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-sixth in the Redeeming Grant series.
Disclaimer: We don’t own anything from Marvel: Agents of SHIELD or Avengers Assemble and we’re not making any money from this fic.
Summary: Three new members join the team and family
Warning(s): Spanking; spoilers for Agents of SHIELD seasons one and two; violence
Co-Author’s Website: BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page
ADDING THREE MORE
Skye had finally managed to get some time to talk to Coulson about the intel she and Trip had found. They spent a while talking and Coulson had then made contact with a SHIELD team who was fairly close to the area where the intel had indicated.
"JARVIS? Could you ask Natasha, Leo and Bucky to come and meet me?" Coulson had given it a bit of thought, but considering the skill set of the particular team he'd made contact with, he felt that the three of them were the best to send... as long as each of them was willing to go.
"Of course, sir," the AI intoned.
Ten minutes later, Bucky was stepping off the elevator and heading toward Coulson's office. It wasn't often that everyone met in the offices or meeting areas; most the time, they did their talks in the common area over lunch, or while socializing. The only time they were summoned to the offices, there was usually a mission about to occur, so Bucky had come prepared with his 'go bag' and his equipment, which he left sitting by the elevator so he could grab it on his way back out. "You sent for me, sir?" he asked curiously.
Coulson nodded, glancing towards the door as his daughter entered with Leo only just behind Bucky. "Skye told me about some intel she and Trip had discovered about possible prisons where HYDRA has some children they've taken," he explained. "I'd rather not waste any time in forming a rescue for them."
Natasha listened in silence and then asked, "Are we to meet up with others before we try to infiltrate the facility?"
"Yes. There's a SHIELD team already close to the area. I've made contact with them already," Coulson replied.
"Who's in charge of the op?" Bucky asked quietly. He was willing to follow Natasha if Coulson put her in charge; but he didn't know the other people they'd be meeting up, so wasn't sure he'd be so comfortable following one of them. Assuming Coulson didn't put him in charge.
"I would prefer either you or Natasha to take the lead," Coulson replied. He knew they could work well together and he knew he could trust them both, so chose to let them figure out who was best between them.
"How soon are we leaving?" Leo asked... though what he really meant was did they have enough time to say goodbye.
Coulson smiled at the young scientist. "I've arranged for a helicopter to take you as far as possible that's due to arrive in about an hour, so you have enough time to let the rest of the family know you're leaving."
Bucky nodded. "Who are we meeting? I assume you have a file we can look at to familiarize ourselves with them?" He figured who they would be meeting would determine who ran the op. Not only that, they would need to know the strengths and weaknesses of the team they were working with. He and Natasha could look at the file while on the helicopter and decide who was running things then.
Coulson nodded and picked up the file he had removed in preparation for this request. "All of the known information can be found in here." He passed the file over to Bucky. "I'd like you to stay in radio contact where possible," he continued. "The main mission is to get any of the children out. If all prisoners have been freed and accounted for, destroying the facility should then become the primary target."
"I assume there'll be transport and medical personnel on standby?" Natasha asked.
"Yes. You'll be able to contact them through the comm units as well," Coulson said.
Bucky nodded once, briskly. "Let's go save us some children, then..." The grin didn't quite reach his eyes, which were hard and angry. He remembered enough of his time as the Winter Soldier to remember working with the 'Widows' and it had never sat well with him when children were used as pawns in wars or espionage. "I've got my gear all ready...just need to give Steve and the rest a heads up. I'll meet you two at the helicopter in one hour," he said gruffly to Leo and Nat.
Leo nodded. "I'll go and get what I need... and let Jemma and the others know where I'm going..." He left the office, heading to the elevator.
Natasha lingered just a moment. "We'll stay in contact," she promised her father, knowing how much he worried when any of them went on ops... let alone his children.
"Thank you," Coulson replied. "Just... be careful. Don't take any unnecessary risks." He stepped forward to hug his daughter.
Natasha reciprocated the hug and kissed his cheek before going to pack up her own gear and inform her brothers about the situation.
It hadn't taken long for Bucky to inform Steve... and Tony and Pepper, since they were with Steve... that he was going away for a few days on a mission. Soon, he was on the roof, waiting for the chopper to land and reading through the file on the team they were joining with. "Alphonso 'Mack' Mackenzie, Bobbi Morse and Lance Hunter....Let's see what you three will be brining to the table," he muttered to himself quietly.
Natasha was the next to arrive, having found her brothers playing a board game with a couple of other family members. Her main concern had been asking them to stick with their father and make sure Coulson didn't spend too much time worrying about all the ways the mission could go wrong.
Leo was the last to arrive, though still a few minutes before the hour was up. He'd spent a bit of time with Jemma and Bruce both making sure he had everything he might possibly need, including a first aid kit and bottles of water.
Soon after Leo arrived on the roof, the helicopter was landing and they were quickly boarding. Bucky had handed the file to Natasha, since he had already read over all the important bits, and waited for her to have a chance to peruse and digest it before he made his suggestion. "I think you should take lead on this op. They're used to following a woman...and if you knew Isabelle Hartley, then you probably know how she handled things and it might make it easier for you to ease them into working with us. If we find out they are reluctant to follow you because they think you're trying to take Hartley's place...well, I'll admit my analysis was wrong. But I don't think it is."
Natasha nodded, looking through the file and then listening to Bucky. "Then I think it's safe to tell you to take the lead if anything happens that means I'm out of action for whatever reason." She passed the file over to Leo, so that he could take a look.
"Of course," Bucky agreed easily. He and Natasha had worked together before; when he was still the Winter Soldier and she was a 'Black Widow' in more than code-name. He doubted he would need to step in, but stranger things had happened and he had learned early on it was better not to assume something would never happen and just plan for it in case. "Leo. We're going to need your expertise in working out how to disable quite a few of their security measures. If it had only been computer related, Skye would likely have been on this mission; but intel suggests it will involve disabling 'gadgets', for lack of a better word, that we haven't dealt with before. If possible, try and salvage them instead of outright destroying them. We may be able to make use of them ourselves once the traps and such have been removed."
Leo glanced quickly at the file and then handed it back to Natasha, so she could dispose of it safely where the information couldn't be accessed by the wrong people. "I'll do everything I can to salvage them," he replied, almost like a little kid getting to play with the 'older' kids.
Bucky smiled at Leo's enthusiasm. "Want to run through our plan before we meet up with the others? See if there are any problems that we can work out before we land?" he asked Natasha quietly.
Natasha nodded. "Good idea. We probably don't want to rush into the mission straight away... I figure we should take at least a short time to get to know each other." She knew it was important to trust the people who had your back... and to know what they could and couldn't do.
Bucky nodded in agreement. There was a reason he'd always worked alone until he went back to Steve's side; and trust was ninety percent of it. Leaning forward, he called to the pilot, "How much further till we reach the destination?"
"Twenty minutes till we reach the airfield, Sergeant, and then you'll be taking a Quinjet to the final location," their pilot answered.
Natasha waited for the pilot to finish speaking and then addressed Bucky once more. "Do you have anything in particular you'd like to go over? Or any concerns?" She glanced at Leo, but didn't really expect the scientist to have any issues... though she'd listen if he did want to raise anything.
"We should probably team up...one of each of us for each one of them...or, if you don't think that will work after talking to them, some other configuration. Beyond that, I have no concerns yet. I'll let you know again after we meet the team." Bucky smirked.
Natasha nodded. "Sounds good." She sat back, but although she appeared to be relaxed, she was on her guard and ready for anything.
Twenty minutes later, they were disembarking the helicopter, their gear slung over their backs. Bucky quickly moved to a defensible position, dragging Leo with him, making certain the younger man was covered at all times then kept a careful watch as the helicopter took off. One could never be too careful of possible HYDRA traps.
Natasha stayed on her guard, glancing around to make sure there was no visible danger, before leading the way to the Quinjet.
Leo went along with Bucky without argument, aware that he wasn't really trained for combat and would have to rely on the others for protection.
Bucky waited for the all clear sign from Natasha before beginning his own trek to the Quinjet; still keeping Leo covered, but expecting that the younger man would let him know if there was something he or Natasha had missed, unlikely as that was.
They reached the Quinjet without anything happening, but Natasha still boarded and checked for any signs of tampering before signing that it was safe for Bucky and Leo to board as well.
Bobbi Morse sat in the nondescript van on the hill overlooking the airstrip. When the helicopter had landed and she'd seen three people emerge, one of them Romanov, she took one more careful glance around the surrounding area before motioning her own team to begin the trek to the jet. "Remember, they don't know us, so..." she began, only to growl in frustration when Hunter just waved her off and started down.
Mack gave her a crooked smile. "You did already tell us at least five times already. I'm sure he'll be careful..." At her skeptical look, he amended, "…careful for him."
Rolling her eyes, Bobbi gave Mack a crooked grin back then started down herself. Mack would wait till the appropriate distance was between them and be rear guard.
Natasha watched by the entrance of the Quinjet, spotting the remaining members of their team approaching. She watched, still on her guard even if it appeared to be safe right now.
Hunter reached the Quinjet first and made eye contact with Natasha. "Romanov, right? And Barnes and Fitz..."
Natasha nodded and moved back to allow the newcomers to enter the Quinjet, even though she still didn't relax.
Bobbi was quick to duck into the jet, nodding at Natasha as she headed to stow her gear.
Mack was the last to arrive, backing into the jet as he eyed the surrounding terrain. "I just got a bad vibe," he muttered to Natasha as the hatch closed. "We might want to take off quick..."
"Will do..." Bucky said from the cockpit, as he began last preparations for takeoff. "Buckle up, ladies and gents..."
Mack raised an eyebrow at the fact Bucky had heard him, but didn't comment otherwise.
Leo was already buckled up and glanced curiously at the newcomers. "I'm Leo." He knew they'd already know who he was... but he still wanted to introduce himself.
Natasha quickly closed up the Quinjet after checking everyone was safely inside.
Hunter buckled himself into his seat and nodded to Leo. "Lance Hunter."
Bobbi smiled. "Bobbi Morse... And that's Alphonso Mackenzie."
"Call me Mack." The tall man nodded at everyone before belting himself in.
"I'm Bucky...and hold on…it looks like we're taking off hot!" He quickly pointed the jet in the right direction and began taxing at a speed higher than normally recommended. Gunfire could be heard outside.
Natasha quickly moved to the co-pilot's seat, buckling up. "Better get out of range of the gunfire and then figure out where to go," she said to Bucky.
"You think they were just hanging out here in case someone turned up, or did they tap the comms?" Hunter wasn't really addressing anyone in particular... really just thinking out loud.
"I can check the comms and see if they've been hacked," Leo commented.
Mack nodded at the younger man. "You do that...meanwhile I think I'll double check our equipment again...make sure we didn't somehow get tagged after the last time we checked it..."
Bobbi frowned. "If our stuff was tagged, then there is only one person who could have done it...it never left our sight after the last check."
"Yeah…I'm really hoping we aren't tagged," Mack muttered, as he began a thorough search of the equipment.
Leo began checking over the comms, already planning getting a message to Coulson about the possibility of HYDRA agents having access to their frequencies. Maybe he could introduce a feature that would constantly change the frequencies; make them harder to crack. Without saying anything, he began working on that.
"Found anything?" Hunter asked, glancing towards Mack.
"Not...wait...dammit..." Mack's voice was frustrated and very disappointed. "I found a tracker..." He brought it out and sat down, taking out a tiny tool kit to disable it. "You know what this means, don't you?" He glanced at Bobbi and Hunter sadly.
"It means either Tommy is HYDRA, or they found some way to convince him to bug us..." Bobbi grimaced. "Either that or someone didn't check their bags as thoroughly as they should have.... Which one of us was bugged?"
Mack winced then looked at Hunter.
Bucky was paying close attention to the conversation, even as he was deliberately going the wrong direction until they could be sure all trackers were disabled or destroyed. "Until we can prove otherwise, we'll need to assume this Tommy was compromised," he said brusquely.
Hunter frowned at the implication. "I checked," was all he said, though he looked bothered by the implication it was Tommy... almost as if he'd prefer it to have been his fault.
"HYDRA's infiltrated a lot of SHIELD," Natasha commented. "We found at least one agent who was brainwashed into becoming one of their agents through conditioning. There could be more."
"I know you checked. I saw you do it..." was all Mack said, before he looked at Natasha. "Tommy was acting a bit odd this morning; worried. Said his Mom was in the hospital. I'm wondering if Hydra might not have used her to get him to do what they wanted."
Bobbi winced at that. "How would they have known to go after him, though?"
"Fury's boss was HYDRA. They likely have people in places we'd never think of," Bucky muttered.
"We'll get a message to my dad... ask him to look into it," Natasha commented, glancing at Bucky and then at the others. "If he's being forced into it, there'll be ways of taking him and his family into protective custody."
"I know it's impossible to say for sure, but I'd peg Tommy as trustworthy in normal circumstances," Hunter said.
"I would, too..." Bobbi said. "If he is being forced, the sooner we find out the better."
Natasha nodded and glanced over towards Leo. "Have you finished with the comms?"
"Almost..." Leo quickly passed one of the units to her, so that she could make contact with Coulson.
"We'll be landing in twenty minutes." Bucky glanced back. "We should plan who is teamed with whom and how we're going in."
Natasha nodded, glancing once more at the three and then speaking in a soft voice to Bucky. "I'd like to have one of us paired with one of them. I figured I'll team up with Bobbi."
"That sounds good. I'd like Leo to go with Mack." He didn't explain why; he figured it would be obvious. Mack was physically imposing and fit and should be able to protect Leo if necessary. Plus, he was mechanically adept and would be able to help Leo with his assignment.
"That leaves you with Hunter, then." Natasha moved back to inform the others of the teams they were in. As she did so, she was figuring out how they could best infiltrate the base. They'd have to keep watch for long enough to get to know the routines of the HYDRA guards and agents who were there.
"Lucky me..." Bucky muttered, but he was smiling. Something about the other man made him think he'd taken on the 'problem child'.
Although rescuing the children was a priority, Natasha had had the team wait before rushing in headlong. They'd begun to get to know each other through various training exercises and Natasha was now organising a bit of recon, so they could start observing the movements of the HYDRA agents.
On a more personal level, Natasha had made sure to check in with her dad regularly, also informing Coulson about the situation with the other team's belongings being tagged. She'd then stopped worrying, knowing it was in his hands.
Bucky had observed the other team as they quickly learned to depend on each other. He had been right in his assessment of Mack and Leo. While not a scientist, Mack was very adept in the use of machinery and gadgets...and had a scientist's thirst for learning new things...so he paid attention to what Leo suggested and had to offer. At the same time, Mack was more than able to reel Leo in when the younger man was about to go off into one of his science tangents and get him to focus on the matter at hand. Other than Jemma and Bruce, who also had a tendency to go off into tangents, he hadn't seen anyone who could so effortlessly work with Leo, blending their two styles effortlessly and complementing their strengths while negating their weaknesses. He made a mental note to suggest Coulson and Steve use that teaming more often.
Bobbi and Widow seemed almost like twins in their actions; they worked seamlessly because they were very similar in style.
Which left him and Hunter. Bucky sighed. It wasn't that the merc wasn't good at his job. He was very good. It was that the man wasn't actually a SHIELD agent and seemed to think that meant he had more leeway in his actions. After all....SHIELD needed him, not the other way around. Bucky shook his head. He just hoped the kid followed the plan during the rescue. He'd actually grown fond of him in the few short days they'd worked together. He didn't want to see anything happen to him because Hunter decided to go off script.
Natasha came back from doing recon with Bobbi, having made a note of the comings and goings of the HYDRA agents, as well as a rough estimation as to how many people they might have to deal with in total. There was no way to tell for certain... but given the size of the base and how many people they'd seen coming and going so far, Natasha had given it her best guess.
Gathering the rest of the team together, Natasha spread out the map she'd made and began pointing out what they'd discovered. "There are a couple of back entrances into the base that seem to be less heavily guarded. I spotted an air venting system, too, that we might be able to utilise."
Leo cleared his throat. "I brought some of my scanning equipment with me that I can control with a remote control... if I can set it up with the netbook, it'll provide us with information like heat signatures and openings we can use once we're inside."
"Oh, I like that!" Mack enthused, bumping shoulders with Leo.
Bucky nodded. "That is a good idea, Leo."
Bobbi glanced at Natasha. "Who's going in where? Will we be going in different entrances or all in the same one? And when we find the children, what is the plan to exit? There are vehicles in this area..." She pointed out an area for its vans and trucks. "Do we take those? Will all the kids fit on the jet?"
Leo smiled at the quick agreement, but didn't say anything, waiting for Natasha to speak.
"I think we should assume we'll need more transport than just the Quinjet," Natasha said. "Taking at least some of the vans and trucks would be a good idea... we should disable the ones we can't take; give us a head start."
"Maybe we should split up once we're inside," Hunter said. "Cover more ground that way."
"I don't like that idea...splitting up into teams allows us to cover three spots. Splitting up further than that makes us more vulnerable...especially if some of the children need more help getting out than expected. Teams would allow one to provide that help while still leaving one free for protection." Bucky glanced at Nat. "What do you say?" He would go along with her decision.
"I agree," Natasha said. "We have no idea what kind of condition we'll find the children in, so we'll stick with the teams we're in anyway." She wondered if Hunter would still make an attempt to break free of the group, but trusted Bucky to control him.
Mack nodded in agreement. "Sounds like the best plan to me..." he said, hoping that if he agreed to it, Hunter would be more likely to listen.
Bobbi was nodding also, but she didn't say anything. Hunter would disagree with her just because it was her sometimes...and she didn't want to encourage that this time.
Bucky smiled. "Any other questions or observations before we begin?"
"We should disable the vehicles we don't expect to use before we go into the base," Natasha said. "If we take two of the largest... that way, two of the teams can drive back along with the groups of children and the rest can take the Quinjet."
Leo didn't say anything, instead going over to his gear to make sure he had everything he needed to set up the scanners.
Bucky nodded. "That's a solid plan. I'd suggest Mack and Leo take care of disabling all but two of the largest trucks, while us four go in after the children. They can have them ready to go the minute we get out so that we can leave immediately. If you and Bobbi want to go in the trucks with them, Hunter and I can make our way back to the Quinjet after you all have successfully taken off...we can provide cover and distraction while you make your escape." He slanted his head to see if Natasha agreed with his idea, or if she wanted to do it differently.
Natasha nodded. "I think that's a good idea," she agreed. She looked at Leo. "If you can set up the scanners, you can keep us updated about anything that shows up or that we can't see."
Leo nodded. "I can do that."
Bobbi nodded, getting her own gear situated, then looked at Natasha. "We head left, they head right?" she asked with an impish grin.
"Sounds like a plan." Natasha smiled at the other woman, grabbing her own gear.
Leo double-checked he had everything and then stood by, waiting for the order to move out.
Hunter grabbed his own gear, checking he had enough ammunition, and also waited... a bit less patiently than Leo.
Bucky grabbed his own gear, noting that Mack had done the same. "Alright, Nat. Your lead." He smiled wolfishly at his 'niece', motioning her forward.
Natasha glanced round to make sure that everyone was ready and then started moving, quickly and silently, towards the base. Since she and Bobbi had spent time watching the movements of the HYDRA soldiers, they were able to lead the rest of the team to the trucks and vans without running into any danger.
Leo didn't waste any time in setting up the scanners so that he could control them to go ahead of the two teams.
Mack had been watching carefully as well, quickly taking out the security that was guarding the vehicles, then beginning to disable the vehicles, trusting Leo to keep an eye out and let him know if someone was coming in their direction, as well as keeping an eye open for the other two teams.
Bucky waited until Natasha had indicated which way she and Bobbi planned to go, then motioned Hunter to follow him, stealthily making his way down the corridor he'd chosen. According to their information and everything Leo had been able to gather with his scanners, the kids he was going to rescue were approximately twenty cell blocks away- to the left. He quickly immobilized any HYDRA soldier that he ran across, trusting Hunter to be able to do the same and watch their back as he watched their front.
Leo kept in a position that meant he could easily keep an eye on their surroundings, as well as checking the readouts and passing the details on to Bucky and Natasha.
Hunter kept watch over the rear, disabling any of the HYDRA soldiers who came at them from the rear.
It hadn't taken long- but still taken longer than he would have liked- for Bucky and Hunter to reach the cell where the children they were going to rescue were being held. Bucky had quickly begun to work on disabling the security that kept the doors locked and soon the doors were open and he was motioning the children inside to come out. The children in this cell were all above the age of six, but below the age of fifteen. He assumed that meant Natasha's group would be those below the age of six. Their intel hadn't indicated that there were any children below the age of two or above the age of fifteen at this particular facility.
Hunter stood to cover Bucky, but as the children were motioned out, he heard the sound of movement outside the room... and Leo was warning them about heat signatures heading in their direction.
Not stopping to talk over a plan with Bucky, Hunter went after the soldiers who were just outside the cell.
"Hunter!" Bucky hissed, but the other man was already around the corner and Bucky didn't want to leave the children defenseless. Even though it went against every instinct he had to protect 'his men', Bucky forced himself to follow their original plan, instructing the older children who were able to do so to help the younger children, or those who were sick and unable to move easily. He could only hope that Hunter didn't bite off more than he could chew; he was too busy making certain the children they'd just rescued weren't gunned down or recaptured. "Leo, Hunter went off on his own. Can you keep tabs on him so that when I'm able, I can go after him?" Bucky said to the younger man on a private channel.
He hoped to be able to go after the man soon; leaving was proving to go by more quickly than entering had, mainly because the soldiers they had encountered before were still incapacitated. Again in what was rather quick time, but longer than Bucky would have liked, he'd got his group of children to the transport truck where Leo and Mack were waiting. "Mack, can you get the kids settled in? I've got to go back for Hunter..." Bucky growled, only waiting long enough for a quick nod from Mack before he started back the way he came. "What can you tell me, Leo?" he asked, as he headed toward the direction he last saw Hunter.
Leo kept both screens up so that he could direct Natasha and Bobbi as well, but he talked Bucky through what he was seeing. "The heat signatures don't differentiate between HYDRA and our people, but there does still seem to be fighting going on, which I assume means that Hunter hasn't been incapacitated or captured. There are quite a few that have gone down." He carefully moved the scanner so that he could 'see' the people and confirm his guess, then told Bucky the directions to go unnoticed by the HYDRA agents who were in a gunfight with Hunter.
Bucky hadn't done it in a while- hadn't really needed to, since he worked with the Avengers and Coulson's team so well, he hadn't needed to rely only on himself in a very long time- but in this case, it was needed. He couldn't let Hunter know he was on his way, because it would also alert the HYDRA soldiers the other man was fighting. If Hunter didn't know he was there, Bucky would need to assume that he was on his own when it came to fighting; well, alone beyond the information Leo was feeding him.
Because of this, he slipped back into the mindset of the Winter Soldier. That was good as far as winning battles; not so good as far as keeping the opponent alive and able to be questioned. It wasn't long before the only two left standing were Hunter and Bucky; and the only ones still living were those who had been lucky enough to be rendered unconscious before Bucky became involved. Bucky looked around at the carnage, a bleak look on his face. "I've got him, Leo. Are Nat and Bobbi back with their cargo?" he asked brusquely.
"Yeah," Leo replied, his voice very quiet, as he hadn't moved the scanner before Bucky had come into the picture and had seen at least some of the carnage before he'd pulled the scanner away. He cleared his throat. "There aren't any more heat signatures approaching right now."
Hunter hadn't missed the mindset Bucky had slipped into either, but he was probably better equipped than Leo to handle the sight. "You got the kids out?" he asked quietly... because he didn't know what else to say right now. And he wasn't used to apologising.
"They're at the trucks." Bucky took several deep, steadying breaths in an attempt to get back into the right frame of mind. "Leo...if Nat and Bobbi have all their children loaded, take the two trucks and get out of here. I'm going to take this place down...and then Hunter and I will get the jet and come behind you. Let me know if there is any reason you all can't leave right now....otherwise this building is gone." Despite his efforts to regain his sense of self, the Winter Soldier was still very much at the front of his personality...and it was obvious in the rough, brief way he spoke. He avoided looking at Hunter...unhappy that the man had seen him slip back into his role of assassin.
Leo was quiet for a moment or two as he spoke to Natasha and then came back on the comms. "We're preparing to leave... Natasha said be careful to leave yourself an exit." He'd quietly passed on to her what he'd seen on the screen and Natasha had recognised the signs of someone slipping into another mindset.
"You've got five minutes while I start setting things up before the world starts coming down," Bucky said. Motioning at Hunter to keep close, he began setting charges up at key locations, ready to be detonated at a signal. "We'll exit on the north side..." he said to Hunter quietly.
Hunter nodded. "Anything I can do?" he asked, as he stuck close to Bucky... not really sure if he should apologise for going off on his own. He wasn't really sorry for that... but he was for how it had clearly affected the other man.
"Here..." Bucky handed him a couple of charges. "Set them on load bearing beams...but stay where we can see each other." He continued setting the charges, slowly coming back to himself. Working together, they made short work of setting the charges, fighting when necessary; although a majority of the soldiers left appeared to be trying to fix the vehicles so they could pursue after Nat and the rest. When the last charge was set, Bucky turned to Hunter. "Start heading that way...I'll be right behind you."
Hunter did as he was directed, but then paused. "Are you staying back for something in particular?" He could just imagine what everyone else would say if he didn't come back with Bucky... not to mention the fact he didn't actually want to leave the other man behind.
Bucky raised one eyebrow, amused despite himself. "Other than to make sure the charges explode like they are supposed to? I will literally be right behind you. I just don't want to set these puppies off without being sure you're exactly where you should be," he admitted.
Hunter nodded. "I just want to be sure you will be right behind me... I can't see the rest of the team letting it pass if I showed up without you." He didn't argue any more, though, making for the exit as he'd been instructed.
Bucky watched, making certain Hunter was well out of the blast line before he started the same direction, setting the charges off just as he reached the edge of where the remote frequency reached. He waited just long enough to make certain the explosions started, then turned and followed Hunter, quickly catching up to him and taking him by the arm to move him more quickly toward the jet.
Hunter was running, but not quite as fast as he could, since he didn't want to risk leaving Bucky behind. As soon as the other man caught up, he put on more speed, heading quickly towards the jet.
Once in the jet, Bucky quickly took off then made contact with Nat. "Are you all to the safe spot? Or do you need aerial backup?" he asked, motioning Hunter to take the co-pilot position.
Hunter moved quickly to the co-pilot position without argument.
"We're safe," Natasha's voice came over the comms. "You both get out okay?"
"Yeah....we both got out. Meet you at the rendezvous in thirty minutes. I'll radio ahead to Phil and Steve to let them know we have the kids so they'll have a place ready for them as well as guardians to step in and help the youngest ones..." Bucky said calmly. "Barnes out..."
Turning toward Hunter, he gave the younger man a look as if he wanted to say something, but shaking his head, he turned on the radio again. "Barnes to Coulson. The package has been retrieved. Proceeding to drop it off at the agreed upon location. I hope you're ready for it...."
"Glad to hear it," Coulson said over the comm. "I'll have extra personnel standing by." He didn't need to say that the extra personnel would be a medical team.
Hunter avoided eye contact, realising there was a lot he could have messed up but not sure if an apology would be welcomed or not.
Thirty minutes later, Bucky was landing the jet and he and Hunter were walking to meet up with the rest of the team as well as those who had come to help with the children. He hadn't said anything to Hunter about the other man running off and leaving him alone to deal with all the children; and the possible HYDRA soldiers that could have shown up from the other direction. He could tell Hunter had realized he had done something wrong just by the way the other man held himself; he was waiting to see if Hunter owned up to it and apologized. He couldn't help but be a bit irritated- and more than a little disappointed- that the other man didn't apologize, but he wasn't going to insist on one.
Giving a brief nod to the man who had been his partner for the better part of the operation, he walked over to talk to his brother. "Hey, Stevie. Everything ok at home?" he asked with a crooked grin.
Hunter hung back, awkward and feeling like he'd missed the chance to voice an apology... but maybe if he had the chance to give one, it would be the right thing to do.
Steve stepped forward, clasping Bucky's shoulder. "Everything's fine." He looked at his brother, able to read when Bucky was bothered about something. "How did everything go?" He didn't push for details by asking what was wrong. If they needed to, they could talk about it privately.
"We got all the kids out and no one was injured..." Bucky answered. "That's the best case scenario for any operation, I'd say..." He didn't elaborate, although he knew when he and Steve were alone, he'd likely vent at least a little bit about what Hunter had done. That and admit what had happened to him when he went back to get Hunter out. He didn't like that he'd gone back to that mindset; that he could so easily switch back into 'Winter Soldier' mode. It made him think that maybe his brainwashing wasn't as far behind him as he wanted to believe.
Steve nodded. "You can give me the details later," he suggested, knowing there was more to it than that and wanting to be a support system for his brother. He squeezed Bucky's shoulder again. "Natasha made contact with her dad... they're not far behind."
"Good...the sooner these kids get to a safe location and get help, the better. Were any of the parents located, or are all of them orphans?" He looked sad at the thought. Worry about the children helped him push his own feelings about himself and what Hunter had done...what he had done...to the back of his mind.
"Skye was able to track down some of the parents," Steve answered. "Phil's worked on getting foster homes arranged for the other children, with people we can trust."
"Good..." Bucky nodded suddenly weary. "I need a drink. Too bad they don't work on us..." he mumbled.
Bobbi chose that moment to walk up to Steve and Bucky. "Thank you...for bringing us on this mission." Her tone was serious; her eyes were sad. "I'm...grateful to have been allowed to stop HYDRA from what they had planned." She glanced at the children, who were being separated into groups of smaller cars, being taken to the medical facility Tony had secured.
"I'd also like to apologize on behalf of Hunter..." She glanced at Bucky with a mixture of embarrassment and frustration. "He likely won't see the need himself; he's often blind to the fact that his actions do affect other people and not just himself. But he means well; and if he has any idea what he put you through, he's probably feeling guilty and just can't bring himself to admit it." She huffed. She had a whole slew of memories where that had been the case between her and her ex-husband. It was one of the reasons why she was still friends with him, but not able to be married to him. Shaking her head to push away the memories, she wandered over to thank Nat.
"Huh..." was all Bucky said, as he watched her walk away.
Steve looked at his brother with some sympathy. "Things didn't go quite as smoothly as they could have done?" he guessed. He'd already seen that in Bucky's face... and it was fairly obvious that Hunter didn't feel good about the way things had gone.
Bucky winced. "There was a snag...overall it went very well...just... one snag…I wouldn't not recommend teaming up with them again. You can see how well Leo got on with Mack and Bobbi with Nat. Just...maybe I'm not best suited for joining in teams that aren't family..." he admitted softly. He couldn't completely lay all the blame on Hunter. If he'd got the man's respect, he doubted Hunter would have run off like that.
"You know, I didn't work very well with Tony or Bruce when we first met," Steve commented. "We were pretty far from being a good team. If the problem is with you and Hunter... maybe it's a problem the two of you need to deal with privately?"
Bucky nodded. "Maybe. After the debrief, I'll try to have a private conversation with him. Find out what he was thinking. It may be that we just aren't meant to work together...which doesn't mean there isn't someone else on the team that could work with him. But I'll talk to him." He glanced around and noted that all of the children had been loaded up and were on their way to medical and mental help. "Guess we should head back to the tower so we can debrief...."
"That might be a good idea," Steve agreed. "He could just be hotheaded... feel like he should do things alone... a bit like many of us others, before we had people step in." He smiled at his brother and headed back to the van, expecting Bucky to either join him or go with someone else.
Bucky, still feeling out of sorts about his lapse into past behavior, followed his brother quietly. He knew if anyone could handle him if he lost control of the 'soldier' again, it would be Steve.
Leo had managed to 'forget' about what the scanners had shown him and was busy talking to Mack about how to utilise better technology if there was a next time... and he couldn't help hoping that they would be. Apart from Hunter disappearing, he'd thought the six of them had worked fairly smoothly together.
Mack listened to Leo closely, nodding when he agreed something would be a good idea, adding his opinion or asking questions when he disagreed or didn't understand where Leo was going with his thoughts. He'd enjoyed working with the young scientist and couldn't help saying so where everyone else could hear. "Man, it's been a real pleasure working with you...I hope we get the chance again. I'd like to try some of your ideas!"
Leo smiled, brightening at the idea of working with them again. "I'd like that..." he said honestly. "Maybe we can see if there's any more intel we can go after together..."
Mack nodded. "We should get a chance to do that. I think we're heading back to your tower to debrief, but after if you want to work on it some...."
Leo nodded in agreement. "I'd definitely want that. We could talk to Bruce and Jemma, too..." He began making his way to the vehicles as well.
Mack followed Leo, eager to continue their conversation.
Leo continued talking to Mack as they got into the vehicles, feeling as comfortable around the other man as he felt around Bruce and Leo... everyone in the tower, really.
Bobbi, noting everyone heading to the vans, walked over to Hunter and smacked him upside the back of the head. "Whatever you did, fix it. I liked working with this group and I don't want that to disappear because you can't swallow your pride," she grumbled, even as she eyed her ex with worry. It was obvious he felt guilty; the only question was, would he act on that guilt in a positive or negative way?
Hunter ducked away from Bobbi, but didn't actually try to deny it or make light of the situation. "I'll fix it," was all he said, heading towards their own van, glancing at Bobbi to check if she was going to join him.
Sighing, Bobbi followed Hunter to the van. If he said he'd fix it, he would. He might be a pain in the ass and reckless at times, but he cared...and he kept his word.
Steve got into the van and waited for Bucky to join him before he spoke as he began driving. "You want to tell me what else is bothering you?"
Bucky winced, unable to face his brother as he admitted, "For a while...it wasn't me there fighting HYDRA. It was the 'soldier'." He swallowed hard, unable to voice his fear that he might not have as good a control over himself as he had thought.
Steve looked sideways at his brother. "You were brainwashed for a very long time. You actually have a lot of control over yourself... if you didn't, then you wouldn't trust yourself on ops with us. You might have gone into the Winter Soldier's mindset... but you haven't stayed there." His voice was soft, but his loyalty to and trust in his brother was obvious.
Bucky looked at Steve and finally relaxed. It was hard to trust himself knowing what he'd done in the past and what he was still capable of, but his brother's trust in him eased the worry somewhat. "Thanks, Stevie..." he whispered, then swallowed hard and cleared his throat… "I just hope Leo didn't see...it's bad enough Hunter saw..."
"Even if Leo did see... it's not going to change anything," Steve said reassuringly. "He might seem innocent and naive, but he accepted Grant after all he did... he's seen bad things, but I don't think he's scared of anyone in the tower. And that includes you."
"Yeah," Bucky sighed. "He's stronger than he seems..." Finally, he leaned back in the seat and relaxed. Steve had everything in hand. He just needed to work through what had happened.
Before he knew it, they were pulling into the Tower's garage. "Wh...did I fall asleep?" He blinked as he looked around.
Steve parked and looked at his brother. "It seems the mission took a lot out of you. After the debrief and you talking to Hunter, why don't we go to my floor with Tony and Pepper and play a quiet game or watch a movie? Just take some time to relax and be a family..."
"I'd like that..." Bucky smiled at his brother. He carefully got out of the vehicle then slowly walked to the elevator, expecting that the others would be with or behind him. "Briefing room, please, JARVIS?" he said once he was in the elevator.
"As you wish, sir. Shall I wait till others have joined you in the elevator?" the AI intoned.
"Of course. Thanks, J." Bucky leaned back against the elevator wall and closed his eyes.
Steve stayed close to his brother as the others all filtered onto the elevator. He noticed the hesitant looks Hunter kept casting at Bucky, but didn't comment on it as everyone piled in and the elevator began moving.
Bobbi was watching Hunter keep looking at Bucky hesitantly and every time Hunter looked in her direction, she'd give him a fairly obvious frown and a motion with her head and hand to 'tell' him to hurry up and fix things, without actually saying the words to him. She noticed Mack giving her weird looks and finally stopped, halfway to the floor they were going to.
Hunter approached Bucky when the elevator stopped and people started filtering off, not wanting an audience for this. "Can we talk? Before we debrief?"
Bucky blinked, glancing at Steve uncertainly. He really wasn't ready to hash into things with Hunter now...especially when he needed to give his report... but maybe it was more fair to the man to let him say his piece before they debriefed...as it could affect Bucky's report. Sighing, he nodded reluctantly. "Ok. We can use Steve's office..." He glanced at Steve, to make certain that would be all right, before leading Hunter to the office across the hall from the debriefing room.
Steve nodded. "I'll let them know you'll be a few minutes," he said, before following the others.
Hunter followed along quietly and didn't speak until they were alone. "I should have said this before, but... I'm sorry."
Bucky straightened up, looking at the other man seriously. "That's good. I appreciate it. But I think I'd like to know what it is, exactly, you are sorry for..." he finally said, a stern tone in his voice. Bucky wanted to know that Hunter knew what he'd done wrong...because if he didn't, then Bucky was going to make certain he understood before they went to the debriefing. Especially since Bucky's suggestions for future team operations would hinge greatly on Hunter's answer.
Hunter winced a little, but replied as honestly as he could. "Mainly for leaving you hanging with the children. I made a snap decision that I know was the wrong one and I shouldn't have gone after those HYDRA soldiers... even if I did have reasoning behind my actions. But also..." He hesitated, but continued on. "I made it necessary for you to come after me and I saw the mindset you went into. I know that was my fault... and I'm sorry for that, too."
Bucky relaxed noticeably at Hunter's words then nodded. "Then it looks like we are on the same page... I accept your apology. The only question I have now is, do you intend to work with me and my team again in the future?" He held up a hand before Hunter could answer. "I know your team wants to; Mack and Leo got along wonderfully and I believe Bobbi and Nat did as well. The thing is... my team operates as a team. Which means there are people in charge who make the hard calls while everyone else follows. And only on rare occasions are those who follow allowed to go off the reservation like you did without having consequences for doing so. You aren't officially a SHIELD agent, so there is little I can do in lieu of discipline for disobeying orders, other than not working with you again. Is that what you want?" Bucky kept his tone neutral, not wanting Hunter to react in a way he might regret because he didn't like Bucky's tone.
Hunter flinched visibly at that question. He might have given Bucky something of a hard time... but that was normal for him and didn't mean he didn't like or respect the other man. He might not be an official SHIELD agent, either, but that didn't mean he didn't share many of their morals and beliefs. "I want to be a part of the team," he said honestly. "And I don't want to be in a position where you don't want to work with me. But I know I sometimes have a tendency to act without thinking. It doesn't mean I don't respect you or want to work with you. I don't..." He sighed. "If you don't feel like you can work with me, I'll respect that. But you should still take on Bobbi and Mack. They're good agents."
"We'll take Bobbi and Mack...I don't believe in penalizing someone for something someone else did. I wanted to know if you wanted to work with us. With me. And you just said you did. So now the question is how we handle you acting without thinking. Because that crap will get you killed and I don't want that. I won't be responsible for you dying. And I would be if I allowed you to work with us and allowed you to get away with disregarding orders and doing your own thing; and you died because of that. I know how certain members of my family have handled situations like this in the past...where an official SHIELD punishment couldn't be levied; either due to the person not being SHIELD, or due to the person needing to keep hidden for a while. But I don't know if you would be willing to accept such a correction." Bucky managed to keep his voice matter of fact and keep his relief that Hunter wanted to work with them, and seemed genuinely sorry, to himself. If Hunter wanted to work with them and was genuinely remorseful, it was possible he could be 'trained' out of the irresponsible behavior.
Hunter was silent for a few moments, working over exactly what he was going to say, before making eye contact with Bucky. "I know I can trust you not to do something that will land me in the hospital. Or do any permanent damage. So if there's something used that's worked in the past... and you think it'll be effective now..." His voice trailed off as he tried to figure out how to say it. Finally, he just said, "I trust you."
Bucky was looking him in the eye when he answered that. "I appreciate that. And I want you to know that I won't do anything that will harm you. What has been done in the past- what has worked before- is unconventional, but it will not do lasting damage...although it will be painful and humbling. You disregarded the plan that Natasha had formed, which was disrespectful to her as team lead. You left me with several children and no back-up...without giving a reason, or even any warning before doing so... which was disrespectful to me as your partner. And what you did put your life in danger; and there was no good reason for it, at least no good reason that you've shared. That is just plain unacceptable. While I appreciate your regret that your actions caused me to fall into the mindset I did, you aren't going to be punished for that. You are only being punished for the first three items. The punishment I will use, if you agree to place yourself in my hands, is a spanking." Bucky waited to see what Hunter's reaction would be.
Hunter wasn't sure what he'd expected Bucky to say... what punishment he expected the other man to suggest... but it wasn't that. He could see the other man wasn't joking and was completely serious and he held a hand up, indicating he just needed a minute. "I'm not refusing," he said, a bit tentatively. "But my experience is that spanking is normally used on children... what would it entail? Does accepting that mean I'll be answerable to others as well as you?"
Bucky watched Hunter closely, taking a moment to think of his words before answering. "To be honest, our team has become more of a family; and a spanking is a 'family' punishment. As such, while certain members of the family normally answer to a particular person...it isn't unheard of for other members of the family to step in if the normal disciplinarian is unavailable. Having said that- normally, if someone does something that needs discipline, they will have one person that they answer to. I know that you don't consider me family and in your case, it is more a situation of an official punishment not being possible; but I would be willing to be the one that you answer to, if that's what you want. If you don't feel comfortable with me doing it, I'm sure Director Fury, or Director Coulson, or Steve Rogers would be willing to step up."
Hunter shook his head. "I'm not saying I don't trust the others, but I've worked with you... and if I'm answering to someone, I'd rather it be you," he said honestly. "I don't think I'd feel comfortable with anyone else... maybe that will change in the future, but I can't say for sure. But I want to be a part of the team. And I want to work with you and the others. And if that's dependent on this happening, then I agree."
"I'm happy to hear you say that...because despite everything, I think you will be a good addition to this team and I hated to think you would leave," Bucky admitted. "I normally prefer to get punishments out of the way as soon as possible and I don't see any reason to put this one off; other than the fact that across the hall, they are debriefing and I also prefer to deliver punishments in a more private setting. So this time, I will give you the choice. Do you want to take care of things now...or wait until after the debriefing, when I will take you up to my floor?"
"I think it would be better after the debriefing," Hunter replied. "They've already been waiting for a while." And he wasn't sure what kind of effect the punishment would have on him. Even if the rest of Bucky's team... or family... knew about it, Hunter didn't want it to be obvious.
"That is probably for the best," Bucky agreed. "I didn't want it hanging over your head if you didn't want to wait, though. Let's go join the others. Once the debrief is over, you'll come with me. I'm going to request you be assigned to stay on my floor while your team is here."
Hunter nodded. "I understand," he replied. "If you're sure you want me to stay on your floor... sir." He gave a tentative smile, not sure how Bucky would react to the joke, but wanting to show there were no hard feelings.
Bucky raised an eyebrow, smiling faintly. "I wouldn't have suggested it if I didn't want it, Junior," he teased back lightly; then, putting his hand on Hunter's shoulder, he led him out of Steve's office and across the hall to the debriefing room. Stepping in, he nodded at everyone, leading Hunter to two empty seats, waiting till Hunter sat before sitting next to him.
Hunter sat down without any argument.
The rest of the group had been waiting for Bucky and Hunter to return and now that they were there, Natasha began the debrief, running through the mission... though she didn't mention Hunter breaking from the group, choosing to let Bucky raise it, if he felt it was appropriate, since he'd been the one most affected.
Bucky waited until Natasha was finished speaking before telling of what had occurred on his end. He didn't have a choice but to tell of Hunter's actions, though he did it in a way that avoided placing further recrimination. He needed them to understand what had occurred that caused him to have to return for Hunter; so when he explained his lapse into 'Winter Soldier' mode, it wouldn't confuse them.
Steve already knew what had happened with Hunter, but he was glad to see that the two of them seemed to have worked things out between them.
Coulson didn't make a comment to what had happened... mainly because he suspected that Bucky planned to deal with things and that they didn't seem to be suffering any problems between them.
Bucky had finished explaining his actions when he went back for Hunter; how he had got lost inside his own head and when he came to, the only survivors were those Hunter had taken care of before he arrived back on the scene. He swallowed hard. "I know...I know that I've come a long way since Steve found me again; I'm not the 'Winter Soldier' anymore...at least not normally...but now that I know it is possible for him to just show up when I'm feeling high stress or threat level...I...I just want you all to be careful. That's all. And if it ever comes down to it and I become a danger to you all, do whatever is needed to take me out." His voice was gruff and he wouldn't look anyone in the eye.
"If it ever comes down to it, we'll find a way to take you out that won't cause any lasting harm," Coulson promised. He didn't have to check if the others agreed with him. Bucky was a part of the team... part of their family... and killing him was never going to be an option.
"If we know it's possible for you to slip into that mindset when you're feeling like that, there are ways you could channel it," Steve commented. He knew that Bruce had to come up with coping mechanisms for the Hulk... and planned to talk to the other man about it later.
"Steve's right...if you aren't adverse to the idea, I'd like for you to start meditating with me. I can share some of what I do that helps me maintain control when having Hulk show up would not be beneficial...and some of the things I've done that help Hulk not go completely berserk when he does take control," Bruce said calmly. "It may not be exactly the same thing, but it might help you."
Bucky swallowed hard and he finally looked up at his family, glancing at each of them gratefully before focusing on Bruce. "Yeah. Thanks. I...I'd like to try...."
"And until you have control over it, there is always my method..." Loki said, almost nonchalantly, as if he expected them to know what his method was.
Steve glanced at Loki curiously. "What's your method?" he asked, hoping it was something that Bucky could use.
Loki blinked then glanced around almost sheepishly. "Sorry...I assumed you knew, but as I never actually used this particular ability before, I do not know why I assumed such. Basically... It would cause him to fall into slumber. It is not instantaneous and a strong will can fight it, but it takes a great deal of concentration to fight it; so even if it did not actually cause him to sleep, it would distract him long enough for someone else to immobilize him and would hopefully prevent anyone from being hurt."
"That would probably help." Coulson glanced at Bucky. "What do you think? Would you be willing for Loki to use that method if it became necessary?"
Bucky nodded, giving Loki a thankful smile. "I'm willing to use whatever method is available if it keeps me from hurting any of you guys..." His voice was still gruff, but there was a little bit more hope in it. Between Bruce and Loki's offers, and the fact that no one seemed overly worried about it, he finally relaxed and accepted that maybe it wasn't as hopeless as he'd felt.
Steve moved forward to squeeze his brother's shoulder gently. "We'll handle it if it needs to be handled," he promised.
Coulson waited a beat before speaking. "Is there anything else we need to cover?"
Bobbi glanced at Mack, then at Hunter, before looking at Coulson. "Just...sir...I really appreciated the chance to work with your team and wanted you to know that I still believe in what SHIELD stands for and if you'll have me, I want to continue working for you... with you...." She glanced around and barely managed to refrain from fidgeting.
Mack smiled at his teammate and nodded at Coulson. "Same here, sir. We've been dark a long time, sir and well...I understand the reason for it, but..." He shrugged slightly, not wanting to say it was becoming very difficult, being cut off from other teams and support, even if they were good at what they were doing.
"From the sounds of it, you've managed to work with the others well... even if there was a bit of an issue for a while," Coulson commented, not saying exactly what said issue was. "I think taking you on is a good idea." He glanced around, just to make sure no one had any arguments... though he didn't really expect there to be any.
Hunter cleared his throat to speak. "I know I'm technically a merc... doesn't mean I don't believe in SHIELD." He shrugged, not really wanting to bring up what had happened again and hoped his agreement with Bucky would render that unnecessary.
Bucky looked Coulson in the eye and nodded, before saying, "I've got no objections to bringing their team out of the dark and having them work with us more frequently. And it wouldn't be the first time you've worked with non-SHIELD agents effectively." His impish smirk reminded those in charge that he technically wasn't a SHIELD agent either.
Tony snorted at that. "Got quite a few 'consultants', actually..." he murmured, since a large portion of the Avengers weren't SHIELD agents either.
Coulson nodded. "Good to know," he said. "And it's good to have more people we can trust." He paused to address Bobbi, Mack and Hunter, more seriously now. "I want you to know... we brought Tommy in for questioning. He wasn't working with HYDRA by choice... they were targeting his family. They've been provided with protection and we're currently keeping eyes on him." Just to be on the safe side.
Bobbi visibly relaxed at the news.
Mack nodded his head. "Thank you for that. None of us could imagine that Tommy would willingly join HYDRA...he was constantly talking about how 'Captain America' and his 'Howling Commandos' saved his granddad from a HYDRA camp during the war."
Coulson nodded. "It sounds as if he was another one they targeted and forced into working for them. We're checking into others who might have family members in vulnerable situations."
"Maybe I can go over the lists again...flag those that I had a strange feeling about when I first learned they were working for HYDRA. I'm just glad I never mentioned any of those strange feelings to Garrett... Now that I know some people were being forced, who knows what might have been done to them if I drew attention to them?" Grant grimaced.
Coulson smiled at his son, placing a hand on Grant's shoulder and squeezing gently. "Good idea," he praised softly. "If we can get more people out of HYDRA's clutches... well, that's the right thing to do."
"Soooo..... are we all debriefed? I kinda promised Pepper I'd attend the board meeting in..." Tony glanced at his watch and winced, "...five minutes. If you don't need me, I better run."
Jemma nodded eagerly. "And I left an experiment that I'm not sure will do well if left for too long..." she admitted sheepishly. Bruce's sideways look at her didn't help; she blushed.
Coulson nodded. "That's everything." He decided he'd speak to Tony later about whether they should 'house' Mack, Bobbi and Hunter in the tower or not. He did address the three of them, though. "If you'd like to stick around for a while, I'm sure you can find things to do." He didn't mention his suspicions that Bucky might be 'talking' to Hunter.
It might not be a secret, but that didn't mean they called attention to it.
Mack nodded. "Thank you, sir. I had some things I wanted to work on with Leo...see if we can't do some improvements..." He smiled at the younger man, hopefully.
Bobbi grinned. "If you don't mind my borrowing your daughter, I thought Nat and I could do something...and any of the other women who might want to do something. I've been hanging out with men non-stop for the better part of a year and no offense, but I really need a girl's day...."
Bucky said casually, "If you all are going to stick around for longer than this afternoon, I'm sure you could crash with any one of us..." He didn't actually offer, since he already planned on Hunter staying with him, but figured if prompted, Leo would ask Mack and Nat or Melinda would ask Bobbi.
Leo smiled back at Mack. "I think we could do a lot of improvements... and if you want to stick around, you could stay on my floor and we could continue on with some projects." He gave his own hopeful look.
Natasha nodded and smiled. "You could always stay the night on my floor, too," she offered. It had been good to work with Bobbi and Natasha already knew they got along.
"Good, now that that's settled I think my nephew has a meeting to attend..." Bucky laughed as Tony jumped up, gave everyone a quick wave and was out the door before Steve or Coulson could officially end the debriefing. He could be heard on the phone to Pepper as he was running for the elevator. "I'm on my way, sweetheart...honest. Not skipping out on you this time..."
Bobbi looked curious at Bucky calling Tony his nephew, but didn't say anything; more anxious to go spend some quality free time with the other women in the tower.
"Thanks, man! I appreciate it," Mack said to Leo, only holding back on jumping up himself because Coulson hadn't dismissed everyone yet.
Bucky unobtrusively patted Hunter's knee under the table, reminding the younger man of the discussion that still needed to be had by them.
Coulson smiled fondly after Tony and glanced at Steve, noticing the fond, loving expression on his brother's face. "You're all dismissed," he said warmly, then addressed his sons. "Since Natasha is going to be spending the day with Bobbi... why don't we do something together?" he suggested.
Hunter stood, but didn't leave the room, waiting for Bucky to lead the way... since he didn't actually know which one was the other man's floor.
Clint grinned at his father. "Sure thing, dad. Want to go to a movie?" He glanced between his brother and his father curiously.
"Sounds good to me..." Grant said with a shrug, looking at his father for final confirmation.
"Well, while Leo is playing with Mack...I think I'll go arrange for some paperwork to be completed that I've been waiting on..." Bruce said with a smile and a knowing look at Leo.
Jemma's eyes widened and she glanced between Bruce and Leo almost hopefully, but didn't actually ask. She figured one or both of them would tell her when they had something to tell. Instead, she turned toward Skye. "Skye! Would you be interested in going shopping?" She bit her lip hesitantly.
May put an arm around Skye's shoulders and answered for her daughter. "Yes...yes she would. She needs to get out of the tower and do something non-computer related." Her tone was teasing, but it was obviously an order. "Meanwhile, Steve? Could I interest you in a sparring session? Maybe Nick, Trip and Brock would like to join us and we can have a friendly competition?"
Bucky watched as everyone made their plans, only standing up so that Hunter wouldn't feel awkward, but not moving from the table. Instead, he put his arm around Hunter's shoulders and watched the rest of his family with fond amusement. He did whisper to Hunter, "We'll head up when everyone else has gone..."
Coulson smiled, wrapping an arm around each of his son's shoulders to steer them from the room. "A movie sounds good. We could have a meal together afterwards," he suggested.
Leo smiled at Bruce. "Let me know when it is completed..." he said, before turning to Mack. "Ready to go?" He waited for confirmation and then started from the room.
Skye leaned into May and sighed... but didn't look too unhappy. "Okay, Mom. I'll see you later." She stepped away from her mother to join Jemma.
Steve nodded to May. "I'll get JARVIS to send a message to them... ask if they'd like to join."
Hunter nodded, feeling some of the tension go out of him when Bucky put an arm around his shoulders. He still didn't know exactly what this would entail, but he trusted Bucky... and, to be honest, felt really guilty about what he'd put the other man through, as well as responsible for the mindset Bucky had gone into.
Soon, the room was empty of everyone except for Bucky and Hunter. "C'mon, kid..." Bucky said brusquely, although there was a fond undertone in his voice. They might have only just got to know each other, but Bucky had felt he and Hunter had got on well. It was one of the reasons the kid's running off had upset him so much. He'd already started to care what happened to the man and had envisioned the worst happening. He saw no reason to hide that caring or fondness from Hunter. Keeping his arm around Hunter's shoulders, he led him to the elevator, taking it up to his floor. When the elevator doors opened, he walked slowly into the living area, only letting go of Hunter once they were near the couch; and then it was only long enough to indicate Hunter should sit down.
Bucky sat next to the younger man then turned slightly so he could look him in the eye. "Before we proceed, I just want to make certain you understand why you're being punished."
Hunter sat down next to Bucky and answered without hesitation. "I took off when I wasn't supposed to, making things difficult for you and Natasha... and I put myself in danger..." His voice faltered. "I know you said you weren't punishing me for you going into the mindset of the Winter Soldier, but I know it was still my fault..."
Bucky nodded. "That's right; you took off when you shouldn't have and put yourself in danger. And I'm not punishing you for what I did...that wasn't your fault and you had no way of knowing it would occur. It could have happened even if you'd stayed by my side the entire time...and while the added stress from you running off may have contributed, I don't believe it was your fault in the least. You understand that, don't you?"
"Logically... I think I would have given it a lot more thought before taking off if I'd had prior knowledge," Hunter said. "I understand that it wasn't entirely my fault, but I feel I hold at least some responsibility. But I know that isn't the issue we're dealing with."
"Well...then you'll remember this in the future and will give more thought to whatever you do in general," Bucky responded with a slight smile. "C'mere. Let's get this over with..." Bucky finally said, carefully tugging Hunter over his lap and adjusting him so that he was pressed tightly against Bucky's torso. Once he was assured that the man was secure and wasn't going to fall, he placed a hand on his back. "All punishments of this nature are done bare..." he said softly, waiting for Hunter's response before proceeding. "You have one more chance to back out of this...if I proceed, from here on out you will answer to me and be held accountable by me. Do you understand?"
Hunter shifted slightly, trying to adjust to the position he found himself in. The idea of being bare wasn't as embarrassing as it could have been... he had been in many stranger situations before. "I'm not backing out," he said finally, once he'd managed to gather his thoughts together. "I'm sure there are worse people to answer to..."
Bucky couldn't help the snort of amusement as he teased, "Wow. Thanks..." He rubbed Hunter's back gently for a moment, before saying, "For what it's worth, I'm proud of you for going through with this. And I'll be proud to work with you in the future." Feeling that everything that needed saying had been said, Bucky quickly bared Hunter, raised his hand up then let it fall again with a firm smack.
Although he'd been expecting it to hurt, Hunter was still taken by surprise by the first swat and couldn't help the sharp intake of breath. Oddly, Bucky's words made it easier to deal with this.
Bucky quickly fell into a rhythm, methodically covering Hunter's backside from top to mid-thigh. He was careful to keep the swats firm, but not too hard. He wanted the lesson to be memorable, but did not want to leave bruises. Hunter was placing a lot of trust in him and he was determined not to let the other man down. When he'd turned every inch of the kid's backside a light pink color, he began again from the top, darkening the shade.
Hunter did his best not to squirm too much, but when Bucky started over from the top, he couldn't help shifting slightly. He'd been in fights before and had worse injuries than this... but something about the repetitiveness of this punishment, and probably the guilt he felt, threatened to pull tears from him.
Bucky sighed internally, even though he was careful not to actually express the sound. This was the hardest part of punishing someone who you were charged with taking care of. Forcing yourself to continue until they were willing to allow the punishment to affect them, instead of fighting it in some misguided attempt to appear brave.
He'd nearly finished the second circuit and didn't really want to begin on a third...but he had to be certain what he was doing was making an impression, or the whole reason would be for naught. Pausing, he placed his hand on Hunter's backside. He could feel heat radiating from the dark pink skin. "You and I are going to be working together again, Hunter..." he finally said softly. "…When we work together, I have every intention of making sure you come home…each and every time. That's more difficult when you take unnecessary chances with your own life....so I can promise you: any time you put yourself in harm's way...for no good reason...you will end up back here, over my knee. Other infractions, I'm willing to talk out options...but risking your life will get you this. Every. Time. Understand?"
He assumed that Hunter understood; he wasn't stupid, after all- Just a bit impetuous. Not wanting the punishment to drag out any longer than necessary, and needing Hunter to 'give in' before he could stop, Bucky tilted the younger man forward and began rapidly smacking the tender crease between buttock and thigh.
Hunter clamped his mouth shut, but a soft whimper still escaped from him at Bucky's words. It wasn't that he wasn't used to people insisting he stay alive... but this was the first time anyone had physically attempted to step in and respond. When the tears started falling, they were less to do with the pain of the spanking... and more to do with the emotions that were overwhelming him.
Bucky could tell that Hunter had almost reached his threshold. It was time to finish. Bucky continued to smack the now very sensitive sit spots; not smacking any harder- actually, the smacks were a bit less hard- but staggering the tempo, so that his charge wasn't able to predict when the next slap would fall. And he asked again...this time expecting an answer.
"Do you understand, son?" Bucky drawled, the term of affection falling naturally from his lips; he felt every one of his ninety-some years when he had to discipline his people.
Hunter didn't want to answer, because he knew that if he opened his mouth, he'd start crying. Except... not answering would be disrespectful and that was one of the reasons for this spanking. Another soft whimper escaped him as he whispered, very quietly, "I... understand..." And then a soft sob escaped him... and another one... not really hard crying; but audible nonetheless.
Hearing the tears, Bucky immediately stopped spanking, moving his hand up so that he could gently rub Hunter's back and neck. "Good son. I'm glad you do understand..." Bucky said softly. "It's all done now, kid...you've paid for your actions and now we can put them behind us and start fresh. You're ok..."
Bucky continued to gently rub Hunter's back, even as he carefully fixed the younger man's clothing.
Hunter moved his hands to his face, trying to wipe away his tears and stop himself crying. He relaxed, almost involuntarily, as Bucky rubbed his back, and then started to push himself up, unable to make eye contact with the other man.
Bucky helped Hunter up off his lap then ducked down to catch the other man's eye. "Hey...I forgive you. There is no need to be ashamed to look at me. Unless there is something else wrong?" Bucky couldn't help but wonder if maybe he'd misjudged his strength and he'd harmed the kid. "Did I hurt you?" he couldn't help but ask in worry.
Surprised, Hunter made eye contact with Bucky. "No... I mean... I... not badly... I just..." He wasn't sure how to put what he felt into words, but tried anyway. "I've... never had anyone do that before," he admitted.
"Ah..." Bucky nodded, wrapping an arm around Hunter's shoulders and pulling him close in a side-hug before reaching up and ruffling his hair. "Well, behave yourself and I'll never have to do it again." He smiled to take any sting out of his warning, though he meant it. "C'mon. Let me show you where you'll be sleeping when you're here...then if you feel up to it, maybe we can watch a movie or something."
Hunter nodded. "A movie sounds good," he agreed. Actually, just having something else to focus on for a while sounded good. He didn't want to get too caught up inside his own head... though he suspected he'd need to think through what had just happened and how he felt about it.
Bucky smiled, keeping his arm around Hunter as he led him to the room that would be his. He didn't make any effort to move away, even after showing him the room, leaving it to Hunter to step away if he felt uncomfortable. He genuinely liked Hunter and wanted the younger man to know it.
Hunter couldn't quite bring himself to step away, not all that used to people showing him affection. Still, he couldn't help asking, "So... is everyone else going to have guessed this happened?" He was reasonably sure that was why the Director hadn't made any comments about him taking off.
"Director Coulson likely figured it out...it's the way he deals with his children, but it is also the way he deals with subordinates that he doesn't want to fire, but who he can't punish in an official capacity." Bucky was honest, but he managed to make it sound like something normal and nothing to be embarrassed over. "As for the others, I wouldn't doubt some might figure it out because they've been in your position, but they won't say anything if they do figure it out. It's an unspoken rule in the family that the punishment is between the one receiving and the one dealing and everyone else keeps quiet unless the one receiving says something." Throughout his explanation, Bucky kept his arm firmly around Hunter's shoulders, giving a gentle squeeze when he felt the younger man tense up.
"Oh." That did make Hunter feel a bit better. He already knew he wasn't being singled out, but it helped to have that confirmed again. He actually wasn't sure what to say... how to put the questions he had into words. Finally, he picked the one that sounded the easiest. "So... what happens now?"
"Now...?" Bucky glanced at Hunter. "...Now you've paid for the action you took, I've forgiven you and the slate is clean between us; and you stay here with us for as long as you want to work with us. And you continue to answer to me if you do stupid crap that could kill you. But hopefully, you'll think before that becomes an issue." Bucky grinned. "What movie do you want to watch?" He'd led Hunter into the elevator so he could show him the common area and so they could watch movies there. If someone joined later, he thought it could only be a good thing for Hunter to meet the others.
"I don't really get much chances to watch movies, so anything is fine," Hunter said, going willingly along with Bucky.
"Yeah...I don't often watch them unless Steve or Tony is with me...Tony seems to think he needs to bring his dad roaring into the twenty-first century and I often get dragged along for the experience." Bucky sounded amused rather than irritated at Tony's antics. "Let's see what was left out..." He picked up a case and looked at the cover. "The Princess Bride? JARVIS? Whose movie is this? And would you recommend it?"
"I believe the movie belongs to Natasha, sir. And it actually has more action and adventure than the title would suggest. You might like it," JARVIS answered drolly.
Bucky glanced at Hunter and shrugged, as if to ask if he wanted to watch it.
Hunter shrugged, sitting down on the couch with barely a wince. It hurt, but not enough to make sitting down too difficult. "I heard it's a good movie. Might as well put it on." He leaned back. "So... when you refer to Rogers as Stark's dad... that's official, right?"
Bucky put the movie in, then sat down next to Hunter and leaned back. "Yeah. They made it official and legal a few months ago...right after Tony was in that accident that put him in the hospital and no one knew if he'd live or not. But Steve's been acting as Tony's dad for quite a long time before then. Once they got over the initial 'head-butting' stage, anyway."
"Must be good for them," Hunter commented, without any inflection in his voice. Bobbi and Mack were probably the closest he had to family.
"Yeah..." Bucky slanted his head and watched Hunter out of the corner of his eye. "Tony needed someone who cared what he did and who was willing and had the ability to step in when needed....and Steve needed to be able to do that for him. So it is good for them."
He waited a second or two before continuing, "Most of the relationships in the tower are like that- Chosen family. Those who needed someone to care and those who needed someone to care about.... You stay here long enough, you'll become part of the family too...I think it must be in the water or something..." Bucky teased gently, but he obviously approved of the situation.
"It might not be for everyone." Hunter wasn't feeling sorry for himself. He knew he wasn't easy to get on with at the best of times and he couldn't imagine anyone being willing enough to put up with him. Half the time, he wasn't even sure why Bobbi and Mack did... even if he did do a good job of hiding his insecurities. "But hey... it works for you guys and doesn't seem to have a detrimental effect."
Bucky watched Hunter closely, trying to figure out if the comment was meant to warn him off and indicate that Hunter was one of those it wouldn't be for... or if it was a case of 'the lady doth protest too much'. Shrugging slightly, he slid his arm behind Hunter, on the couch - not touching, but close enough that it would be a reminder that Bucky wasn't going anywhere. "I guess. It does work for us...and even those who seemingly don't need a 'family' have been drawn into it, despite themselves. You and Bobbi and Mack are like that, though, aren't you? You can't say you three aren't family...you certainly bicker and relate like family does." Bucky's voice was amused. "And when the six of us worked together, we all meshed very easily, even with the bumps and snags, so much so that we're all hanging out like we've known each other for years."
Hunter shrugged, his eyes on the screen... though he was aware of Bucky's arm just behind him and had to fight the urge to actually lean in close... an urge he struggled to understand. "I don't think there's that many who would actually put up with me." His tone was dry, more humorous... even if the sentiment behind it was actually serious.
Bucky actually laughed at that. "Um...Have I actually introduced you to Tony, kid? I'm sure you've heard of Loki? Heck, even myself... we aren't the type of men that many people put up with either. Except for those who've actually taken the time to get to know us. I think I could put up with you just fine. It's obvious your Bobbi and Mack do as well. Give them a chance and the rest of the tower will be treating you like one of their brothers or cousins in no time."
"Maybe." Hunter didn't want to commit himself more than that... in case things went wrong... even if he could see Bucky's point. "There's already a lot of people here that seem to be in their family units," he commented. "Are they all official?" He couldn't help sounding curious.
Bucky didn't push. He did slant his head at the question, though. "Yeah...I guess they are now. I think Bruce was working on making it official for him and Leo. That would pretty much leave just Jemma and I without any legal ties...." He frowned at that, wondering if it bothered the young scientist; she did still have her own parents, after all, so it wasn't like she needed to be adopted. He was surprised that it sorta bothered him. He shoved that feeling down, though, feeling it was uncharitable...especially when his brother Steve made such an effort to include him in family gatherings with Tony and Pepper.
"I guess you have Rogers and Stark, though," Hunter commented. "I noticed you mentioned your nephew..."
"Well, yeah. Every way but legally, we're family. But you were asking about officially..." Bucky reminded with a crooked smile.
Hunter nodded. "It does seem like a good setup here." He sat back, almost subconsciously shifting a bit nearer to Bucky.
"If it weren't for this setup...my family...I'm not sure I'd even be alive right now..." Bucky admitted softly, letting his arm shift lower so that it was actually wrapped around Hunter's shoulders. "There's something to be said for having a group of people who are willing to protect you from anything and everything, including yourself." He sat and watched the movie for a few seconds. "You'll change your mind about it, kid..." he said with a tiny smirk. It wasn't clear if he was talking to the movie kid, who wanted to make sure there was no kissing in the story his grandfather was reading, or Hunter.
It was about four days later and the way the three new agents were fitting in with everyone else, Bucky would have never known that they weren't part of the family unit. Skye had located another HYDRA cell in a location where there were possibly more children being held. The others wanted a chance to rescue kids too, though, so a different team of six was going in. Coulson, Grant, Fury, Trip, May and Skye were going this time.
Steve, Natasha and Bucky had been requested to meet with an ambassador from Wakanda, although they didn't have any idea what the man wanted to discuss with them.
Bruce, Jemma and Leo had plans to work in their lab on some experiment and from the sounds of it Loki and Thor would be joining them. If Bruce hadn't been involved, there might have been more worry about the fact; but as he was in charge, no one thought much about it.
Pepper had left early that morning on a business trip to London and wouldn't be returning for several days...that explained Tony's woebegone look. He glanced around at the remaining agents who hadn't already been given an assignment: Clint, Brock, Hunter, Bobbi and Mack. "You all want to practice together?" he finally asked hopefully.
Hunter shrugged. He was getting antsy without much to do and the idea of being able to get some training in was a good one. "Sounds like a plan to me," he said. He briefly wondered if they were allowed... and then decided that was a silly thing to worry about. After all, training was a normal part of working as SHIELD agents.
Clint looked up from his own breakfast and mumbled around a mouthful of eggs, "Count me in."
Brock winced at the archer's manners and shook his head. "Sure. Why not...could be fun."
Bobbi glanced up from her cup of coffee then looked at Mack and Hunter. After hearing Hunter agree and seeing Mack nod agreeably, she smiled. "Thanks for asking us."
Bucky finished up his breakfast and carried his dishes to the sink, washing them carefully before turning to face his nephew and the man he'd taken on responsibility for. "Sounds like a good idea. Don't want to get rusty. Just be careful...." he said, knowing Tony's penchant for wanting to try out his 'new inventions'.
"Of course," Hunter said... though he wasn't really that worried. Unlike most of the others, he hadn't yet got to the point where he knew he had to be careful... and really, how much trouble could they get into? He finished his own breakfast, stepping round Bucky to wash his own items up.
"Good..." was all Bucky said; but he said it in a tone that all the 'kids' knew to mean he expected something to be done.
Clint glanced from Bucky to Hunter, then from Tony to Steve, curious if Steve would add anything to Bucky's admonishment, and then glanced at Fury and his own father, wondering if they had anything to add. He didn't say anything though.
"I know you'll all be careful," Coulson commented, stepping over to squeeze Clint's shoulder gently. "I'm sure it won't be long before we come back."
"You know what we expect of you," was all Steve said, stepping over to hug Tony tightly.
"Of course." Tony gave his father a big, innocent grin that made everyone who knew him wince internally.
"I'm always careful," Clint added to Tony's words.
Brock just smiled crookedly at the other two men. He hadn't quite got used to having someone care about what he did beyond his job. He didn't have to hear Fury say it to know what was expected of him, though. It was still difficult to believe his actions mattered that much, but he didn't say anything.
Bobbi smirked. "I'll keep them in line, sirs..." she said teasingly, winking at Mack and Hunter.
Hunter snorted something that sounded a lot like, "Yeah, right."
Fury wrapped his arm around Brock's shoulders. "We're not going to be long, but I don't want you to do anything dangerous."
"Yes, sir..." Brock answered quietly, almost shyly. Of all the 'kids', he was the one who still seemed unsure about his place in the family; and uncertain about what he was doing there.
Bobbi watched him curiously, wondering how much of that was because he hadn't expected Fury to adopt him and was still adjusting to that and how much was remnants of the brainwashing and the fact he didn't trust himself. She sighed softly, taking another sip of her coffee.
"Well, if we're going to make our meeting in time, we better go..." Bucky said to Steve and Natasha, reaching over and giving Hunter a quick squeeze on his shoulder before grabbing his brother and his 'niece' and dragging them out of the kitchen.
Tony watched as his uncle literally dragged his father out the door then laughed. "What time do the rest of you go on your mission?" he asked curiously.
"We'll need to leave fairly soon," Coulson said. "But we'll have the comms with us... if anything does happen, don't hesitate to call one of us." Because he knew that they'd rush back straight away if their kids needed them.
"Pshw..." Clint waved a hand negligently. "Of course we will. But nothing is going to happen, so you can complete your mission without any worries about us." He grinned widely at his father.
Hunter wasn't sure what prompted Brock to latch onto the idea... he knew he himself was getting restless. At least, that was what he told himself was the reason behind his quick agreement to go look into the suspected HYDRA base.
Bobbi and Mack had gone to join Bruce and the others in the labs, otherwise Hunter knew she would have tried to stop them. As it was, it turned out that it wasn't Bobbi who stopped them. The moment they tried to leave the tower, JARVIS (who had apparently been listening to their plans) put the tower on lockdown.
Tony was frustrated. "C'mon, J! We're just going to check it out...we aren't going to engage! Tell him, Clint!"
"Yeah, J! Why did you lock us in?" the archer groused.
Brock looked around the training room nervously. "Did he lock the entire building?"
"No, Agent Rumlow, just the room you four are in. I have informed Doctor Banner, as well as Agents Simmons, Fitz, Morse and Mackenzie. They have been instructed not to help you escape."
"Damn," Hunter said, before looking at Tony. "Don't suppose there's any chance you could override it?" He didn't hold out much hope, though. It had quickly become clear that JARVIS could, and did, act against Tony's orders when the AI felt it necessary.
"It wouldn't do any good. He's likely gone into the mode where the only one he'll listen to is Steve..." Tony winced.
"Ugh! What are the chances that we'll avoid being in trouble, since we never actually made it out the door?" Brock asked nervously.
When Clint and Tony just stared at him, he slumped then sat on the floor against the wall.
Having successfully completed the mission, Coulson and the others met up with Bucky, Natasha and Steve and made their way back to the tower. Coulson didn't know about the others, but he was looking forward to spending some time with his family and it was good to know they'd managed to get the children freed and to a medical facility.
They parked the vehicles in the garage and then took the elevator to join the rest of the family.
Bruce was waiting for them at the elevator on the common floor. He'd sent Mack, Bobbi, Jemma and Leo out to a movie, telling them not to return until he called them. He gave all the men a sympathetic look, then turned to Natasha, May and Skye. "I sent four of the others to the movies. You might want to join them."
Coulson could tell immediately that something had happened with their four charges and he turned to Grant, placing a hand on his youngest's shoulder. "Why don't you go as well?" he suggested. "Or maybe you and Trip could do something?"
Grant glanced at Trip, then at the women, "I think a movie might be a good idea," he said, turning and taking Skye and Nat by the arm and heading back to the elevator.
"Yeah, a movie might be fun..." Trip agreed, taking May's arm and following the other three.
Steve waited until the rest were out of earshot and then turned to Bruce. "Did they have to get locked down?" He assumed their kids hadn't managed to leave the tower, since they would have been contacted otherwise.
"Oh, yeah..." Bruce sighed. "I'll let JARVIS explain, since it was what he overheard that caused him to do it. I didn't even realize anything was up until I realized I couldn't go in to ask Tony a question I had. The lockdown is only able to be lifted by command of one of their fathers...least that's what J told me. I'm just going to go hang out in my lab if you need me. Let me know when it's safe for the others to come home and I'll call them." Bruce gave his family a weak smile, then turned to head back to his lab.
"All right... thank you." Coulson smiled at Bruce.
"JARVIS? What happened?" Steve asked the AI.
"Sir found a potential HYDRA base after their training session," JARVIS answered. "They had decided to leave and go to the base, which is why I activated the lockdown."
Bucky raised an eyebrow, glancing at Steve and the others. "I'll follow your lead on this. Since they never actually went, it will be more difficult for me to just step in and tell Hunter he's still in trouble. My gut is screaming at me to take care of it as if he'd gone ahead and done the deed, since the only reason they stopped was because of JARVIS preventing them. Problem is, I never thought of the possibility that he'd try to do something life endangering, but be stopped by someone else before he actually did it, so haven't actually talked with him about the consequences for that being the same. If he knows your kids are all in trouble, though, he isn't as likely to fight me if he is as well...."
Bucky looked askance at the others. "That's assuming your kids are in trouble?"
"If JARVIS hadn't stepped in, I have no doubt they would have gone ahead and done it," Steve said. "I know we try to keep punishments private, but maybe we need to make it clear, on a united front, that they're all in trouble before we split up to take care of them?"
Bucky nodded, not surprised that his brother agreed with him. "That would probably be best. Like I said, Hunter is less likely to balk or argue if he realizes I'm not singling him out...plus I get the feeling Brock still isn't quite settled into his new role, so it may make it easier for him to accept as well, if he knows it's the entire family and not just his own tiny segment of family..." He looked at Coulson and Fury, wondering if they agreed.
Fury nodded his agreement. "I'm sure their nerves will be working them over by now," he commented. "Even if Brock and Hunter might not know what to expect exactly."
While talking, the group had moved to the room the kids were shut in and Coulson addressed JARVIS. "JARVIS? Can you unlock the door, please?"
"Of Course, Director," the AI intoned. The door quickly slid open, revealing the 'captured' occupants on the other side of the door.
Brock was still sitting on the floor, back against the wall, knees up with his arms wrapped around them as if trying to protect himself. His face was a mixture of nervousness and shame.
Clint was sat beside Brock, an arm wrapped around him as he apparently tried to calm him down. "He's not going to just make you leave.... He adopted you legally and said he wouldn't give up on you, no matter what." Clint wasn't nervous in the least, although when he looked up at his father, shame was in his eyes.
Tony was standing near the door, fidgeting; although it seemed to be more of a case of Tony's natural inability to stay still than nerves. He couldn't meet Steve's eyes when the door opened, though, so he obviously was ashamed of himself.
Hunter could tell, easily, that the others knew they were in trouble... and although he wasn't sure where he stood, there was part of him that pointed out that, yes, they might have been prevented from doing it... but it was still something dangerous that they knew they weren't supposed to do.
Fury stepped over to his son and sat down on the other side of him, wrapping his own arm around Brock's shoulders as he spoke in a voice that, for all it was serious and firm, was still filled with affection. "Clint is right. You might be in trouble, but you're still my son."
Coulson stepped over to Clint and gently squeezed his son's shoulder, letting him know without words that he might be in trouble... but trying to comfort Brock was the right thing to do and he was proud of him for that.
Steve moved to Tony's side and wrapped his arms around his son without hesitation. For all that Tony... all of them... was in trouble, right now, Steve was just relieved they'd been prevented from leaving and that they hadn't come back to missing or hurt children.
Bucky was relieved that Hunter at least didn't seem overly scared. Of course, he couldn't really tell what he was thinking, so he wasn't sure if a lack of fear or nerves was because he didn't believe he was in trouble like the others, or if he realized he was wrong and was ok with the fact that he was in trouble for it. He walked over to Hunter, placing a hand on his shoulder, but not moving too close; not certain if the other man would accept him treating him like they were as emotionally tied to each other as the other men obviously were.
Once Fury had moved to take care of Brock, Clint had backed away, standing up so that he could hug his own father. It was times like this that he was grateful Coulson had found him when he was still a kid and he hadn't quite experienced all the harshness in his life that would have made being able to believe he was wanted too difficult.
Brock, for his part, couldn't help but turn into Fury's embrace and hide his face against the older man. As difficult as he was finding it to believe that Fury still wanted him...he wanted to believe it so badly, he was willing to grab onto any sign that it was true. In this case, that meant latching onto the older man with a death grip of a hug.
Tony turned so that he was facing his father and wrapped his own arms around the man, still not able to look him in the eye, but always ready for whatever affection Steve wanted to give. He finally sighed softly. "It was a bad idea from the start. We knew it. There's no excuse..." he said dejectedly, depressed that he found himself in trouble for something that he'd been corrected for so many times before already. He hadn't even been able to be upset at JARVIS' interference and ignoring his commands...since the AI had been right.
Hunter hadn't been nearly as relaxed as he'd tried to pretend to be, but when Bucky placed a hand on his shoulder, he felt at least some of the tension go out of him... even as he tried to make at least a little light of the situation. "I don't think I have to ask if we're in trouble..."
Coulson wrapped his arms around Clint, hugging his son tight and kissing his head. "I love you very much," he said softly, even though he knew that Clint didn't need the reassurance.
Fury wrapped his arms around Brock in a tight hug, gently stroking over his back with one hand. "It isn't the end of the world," he said, his usually gruff voice gentle. "Making mistakes doesn't mean you get kicked out of the family."
"What made you want to do it in the first place?" Steve asked, his voice gentle rather than accusing, as he held his son tight.
Bucky squeezed Hunter's shoulder gently, drawing him in a bit more closely, giving the kid a tiny smirk. "You'd be right."
"I know, dad..." Clint sighed, relaxing into Coulson's embrace then laughing softly. "This was all so stupid..." he finally admitted.
Brock just shivered slightly at his father's words, pressing closer. "Sorry..." he finally murmured; although it wasn't clear if he was apologizing for what he had been planning to do, or if he was apologizing for being so clingy.
Tony winced at his father's question, still having a hard time meeting his eye, and bit his lip, still ashamed and behaving much like a child who'd done something wrong and now had to explain his actions. "Um...It wasn't a really good reason..." he finally muttered, his face turning bright red. "…I got bored and started nosing around...found the information on the HYDRA base...mentioned to Clint that it might be fun to go take it out...." His voice trailed off.
Clint picked up where Tony left off. "...I thought it sounded like a marvelous idea, because I was as bored as Tony was...and since the only other idea I'd come up with involved a rather dangerous game of tag...I was all ready to join him."
Brock mumbled into Fury's chest, "I told them that if they were going, they had to take me or I'd tell on them..." His voice sounded sheepish and embarrassed; obviously, if they were worried about him telling on them, then it was something none of them should be doing.
Hunter sighed. "I'm not even going to ask if it makes any difference whether we were actually stopped or not..." He glanced over at the others and sighed. "And I was all for the idea. You know. If we're coming clean and all."
Bucky's smirk was closer to a grin when he answered, "I think you already know the answer if you did ask...but I'm glad you owned up to it."
Steve sighed, tightening his embrace around Tony. "It sounds like none of you were thinking clearly."
"Or at all," Coulson said wryly, not loosening his hold on Clint.
Tony squirmed, but didn't actually try to get away from Steve. "Daaaad..." he finally whined, not having anything to say against the comments. Coulson was actually closer to the truth; he at least hadn't stopped to think. He just wanted to not be bored.
Clint snorted, unable to argue with his father, but reluctant to say he was right.
Fury heard Brock's comment and sighed. "Was that when JARVIS stepped in?"
Brock nodded. "..Uh huh..." His voice was muffled against his father's shirt.
Tony couldn't help it and actually giggled...then stuck his wrist in his mouth to try and stifle the sound, his eyes wide and surprised. But the whole situation was just so ludicrous and even though he knew he'd likely be bawling his eyes out in about ten minutes, he couldn't help it. He giggle-snorted again, then started to laugh.
Clint glanced at his cousin like he'd lost his mind.
Brock slowly sat up and away from his own father and stared at Tony in befuddlement. "What the heck is so funny?!"
Steve raised his eyebrows at his son. "I'm sure you don't find it funny you're in trouble... what are you laughing at?" He wasn't scolding. Even though Tony was in trouble, Steve would never punish him for finding something funny... even if it wasn't the best time.
Hunter glanced at Tony too, confused and almost wondering if the other man had cracked. Unconsciously, he shifted closer to Bucky a fraction... not because he was worried or frightened, but because there was a small part of him that felt comfortable enough to seek comfort from the oher man.
"N...no..no, sir. Not funny I'm in trouble." Tony finally managed to get enough control over himself that he could speak without laughing, although his words came out in short gasps as he fought off more giggles. "Just...Arguably some of the brightest minds around in this room... and not one of them was turned on." He snorted again and threw his hands up over his face in an attempt to stop.
Clint winced then shook his head. "I think five hours of being locked in this room musta got to him... he's in hysterics..." he muttered.
Bucky winced, his eyes going wide at that. "You were stuck in here for five hours?!"
Brock snuggled against his father. "We told JARVIS not to interrupt you cuz what you were doing was really important. Bad enough you had to come home to this...we didn't want to mess up your mission or meeting...." he admitted softly.
"If it helps, sirs, I was monitoring them the whole time and if they were ever in any danger, I would have immediately contacted you and allowed Doctor Banner in to see to them..." the AI said, almost cautiously.
"I think maybe we should retire to our floors to take care of this," Steve said, his arms still around Tony. "I know you did what you thought was best, JARVIS," he added to the AI. "And I am glad you stopped them."
"But it wouldn't have mattered if JARVIS had called us," Fury said, holding Brock close. "We would have come back straight away."
Coulson didn't concern himself with reiterating those words. His son knew he'd drop everything the moment Clint needed him. It wouldn't be the first time he'd done that.
"Thank you, sirs," the AI said quietly.
Tony wriggled and squirmed out of Steve's grip, fidgeting and bouncing on his toes. "I'm really not running, dad. But I really gotta go!" He winced then was running out the door.
"I told you not to drink eight cans of Mountain Dew!" Clint yelled after him then snorted. "I'm ready to go to our floor..." he muttered softly to his father.
Brock sighed, ignoring his cousin's antics. "Can we go to our floor now, sir?" he asked quietly.
Bucky looked at Hunter, shifting so his arm was completely around the younger man's shoulders. "Let's go, kid."
Shaking his head, Steve followed after his son.
"All right." Coulson wrapped an arm around Clint's shoulders to guide him from the room.
Fury stood and reached a hand down to help Brock up, before wrapping his arm around his son's shoulders and guiding him from the floor as well.
Hunter sighed, but didn't protest leaving the room and actually leaned a little against Bucky.
Bucky led Hunter to the elevator, noting all but Tony and Steve walking along with them. No one said anything, but although the walk was quiet and somber, it was relaxed. It was obvious how much the older individuals cared about the younger; and vice versa.
Bucky and Hunter were the last of the group of six to reach their floor and Bucky made sure to smile and say, "We'll see you in the morning, gentlemen," as first Coulson and Clint, then Fury and Brock, got off the elevator. When it was just him and Hunter, Bucky pulled the younger man tight against him in a gentle hug, before asking, "Do you understand why you're in trouble? And do you accept it?"
Bucky had no intention of letting the younger man get away with what he'd tried to do...but if he didn't understand or accept that trying was as bad as actually doing, Bucky would need to address his views on the matter before addressing the actual matter.
Hunter leaned a bit into Bucky without any conscious thought. "Since you already told me that doing dangerous stunts was going to get me into trouble, and it's not like we chose to stop on our own, I think it's fairly safe to say I know why. As for accepting it?" He shrugged. "I agreed to answer to you. I can't say I'll always agree that it's necessary, but at least on this occasion, I had plenty of time to realise we were all in trouble. And why."
Bucky nodded, relaxing slightly when Hunter admitted he knew, understood and accepted. It would make this much smoother, even if it wasn't easy. He squeezed Hunter's shoulders in a gentle hug. "I'm glad you understand...and proud of you that you can admit you were wrong." He finally released the younger man enough that they could exit the elevator, giving Hunter a crooked smile. "C'mon, then. Let's get this out of the way so we can actually do something enjoyable tonight; like eat dinner and maybe play cards or something. If you're interested." He carefully took Hunter by the wrist and led him into the living room, where he sat down on the couch. He pulled Hunter to stand beside his knee, but didn't immediately tip him over. "You have anything you want to say or add before we take care of this?" he asked quietly.
Hunter followed Bucky without protest, though he couldn't quite force himself to take the step he knew he should and 'help' with his own punishment. "I knew it was wrong. I know I shouldn't have chosen to go along with it." He hesitated before adding, "I could say it wasn't meant to be dangerous, but... I'm not going to make excuses. I know it was wrong."
Bucky gave Hunter a sympathetic look. "It never is meant to be dangerous..." he said with a soft huff; he could have been talking about Steve's past escapades...or better yet, his own. "…But the fact is, it was dangerous and all of you knew it would be dangerous...and 'not meaning' something seldom, if ever, got one out of trouble when someone could die.... Believe me. I know." Bucky smiled. "It's bad enough putting your life at risk when it is a planned mission with back-up and support from off-site." Knowing that Hunter wasn't arguing and wouldn't argue, and knowing that he wanted to get this over with so he could actually just spend time with the kid and relax (he actually liked Hunter and liked spending time with him), Bucky carefully tugged the younger man over his knee, pulling him in close to his torso and wrapping an arm firmly around his waist to hold him in place, before quickly divesting him of any protection from clothing.
Hunter didn't protest being moved over Bucky's knee, though he did blush at the almost-whimper that slipped out. A bit hesitantly, he reached down to grip Bucky's leg. He didn't think he'd fall... but there was something comforting about the contact.
Bucky couldn't help but react to the whimper, or the grip on his leg, reaching over and rubbing Hunter's back gently. "It will be alright, son...we'll take care of this, then everything is forgiven and you get a clean slate."
"I... know..." Even if he wasn't sure he really believed it, Hunter knew that Bucky was telling the truth. He leaned his head against his arm, waiting nervously, wanting this to be over with... because he didn't like Bucky being unhappy with him and he wanted to make things right.
Bucky sighed silently. He hadn't liked having to take care of Steve in this manner and he didn't like it any more with Hunter; but he liked the idea of those he cared about being hurt even less. He would do whatever it took to keep his family safe. Knowing it needed to be taken care of soon, he shifted his hand so he was holding Hunter tightly against him, then raised his other hand up and let it fall with a firm smack.
Hunter winced, trying his best to hold still, though he knew that likely wouldn't last. He tried not to make a sound, but couldn't stop the slight exhalation of air from his lips in an almost silent gasp.
Bucky wasted no time in covering Hunter's backside with the firm smacks, making sure every inch of skin from top to mid-thigh received attention. As soon as he'd finished the first circuit, he began over at the top. "I know I haven't known you long, but I've known you long enough to care if something happens to you and to do something to prevent it if I'm able. Remember that..." he said softly, his smacks never faltering or changing in strength.
It didn't take long for Hunter to begin shifting slightly, wincing as Bucky began covering skin that had already received attention. "It's... not always easy to remember that..." he managed to get out; but what he really meant was that it wasn't always easy to believe that. He could believe it in the others. Just the way they'd interacted when their parents had come to the room told him that.
Bucky knew what wasn't being said and it saddened him. "Well, I hope you can come to remember it," he said, meaning that he hoped Hunter would come to trust him, "because I'm not going to stop reminding you whenever necessary; but I'd much rather spend time with you doing fun things."
Bucky wanted to stop, but Hunter was still trying to remain aloof and unaffected and Bucky couldn't allow that. Steeling himself, he began a third circuit.
Hunter wanted to tell himself that was all Bucky meant, but he couldn't shake the feeling that the other man was responding to what he didn't say. And he didn't know how to react to that, because apart from Bobbi and Mack, he wasn't used to people being there for him...
Unable to help the groan that escaped him when Bucky began the third circuit, Hunter felt the first tears beginning to prick at his eyes.
"You know...my blood family is all dead. I was taken...turned into the soldier...before I could get married or have kids…Probably a good thing, considering what I did. What I mean to say is that Steve...the rest of them...are family I chose. And you and your team have become attached to them...to me. You are important. And I've lost too many important people in my life. I won't lose you too. Not willingly." Bucky wanted to say that he felt like Hunter was already joining the ranks as family and that he cared for him like he was family...but didn't figure Hunter was ready to hear that and wouldn't appreciate it. He steadily moved his hand from top to mid-thigh, hoping that he'd get through to the younger agent and wouldn't have to start a fourth circuit.
Hunter wasn't sure what broke his resistance... whether it was Bucky's words (and how much he hoped the other man was telling the truth and that he was important), or the steadily increasing pain from the spanking... but either way, it was all getting to him. He felt the tears come... until he was sobbing quietly into his arm.
Bucky knew the minute he'd broken through Hunter's 'walls' and immediately stopped spanking, gently righting the younger man's clothing, then lifting him up and pulling him onto his lap so that he could hug him. "I can't imagine what any of us would have done if we'd come home to find the four of you gone..." he said brusquely, his arms tightening at the thought.
Hunter winced as he was moved, but was surprised to find himself on Bucky's lap. Slowly, hesitantly, he wrapped his own arms around the other man... but loosely, not sure if he'd be pushed away or not. "I'm sorry..." he said, his voice soft.
Bucky sighed, hugging just a bit more tightly. "I know. But what I really want is for you to be careful..." He smiled crookedly. "I want you to be safe...at least as safe as we can be with the jobs we have."
"I think you might be the first person to tell me something like that." Hunter tried for flippant, but had the feeling it sounded more... lost... forlorn.
Bucky didn't know how to respond to that, so he just held tighter, rubbing Hunter's back gently. "Well, I mean it..." he finally got out, his own voice a bit sad.
"I want to believe that," Hunter said, very quietly, after a long hesitation. "I trust you. I do." He shrugged. "But I'm not used to people being that concerned. I'm not used to someone stepping in."
"Well, it'd be nice if you didn't have to get used to my stepping in," Bucky teased lightly...although he was fairly certain Hunter would test the boundaries again. "But you may as well get used to it." He smiled, reaching up and ruffling Hunter's hair. "C'mon, kid. Let's order a pizza and decide on a movie to watch. I think we'll be staying on our floor tonight, if that's ok with you."
Brock was nervous. He was fairly certain that Fury wasn't going to send him away for this infraction; it wasn't like he'd actually succeeded, after all, and the man had said numerous times it didn't matter what he did, he would never abandon him. He believed that. It was difficult, but he did believe it. It didn't make the walk to the elevator with Clint, Coulson, Bucky and Hunter any easier, though. He was grateful that Fury had kept his arm around him, because he had seriously considered running. They had dropped Clint and Coulson off first and Brock couldn't help but snuggle closer to his father as the nerves got stronger the closer they got to their floor. When Fury finally led him off the elevator and into their living room (and when did he start viewing Fury's assigned floor as his own?), he couldn't help the tiny whimper-whine that escaped.
He blushed darkly. "I'm a friggin adult, shouldn't be this nervous about..." He couldn't even use the word spanking.
Fury looked at his son, squeezing him gently. "Spanking might not be an official punishment, but it is a personal one," he commented. And, of course, Fury had only had to use it once... whereas the others, though they certainly didn't find it easy, were more used to the way their fathers did things.
Sitting down on the couch, Fury gently tugged Brock down next to him. "Is there anything you'd like to add to what I already know?"
Brock looked up, then looked down again in shame. "No, sir. Knew you wouldn't approve...knew it would be dangerous, knew I shoulda told them no, or at least told them I wasn't going...instead, I told them they had to take me with. I knew better..." He let out a tiny sigh then gave a wincing smile. "Think part of me didn't think you'd find out and the other part knew you would find out, but wanted to see what you'd do...so..." He shrugged slightly, but not enough to dislodge his father's arm.
Fury nodded, squeezing Brock gently. "Testing me is a natural part of how our relationship has changed and I had the same thing with your brother. I am going to spank you... but for what you were prepared to do. Not because you feel the need to test me, whether consciously or unconsciously."
Brock nodded, before thinking maybe a verbal answer was expected. "Yes, sir..." he said quietly, his voice catching despite his efforts to keep his emotions under control. "…I understand…"
Fury nodded, squeezing Brock gently. He thought about pointing out that the other man didn't need to call him sir, but he didn't want his son to feel uncomfortable. His 'cousins' had adapted fairly quickly to using the word dad, but every person was different, after all. "We'll get this over with and then spend some time together," he said, moving his son over his knee.
He didn't think he'd ever be able to understand it...he had been so nervous before and reluctant and...quite honestly scared. The minute Fury put him over his knee, it all disappeared and a sense of calm came over him; he shivered at the sudden change and blushed darkly. He couldn't honestly say he wanted this to happen, so why his body reacted the way it did completely baffled him. Deciding to think on the whys later, he twisted his fingers into his father's pants leg to ground himself in the here and now and not let his mind wander....
...Wander to his blood parents, who had been very much like Fury in their methods of correction...his parents, who had died when he was still young and needing them; even if he was old enough to be able to get legally emancipated and join the army instead of being shunted into a group home. Maybe that was why he was able to calm down when in this position...it reminded him of a time when he still had the love and support of his parents. Although wasn't that what Fury was offering him now? More than offering...actually following through? He shook his head, trying to concentrate...had his father just said something?
Fury rubbed Brock's back gently a moment or two before speaking quietly. "I didn't adopt you just to give you something to ground yourself. I adopted you because I wanted you as part of my family. I know that, after everything, believing that is hard. But it's true. I took that step and you are my son. Not only that... but you're a part of the whole family, too." He paused to allow that to sink in and then bared his son.
His own memories, combined with Fury's words, caused Brock to have little control over his responses. When cool air breezed over his bared skin, he couldn't help the whine that escaped and shifted his grip on his father's leg.
Deciding that no more needed to be said right now, Fury lifted his hand and brought it down in a firm swat, careful that he moderated his strength, before he repeated the swat on the other side.
"Ow..." Brock hissed. He saw no reason to pretend none of this was affecting him and things were so confused in his head right now, he didn't even want to try. Wriggling slightly in an attempt to tame the sting, he gripped his father's leg even more tightly.
Fury didn't waste any time settling into a rhythm, landing the hard, firm swats down to Brock's thighs, making sure he covered every inch of exposed skin, before starting over from the top. He was still careful not to use his full strength and he held his son close against his stomach, making sure Brock wouldn't fall.
Brock didn't speak after the first swat, but the tiny grunts, whimpers and whines steadily grew in loudness. By the time Fury began over, the vocalizations were accompanied by squirming and tiny jerks of his body, as he attempted to get away from the punishment.
As he completed the second circuit and began a third, Fury began speaking. "Putting yourself in danger is never going to be acceptable, Brock. If it happens again, this is where you will end up. Because no matter what happened to you in the past, you are not expendable. It is never going to be okay for you to put yourself in the kind of danger that's unnecessary and avoidable."
"I...I know. I'm sorry!" His voice came out part whine, part gasp before he slumped over his father's knee and began to cry. It wasn't heaving sobs or even loud cries. Instead, they were soft and accepting. He understood why he was being punished...he also understood what Fury was promising. He had someone that he would be accountable to now, who actually cared about him as a person. He had a father. "I'm sorry..." he repeated again, this time his tone grateful and accepting.
Fury stopped and wasted no time in gathering his son into his arms, cuddling him tightly on his lap. He rubbed Brock's back gently, giving his son time to calm down. "You are important," he said softly, reiterating what he'd been saying.
Brock didn't feel the need to answer that. As sore as his backside was, he could literally feel how important he was to the older man. Instead, he just concentrated on breathing...and snuggling as close as he could to his father. Soon, the crying calmed enough that he was only sniffling every few seconds and shivering a bit less than that. He felt like he should be embarrassed...ashamed...at sitting on Fury's lap, craving attention like a toddler, especially after having just been corrected in the manner he had been, but he didn't feel either of those emotions. Well, he did feel shame; but not at having been punished...just at having done what had earned him the punishment. He winced, admitting hesitantly, "I'm so confused...."
Fury didn't so much as loosen his hold on Brock, instead tightening his embrace. "What are you confused about?" His voice was gentle, as he tried to make it clear that Brock could talk to him about anything. He stroked his son's hair and back, giving him his full attention.
"How I'm not upset or embarrassed that you just spanked me...again. Instead of fighting you, telling you that you have no right to do it...it feels like you have every right to do it and I...I don't want to fight you at all." He frowned, not sure it was making any sense...and he didn't know how to tell Fury that his parents would have done exactly what Fury did. He didn't know how to tell the man that he was actually starting to believe he would be a father to him. Sighing softly, he just continued to cuddle as close as Fury would allow.
"I think that means you're beginning to accept the change in our relationship," Fury said. "You are my son. Officially and personally. That's not going to change. I wouldn't have adopted you if I didn't want you." Part of it was guilt due to how much Brock had been failed by them... the rest of it was genuine care and affection on Fury's part for him.
"I...I believe you..." Brock whispered, relaxing into his father's arms. Maybe Fury had been right. Brock had been testing him. Testing to make certain he wouldn't be locked away as unable to be fixed or saved; or sent away. It had been hard to believe at first; considering how long he had been missing and no one noticed, it was hard to believe that Fury cared that much now... but he was beginning to see how much the older man regretted not realizing Brock had needed help and he was doing everything he could to make up for it now. Brock finally leaned back so he could look into his father's face and give him a teary smile. "I believe you." Wincing slightly at the sting that he could still feel in his nether quarters, he carefully stood up and pulled his pants back into place. "Can we..." He bit his lip, trying to decide if he wanted to take the next step to accepting Fury's care or not, then decided he did. "Can we watch a movie here...Dad?" he asked hesitantly; not certain if Fury was ready for him to take the next step, even if he had decided he was ready.
Fury smiled, standing up and wrapping his arm around Brock's shoulders, hugging him close to himself. "Of course we can, son." By using that term of address with his son, he hoped that Brock would realise he wanted Brock to use the word 'Dad'.
Brock smiled back, relaxing against his father. "Is Trip gonna come home soon, or will it just be us?" He liked his brother and wouldn't mind spending time with him. At the same time, he had to admit the thought of being able to spend alone time with Fury would be nice too.
"I imagine he'll be out for a while longer," Fury said. "We could watch a movie together, just us, and then when Trip comes back, maybe we could have a meal out, all three of us," he suggested.
Brock nodded, turning so he could give his father a proper hug. "I'd like that..." he said softly.
Fury hugged Brock tightly. "What movie would you like to watch?" he asked.
"I dunno...do you have a favorite?" Brock asked quietly.
Coulson said a polite goodbye and, "See you later," to the others as he guided Clint off the elevator when they reached his floor. He squeezed his son gently, pressing a kiss to his head, before guiding him through to the living room and sitting down, pulling Clint down to sit next to him and hugging him close. "Is there anything else I need to know?" he asked quietly.
"Well...not about our plan to take off. Tony came up with it and I agreed... I might have egged Tony on to come up with an idea, though..." he admitted quietly.
Coulson sighed and tightened his embrace around Clint. "I don't need to tell you how we would feel to come back and find you all gone," he said softly. "I imagine you were bored, but you also know what's safe and what isn't for you to do. And you know the decisions I expect you to make when I'm not around."
"Yeah, dad...I know." Clint looked at his father, ashamed and apologetically. "There really is no excuse."
Coulson nodded and pressed a kiss to his son's forehead. "We'll deal with this and then it'll be over," he promised, before moving his son over his knee.
Clint didn't argue, actually helping his father get him in place. There really was no excuse. He was grateful his father was the type to forgive and forget, instead of holding grudges. "Thanks, dad..." he said softly, as he reached down to grasp his father's leg.
"I love you, son." Coulson rubbed Clint's back gently, before baring him. "I never want to risk losing you. We spent so much unnecessary time apart before." He shifted his hand lower, lifting it and bringing it down in a firm swat.
"Way too much time," Clint agreed quietly, wincing when the first smack hit. "A lot of it because of my own stubbornness… I'm sorry, dad...." Clint swallowed, feeling more ashamed at the completely unnecessary actions they were going to take. "I guess I really owe JARVIS one for stopping us..." he admitted breathlessly.
"I'm glad JARVIS did stop you, because losing you would be devastating. Not just to me." Coulson didn't raise his voice. Instead of angry, his voice was loving... affectionate... gentle... But the swats he delivered were firm, making it clear to his son that putting himself in unnecessary danger was not acceptable.
"I know..." The contrast between his father's loving words and tone, and the firm smacks that really were painful, even if they wouldn't cause lasting hurt, quickly broke through Clint's defenses; not that he had many up. The fact that he knew he was in the wrong and the fact that he loved and respected his father so much and didn't want to worry him or make things worse led to him dropping his defenses fairly quick. As a result, his eyes were already teary. "I'm sorry..." he whispered.
"I know, son. And when we're done here, it'll be over. I'll never love you even slightly less," Coulson promised, keeping the swats at the same level, but starting over, covering skin that he'd already swatted.
"I know, daddy..." Clint answered with a tiny whimper, gripping his father's leg more tightly. "I know...I'll always love you too..." he choked out, before the tears began streaming from his eyes. He didn't try and get away. He knew he deserved what he was getting.
Coulson had to force himself to land the few extra swats, unable to force himself to continue even though they'd had to deal with this on more than one occasion. He quickly gathered Clint into his arms, hugging him tight and kissing his head. "You are so important..." he said softly, reiterating how much he loved his eldest... and how he'd never stopped, even after finding out Grant was his biological son. Because Clint was his too. Just like Natasha was still his daughter.
"I know...and I'm sorry I did this to you...I know you've been so much more careful, not taking chances, because of us kids. I need to be the same...not take unnecessary risks...not plan them..." Clint admitted with a quivery voice. He snuggled closer to his father.
Coulson hugged Clint tightly. "When I first found you... first asked you to live with me... I knew then that I wanted you as my son. And I knew that I wasn't going to do anything that would take me away from you. Up until that time... it was difficult to care about my own safety. But you were important enough for me to care. Right from the start."
"I know, daddy..." Clint whispered. "I know and I was and am grateful for that....because I couldn't take losing you. But knowing that, it's selfish of me to not be careful myself..."
Coulson pressed an affectionate kiss to Clint's forehead. "I think you became too used to taking chances with your own life when I wasn't around to step in... and then when you stayed away for so long," he said, his voice loving rather than scolding. "But those kind of chances aren't going to be acceptable... and I'm going to put a grounding in place." Though, really, the grounding was less about punishment and more about reaffirming the bond and allowing them to spend more time together.
Clint stiffened for a second, before slumping against his dad with a groan. "Well, can't say I didn't ask for it." He sighed. He smiled, though. He knew when his dad grounded him, it was always used as an opportunity for bonding with his children; and other than the fact that they weren't given a choice and the wording- which made him feel like a rebellious teen- Clint actually didn't feel punished by being grounded at all. "How long, dad?" he asked quietly.
"I think we'll wait and see how it goes," Coulson said, gently stroking his son's hair. "This isn't the first time we've had to deal with this... and I know you would have gone ahead with it if JARVIS hadn't stepped in."
"You're right. I would have," Clint admitted, with more than a little shame. Finally, Clint stood up and fixed his clothing, before giving his dad an indecipherable look and sitting back on his lap with a tiny wince. Hugging his father tightly, he whispered, "I love you, dad."
Coulson drew Clint in close immediately, kissing his head. "I love you, Clint. There is nothing that could ever change that," he promised, hugging his son tight. "Having your siblings doesn't make me love you any less."
"I know, dad...I've never thought otherwise," Clint tried to reassure his father. "And I'm happy that I have a brother and sister. More than happy. They're at the movies, though, so we have a bit of time just us. You want to watch a movie too? Or...maybe you could read to me...like you used to do when I was still a kid and you first adopted me..?" he asked hesitantly.
Coulson smiled, threading his fingers through Clint's hair. "I can do that," he said softly. "I miss the times when we used to sit together like that. Anything in particular you'd like me to read?"
"Do you remember the first book you read to me?" Clint asked, almost shyly. "That became one of my favorites..."
"I still have it." There were a lot of good memories attached to that book, and others that Coulson had read to his son. "Would you like me to read it in here? Or move through to the bedroom?"
"You used to read it to me before I went to sleep, so..." Clint gave a tiny smile, standing so Coulson could go find the book.
Coulson kept the book on the bookcase, along with the others that had special memories linked to them, and headed over there. He carefully took the book out and then carried it over to Clint, wrapping an arm around his son to lead him through to the bedroom.
Tony walked out of the restroom and walked straight into Steve, who was quietly waiting outside the door. "Uh, sorry bout that..." he muttered in embarrassment. Without being told to, he shifted close enough to his father that Steve could take hold of him and lead him to the elevator.
Steve wrapped his arm around Tony's shoulders, guiding his son into the elevator. "Is there anything else I need to know?" he asked, while waiting for it to reach his floor.
"Let's see... I came up with the idea to look up HYDRA bases...I came up with the idea to go infiltrate it and possibly take it down...I'm the one that insisted we not wait for anyone else and go on our own...granted, Clint was agreeing with everything, but it was still my idea. I wouldn't have stopped even if the others had disagreed with me, so I owe JARVIS a big thank you..." Tony was trying for factual and not act guilty; the problem with that was it caused him to sound flippant and not sorry. That wasn't the case, but it sounded like it.
Steve guided Tony off the elevator when it reached his floor. "Was this just because you were bored? Or another reason as well?" He squeezed his son gently, wanting Tony to know that he was still loved... even though he was in trouble.
Tony answered quickly...too quickly. "Well, we were really bored...." He didn't actually answer the question, even though he knew it wasn't something his father would let go.
Steve looked at his son as he led Tony into the living room. "You said that already, but I know that wasn't the only reason." He sat down on the couch, gently tugging Tony to sit down next to him. "I love you. No matter what. Whatever you tell me won't change that."
Tony bit the inside of his cheek while giving his father a crooked grin. Part of him wanted to bluff his way through the conversation, hiding the true reason behind joking and avoidance. It's what he would have done in the past, when he didn't want his real personal feelings to be known. But his relationship with Steve had grown a lot, even in the last few months, and he wasn't entirely certain that approach wouldn't hurt his father. In fact, he was fairly certain it would hurt him and Tony didn't want that. "I know, dad..." he finally said quietly. "…I...I don't know how to say it without sounding really pathetic, though and don't really want to say it...." He winced and squirmed uncomfortably.
Steve tugged Tony in so that his son was on his lap and he could wrap his arms around Tony, cuddling him close. "You haven't been on any missions since you were electrocuted," he commented. "Was it because you felt useless and wanted to do something to help?"
"Why? Do I look like I feel useless?" Tony couldn't look his father in the face and squirmed again. Steve had obviously figured it out, but Tony...much like a child that didn't want to admit he was tired and needed to go to bed...wouldn't admit his father was exactly right.
Steve tightened his embrace around his son and kissed the back of his head. "I think you've been restless and bored... sick of having to watch what you do and rest up because of what happened," he said gently. "Am I wrong?"
Tony sighed and slumped against his father, subconsciously pressing into the kiss and snuggling. "You're right," he finally admitted softly.
Steve gently stroked his son's hair. "I understand how you feel." It was, after all, a feeling Steve had had plenty of experience with before the serum. "But feelings like that... you should come and talk to me about them. I will always listen to you."
"I know, dad...it's just hard...for so long, I didn't have anyone I could tell that to and now I do, but..." He shrugged slightly. "I know Pepper and Rhodey would listen before, but they wouldn't have understood. And I know you’ll listen now, but…."
"I'm not expecting perfection, son," Steve said gently. "I just want to make sure you do know... I'm here for you. No matter what. I love you. I know how messed up your life was while you were growing up. You should have had a whole family who cared about you and knew how to show it. But you do now. And I promise that it doesn't matter what happens, or how many mistakes are made... it's not going to change anything between us."
"Ok...I know," Tony said softly, with a tiny smile. "I guess I earned myself a sore butt, too..." He sighed, ducking his head sheepishly. "You know... As often as I push you to demonstrate your willingness to take care of me...I don't really want a spanking...any chance..?" He turned hopeful puppy eyes toward his father.
"I'm afraid you've earned a spanking." Steve pressed an affectionate kiss to his son's forehead. "Your cousins are in trouble, too, and I know none of them will have been let off. And you know dangerous behaviour is unacceptable."
"Yes, sir..." Tony sighed sadly, but he wasn't too upset about it and was able to give Steve an apologetic smile as he stood up and carefully lay across his father's lap. He held himself up just enough for his father to be able to bare him.
Steve wrapped an arm around Tony's waist, gently pulling his son against his stomach, before baring him. "I love you, Tony. It would devastate me if anything happened to you." He rubbed his son's back gently a moment or two before bringing his hand down in the first firm swat.
Tony hissed out a tiny little grunt, before saying, "I know, dad...I don't know why I constantly make you have to prove it to me, when I know..." He winced then almost whimpered. "I'm sorry..."
"We'll deal with this and then you'll be forgiven," Steve promised. "We won't bring it up again and we'll be able to spend time together." He began swatting his son's backside, working his way down to Tony's thighs. He was careful not to use anything like his full strength, but the swats were firm.
Tony was sorry for having added even more stress into his father's day. Even though they had been stopped before they could actually follow through on their plan, he knew that if JARVIS hadn't stepped in and stopped them, they would have done it. And he knew it was a needless and dangerous plan. He knew he deserved every swat. He knew he had been wrong. And he was very thankful that his father was able to forgive and let him start fresh, every time he messed up. To his embarrassment, it didn't take long at all for tears to go streaming down his face and for him to start emitting tiny little cries with every swat.
He wasn't sure why this always affected him so strongly and left him reacting like a child every time; it was painful, but certainly not that painful...he'd had worse pain, after all. Some of it caused by people he loved and who (he'd thought) loved him. So why Steve spanking him broke him so quickly, every time, he wasn't sure. It was embarrassing, his reaction, so he gripped Steve's leg tightly and tried not to be too loud with his crying; and tried to keep his face hidden.
Steve was well aware of how the spanking was affecting his son and had no intention of being too severe with Tony. At the same time, he knew he needed to make sure Tony thought the next time he was tempted to endanger himself... and so he started talking. "Including me, you have a whole family who would be devastated if anything happened to you. You are incredibly important to everyone here. This punishment isn't about causing you pain. It's to help you stop and think next time... to remember how much we all love you and how much it would hurt to lose you."
And the words were all it took for Tony to give in and submit the rest of the way. He felt the same way about everyone else- his family- and didn't doubt anything that Steve said. If he had doubted, it wouldn't have affected him the way it did. Tony became boneless over Steve's knee and just cried...loudly...while apologizing over and over, promising to be good, pleading with his father- not to end the spanking, but to never give up on him. "I love you...love all of you...daddy!" he finally gasped out, then stopped talking and just lay there, accepting whatever his father felt he deserved or needed.
Steve stopped, the spanking having reached the point it needed to, and gathered his son into his arms, kissing Tony's forehead and cuddling him close. "I love you... so much," he whispered in his son's ear. "Even if there are times you doubt it, there is never going to be a time that isn't true."
Tony hummed against Steve's neck, indicating he had heard. He curled in on himself, as if trying to fit as much into his father's embrace as possible, and just snuggled. He never doubted his father's love when they were together. Even when Steve had just finished blistering his backside, he never doubted his love when they were together (and if Tony were honest, Steve making the effort to correct and discipline him made him feel loved). It was when they were apart and Tony was alone to think on things he should probably forget when he had the most problems believing it...which inevitably led to him...
"Sorry I was testing you again," Tony said softly, his voice equal parts shame and embarrassment with a little self-irritation in the mix.
Steve gently stroked Tony's hair, his arms tight around his son. "You need to be able to believe I mean what I say. You've had so many people let you down in the past. I didn't punish you for testing me, son. I know that there are times you need to push the boundaries. It doesn't matter how much you push. I am never going anywhere. Nothing could make me love you less than unconditionally."
"I know you weren't, I just..." Tony leaned back to look into his father's face, but couldn't quite manage. "It's just not very fair to you...doing things I know you wouldn't like or approve just to...I dunno...say, 'here I am, dad! Look at me doing exactly what you said not to. What are you gonna do about it?'" Tony winced visibly, hiding his face against Steve's neck again. While he'd never actually thought like that during one of his 'disobedient moments', he couldn't help but see that was exactly what he had been doing, now that he was 'caught'.
Steve kissed the top of Tony's head, continuing the gentle stroking of his hair. "You haven't had a very good home life, son. Before I came into the picture, you were doing all sorts of things that could get you killed. And there was no one who was able to stop you. I do understand why you've been testing me. It isn't going to make me give up on you. That doesn't mean you won't be punished when your behaviour calls for it... but I know why you're doing it."
Tony sniffed then finally faced Steve, his eyes teary. "Did you ever think, when we first met, that you'd be adopting me, let alone... You know..." He motioned between them, before whispering, "...spanking me for disobeying you?" He swallowed then grinned crookedly. "I mean, between what we both said to each other and how insubordinate I was to everyone...I would have never guessed."
"I didn't expect it straight away, but I knew you were important to me early on," Steve said honestly. "It didn't take long for me to decide that I wanted you as part of my family. And the only reason I didn't adopt you earlier was because I didn't know if you wanted that... even though I saw you as my son before then."
"I think part of me wanted it before I even knew I wanted it..." Tony admitted. "I was afraid to want it...even now, sometimes, it scares me how much I want us to be family and am afraid I'll lose it." His voice was soft and he wiped his eyes, before carefully standing and fixing his clothing. "When you step in and- take care of me- it makes me less afraid of that."
Steve stood and wrapped his arm around Tony, squeezing him gently. "You're never going to lose me," he promised, pressing a kiss to his son's head. "I'm always going to be here. I'm never going to stop loving you. And everyone here is a part of our family too. And they're not going anywhere either."
"I'm trying to believe that all the time, even when you aren't here. Thanks for being so patient..." Tony muttered, turning to hold onto Steve tightly. "Want to watch some old movies? I can run commentary; answer questions if you have them. Or, if the movie is old enough, you can answer my questions..." Tony gave Steve an impish smile.
Steve smiled and kissed Tony's head again. "Sounds good to me," he agreed. "And maybe we can eat together later."
"Sounds good, dad..." Tony agreed, finally stepping back. Giving his father one last grin, he started listing off possible movies they could watch, waiting for his father to show interest in one so he could ask JARVIS to play it.