he couldn't seem to stop using every foul epithet in his vocabulary. He quickly got to his feet, shouldering past Steve in irritation, deliberately ignoring the other man's attempts to make certain he wasn't injured as he glanced around. "Where're the others?" he finally asked, his eyes narrowing in worry.
Steve frowned, actually tempted to swat Grant due to frustration. "They're not here. I suspect Bruce might have Hulked out and grabbed the others." He didn't say the other possibility - that they'd been caught in the blast. Nor did he point out that they would have got out in time if Grant hadn't insisted on doing his own thing. Instead, he accessed his comm. "Bucky? Bruce?"
"Hey, Steve." Bucky's voice came over the comms, sounding amused and irritated all at once. "You both make it out ok?"
"Yeah," Steve replied. "Everything all right your end? Where are you?" He picked up on the irritation in his brother's voice.
"Oh...I'd say we're about fifteen to twenty miles north of where we were and rapidly heading to the border. I keep telling Hulk we're ok and safe, but since Coulson is still sleeping, I don't think he believes me." Bucky sighed.
Grant's eyes widened at those words and he looked at Steve, not knowing what they should do.
"Tell him to take you both to the tower," Steve suggested. "He should understand that's the safest place Coulson can be."
A few seconds later, Bucky's much happier voice came back over the comms. "He understood; means we've changed direction. At our current speed, we should reach the tower within ten minutes.
Grant relaxed noticeably when they heard those words. "Let's go..." he urged Steve.
"We'll see you there," Steve promised, before heading to the vehicle, making sure Grant was coming with him.
Clint had made it out of the building not far behind Bruce, Bucky and his father... he had been far enough back that Hulk hadn't taken him with them, though. It had taken him a bit of time to work his way around to the exit Steve and Grant had used...but he'd got around quickly enough to notice Grant's less than cooperative attitude. Frowning, he walked up behind the two and lightly smacked the back of Grant's head. "Knock it off, or I'm telling dad," he warned, not elaborating on what Grant was supposed to 'knock off'. Grant should know.
"Ow! Clint, what the..." Grant began, but quickly shut his mouth when he noticed that Steve had a decidedly frustrated look on his face and Clint's wasn't all that much more impressed.
Steve glanced at the brothers, but didn't make any comments as he reached the vehicle and opened the doors, waving Clint and Grant inside. "I think I need to talk to your dad anyway," he addressed Grant. "This isn't the first time you've put the mission ahead of your safety and you know that's not acceptable."
Grant opened his mouth to protest, but one look at both Steve and Clint and he shut his mouth. He knew he really didn't have room to protest anyway; Steve was right. Swallowing hard, he turned to look out the window, frustrated at the situation and at himself. He was afraid if he said anything, he'd take that frustration out on the two in the car with him; which not only wasn't fair, but wasn't right. "Do you have to tell him?" He winced when his voice came out sounding like a whiny child instead of the adult he was.
Huffing out a sigh, he slumped down into the seat and refused to look at Clint or Steve. "Never mind..." he finally said, managing to sound civil and not mutter. "I know you do.... I'd ask if it helped that I only wanted to help, but I know that won't matter...."
Clint, wisely, didn't say anything. It wasn't like he hadn't done the same thing himself a time or two. He just usually did it when there was no one else around to see him doing it, so the only way they'd find out is if he told on himself. It was different when his little brother did it, though. And he was adult enough to admit it was a double standard, but it was the way he felt.
"The intel can be replaced," Steve stated as he began driving back to the tower. "You can't. Your safety is always more important... and you know your father would say exactly the same."
"Yes, sir..." Grant said quietly. He did know his father would say the same thing...among other things. Why he kept responding to things in the same way he had before Coulson came back into his life, he didn't know. Garrett always put the mission first...but Garrett was a nut-case that did a lot of things that Grant had to admit weren't all that good or smart. "Some habits are hard to break," he admitted, without going into detail.
Clint grimaced. "That's why dad works so hard on helping you break them," he answered, not unsympathetically.
"He loves you," Steve said. "The rest of us feel the same way. I know it's difficult to make your safety a priority, but it needs to become instinctual." He sighed. "I think you should talk to your father about going back to using the bracelet... until it does become instinctual."
Grant winced. "I was doing better..." This time, he was too disappointed that Steve thought he had backslid far enough to need the bracelet to notice that he had whined rather badly.
"Yeah, well..." Clint didn't know what he could say to make his brother feel better. He agreed with Steve. "A lot happened after we got de-aged and you settled into things a lot more and maybe your comfort level has caused you to be less observant of your own actions or something...All I know is that I don't want to lose you. And I think Steve is right. But if you don't want to talk to dad about it, then I'll talk to him."
Grant shot Clint a semi-betrayed/hurt look, but shook his head. "No...I'll talk to him. If both of you think I should..." He sighed softly, letting his head thunk against the window.
Steve parked the car in the garage at the tower. "Do you remember why you first brought up wearing the bracelet?" he asked, reminding Grant that it had been his idea in the first place.
Grant gave Steve a sheepish look, blushing slightly. "Yes, sir...and I know you're right. It's.." He sighed. "...it's just hard to admit I've fallen back into old habits. And it's going to be really hard admitting it to dad," he admitted, somewhat sadly.
"I understand," Steve said. "But you know he understands that sometimes it's hard... and that it's easy to slide back into old habits. Just talk to him and let him help you. All he wants is to keep you safe."
"I know..." Grant admitted softly. "When that dart hit him and that drug started affecting him...that's what I wanted to do for him...."
Steve nodded. "And you did a good job of it... but you need to remember to keep yourself safe, too. You aren't expendable. And losing you would be devastating. To all of us, not just your father and brother and sister."
Grant blinked, giving Steve a surprised look. Although maybe he really shouldn't have been surprised. Everyone had grown so much closer when the seven of them had been turned into children. It made him feel a bit guilty for the way he had been treating the older man. "I...I'm sorry," he finally said contritely. "It...It's hard to remember sometimes that what I do affects everyone else.... I know it shouldn't be so hard to remember, it just..." He sighed. "I'm sorry. You didn't deserve my bad attitude or my disobedience," he finally admitted softly.
"Well, at least you're finally realizing that..." Clint muttered, earning himself a dirty look, then an apologetic one, from his younger brother.
"Thank you," Steve said, though he hadn't been saying it to get an apology. "I know it's difficult to break the habits of a lifetime. I understand it's hard to believe you matter, when everyone for most of your life has been treating you like you don't." He looked at Grant. "You know your father isn't like the people who raised you. To him, you will always be first priority."
Grant smiled crookedly. "I know." His crooked grin turned a bit more rueful as he continued, "I also know he is not going to be happy with me when I admit what I did." He sighed softly and squirmed in anticipation of what he knew he had coming to him.
"I always knew you were smart!" Clint teased, earning himself another dirty look. "What? It was a compliment!" the archer protested, his face serious even though his eyes were holding laughter.
"Let's get out of the car now and then you can make sure he's all right," Steve suggested. "And he can reassure himself of the same about you."
Grant swallowed then nodded, torn between his reluctance to confess to his father and his need to make sure the older man was alright. His need to make sure Coulson was alright won out, and he quickly opened the door and exited the vehicle barely waiting long enough for Steve and Clint to catch up with him before he was rushing to the elevator.
Steve followed Grant to the elevator, heading to the medical floor once all three of them were inside.
Grant couldn't stop fidgeting. For someone who was a seasoned specialist and able to remain calm, focused and still for very long periods of time when needed, it was a telling sign of his worry. He gave Steve and his brother an apologetic look."Sorry..." he muttered.
Clint shrugged it off. "I'm worried too, kid. Don't worry about it," the archer said softly, putting a gentle hand on Grants shoulder.
Steve looked sympathetically at the brothers. "I know you're both worried, but he's in good hands here. At least he was moving around, even if he was hallucinating."
Clint nodded. "Thanks, Cap."
Grant nodded as well, knowing the other man was right. It was still hard, but Bruce and Jemma would do whatever was necessary to help his father; and at least he was awake. It could have been so much worse. He let out his breath as they reached the medical floor and stepped off the elevator. He followed Steve and Clint into the room where Coulson was being kept.
Steve led the way to the medical room, where Bruce and Jemma were with Coulson.
The effects of the drug were wearing off and although Coulson was staying put and letting himself be looked over, he couldn't stop himself from looking around worriedly. He didn't relax until Steve came into the room with his sons... and then he was checking them both over for injuries.
Clint moved close enough that Coulson could look over him and determine that he was in good health, while staying out of Bruce and Jemma's way.
Grant quickly moved to Coulson's side, looking over his father nearly as thoroughly as Coulson was looking at him. Once he was assured that his father was fine, a wave of guilt swept over him, knowing that his father was going to want to know exactly what happened and that he would not be happy when he found out what Grant had done. He didn't want to stress his father when he was still recovering, though, so he quickly swallowed down the guilt and hoped that he'd be given a reprieve at least until Coulson was released by Bruce.
Careful to make sure he wasn't disrupting Bruce and Jemma, Coulson reached out to take his sons' hands. "I'm sorry I was out of action for so long and worried you," he said. "Are you both all right?" He could see for himself... but he could also read his sons very well. And he knew Grant hadn't been with him for some of the time.
Clint nodded. "Neither of us were injured, dad."
Grant was grateful that his brother kept his teasing nature under control and didn't say something about how they were lucky not to be injured after what he had done. He smiled at his father. "Yeah...no injuries here. Just relieved you aren't injured..."
Coulson nodded, but he kept his gaze focused on Grant. "I know I was out of it for a while, but I know you disappeared. Where did you go?" He spoke evenly, but still expected an answer.
Grant didn't flinch or show any guilt at all...his training was that good. He didn't show any guilt if you weren't family, and especially his father, that is. Straightening his shoulders, he tried to keep his answer as truthful as possible without saying anything that might upset his father. "I attempted to complete our mission. Unfortunately, there wasn't time to do what needed doing, so I didn't succeed. I can give more detail once Bruce has cleared you, though. Aren't you supposed to be relaxing?" He did his best to not obviously be trying to change the subject.
Clint just watched and listened to his brother silently, his eyebrow slowly inching their way into his hairline.
Coulson didn't miss Clint's reaction, nor did he miss Grant's subtle attempt to change the subject. "Whatever was on the dart has worn off. I'd like you to tell me exactly what happened." He wasn't angry, but the look on his face was serious... and a bit disappointed that he was having to push Grant to tell him.
Grant didn't miss the disappointment on his father's face and his reluctance to tell him was crushed by the guilt he felt at putting that look on his father's face. Slumping and reaching up a hand to rub nervously at his face and then through his hair, he finally sighed. "After you were hit by the dart, Steve told me to stay in place so he and Bruce, Bucky and Clint could come get both of us. You were in no condition to be listening to anyone and took off. I tried to stop you; but apparently, you've managed to hide some very 'leet skills underneath a reputation for being calm, collected and not physically threatening. I'm embarrassed to admit you not only got away from me several times, but if you'd actually been trying to fight me, I'd probably have been incapacitated." He blushed...not really wanting to continue and hoping saying that much was enough to get his father off the subject.
"Coming after me wasn't the best idea, but if our situations had been reversed, I likely would have done the same thing," Coulson said, his voice gentle. "What else happened?"
Grant winced this time, knowing there was no way to avoid telling his father every last detail and knowing he was going to get a scolding as soon as the truth had come out. "Steve and the others arrived in fairly good time and Bruce sedated you. I took that opportunity to attempt to go get the information that we had originally gone on the mission for. I...I didn't give Steve or anyone else the time to tell me not to go. I just took off," he admitted. "Steve wasn't terribly happy about what I'd done, but he followed to give me back-up. It was while I was downloading the information that we discovered the timed explosive. Steve contacted Tony, who was going to walk Steve through disarming it, but by the end of his explanation, he pretty much told us there wasn't enough time left on the timer and he didn't like the idea of Steve trying to take care of it by listening to Tony explain what to do...not when Tony couldn't actually see the device and know for sure that he was giving the right information." Grant bit his lip, before licking his lower lip and sighing.
Coulson continued to hold Grant's hand through the explanation, listening without interrupting. "Did you react badly when Steve said you needed to leave?" Or just pulled him out... Coulson knew Steve wouldn't take any chances with the safety of their team members.
Grant nodded, unable to look his father in the eye. "Yes, sir. I did. I was as uncooperative as it was possible to be without actively disobeying him and remaining behind; and I can't say that I wouldn't have attempted that if I didn't know he'd have knocked me out and dragged me out if I tried it. I was convinced I could get the rest of the information and still have time to get out of the building. When he made me leave, the information wasn't finished loading onto the drive and I wasn't sure I hadn't lost everything. It made me angry and I made sure Steve knew I was unhappy at the situation." He glanced at Steve and gave a very crooked and shamed smile. "I'm actually surprised he didn't smack me for it; I could tell I was frustrating him. Clint actually did smack me for it." He snorted mirthlessly as he glanced at his brother. "Can't say I didn't have it coming..." he admitted, indirectly letting Clint know he wasn't mad at him for it.
"I was tempted," Steve said. "If I wasn't bringing you back to your dad, I would have been."
Coulson sighed and looked steadily at Grant. "I didn't put the bracelet back on you after you returned to your normal age, but I think we need to talk about whether I do need to." He looked at Bruce and Jemma. "Do you need to check anything else?"
Grant winced at Steve's words, but didn't comment. He hadn't been respectful of Steve or his position and he would have deserved whatever the other man decided to do. The fact that he had decided to let his father handle it spoke volumes about the type of relationship everyone in the tower had. When his father mentioned the bracelet, his wince was more pronounced and he couldn't help but look down at his wrist where the bracelet would have been. "I..I understand, sir." He didn't say anything more. If they were going to discuss whether he would be wearing the bracelet again, he'd prefer it to be just between he and his father.
Coulson waited for the all-clear from Bruce and Jemma and then stood up. He leaned in to give Clint a tight hug and kiss to his forehead. "I love you. I'm glad you're all right. Why don't you and Natasha come to my floor later and we can all eat together?" he suggested.
Clint quickly hugged his father back, reluctant to let go; he'd been more worried than he'd allowed himself to show. "That sounds good, dad. We'll both be there around seven-ish?"
Coulson nodded, squeezing Clint gently. "Seven should be plenty of time. Why don't you both decide what you'd like to eat?" Releasing Clint, he wrapped an arm around Grant's shoulders to guide him from the medical floor, pausing to thank Steve for taking care of his sons as he passed.
Grant swallowed, but didn't say anything or argue when his father began leading him off the floor. He was thankful his father felt well enough to take care of things this soon, even if he wished there was nothing to take care of. He hated disappointing Coulson and he knew he had. He'd pretty much disappointed everyone today; and considering how he felt about all of them, and considered all of them a member of his family, that hurt. So as much as he wasn't looking forward to the conversation that was coming up, he didn't argue about it.
Standing in the elevator, Coulson embraced Grant tightly, holding him close. "I love you," he said. "No matter what happens. Even when something like this happens and you forget, however temporarily, that you aren't expendable... you're still my son. And we will work on this for as long as it takes."
"I know..." he said softly in response. "I know you love me and always will...I'm not worried or upset about that. I'm not even worried or upset that there will be repercussions for my actions today..." he admitted. "I'm disappointed in myself that...that I reverted back to old habits and actions and there is even a need for this to be worked on. You mentioned the bracelet... Steve mentioned it as well, when we were on the way back home... and I can't really complain about it when I'm the one who came up with the idea in the first place and my reasons for doing so have just become an issue again. I just...can't believe they've become an issue again." He wrinkled his nose, uncertain if he was explaining himself right or not.
The elevator reached his floor and Coulson freed Grant with one arm so he could guide him out. "There are going to be setbacks, Grant. You spent most of your life with people who treated you badly. I have you back now, but that doesn't mean recovery is going to be easy. Not looking at how bad your role models have been before." He looked at his son. "We talked about the bracelet as a way for me to stop you when you were about to do something you shouldn't, in the hopes that stopping and thinking will eventually become instinctual. It isn't a punishment. It's a tool to help."
"I know...in my head I know...it just...it hurts that I backslid. I thought I was doing so good and then I just lost it. And I know the bracelet is a way to help me overcome my impulse to be reckless and it isn't a punishment...but after the way I acted toward Steve..." He shrugged, not certain how to explain that it felt like it should be a punishment and the timing of it felt like it was- even if he knew it wasn't.
Coulson kept his arm around Grant, even as he led him into the living area, and kissed his forehead gently. "You were doing well," he said softly. "And getting frustrated is a natural reaction." He sat down on the couch, pulling Grant down to sit on his lap for the moment. "I know you feel guilty, but you've been doing very well... compared to when you first joined the team."
Grant stiffened for a slight second, feeling like he should feel weird sitting on his father's lap so willingly now that he was an adult again...but he missed being a kid sometimes, the easy affection he'd felt free to indulge in, and he decided he wanted to be right where he was. Relaxing, he leaned into his father. "I guess..." He didn't sound convinced he had been doing a lot better. "Kinda wish Steve had smacked me upside the head like Clint did...I really was rude to him. If you'd been awake, you never would have let me do what I did either...and I knew it."
Coulson kissed the top of his head. "We'll deal with what happened," he promised. "But even though you didn't do the right thing after Steve and the others joined us, I know you did the right thing before then... and I'm very proud of you for that, because I know it can't have been easy to deal with the fact I was hallucinating."
"To be honest, I didn't even think about what I was doing before they arrived; I followed my instinct, which was to keep you safe. It wasn't until they got there and I felt like you were safe that I had the not-so-brilliant idea to finish our operation, despite everything having already fallen apart." Grant bit his lip. "I probably should have listened to my instincts. They're usually right; it's when I stop to think about what I want to do that I get into trouble..." He huffed, before standing and running a hand through his hair, pacing next to his father; not too far away, but enough that his agitation was clear.
Coulson watched his son. "That's one of the things we'll work on, Grant. You're one of my best agents, as well as being my son. But there's still a lot of bad training you went through that we need to take care of. It doesn't make you bad. Or incapable. It just means that there are times I need to step in and give you consequences when you slip up." He leaned forward, closing his hand around Grant's wrist.
"How can I be one of your best agents when I screw up so often?" Grant asked plaintively. "Any other organization and my screw-ups would have me out of a job...or worse." Despite himself, he found himself calming slightly as soon as Coulson had a hold of his wrist.
"Because I know why sometimes things happen," Coulson said. "I know you still try to do the right thing, even though your history has been so awful and despite being removed from my influence for so long. I know you. And I know how good you are. That's why I took you with me on the op." He pulled Grant in closer, preparing to put his son over his lap.
Grant swallowed, relaxing even further at his father's words. "It's hard to believe that sometimes...I've made so many mistakes..." he admitted.
As Coulson pulled him closer, Grant took several deep breaths, knowing what was about to happen. "I have to be the only adult in the world that is relieved when his father steps in and punishes him for messing up..." he muttered, shaking his head slightly, but moving in the direction Coulson pulled. As he stopped next to his father's knee, he automatically loosened the button on his jeans, but then waited for further instructions from his dad.
"Making mistakes doesn't make you a bad person, Grant. It just means you need some guidance and direction." Coulson squeezed his hand gently before pushing on Grant's back to encourage him to bend over his knee.
Grant bit his lip at the words then carefully lay over his father's knee. He closed his eyes tightly, automatically wrapping one hand around his father's leg, the other hand bracing him against the floor. This position never failed to make him feel helpless, vulnerable and very much his father's child.
"I wish the guidance didn't have to hurt so much..." He huffed slightly, but the relief he felt along with the vulnerability could be heard in his voice, so it wasn't very effective as far as protests went. He sounded more uncertain and scared than angry. Being vulnerable was never easy, even if it was his father that had him.
Coulson rubbed Grant's back gently a few moments, before easing down his jeans and his underwear. "I don't think it's just the pain that bothers you," he said softly, before lifting his hand and bringing it down in the first swat at the crest of Grant's backside, always careful to moderate his strength.
Grant let out a tiny hiss at the first swat, slightly squeezing his father's leg with his hand. "No..." he admitted reluctantly. "...You're right." He wasn't sure he could put words to what did bother him, though, although he wasn't certain bother was even the right word. Unsettle, perhaps? Because that's how he felt over his father's knee. Every time he went over Coulson's lap, he felt unsettled...at least in the beginning. The knowledge that his father was in complete control of him went against his every instinct and effort to be in control of himself. The fact that he willingly gave that control to his father for no other reason than he loved him and knew he was loved back was sometimes difficult to understand.
Coulson's arm settled around Grant's waist, pulling his son tight against his stomach as he brought his hand down again and then a third time. "I know it's hard to let me take control at times," he said gently. "But when this happens, it isn't about beating you or breaking you. It's about stepping in and giving you loving discipline... something I know that's been lacking through your life."
Grant closed his eyes at the words. "I know, daddy..." He swallowed the sudden thickness in his throat. "I...I just feel like I don't know...I don't know if I'm more uneasy at the fact you have complete control, or the fact I willingly give it to you... But...I can't imagine not letting you be in control," he admitted softly, a hitch in his voice. "I feel safe when you are in control..." He squirmed slightly at the discomfort, but was slowly relaxing.
"I have you, Grant," Coulson said. "And I love you. You can lean on me any time you need to, because I will always be your support." He continued the hard, slow swats down to Grant's thighs before starting over from the top.
Grant had managed to keep control of himself until his father spoke those words. After the words were spoken, he was overwhelmed by a sense of safety and belonging that he only ever felt with his family. The knowledge and belief in his father's love made him feel secure and that feeling flooded through him, calming the unsettled feeling.
Once the unsettled tension drained from him, he was able to just slump over his father's lap and concentrate on the heat that his father was causing his backside- and the reason for it. It wasn't long past that point that the tears started to fall. "I'm sorry I disappointed you, daddy..." he finally whispered, contrite.
Coulson stopped and, without any hesitation, drew Grant up and into his arms, hugging him tightly. "When I am disappointed, it's only because I know you can do so much better," he said softly into his son's ear. "Even then, it doesn't last very long. I love you, so much more than I can fully explain to you."
"I want to do better..." Grant said, struggling to regain control over his crying. "I don't want to disappoint you. I love you too and disappointing you just hurts..." he admitted with a shaky voice, through sniffles, as he wrapped his arms tightly around his father.
Coulson gently stroked his hair and back. "You're doing much better, son," he said softly. "I know it doesn't always feel like that, but you really are. I know it feels like there's a long road to go, but you have me and the others around... all of us are here to support you. And even when mistakes happen, it isn't the end of the world. We deal with it and we figure out how to help stop it happening again." He kissed Grant's forehead.
Grant finally gained control over himself and stopped crying, but he didn't let go of his father, just holding onto the older man. He let out a tiny sigh at the kiss then finally responded to Coulson's words. "I know you all care about me and will support me. And...I know the best way to prevent this particular problem from happening again...as much as it pains me to admit it. I hate that I backslid and need it, but...the bracelet did help me keep control over my actions...." he finally said in a whisper.
Coulson kept his arms tight around Grant. "Do you think it will help to have it back on?" he asked. "I don't like feeling like I'm controlling your actions in the same way the people who raised you did."
"You never used it to control me except once...and that was necessary because I was about to run head-long off a cliff..." Grant smiled crookedly against his father's shoulder. "It...it did help to remind me that other people care what happens to me and so I was more careful..." he admitted, before carefully stepping back from his father and fixing his clothes. Biting his lip, he looked up, then moved back into his father's arms and hugged Coulson tightly. "I don't like that I need it, but it did help me."
Coulson hugged Grant tightly in return. "If you think it will still help and won't make you feel stifled, then we'll put it back on. Losing you is the last thing I want."
"I don't think I'll feel stifled. Embarrassed that I can't control myself or think things through without having an outside motivation, maybe...but not stifled," Grant admitted with a sheepish frown.
Coulson nodded and pressed another kiss to his son's forehead. "We can try it again on a trial basis," he suggested.
Grant nodded, snuggling closer to his father. "Should I get it now?" he asked quietly.
"I don't think you need to right now," Coulson replied. "Not unless you're planning to go tearing off somewhere." He smiled, teasing, and tightened his embrace around his son. "After those hallucinations, it's nice to hold you and remind myself you're safe here with me."
"I was scared for you..." Grant admitted hoarsely. "I don't really want to leave you right now, anyway."
"I'm sorry it scared you," Coulson said softly, threading his fingers through Grant's hair. "I was aware of you, in a way... if I hadn't been, I would have fought a lot harder, I'm sure."
Grant chuckled in embarrassment. "In that case, I'm lucky you had some awareness of who I was. I wasn't kidding when I said I had a hard time trying to contain you. If you'd been convinced I was the enemy, you would have taken me out between my not wanting to hurt you and you being so much more dangerous than I expected."
Coulson's embrace tightened. "I find it helpful to cultivate a more harmless image," he said. "It can be good to be underestimated."
"I am ashamed to admit I did so." Grant smiled crookedly.
Coulson smiled gently at his son. "There's no shame in that. I'm your father. You don't need to see me as dangerous."
Grant smiled at that. "Maybe I don't, but I still shouldn't underestimate you."
Coulson continued stroking his hair, almost without conscious thought, since just holding his son came so naturally. "It does mean that, under normal circumstances when we're on an op together, you don't need to worry about me."
Grant pulled back and gave his father a look that, for all the love in it, said, 'Are you kidding?' "Um, dad?" he finally said with a heavy dose of skepticism. "I'll never stop worrying...." His eyes widened as he realized his father could say the same to him.
Then his eyes grew apologetic as he finally connected his carelessness with his own life to how it must make his father-and the rest of the family- feel. "Steve said I wasn't expendable," he finally said in a tiny voice. "I wasn't really paying it much attention, though. I think I owe him another apology." He sighed. "And you...I am sorry."
"You aren't expendable," Coulson said seriously. "You will always be a priority. And it would be devastating to lose you." He pressed an affectionate kiss to Grant's forehead. "For all that I am a capable agent, part of the reason I choose not to show that is because I made the choice long ago not to be reckless with my own safety. For Clint, for Nat... and for you."
Grant nodded, then gave a hesitant smile. "It's too late for me to pretend I'm something other than what I am...but I can take less chances..." He sighed. "It won't be easy, though. Sometimes taking chances is the only way to get things done and if the end result is important enough...." He shrugged. "Guess it's good you and Steve are in charge. So you can stop me if the end result isn't as important as I think it is." He ran a hand through his hair sheepishly.
"I don't want you to pretend to be something else," Coulson said. "You don't have to hide with me or the rest of your family. If need be, I'll step in to stop you and I'm sure Steve will, as well, or Bucky, if either of them are with you." He looked into his son's eyes. "The important thing to remember is that it doesn't matter if you make mistakes. They aren't the end of the world."
Grant thought on that for a second, then nodded his head. "Ok. I...thank you. I know mistakes aren't the end of the world, but after some of the really bad ones I've made in the past, it's nice to know I've got you on my side to keep me from doing something really horrible..." he admitted. He wrinkled his nose and not so surreptitiously looked at his watch. "Clint and Nat are going to be here in about an hour, yeah? Do you think I have time to go find Steve and apologize for making his job so much harder than it needed to be, earlier?" He gave his father a crooked smile.
Coulson nodded. "I'm sure you have enough time to go and apologise. You could grab the bracelet on your way back, even if we're not going to put it on yet," he suggested.
"Yes, sir." Grant gave his father one more quick hug, then stepped back and walked to the elevator. "JARVIS? Is Captain Rogers in the tower?" he asked softly.
"Captain Rogers is in the common area with Mr. Barnes," JARVIS replied. "Would you like me to inform the Captain you are looking for him?"
"No, thank you, JARVIS. I'll just go there now. Thanks." Grant smiled, even though he was never sure if the AI could see it or not, and stepped into the elevator, pressing the button that would take him to the common area. When the elevator stopped at the floor he wanted, he stepped off and began walking toward where he assumed Steve and Bucky would be...although he gradually slowed until he was hesitating at the door, uncertainly.
Steve had persuaded Bucky to play pool with him... not that it had taken much persuading. He'd gone to see Tony already and planned to go back to the other man in a few minutes... dragging him out of the lab if necessary.
Taking a deep breath, Grant stepped into the room and glanced around, noting the game they were playing. Hesitating at the door, he bit his lip, reluctant to interrupt their game.
Steve straightened up from his shot, realising they weren't alone, and focused on Grant. "I take it your dad's spoken to you," he commented.
Grant grinned ruefully, unconsciously beginning to reach back to rub before realizing what he was doing and aborting the motion with a blush. "Yes, sir," he answered quietly, glancing at the floor before looking back up at Steve. "I...It came to my attention; a bit late, but I finally realized- that what I was doing caused unnecessary worry and problems for everyone involved." He reached up and ran a hand through his hair nervously. "I forget sometimes that my actions affect more than just a few people and that it matters what I do...It's something we're working on..." he admitted with a slight cough. Swallowing, he finished, "Anyway, I wanted to apologize for not thinking about that sooner...and thank you for...you know...not letting me get away with it." He shifted nervously, his face turning slightly pink.
"All of us here care about you, Grant," Steve said honestly. "I pulled you out of there because I didn't want to risk anything happening to you. I know it's hard to see that you matter... but you do. And if you didn't have your dad to deal with it, you'd be answering to me."
Grant looked up into Steve's eyes quickly, biting his lip. He stared into the Captain's face for a moment, as if looking for something, then nodded hesitantly. "Yes, sir. If my dad wasn't around to deal with me, he would want me to answer to you..." He gave a tiny grin, partly of embarrassment, partly because it felt good to know he mattered to so many people. "I...I asked him to put the bracelet on my again..." he admitted with a whisper. "I...I don't trust myself without it." He frowned, still unhappy with himself, but knowing the only thing was to try and do better.
"I think that's the best idea," Steve said. "We know why you were wearing it before... and the reasoning behind that still stands. It isn't just your dad who would be devastated if something happened to you."
"I...I'm beginning to realize that." Grant smiled crookedly then nodded at Bucky, before looking back at Steve. "Anyway, I just wanted to apologize and...and make sure I made things right with you. I had no excuse for acting the way I did. I'll let you get back to your game. Clint and Nat are going to be joining my dad and I soon, so I should probably go get the bracelet and then head back."
Bucky, who had remained quiet during the entire exchange, nodded at Grant, before smiling faintly. "Good on you, kid..." he said in approval of Grant's attempts to make amends and take responsibility for himself.
"G'night..." Grant finally said, fidgeting slightly before moving forward and throwing his arms around Steve in a quick hug. "Thanks..." he whispered.
Steve hugged Grant back without any hesitation. "You're an important person to everyone here. Try to remember that, even if it is hard."
"I will..." Grant said quietly, straightening up and giving the two other men another smile, before quietly leaving the way he had come.
Bucky stared at the door for a few more minutes, before leaning on his cue stick and staring at Steve. "If I didn't know he had it coming to him, I'd feel sorry for our poor nephew..." His grin was teasing. "Speaking of which, where is my other nephew? You know. The one that's too smart for his own good?"
"He was working in the lab," Steve said. "I said I'd give him half an hour to finish up... and then I'd go and drag him out if necessary."
Bucky raised an eyebrow then pointedly looked at his watch. "You do realize we've been playing pool for approximately an hour and a half? JARVIS? Where is Tony right now?" he asked the AI.
Steve sighed. "I don't normally lose track of time like that." He waited for JARVIS to confirm what he'd guessed - that Tony was in the lab - and then headed towards the elevator. "Do you want to come talk him into coming out as well?" he asked his brother over his shoulder.
"Sure. We can all pick something up to eat and then relax and watch a movie. I have it on good authority Pepper left for Tokyo for a meeting this morning, so you'll probably want the kid with you." Bucky smiled as he followed Steve.
Steve nodded. "Sounds good," he replied, as they took the elevator to the lab. He knocked lightly on the door to announce his presence, but didn't wait for a response before he opened the door and stepped inside.
Tony was so involved in what he was working on that he not only didn't hear Steve's knock, he didn't notice Steve and Bucky enter his lab either. He was muttering to himself as he bent over what appeared to be a tiny camera, soldering wires into place. "No more. Every single freakin' member of both teams is getting outfitted with a camera, JARVIS. You hear me? Every....single...one. Next time there's a bomb or explosive and I can't fly there fast enough...I'm gonna at least be able to see the damn thing as I walk someone through disarming it...." His voice was rough with irritation and agitation...but underneath, his fear could be heard by anyone who knew him well enough to listen.
Bucky glanced at Steve, worry in his eyes. Swallowing, he finally said, "Hey, kid. You were supposed to quit over an hour ago, weren't you?"
Tony jumped and spun around in surprise, dropping what he was working with onto the work table. He somehow managed to run the soldering iron over his hand at the same time. Yelping in pain, he dropped the iron onto the floor, where Dummy promptly began spraying it with the fire extinguisher. Shaking his injured hand as if to try and cool it off, Tony finally just stuck the burned part into his mouth, while giving Bucky the evil eye.
Steve immediately went over to Tony's side. "Let me see," he directed, his voice firm but concerned, even as he addressed JARVIS, "Can you ask Bruce to come to the lab?"
Tony's eyes widened and he took his hand out of his mouth to protest, even as he obeyed without thinking. "Bruce doesn't need to come down...it's just a little burn. It's happened before...I've got burn cream over there..." He jerked his head in the direction of a first aid kit that was buried under a couple of pizza boxes and a case of soda. "And it shouldn't take long to heal...." He still gave his hand to Steve, though and didn't fight or argue as the other man examined the burn.
Steve examined the burn, careful not to cause Tony any more pain. "I'd prefer Bruce take a look anyway, just to make sure." He looked steadily at Tony. "Besides, Bucky was right. You were supposed to come out of here much earlier. It's about time you had a break and spent time with us." He wasn't scolding, but he was very worried.
Tony sighed, but didn't protest Bruce being involved again, even though it was clear he wanted to. His eyes did widen at Steve's comment that he should have quit much earlier. "You said thirty minutes...." He glanced between the two men, obviously confused.
JARVIS interrupted at that moment. "Doctor Banner is on his way, Captain. And you had been working a total of one hour and forty-eight minutes when the Captain and Sargent came in, sir."
Tony's face was a mixture of surprise and worry as he glanced back at Steve and Bucky. "Cap, I didn't mean to..." He swallowed.
Steve gently squeezed Tony's shoulder. "That was as much my fault as yours, Tony. I was caught up in playing a game of pool and didn't realise how much time had passed. I'm not angry with you. What I do want is for the three of us to spend some time together." His voice softened as he added, "I know what happened today scared you."
Tony relaxed noticeably and gave Steve a crooked smile, glancing toward the door when Bruce walked in.
Bruce gave his best friend a long-suffering look. "What did he do now?" he asked in a teasing voice.
Bucky snorted. "Got startled and burned himself with a soldering iron." he answered for his 'nephew'.
"Why does everyone always assume I did something?" Tony complained, but there wasn't any heat in his voice and he sounded amused at the teasing.
Steve kept his arm around Tony's shoulders, but released his hand so that Bruce could take a look. "Tony was just a bit too caught up in his work," he said. "We were coming in because I realised I'd told him when he needed to come out and then lost track of time myself."
"Huh..." Bruce didn't comment any further; although it was unusual for Steve to lose track of time, it had been a stressful day and the man was only human. Taking his friend's hand, he carefully examined it, then made tsking noises. "You still have residual Extremis in you...?" he asked curiously.
Tony shrugged without taking his hand back. "I guess...I haven't taken any since...well, since I stopped taking it." He didn't look anyone in the eye. "But I still heal faster than I used to before I took it."
"I can see that." Bruce said calmly. "Come here, then. We'll make sure it is clean and dressed so that you don't end up with a scar...but it's already scabbing over and looks like it will be completely healed within the next few days. It is a third degree burn, though. Be glad Steve called me. If extremis doesn't take care of it, you could end up with a nasty infection," Bruce scolded good naturedly, used to Tony's reluctance to rely on anyone else to take care of him...even when he obviously needed help.
Bucky frowned. "Extremis?" He looked at Steve for an explanation.
"It was before I came into the picture," Steve said, sticking close to Tony, as he felt bad about losing track of the time, even if it hadn't been deliberate and he hadn't actually forgotten about his kid. He squeezed the shoulder of Tony's other arm. "That's how Tony knew what Grant was going through with the painkillers." He was reluctant to go into more details, even with his brother, since it was personal to Tony.
Tony bit his lip, but answered Bucky. It was personal- and he wasn't proud of it- but Bucky was the closest thing to a brother Steve had and even though he hadn't said anything since regaining his adulthood, Tony viewed Steve as a father. Besides...the more people who knew, the more difficult it would be for him to slip into old destructive habits. "Extremis...a nanite technology that enabled enhanced healing as well as perfecting the body and making it possible to interact with machinery on a deeper level than had been possible before. AIM was using it to try and create super-soldiers...they kidnapped Pepper and injected her with it. Nasty side affect was that those who had taken it tended to blow up, so needless to say, we didn't want Pepper to have it in her." He gave Bucky a crooked smile, leaning into Steve for moral support.
Bruce finished cleaning and bandaging Tony's hand, reaching over and patting him on the arm to show his own support. He took over some of the story. "You know of Tony's arc reactors that power the Iron Man suit. What you might not realize is that, for a while, Tony actually had an arc reactor implanted in his chest that kept him alive. Unfortunately, what kept him alive also made him very vulnerable. When he realized that the extremis enabled rapid healing...he gathered a team of doctors who could remove the reactor from his chest and repair his heart, using the extremis to keep him alive. Prior to that, surgery such as that would have killed him."
"Yeah..." Tony swallowed. "So anyway, it was a modified version of the extremis I used- after we got it out of Pepper. It would have been pointless to get my chest taken care of, only to explode later, yeah?" He ignored Bruce's snort.
"So I had the surgery to remove the reactor. They closed me up. The modified extremis healed me up. But...I have a bit of history having issues with stopping things once I've started them. Women, booze...extremis..." He sighed. "Anyway, I've stopped...and since Steve's stepped into my life, I've managed to stay clean for a lot longer than I thought I would. But there are still a few after-affects from when I...you know...used it." Tony swallowed, looking at the ground.
Steve kept his hand resting on Tony's shoulder, giving him support, but didn't say anything until his kid had finished speaking. "I know that was hard to admit, Tony, but you've been doing much better since then. I'm proud of you," he said, obviously sincere.
Tony looked up, giving Steve a tiny smile. "Thanks...that helps...a lot." He bit his lip and glanced at Bucky. "So now you know...."
"And now I can help Steve- and Bruce and Pepper- help you." Bucky glanced at Bruce and Steve, before smiling at Tony. "That's what families do, after all."
Bruce smiled at his best friend. "I keep telling him that, but it's taking it a while to sink in...."
"I'd imagine it's not always easy to believe you matter when you've been convinced otherwise most of your life," Steve said, thinking again about how similar Tony and Grant were. He hugged Tony gently. "Bucky thought maybe we could pick up something to eat and then watch a movie together," he said.
Tony's smile grew larger. "That actually sounds really good. You interested in joining us, Bruce?" he asked his friend, knowing the other man tended to keep to himself if not asked directly.
"Thanks, but I actually promised Leo we could work on something together tonight. Maybe another time..." Bruce smiled at his friend, fist-bumping his shoulder gently before turning to head for the door. "Make sure you keep the bandages dry and get them changed at least once a day..." he called out over his shoulder before disappearing.
Tony blinked then looked at Steve and Bucky. "So...delivery or take-out?" he asked.
"Which would you prefer?" Steve asked, before adding, "Going out to a restaurant all together is an option, too."
"Eh." Tony shrugged. "To be honest, I don't feel like dealing with the paparazzi. And there are a few places that are willing to deliver, who don't normally deliver, since I tip well...." He grinned. "Either of you interested in Thai?"
"Thai is fine with me." Steve looked inquiringly at his brother. "Bucky?"
"Yeah, sounds good to me too. You wanna have JARVIS order?" Bucky asked.
Tony grinned. "Sure. JARVIS, call Thai Orchid and order one of everything on their menu. Whatever we don't eat, we can leave as leftovers in the common kitchen for everyone else..." he said.
"I have placed the order sir and it should arrive in about forty-five minutes," the A.I. responded five minutes later.
"You can pick the movie..." Tony offered, knowing that some of the modern movies were a bit offensive to Steve's 1940's morals, even if the other man never said anything.
"Why don't we all pick one out together?" Steve suggested, wanting the whole family to have some input. He still had his arm wrapped around Tony's shoulders and steered his boy from the lab.
"Ok, well....what are you in the mood for? Comedy, action, drama..." Tony asked as he was led out of the lab.
Bucky watched, feeling it was telling that the inventor didn't argue about leaving even once. Smiling to himself, he followed behind, listening to his brother and nephew run through a movie list.
Grant had quickly gone to the floor where equipment was stored and located and retrieved the bracelet. By the time he returned to his father's floor, Natasha and Clint had arrived.
Coulson was listening to Natasha and Clint good-naturedly discussing what they wanted to eat and he smiled as his youngest appeared as well, happy to have all of his children close to him. He stepped over to Grant, resting a hand on his shoulder. "How did it go with Steve?"
"It went good..." Grant smiled, almost bashfullly. "I think he's moved into official uncle mode now, though..." The younger man blushed, glancing up at his father to see his response.
Clint, who had overheard, couldn't help teasing. "Wow, dad...just think...your hero is now your brother."
Coulson smiled, squeezing Grant's shoulder gently. "We're all a family here, even if we're still all settling into our roles," he pointed out to them both. "And that's good, because I would trust everyone here." With his life and the lives of his children.
"Yeah...I trust everyone too..." Grant agreed quietly, hugging his father back.
Clint just nodded then asked innocently... "Does that trust include letting Steve handle Junior there, if you aren't able to for some reason? Because I think he might have treated Grant to a bit of what Tony normally gets if it hadn't been for the fact he didn't want to step on your toes..."
"Clint! Shut up!" Grant hissed, his face going dark red. Clint noticed he didn't disagree with his assessment of the situation at the building.
"I'm not sure if right now is the time to have that discussion," Coulson said, noticing that it was embarrassing Grant. Besides, he actually wasn't sure how to deal with that. Although Fury (and he was sure Steve had, too) had dealt with Clint in the past, Grant wasn't as well-adjusted as his oldest.
Clint gave his father an abashed smile then looked at Grant. "Sorry, bro. You just really scared me today...I didn't mean to..." He shrugged, not wanting to bring more attention to Grant's embarrassment, but also wanting him to know he didn't mean to embarrass him.
Grant swallowed. "Yeah. I know. I'm sorry too..." He glanced at his father, then at Natasha. "I bet Nat here is the only one that isn't constantly in trouble either with dad or the other big three..."
Clint frowned in confusion. "Big three?"
Grant grinned impishly. "Yeah, the Sargeant, the Captain and the Colonel."
"That's because I'm very rarely caught at what I do." Natasha smiled, teasing, since it was more that she was just that bit more reserved and less reckless than her brothers.
Coulson smiled at his children, his face softening. "Did you two figure out what you want to do food-wise?"
Grant glanced at Clint and Nat to see if they had any ideas. "I'm always good with Pizza...but I think we've done that the last several times we've had delivery, so if anyone has any other ideas..." he finally said.
"What about Indian?" Natasha suggested.
Clint's eyes widened. "Ooooh, I think I'd like me some Vindaloo..."
Grant nodded. "A good curry would be nice..." he agreed.
Coulson smiled. "Sounds good to me." He moved to place the order, lightly touching each of his children as he did so, thankful that each of them was safe with him.
When the food arrived and Grant was sitting at the table with his family, he glanced around almost dazedly. Sometimes he still found it hard to believe that he had a father who loved him unconditionally and a brother and sister who protected him and fought for him instead of working against him or worse. Letting out a tiny smile, he grinned across the table at Natasha, before reaching over and squeezing his father and brother's arms. "I love you...all of you. And I think I must be the luckiest man alive...." he finally said with a smile, before taking a bite of his food.