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-eighth in the Redeeming Grant series.
Disclaimer: We don't own anything from Agents of SHIELD or Avengers Assemble and we're not making any money from this fic
Summary: Sometimes sterner measures need to be taken.
Warning(s): Spanking; spoilers for Agents of SHIELD seasons one and two
Co-Author’s Website:BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page
OBSTINATE, YOUR NAME IS…
Grant glanced to his left and saw Brock hiding in a clump of foliage. Tony was somewhere above them, ready to play sniper if needed. He briefly thought about calling back to the tower for backup...but quickly dismissed the idea. The three of them had followed a man that both Grant and Brock recognized as a HYDRA spent. They'd just spent the better part of an hour watching the entrance to the building he'd entered and no one else had shown up. If the three of them couldn't take out one man, they were in sad shape.
"Ready?" Brock's gruff voice carried through the comms.
"I am...." Grant answered briefly.
The HYDRA agent was moving as if he were a casual bystander, heading towards the building. As he got closer to the entrance, though, he began moving with more purpose, reaching one hand under his jacket as headed inside... though he left the gun he obviously carried hidden.
"Are we going to do this, or not?" Tony's cocky and amused toned came over the comms.
Brock shook his head, but smiled. "We haven't seen anyone enter or exit that building other than the HYDRA guy in the last hour and he's gone in and out several times. I'm getting bored watching him."
Grant snorted. "Let's do it, then..."
Without any more discussion, Brock and Grant began to move forward. "You sure you're ok hanging around outside to make sure he doesn't sneak away, Tony?" Grant asked, just before stepping through the door.
"I'm sure." Tony watched as people walked by the building on their way to other places. "Need to make sure he won't have reinforcements sneak up on us, too."
"True..." Brock muttered, as he followed Grant into the building.
Grant could hear talking, although he couldn't understand what was being said through the wall. The HYDRA agent was holding some type of device up against the wall and wearing earbuds. He grimaced to himself. They'd caught a spy, then. Or almost had. Just then, the spy looked up and right at Grant. "Crap, guys...I just got made...."
The HYDRA agent, having spotted Grant (and recognizing him) quickly made Brock as well. Pulling out his gun, he fired off a few shots before he began running from the building.
Grant had quickly taken cover, noting that Brock had done the same, and drawn his own weapon to return fire...he soon realized that the spy had run, though and quickly took off in pursuit.
"Tony, he's heading your way," Brock had barked into the coms, giving chase himself.
Tony moved in closer, prepared to use a repulsor on their target to knock him out. The minute he saw the HYDRA agent run out of the building, he took aim. There were too many civilians walking in front of the building, though and the spy was using them to keep himself covered. Tony had finally gotten a bead on the man when the spy looked straight at him, gave an evil grin, and dropped something onto the ground before shooting himself in the head.
Tony couldn't help the yelp that escaped at the sudden development...and then he realized what the spy had dropped. "Bomb!" he yelled, simultaneously diving down to throw himself over the object in an attempt to protect civilians and his teammates...hoping that the suit was enough protection to keep him alive, even if he was injured.
"....n....To......ony......Tony! Tony please wake up..." Grant's very worried and scared voice finally jarred Tony from unconsciousness. His helmet and suit had been removed, Brock holding them protectively while hovering over Grant's shoulder. Both of them were covered in cuts, scrapes, minor burns and soot.
He heard sirens, saw people moving in his peripheral vision and heard crying. Wincing and fighting back his own tears, he swallowed and tried to sit up while asking through a raw throat, "How many...?"
The others had hardly missed what was going on and as soon as JARVIS had alerted them to the bomb going off, the rest of the Avengers and SHIELD team had raced towards the building where the explosion had happened.
Steve couldn't help but see Tony and he quickly headed to his son's side, fighting down waves of panic that threatened to engulf him. "Tony..." Leaning down, he began checking his son for any serious injuries.
Fury and Coulson moved to their sons' side, worried, while other members of the team went to see if they could help any of the survivors.
Grant, who had been having difficulty maintaining his professional calm in the face of his cousin's being blown up (they had needed to manually pry the suit off of Tony to check for injury), was finally able to gain control over the panic that he'd been fighting as soon as Steve arrived and took over. Having his own father stepping in to take care of and support him likely was the biggest help in his not losing it. He gave his father a weak smile, his eyes worried and filled with guilt. He already knew there were at least ten casualties and, logical or not, he couldn't help but feel responsible.
Brock looked up at Fury, relaxing slightly when he realized that there was someone else that would have his, Grant's and Tony's backs. He shifted closer, looking back down at his cousin. His eyes were hooded, but it was obvious he was worried and fighting his own guilty feelings.
Tony blinked as Grant's face was suddenly replaced with Steve's and he automatically lay back down instead of continuing his attempt to sit up. He knew his dad wouldn't want him moving until he'd been medically cleared to do so and habit had him obeying his father before any order had actually been given. "Dad..?" he finally croaked out with a wince. "The civilians...." he managed to whisper, his worry clear in his tone.
Coulson didn't say a word, but just reached out and wrapped his arms around Grant, hugging him tightly to himself. This had hit home how easy it would be to lose his son and all he could do was hold Grant close and let himself feel that his son was safe.
Fury placed a hand on Brock's shoulder, squeezing him gently. "What happened?" he asked in a low voice.
Steve crouched down next to his son, taking Tony's hand in his and waving Bruce over to check his son out. He looked down at Tony, the worry clear on his face. "There are medical services here and the others are doing what they can to help," he said softly.
Grant turned into his father's embrace, holding onto him tightly and hiding his face against Coulson's neck, breathing in deeply. As always, just being held by his father calmed him considerably, but the scent that was uniquely his father helped the most, chasing the odors of the explosion and wounded away for a moment and giving Grant time to catch his breath.
Tony let out a tiny sigh and relaxed slightly. Things were being taken care of. He lay still as Bruce ran the scanner over him, knowing Steve wouldn't allow him to help until he knew the extent of his wounds.
Bruce had come over and quickly asked questions about how Tony felt, while going his exam. Finally he turned to Steve. "Amazingly enough, the suit protected him, despite being point zero for the explosion. There are no broken bones...just cuts, burns and bruising, which we can fix up back at the tower. He also has a slight concussion. If he helps with looking for survivors or cleanup, I suggest he be given a job where he can sit still."
Brock bit his lip, looking at the ground before looking back up at his dad. "We observed a HYDRA spy for about an hour...determined that he was alone and decided to bring him in. Grant and I went into that building after him...he was spying on someone, but we don't know who; before we could find out, he made us and ran. We gave chase. Tony was about to knock him out when he dropped what ended up bring a bomb in front of the building we were in and shot himself....Tony realized what he'd dropped right before it exploded...threw himself over it in an attempt to save the civilians nearby and us..." He motioned to Grant and himself.
Taking a deep breath, his voice hitched. "Grant and I were far enough away, we only received superficial wounds. The civilians near the bomb didn't...weren't..." He swallowed again. "We weren't even sure if Tony had survived, even with the protection of the suit...." His voice caught and he very obviously forced tears back, frustration and guilt bringing his emotions to the surface.
Coulson hugged Grant tightly, pressing a kiss to his forehead. "I love you... I'm glad you're safe," he whispered, a very real note of fear in his voice. His only thought had been that he couldn't lose Grant... not again.
Steve nodded, holding tightly to Tony's hand. "I'm sure we can find a job like that." He didn't suggest that his son go home; he knew that Tony would want to help and provided it was safe, he wouldn't force Tony to stay behind.
Fury responded by wrapping his arm around Brock, pulling him in close, hearing and seeing the effects of what had just happened. "I'd like you to get checked out," he said, "and then you can help with searching for survivors and clean-up..." His voice was gruff, but the concern and worry was obvious.
"I love you too, dad..." Grant whispered against his father's ear, kissing the older man on the cheek. "I'm sorry...." He didn't elaborate on what he was sorry for.
Tony gave his father a grateful smile then smiled at Bruce. "Whatever you say, doc... I'll just plant myself over by one of the emergency vehicles and take down names and information so they can coordinate locating survivors and reuniting them with family..." His whisper was rough and the fact he didn't argue was a huge clue that he wasn't feeling as good as he wanted to pretend.
"Yes, sir..." Brock muttered, but didn't move. Being held by his father was the only thing keeping him from losing it at the moment. He was balancing on a wire and could fall either way; either breaking down into crying or screaming in fury and looking for something to take his anger out on. Neither would be very productive. He noted the rest of the family was busy clearing debris in an effort to find more survivors, though he feared they would just find more casualties. The serious and subdued look on all their faces told the story better than anything else- there had been a lot of casualties. Clint had a saddened look on his face as he pulled out a child's toy and then began digging more furtively, yet carefully, afraid he might find the owner of the toy. Jemma was helping Bruce take care of wounded her eyes tearing up as more and more people who couldn't be helped were brought out and set aside so that those who could be helped would receive treatment. May, Natasha and Skye had been attached to equipment so that they could begin clearing areas that the machines couldn't reach easily and which were too small for larger men to fit into. He could hear Thor and Loki, caught occasional snippets of conversation between Bucky and someone else- he assumed Lance, Trip and Leo were somewhere close by. He noticed Mack and Bobbi clearing the area in front of the building that he and Grant had first entered to capture the HYDRA operative; both of their faces were subdued and serious as well, though there was a hint of something else he couldn't place on their faces. Too strung out to try and figure out what they might have found to put such a look on their face, he turned so that he was fully facing his father and just wrapped his arms around Fury, leaning into him.
Coulson held Grant close, fully aware that his son was going to be affected by what had just happened. He kissed his son's head again and spoke in a soft voice. "When you're feeling up to it, I'd like Bruce to check you out... and then we can help with the relief effort."
Steve leaned in to kiss his boy's head. "I'll stay with you." Even though he knew he could help with the relief effort, the rest of the team were doing just that... and Steve's priority was Tony. He could tell his son wasn't feeling good and he wanted to stick close to him.
Fury tightened his hold on Brock, rubbing a hand over his hair and back as he cuddled him close. As much as he wanted his son to get looked at and treated if it was necessary, he could tell that Brock was close to losing control. So Fury kept right on with what he was doing; holding Brock, letting his son feel his presence.
"I'm ready now...I want to help as soon as possible..." Grant admitted, hugging his father tightly one more time before stepping back and looking for Bruce, still a bit disoriented.
Tony smiled sadly. He knew his father's abilities would be useful elsewhere, but he was putting him first. He also knew that he'd scared his father badly and he felt horrible about that fact. "I love you, dad...and I promise I will send for you if anything at all happens to make me feel worse....and I promise that I won't do anything but sit in a chair and write down names, addresses and information for locating missing people. If you need to help find..." He swallowed hard, tearing up at the thought of the damage done. "....if you need to help find survivors or non-survivors..." His hoarse voice fell to a barely there whisper.
Brock swallowed hard, slowly regaining control over himself only because his father was there and stabilizing him. "I'm...I'm ok, now. Thanks, dad... Do you want me to get checked out? Before we begin looking?"
Coulson nodded, wrapping an arm around Grant's shoulders and steering him in the direction that Bruce was. "Can you check out Grant, please?" he requested. "If I know how he is, I can make sure he's where he can safely help." Even though Coulson sounded calm enough, his arm was tight around his son's shoulders, the tension there indicating just how badly he'd been scared.
"You are my priority, Tony," Steve said. "The rest of the family is working on helping the survivors. If I need to join them, I will... but right now, I'm going to stay with you. I love you."
Fury nodded, still holding onto his son. "I do want you to get checked out," he said firmly. "I know you want to help, but I want to make sure you're not going to hurt yourself doing that."
Tony blinked back tears. "I know, dad...I'm so sorry to put you through this again..." He swallowed again with a wince.
"Of course," was Bruce's immediate reply.
It didn't take him long...somehow, Grant and Brock were far enough back in the building that they had been shielded from the main blast. The damage they had taken was from being covered by the falling debris of the parts of the building that had exploded inward or collapsed. And even that had only covered them superficially. They had been able to dig themselves out. As soon as he was done with Grant, he had motioned Brock over to examine him.
Finally finishing, Bruce looked at the two anxious fathers. "They have cuts, abrasions and mild burns- like Tony. No concussions. If I didn't know how badly they would want to help in the rescue, I'd tell all three to go home, wash up and put medicine on the wounds and rest. Since I do know how important helping is to them, I'll suggest they stay next to you while helping and that as soon as the cleanup no longer has need of so many people, you take them home and do what I've just suggested. If they show any signs of tiredness or other odd behavior, take them home immediately."
Kissing Tony's cheek, Steve helped his son up, wrapping an arm around Tony's shoulders so that he could guide his boy over to one of the emergency vehicles. Steve moved carefully, so that he didn't jar Tony, and the looks he gave his son were filled with love and concern.
Coulson nodded, arm still settled around Grant's shoulders. "Thank you, Bruce," he said, his voice quietly grateful, before he gently steered Grant away to help.
Fury rested his hand on Brock's shoulder, squeezing him gently. "Let's go and find something we can help with," he said, his own worry and concern showing through even though he didn't always show his emotions.
It was a week later and Bruce was completing his final check-up on Grant, Brock and Tony- making certain that their cuts, abrasions and burns hadn't become infected. Tony's concussion was healing well and Bruce was ready to give him the all clear for 'active Avengers duty'. He was considering recommending that the three get counseling for what they had experienced, however. He had noticed- and he was certain he wasn't the only one to notice- that all three men were more reserved than usual. More subdued. Not themselves. He sighed. He wasn't entirely sure there weren't hints of guilt in the men's behavior; survivor's guilt most likely.
Odd thing about that- two other members of the team were behaving similarly and since they hadn't been at the scene of the explosion when it had occurred, that just didn't make sense. He was keeping an eye on it, wondering if he shouldn't bring it to Coulson's attention. Shaking his head, he smiled at his last patient- Tony. "Everything is fine. You can be back to your normal self...." he said with a hint of fondness. "All of you can."
Grant smiled back. "Thanks, Bruce." He couldn't help but glance at his father, hoping that Bruce's pronouncement would take some of the worry out of the other man's eyes.
Brock glanced at his father in the same way, his own smile crooked.
Tony didn't just glance at Steve. He made a typical Tony comment. "That's great news, bro! Maybe now dad can relax and stop looking at me like I'm going to keel over at any moment..." he snarked fondly, the look he gave Steve belying any hint that he was agitated at Steve's concern or mother-henning. Truth was, Tony soaked up concern and mother-henning like a sponge.
Coulson wrapped an arm around Grant's shoulders, pressing a kiss to the side of his head. "That's a relief," he said quietly, hugging his son tightly to himself.
Fury nodded his agreement, hand resting on Brock's shoulder. "I'm very glad to hear it."
Steve didn't say anything merely wrapping his arm around Tony and hugging him in close, letting his actions speak to how relieved he was.
Tony snuggled in close, letting out a tiny sigh. He was pleased that his injuries had healed so quickly; he hated worrying his father and the fact that he felt already felt guilt for those that had lost their lives made seeing Steve's worry even harder.
Grant wrapped his own arms around his dad and held him tight. "I know this has been difficult. I'm sorry to put you through so much worry again."
Brock glanced at his own father, his gaze apologetic and somewhat guilt filled. "What Grant said. I hate making things rough for you...." he said softly.
Tony finally stood tall, asking a question that he knew all of them wanted an answer to. "Memorials for those who weren't as lucky as us....do...do you think we'd be welcomed to pay our respects?" His voice was soft and sad.
Steve kept his arm tight around Tony's shoulders as he spoke softly. "I think you would be welcome to pay your respects. We can always go with you for support." In case the guilt became overwhelming...
Coulson held Grant tightly. "I'm glad to have you safe. That I didn't get there to find I'd lost you," he said frankly.
Fury pulled Brock into an embrace. "Worrying about you is part of being your father. I'm relieved I didn't lose you."
Tony nodded. "I'd like that...I think the others wanted to go as well, if I'm not wrong..." He glanced at Bruce for confirmation then looked back at his father. "The first one is this afternoon..." he said hesitantly.
Grant cuddled close to his father, but nodded at Tony's words. He wanted to go to the memorials. He felt it was the least he could do for his failure to stop the HYDRA agent. If he hadn't been so headstrong and had suggested they call for backup instead of doing things on their own, maybe things would have gone differently. Maybe.
Brock, still getting used to having someone that invested in his welfare, couldn't help but hold onto his father tightly in response to the rare (but rapidly becoming less rare) show of affection from his father.
"It is this afternoon, so I'm going to go cleanup. JARVIS, if you could inform everyone else that if they want to attend this afternoon's memorial, they should be ready and waiting in the common room by 2:00?" Bruce addressed the AI.
Steve pressed a gentle kiss to Tony's head. "Is there anything you'd like to do beforehand?" he asked softly, thinking it might be good for them to perhaps have a coffee with Pepper before they went.
Coulson shifted his hand to the nape of Grant's neck, squeezing gently, as he made his suggestion. "Why don't we go and see what Clint, Nat and Bobbi are doing and sit with them for a while?"
Fury still held onto Brock as he voiced his own question. "Would you like to go and see what Trip's doing?"
Tony smiled at Steve, even if the smile was a bit sad, and nodded. "Maybe after I take a shower and get dressed, we can just be together- Pepper, you and me. I know, even though she wasn't there, the explosion and everything that happened after scared her." He glanced at the others, not saying how he knew; Steve would already know that the last few nights, it had been Pepper who woke up with nightmares and sought their dad out in a futile bid not to wake Tony up...since she thought he needed his rest to heal. The fact that Tony would immediately follow her (having not slept at all, his memories of the event keeping him awake) hadn't seemed to surprise anyone, though.
Grant nodded. The idea of just being with family for a little while was soothing to him. On top of that, he was worried about his baby sister. She'd been acting strangely and he didn't think he could rightly lay it all down to his having been directly in the explosion. Wordlessly, he let his father lead him out of the medical area.
Brock nodded briskly, not moving out of his father's arms. "Yeah...let's go find him...."
Bruce watched as the six men left to go find their immediate families, then finished cleaning the medical area and headed for his own floor to see if his son and daughter were planning to go to the memorials...and if they wanted to do something together before hand.
With the final memorial, it was becoming very quickly clear to Coulson that the three boys were feeling guilty. They hadn't been responsible for the bomber's actions... but each of them had endangered themselves and Coulson was fairly certain that each of them felt they should be punished... and if those actions weren't addressed soon, they could end up with the boys acting out to force their fathers' hands.
While Grant, Brock and Tony were with other members of the family, Coulson met with Steve and Fury, quietly talking about what to do and how to handle something they'd had to deal with repeatedly... at least with Tony and Grant.
The resolution that was reached seemed severe to each of them, but they were all agreed that something had to give; and this was an issue that they needed to start heading off.
"JARVIS?" Coulson addressed the AI. "Could you ask Grant, Brock and Tony to come to my living area, please?"
"Of course, Director..." JARVIS responded.
Ten minutes later, Grant was stepping off the elevator, Tony and Brock trailing along behind. All three had uncertain expressions on their face. "You needed us, dad?" Grant asked quietly, nodding at his uncles.
Coulson nodded, standing up and walking over to wrap his arm around Grant's shoulders, drawing him over to the couch to sit down next to him. "We've been talking about how to deal with what had happened," he said gently.
Steve moved to Tony's side, gently guiding his own son to sit down with him. "None of you are responsible for what the spy did," he said. "He was there with a bomb, so the chances are good that there would have been an explosion anyway."
Fury wrapped his arms around Brock to bring him over to sit with him. "The three of you did put yourselves in danger by rushing headlong into a potentially dangerous situation without waiting for backup or even calling for some."
Grant sat next to his father, leaning into him and looking at his cousins. He swallowed when he heard his uncles' words.
Tony nodded slightly at what was said. "He probably would have set it off, or tried to." He didn't sound like that made him feel any better.
Brock swallowed hard. "We didn't think we were rushing into danger...we observed at least an hour before doing anything. We should have called for back-up anyway, instead of being so certain that we could handle it. Maybe if we had, the spy wouldn't have been able to get the bomb out, let alone set it off." By the end, his words and body language were seeped with guilt.
Coulson tightened his embrace around Grant, speaking in a quiet voice. "There are no guarantees that the spy wouldn't have succeeded in setting the bomb off, even if we had been there. But we all understand that logic doesn't help with the guilt. But going after the spy without backup was something you could control."
Steve gently pulled Tony in closer. "It's an unspoken rule that we don't discuss punishments outside of the two who are dealing with it. But on this occasion, the three of you acted together... and this is something we have had to deal with before. Grant... Tony... both of you have put yourself in danger. Repeatedly. And it isn't acceptable. Which means that our response this time needs to be different."
Fury kept his arms around Brock, letting Steve and Coulson explain.
Brock listened, noting Tony and Grant giving each other and their fathers uncertain looks. He gave Fury his own uncertain look. He hadn't had to be reminded repeatedly not to put himself in unnecessary danger...but he had willingly gone along with the other two and knew he deserved to be treated the same as them.
Grant gave his father a worried look. "I know...we know we shouldn't have...."
Tony sighed and leaned into Steve, while asking trepidously, "What are you going to do?"
Steve kissed the top of Tony's head. "What we talked about doing wasn't easy, son," he said, his voice gentle but no less serious. "What happened hasn't changed anything about how we feel about you, but none of us want to risk losing you. Any of you," he added, including his nephews in that.
"We feel that, to make this more effective, we would need to either make use of an implement... or have several punishments spread out over a few days." Coulson didn't say that using an implement had been difficult the last time it had been necessary. "The decision we came to was multiple spankings, one every other day." He held Grant close, knowing it would be difficult for the boys to hear that.
Grant hid his face against his father's chest and whimpered. It said something to the guilt he felt that he didn't protest or argue against the decision.
Brock just looked at his own father with wide, nervous eyes.
Tony wasn't as quiet, although he didn't protest, exactly. "I have a hard time not running when I only have one spanking coming to me...." he whispered, his voice disbelieving.
Brock finally found his voice. "So...we'll be spanked now...and then again the day after tomorrow? But...how many times?" He couldn't help the slight tremor in his voice.
Fury tugged Brock in closer. "We agreed that three spankings would be appropriate." He didn't say how difficult it had been to make that decision; even spanking them once was hard.
Steve pulled Tony into his lap. "I know this is going to be rough on you," he said quietly. "This wasn't an easy decision to make, believe me. But none of us feel that one spanking is going to cut it. And I can't imagine any of you feel that way either."
Coulson pressed a kiss to Grant's head, but addressed his nephews as well. "We all care about you, very much. And I know each of you has a hard time believing that. For the next few days, we think it will be best to have each of you stick close to us. This is going to be hard, but it isn't going to change anything."
Grant swallowed hard and cuddled closer to his father, before straightening his shoulders and nodding. Softly, he admitted, "You're right. I wouldn't have felt one was enough."
"Me either." Brock sighed, even as he leaned closer to his dad.
Tony just whimpered, but he didn't argue against what the other two said. Instead, he held onto Steve tightly and asked, "By sticking close, you mean sleeping on your floors, right?" He was surprised and a bit gratified that his voice didn't come out whiny.
"Actually in our bedrooms, if it's comfortable," Steve said. Although he didn't specifically say so, the comfortable comment was more about Brock and Fury; Coulson had had his children staying in his bed with him more often than not... and Steve had both his son and his daughter doing the same, especially recently.
Fury tightened his embrace around Brock, but didn't say anything, waiting to see how his son would respond to that.
Coulson merely kissed Grant's head, love and affection in every interaction he had with his son.
Grant relaxed into his father's embrace, not surprised or embarrassed at the answer. He'd had a hard time sleeping since the explosion and figured his father probably realized that and wanted to remind him that comfort was readily available.
Tony just snorted softly, admitting, "Considering both Pep and I have been making use of 'Hotel Dad' for the last week, you won't hear any complaints from me!"
Brock bit his lip and gave Fury a hesitant look. "You want me with you at night?" He didn't sound upset...more unsure.
Coulson held Grant close, threading his fingers through his son's hair. "I love you," he said softly in Grant's ear. He knew the next few days were going to be hard, but he wanted to make sure Grant knew that nothing had changed between them.
Steve nodded. "You know you can come to me, any time of day or night," he said simply.
Fury squeezed Brock gently. "I do," he confirmed. "I know you have trouble sleeping at the best of times. I can't imagine this past week has helped."
Brock nodded, wrapping his arms around his father tightly. "Staying with you isn't going to be punishment..." He smiled crookedly. "Thank you...."
Tony nodded in agreement. "I know, dad. So...I guess...now?"
Grant hugged his father tightly before leaning back to hear the answer to Tony's question.
"I think getting it over with is best," Steve said. "We can each go to our floors to take care of this."
Fury nodded and gave Brock a tight hug before standing and helping his son up too.
"Yeah, ok," Tony said quietly and stood up, waiting for his father to lead the way out.
Brock stood and also waited.
Grant remained sitting next to his father. He figured that he'd probably be upended on this very couch, so why move?
Wrapping his arm around Brock's shoulders, Fury guided his son towards the elevator, after exchanging a nod with Coulson and a promise to see him and Grant in the morning for breakfast.
Steve did much the same, holding Tony close as he too entered the elevator with his boy.
Coulson didn't act until the other members of the family were gone and then he turned to Grant with a loving, affectionate look. "I don't think we need to put this off any longer." He still had his arm around his son and simply guided Grant across his lap.
Grant couldn't hide the whimper that he let out, but he didn't really try. Instead, he gripped his father's ankle tightly and closed his eyes. "I'm so sorry, daddy..." he whispered.
"I know, son." Coulson's voice was gentle, warmed through with love and affection. "What happened changes nothing between us. I know it's a long road we're on, but you are worth it. You always will be." Rubbing Grant's back gently, he then eased his son's pants and underwear down.
Grant shivered as he was bared, but otherwise didn't say anything. There wasn't anything to say, really. He felt so guilty at what had occurred, he couldn't have argued if he'd wanted to.
"I love you." Coulson rubbed Grant's back gently a moment longer, before lifting his hand and bringing it down in the first sharp swat. He then repeated the swat, not using his full strength, but making them among the hardest he'd given his son.
Grant couldn't help the gasp that escaped at the first swat. When the second fell, he let go of his father's ankle and his fingers twisted into the fabric of his father's trousers, afraid that he'd bruise the older man if he kept holding on. He couldn't help but tense up in anticipation of the third swat. While he knew his father wasn't swatting him as hard as he could...he could tell the difference between how hard this spanking was compared to all past spankings. It had been mentioned that the three men had felt they'd run out of options- as often as he and Tony had needed to be reminded not to risk their lives- and he knew that the harshness was a response to his father feeling that he hadn't been getting through to him and needed to do so.
The knowledge that he had two more spankings, likely to be just as hard, caused Grant to exhale a tiny little sob and begin to tear up faster than he'd thought he would. He swallowed hard to keep from losing control. He deserved this. He didn't want to make it more difficult for his father by making the other man have to listen to him cry like a baby from the very beginning; have to continue the punishment while listening to him. That wouldn't be fair. It was difficult to keep quiet, though and he wasn't sure how long he would be able to hold out, despite his intentions.
It was hard to force himself to keep going. Coulson had never enjoyed or even got any satisfaction out of punishing Grant; but it was a punishment that worked on his son and pretty much all of them in the tower. Steeling himself, Coulson continued swatting all the way down to Grant's thighs before he started over again from the top, speaking quietly to his son. "I know it's hard, even now, to see how much you're worth... how important you are. I know that you spent most of your life being taught that you don't matter... but you do. You have mattered to me since you joined my team; and more so now, now that we know you're my son who I lost. And I can't lose you again. That would be a blow I couldn't recover from."
The swats, more painful than he had ever experienced by his father's hand, had him squirming by the fourth swat. By the time his father began over and started to talk, only his father's arm around him kept him from squirming right off the older man's lap.
And it turned out he wasn't able to hold out long at all as far as crying. His father's words stoked the guilt he'd already been feeling about his contribution to what had occurred. He knew that he wasn't responsible for the spy setting off the bomb- knew it was likely the man would have set it off whether he and the others were there or not- but he'd felt from the beginning if they had bothered to call for backup like they were expected to that the chance that civilian casualties would have been diminished would have been higher. Even if only because he knew his father or Steve would have arranged for an evacuation near the area of the building. Now his father was telling him that if Grant had died in the explosion, he would have never recovered and the guilt from that just added to the torment. He let out another tiny little sob...then another...and soon he was gasping out tormented cries.
He threw his hand back and tried to cover his bottom, afraid that even one more smack or one more word and he'd completely lose control...and his father would stop and begin to comfort him. He didn't deserve any mercy or comfort. Not this time.
Coulson moved Grant's hand out of the way, holding it against his back, his words working as an emphasis to the swats. "I understand how guilty you feel, son. Calling for backup needs to become instinctual. I was scared I might have lost you in the explosion... and I can't truly explain to you how relieved I was to hold you and know you were safe."
Grant let out a whimpering grunt, still squirming, though he didn't try and pull his hand from where his father placed it. The most pathetic thing about his father's remark was- calling for backup pretty much had become instinctual. They had all three thought about it and thought it needed doing, but all three had ignored that instinct and gone ahead by themselves. What had happened needn't have happened; at least not in the same way it did. Grant's second whimpering grunt was more a whimper than a grunt. He finally forced himself to answer his father, even though he knew chances were he wouldn't be able to hold out afterwards. "I..I know, daddy..." He winced at how childish the words sounded, but continued anyway. "It...we thought about calling for backup; we ignored our instincts...." The admittance made him feel ashamed on top of the guilt. "I never wanted to scare you...to make you feel that way...." He tensed up at the overwhelming urge to submit.
"I love you, Grant." Coulson's voice was entirely honest, filled with love and affection. "You are more important to me than I could ever put into words. Your safety is a priority. You are a priority. Nothing will ever stop that from being true. You need to listen to your instincts next time, son. Not only will it save you from being in this position again... you'll be safe with me. That's more important than anything." He began focusing more of the swats to Grant's sit spots and thighs.
Grant closed his eyes tightly at the words. He wanted to hold onto the guilty pain he'd felt since everything had occurred. He deserved to suffer, like all the other families that were suffering at having lost their loved ones, but his father's words were a balm on an open wound and he found himself responding despite himself. When his father began to focus on his sit spots and thighs, Grant expelled a high pitched whine, kicked his legs a few times at the new focus of pain then went limp. Every smack had become a reminder that his father loved him and he needed to make certain he came home to the older man. It was too much; the last whimpering sob he expelled soon turned into full blown, heartbroken, gasping sobs.
He was now finding it difficult to breathe and he hurt so much inside; the guilt was still there and he didn't know how to deal with it. Like had become the case so often in the last year when he felt lost and unable to help himself, he called for the one person he knew would always help him no matter what. "Daddy....please..." The cry was so soft it almost didn't pass his lips as he choked on his tears.
Coulson stopped, reacting, as he always did, to Grant's tears. Without any hesitation, he drew his son into his arms, hugging Grant tightly and rocking him on his lap. "There is nothing you could do that would drive me away from you," he said quietly in his son's ear. "There is nothing that will make me give up on you. I love you, completely and unconditionally. No matter what."
"I...so many...if I'd..." Grant gulped in air, holding onto his father as tightly as he could. If it hadn't been for the fact he believed his father loved him no matter what, he didn't think he'd be able to handle the guilt of knowing how many people had died. No matter how many times he told himself there was nothing he could do, he still felt like there should have been something he could do to prevent the HYDRA spy from setting off his bomb. If he'd done things differently...called in backup... something.
Coulson pressed a kiss to Grant's head. "I know the guilt is overwhelming, but you can't know for sure that something wouldn't have happened if you had called for backup," he said quietly. "You are not responsible for what the HYDRA agent did."
"I...I know that in my head. It just doesn't feel that way..." Grant admitted shakily, his sobbing having ebbed to a gentle crying as his father held him. "And I hurt you...because I was stubborn and didn't do what I knew I needed to do...I'm so sorry, daddy. Please forgive me...."
Coulson tightened his embrace around his son. "I always forgive you, Grant," he said, his voice loving and filled with sincerity. "There is nothing that would ever cause me to withhold either my forgiveness or my love. Yes, I was hurt... but by the thought of losing you, when I've come so close so many times."
Grant shivered, snuggling as close as physically able, and tried to stop his tears. "I love you, daddy...so much...I'm so sorry I'm such a bad son... I'm so sorry I keep messing up...." He shivered again, taking deep breaths to try and stop the crying.
Coulson dropped a kiss to the top of Grant's head. "You aren't a bad son," he said. "Everyone makes mistakes at times. They don't make you a bad person. There are setbacks and when there are, we need to deal with them. But I know you still carry a lot of wounds from your past. It's still difficult to act in the way you should at times, I know. I understand you, son."
"I love you, daddy..." he said in a tiny voice, finally calm enough to speak without choking on his tears. "Can...can we just stay on our floor tonight?" He didn't even realize that he was referring to his father's floor as 'our'. He just knew he felt more at home and safe when he was with his father than when he was anywhere else.
Coulson nodded, tightening his embrace around Grant and stroking his hair and back in a gentle, comforting gesture. "Of course," he replied. "Would you like me to ask JARVIS to call your siblings, to have them close as well?"
"Yes, sir..." Grant said softly, finally in control of his emotions again. Taking one last shaky breath, he stood up and slowly fixed his pants with a hiss. He was chagrined and ashamed when his eyes teared up again. His father truly had not gone easy on him and the material touching his sore backside was enough to reignite the 'flame'. Swallowing hard, he managed to avoid the whimper that wanted to escape. "May I go wash my face?" he asked quietly.
Coulson stood, pressing a kiss to Grant's forehead. "Of course. I love you," he reiterated, stroking his son's hair gently a moment before lowering his hand so that Grant could go to the bathroom. "JARVIS? Could you ask my other children to come here?" he requested of the AI.
"Of course, sir," the AI answered.
Quickly wrapping his arms around his father, Grant gave Coulson another tight hug before slowly walking to the bathroom to wash his face. If he'd had any intention of hiding what had occurred from his siblings, he knew it was going to be a lost cause- he was walking exactly as if he'd been spanked- but then, he figured it didn't really matter. He wanted his family with him; if they knew he'd been justly punished, then so be it. He did try to walk as normal as possible, though, so his father wouldn't have to feel bad about causing him pain...especially not when he'd deserved every smack he'd been given.
Shortly after Grant had gone to wash his face, Natasha was stepping from the elevator. She'd just finished a sparring session with her 'baby sister', during which she'd noticed that Bobbi had been unfocused, allowing more hits to pass than she would have normally. Natasha wasn't sure she would have come to see their father and brother, if Natasha hadn't given her barely a choice.
Bobbi trailed along behind Natasha; reluctant to come join the rest of the family, but not certain how she would get out of it without drawing attention to herself. Ever since Coulson had 'adopted' her on the camping trip, he and the rest of his family had made a point of including her in every family event. It had been difficult, the inclusion making her feel warm and accepted in a way that she hadn't felt in entirely too long, but also making her feel uncertain and nervous (it couldn't last...it never lasted in the past...it couldn't last now). The explosion had made that feeling of uncertain nervousness grow and it took all her concentration to try and hide her feelings. In a tower full of spies and jaded superheroes, it wasn't an easy feat.
When she and Natasha stepped off the elevator, they went directly to the family room, where she glanced at Coulson and gave him a tiny smile. And then Grant walked back into the room. And it was very obvious what had happened, despite his freshly scrubbed face. She blinked and bit her lip, glancing away uncomfortably, guilt knifing through her conscience for what had to be the millionth time since she'd started caring about these people.
Grant noted Bobbi looking away and at first, he was embarrassed because he thought he was making her uncomfortable; but then he noticed the slightly guilty look in her eye as she glanced away from him and realized it wasn't him causing her reaction at all...or at least it wasn't him causing it for the reason he'd first believed. He wrinkled his nose, concern for his 'baby sister' overshadowing his own guilty feelings for the moment. He glanced at his father, wondering if Coulson had noticed Bobbi's reaction.
Coulson prided himself on his close bond with his family making it easy for him to read when one of his children was bothered by something. If he and Grant had grown close before his son's dual nature had been revealed, there would have been no way Grant would have been able to keep fooling him for so long.
And even if Bobbi had joined the family late, Coulson couldn't fail to notice when she was bothered by something. And it was obvious this was about more than just Grant and the others being caught in the explosion. There was something going on. Coulson was more sure of it than he had been on the camping trip.
Stepping over to Bobbi, Coulson placed a hand on her shoulder and gave her an encouraging smile. "What's on your mind?" he asked softly, trying to give her an opening to talk.
Bobbi blinked, forcing herself not to look up at that. It was irritating, the way she suddenly seemed to lose all ability to lie or hide things when it was this man she was talking to. It took a few seconds for her to regain control over her features, but she was positive until the moment she did that the sudden panic she had felt at his question was clear as day on her face. She could only hope none of her 'family' saw it.
Finally she looked up with a crooked smile. "I...I'm just still getting used to the idea that I actually have a family who cares, now. Other than Mack and Lance, I mean..." That was true, even if it wasn't what she knew he was asking about. (Obfuscating 101: keep as close to the truth as possible when spinning your web of lies.)
Her smile became more shy and she wouldn't look any of them in the eye. "Not exactly used to caring about other people, either, so..." And that was even more truthful. She had been having trouble with everything she did, since she started to care about Coulson and the rest.
Coulson nodded, gently squeezing Bobbi's shoulder. "You're not the only one who's found it difficult to suddenly find yourself a part of the family," he said gently. "Everyone here has issues to work with. The important thing to remember is that you're not going to be given up on, no matter what happens."
Bobbi nodded, glancing away again. She wasn't about to contradict what Coulson said; but then, he didn't know how many secrets she was keeping, either. It was easy for him to say he'd never give up on her when he didn't know half of what she had going on.
Clint chose that moment to make his appearance... carrying four big boxes of pizza. "I figured maybe we'd make a family night of it, just us," he said jovially. He didn't add that he figured Grant wouldn't want to go down to the common floor and suffer sitting through a huge family dinner. He also didn't mention that he'd been standing outside the door, listening to everyone and watching his youngest sibling's face. He would talk to their father about it, but he was beginning to wonder if someone shouldn't find out exactly what was bothering Bobbi without asking her directly. Because it was obvious something was bugging her; and it was just as obvious she was determined not to burden her family with it...but the look in her eyes when she thought no one could see was worrisome.
Coulson wrapped his arm around Bobbi's shoulders and gave her a tight squeeze, then smiled at Clint as his oldest entered the room. "Good idea," he agreed, fairly certain that Clint had hung back and watched their exchanges. He stepped over to help Clint with the pizzas.
Natasha stepped through to the kitchen to get them all drinks, giving Grant's arm a gentle squeeze as she passed him.
Grant smiled at all his siblings, before slowly making his way to the couch and forcing himself to carefully sit down with a tiny hiss.
Bobbi gave him a crooked smile back and sat next to him, determined that she would help him in whatever way she could so that he didn't have to move too much and aggravate what she was certain was a sore backside. Helping him also let her ease a very tiny bit of the guilt she felt for hiding things.
Clint put the pizzas on the coffee table then went to the kitchen to grab plates for everyone. He sidled up to Natasha and spoke in a whisper. "I know why Grant is acting all guilty and morose, but did Bobbi tell you anything that might give you some idea why she's acting that way? Anything you feel able to share, at any rate?"
Natasha shook her head. "There's something going on there and I don't get the feeling she's saying anything," she said. "We were sparring together and she was unfocused. More of my hits landed than she should have allowed through her guard. I know getting adopted can make you feel unfocused... but that was more than her being pulled into our family."
Clint nodded. "When I was watching, before I came in with the pizza... the look in her eyes... you don't feel guilty when you get adopted into a family. Not normally. There is definitely something going on and it's eating her up. I don't know if spying on her is the way to go about finding out the truth though. It could break her trust in us..." He sighed. "I think I'd like to ask dad's opinion before I actually do anything else...but you know...I'll keep an eye out for anything strange without actively spying."
"I'll do the same, but I think we should talk to Dad about it," Natasha agreed. "He knows something's up with her as well."
Clint nodded. "I agree. The question is, when? We certainly don't want to risk saying anything when she's within range of overhearing..." he whispered. "That could send her running almost as fast as spying on her would."
Natasha frowned thoughtfully. "Bobbi tends to retreat to her own floor most evenings, even when the rest of us stay here overnight... or at least well into the night. I'd suggest we stick here, as we would normally after she leaves, and then talk to Dad once we're sure she's out of earshot."
Clint frowned at that, but nodded. "She isolates herself too much..." he muttered.
"I know," Natasha said. "I've noticed Mack does the same, even though Thor and Loki have both been spending time with him." She finished pouring the drinks. "It takes time to be convinced he means what he says," she commented, remembering her own reluctance to believe.
Clint eyed her sideways. "You don't think he means what he says?" he asked curiously. "I think Bobbi means what she says- she just leaves a lot unsaid."
"That's not what I meant," Natasha replied. "When Dad first brought me into the family, I found it hard to trust he meant what he said, no matter how much I wanted to. I think Bobbi feels similarly."
"Ah...you were referring to dad. Sorry." Clint gave a crooked smile. "I'm sure that might be some of it. But...I just have this nagging feeling that it isn't the whole story." He sighed then shrugged. "We'll talk to dad when the chance presents itself. Let me help you get the drinks and plates out there before they wonder what's up."
Natasha nodded, picking up a tray and setting the drinks on it. "Do you want to take the plates through?" She started towards the door of the kitchen.
"Already on it!" Clint gave her a wink, holding up all the plates then waltzing out the door, holding it open for her so she could exit.
Natasha shook her head and stepped out into the living area with the tray of drinks, sharing them out before she sat down on the other side of Coulson, who'd seated himself on the other side of Grant.
"Hah! I see how it is!" Clint complained good-naturedly, his voice amused. "Leave me to sit all by myself on this big comfy chair...." He winked at Grant, then began passing out plates with slices of pizza on it.
Bobbi leaned forward and quickly took the plate Clint was handing to Grant and gave it to her 'brother' so that he wouldn't have to shift forward...or even shift at all.
Grant gave her a surprised and sheepish smile, thanking her before he gave his father a sideways glance as if asking what was up with her.
Clint blinked at the action then glanced at his father to see his reaction.
Coulson didn't make any verbal comment about it, but he placed a hand on Grant's arm, squeezing gently. He suspected that Bobbi was trying to avoid causing her brother any further discomfort, but he didn't give voice to that suspicion, not wanting to embarrass either of them.
"I'm sure you could always squeeze in," Natasha suggested mischievously, also noticing the action, but choosing not to comment on it.
Clint eyed the couch. "Yeah. Don't think so. With my luck, I'd end up wearing someone's pizza..." He finished passing out the plates to everyone else and took his own plate, affecting an exaggerated put upon attitude. "I'll just have to suffer through having a huuuuge comfortable chair, all to myself!" He sniffed then took a bite of his pizza.
Bobbi snorted, her smile amused. "You're so put upon..." she teased gently.
Coulson smiled at his oldest in amusement. "I would say you can sit on my lap... but I don't want you to think I'm treating you like a child." Even though he was teasing, he had no problem cuddling any of his children on his lap; he just knew they didn't tend to need it unless they were emotionally vulnerable.
Clint slanted his head, as if seriously considering the offer then shook his head with a grin. "Nah. If I did that, you'd probably end up wearing my pizza!" He smiled at his father, a fond look in his eye. He knew that if he really needed it, sitting on his father's lap was an option he'd welcome.
Coulson smiled at Clint. "You're probably right." The tone of his voice was affectionate and the look on his face loving as he glanced around at his children.
Bobbi bit her lip, giving Coulson a hesitant, almost wistful smile before taking a bite of her own pizza. She still had a hard time believing that he wanted her as part of his family- included her as part of his family...and she had a hard time not feeling like a complete fraud accepting his care; she certainly didn't deserve it. She glanced down at her plate, keeping her eyes on her food and drink.
Coulson reached across Grant to place a hand on Bobbi's knee. He didn't say anything, but squeezed gently, knowing that it had taken time for each of his children to accept that he meant everything he said.
Bobbi shifted slightly at the show of affection, feeling a mixture of warm acceptance and guilty worry that Coulson seemed to care about her so much. She tensed up slightly, but didn't pull away from the affectionate gesture, taking a slow, deep breath and blinking her eyes. It was becoming more and more difficult to not give in and become the daughter she wanted to become.
Coulson smiled reassuringly at Bobbi, leaving his hand there a moment or two before he resumed eating. He knew actions spoke louder than words and he hoped she would begin to believe in him eventually.
Grant pretended he didn't feel Bobbi tensing up beside him as his father showed affection. He wanted his baby sister to feel comfortable and accepted. He knew it might take a bit of work on his father's part, but he had no doubt if anyone could succeed, it would be his dad. Whatever was causing Bobbi to continue to pull back and act like something was wrong; well, Grant was sure Phil would figure it out and take care of it.
Fury kept his arm around Brock's shoulders as he guided his son off the elevator, saying goodbye to Steve and Tony as they left. Still holding his youngest close, he headed through to the living area.
Brock gave a half-hearted wave to Steve and Tony, but his attention was almost fully on his father and what he knew was about to occur, so he didn't notice if they responded back. Swallowing hard, he meekly followed Fury into the living area, pressing closer and closer to his father the closer they got to the time where he'd be disciplined. He wasn't ashamed to admit to being nervous...and he readily allowed his father to see the nerves.
Fury led Brock through to the living room, taking a seat on the couch and pulling his son down to sit next to him, hugging him close. "I know you feel guilty, but the explosion wasn't something the three of you could control. What you could was whether or not you called for backup. Going off alone without authorization wasn't acceptable before. It isn't now, but for very different reasons."
Brock nodded; then, biting his lip, gave a verbal answer. "I know, sir. I'm not sure why we talked ourselves into thinking it was acceptable...each of us mentioned at least once that we needed to call for backup...but then we decided not to." He sighed, leaning forward slightly, shoulders hunching. "And...I know realistically we couldn't control the explosion, but...it feels like if we'd done things differently...I don't know." His voice had fallen to a faint whisper by the time he finished speaking.
Fury tightened his embrace. "I know that logic doesn't help much in this situation. Maybe it could have made a difference. Maybe the bomb could have been released somewhere else with different and more casualties." He paused briefly before continuing, "Going in without backup meant the three of you could have been hurt much worse than you actually were. None of us wanted that."
"I can't help feeling responsible...even though I know all that...know that there is no way of knowing if doing things different would have led to a better outcome...at least for those the bomb hurt." Brock sighed. "I do know that going in without backup was wrong...that it could have ended much worse. I'm sorry I put you through that. It wasn't fair. It wasn't...right..... I know I deserve to be punished for it," he said the last in a whisper.
"None of us want anything to happen to you, Brock. Any of you," Fury said. "I care about your safety." He squeezed Brock gently and then moved his son across his lap, securing him with an arm wrapped around his waist.
Brock made an apologetic sound; not quite a whimper or a whine, but not a grunt either, as he found himself upended over his father's knee. "I am sorry, dad..." was all he said, before reaching down and gripping his father's ankle tightly. "For everything..." he whispered.
"I know." Fury rubbed his back gently a moment or two. "And it doesn't change anything between us." He tugged down Brock's pants and underwear.
This time, Brock did whimper, but he didn't pull away. He'd been in this position enough times now that any sense of modesty he might have held (and to be honest, he didn't have much; his job had too many variables) had disappeared...at least around his father. He didn't say, but Fury's gentle back rub had gone a long way to calming him. He was ready to accept what he knew he deserved. Letting himself go limp, he prepared himself to accept whatever his father did. "I love you..." he said softly, letting his head drop until it was against Fury's leg and he could press his cheek to his father's calf.
"I love you too." Fury spoke with quiet sincerity, always honest with his sons, and then lifted his hand, bringing it down in the first hard swat before repeating it.
Despite being ready to accept it and believing completely that he deserved it (even wanted it, he felt so guilty about what had occurred), he wasn't completely expecting the first two swats, or how hard they were. Letting out a hissing grunt at the first swat, he whimpered again at the second, but managed not to squirm, despite his body's natural inclination to try and move away from the pain. Instead, he gripped his father's ankle tighter and pressed his face closer to his father's leg, hoping that the physical connection would help him to hold on long enough to be punished fully before he lost all control. He wasn't all that confident he wouldn't start sobbing before the first round was complete.
Fury continued the hard swats down to Brock's thighs before he started over from the top, speaking quietly as he did. "No matter how guilty you feel about the bomb going off, that wasn't your fault or your doing. Any of yours. It could have happened even if you had called for backup. But you didn't. You entered a dangerous situation without letting any of us know where you were going. You could have been hurt much worse..."
Brock winced, moving his other hand to hold onto his father's ankle as well so that he was almost hugging his father's leg. He knew his father was right. He may not have been able to prevent the bomb at all; the HYDRA spy had probably been planning to set it off anyway and possibly in a more populated area. Getting himself hurt or killed because he hadn't called for backup could only have made the situation worse and he and his cousins had been very lucky. He swallowed hard, realizing that the guilt he currently felt wasn't the guilt of 'what if's' that had been plaguing him due to the bomb going off- his father was right. There was nothing anyone could have done about that. The guilt currently plaguing him was the guilt that he'd done something he knew he shouldn't do and had caused his father worry and grief because of it. He sniffled and took a deep breath while blinking his suddenly tear filled eyes. "I'm sorry...I...I should have done what I knew I was 'sposed to..." he admitted brokenly.
"You're an important part of this family, Brock," Fury said seriously, the swats acting to emphasize what he was saying. "You're my son, but it's not only that. Everyone here is a part of the family and that includes you. Calling for backup needs to be the first thing you do."
"O...ok. I...I knew that...I know...and...and I'm so sorry I ignored what I know...I didn't...didn't mean to...to cause problems...I didn't mean to...be bad..." he ground out through clenched teeth, before shuddering slightly, the first vocal cry forcing itself from his throat. Once that one cry escaped, he couldn't keep them back any longer and his body began to shake from the deep cries forcing their way out. What they lacked in sound volume, they more than made up for in strength, as his entire body was quaking. "I'm sorry, daddy..." he said, his voice high pitched and worried. "...Please forgive me...."
Fury stopped, the spanking having reached the point it needed to (at least this first one) and quickly gathered his son into a tight embrace. Although he wasn't normally a physically affectionate man, he'd made many exceptions when it came to his sons. "I do forgive you," he said softly in Brock's ear. "I'm glad that you're safe and you weren't hurt worse in the explosion."
Brock couldn't stop shaking. Gripping his father as tightly as he dared, he snuggled close, still quietly crying and struggling to regain control over himself. "I'm so sorry....I don't mean to be a burden...I don't mean to be bad and cause problems...I owe you so much..." he whispered against his Fury's chest.
Fury hugged Brock tightly to himself. "You aren't bad and you aren't a burden," he said his voice serious and sincere. "I worry about you because you're my son and I love you. You don't cause me problems. I just want to keep you safe."
And Brock believed him. He trusted the words and he was finally able to calm down, relaxing into his father's arms and the crying finally ebbing till he was just sniffling slightly. "I love you, daddy..." he whispered in a hoarse voice, wondering if he shouldn't be embarrassed, or ashamed...or possibly even worried... at how childish he became after an earned punishment. He figured if there was something wrong with him being so needy after his father punished him, then Fury would probably ask him to talk to someone about it; so he decided to just go with the feelings he was being swamped with and let his father worry about if it wasn't natural or not. To that end, he snuggled even further.
Fury responded by tightening his own embrace. "I love you too, Brock." He gently stroked over his son's hair and back. "I think maybe we should eat together here... me, you and Trip... what do you think?" he asked.
Brock nodded against Fury's chest, sniffling some more before answering quietly. "Ok...I'd like that." The opportunity to spend some time with his father and brother was always welcome; and even though he knew everyone else knew how family punishments went, he really didn't feel up to facing everyone after having just received one.
Fury continued the gentle, comforting rubbing of Brock's hair and back. "Is there anything in particular you'd like us to cook or order in?" Fury thought it would probably help Brock to receive some closer attention for a while, including doing and having things he knew he'd like.
Brock found himself getting sleepy, his father's calming affection and comfort letting him relax. He bit his lip and thought for a moment, then said uncertainly, not sure if they could order it in or not, "Maybe we could do hamburgers and fries...?" He sniffled once again and snuggled some more, finding it difficult to keep his eyes open. He knew he should get up; this would be the second time in a row he'd fallen asleep in his father's arms after a spanking and he thought he should feel a bit ridiculous about it. He just felt so comforted...and safe...and he really hadn't been sleeping all that well since the explosion. He'd felt too guilty about everything.
"I'm sure we can manage that," Fury agreed, not ceasing the gentle comfort. "You can sleep, Brock. You're safe here. When you wake up, both me and your brother will be here," he promised.
"Ok..." Brock finally closed his eyes and, within seconds, was out like a light.
"Director Fury, sir..." JARVIS whispered quietly. "Agent Trip would like to know if it is safe for him to come to your floor now?"
"Let him know it's fine to come in... but that Brock is sleeping right now," Fury replied, his own voice soft.
Trip quietly came in, not commenting on his brother's disheveled state or the fact that he was sleeping in their father's arms. "Hey, dad..." he whispered. "He going to be ok?" He eyed his brother with worry.
"He's still feeling guilty. What happened affected him... all of them... badly," Fury whispered back. "I think healing emotionally is going to take time, so I thought it would be good for the three of us to spend this evening together."
Trip nodded in agreement. "In that case, would you like me to go pick up dinner to bring back? Maybe by then, he'll have woken and he'll probably want to fix himself up and wash his face; might be easier on him if I'm not around to see it, though." He gave his father a tiny grin and scratched the back of his neck. "I don't think he has any reason to be embarrassed by my knowing, but..." He shrugged faintly.
"You could stick around for a bit," Fury suggested. "We could talk... I might be focused on Brock, but I always have time for you. I hope you know that."
Trip's grin widened and brightened. "I know that, dad. And I'll be happy to stick around tonight for sure. I know he'll be staying on your floor...I was thinking maybe I would too. I just figure, I'm starting to get hungry and depending on what you wanted for dinner, I could run out and get it so it will be ready as soon as he wakes up. Unless you need me to stay?" He slanted his head curiously.
"I definitely want you to stay here tonight," Fury said. "If you're happy to pick up food, Brock mentioned hamburgers and fries... which we could possibly order in. But if you want to go and pick up dinner, I won't stop you." He didn't say he'd just like to spend time with Trip, but he didn't think he needed to.
"Huh... that won't take long to get at all. I have that little mom and pop diner, down the street, on my speed dial. I can call in the order. When Brock starts waking up, I'll take off to go pick it up...until then, we can just chill out. I feel kinda funny talking over him like this, though..." Trip admitted with a crooked smile.
"It might be comforting for him to wake up and have both of us here," Fury commented. "I suspect he's going to need us close... that the guilt might reach overwhelming levels if left unchecked."
Trip blinked then nodded. "Yeah...ok..." He looked at his brother with fondness. "He blames himself for the bomb, then? Even though there wasn't any way anyone could know what that scum had planned? And probably no way at all to stop it?" His voice was soft. He grabbed a throw from off the nearby chair and gently tucked it around his brother. "He hasn't been sleeping, has he? I mean, he has to have been really tired to fall asleep in your arms like this...he didn't even try and fix his clothes." Trip wrinkled his nose, gently running his hand over his brother's hair, then turned and sat down in the chair across from his father. His eyes were worried.
"It became fairly obvious that all three of them blame themselves for the bomb," Fury said. "He hasn't been sleeping well... that's why he's going to be staying here; and it'll be good to have you staying here as well." He felt the need to have both of his sons close. "The next few days are going to be rough on him." He didn't plan to go into details about the punishment, but he suspected it was going to be hard emotionally on Brock.
Trip shrugged. "I have a feeling it will be more than the next few days that will be rough, if he feels like he's to blame for that bomb," he said softly. "I feel slightly guilty about that bomb and I wasn't anywhere near when it happened. Just on account of it being a HYDRA spy that did it. As irrational as it is, whenever they do something this horrible, it makes me wonder if it was someone that fooled me, ya know? If it was someone that I might have been able to stop at some earlier point and I didn't; and then they went and did this horrible thing. If I had actually been there when the bomb went off..." He sighed. "You're right. He's going to need us both. He's going to need all his family. All three of them will...."
Biting his lip, Trip observed his father closely. "Are you ok?"
"It's not easy," Fury said. "There are times I feel helpless... but I know both of you rely on me. It's hard not to feel responsible for HYDRA's actions, because if anyone should have guessed, I was the Director and I should have known. There might be other agents like Brock... good agents who were brainwashed and manipulated into becoming tools of HYDRA. I have a lot of regrets, but I'm trying to do right by the both of you now."
Trip wanted to argue that his father wasn't responsible; but then he realized it was pretty much the same as his father arguing that he wasn't responsible for HYDRA's actions. You could know it deep in your bones, but it didn't help you feel less responsible. Sighing, he reached over and squeezed his father's shoulder. "Yeah. I get it. You do know that I want to be there for you, just as much as you are here for me, right? I may be your kid, but I'm grown-up enough to help you if you need..." His smile was impish but sincere.
"I know." Fury freed one arm from around Brock so that he could reach over and gently squeeze Trip's knee. "I know it took me a while to officially adopt you, but you were mine long before then. I do love you." He hadn't said it very often, but he'd demonstrated it through his actions. Now, he felt it was better on his sons to have the verbal reassurance as well.
Trip felt a sense of warmth and security flood through him at his father's words. He did know that Fury had cared about and loved him long before making it official, but hearing it still felt good. He looked down bashfully then looked up again with a smile. "I love you too, dad...."
Brock slowly woke to whispers surrounding him, but it didn't make him uneasy or fearful for his life. Instead, he felt a sense of calm and...love? He recognized the voices. Slowly, he blinked his eyes open then stretched, hissing slightly at the sting he felt on his backside. "You're still holding me...?" His voice was a mixture of surprise and sheepish happiness.
"And... I'm... still half-dressed... Daaaad...why'd you lemme fall asleep with my pants under the couch?" Brock half-teasingly whined; then, realizing that he was whining, blushed darkly, giving his family a chagrined smile, not certain how they'd take it.
Trip reached under the couch and grabbed Brock's clothes and handed them to him, one eyebrow raised.
"Thanks, runt..." Brock muttered good-naturedly, carefully standing up- wincing- then dropped the blanket and started getting dressed.
"I'm taller than you are!" Trip pointed out indignantly. "And considering the fact you seem to have no problem whatsoever with mooning me, I don't know why you're complaining that dad let you fall asleep like that..." he teased back.
"Oh?" Brock sniffed in a jokingly haughty manner. "Does my lack of modesty bother you, brother dear?"
"Heck, no!" Trip grunted. "I just don't need to be looking at your scrawny butt!"
Fury smiled at their banter, placing a hand on each of their shoulders and squeezing gently. "I don't think there's any need for either of you to be embarrassed around me or each other." He had, after all, spanked both of them on more than one occasion... though he didn't actually mention that.
Both of his sons turned to look at him at that, their mouths dropping open and eyebrows shooting up in sync so that they almost looked like mirror images of each other.
"But...daaaad..." This time, it was Trip playfully whining. "Isn't that what kids are supposed to do? Act all embarrassed around their family, even if they aren't?" He kept his face innocently curious, though his mouth was twitching.
"Yeah...isn't that how it's sposed to work?" Brock chimed in, having a hard time keeping a straight face.
"Well, of course, if it makes you both feel better to act embarrassed," Fury teased gently. "Of course, none of us are a conventional family here." And that was a good thing; because if they were conventional, he wouldn't have two sons he thought the world of.
"Huh...can't say it makes me feel one way or the other to act that way." Brock shrugged, then folded up the throw and placed it carefully back on the couch. "Are you staying on dad's floor tonight, too?" he asked his brother curiously.
"Definitely. Haven't done it in too long- and I slept so well on the camping trip..." Trip gave his own shrug. "Something about having family at your back...makes it easier to sleep. Even when you're in one of the most secure buildings in the world."
"I hear that..." Brock muttered then moved closer to his dad almost subconsciously.
"Ready for me to call that diner and order our food?" Trip turned to ask his father.
Fury wrapped an arm around each of his sons' shoulders as he nodded. "I think we're all ready to eat now," he commented. "And there's probably enough room for all three of us to sleep in the bedroom." What he really meant was that there was enough room in the bed for the three of them... but since he didn't want to embarrass either of them, he didn't say that.
Trip smiled, pulling out his phone to call the diner and place their order. He didn't say anything about his father's offer...he just knew that he'd take him up on it. It wasn't that he couldn't sleep in his own bed; he actually was one of the few 'children' in their whole large family who didn't have frequent nightmares. But he thought maybe Brock would need both his father and his brother for the unforeseeable future and he didn't mind sharing a bed. There was something to be said about not being lonely at night...and his floor had a tendency to be quiet. Quickly placing the order for their food, he put his phone in his back pocket and slanted his head thoughtfully. "You know...if we ever- and given the fact that we hardly ever go out anywhere where this might actually be possible, but still...if we ever meet any women and want to form any type of relationship, I hope they're into communal living...." He laughed.
Brock snorted. "Maybe Pepper has some friends like her...she seems to handle everything just fine...."
"Now there's a thought..." Trip chuckled, then turned and gave his father a big hug. "Going to go get the food now. Why don't you two decide what we're going to do after we eat?" He turned and hugged his brother just as tightly, before backing up and heading for the elevator. "See ya'll in a bit."
Tony had been missing Pepper terribly the last couple of days- she'd had to go to Tokyo to head off a problem with one of their contractors two days before- but at this moment, as he rode the elevator to his father's floor to face the punishment he knew he deserved...he was glad she wouldn't have to witness the results of his folly. As much as she would likely agree with Steve that he deserved to be punished- and might possibly agree that he deserved to get it three times- it still would be hard on her. She'd been so worried about him when she'd found out he'd thrown himself over the bomb and was convinced he had been hurt worse than anyone, even JARVIS, could tell. Sighing softly and looking at his feet, he trudged forward the minute the elevator dinged open on Steve's floor.
Steve embraced Tony tightly, arms wrapped around his son for the whole trip in the elevator. Even when they stepped off, he didn't let go of his son as he walked through to the living area. "I love you, Tony." He pressed a kiss to his son's cheek.
Tony pressed closer to Steve, wrapping his own arms around the man in a tight hug, hiding his face against his father's chest. He'd been trying to hide it - for all the good it did- how guilty he felt. Steve had been so worried about him- frightened for him- and Tony knew that the whole mess...or at least the part that had scared his father so badly... could have been avoided if he'd only called for backup like he knew he should have done. Steve didn't deserve to be scared at every moment because Tony couldn't follow the simplest of family rules and insisted on putting himself into danger needlessly. Tony hadn't wanted to burden his father any further by having him worry about how guilty Tony felt.
He'd known anyway. He always did. Steve noticed things like that. Snuggling a little closer, Tony responded softly, "I love you too, dad.... and I know it doesn't mean much when I can't seem to learn not to do the same thing over and over- but I'm sorry."
Steve pressed another kiss to the top of Tony's head, even as he guided his son over to the couch and sat down, pulling Tony down to sit next to him. "I know you're sorry," he said softly. "I love you, Tony. I never want to risk losing you. You're my son and are more important to me than I could ever put into words."
"I know..." Tony winced, unable to look Steve in the eye. He hated that he worried his father so much, for no good reason. It wasn't like he had a good excuse for why they hadn't called for backup. Saying it was just one HYDRA agent and they figured the three of them could handle him easily wasn't really a good excuse, because if something happened (and something had), there wasn't anyone not directly involved that would know there might be a reason to worry, or would be ready to come in and help.
All it would have taken was one phone call to inform those in charge and they likely would have been given permission to go ahead after him...the only difference was the rest of the team, their family, would have been prepared to come in immediately instead of the amount of time it took them to get there. (And if it hadn't been for JARVIS calling everyone, they might not have come as soon as they did.) And while it might not have stopped Steve from worrying, it would have at least been sanctioned and Tony wouldn't be feeling so guilty about disobeying and disappointing the man. Yet again.
Steve tightened his embrace around his son for a second or two. "I think we should get this over with now," he said softly, before moving Tony gently across his lap, wrapping an arm around his waist to secure him.
Tony closed his eyes tightly, but didn't fight his father even a tiny bit. He did wrap one hand around his father's ankle, using the other to brace himself on the floor. "I'm sorry..." he repeated in a choked voice, even as he tensed up in anticipation of what was to come.
"I know." Steve rubbed Tony's back gently. "I love you. Nothing could ever change how I feel about you, I promise." He tugged his son's pants and underwear down; then, taking a firmer grip on Tony, he brought his hand down in the first hard swat. Although careful not to use enough force to bruise his boy, he started out fairly hard, knowing how often they'd had to deal with Tony endangering himself.
Tony had planned to keep from vocalizing, or at least not right away, but the first swat was the hardest he'd ever received and it was at that moment he knew there was no way he'd be able to stay quiet...not when he felt so guilty and believed he deserved harsher than his father would ever willingly give him. He whimpered softly, clenching his hand around Steve's ankle a bit more tightly.
Steve steeled himself and brought his hand down a second and third time, forcing himself to stay at the same force. He knew that he had to make this severe enough to ensure this left an impression. He couldn't lose Tony... and his son's constant disregard for his own safety was agonizing to witness.
Tony had to force himself not to squirm or make any noise beyond tiny hisses and grunts. It wasn't easy; while hiding his pain and keeping quiet was the norm for him when something truly hurt, he had never been able to do that when Steve was punishing him. He felt too safe with the other man to keep up the walls he normally held in place...and there was something about being under his father's control and submitting that left him unable to hide his responses. But he didn't want to give in this time.
He didn't deserve to be cared about as much as Steve cared and he certainly didn't deserve any comfort from the man after the hell he continually put his dad through. He deserved to be punished, though...so he wouldn't fight that, even if he did fight his response.
Steve continued down to Tony's thighs and then started over from the top. "I love you, son," he said. "I don't want to lose you. Not for any reason."
"I...I love you too, daddy..." Tony said in a quivering voice. It was getting harder and harder to hold still and he could feel tears dripping down his face. He still felt horribly guilty about what he put his father through, again. While the spanking was helping to let him feel like he was paying a little bit for all the pain he'd caused his father, it wasn't nearly enough- to his way of thinking- of making up for what he'd put Steve through. Even so, his body decided to start reacting without his permission, giving tiny little jerks with each smack. He tensed up even more in an effort to not begin kicking his legs or squirming. He kept letting go of his father's ankle, then grasping it again as he managed to stop himself from throwing his hand back to cover his bottom, just barely.
Steve began focusing more swats to Tony's sit spots and thighs, still careful not to use too much force. "I know it's hard not to act. I know you weren't used to taking your safety seriously before I came into the picture. I care about you. And you have a whole family who wants to see you safe."
"I....I kn...knooow..." Tony's response was high-pitched and barely escaping being labeled a wail. Again, he managed to fight off his body's desire to kick and squirm, but he lost the battle not to throw his hand back; although since his father was currently focusing on two areas more difficult to cover with his hand, it didn't make a noticeable difference. A tiny sob escaped his throat before he held his breath to keep more from escaping.
Steve moved Tony's hand out of the way, holding it against his back, and continued the hard swats, covering every inch of his backside and upper thighs in the swats. "Every time you put yourself in danger, this will happen again."
"Y...yessir..." Tony choked out before another sob escaped. He gave a small kick and a belated squirm to try and get his bottom out of the line of fire. He was obviously fighting to maintain control over himself now, every muscle in his body tense with the effort; even if he was losing a small bit of that control.
Steve tugged Tony tighter against his stomach, swatting a bit harder and faster now as he concentrated more of the swats to his son's sit spots and thighs. "It isn't acceptable for you to disregard your own safety, son. It never has been and it never will be. It hurts the people who care about you."
Tony's efforts not to vocalize weren't working as his he ended up letting out tiny whimpers and grunts that sounded like pained, huffing growls. Only his father's very tight grip on him kept him from landing on the floor, as he just wasn't able to hold still any longer; kicking his legs out and squirming desperately in an attempt to ease the pain. And then he wasn't whimpering or growling any longer- he was sobbing. Tensing up one more time in an effort to stop his responses, he realized it was hopeless to do so and gave up. He went limp over his father's lap, not attempting to hide anything any longer, sobbing brokenly, his body shaking and jerking each time a smack landed.
Steve stopped, tugging his son into a tight embrace, wrapping his arms around Tony and pressing a kiss to his head. "I love you," he whispered in Tony's ear. "I don't want to lose you. I can't put into words how important you are to me, but it would completely break me if I lost you."
At those words, Tony sank into his father, wrapping his arms tightly around Steve and sobbing against the other man's chest. "I love you, daddy..." he cried, knowing his actions hadn't really proven that to be true; if he loved his father, wouldn't he have been obedient and not done something he knew would worry and stress Steve so badly? He was a horrible son and deserved to be punished, not comforted. He sobbed even more, needing to somehow prove how sorry he was and not knowing how to do it...unless... Squirming out of his father's arms, Tony stood and lay back down over Steve's lap.
"I'msorryI'msorry...don'tmeantobebad...don'tmeantohurtorscareyou..." he choked out, holding onto Steve's ankle again, trying to remain as limp and submissive as possible so that his dad could continue spanking.
"Tony..." Steve's voice was soft and loving as he brought his son back up and into his arms. "I'm not going to spank you anymore. I love you so much, son." He kissed Tony's head, arms tight around him, even if he was careful not to hold tightly enough to cause pain. "You aren't bad. You made a mistake. That's all. And we will deal with it. And then it's finished. I forgive you. I love you beyond anything."
Tony shivered and pressed closer to his father, wrapping his own arms around Steve and hiding his face against his chest, his head just under the other man's chin. He felt a tiny bit of the guilt he'd been feeling ease away with Steve's words and the comforting hold his dad had on him. "Daddy?" he asked softly. "Why don't you think I'm bad? I do such......" He couldn't come up with a term that fit. "The things I did...feels like I deserve worse than you gave..." He sniffled, snuggling closer.
Steve kissed Tony's head again. "I think you're a good person. I know you. I chose to adopt you and considered you my son long before then. You might make mistakes at times, but nothing you do makes you a bad person. When I'm hurt and upset, it's because of how much I love you."
Tony started crying again at those words. "I hurt and upset you all the time, though. You...you shoulda spanked until I couldn't sit...or used your belt...or something. I keep hurting you, I deserve for you to hurt me...." he choked out.
"Tony..." A note of very real pain crept into Steve's voice, hearing and seeing just how much his son hurt. "It isn't about hurting you, son. Don't you understand? I love you. I want to keep you safe and that's why I punish you. Not to do anything that would cause you permanent or even lasting harm... but to keep you safe, with me and the rest of the family... where you belong."
"Wouldn't cause permanent harm...I'm always safe with you..." Tony argued through his tears. "...But I hurt you 'cuz I don't think and don't do what I know I should and I deserve to be hurt too...." Tony had heard the pain in his father's voice and that made him more convinced that he hadn't been punished enough...here he was hurting his dad, again.
Sighing quietly, Steve gently stroked over Tony's hair, unable to help touching his son. "Even if that were true, I'm in charge of how I punish you, son," he said softly. "And I don't enjoy doing it. I punish you because you need to understand that you can't take chances with your life. Being harsher with you wouldn't help either of us. But even if you feel like you should be punished harsher... you do have two more spankings coming. I think, by the end, we'll be in agreement that you've been punished enough."
Tony bit his lip and thought about what his father was saying then reluctant nodded. "Ok..." he said in a tiny voice. "You're right...You're in charge...I...I'm sorry...I know you don't enjoy...I don't want to make it worse for you...I...this is one of those times I have to let go and submit, huh?" He sniffled. He still felt like he deserved worse than he got; but Steve was right- he was in charge and arguing wasn't going to do anything but hurt his father worse. Tony really didn't want to hurt his dad. Taking a shivery breath, he couldn't help but snuggle closer, needing the comfort his father offered, even if he felt he really didn't deserve it.
Steve tightened his embrace around his son. "This isn't for you to control, Tony," he said, his voice affectionate and loving rather than scolding. "I love you. You are so important to me."
"Because you're in control..." Tony admitted, finally accepting that as guilty as he felt, it was up to Steve how and how much he paid. The more he thought about it, the more it seemed right, though...criminals didn't choose their own punishments or how long they'd last, after all. And Steve was more than fair. He'd never let Tony get away with something he needed correction on. Tony just needed to trust in his father's love.
"I trust you, daddy..." he finally whispered. "I love you and I trust you...and if you say I've had enough for now, I'll let it go...." He closed his eyes and snuggled close again.
"Good," Steve said softly, kissing his head again. "I figured, when you're ready, we can eat together... maybe watch a movie and think about something else for a while."
"I'd like that..." Tony squirmed slightly. Now that he was attempting to let go of his need to punish himself, he was feeling the results of the punishment he'd been given more keenly. He couldn't help the tiny whimper that escaped. Carefully, he stood up and pulled his boxers into place with a hiss...kicking his jeans off, as they were too rough for him to attempt to pull up.
"What movie would you like to see?" he asked quietly. "And what do you want to do for dinner?"
Steve stood up, kissing Tony's cheek and wrapping an arm around his son's shoulders. "I thought I'd let you choose what we have to eat and what we watch," he said. "I know this has been rough on you and you're still not feeling good, so I think you should choose what we do this evening."
"Can we have spaghetti?" Tony asked quietly. "And...m...maybe instead of a movie, you could read to me? Li...like you did when I was de-aged?" His voice was soft and hesitant. He looked up at his father uncertainly, feeling very childish and needy, but uncaring on if he looked that way. He needed his daddy....
Steve squeezed his son gently, smiling affectionately at him. "We can have spaghetti and I can read to you," he said softly. "What would you like me to read?"
Tony blinked, having not thought that far ahead. "Um...You know...I'm not sure. Did you have a favorite book? From before? If not...maybe we could read A Game of Thrones.... They went and made a cable television series out of it, but my experience has always been that the books are better, so.... Maybe we could read the series and then binge watch the television version...." As he was talking, he was leaning more and more into his father until he had his arm wrapped around Steve's waist and his head pressed against his dad's shoulder. He didn't really care what was read, to be honest; he just wanted to spend time with his father where Steve wasn't worried sick about him or having to punish him for doing dangerous things.
Steve hugged his son close. "I have a few things I enjoyed reading before I was frozen," he said softly. "But we can read A Game of Thrones if you think the book might be better. Why don't we eat first and then see if there's a particular book one of us likes the look of?"
Tony grinned. "I think I'd like to see what you enjoyed first..." he admitted. "We can always read Martin's books after; he's got a whole series of them and all. But I think eating now would be good. I...um...I kinda didn't really eat lunch...or breakfast...well...not enough anyway. I was fake eating, to be honest...my appetite wasn't all that good cuz of feeling so...er...guilty and all. And I know that's not good- not eating...so...um....yeah." Tony bit his lip and stared at where his father's hand rested around him, not able to look Steve in the eye...knowing he'd probably just put another hint of worry in the man's eyes and not wanting to face it. He'd rather be soundly scolded than see any more worry on his father's face.
Steve sighed and spoke with a firm tone to his voice... even though it was no less loving. "I'm going to make sure you eat enough, son. I can understand not having much of an appetite, but your health is important... and that also includes eating enough." He pressed a kiss to Tony's head, taking the sting out of his scolding.
"Ok..." Tony's voice was quiet...and contrite. He did know better after all. He glanced back up into Steve's face hesitantly, afraid he'd see worry and disappointment again.
Steve did look worried, but the love and affection on his face was obvious. He hugged Tony tightly to himself. "I'm glad you're here safe with me," he said softly. "I love you."
Tony sighed, snuggling into his father. "I love you too, dad... I'm sorry I keep worrying you. I'm guessing I'm going to be on a very short leash the next week or so?" His lips quirked up in slight amusement, though it was a serious question. If taking charge of Tony's eating, sleeping and pretty much anything... made Steve worry less, then Tony wouldn't argue. Not right now, anyway.
Maybe Steve was right to be worried and take charge. He'd been doing well for the most part, since Steve adopted him...except for whole the doing dangerous stuff without calling in for backup or permission... but when it came to eating and sleeping, he'd been doing well. Until the bomb. And then it was like one huge backslide down into a deep pit of not good stuff and Tony was right back to not sleeping or eating the way he should...and right back to trying to hide it from his family. He wondered if he should confess that it was more than just this one day where he hadn't eaten. Confess that he hadn't slept... even when he'd come into Steve's room, following Pepper. He'd just closed his eyes and modulated his breathing so it seemed that he was.
How the heck did he confess that? The thought of seeing even more worry in Steve's eyes was quelling.
Steve nodded, pressing a kiss to his son's head. "I'm going to guess you've been having trouble sleeping and eating since the explosion." He knew his son well and was reasonably sure the tiredness he could see wasn't just the cause of one sleepless night. "You'll be staying in my bed for the next several days... and I'll be making sure you eat plenty of the right food."
"Yes, sir..." Tony sighed but didn't argue. "That's fair..." And he wasn't being sarcastic at all when he said it. Which kind of surprised him. It said something about his relationship with his dad that it didn't bother him like it might have, even a year before. Shifting slightly so that he and Steve could walk to the kitchen, he hugged his father tightly. "Here I was trying to figure out how to confess I hadn't been sleeping...but you already knew. Go figure..." He snorted softly.
Steve kept his arm around Tony's shoulders. "I make sure I always know how you are. I want to keep you safe and well and I know how badly you've been affected by what happened with the explosion."
Tony nodded, giving Steve a sideways glance. "So...you make sure to know everything?" he asked hesitantly, wondering if some of the things he'd been doing, that he thought no one would ever know about, were known about. Things he did in his lab that might potentially get a frown from Bruce, let alone his father. And if Steve didn't know, was he obligated to tell on himself now that he was spending the week tethered to his father as a quasi-punishment? (Because he had to admit, spending time with Steve wasn't really punishment...well, when he wasn't actively being punished over his father's knee, at any rate.)
"I try to make sure I know what I need to," Steve answered, reaching the kitchen. "You're my son and I love you. Anything that might hurt or upset you is something I want to stop... to protect you. I don't want anything to hurt you."
Tony stopped at the door to the kitchen so that Steve could go through first, but stayed in the entryway, blinking. "Even things that I do myself? That might not be hurtful but could be...but aren't...but..." He frowned and stopped talking, not entirely sure where he was going with the question. If he wanted to clue Steve in to the fact he'd been up to no good in his lab, this was the perfect way to do it. He winced.
Steve turned so that he could look seriously at his son. "Is there something you've been doing that you know you shouldn't be?" he asked outright.
Tony winced again, and fidgeted slightly before he gave Steve a deer in the headlights look. "Maybe?" he bit his lip and cleared his throat. "Am I allowed to plead the fifth on that question?" he blushed when his voice came out slightly higher pitched than he would have liked.
"I'm afraid not." Steve stepped over to Tony, placing a hand on his son's shoulder and squeezing gently. "What have you been doing?" His voice was calm, but still serious as he watched his son.
"I...added a few modifications to the suit..." Tony hesitated. "...More than a few." He swallowed. "And I kinda tested them out against JARVIS's recommendations, cuz things weren't one hundred percent completed...and I did it without anyone else being present 'just in case'?" Tony winced again, not certain why he phrased everything as a question, since that's exactly what he had done. "Oh, man..." He couldn't help but whine slightly, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. "...You're gonna ground me till my kids are fifty. And since I don't have kids...."
Steve sighed, pulling Tony in closer. "I think I'd prefer to be with you the next time you start trying to run experiments." He was worried, but his affection and care for his son were still obvious. "And if JARVIS recommends you don't do something, I think there should be an understanding that he contacts me about it..."
"....But....Daaaad...that's nearly everything I do..." Tony didn't stomp his foot, but it was close. And then he realized just what exactly he'd said and gave his father a flabbergasted look. "Why can't I keep from telling on myself to you? It's like I have some deep seated wish to have you tell me no, or something...." He groaned, throwing both hands over his face in slightly amused exasperation.
Steve pulled Tony into his arms, kissing his son's forehead. "You know I love you and would give everything to keep you safe," he pointed out. "I'm not going to ignore you or withdraw from you when you tell me something... I will step in when I need to, but only because I know you can do so much better when you don't forget how many people would be devastated if something happened to you."
Tony winced again, a slight twinge of guilt making him pliant to his father's wishes. "Ok...so...no more doing experiments JARVIS recommends against until he contacts you and I have either you or someone you trust to be with me there just in case?" His voice was soft and hesitant, hoping that Steve wouldn't forbid him to do any experiments that JARVIS recommended against. It would be rather difficult to contribute to the team if he wasn't allowed to experiment. And while he understood Steve wanting to keep him safe as much as possible, he couldn't be kept in a protective bubble so the world didn't touch him either. "Just...maybe...I know you worry, but maybe you don't need to worry quite so much...the Extremis still helps me heal faster than I would normally...even if it doesn't keep me from being hurt...Just saying...."
He sighed and held onto his father tightly. "Still can't believe I told on myself to you. Next thing you know, I'm going to be admitting to sneaking out of the tower to take midnight flights in the suit..... Oh, maaaan!" His head dropped against Steve's chest in defeat.
Steve wrapped his arms tightly around Tony. "If there are experiments that aren't safe, I'd rather you have me with you... or one of the others. Like Bruce. I know your experiments are important to you and I'm not going to forbid you from doing them. I do want to make sure you have someone else with you for anything that's not safe."
Still holding his son close, Steve continued, "As for sneaking out to fly... I don't want you to do that on your own. Wake me if you feel restless. I'd always come with you."
"Yeah...I....I can do that." Tony sighed softly. "I'm still getting used to the whole having someone care what I do and needing to keep you informed thing. And, you know...getting permission. I know I agreed that you were in charge of me and I try to remember...it's just... until you... I never had to really get permission or tell anyone my plans or anything once I was old enough to be on my own. Which, ironically, was a really young age and probably the worst thing ever, given my tendency to self-destruct, but there you have it...." Tony snapped his mouth shut mid-ramble. "Anyway. Thanks, dad. For caring so much that you don't let me do things without...you know...thinking...or what have you." Tony blushed, hugging Steve again, then stepped back carefully and began getting things out so they could make the spaghetti. "If I had to have someone be in charge of me that I have to get permission from and tell on myself to and remind me to be careful and all...I'm glad it was you." He gave his father a crooked grin, before filling the pot he was holding with water.
Coulson woke up shortly after dawn, having spent the night with his youngest son cuddled in his arms. The rest of his children had stayed on his floor, with Natasha sharing a room with Bobbi and Clint taking the third.
Grant's absence indicated that he was already up and, more than likely, either doing a workout, or spending a bit of time with his siblings. Coulson showered and dressed fairly quickly, then headed to the main common area, knowing everyone would congregate there... though if he had to, he'd go in search of his children and gently encourage them to join everyone else.
Grant had gone down for his early morning workout with Natasha. It varied on who joined them, depending on the day and what had been going on. This morning, it had just been his sister and him, though; it had given them a bit of time to talk. By the time they had finished their training, taken showers and gone to the common room, all but two people had shown up. He frowned slightly when he noted that one of those two was his baby sister. The other was Mack.
"If I didn't know better, I'd think they were a couple, the way they're always sneaking off or showing up together," he muttered to his brother, before grabbing a plate of food and going to sit next to Coulson. "Did Bobbi have a mission today, dad?" he asked his father quietly.
Coulson shook his head, wrapping an arm around Grant's shoulders and squeezing him gently. "She didn't." He looked around at the rest of the family and shook his head. "I'll take some food for her and Mack... if you'd like to come with me?" he asked his youngest son. He could have gone on his own, but apart from the intense need to keep his son (and all of his children) close, he thought that Grant was the best one to help him convince Bobbi that she would still be a part of the family... no matter what.
"I'll go with you to take them food... are they even in the building, though?" he asked curiously, before taking a bite of his own breakfast. He glanced at Thor and Loki, wondering if maybe Mack had said something to them.
Clint sat on the other side of his brother. "You know, you could always ask JARVIS if they are in the building or if he has any idea where they are..." He shrugged, before stuffing a forkful of egg into his mouth.
Loki had caught Grant's look and, wondering what it was about, wandered over with his own food and sat across from Clint, making sure to leave a seat next to Coulson so that one of his daughters could take it if they wanted. Plus, despite receiving forgiveness for his part in the Chitauri invasion, he still felt a bit odd being near the director, having been the one to stab the man. "Did you wish to ask me something, Grant?" He smiled faintly as he carefully arranged his plate, drink and silverware so that he could eat properly and with manners befitting a prince of Asgard.
Natasha took a seat on the other side of her father, nudging him slightly as she could see the worry on his face.
"We noticed Mack and Bobbi are the only ones not here for breakfast," Coulson said to Loki. "I suspect Grant was wondering if Mack had said anything to you and Thor." Since the Asgardians had more or less adopted Mack.
Loki slanted his head, his eyes widening slightly. "No. In actuality, he did not. In fact, the last I saw of him was last night after we watched Thor's favorite television program and we all parted to our floors for slumber. Is there cause to worry about their absence?" he asked curiously, a hint of worry in his tone.
Grant wrinkled his nose. "I hope not..." he said, a tiny hint of worry in his own voice.
"It's probably nothing..." Clint tried to ease the worry he heard in their voices before it could grow. "They probably just wanted to go running and get some fresh air or something. Steve does that occasionally. Don't see why they wouldn't...." He did look at his father, though, to see if Coulson thought it was a possibility.
"It's possible," Coulson replied, though he was still worried. "JARVIS? Are Mack and Bobbi in the tower?"
Steve looked at Coulson, noticing his brother's worry. "They probably are safe," he commented. "But maybe you should just talk to them about how we try to make sure to eat breakfast together when we're not on a mission?"
JARVIS quickly answered, "No, sir, they are not. They left the tower at approximately three thirteen, early this morning before everyone awoke. They did not say where they were going and seemed to be trying really hard not to awaken anyone else."
Grant frowned at that news, glancing at Steve. "I have mentioned that to Bobbi, though...maybe she didn't realize I was telling her so that she would feel invited to join us..." he muttered uncertainly.
Loki frowned at JARVIS' response as well, but didn't say anything.
Coulson wasn't that surprised, but his worry did increase. "Did they take any coms with them?" he asked.
Thor frowned, glancing at his brother. "Perhaps I will talk to Mack when he and Bobbi return..."
JARVIS was quiet for a few moments. "They did, sir....but the coms appear to have been turned off, so tracking them at this moment is not possible. They also do not have their cellular phones with them or any other items that I might use to track their location. I am sorry, sir." The AI did indeed sound very apologetic.
Grant gave his father a startled glance, his own worry ratcheting. "Why would they leave without any way for us to contact them or find them if something goes wrong?"
"I don't know..." Coulson sighed a little. "Thank you for trying JARVIS," he said to the AI, before adding, "I'll talk to Bobbi..." His voice was somewhat serious, as well as worried. Generally, it wasn't acceptable for family members to disappear without a word.
Loki, sensing Coulson's worry and general unhappiness with the situation, found himself fidgeting away from the other man and moving back closer to Thor. He looked at his brother thoughtfully. "Perhaps you should speak with Mack..." he agreed quietly.
"You are wel... oh, wait, sir. They have just reentered the tower and are heading for the elevator. Shall I have them come to see you on the common floor?" the AI asked with what seemed to be relief.
"Yes, please." Coulson couldn't help noticing that Loki was shifting away from him and it made him realize that he and the Asgardian hadn't spent any time talking since he'd been stabbed by Loki.
Loki clearly felt uncomfortable around him still and Coulson decided he would be talking to the demigod about their history. After all, forgiving Grant hadn't been a problem for him... and Loki was now an accepted part of the family.
Thor nodded to his brother. "I think I will."
Bobbi was standing next to Mack on the elevator, getting ready to request it go to her floor, when JARVIS spoke up. "Agent Morris, Agent Mackenzie... Agent Coulson is requesting your presence on the common floor at this moment."
Mack gave a startled glance at Bobbi. Luckily, they had not dressed as if they were going on an op, having decided to wear normal clothing...suspicions would have hit the roof if they'd been wearing op gear. Hesitantly, he asked, "Do they know we weren't in the tower, JARVIS?"
"They do, sir..." the AI confirmed.
Bobbi winced then slumped against the wall of the elevator. "Why do I see a chiding in my near future?" she grumbled slightly.
Mack grinned impishly at her. "Hey...you're the one that went and found yourself a daddy to worry about you...no sense complaining when he acts like a daddy."
"And I suppose Thor and Loki won't care that you left without a word to anyone?" Bobbi snorted.
Mack shrugged. "They might care, but they aren't my daddy...." he teased. By that time, they had reached the common room floor and Mack straightened so he could look like he wasn't nervous about the summons. He noticed Bobbi doing the same.
When the elevator pinged open, they both stepped out.
"Everyone is in the dining room, agents," JARVIS directed them where to go.
Coulson looked up with some relief as Bobbi and Mack entered the dining room. Both of them were dressed casually, but then again, that didn't necessarily mean anything. He definitely planned to talk to Bobbi... and he was sure that Thor intended to talk with Mack. For now, though, he waved them over, knowing it was important they eat breakfast. "We'll talk once we're all done eating," he said.
Bobbi blinked and gave Coulson an uncertain smile. "Oookay..." she said hesitantly and sat down in the only empty chair she saw, which just so happened to be right next to Coulson. She didn't even bother protesting that she'd eat later...she'd been in the tower long enough to know that wouldn't be accepted and she had a feeling she was already on shaky ground. She didn't want to push her luck. To that end, she plated up a small amount of food and began to nibble at it.
She couldn't say that she was really hungry. She'd just spent the last several hours arguing with someone more stubborn than Tony and had barely convinced them to hold off on their plans. Her nerves were tense and all she really wanted to do was go to her floor, take a long, hot bath and then collapse into her bed. She glanced at Mack and noticed that he had a plate of food as well and had pulled a chair up so that he was sat on the other side of Thor.
Grant noticed that Bobbi hadn't put very much on her plate and what little she did put on her plate, she was picking at. "You not feeling well?" he asked softly, a hint of worry in his tone.
Bobbi gave him a startled look. "Oh...um...I feel ok. Just not really hungry," she hedged.
Coulson had forced himself to eat, even worrying over his youngest daughter, and now he eyed Bobbi with concern. "Where did you need to go that was so urgent?" His voice was calm, with no anger or irritation in it... merely concern and worry, as well as affection and care.
Thor glanced at Mack, long enough to assure himself that the other man was eating, but didn't say anything, instead waiting for Coulson's question to be answered.
Bobbi forced herself not to react to the question, chewing the small bite she had taken very slowly so she had an excuse not to answer immediately. Finally swallowing, she said quietly, "I couldn't sleep and wanted to take a walk. I'm not sure why Mack was up, but he caught me as I was heading downstairs to leave and insisted he accompany me..."
She knew she'd get grief from that answer, but it was preferable to the truth.
"I was actually planning to work out before anyone else showed up in the gym, but when I saw Bobbi, I changed my plans..." Mack added with a slight grin. He wasn't feeling too good about the lie, but what could they do?
"You turned your cell phones off," Steve pointed out mildly. He might not be directly responsible for either Mack or Bobbi, but they were still a part of his family... and the rules about what that entailed were well-known.
"We did?" Bobbi blinked owlishly. "But I didn't even take my cellphone..." she said with some confusion, before thinking that maybe admitting that wasn't any better than them thinking she'd turned it off. "Um...."
Mack face palmed and let out a tiny groan. "Damn, girl..." He sighed and shook his head. "I did turn mine off...I turned it off last night before I went to bed because the battery was dead and I wanted to see if it would charge faster if it was turned off...I must have forgot to turn it back on..." He pulled his phone out of his back pocket and looked. "Yeah...forgot. Sorry bout that..." His tone was sheepish and the guilty look he gave Steve was apologetic.
Steve glanced at Coulson, wondering if his brother was thinking the same thing he was... that Bobbi and Mack were saying and doing all the right things; but they'd been gone from the tower for several hours. Steve was fairly certain it wasn't just for a walk.
Coulson met Steve's gaze, but didn't say or do anything to suggest any kind of non-verbal communication. Placing a hand on Bobbi's shoulder, he squeezed gently before saying softly, "Eat up... and then we'll talk."
Natasha glanced at her brothers. "Maybe we could watch a movie together after breakfast," she suggested, knowing Grant needed to be kept close to his family, but that their dad's conversation with their baby sister needed to be kept private.
Grant, knowing what his father's talks tended to entail, quickly agreed. "That sounds like fun. Whose turn is it to pick?" he asked with a crooked smile.
"Mine..." Clint answered quickly. He wasn't sure if it was his turn, really, but if he didn't say anything, they would probably end up watching some depressing film based on a Russian novel. He really didn't want to be depressed.
Tony interjected, "A movie actually sounds like fun. Can anyone join in your little gang?" he asked curiously, glancing at Steve to make certain he was ok with the idea, since he'd be staying near his father.
Mack gave Bobbi a sympathetic look, but didn't say anything. When you had a family that cared what you did, there were rules. She'd have to take her lumps like a big girl.
Bobbi, for her part, just stared at Coulson, her eyes going wide. Swallowing reflexively, she finally put her fork down on the plate. She'd only eaten half of the small amount she'd taken, the tension she was feeling blunting her appetite. Dread at what Coulson might say to her killed what little appetite she had left. "I...I don't think I can eat anymore, sir. If you want to talk now..." she finally said nervously.
Steve nodded, wrapping his arm around Tony's shoulders and squeezing gently. "We can join in with the movie... if that's all right with you three," he added, looking at the other three of Coulson's children.
"I don't have a problem with it," Natasha said.
Thor looked at Mack, serious as he always was when he needed to be. "After you've eaten, we need to talk on my floor."
Coulson nodded, hugging Bobbi close with one arm. "You can finish eating when we've finished talking," he said.
Mack gave Thor an uncomprehending look, before blinking and glancing at Loki, then back at Thor. "We need to talk?" His voice went up half an octave.
Loki gave Mack a tiny grin and patted him on the shoulder. "I think I would like to join you all in watching this movie as well," he said calmly to the others.
Bruce nodded. "I think all of us will go watch the movie. Don't forget to clean up your plates..." he reminded his own kids, but said it loudly enough that Tony and Brock, who were about to waltz out and leave their dirty dishes on the table, turned around and quickly cleaned up their mess.
Soon, the only ones left in the dining area were Coulson and Bobbi; and Thor and Mack.
Bobbi had a shocked look on her face, the room having cleared out more quickly than she would have thought possible. Finally, she turned toward Coulson and asked in a tiny, hesitant voice, "Your floor?"
Mack just sighed, cleaning his own plate up. Unlike Bobbi, his appetite hadn't been affected and he'd eaten plenty of food and actually finished. "Ok, brother. I'm ready..." he said quietly, waiting for Thor to lead the way to his floor.
Coulson nodded, standing up and reaching down to help Bobbi to her feet. He cleaned his own plate and Bobbi's (when they were done, he'd get her a clean plate of food), then wrapped his arm around his youngest daughter's shoulders and guided her towards the elevator.
Thor cleaned his plate and then wrapped an arm affectionately around Mack's shoulders, heading towards the elevator as well so that they could go to his floor.
Bobbi felt like crying. All she wanted was to go to her floor, relax in a nice hot bath, lay down and sleep...and forget all the myriad lies that she was having to juggle and keep straight. Instead, she was heading to her father-figure's floor to 'talk'. She'd been in the tower long enough to know what that meant. She remembered the spanking she'd gotten at the campsite. She also remembered her extreme over-reaction to it. Considering how close she was to crying already, when they hadn't even got off onto Coulson's floor yet, she had a feeling she was about to have another epic melt-down. It was humiliating even thinking about it, so she had a feeling her pride was going to be non-existent fairly soon.
When the elevator stopped at Coulson's floor, she gave Mack a bleak smile and nodded at Thor before stepping out of the elevator and waiting for Coulson to lead her wherever he wanted to have the talk.
Coulson nodded to both Thor and Mack as he gently guided his daughter from the elevator, holding her close. He guided Bobbi through to the living room area, sitting down on the couch and gently tugging her down to sit next to him. "Everyone here in this tower has done something they regret," he started off saying. "But no matter what, they're still a part of this family. I know you're hiding something and I don't think I'm wrong in saying that it's eating you up inside. I can't force you to tell me, but I will tell you that it doesn't matter. There isn't anything that's going to make me stop caring about you."
Bobbi, having expected a scolding about leaving the tower at three in the morning without her phone or telling anyone but Mack she was going, stiffened in surprise at Coulson's words. He knew she was hiding something! She believed that he wouldn't force the issue now, but how long would he hold that view? And when he inevitably found out what the truth really was, she doubted he'd be able to say it didn't matter. It was easy to say he'd never stop caring when he didn't know everything. When he learned how deceptive she really was....
Bobbi couldn't stop the shiver that caused her entire body to shake. She also couldn't stop the tears that started leaking from her eyes and trailing down her face. Taking a shuddering breath, she wiped at her eyes and then tried to hide her face in her hands. "I..." She shook her head, not certain what to say.
Coulson wrapped his arms around Bobbi, pulling her in close so that she was pretty much sitting on his lap. "I love you." He hadn't officially adopted her; not yet, at any rate, but he planned to get the paperwork drawn up soon. "You can't leave the tower without a word to anyone else apart from the person going with you. You can't leave your cell phone behind, or turn it off, so we have no way of tracing you. I can't fully explain to you how worried we all were about you both."
"I didn't want to worry anyone..." she said in tiny, contrite voice. She hadn't wanted to...but she knew if they discovered her and Mack missing, before they'd had a chance to return back to the tower, that she would worry them. She hadn't had a choice, though. Where she and Mack had gone, they couldn't risk being followed...so the phone had stayed behind. It was just one bad decision on top of many. If she could just tell him the truth; but that wasn't possible. She sniffled, reaching up and rubbing ineffectively at her eyes.
"I'm sure you didn't mean to worry anyone, but you did," Coulson said, his voice gentle. "That's part of being a family. You don't take off without telling anyone where you're going. You're important to us all here. You're important to me... and you're important to your siblings. I might not have drawn up the paperwork yet, but you're still as much mine as the rest of them."
Bobbi turned slightly, looking into Coulson's face, her own eyes wide and startled. "Paperwork...?" Her voice faltered as she realized, or at least thought she realized, what that meant. Wordlessly, she began to shake her head no... not because she didn't want to be Coulson's daughter; she found she did, more than she had a right to. She just couldn't take the thought of having the chance to be his daughter, only to lose it as soon as he realized the truth. And she was positive that she would lose it when he found out the truth. There was no way he'd still want her.
Coulson ran a hand gently through Bobbi's hair, looking into her eyes. "Are you saying no because you don't want to be a part of the family? Or because you think I won't want you once we know what's going on?"
Bobbi's mouth opened and closed, nothing coming out for several seconds, before she glanced away from Coulson. "I don't want to be part of the family..." She forced herself to lie. It would be better for him to believe that. He'd start withdrawing from her, thinking it was what she really wanted, and then when the truth came out, maybe it wouldn't hurt him quite as much, even if it would kill her inside knowing what she'd just given up. She couldn't look him in the eye and lie, though. Not about this. She wasn't sure she'd be able to look him in the eye and lie about anything anymore.
Coulson didn't release her. He didn't intend to withdraw... to pull away. "I don't think you're being truthful with me," he said quietly. "But for now, I won't have the paperwork drawn up. When you're ready, we'll take care of it. But I'm not giving up on you." He kissed the top of her head. "For now, we'll deal with you leaving the tower without a word or taking your cell phone with you. No matter what your reasons, that is unacceptable." He held Bobbi a moment or two longer then gently moved her across his lap.
Bobbi was still focused on the fact that Coulson had just said he didn't believe her and still planned to adopt her when she was ready. When she felt him moving her over his lap, it was too much. All the tension from her clandestine 'meeting', the fact that she felt so incredibly guilty, the fact that she did want to be Coulson's, the fact that she was worn out, burning the candle at both ends and not seeing any way out of the mess she was in...it was too much. The minute he had her in position, securely held against him, she burst into tears.
She was horrified at herself. He hadn't even bared her yet and she was sobbing like he'd been spanking her for minutes already. She couldn't stop, though. It was just much, much too much.
His children crying always affected Coulson and even though he'd been planning to start spanking Bobbi, Coulson couldn't ignore her tears. He quickly gathered her back into his arms, rocking her gently and stroking her hair, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "I've got you..."
"I'm sorry...I'm sorry...I'm sorry..." Bobbi kept sobbing over and over again, grasping Coulson's shirt and pressing as close as she could, the gentle rocking soothing even through the torment. She couldn't explain what she was sorry for and that just added to her sorrow, but she didn't pull away from the comfort. She wanted so badly to just tell him the truth, but she couldn't. There was too much at stake. She hated herself. She hated herself, but Coulson had her. When had this become her life? She shivered, managing to calm down enough that she wasn't sobbing. She was still crying, obviously so, but she wasn't sobbing. Sniffling and taking a slow, deep, quivery breath, she whispered, "...Please spank me so it can be done and over with and I can go back to being cuddled...." Then she let out a tiny chirp of embarrassment at having voiced what she was thinking out loud.
Coulson pressed another kiss to Bobbi's head. "We'll get this over with and then it'll be done," he promised. "After the others have finished watching their movie, we can spend time together here." He hugged her tightly a moment longer, reiterating softly, "I love you," before gently moving her back over his lap.
Bobbi closed her eyes tightly, reaching down and wrapping her hand tightly around Coulson's ankle. "I love you too..." she whispered to herself, not expecting him to hear- it was better if he didn't- but needing to say it anyway, if only for her own guilt burdened heart.
Coulson gently rubbed Bobbi's back a moment or two, then gently tugged her pants and underwear down, wrapping an arm around his daughter's waist and pulling her tight against his stomach. "No matter what, you are a part of this family. And there is nothing you could ever do to drive me away or make me stop caring about you." He lifted his hand, bringing it down in the first hard swat.
Bobbi whimpered...almost as much at the words as at the first hard swat. She wanted to believe so badly...but she'd been lying so long to herself, it was hard to believe his words as being true, no matter how much Coulson believed them himself. Tears continued to stream from her eyes and she took a quivery breath, her body already tense from the long day she'd already had. The anticipation of another swat made her tense even further.
Coulson had to steel himself to keep on swatting, going down to Bobbi's thighs before he started over from the top. "I know it's hard to believe. Each of the others struggled with it at first, too. But they know how important they are to me... and I hope you'll come to understand that as well. Even if it takes a while, I have time and patience. I'm never going to give up on you," he promised.
Bobbi swallowed hard at the words, another tiny sob escaping as she told him in a heartbroken tone, "You should...you should give up on me...."
"Never." Coulson didn't have to think about his response; it was automatic. "You're one of mine, Bobbi. I promise you that nothing will ever make a difference to how I feel about you or make me want to discard you." He was still swatting, but those swats now acted as an emphasis for what he was saying.
The truly frightening thing was...she did believe him. She believed everything he said...which made her own lies even more horrible to her. Going limp, she just continued to cry and accept the smacks without any fight whatsoever. She didn't want to fight what she knew she deserved. And as much as they hurt, at least the smacks were an indication that he hadn't stopped caring. If he ever chose not to punish her and ignored bad behavior, she didn't know what she'd do.
Coulson forced himself to keep going, but couldn't do more than one circuit of swats before Bobbi's tears got to him. He quickly gathered his daughter back into his arms, hugging her tightly to himself.
Bobbi twisted around in Coulson's arms until she was grasping him as tightly as she could, her face pressed to his chest. She continued to cry...hard...her own lies preventing his comfort from easing her pain. She was distraught, but unable to confess why...and it was tearing her up inside.
Coulson hugged Bobbi tightly, gently stroking her hair and back as he spoke soft, loving words to her. He knew she was going to struggle until she told him what she was hiding... but all he could do was what he was doing right now; hug her and rock her, reiterating over and over that she was his... and would always be his.
Bobbi couldn't stop crying. Choking on her tears, she just held on as tightly as she could. Several minutes went by as her sobs shook her body, unable to calm or be comforted, until finally she wore herself down completely and fell asleep in Coulson's arms.
Coulson continued to hold his daughter close, worry and concern in his embrace. He watched Bobbi's face and sighed quietly, knowing that something was going to have to give. It was very quickly becoming clear that she couldn't continue like this.
Gradually, Bobbi's grip loosened, though she didn't waken. The fact that Coulson held her seemed to ease her just enough that she was able to continue sleeping, getting the rest she desperately needed.
Coulson held Bobbi long enough to assure himself that she was sleeping and then he lifted her into his arms, carrying his daughter through to the bedroom. Settling her on the bed, he gently tugged the blankets up to cover her and then quietly sat with her, taking care of some paperwork, so that he'd be there when she woke up.
Thor didn't say anything during the elevator ride to his floor, though he kept his arm around Mack's shoulders as he guided the man who'd become his second brother off the elevator, stepping through to the living room area as he addressed Mack. "You should not have disappeared without a word to any of us."
Mack blinked in surprise at the words, not having expected Thor to scold him...even though he knew Thor was right. Of course, telling someone they were going would have caused more questions to be asked. Questions he wasn't allowed to answer. He grimaced. "I know you're right. I'm used to taking care of myself and didn't think," he finally admitted.
Taking a seat on the couch, Thor settled his brother next to him, looking seriously at Mack. "When you are part of a family, you do not leave without word or telling anyone where you are going," he said. "If something had happened, none of us would have known until it was too late."
Mack reluctantly nodded. "Of course...I'm sorry if I worried you. I just didn't think."
"I understand." Not thinking was something that Thor himself had suffered from in the past, after all. Still... "But your actions still require a response." He waited to see if Mack would understand what he meant, since the way family members were punished wasn't exactly a secret.
Mack's eyebrows shot up and his eyes widened. "You're going to...but...really?" He sounded surprised...because he was. He never thought he'd be considered enough like family for anyone to do what he knew Thor was talking about.
"You are a part of this family," Thor stated, his voice firm. "You are like a second brother to me. So, yes, I am going to spank you."
Mack was surprised at how good that made him feel. And then he realized what Thor's caring actually meant. He couldn't rightfully protest, though. Not when he knew Bobbi was having such a 'discussion' with Coulson. Fair was fair. "Ok..." He nodded. Hesitantly, he stood again. "Where...?"
"We will take care of this here," Thor said firmly. He reached to take hold of Mack once more, drawing his brother across his knee.
Mack took a deep breath, reaching down to brace himself on the floor. "I am sorry, Thor...I will try to think in the future," he said softly.
"You are a valued part of this family," Thor said, his voice filled with sincerity. "That is what you need to remember." He wrapped one arm around Mack's waist, to draw him tight against his stomach, and then tugged his pants and underwear down.
Mack swallowed hard at Thor's words, unable to argue against them...not really wanting to. He took a quick inhale of breath when he was bared, but didn't try and stop the Asgardian prince. "I will try..." he hesitantly agreed.
"Good, because I do not wish to lose you," Thor said gravely. Taking a tighter hold on Mack, he brought his hand down in the first hard swat then repeated it.
Mack winced and let out a tiny grunt, but otherwise managed to keep quiet. He was surprised at how much it hurt, though...although he had a feeling it wasn't the pain that would bring him down. Thor's words had reminded him that what he was doing was going to affect everyone. Not just him, Bobbi and Coulson. It was hard enough when he thought of Coulson being hurt. The guilt that had been simmering below the surface of his thoughts bubbled to the top, making it very difficult for him not to react to the correction immediately.
Thor settled quickly into a rhythm, bringing the swats down over and over, working his way down to Mack's thighs before starting over from the top. "You should not have left without a word to anyone. You should not have turned your phone off so there was no way of contacting you... or tracking you, should someone target you."
"You're right...I know...it was unnecessary and foolish and I shouldn't have done it. I should have turned my phone on. I should have told someone we were leaving and when we planned to return...." He took a quick, shuddery breath. "I'm sorry I worried you..." He winced at the watery tone in his voice.
"You are a part of this family... of my family..." Thor said. "This will not happen again." His voice was serious, almost stern... but underneath that was worry. He'd been relieved when Mack and Bobbi had come back.
Mack wasn't certain if it was Thor's royal bearing, or the fact that the other man was so certain in his declarations, but he found himself quickly agreeing. "No, sir, it won't happen again..." His voice was strained with the effort it took to not cry, or even whimper, at the fact that Thor cared so much he was willing to step in.
"If it does, this will happen again," Thor stated, shifting Mack forward slightly so that he could begin addressing sharper swats to his brother's sit spots, concentrating more of the swats there and to Mack's thighs.
"Yes, sir." Mack's voice caught in his throat and his eyes began to water. It was difficult for him to believe he was in this position, although he really wasn't surprised. What was surprising was how quickly he was becoming affected by the punishment. He could only attribute it to the fact he had developed such a close friendship with Thor- the man was his brother- and he knew he had disappointed him with his actions. The fact that he knew Thor would be even more disappointed when the truth came out made it worse. He had to clear his throat and blink tears from his eyes. "I am very sorry, brother..."
"I know." Thor's voice was gentle and filled with affection, rather than angry or irritated. "You cannot do anything that will take yourself away from this family... from me." He increased the force and speed behind the swats a fraction.
Mack let out a startled yelp at the increased force and speed, then slumped and began to cry, softly but still noticeably, at Thor's words. "I'll try not to...I'll try to be more careful..." he choked out between tears.
Thor stopped, wasting no time in gently tugging Mack into his arms. He hugged his brother tightly, worry and affection clear in how tight he held the other man. "I'm very glad you're safe here."
Mack swallowed hard before hesitantly wrapping his arms around Thor and hugging him tightly. "Thank you..." he finally whispered. "For reminding me..." He took a deep breath then kissed Thor on the cheek. "You are a good big brother..." He gave a crooked smile then wiped the remaining tears from his eyes.
Thor hugged Mack close, pressing a kiss to his forehead. "And you're a good younger brother." His voice held a trace of amusement, but was no less sincere for it. Even so, Thor had noticed Coulson's suspicions about Bobbi... if she was up to something, he was certain that meant Mack was involved. He just hoped that the two of them would finally trust the members of their family and tell them what was really going on.
Mack's smile grew a little and he chuckled abashedly. "I...May I go wash my face? And then maybe we can join the others for that movie?" he asked hesitantly, just in case Thor wasn't through with him yet.
Thor nodded. "They might be close to the end of the movie, but I'm sure we can do something else all together." He hugged Mack close a moment or two longer, before gently releasing him.
Mack nodded, stepping back and wiping at his eyes again. "If they are done, I don't mind doing something else. As long as I can be with my family..." He reached out, squeezing Thor's shoulder gently, before heading to the restroom to wash his face.
Later that evening, after they'd eaten together, Steve guided Tony back to his floor, arm wrapped around his shoulders. "Would you like to call Pepper?" he asked softly. "Check in on her?"
Tony leaned into Steve and nodded. "Yeah...I miss her..." He sighed softly, knowing his father would understand. Since Pepper had finally recognized that Steve was her father as much as he was Tony's, the two had grown closer and he knew Steve would probably be missing her just as much. "I figure...we can Skype... so we can see each other while we talk." He glanced at Steve with a tiny grin. "And you can make sure she's eating and sleeping the way she's 'sposed to be...."
Steve nodded. "That sounds like a very good idea," he agreed. "And I'm sure she'll want to see you at least as much as you want to see her." Since he knew Pepper knew how badly affected Tony had been by the explosion. He pressed a kiss to Tony's cheek, love and affection in his voice and every action.
Tony grinned, giving Steve a quick but affectionate hug and kiss on the cheek, then grabbed his tablet and began the process of trying to Skype his fiancé.
Steve guided Tony through to the bedroom, so they could both settle comfortably on the bed. He'd kept a careful eye on his son all through the evening meal, making sure Tony actually ate a sensible amount of food... instead of just pushing it around on his plate.
Tony propped the pillows up so they could actually sit comfortably, then sat down, scooting as close to his father as he could so that they could both see the screen and so that Pepper could see both of them. It had been a really good day. For the first time since the explosion, Tony had gotten an adequate amount of sleep the night before and he had also eaten plenty all day long. Since he'd also spent the entirety of the day in his father's company and not holed up in his lab working, he wasn't stressed from overworking either. He looked healthy.
That was the first thing Pepper noticed when the connection was finally made and she could see their faces. "You look good, Tony...Your injuries are healing, right?" she asked, with a slight hint of worry, but not as much as she would have had if he hadn't looked so good.
"Bruce says I'm healing really well...and dad and I hung out today, so I'm not as stressed as I can sometimes get when I'm working..." Tony admitted quietly.
Pepper got a knowing look in her eye, but didn't say anything. She knew her fiancé. She turned toward Steve. "Hi, daddy...Tony isn't giving you any problems, is he?" she asked with a teasing lilt to her voice.
Steve smiled, the look on his face fond and loving. "Today hasn't been bad," he said, carefully looking over his daughter, making sure she didn't look tired or as if she hadn't been eating. "How are you? You're not working too hard, are you?" His affection and concern for his daughter were obvious in his voice and the loving way he watched her. "We miss you," he added... referring not only to him and Tony, but also everyone else in the tower.
Pepper smiled crookedly. "Well...I've been forcing myself to eat... but things are a mess over here, so I'm having a hard time getting out of the office before really late at night. You'd probably tell me I'm not sleeping enough..." she admitted with a sigh; knowing as she admitted it that he'd probably chide her for working so hard and not sleeping. It was difficult, though- so much needed to be taken care of and she wanted to finish soon so that she could go home. A few days of little sleep wouldn't be too much if it let her get home sooner, would it?
"I know we're all desperate to have you back," Steve said. "But even if pushing yourself will bring you back faster, I need to know you'll be taking care of yourself. Otherwise, I'm sure Tony won't mind me commandeering his jet to fly out to you, with him, and make sure you are taking care of yourself." His voice was still loving and affectionate... but also completely serious. If he had to be there to make sure his daughter was taking care of herself, he had no problem doing that.
"I'd insist on it..." Tony interjected, smiling crookedly.
Pepper looked down at the mild chastisement, but smiled, knowing that it was coming from a place of love. "Ok, daddy...no more super late nights.... I miss you both so much...." She sighed, her voice forlorn and homesick.
"It won't be long, Pep...I know you and you'll have them back into shape sooner than you know it and then we'll be meeting you at the airfield to bring you home," Tony tried to encourage her.
"We miss you too," Steve reiterated. "And love you... very much. When you come back, we'll go out for a meal together. Just the three of us. It won't be long and then you'll be back here with us and the rest of the family."
"I'll hold you to that..." Pepper smiled then looked off to the side. When she looked back, she sighed. "I have to go...the meeting is starting.... Take care of each other! I love you!" She held her fingers up to her mouth and kissed them, then touched the screen...the closest to a kiss she'd be able to give them till she was through straightening out the mess she was working on.
"I love you too, Pep..." Tony kissed his own fingers, touching the screen where hers were, a sad smile on his face.
Steve repeated the gesture, touching his own fingers to where Pepper's forehead was on the screen. "Stay safe. I love you." The words were simple but sincere. He smiled lovingly at his daughter.
Pepper bit her lip, obviously not wanting to leave, but not having a choice. She was too responsible to cut out of a meeting that she needed to attend. "Till later, then..." She sighed and then disconnected.
Tony stared at the now blank screen for a few moments, before sighing himself and slumping against his father. "She looks sad..." he commented with a hint of sadness himself.
Steve wrapped his arms around his son, drawing him in close. "It's always hard to be away from your family," he said softly. "But when she comes back, we'll go out for a meal together to celebrate." He kissed the top of Tony's head.
Tony snuggled close. "Yeah. Definitely..." He sighed. "Love you, dad..."
"I love you, Tony, more than I could ever put into words." Steve's arms were tight around his son, more or less cuddling Tony on his lap.
It didn't take long for Tony to begin blinking his eyes...trying to stay awake. His body was healing rapidly, but he was still tiring faster than usual...and he'd had a busy day with his father. Soon, despite his efforts, he was slumped in his father's arms, sleeping peacefully.
"Shall I turn the lights down, Captain?" JARVIS asked softly.
"Yes, please," Steve replied, his arms still tight around his son, relieved to know that Tony was sleeping... and not forcing himself to stay awake. At least he'd be there if his boy woke up from a nightmare.
It was late by the time Fury was guiding his sons to his floor, an arm wrapped around both Trip's and Brock's shoulders. "Why don't you two think about if there's anything you'd like to do tomorrow?" he suggested. Of course, he'd have to take care of Brock's second punishment... but that would likely happen in the evening.
Trip glanced at his father, then Brock. "Maybe, if you feel up to it, we could spar a little bit? I always like to test myself against your experience..." He grinned impishly.
Brock slanted his head. "That might be fun..." he agreed with his brother quickly.
Fury smiled at that. "I'm sure we can find time to do that." He quite enjoyed the opportunity to spar against his sons, too. He stepped out of the elevator, guiding his sons out onto his floor.
Brock found himself leaning into his father. He'd never been the cuddly sort, so why he needed the physical shows of affection his father gave, he wasn't sure. He just knew he did. He gave a sheepish and chagrined look to Trip when his brother gave him a knowing look.
Fury didn't bother asking if they both wanted to stay in his room. He simply headed in that direction, gently squeezing both of his sons. He was relaxed in a way he hadn't been before he'd finally moved into the tower and found himself as much a part of the family as the others were.
Trip gave his father a quick hug before stepping away to get ready for bed. If Fury didn't bother asking if he was staying in his father's room, he also didn't bother asking if he could. He knew his father's door was always open to him. He might have gone to stay in his own room...Fury had made a point of setting up two rooms for his sons on his floor... but Trip wanted to be there for his brother if he was needed; and spending more time with his father, even if it was just those few final minutes before sleep, was something he needed himself. They didn't get to spend nearly enough time together.
Brock followed his brother's example, not questioning anything. He gave his father a tiny smile, blushing slightly. He had a feeling that he was the main reason they'd decided to stay in one room tonight. He was grateful, but it also made him feel like a little kid.
Fury hugged both of his sons before he moved to start getting ready for bed, smiling fondly at both of them. "I thought maybe the three of us could go out for a meal in the next day or so, too," he commented.
Trip grinned as he crawled on what he considered 'his' side of the bed. "I like that idea.... You thinking traditional food, or something more exotic?"
Brock nodded. "I like that idea too..." he said, as he went into the bathroom to brush his teeth.
"I thought I'd let the two of you decide where we go." Fury finished off getting ready for bed, including cleaning his teeth, and then slipped into the middle of the bed, wrapping an arm around Trip and waiting for Brock to join them before he settled down properly.
Brock came back and crawled in on the other side of his father, almost shyly snuggling up to the older man. "Maybe we can do Thai or Indian...." he suggested softly.
Trip slanted his head. "I could handle some curry..." he agreed. "Let's do Indian then."
Fury wrapped his other arm around Brock, drawing both of them in close. "Indian sounds good," he agreed. "If either of you have a bad dream, you can wake me up any time you need to," he promised, aware Brock was more likely to have a nightmare... but wanting to indicate he was there for both his sons.
"Sure thing, dad..." Trip said sleepily, hugging his father and giving him a kiss on the cheek before rolling over onto his stomach and promptly falling asleep.
Brock, nervous that he would have a nightmare and not wanting to seem like a baby, shifted so his head was on his father's chest and snuggled closer. He didn't say anything...just listening to his dad's heartbeat and letting the safe feeling he had whenever he was with his father envelope him.
Fury kept his other arm around Trip, even while he gently stroked over Brock's hair, hoping to soothe his youngest to sleep.
Brock sighed softly, nuzzling into his father. "Love you, dad..." he whispered, his eyes finally falling shut. Soon, his breathing had evened out in slumber.
Fury held both of them close, whispering softly, "I love you both," hoping that the words would be heard by them even in their dreams. He then closed his own eyes, falling asleep very quickly.
After dinner, Coulson voiced the suggestion to his children that maybe all of them should stay on his floor. He was fairly sure that Grant and Bobbi, at least, would feel better to stay in his room. He'd actually invested in a specially made bed... just in case there was a time all of his children needed to be close to him and each other.
Bobbi had been quiet most of the day. After waking up in Coulson's bed (she still resisted thinking of him as her father, as much as she wanted to be his, because she was sure when the truth came out, he'd want her gone), she'd pretty much glued herself to the older man's side, doing everything she could think of to 'make it up' to him. When he suggested his children stay on his floor, she took that as her cue to slip out; he wanted his children close...not some trouble making liar who lied. She thought she was being stealthy. Clint disabused her if that notion.
"Where you going, squeaky?" he asked with a raised eyebrow. "Last I checked you were included in all family invites...."
Bobbi stopped and stared at all the others, wide-eyed and uncertain. Finally, her gaze fell on Coulson and the strangest look came over her face. Guilt, longing, fear....it wasn't entirely clear what she was feeling; mostly because she was so confused herself.
Coulson reached out and placed a hand gently on Bobbi's shoulder, squeezing it and giving her a soft smile. "As I said before... you're a part of this family. No matter what. And I want to keep you close, too." His voice was soft, but no less sincere because of it.
Natasha smiled at her baby sister. "This isn't the kind of family you can just sneak away from."
Grant nodded in agreement with Natasha. "C'mon and stay...we all want you to."
Biting her lip, Bobbi finally nodded. "I...ok...." She still looked uncertain.
Clint, thinking about how early she snuck out of the building that morning and not believing for one minute that she wouldn't attempt to sneak back to her own floor once everyone was asleep, sidled up to Natasha and whispered, in Russian, "You and me on the outside. Baby brother and baby sister between us and right next to dad..."
Natasha nodded, whispering back, also in Russian, "Understood." She knew that, if Bobbi tried to sneak out of that position, at least one of them would be woken up by that movement.
Coulson smiled with warm affection at all of his children. Stroking a hand gently over Natasha and Clint's arms and pressing an affectionate kiss to each of their cheeks, he then wrapped an arm around each of his youngests' shoulders, guessing that they were the ones who needed the contact emotionally right now. He gave each of them a kiss to their cheek, too.
"All my stuff's on my floor, though..." Bobbi said, thinking that if she could just get onto the elevator and in her own space, she'd have the courage to call down and say she'd changed her mind...that's what she needed to do.
Grant glanced at his dad, even as he went to the drawer he'd been given for his own stuff, for those times when he wanted, or was required, to stay with his dad. He grabbed some pajamas and disappeared into the bathroom to change, letting his father handle the concern.
Clint did the same as his brother, tossing out over his shoulder as he went, "I'm sure if Nat doesn't have something to fit you, you'll fit into one of our t-shirts..."
Coulson squeezed Bobbi gently to himself a moment or two. "There are clothes you can change into and a couple of spare toothbrushes." He looked into her eyes, letting her see the sincerity there. "We want you here."
Natasha headed over to her own drawer, getting out pajamas for herself and another set for Bobbi.
Bobbi bit her lip, worrying at it, as she glanced around at Coulson and his family. She didn't stop until she tasted blood, then she glanced down and finally nodded. "Ok..."
Coulson leaned in to press a gentle kiss to Bobbi's forehead. "You are a part of this family and I love you," he whispered to her, then let go after one last squeeze as Natasha stepped over, smiling at his older daughter.
Natasha returned his smile then addressed her sister. "Come on. Let's go get changed."
Bobbi followed Natasha almost blindly...Coulson's words bringing her close to tears. The emotional roller coaster she'd felt herself on since she'd started caring about this group of people was going to drive her to drink, she thought morosely. Especially when they found out everything she'd been up to and realized they really should have left her out of their family.
Natasha simply stepped through to the other room, passing the pajamas to Bobbi even as she began getting changed herself. "He doesn't lie, you know," she said quietly. "Everything he says is the truth."
"I know...he's not a liar..." she whispered, not meaning to emphasize the 'he' in her sentence and belatedly realizing Natasha might take offense if she thought Bobbi was talking about her or the rest of the family as being liars...or get suspicious if she figured out Bobbi was thinking of herself. Taking the pajamas from Nat, Bobbi quickly changed.
Natasha eyed Bobbi, but didn't voice her suspicions that Bobbi was in fact talking about herself. She knew her father already suspected that there was something going on... and she and Clint could tell that there was something going on with Bobbi, too. Waiting for Bobbi to finish getting changed, she walked over to the door, speaking almost as if as an afterthought, "If you looked at the files on everyone here, you'd know that every person in this family has made a mistake... done things they regret. And it doesn't make a difference to how they're seen here."
Bobbi swallowed, watching Nat walk back out the door. She thought on what the other woman said. Maybe things weren't as hopeless as she thought? Maybe... Shaking her head, she sighed and followed Nat out. She couldn't afford to hope that. Even if they could forgive her...there was no chance she would be able to stay. Blinking her eyes at sudden tears again, she brushed her hand over her face and hoped no one noticed.
Grant had noticed. He just wasn't sure what to do about it. Walking carefully over to his baby sister, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "If you're in trouble, every one of us will fight for you to get you out of it..." He smiled crookedly, squeezing her shoulder. He then walked to the bed and eyed it.
"I get left edge!" Clint quickly called.
Natasha smirked at her big brother. "Then I'll take the right edge."
Coulson had taken the opportunity to get changed as well and he looked at his two youngest, knowing that Clint and Natasha had claimed the edges so that Bobbi and Grant would be on the inside, next to him. Wrapping an arm around each of his youngests' shoulders, he gently guided them to the bed so the five of them could settle in their spots.
Bobbi looked at the bed and realized she wasn't going to be able to sneak out later...not without alerting everyone else. She suspected that was Clint and Natasha's goal. Snorting, she shot them an amused and knowing look. It was hard not to find it a little funny, even if it did ensure she couldn't leave.
Grant quickly crawled onto the bed, leaving room for Natasha.
Bobbi waited for Phil to get in before she'd follow him.
Coulson settled into the bed next to Grant, giving Bobbi an encouraging smile.
Natasha settled on the other side of Grant without any hesitation.
Taking a deep breath and closing her eyes, Bobbi crawled up next to Coulson. She bit her lip again, reopening the wound she'd worried there earlier.
Clint got into the bed next to her, fluffing his pillow, and was asleep within minutes. Bobbi just lay there, unable to relax enough to sleep.
Coulson wrapped one arm around Grant and then wrapped his other arm around Bobbi, gently drawing her in close and kissing her cheek. "I know it's hard... but you'll feel better if you let yourself relax," he said softly to her. "We all care about you here."
Bobbi didn't say anything, but she was so tired...and she did trust Coulson; she just felt like a fraud and like she was going to lose everything because she really wanted what was being offered. She couldn't help it...she started crying again...silently, but still crying. What kind of agent was she that she'd become so emotionally compromised? Turning in Coulson's arms, she hid her face against his chest.
Coulson responded by holding her close, stroking her hair and back. Hearing his children cry was awful and he pressed a kiss to Bobbi's hair. "I know you have trouble believing it, but I do love you," he said softly.
Bobbi kept quiet, slowly relaxing as Coulson comforted her. She waited until she thought he was asleep to whisper softy, "I love you too...I want you to be my daddy...I wish it were possible."
Coulson was only just on the edge of sleep, arms still wrapped around Bobbi. He heard what she said, but knew that she couldn't be properly convinced until she admitted to him what was hurting her so much. He tightened his embrace a fraction, hoping they could deal with it soon... it was agonising to see her hurting so much.
Bobbi felt safe and cared about despite everything...and soon she had fallen asleep, listening to Coulson's heartbeat.
Grant lay there quietly. Once he was assured that the rest of his family was asleep, he allowed himself to sleep.
Steve woke up fairly early, Tony still cuddled in his arms. He gently stroked over his son's hair, deciding against forcing him up for training... at least for today.
Tony slowly woke, blinking and becoming more aware as he felt the shift in his father's breathing. "Morning," he said softly, hugging Steve tightly then stretching.
Steve leaned in to gently kiss Tony's forehead. "How did you sleep?" he asked softly.
Tony gave Steve a contented smile and a tiny hum of happiness. "Real good, dad...being with you helps," he said softly. Looking down, he had a thoughtful, but hesitant look on his face. "Dad..?" he finally forced out in a whisper. "Is today...?" His look turned shamed and a tiny bit nervous. He knew part two of his punishment was going to happen. He was ready for it and believed he deserved it. He just wasn't sure his nerves could handle the wait. He winced, carefully shifting so that he was sitting on the side of the bed. "Never mind." He gave another tiny smile. "What do you want to do for breakfast?"
Sitting next to his son, Steve wrapped a gentle arm around Tony's shoulders, drawing him in close. "Shall we have breakfast first? Or take care of the second spanking first?" he asked, his voice loving and gentle.
Swallowing, Tony gave Steve a grateful look for understanding what he'd wanted to say without him having to say it. "Can we get the spanking over?" he said softly.
Steve nodded, kissing the side of his son's head. "Of course. I love you, son," he said, with quiet sincerity, before gently tugging Tony across his lap, wrapping an arm around his son's waist to draw him tight against his stomach before lowering his sleep pants.
"I love you too, daddy," Tony whispered, reaching down to grasp his father's ankle tightly. He whimpered slightly as his pants were lowered, but didn't fight it.
Steve rubbed Tony's back gently a moment or two, then lifted his hand and brought it down in the first hard swat, repeating that swat on the other side and then delivering another two just below the first.
Tony had thought he'd be able to be adult about it; accept what he deserved without whining or fussing...but the first four swats landed so quickly that he didn't have time to prepare himself fully. "Aaah....daddy! It hurts!" he blurted, before he could stop himself then proceeded to start squirming.
"I know," Steve said gently. "But the danger you put yourself in could have resulted in you getting hurt much worse. I don't want to lose you. I never want to risk losing you. You are so important to me..."
"I know, daddy..." Tony finally whimpered. "I know and I'm sorry..." His voice quivered. He forced himself to stop squirming, but couldn't quite stop the tiny whimpers that escaped with each swat. Blinking to clear the tears that had quickly pooled in his eyes, he closed his eyes tight and just held onto his father's ankle.
Steve steeled himself to continue the hard, sharp swats down to Tony's thighs before starting over from the top once more. "I know how hard this is on you, son, but losing you would be a devastating blow I couldn't recover from."
At hearing how his actions affected his father so strongly, Tony couldn't help but let out a tiny sob. "I don't want to hurt or worry you..." His voice was tight with the effort not to begin sobbing uncontrollably. The pain of the swats, while unpleasant, was preferable to the knowledge that he had worried and disappointed his father. "I...I'd rather you spank me every day for the rest of my life than hurt or worry you...than disappoint you..." he admitted contritely.
"I worry about you because I love you and couldn't bear anything to happen to you," Steve said. "I know you don't mean to endanger yourself. I know there are times you don't consider your own safety as important as others... but it is. You're important. You have been since the first day we met, even if we did struggle to get on at first."
"I'm sorry..." Tony repeated through tears. Finally, he slumped over his father's lap. "I'm sorry."
Steve stopped, always finding punishing his son difficult, and quickly tugged Tony into his arms, wrapping them tightly around his son and pulling him close. "I love you, son," he whispered into Tony's ear. "No matter what happens, that will always be true."
"I love you too, daddy," Tony cried, snuggling into his father's arms. "Always..."
Steve pressed an affectionate kiss to Tony's head and just held him, always enjoying the feel of his son in his arms and being able to hold Tony close and know his boy was safe with him.
It didn't take Tony as long to calm...not because the punishment was any less effective, but because the guilt Tony had been harboring had slowly been easing due to the punishments. He gave a tiny sigh, continuing to cuddle. "Thanks, dad..." he said quietly.
Steve tightened his embrace. "I'm glad I have you safe with me," he said seriously. "You mean so much to me..."
"I can't even verbalize how much you mean to me..." Tony gave a crooked little smile. He shifted, wincing slightly, before standing and pulling up his sleep pants. "Are we joining everyone else for breakfast, or will we stay here this morning? So I know if I need to get dressed or not..."
"What would you prefer to do?" They did normally join everyone else, but Steve wanted to give Tony the option of spending some time together, just them, if he preferred.
"Maybe...we can join everyone for breakfast, but then do something just us the rest of the day?" Tony asked hesitantly.
Steve nodded, standing and wrapping an arm around Tony's shoulders, squeezing him gently. "While we eat with the others, you can think about what you'd like us to do," he suggested.
"Ok.." Tony's grin widened, since he knew exactly what he wanted to do... and quickly grabbed some clothes to change into, getting ready in record time.
Coulson came awake shortly after dawn, carefully pushing himself up on the bed as he glanced around to see if any of his children were still asleep in the bed, not wanting to risk waking any of them up if so.
The only one still in the bed was Bobbi, the stress and guilt she was under contributing to make her sleep deprived...sleeping in Coulson's arms the only real sleep she was able to enjoy.
Grant was in the room, sitting in the chair near the bed, watching over his father and baby sister. He smiled at his father and whispered, "Clint and Natasha left thirty minutes ago to begin making breakfast."
Coulson smiled at Grant, extending an arm to invite his youngest son to come and cuddle with him if he wanted. His other hand gently stroked over Bobbi's hair. The look on his face as he watched his children was soft and loving... even if the worry underneath was clear.
Grant carefully crawled back onto the bed to snuggle up to his father...taking care not to wake Bobbi. "She's so tired...she isn't sick, is she?" he whispered.
Bobbi slowly began to shift and stretch, nuzzling against Coulson.
Coulson tightened his embrace around both of them, whispering back to Grant. "Something's hurting her. Something that she thinks will stop her being part of the family." He looked down at Bobbi, the expression on his face loving though worried, then back at Grant. "I want to let her tell me herself... but she's hurting a lot." He kept his voice a whisper, careful that it didn't carry to his daughter.
"Maybe....maybe I can talk to her...I mean, she probably knows the basics about what I did in the past...but maybe if I tell her what I was thinking and feeling at the time...." His own whisper was worried.
Bobbi let out a tiny whimper, snuggling further into Coulson's embrace.
Coulson gently threaded his fingers through Bobbi's hair, even as he spoke softly to Grant. "It might help her understand that there is nothing that can remove her from this family." He leaned in to kiss Grant's cheek. "How are you feeling? You didn't move around as if you were having a bad dream..."
"I didn't have one..." Grant smiled at the affection he could see his father bestowing on his baby sister and that he could feel being given to him. "...I think my heart is finally accepting what my head was telling me; that there really wasn't anything I could have done to prevent that bomb being set off. Now I just feel guilty about making you worry when I know better than to put my life in danger unnecessarily...." He gave his father a sheepish look.
"You aren't the only one who does that..." Bobbi mumbled softly against Coulson's chest. "I do it all the time... frustrates Mack no end..." She stiffened as she woke the rest of the way and realized just what she'd admitted to.
Coulson merely held his son and daughter close as he commented mildly, "Dangerous behaviour isn't acceptable." It was addressed more to Bobbi, as he knew Grant was aware of that. He shifted his hand to the nape of Grant's neck, gently squeezing there, even as he continued to hold Bobbi close. He wasn't scolding or upset with either of them... Love and care was the only thing that came through, apart from the worry.
"Yes, sir," Grant said with a smile.
"Yes, sir," Bobbi said at the exact same moment as Grant, then blinked owlishly at having answered as if it was perfectly normal to be treated like Coulson's child. Biting her lip then wincing because her lip was still sore from her biting it the night before, she gave Coulson a crooked and hesitant smile. "I'm just gonna get dressed and go to the kitchen..." she muttered softly, but not moving out of Coulson's arms; as if waiting for his permission to move.
Coulson nodded, loosening his arms a fraction around Bobbi... enough so that she could get up, but so that he was still in contact with her. "Grant mentioned that Clint and Natasha went to make breakfast... I'm sure they'll have food ready." His voice was gentle, but he clearly expected Bobbi to actually eat something.
Bobbi looked at Coulson for a few seconds, as if trying to gauge if he expected her to eat or not...then nodded with an accepting look. "Ok, sir..." she said quietly, grabbing her clothing and disappearing into the bathroom to change. It didn't take long at all before she was heading to the common area kitchen to join Clint and Nat.
Grant watched her go then swallowed. "Are you going to take care of me now? Or later?" he asked nervously.
Coulson squeezed Grant gently, kissing the top of his head. "Would you rather get it over with?" he asked gently.
Grant looked down, but then looked up at his father again and nodded. "Yes, sir," he said softly.
Coulson nodded, kissing Grant's cheek and then easing him over his knees, securing him with an arm wrapped around his waist. "I love you, Grant. I cannot face the thought of losing you," he said softly, before baring him.
"I love you too, dad..." Grant said softly, shivering as the air touched his backside. "I'm sorry...."
"I know." Coulson rubbed Grant's back gently a moment or two, before he lifted his hand and brought it down in the first hard swat, then repeating it. It was hard, but he forced himself to use the same force as the previous spanking... knowing that this dangerous behaviour had to stop.
Grant inhaled with a pained hiss. It wasn't that he expected his father to go easy on him since it was the second one; but being the second one, his backside was more sensitive. It didn't take long for him to begin squirming and whimpering in pain...and only a little longer than that for him to begin crying quietly.
Coulson had to force himself to continue swatting down to Grant's thighs and then start over from the top, hating to cause his son pain, but knowing this had to be memorable enough to make him think next time.
Grant was torn between wanting to beg his father to stop and thinking he hadn't paid nearly enough for the worry he'd caused his dad. So he lay there and squirmed and hissed out his pain and cried...and finally went limp over his dad's knee.
"I'm so sorry." He would have wailed if he hadn't been trying to keep his voice down, just in case Bobbi was still nearby.
Coulson stopped, unable to force himself to continue, and quickly tugged his son into his arms, kissing his forehead and holding him tightly to himself. "I'm glad to have you here and safe with me," he said softly.
For his part, Grant just snuggled as close as he could and held on tightly. When he felt he could trust his voice enough to speak without crying, he whispered, "I love you, daddy...."
Coulson cuddled Grant as tight as he could without hurting him. "I love you, son," he said softly. "I couldn't heal if I lost you."
"You won't...I'll do my best to make sure you won't.." Grant said hoarsely.
"I know." Coulson kissed his head, hugging his son tightly. "You are so important. Not only to me."
"I know..." Grant said softly. "I'm sorry...."
Coulson nodded. "I forgive you... I'm just glad you weren't hurt worse."
At Coulson's words of forgiveness, a heaviness that he hadn't even realized he was carrying eased. "Thank you, daddy."
Coulson pressed another kiss to the top of Grant's head. "I love you," he said again, before adding, "I thought, after breakfast, us and your siblings could do something together... just have a bit more family time."
"I'd like that. Did you have something in mind?" Grant asked curiously, as he stood and fixed his clothing, then waited for his father to lead him to the common dining area to meet the others. Soon, they were on the elevator heading up.
Fury woke up fairly early, just after dawn hit, and sat up, glancing around to see where his sons were. He'd slept fairly well and was looking forward to spending the day with Trip and Brock.
Trip was nowhere to be seen, although there was a sticky note stuck to the alarm clock, where Fury could see it that said, 'Helping make breakfast'.
Brock was curled up tight against his father, close enough that if he shifted just one more inch he'd be on top of the older man. He'd slept just as good as he had the two nights before; which was the best sleep he'd got since he'd moved onto his own floor and started sleeping alone. He was close enough that he sensed when his father woke and immediately woke himself, holding himself still and regulating his breathing to make it seem like he was asleep, until his memory caught up with his senses and he remembered where and who he was with.
Fury noticed the note and that Brock was curled up against him. Fairly certain that his movement had woken his youngest, he didn't say anything, just held Brock close, one hand gently stroking over his hair and back.
It hadn't taken Brock long to remember exactly where he was; the second he did, he relaxed into his father. "M'rnin, dad..." he said softly, enjoying the 'petting', though he'd be embarrassed to admit it. It made him feel accepted… cared about...loved.
"Good morning." Fury didn't stop the gentle stroking, even as he asked softly, "How did you sleep?"
"Good...real good..." Brock smiled, cuddling close. "Being with you helps..." he said softly.
Fury wrapped his arms around his son, drawing him in close. "I'll always be here for you when you need me," he promised.
Brock carefully sat up on the edge of the bed, then glanced at Fury. "I believe that," he said softly. "I need you in so many ways..." he admitted.
Fury kept his arm around Brock, hugging his son close. "There's nothing wrong with needing someone," he said, his voice filled with sincerity. "You are my son."
Brock swallowed hard and nodded, snuggling close again. "I feel odd, though...needing you to protect me or take care of me when I can't do that for myself makes sense to me... I'd do that for anyone in my squad, so having my father do it for me isn't all that unusual. Needing you to...to correct me... it feels like I shouldn't need that." He frowned, not certain if he was making any sense or not. "But...I do. Need that, I mean..." he whispered.
Fury gently tugged his son in close, almost so that Brock was sitting on his lap. "There isn't anything wrong with needing your family," he said softly. "I'm sure there are times you feel that needing correction makes you feel like a child, but all it really does is mean you need your family in a different way."
Brock gave Fury a chagrined look, but nodded in agreement. 'It does...make me feel like a child, I mean. But I...after you spanked me the other night...a lot of the guilt I'd been feeling eased up, so...." He hesitated, not certain how to ask his father to spank him again. He knew he had another spanking coming that night, but maybe if he received it now, he'd be able to enjoy the rest of the day with his father and it would help get rid of some more of the lingering guilt he felt. He looked down, suddenly unable to look his father in the eye, feeling vulnerable and a little embarrassed.
Fury tightened his embrace around Brock, having a fairly good idea of what his son was thinking. "Would you prefer to get the second spanking over with now?" It was an unpleasant prospect to have to punish his son again... but it was the punishment that had been agreed on; and if Fury was honest, he would prefer to get it over with himself.
"Yes, please?" Brock glanced up, his face turning pink...but it was obvious he meant what he said, even if it had come out sounding like a question.
Fury didn't say anything, merely pressing an affectionate kiss to his son's head before gently moving Brock over his lap, securing him with an arm wrapped around his waist before tugging his sleep pants down.
Brock hissed a tiny bit as the cool air touched his backside and he wiggled just a tiny bit, but he didn't try and get away. Instead, he reached down and grasped his father's ankle tightly and took a steadying breath. "I love you, daddy," he said quietly.
"I love you, Brock," Fury said, honesty and sincerity coming through in his voice along with care and affection. "I don't want to lose you. Not now. Not ever."
"I don't want to be lost..." Brock's voice cracked from emotion and nerves and he gently squeezed his father's ankle, before taking a steadying breath. "You won't lose me...I'll learn to be good and not do unnecessary things...I will...."
"You are good, Brock. There are just times you don't remember how important you are." Fury rubbed his back gently for a moment or two, before lifting his hand and bringing it down in the first hard swat.
Brock winced and let out a tiny whimper at the swat, but managed not to jerk away from the punishment. He was ashamed at how quickly his eyes watered, though...not because of the pain, but because he had made his father feel that there were no other options left to teach him. He knew Fury disliked having to punish him and he didn't want his father hurt. "I'm sorry, daddy," he said, his voice thick with guilt and apology.
"I know. I forgive you, Brock. I just want to keep you safe, son." Fury's voice was gentle, in complete contrast to the swats as he settled into a rhythm, swatting from left to right, going down to Brock's thighs before starting over from the top.
Closing his eyes tightly in an effort not to begin sobbing so soon, Brock found himself unable to focus on anything other than his father's hand rising and falling over and over. Despite his intentions not to, he was soon squirming on his father's lap, tiny gasps escaping his lips with each swat.
Fury continued swatting in hard, methodical swats; not using his full strength, but not delivering them gently, either. "Endangering yourself is never going to be acceptable, son. You're an important and valued part of this family... important to me personally."
"I...I know....I'm sorry daddy....so sorry..." Brock choked out before going limp over Fury's lap and crying hard. He wasn't very loud...but his body was shaking from the strength of his sobs.
Fury stopped, tugging Brock into his arms and hugging his son tightly, allowing himself to feel that his son was safe with him. "I love you, Brock. You are more important to me than I could ever truly explain..."
Brock didn't waste any time curling into his father's embrace, crying against the older man's chest. "I love you, daddy...and I'm so sorry I made you have to do that. I know you don't like to...." He swallowed. "I'm sorry I made it necessary...."
Tightening his embrace, Fury gently stroked Brock's hair and back as he cuddled his son close and tight. "I would do anything to keep you safe," he promised.
Sniffling a bit more and taking a shivery breath, Brock cuddled closer, then asked rhetorically, with a bit of humor in his tone, "Even heating my backside?"
Fury smiled, replying with a trace of amusement in his own voice, "Yes. Even that, when it's necessary."
Brock gave his father a tiny grin, snuggling a bit more. "If it helps...I think I learned my lesson..." His voice was quiet and accepting. Carefully standing up, he shed his sleep pants and gathered his regular clothes and began dressing.
Fury stood up, gently squeezing Brock's shoulder. "I'm glad, since I don't want to ever lose you." He began dressing as well, after collecting his clothes from his drawer.
Brock smiled, waiting for his father to be ready so they could go to breakfast together.
Finishing getting dressed, Fury wrapped his arm around his son's shoulders, guiding him towards the elevator to go to the common floor.
Bruce had sat both his kids down with a full plate of breakfast then sat between them with his own breakfast. "I was thinking maybe we could take a break today...there's an exhibit at the museum that I thought we could go see."
Leo ate his breakfast, glancing at his father as he did so. "I think that sounds good." He smiled, glancing at Jemma, then back at Bruce. "We haven't been out of the tower in a while... to relax, at least." The last time had been when the explosion happened... and Leo knew that had affected all of them, not just his three cousins who had been there at the time.
"I like that idea as well," Jemma agreed.
Bruce smiled. "Good. I think we could use some fun."
Leo nodded. "It'll be good." He smiled. "Especially to spend some time with just the three of us."
"As soon as we've finished breakfast and cleaned up, we can go..." Bruce nodded. He was happy, if not surprised, that they had agreed so readily. He was looking forward to spending time with them.
Leo finished the food on his plate and stood up, carrying his plate and cutlery over to clean them up. "I'm ready whenever you both are." He smiled.
Bruce finished up and carried his items back to clean them as well, nodding when Jemma followed him. "I think we're ready..." At Jemma's nod, Bruce put an arm around both Jemma and Leo's shoulders to lead them out.
Leo leaned into his father, walking alongside him. He smiled at Jemma, finally feeling able to relax after the horrors of the explosion and how it had affected their family.
Bruce had arranged to have one of the sedans made available, so it took little time for them to load up and be on their way. Within the hour they were at he museum and waiting in line.
May had listened to Bruce's plans for his family and frowned thoughtfully. She and Skye hadn't done any one on one type of fun since the camping trip...and the explosion had been rough. Maybe it would do Skye good to get out of the tower as well. Clearing her throat as she picked up her empty breakfast plate and walked to the sink to clean it, she remarked casually, "I think maybe it might be fun to do a spa day today; maybe even a little bit of shopping...you interested, Skye? We could stop at the electronics and computer stores...."
Skye had also overheard the plans being made and she'd started to wonder if she and her mother could have some time away from the tower and be able to spend some time just them. When May spoke up, she smiled as she finished her own food and stood up to clean her items. "I'd like that," she said softly. "You're sure you won't be busy?"
"If I don't take time, I'll always be too busy...that's not acceptable. I'm taking the time because you are important." May's voice was firm and resolute, with a hint of the love and affection she felt for her daughter.
Skye smiled, feeling a faint weight lift from her shoulders at her mother's words. She stepped closer to May, leaning against her mother a moment, after cleaning up. "I want to spend the time with you."
"Good! Then we're going to the spa. Phil, if you need us have JARVIS call my comm. I'm leaving the ringer on my phone turned off," May said, with a smile at one of her oldest friends.
Coulson smiled at May. "I'm sure I won't need either of you," he said warmly. "Have a good time. Both of you."
Skye smiled, not even trying to hide how happy she was to spend time with her mother.
Wrapping an arm around her daughter, May led Skye to the elevator. Within minutes, they were in a different vehicle and heading out of town to a spa May was familiar with that allowed walk-ins.
Lance finished up his breakfast and carried his plate and cutlery over to the sink to clean up. He'd been somewhat quiet during breakfast, not failing to notice that something was up with Bobbi and Mack. Bucky might now be officially (and personally) his father, but the other two were still family members... and Lance knew them both well enough to know there was something going on.
Bucky had noticed Lance's preoccupation with his two teammates and he waited to see if Lance confronted them. It was easy for anyone who had been in the spy or assassin business to tell something was going on...he just hoped whatever it was wouldn't hurt his son. He was pretty sure Coulson and Thor had a handle on it, but still. Quietly, he walked over with his own dishes and began to clean, pausing just long enough to put his hand on his son's shoulder.
Some of the tension in Lance relaxed with Bucky placing a hand on his shoulder and he sighed, leaning a little bit into his father. As much as he wanted to talk to Mack and Bobbi, whatever they were keeping from him... if they weren't going to tell the men who had all but officially adopted them, they were unlikely to tell him.
Lance cleaned up and then slanted a look at Bucky. "Could we... I don't know... leave the tower for a bit today? Just get outside for a while?"
"Course we can..." Bucky nodded. "Anything in particular you'd like to do?"
Lance shrugged. "To be honest, I really just want to get out for a bit... think about something else for a while. Any burning desire to do something?"
"Hmmph." Bucky grunted then gave Lance a big grin. "We could always go to the batting range. Hit a few balls, buy a few beers, wink at a few gals..."
Tony, having walked over to the sink to wash his own plate, heard the last bit and wiggled his eyebrows at his uncle, then teased his cousin, "I've got a few 'supplies' that might come in handy, if you're interested...."
Lance smiled. "Sounds like a good plan." He looked at Tony and smirked, though it was only half-hearted, since his heart wasn't in it. "Don't think I need any of your supplies... but thanks for offering," he teased.
Tony wrinkled his nose, but his eyes were laughing. "Suit yourself...." He was about to say something else, but happened to glance at Steve and visibly changed his mind.
Bucky snorted, having caught the glance and having a feeling he had an idea of the gist of what Tony had planned to say. "Good choice, kid..." he remarked casually, reaching over and ruffling Tony's hair, before putting an arm around Lance's shoulder and leading him out of the kitchen. Soon, they had left the building as well.
Tony wrinkled his nose again and looked around at who was left. "Tower's clearing out fast today..." he remarked off-handedly.
Steve stepped over to Tony, wrapping an arm around his son's shoulders. "Did you have any thoughts about what you'd like to do today?" he asked gently, pressing a kiss to Tony's head before releasing him just long enough to clean his own items up.
Tony perked up at the question. "Actually...I was thinking maybe we could catch a ball-game. Eat a few hot-dogs. Grab some popcorn and cracker-jacks...."
Steve smiled. "That sounds very good to me," he agreed. Then again, when he could spend time with his son, it always sounded good. "We can leave whenever you're ready."
Tony grinned impishly, putting the dish he had just finished drying away. "I'm ready now..."
"Great." Steve wrapped his arm around Tony's shoulders, guiding him towards the elevator so they could leave.
Trip watched as Tony and Steve left then glanced at his father and brother curiously. "Ok. I'm going to feel a bit left out and cooped up if we don't go out of the tower now..." he teased lightly.
"But what can we do?" Brock asked, game to do something with his family, but not really coming up with any ideas. He looked at his father questioning.
Trip looked at Fury as well. "Got any ideas, dad?"
Fury considered that as he cleaned up his items from breakfast. "Why don't we see if there are any movies on we'd like to watch?" he suggested.
Trip shrugged. "I already know of a couple that are showing I'm interested in. If that's ok with both of you, we can head to the theatre and make a choice there...."
"Sounds good to me." Brock was agreeable.
Fury nodded. "Me too. I'm ready to go whenever you both are." He smiled.
"Great!" Taking a quick look around and seeing that everyone in his family had finished eating and cleaning up, Trip grabbed Brock's arm, then his father's and semi-dragged them to the elevator to go to the movie.
Clint watched the mass exodus of the tower occupants and then looked at his brother and sister. "I have two words for you.... Paint. Ball. If dad says it's ok."
"That's seven words..." Grant said snarkily, earning a semi-gentle punch to the arm from his brother.
"Don't be an idiot..." Clint grumbled good-naturedly. "Are you interested? Anyone? I would have thought you'd all jump at the chance to shoot at me!"
Coulson smiled towards his children. "Paintball sounds good."
"Yeah, I think I'd like to beat your score from last time," Natasha teased Clint.
"No WAY are you beating my score from last time!" Clint bragged. "I am paintball champion!" He held his fist out toward Grant, but when the younger man failed to do the requisite 'fist bump', he did a modified fist-pump instead, then stuck his tongue out at his brother and sisters.
Bobbi couldn't help but laugh at his antics, but started sidling toward the door, even as she gave them all a wistful look. "You all have fun...I have to finish some paperwork...."
Grant frowned and grabbed hold of her arm before she could disappear. "Uh uh, no way! You aren't getting out of going. I need at least one person younger than me, or I'm going to end up being bait again!"
Bobbi was too confused at that comment to argue about the fact he was preventing her from sneaking away. The confusion was obvious on her face.
Coulson wrapped his arm around Bobbi's shoulders, hugging her close a moment or two. "I'd like to spend time with all of you," he said, his voice sincere and warmed through with affection.
Natasha moved to clean her plate and cutlery, keeping a surreptitious eye on 'baby sister' to make sure Bobbi wasn't going to sneak off.
Bobbi blinked at Grant's hand on her arm, still keeping her from 'running', and Coulson's arm around her shoulders, pulling her in close, then licked her lower lip and swallowed. "Oh..." was all she said, but there was a wealth of emotions behind the word: her uncertainty that she really belonged with them; a slight undertone of guilt; the wistfulness she always felt when she saw them together as a family, wishing that she really could be part of their home; an eagerness to join them despite the uncertainty... she didn't bother trying to hide any of it. She felt too off-balance at having been thwarted so easily.
Grant, once assured that Bobbi wasn't going anywhere, quickly began to clean up his and Bobbi's plates and cutlery...leaving it to his father or sister to keep a hold of her so she couldn't run.
Coulson kept his arm around Bobbi's shoulders, pressing a gentle kiss to the top of her head. "We want you with us," he said softly to her. "No matter what's hurting you right now... it's not going to change anything. I promise that. I'd like you to tell me what is going on, though, because I can see how much it's hurting you... and it's terrible to see how much pain you're in right now."
After cleaning up after herself, Natasha moved casually over to Clint's side. "Maybe one of us should follow her next time she sneaks out of the tower," she suggested, speaking in Russian.
Bobbi looked down, blushing faintly. It was good to hear that she was wanted. It wasn't so good to hear that Coulson knew she was hiding something; not that she should be surprised that he had figured it out. She didn't have any clue how to respond to the comment that he wanted her to tell him...so she didn't say anything. Instead, she leaned into him like an affection starved puppy and tried to make the most of being wanted while it was still occurring. Because, despite his words, she knew, once the truth came out, he'd send her away.
Clint nodded. He didn't say anything; he knew Natasha would know he was agreeing with her.
Grant was soon finished cleaning up the dishes he had and turned. "We ready to go now?"
Bobbi glanced around at Coulson's brood then looked up into Coulson's face before hesitantly nodding. "Yeah...I...I think we are...." She couldn't help dart a look in Mack's direction. He hadn't said anything and was calmly talking to Loki and Thor, but she knew he was aware of what was going on. She wouldn't be able to send out her message today if she was in Coulson's entourage...it would be up to him to get the message out. Hopefully, it wouldn't pose a problem.
Coulson squeezed Bobbi gently a moment or two. "I think we're all ready." The look he directed at all of his children was loving and affectionate. He wanted to spend the time with them.
Natasha noticed the look that Bobbi darted towards Mack, but she didn't say anything. They were already pretty sure that Mack was involved in this.
"Great! Let's go, then!" Clint clapped his hands together and grabbed Grant's and Natasha's arms, before grinning at Coulson. "Age before beauty!" he said impishly to the older man.
Mack had noted Bobbi's glance toward him as well, but hadn't reacted, not wanting to draw attention to himself and have Thor start watching him more closely. Once Coulson and his brood were all gone... he looked at Loki and Thor. "You all have plans for today? I need to make a phone call, but as soon as I'm done that, I pretty much am free the rest of the day and, I have to admit, the idea of going out of the tower and hanging out with my two 'bros' sounds like a good idea."
Thor smiled at Mack. "I have no plans, so it would be good to spend the day with both you and Loki."
"Well...unlike the others, I do not know of any particular activity that I would be interested in trying out..." Loki drawled. "...So perhaps we can just walk around and if something catches our eye, we can do it then."
Mack nodded. "That works for me." He stood and gathered his dirty dishes together so he could clean them. "My phone call shouldn't take more than fifteen minutes. I can meet you in the common living area in twenty?'
Thor nodded, smiling at his brothers. "That sounds good to me," he agreed. He picked up his own plate and cutlery to go and clean them. "We will see you then," he said to Mack.
The next day, Loki passed Natasha and Clint on his way into the common room. The activities of the day before had been enjoyable...and everyone had stayed out late and slept in the next morning. He had slept longer than he'd planned to...arriving to breakfast as everyone else was leaving. He hoped that he wasn't arriving to the common living area just as everyone was leaving again. While he wasn't adverse to reading or doing other solitary things, he was actually in the mood for some company.
When he walked into the room where everyone was watching a movie, there was only one seat left in the room...next to Coulson. Loki couldn't stop the wince as he realized he would need to sit next to the other man...otherwise, everyone would question why he preferred to sit on the floor and he really didn't want to answer questions. Hesitantly, he perched on the couch next to the other man, holding himself stiffly so that he wouldn't accidently lean on him. He was tense and the familiar sense of guilt seeped into him, causing him to stiffen further. Thor, bless him, was visiting Jane; or he might have noticed and begun to worry about his brother. Loki could only hope he had kept his body's reaction to sitting next to Coulson hidden from the rest of the room's occupants.
Coulson didn't have any problems with Loki sitting next to him. Although the Asgardian had killed him, Coulson had managed to forgive the demigod and readily accepted him as part of his family.
But he couldn't help noticing, once again, that Loki clearly seemed uncomfortable around him.
Coulson kept quiet as the movie finished and then looked at Loki. "Can we talk?" His voice was calm, but there was obvious concern there.
Loki blinked at Coulson, his eyes widening in surprise. "Uh..." he said ineloquently, then blushed at being caught wrong footed. What he wanted to say was, 'No...I have to take care of something...' and then take off (run) before Coulson could insist. What he did say was, "Yes...do you wish to speak now?"
Coulson nodded. "I think now would be as good a time as any," he replied. He glanced towards Steve and then his youngest son, suggesting with a light teasing note to his voice, "I might regret this, but Grant, why don't you do something with Tony for a bit?"
"Hey! That's not nice!" Tony protested; but since he was laughing, it was obvious he hadn't truly taken offense. "C'mon, Grant...I have some new equipment I made for the team. You can check yours out now...." Tony stood up and waited for his cousin to join him.
Grant, noting how nervous Loki seemed and how serious his father seemed, decided that he didn't want to be anywhere around the conversation they were about to have and quickly stood to join Tony. "Can I test it out too?"
"If your dad says it's ok...." Tony shrugged. He wasn't about to give permission without taking Coulson's opinion into consideration. It might take him a while to learn sometimes; but when he did learn, he didn't often forget.
"I'll trust both of you to know what's dangerous and what isn't," Coulson said, not adding that he suspected Steve would be keeping the two of them company. He leaned forward to kiss Grant's forehead affectionately. "I'll see you in a little while, son." He shifted his hand to the nape of Grant's neck, squeezing gently, and then looked at Loki. "Would you feel more comfortable on your floor?"
Grant grinned. "Great! Come on, Tony! Show me what you made me!" He was like a kid in the candy store, the idea of equipment made special for him and his needs making him more energetic.
Tony laughed and threw and arm around his younger cousin, leading him to the elevator. "Sure thing, kid. Right this way. You coming, dad?" He glanced at Steve, knowing that his father most likely would be joining them, but wanting to issue the invitation anyway, so that it would be clear he was wanted.
Loki gave Coulson a strange look; he did not know why his comfort would be affected by where they chose to have their conversation, but he slanted his head and gave the question careful consideration. "I suppose I would find it more comfortable to speak with you and not run the risk of having someone stumble into our conversation," he finally admitted. He still looked nervous.
Steve smiled, stepping over to his son and nephew. "I wouldn't want to miss it," he said honestly... not just because he wanted to make sure they were both safe, but also because he enjoyed spending the time with them.
Coulson nodded and started towards the elevator, slowing his steps so that he was walking next to Loki, rather than ahead of the Asgardian.
Loki straightened his shoulders and walked with Coulson to the elevator, riding it up to his floor and then stepping off and preceding Coulson into his sitting area. He wasn't afraid of Coulson, exactly- they were just going to talk, after all- but he still felt so much guilt over what he had done to the other man, he knew it would not be an easy conversation. He cleared his throat nervously and motioned toward the couch. "Please. Have a seat."
Coulson sat down, looking at Loki. He waited long enough to gather his thoughts together and then he began speaking quietly. "I've noticed that things have been strained between us... and likely for quite a long time. I don't think leaving things the way they are will help either of us."
Loki stiffened slightly, then sighed and swallowed hard before sitting down next to Coulson. He wasn't quite able to meet the other man's gaze, but he did look toward him as he answered. "I had hoped it was not too noticeable, but...I do not think there is anything that can be done about it. It is not of your doing and I can not seem to work the matter through on my own. I apologize if it is uncomfortable for you."
"It's uncomfortable because you are a part of this family," Coulson replied. "I'd rather we try and work through this, rather than ignore it and try and pretend it isn't a problem." He gave Loki a reassuring smile.
Loki couldn't help the tiny huff that escaped, and he did face Coulson at those words. "How would you propose we work through it when the problem lies solely within myself, Son of Coul? I may not always succeed, but I have attempted to forgo blaming others for my own faults and follies...recently at least."
"I'm the one who you're uncomfortable around, so it does affect me as well," Coulson pointed out. "I'd prefer things to not be awkward or difficult between us."
Loki winced, nodding. "I apologize again that my inability to...handle the situation...has caused you discomfort. I will try harder to keep my emotions under control so it will not affect you." He looked away, not entirely certain how he was going to accomplish not being uncomfortable around Coulson when he was always bombarded with deep feelings of guilt when in the man's presence. "I have harmed you enough for one lifetime. I do not wish to harm you again..." he admitted softly.
"I'm not sure that's the answer," Coulson said, his voice gentle. "Trying to ignore it clearly isn't helping either of us. There are ways to handle guilt... especially if you feel like your actions can't go unanswered."
Loki held his breath when he heard Coulson's words, holding so still he appeared a statue. Finally, he let his breath out slowly and whispered, "You mean to punish me for my actions?" He didn't sound shocked, or worried, or even angry at the thought that Coulson would punish him. He knew well that sometimes guilt could only be eased when the guilty party had paid for the act that caused guilt... Thor had punished him often enough to help him let go of guilt. He wasn't certain how Coulson would punish him for the actions of killing him, though. An eye for an eye would be a bit excessive and not really conducive to improving their relationship; after all...if Loki was dead, it really wouldn't matter that he was uncomfortable around Coulson.
"It would be punishment, yes, but also to help you with the guilt that's clearly affecting you," Coulson said gently. "I'm not angry with you. I don't blame you or hate you. As I told you before, I don't see a monster when I look at you. You're as much part of the family as everyone else here is... which is why I would punish you in exactly the same way I have and will punish my children when it becomes necessary."
Loki blinked at that and gave Coulson a look that was a mixture between amusement, embarrassment and hopeful acceptance. "I am several centuries old...do you truly view me as one of the children?" He didn't protest Coulson's suggestion. It was, after all, how Thor handled him when he needed to be corrected, either in behavior or mindset. The fact that Coulson planned to do the same because he was unable to let his guilt go and it was affecting their relationship should have told Loki something.
Swallowing again, he whispered, "My guilt is due to the actions I took against you. The harm I caused to you. I am not able to forgive myself, even though you do not blame or hate me, and the only way I believe I will be able to let go of my guilt and forgive myself is if I place myself in your hands and...and accept punishment from you. If I could handle it any other way, I would have gone to Thor long ago." Admitting that hurt, but it was the truth.
Coulson gave a brief smile in response to Loki's question. "I think there are times you need guidance, as much as any of us do." He knew full well there were times when even the parents had to answer for something they shouldn't have done. Holding eye contact with Loki, he continued, "I don't want this between us any more than I'm sure you do."
"I do not want it between us any longer, either..." Loki said softly. He held still, uncertain how to proceed. He knew how Thor handled him; he was usually given little choice in the matter other than to submit. That did not mean Coulson would handle things the same way, though and Loki did not want to presume.
Coulson didn't waste any time, reaching out to close his hand around Loki's wrist and gently tug the Asgardian across his lap, securing Loki with an arm wrapped around his waist and tugging him tight against his stomach.
Loki let out a tiny grunt, but otherwise did not fight or argue. He was relieved that Coulson was handling things much like Thor would, the only choice Loki had being to submit. Loki wasn't certain if he'd be able to go through with it if he had to do more than submit and accept.
Coulson rubbed Loki's back gently a moment or two, just like he did with one of his children, and then bared the Asgardian. Taking a tighter hold on Loki, he brought his hand down in the first hard swat, before repeating it.
It was the gentle affection that did him in...Loki was certain of it. If Coulson had just begun punishing him, he would have been able to withstand it easily; it wasn't like the mortal was hitting hard enough to damage him...and the pain was negligible compared to what he'd suffered at the hands of Thanos. But Coulson hadn't just gone straight to punishment. He'd been gentle and offered a bit of comfort before he began, much like Thor would have, and the knowledge that, despite everything he'd done to the man, Coulson cared enough about him to offer comfort... it undid him.
It wasn't much after the second swat that Loki began to quietly cry...and apologize. "I am sorry... I know that words can never make up for what I did to you...what I put you and your family through...but I am truly sorry. If I could make it up to you, believe me I would...."
Coulson continued to bring his hand down hard and fast, though he didn't use his full strength... even though he was fairly certain he couldn't damage Loki if he tried. "You are a part of this family and I know you're sorry for what happened," he said, his voice gentle. "I already forgave you for what happened. It doesn't need to be between us any longer."
"How? How could you forgive me? I....I murdered you!" Loki brought his hands up, thrusting them into his hair and pulling. He really didn't understand how Coulson could forgive him. He'd had a hard enough time accepting that Thor had forgiven him and he hadn't killed Thor. He didn't think he'd ever be able to forgive himself.
"I was brought back. I have a chance to be with my family... my children... again and I know how important keeping myself alive is to them," Coulson said. "You are a good person. Thor spoke for you when he discovered you still lived and you have proved him right. In many ways, you are similar to Grant... and there was no way I could not have forgiven him."
"You....you are a good man, Philip, Son of Coul." Loki spoke in a quivery voice. "I thank you for your willingness to forgive...I do not know that I can forgive myself," he admitted in a broken tone.
"I know it seems hard right now, Loki." Coulson's voice was soft, but no less sincere because of it. "You are not the only one who's done things he regrets. Everyone struggles with the things they've done in their past, but you have a home here and a family who cares. With help, it is possible to learn to forgive yourself. Grant still struggles with his own past, but he has come a long way from the first moment I accepted him as my son. Bucky was brainwashed, but he now has a son... not to mention Steve and Tony and the rest of us..."
"I....I will attempt to learn from my mistakes, then...mayhaps one day I will be able to forgive myself. I will never forget what I did...though I will do my best to not let it affect how I interact with you." Loki's voice was hesitant. "If...if you truly want a relationship where I do not avoid you."
"I do want that." Coulson's voice was filled with sincerity, the swats acting as an emphasis more than anything else. "I consider you a part of my family and I care about your happiness and well-being as much as everyone else's here."
"Th...thank you..." Loki choked on the words, surprised at how happy (though perhaps he shouldn't have been) Coulson's words made him. He knew Thor loved and cared about him...hearing that one of the other family members considered him family and cared as well eased something inside him that he hadn't realized needed easing. Going limp over Coulson's lap, he softly but vocally cried... hesitantly reaching down and grasping Coulson's ankle. The spanking was less like punishment now (though it did hurt...a lot) and more grounding...steadying...helping him let go of the uncertainty he'd continued to hold regarding his position (despite Thor's efforts) and helping him deal with the guilt he'd been pushing down deep for so long, it had begun to negatively affect his whole outlook on himself.
Coulson finished with a final couple of swats, knowing that the spanking had done what it needed to, and quickly tugged Loki into a tight embrace, wrapping his arm around the Asgardian and holding him close. "You are a part of this family," he reiterated, knowing that even Clint had been able to accept Loki's presence among them.
Closing his eyes tightly, Loki wrapped his arms around Coulson in a strong embrace, managing to regain control over his tears long enough to voice a promise. "I will do everything in my power to make certain that my family never regrets my presence...." He held onto Coulson for a few moments longer, before forcing himself to release the other man and step back, fixing his clothing with a tiny hiss, then wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand. "I know you probably wish to join your youngest son in whatever he is doing...but...." He blushed slightly. "I suddenly find myself not wanting to be alone...but I do not wish to end Thor's afternoon with his lady Jane before they are ready for it to end...." He swallowed, trying to get up the courage to ask if he could join Coulson with his family until Thor returned.
Coulson didn't ask Loki to clarify what he meant. He prided himself on his ability to read all of his family members... not just his children and his brothers. Leaning forward, he placed a hand on Loki's shoulder, squeezing gently. "Why don't you join us?" he suggested. "We'd like to have you there."
Sniffling and wiping at his eyes one last time, the smile Loki gave Coulson, along with the tear stained face and still wet eyes, made him seem like a mortal teenager... not the centuries old alien he was. Although, in Asgardian years (and perhaps even Jontun years), Loki was actually considered very young.... Maybe not a teenager, but not far from. He swallowed hard before answering. "Thank you, sir...I....I would like to be there."
They had been gone a lot longer than they'd planned. When they'd originally followed Bobbi and Mack after breakfast, they'd thought it would only be a couple of hours before they'd be heading back to the tower and have the rest of the afternoon free. It didn't quite turn out that way.
Clint sighed. First of all, it had taken two hours of traveling before they'd reached the abandoned building that Bobbi and Mack were apparently heading to. It had been rather difficult following them and keeping themselves hidden. Bobbi and Mack were both very good agents... only the fact that Clint and Natasha had been playing spy slightly longer than the two had enabled them to have the skill necessary to remain hidden from sight.
It had taken an hour longer for the two younger agents' contact to show up. And the person kept to the shadows like a pro, making it impossible for Clint and Natasha to see who they were. Clint ran an agitated hand through his hair. After the mystery person had shown up, they were there for approximately twenty minutes before they were leaving. He didn't know what they had been discussing. Bobbi and Mack had kept to the shadows as well, so reading their lips was nearly impossible. When they left, though, he could tell that neither one were terribly happy at the outcome.
Glancing at Natasha, he sighed. "Well...let's get to following again...and hope that they're going home and not going to meet someone else..." he muttered.
Natasha stood, patiently and quietly, while they watched the two family members. Even if they couldn't tell what the two of them were talking about, or who they were talking to, she was fairly sure that they weren't doing something innocent... if only for how secret the meeting was and the fact that Bobbi and Mack were obviously keeping it a secret from the rest of the family.
Not saying anything as her brother spoke, Natasha merely nodded, shifting position slightly as she prepared to resume following their baby sister and cousin.
Clint shook his head as the tower finally came into view, waiting for several minutes before heading to enter it himself, not wanting Bobbi or Mack to realize they'd been followed the whole way there and back. It had taken just as long to return home as it had to go to the building- Mack and Bobbi had done everything in their power to try and make sure they didn't pick up any tails- so Clint was a bit grumpy and very hungry by the time they got home. "Lunch?" He gave Natasha a bright smile that didn't reach his eyes. It was easy to tell he was worried about his family members. What could they possibly be mixed up in that they couldn't tell their family about; and actually were going out of their way to hide from their family?
Natasha nodded. She was normally very good at hiding how she felt. Clint and Coulson were probably the only ones who could read her... and she knew Clint would be able to see how worried she was. "We should talk to Dad after we've eaten."
"Yeah...Preferably without her knowing we're doing so..." Clint muttered. Sighing, he wrapped his arm around Nat's shoulder and headed up to the common area kitchen so they could find some food. He wasn't surprised that Bobbi wasn't there, but he knew she and Mack hadn't eaten anything since breakfast either. "JARVIS?" he asked quietly, after making sure no one else but Nat was there to hear him. "Are Bobbi and Mack eating anything on any of the floors? And please don't let them know I'm checking up on them. I'm just worried that Bobbi isn't eating enough...."
"No, Agent Barton... Agent Morris is in the training room, hitting one of the punching bags in a rather aggravated manner. Agent Mackenzie is on his floor, making himself a sandwich, however," JARVIS said quietly.
"Ok. JARVIS? Could you have my dad meet us on my floor?" Clint finished making his and Natasha's sandwiches, putting them on paper plates so that they could be carried. "We need to speak with him as soon as possible."
"Of course, Agent Barton." The AI was quiet a few second. "He is on his way to your floor now, Agent."
"Damn, you're quick! Thanks, JARVIS..." Clint quickly handed Nat her plate, then grabbed his own and headed for the elevator to meet their dad.
Natasha took her plate, heading after her big brother as she took a bite out of her sandwich. She swallowed and then smiled as the elevator opened and their dad stepped off.
Coulson smiled at his oldest son and daughter, noticing that they were eating late, but choosing not to comment on it. "You two wanted to see me?" He stepped nearer to them, placing a hand on each of their shoulders.
Clint chewed the bite of sandwich in his mouth and swallowed, before nodding at his dad. "Yes, sir." He glanced at Natasha, before continuing, "Nat and I have been noticing Bobbi and Mack acting oddly...I'm sure you've noticed it...and today, we got worried enough to follow them when they left the building," he admitted, somewhat hesitantly, not sure if his dad would approve or not.
Coulson frowned, a look of concern coming across his face, as he kept his hands on their shoulders, always finding it comforting to be in contact with his children. "Did you learn anything?"
"They met up with someone... but we couldn't see who it was or what they were saying," Natasha replied. "They knew what they were doing and kept too close to the shadows."
"It was fairly obvious that they were unhappy about what they were told, though. Bobbi was so upset, she went straight to the training room to punch the bag...JARVIS told me she didn't get anything to eat...considering how long it took to get to their meeting location and get back home again...not to mention waiting for the contact...well, we all missed lunch. She should be hungry...if she's not too upset to eat." Clint held up his sandwich to assure his father that he and Nat were rectifying not eating.
Coulson squeezed them both gently, leaning in to give them both a kiss to their foreheads. "Thank you for telling me," he said, his voice sincere and loving. "And I'm glad you're both rectifying missing out on lunch."
"You're going to talk to baby sister, aren't you?" Natasha asked.
Coulson nodded. "She won't tell me what's going on... but it's obviously causing her a lot of pain to keep this secret. Even if I can't persuade her to talk to me, I hope I can encourage her to eat."
Clint sighed. "Wish she'd just come clean...it would be so much better for her..." He leaned into his father, then gave Coulson a tiny smile. "I'm gonna finish eating...do you need me to make something for Bobbi that you can take with you to see her?"
"That would be a good idea," Coulson agreed. "Thank you." He sighed, then smiled at his two oldest. "I love you." The words seemed too simple for how he felt about his children. He reached out, gently ruffling Clint's hair.
Natasha smiled and pressed against Coulson a moment, the contact saying more than her words could.
"You're always welcome, dad..." Clint said with a smile and quickly got out ingredients to make his baby sister a sandwich. It didn't take long and soon he was handing his father a paper plate with the sandwich, some chips and a bottle of water.
Coulson smiled. "Thank you," he said again, taking the plate, before adding, "I think it would be good for the five of us to eat dinner together later... and for all of us to sleep on the one floor again."
"I have no problem with that," Natasha said softly.
"You know I have no problem with it..." Clint said. "You may need to insist with Bobbi, though....she…was really upset it looked like."
Coulson nodded. "I planned to." He gave each of them a one-armed hug. "I'll see you later... you know you can always get JARVIS to call me if you need me for anything else." He stepped back, giving each of them a loving, affectionate smile, and then headed back to the elevator.
Clint watched his father head off to corral the youngest of the family then shoved the last bite of his sandwich into his mouth. Giving Nat a grin, he asked, "want to go watch a movie till dinner?"
Natasha smiled, finishing her own sandwich. "Sounds good to me."
After checking with JARVIS that Bobbi was still in the training room, that was where Coulson headed, quietly entering... though he knew she'd likely be able to tell he was there.
Bobbi ignored when Coulson entered, hoping that if she was rude and didn't acknowledge him, he'd leave and she wouldn't have to come up with more lies to explain her bad mood.
Coulson didn't let being ignored deter him and he stepped over to his daughter. "Bobbi. I know you haven't eaten lunch. Clint made you up a sandwich." Despite the serious note in his voice, the concern and worry was obvious.
Bobbi refused to look at Coulson, knowing if she did, her face would give everything away. At the same time, she knew she had to say something, or he would insist she look at him. Grunting slightly as she hit the bag with even more force, she forced out, "Thanks. If you could put it on the bench by the wall...I'll eat when I'm done here..." She had no intention of doing so...her stomach was too tied up in knots...but he didn't have to know that.
Coulson did put the plate down on the bench... but he didn't leave. Instead, he stepped over and wrapped his arm around Bobbi's shoulders. "This secret you're keeping is killing you inside," he said softly. "Whatever it is... whatever you think makes you unworthy of being a part of this family... I promise that it doesn't matter. There is not one thing you could do to drive me away or lessen my desire to have you as my daughter."
Bobbi stopped punching the bag, Coulson's words hammering into her heart and bringing her close to tears. She only wished she could believe that. It was too late...she'd made her decision long before she'd come to the tower. No one but Mack would ever understand. She didn't say any of that though. "No secrets, sir... Just feeling restless..." She forced a smile onto her face and stepped away from the embrace. "I really should take a shower before eating...if you don't mind, I'll just take this back to my floor with me. Tell Clint thanks, please?"
"Bobbi..." The look on Coulson's face was warm and loving. "I can't force you to tell me what's eating you up inside. But I know there is something. And I can see how much it's hurting you. I'm not going to leave you alone to deal with that pain."
Closing her eyes at the sudden frustration she felt (why couldn't he just abandon her to her guilt?)… she took a slow deep breath. She was amazed how calm her voice sounded, considering she wanted to throw things and scream at him for being so understanding and caring when she didn't deserve it. "I'm fine, sir...really. I just really want a shower right now. Please excuse me?"
"Skipping out on lunch and coming here, pounding that punching bag like it insulted you, is a fairly good indication that you're not fine," Coulson said. "No matter how hard you try to pull away, I don't think that's what you really want. And I love you. Which I know you're struggling to believe, but it's true. I want you to talk to me. I want you to feel like you can lean on me... because I promise I'll be there to catch you."
Bobbi bit her lip, turning away from him and slumping wearily. "It's too late to catch me..." she whispered hollowly. Giving a half-laugh in what was definitely not amusement, she finally turned to face him again. Her smile was tight and her eyes were wet, but she had a stubborn set to her shoulders that indicated she'd put all her walls up again and wasn't going to talk. "You're worried...I get that. So....I'll shower on your floor...and eat while you watch me. And I'll prove to you that I'm fine...." She couldn't help the weary sigh, though. The act was costing her, even if she wouldn't...couldn't admit it.
It hurt to see Bobbi put her walls up again. Coulson wanted desperately to help her, but he couldn't do that until he knew what was going on. Not even trying to hide his worry, he reached out and ran his hand gently through Bobbi's hair, then shifted to her shoulder so that he could squeeze gently. "I want you to stay on my floor tonight, too." He leaned forward to gently kiss her forehead. "It's not too late," he whispered to her.
Bobbi held her breath for a few moments, dangerously close to beginning to cry. She knew if she started, there would be no way to stop herself and she'd end up sobbing in Coulson's arms, likely telling him everything that she wasn't supposed to and couldn't tell him. She was too tired to argue, so she just nodded bleakly. "Yeah...ok..." was her quiet response as she turned toward the door, grabbing her bag (she hadn't even gone by her apartment after returning from her little jaunt with Mack) and then eyed the sandwich as if she was going to be sick, but forced herself to pick it and the bottle of water up. She then waited for Coulson to lead her out the door. She might have agreed to go to his floor for the rest of the day and evening, but she didn't feel comfortable just going there without him being there first; even if it was only a few seconds ahead of her.
Coulson took a deep breath, trying not to show how worried and concerned he was about his daughter, and started out of the room. He kept his steps slow, though, so he was in front of Bobbi... but only just. And his constant glances back over his shoulder at his daughter were less about making sure she was still there... and more because he was so worried about her.
Bobbi could feel Coulson's constant glances and could tell he was very worried. It just made her feel all that much more guilty. She didn't say anything, though. She deserved to feel guilt and misery and she wasn't going to say anything that might hurt him to get him to back away...she wasn't even sure it would help at this point anyway. She quietly followed him until, eventually, they were on his floor. Licking her lower lip, she finally asked in a tiny voice, "May I take a shower before I eat?"
Coulson nodded. "I'd like you to come straight back, though." His voice was gentle, but still serious. The look on his face was gentle and loving as he watched Bobbi. He wasn't angry or irritated... just very concerned and worried.
Giving a brisk, if brief nod, Bobbi quickly headed to the 'guest' room that she and Natasha used when Coulson wanted to keep them close but they weren't sleeping in his bed. She actually had some clothes stashed there, grabbing a pair of sleep shorts and tank top to change into, she stuffed everything else that belonged to her into her bag. She was going to need to leave and soon- so better to gather her stuff up while she could do it without notice. Zipping her bag up, she set it just inside the door of the guest room to grab in the morning...then went to take her shower. Standing under the spray of the hot water, she finally let go and cried, her tears mixing with the shower's drops. Somehow she managed to keep from making any sound- well not too much anyway. She hoped Coulson wasn't standing outside the door to the bath though- a few tiny sobs had been a little louder than she'd be comfortable to admit and if he was too close to the door, he would likely have heard them.
Coulson had taken the plate and set it in the kitchen, making sure the sandwich was covered to keep it fresh. Coming back to the bathroom, he'd managed to hear the sound of tiny sobs... and his concern only deepened, along with the intense desire to keep Bobbi close to him, in the hopes she would realize how much he cared for and wanted her.
Finally regaining control of her emotions, Bobbi turned the shower off and stepped out, drying herself off perfunctorily. Wiping at the steamed glass of the mirror, she glanced at her reflection. There weren't any tears stains on her face, but her eyes were red and sunken. She didn't look good. No wonder Coulson was so worried. Sighing softly, she pulled her sleep clothes on. It was still fairly early...but she had a feeling that she wouldn't be going anywhere else for the rest of the day; and even if she wanted to, she was so tired, it was probably better if she didn't. Running a comb through her still damp hair, she finally felt presentable enough to leave the security of the bathroom. She grimaced at her reflection, hating that she looked so young when she wasn't 'dressed up' and hating that she looked so haunted. The combination was certain to set off Coulson's 'daddy' instincts and she didn't want to worry the man any more than he already was. Maybe she'd just let him be daddy for one night...it wouldn't hurt her- well, other than making her feel like a horrible bitch for the secret she was keeping- but beyond that, it wouldn't hurt her and it might help him relax some. Taking a deep breath, she opened the bathroom door and padded out to the kitchen in bare feet.
Coulson had placed the water in the fridge to keep it cold and when his daughter entered the kitchen, he glanced towards her, his concern growing. He stepped over to Bobbi, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and kissing her cheek. "Come on... you need to eat something," he said gently, leading her over towards the table and gently encouraging her to sit down on one of the chairs. Dropping a kiss to the top of her head, he stepped over to the fridge to retrieve the water and returned to Bobbi at the table.
Bobbi bit her lip, glancing toward Coulson uncertainly, but not arguing. Taking the water from him, she slowly drank until she'd drained the bottle. She hadn't realized she was so thirsty; but then again, she'd put up quite a sweat working out and then she'd cried what felt like a quart of water, so she shouldn't have been surprised. Giving Coulson a sheepish look, she looked down at her hands. "Thank you, sir...."
She glanced at the sandwich nervously. She knew she should eat... but her stomach was roiling so badly, she was afraid she'd throw-up if she attempted to. She didn't want to say as much, though. It would only make the older man worry worse; she could tell he was very worried already.
Coulson responded by wrapping his arm around Bobbi's shoulders once more, after taking a seat next to her. "I'm sure you don't feel like you have much of an appetite right now," he said gently, "but you need to at least try and eat something. Afterwards, I think it might help, at least a little, to have a nap. But I'm not going to go anywhere, Bobbi. I promise. I'm here for you. I love you."
Bobbi took a deep breath then nodded. She wasn't going to argue. She was too tired and worried and guilty to argue. "Yes, sir...I'll try..." she finally whispered, before forcing herself to pick the sandwich up and take a small bite. She was certain it must have been a very good sandwich, but it tasted like cardboard on her tongue and she had to force herself to swallow....then swallow a second and third time as her stomach rebelled and tried to send that bite back up.
Coulson kept his arm around Bobbi's shoulders, able to tell that she was having difficulty, and kissed her cheek. There wasn't much he could do to help her appetite, but he hoped that the comfort would help at least a little.
Shivering slightly, the only thing that kept her from just tossing the sandwich into the garbage and giving up was Coulson's arm around her shoulders. It was really important to the older man that she try and eat and she didn't want to disappoint him. She forced herself to take another bite and swallow, then wait for that bite to settle. Slowly, one small bite at a time, she managed to eat a fourth of the sandwich before she set it down on the plate and gave Coulson an apologetic look. "I can't eat anymore...I'm sorry...."
Knowing that Bobbi had done her best, Coulson nodded and kissed her forehead. "Do you need any more water before we go through to the bedroom?" he asked gently.
Bobbi couldn't help the blush when she thought about the fact that she was being sent to bed for a nap like a toddler. Then she yawned and her blush deepened as she realized she probably needed to be sent to bed for a nap like a toddler; because otherwise, she would have just stayed up and tried to work and tried to figure out what to do...and she hadn't been getting much sleep lately. She was going to make a mistake soon if she didn't get some rest. She blinked as she realized she had just zoned out and hadn't answered Coulson's question. "Er...no, sir. I'm fine, thank you..." She winced.
Coulson stood up, helping Bobbi up. Keeping his arm wrapped around her shoulders, he guided her through to the bedroom. "Is there anything in particular you'd like to eat for dinner later?" he asked, wanting to do something a bit more special for his youngest.
Bobbi gave him a slightly scared look at the question. She'd barely been able to eat part of the sandwich and he was asking her about dinner? "No, sir...I can't think of anything." Her voice wobbled slightly and she quickly looked away from him, afraid that he'd be able to see her eyes getting glassy. There was no reason to cry at a stupid question about what she'd like to eat. No reason whatsoever. She was a seasoned agent, damn it. This falling apart was...was ridiculous. It was...it was shameful. It was...it was inevitable. The guilt was too strong. Shuddering, she glanced at the bed, realizing that Coulson had brought her to his room, not the guest bed that she'd used before. It was just another sign of his caring about her, even though she definitely didn't deserve his care. She couldn't help sniffling.
Coulson kissed her cheek. "If you think of anything when you wake up... I'd like to do something special for you," he said softly, wanting to make it clear just how important Bobbi was to him. He knew she was important to her siblings, too, and all he wanted was to help her feel special and loved. He guided her gently over to the bed, settling her down on it and sitting on the bed close to her.
Bobbi felt strange lying there while Coulson sat beside her...not bad- it actually felt kind of nice that he wasn't leaving her alone...but strange. She tried closing her eyes but it didn't work. Squirming, she tried to find a position that would let her relax...the guilt was too strong though.
Coulson reached out and began gently stroking Bobbi's hair. "I love you," he said, his voice quiet and filled with sincerity. "No matter what secret is hurting you, that isn't going to change. I know you've seen the files on everyone here... including your siblings. Everyone has a past. Everyone's done things they're not proud of. But being accepted means that it doesn't matter. There's not going to be anything that changes my feelings for you."
Bobbi sniffled at the words, but didn't say anything. Instead, she rolled over onto her stomach then scooted closer to Coulson, glancing up at him uncertainly before closing her eyes again. Somehow, his petting was helping her relax.
Coulson continued to gently stroke Bobbi's hair and back. "Whenever you're ready to talk... I'm here to listen," he promised. "No matter what. Whatever it's about. I will always have time for you."
Bobbi wanted so badly to believe that. Hesitantly, she reached toward Coulson; not quite touching, but close, and let his gentle affection lull her to sleep. It didn't take long.
When it became time to figure out what to do for dinner, Coulson had ended up checking with Lance about what Bobbi preferred to eat and then made a point of ordering it in. In the kitchen and setting out the plates and cutlery, he glanced up as the elevator opened, indicating the arrival of his other children.
Bobbi woke up, feeling disoriented and slightly icky. It took her longer than she would have liked to admit to remember where she was and why. She could hear people in the other room, though. Carefully crawling out of the bed (at some point, Coulson had pulled the sheet up over her), she went into the bathroom and splashed water on her face and finger combed her hair. Looking into the mirror, she noted that her eyes weren't quite as sunken in- the nap had helped- but they were still red. She still looked years younger than her actual age. Sighing, she curled her toes against the cool tiles of the bathroom floor; then, taking a deep breath, wandered out to the kitchen, where Coulson was setting out everything in preparation for dinner.
Grant was helping put ice in the glasses. He looked over as Bobbi slunk into the room and stood against the wall fidgeting. "Would you like water or juice?" he asked with a smile, not commenting on the fact she still looked worn out.
Clint, who was opening up the containers of food and putting them into actual serving bowls, glanced at her as well. "Dad ordered a little bit of everything, it looks like. So you should have a good selection to choose from."
Bobbi blinked, looked at the food then looked at Coulson with wide eyes. How had he figured out what she liked to eat?
Natasha flashed a smile at Bobbi as she helped Clint with the containers. She didn't comment on the fact that Bobbi did look better... but as she moved round the table, she nudged shoulders gently with her baby sister.
Coulson stepped over to Bobbi, hugging her close and kissing her forehead. "How did you sleep?" he asked softly.
Bobbi gave a hesitant smile to Natasha as the other woman nudged her. Then Coulson was hugging her and she didn't know what to do. Stiffening slightly, she found her arms wrapping around him almost on their own volition...and then she was holding onto him tightly, hiding her face against his shoulder. "Good..." was the only thing she trusted herself to say. More than that and she was afraid she'd start crying, or babbling, or some other embarrassing thing that would make no sense to anyone, including herself. She just felt so out of control; nothing was going the way she'd expected. Nothing was as she'd expected. And the only choice she had any control over was if she talked or not. Sighing softly, she sunk into Coulson and just breathed, trying not to panic or hyperventilate.
Coulson held Bobbi tightly to himself, gently stroking her hair and back. He didn't encourage her to sit at the table, no matter how much he knew she needed to eat. He just held her tightly, wishing she would let him in so he could help her heal the hurts she was suffering from. He kissed the top of her head, not ceasing the gentle comfort.
Grant watched his father and baby sister quietly. He wished Bobbi could trust them enough to share what was bothering her. He recognized guilty eyes when he saw them; he'd seen them in the mirror often enough. He was tempted to share his own story with her in an effort to convince her to share hers, but since he wasn't certain what her story entailed, he didn't want to give her the wrong idea. He had been a traitor, after all...she might hear his story and think he was accusing her of being a traitor and he didn't want her to think that. So he kept quiet. Sighing silently, he walked over and rubbed a hand gently up and down her back before he went and took his own seat at the table.
Clint finished placing all the bowls on the table, so that everyone could serve themselves once they were ready. Normally, he would have sat next to his father with Nat on his other side and Grant across from him. This time, he sat on the other end of the table so that he would be across from his father...leaving the chair next to his dad for Bobbi.
Natasha took the seat next to Clint, so that their younger siblings could sit on either side of their father. She enjoyed spending time with her father and knew, as she was sure Clint did, that he would be there for them when they needed him, as he had been so many times before.
Coulson pressed another kiss to Bobbi's head and gently led her over to the table, without losing the contact with her. Gently settling her on the chair, he sat down next to her and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, looking round at his children with a loving smile as he waited for them to choose what they wanted to eat before taking his own.
Bobbi still wasn't terribly hungry, although it had been a long time since breakfast and she hadn't eaten much for lunch. It wasn't because of lack of appetite, though. Her stomach was tied up in knots and was even hurting a little. She wondered if maybe she was developing an ulcer from the stress, but couldn't say anything...that would lead to questions about what she was stressed about. It was obvious that Coulson and the rest of his family (she was still afraid to think of them as her family; she would lose them once they learned the truth...besides, it wasn't like she'd been adopted or anything)...it was obvious they had gone to a lot of trouble to get her favorite foods and she didn't want to hurt their feelings or worry them by not eating. So she took a tiny portion of everything, enough for a couple of bites of each item, and then nibbled at the food, hoping that it would stay down.
Grant loaded up his plate. He'd been helping his cousin Tony test out different things for a large portion of the day (with his uncle's supervision) and a lot of the testing had involved heavy activity, so he'd worked up quite an appetite. Trying to help Bobbi feel at ease, he began to chatter about his day. "Tony's made some new armor for us to wear in the field...it's meant to deflect bullets and other projectiles...it can slow knives down, even if it doesn't fully deflect them... I think he wants to get everyone's measurements, so he can make sure everyone has at least one uniform of it. It's really thin material, so it can be worn under some types of clothing; not sure it'd work with a dress or anything like that, but knowing Tony, that will be his next project- armor that can be worn under dresses."
Clint slanted his head. "He thinking of wearing dresses, then?" His face was dead serious, but his eyes were twinkling with suppressed laughter.
"What?" Grant blinked. "I didn't say that!" he huffed out with a laugh. "I think he's worried 'bout Pepper, to be honest. And since she's frequently in business attire or dresses...."
Coulson kept his arm around Bobbi's shoulders, even as he helped himself to the food after making sure that everyone else had picked some up. He'd noticed the small amount on Bobbi's plate and worried.... as he was constantly when it came to his youngest. He threaded his fingers through her hair, though didn't draw attention to her lack of appetite. "I think that'll be quite useful," he commented to Grant. "Did you get a chance to test out what he'd made for you?"
Grant nodded. "Well...sorta. Steve wouldn't let us test it out while I was wearing it; said if something went wrong, we'd be happy I wasn't wearing it when Tony shot a gun at it..." He gave his father a crooked grin. "...and we didn't argue the point. We both took turns using guns and other projectiles to try and damage it; and it held up to all of our tests. Knives can still get through, but not easily; we had to shove rather hard for the knife to tear through the material. Hopefully, if we are ever up against someone with a knife, the time it takes to get enough force into the attack will enable us to get away from the attacker.... Tony wasn't quite as happy about that, since he's going to have to repair where the knife did damage. But at least we know the limitations now."
"I'd like to see this armor, too. Think Tony would want to show me tomorrow?" Clint asked curiously, glancing at Natasha to see if she was interested as well.
Bobbi found herself relaxing against Coulson, despite herself. He was constantly touching, caressing, soothing her in ways she didn't realize she needed soothing. She thought she should be more unnerved by it, but she wasn't. And she enjoyed listening to Grant's description. And she enjoyed the banter the family had with each other. And she wanted so bad not to have to leave it. Her stomach twinged again and she looked down at her plate. She'd barely taken three bites. She'd have to force herself to eat if she didn't want to arouse suspicion. Swallowing, she speared another forkful and put it into her mouth. The taste was wonderful...now if it would only stay in her stomach once she swallowed.
Natasha smiled at her brothers. "I think I'd like to see the armour, too. Could definitely come in handy for working undercover, especially if he can arrange for some kind of a mass production."
Coulson managed to eat with just one hand, keeping his other arm comfortably around Bobbi's shoulders. He was listening and paying attention to all four of them... including the fact that Bobbi was still struggling to eat. Underneath the love and affection, signs of strain and worry for his youngest were showing through.
Bobbi managed to eat enough that half her plate was empty before she couldn't force herself to eat more. She wrapped her arms protectively around her stomach, not thinking about how it looked; just trying her hardest to keep the food down. She was pretty sure she was developing an ulcer. Between that and nerves, she was surprised she hadn't thrown up all over herself already. She wanted to just retreat to her own floor- hide away so no one could see how miserable she was- but she knew asking to do that would just cause suspicion and would also cause Coulson to worry further. She could tell he was worried and stressed about her. She didn't deserve his worry and that made it even worse.
Grant had been watching his father and baby sister closely. They all had, really; he'd caught Clint and Nat looking more than once. He also noticed that Bobbi hadn't finished all her food- and that she looked in danger of being ill if she attempted to finish it. Quietly, he stood and began to clear the table, putting the leftovers away and washing dishes and cutlery. "When we're done here, I was wondering if we could all watch a movie in bed. It's a bit too early to sleep, but if I watch a movie in the family room, I'm liable to fall asleep on the couch...so..." He kept his request neutral, trying to make it seem like a normal thing to ask.
Natasha stood up to help Grant clear the table and wash up, knowing their father would try to help otherwise and his attention probably needed to be elsewhere right now. "I like that idea," she commented. "We could always put on a movie we've seen before... that way, it won't matter if any of us fall asleep."
Coulson smiled at the suggestion, holding Bobbi close. "That sounds like a good idea," he agreed, hoping they'd all be able to relax by doing that. He noticed the way Bobbi wrapped her arms around her stomach and decided he'd speak to Bruce about the possibility that she might have an ulcer... which was something he should have thought about doing before.
Clint hopped up and cleared whatever was left that Grant and Natasha hadn't gotten. He made certain to take the plates from in front of his father and baby sister as well, once he'd confirmed that Coulson was finished eating anyway. He figured if the plate wasn't there for Bobbi to stare at, maybe she wouldn't worry about it so much. "If I can, I'd like to suggest the Princess Bride," he called out.
"Didn't we just watch that last week?" Grant asked with an amused laugh.
"So?!" Clint argued. "It's a good movie! It has swordfights and Pirates and Princesses and Magic and genius villains and Twue Wuv!"
Bobbi couldn't help but giggle-snort at the two younger men's antics. The startled look on her face and the dark blush to her cheeks indicated she hadn't meant to respond in such a manner.
"It's always a good movie to watch," Natasha added, some mischief on her face. "And since we have seen it so often, it won't matter if any of us fall asleep while it's playing." She grabbed some drinks to take into the bedroom, glancing at her brothers. "One of you want to make popcorn?"
Coulson hadn't moved his arm from Bobbi and he stood up, carefully helping his youngest daughter to her feet. "Shall we go through now?" he asked, gently touching the shoulders of each of his other children and kissing their cheeks.
"On it!" Grant said, quickly grabbing a pan and oil and the jar of popcorn kernels.
Bobbi just let herself be led back to the bedroom, crawling up into the spot she'd been designated the last time all five of them were in the bed. She watched as Clint got the movie set up and Natasha put the drinks on the bedside tables. When Grant came in ten minutes later, with two big bowls of popcorn, everyone was ready to go.
Grant handed one bowl each to Clint and Natasha- they had taken the edge of the bed again- and crawled up between Natasha and his father.
"JARVIS? Could you dim the lights, please?" Clint asked.
"Of course, sir," was the prim response.
Bobbi glanced around at Coulson and his kids and found herself relaxing despite everything. She snuggled down into the bed and into Coulson, though she wouldn't have admitted it if asked, and began to watch the movie.
Coulson wrapped an arm around each of his youngest, extending his arms enough so that he could also stay in contact with his two oldest. He couldn't quite relax, not with how worried he was about Bobbi... but any kind of time he could spend with his children was good.
Grant glanced at his father as the final credits were rolling for the movie. He gave the older man a contented smile when he noticed that his baby sister had not only fallen asleep; she'd wrapped herself around their father so snugly, she may as well be sleeping on him and not the bed. Luckily, before the movie had gotten much further than five minutes into the plot, everyone had decided to change into their pajamas- Bobbi excluded, since she had already been wearing hers. If they hadn't, Coulson would have ended up having to sleep in his suit pants and dress shirt. Not wanting to crowd his father any further, the poor man needed to breathe, Grant scooted down until he was close enough to touch, but wasn't draped on the older man. "G'night, dad..." he whispered, closing his eyes so he could fall asleep.
Clint had fallen asleep shortly after Bobbi had, his gentle snores alerting the rest of his family that he was going to miss the end of the show.
Coulson pressed a kiss to his youngests' foreheads. "Goodnight... I love all of you," he whispered, hoping the words would follow Clint and Bobbi into sleep as well.
"Love you too..." Natasha's sleepy voice said, as she yawned and curled up like a cat.
Bobbi woke up early the next morning. Once again, she had slept better than she had in a long time; not that it could be seen. She still felt so tired...although that could be because of the stress, guilt and worry more than not sleeping enough. She felt depressed. Glancing around at Coulson's sleeping family (she still wouldn't allow herself to view her as a member), she very carefully extricated herself from Coulson and Clint and went to the bathroom. After brushing her teeth and getting her hair into some semblance of order, she tiptoed past the bed so she could go into the guest room and get her bag with all her clothes. She then took the stairs up to the floor Tony had given her when she first arrived, not wanting the noise of the elevator pings to wake anyone up. She hadn't left anything that belonged to her on Coulson's floor. She was fairly certain she wouldn't be sticking around past the day.
Grant woke up when Bobbi first got out of bed, but as she'd gone to the bathroom, he hadn't thought anything of it. When she went tiptoeing past everyone, he figured she just didn't want to wake their sister, brother and father. When she disappeared and he didn't hear any sounds coming from the rest of the apartment, he realized she'd just snuck off their father's floor. Frowning, he glanced at Coulson to see if his father was awake.
Coulson stirred as he felt the lack of warmth and sat up, glancing around with a worried frown on his face. He focused on Grant, realizing his youngest son was awake, and reached out to place a hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently. "How did you sleep?" He didn't immediately enquire after Bobbi, though he had the feeling she had left the floor.
"Good, dad. I always sleep good when I'm on your floor, though." He didn't need to state that he slept best next to his dad. Coulson already knew that. He answered Coulson's unasked question. "She left the floor already."
Clint stirred then sat up. "Guess I'll get dressed and go to the common area to make breakfast, then..." He stretched then went to the bathroom to brush his teeth. It didn't take long for him to be back, shrugging on a t-shirt and looking eager for the day to start. "Pancakes ok with everyone?"
Coulson nodded to Clint then said, "I'm going to go and extricate her... I want to take her to Bruce. She didn't eat very much at all yesterday and I'm wondering if she might have an ulcer." He got up to go and start getting dressed, but reached out to gently squeeze the nape of Grant's neck. "We'll talk after breakfast." Pressing a kiss to Grant's forehead, he reached out to gently ruffle Clint's hair and kiss his forehead. "Pancakes sound good, but you might need to put some aside for me and your baby sister."
Natasha came awake, sitting up with a mild stretch. When Coulson leaned over to kiss her forehead, she smiled and gave him a brief, one-armed hug before she headed through to their kitchen to make herself a cup of tea.
Grant winced at the promise of talking after breakfast, but didn't argue. After this last talk, he could put the whole sorry mess behind him. He had to admit, he wasn't feeling the guilt he had been before...and he had a whole new level of respect for his father's rules. He was too realistic to hope that he'd entirely learned his lesson and would never have to 'have a talk' with his father again... but he was hopeful that if he did, it wouldn't be because he deliberately and knowingly went against what he knew was the right thing to do. "Ok, dad..." he answered.
Clint, nodded. "Consider it done." He quickly headed to the elevator and to the common kitchen.
Natasha made her cup of tea and put it to one side to cool down as she dressed quickly, then picked it up to take down to the common floor. "You coming, little brother?" she asked.
"JARVIS? Could you ask Bruce to meet me on the medical floor? And is Bobbi on her floor?" Coulson asked, as he headed towards the elevator.
Grant smiled at Natasha. "Yeah, I'm coming." He quickly got up and dressed himself. He was ready to join Natasha within five minutes and soon they were both heading toward the common floor.
JARVIS quickly answered Coulson, "I have informed Doctor Banner that you need his assistance on the medical floor. As for Agent Morris... she is currently sneaking down the stairwell. It appears she plans to leave the tower. She is currently on the thirtieth floor
"Thank you," Coulson said. "Could you pass on my order for her to go up to medical, please? If she refuses, then inform her I'm quite willing to escort her there myself."
Bobbi looked at the ceiling in surprised shock. "But...why?!" she spluttered. "I'm not sick! I'm not wounded! I just want to go shopping!" And get out of the tower and try and forget the game of deception she had going on for a little bit...though she didn't say that out loud to JARVIS. "I'm not even due for my annual physical this month..." She frowned, continuing on her way down the stairs. She couldn't go to medical. If she went there, she was certain that Bruce, somehow, would figure out how stressed she was and then Coulson would begin asking questions she couldn't answer and she'd get even more stressed... and then everyone would know something was up and everything would fall apart; and it was already falling apart, but she had to keep it together somehow.... She stopped for a moment to take slow, deep breaths. Hyperventilating wouldn't help her at all. Finally, as calm as she figured she'd be able to be under the circumstances, she began walking down the stairs again. "Tell them I've made plans...but I promise to stop by medical when I return...." she finally told JARVIS.
Even as he'd made that request to JARVIS, Coulson had headed to the elevator. Instead of taking it to medical, though, he sent the elevator down... so he could head Bobbi off, since he was fairly certain that she wasn't going to listen to his directions through the AI.
When Bobbi finally reached the ground level of the tower, she debated heading to the garage level and borrowing a car...but she didn't really plan to go that far. She just wanted to walk, really. So she exited the stairwell, passed the security desk and headed for the front entryway of the building.
Coulson had reached the ground level moments before Bobbi and when she headed for the front entrance, he stepped in front of her to block her way. "You need to visit medical," he said, his voice soft and filled with compassion.
Bobbi visibly winced when Coulson blocked her exit. "Crap..." she whispered to herself, then bit her lip, debating just walking around the older man and telling him she'd go there later. Only problem was, it wasn't very easy to disregard an order from Coulson, even if it wasn't said in a demanding tone of voice. On top of that, she suspected she knew why he wanted her to go there and if he felt she was endangering her life by ignoring him and not going to medical, she could end up over his knee again.
Who was she kidding? She knew he'd noticed her lack of appetite. He'd probably also noticed her holding her stomach. If she did have an ulcer like she suspected, then it could become life threatening the longer it went untreated. Trying to sneak out like she just had had probably earned her a swat or two, even if he didn't put her over his knee. Her subconscious must have agreed, because she found herself twisting her bottom out of smacking range without even thinking about it.
She really didn't want to go to medical, though. "I just want to go window shopping for a little bit...I'll come back..." She hated that her voice sounded more like a whiny teenager than a competent adult woman.
Coulson gave her a look that was equal parts fondness and exasperation. "I'm going to go out on a limb and say that's not what you're planning at all. The point is it doesn't matter where you were planning to go right now. I should have considered the possibility you have an ulcer earlier... but you're not going anywhere until Bruce has checked you out." His voice was firm, though the affection was still obvious. "If I have to apply another type of persuasion, I will."
Biting her lip, Bobbi edged slightly away from him, looking longingly over his shoulder at the exit. Should she make a run for it? She had planned to return. If she ran, then she'd still have to face him when she came back and he would not be happy with her. Her butt would probably not be happy with her either. She kinda wished he would persuade her...or at least take the choice out of her hands. It wasn't like she wasn't guilty enough to deserve some 'persuasion'. Only, she couldn't talk and the way her luck ran, there would be talking....
Reading his children was easy. Coulson could tell that talking to Bobbi was, more than likely, going to be a waste of his breath. He stepped closer to her, taking a gentle but firm grip of her arm. "Your health is non-negotiable, Bobbi. If you have an ulcer, leaving it untreated is only going to cause you more harm."
If she were honest with herself, she was more afraid of possibly having to talk, and Coulson finding out the truth, than she was reluctant to be treated. She couldn't say that, though. That would just ensure that they would talk. If it were just her secret, that would have been fine, but she couldn't roll on Mack without at least warning him. "A few more hours won't make a difference," she argued, trying to shake loose of his grip and walk to the exit at the same time.
Coulson simply tightened his grip. "As part of my family... as my daughter... your health is not something to be taken lightly. You're too important for that." He started towards the elevator, thumb gently stroking over Bobbi's arm. "You're too important to me. And after Bruce checks you out, we will be having a discussion."
"Noooo," Bobbi whimpered. But she didn't try and pull loose again and she followed easily enough that he didn't have to pull her. Her moment of rebellion was very short lived.
Coulson wrapped his arm around Bobbi's shoulders as he entered the elevator with her, setting it to go the medical floor. "I love you," he said to her, his voice sincere. "Seeing you hurting hurts me, too. I don't want to risk losing you."
Bobbi didn't know how to respond to that. She wished she could say she loved him back. Because she did...but she was afraid to say it. She wished she could tell him he wouldn't lose her, but knowing what she did, that likely was a lie. So she kept quiet and meekly followed.
When the elevator reached the medical floor, Coulson gently guided Bobbi out and headed to meet Bruce. "Sorry to call you away from breakfast," he said to his friend. "I'm worried about my daughter."
Bruce raised an eyebrow then looked at Bobbi. "Since I don't see any noticeable wounds, I'm assuming something occurred to make you worry?"
Coulson kept his arm around Bobbi as he explained. "Yesterday, she didn't have much of an appetite. I noticed her holding her stomach... I suspect she might have an ulcer." There was a note of self-blame in his voice... he felt he should have suspected that earlier.
"Normally, to find out something like that, we would need to do an endoscopy," Bruce said. "I can do that now...but it isn't pleasant..."
Coulson frowned. "If it is an ulcer, it can't be left untreated." He looked worryingly at his daughter, then at Bruce. "I think we need to know."
Bobbi closed her eyes, but didn't argue. She knew Coulson was right. Taking a deep breath, she asked, "What do I do?"
"I will give you an anesthetic to numb your throat so you can swallow the tube...beyond that, you just hold still unless I give you a specific direction..." Bruce had begun gathering what he would need at this point. "Before we start, I need a few basic questions answered."
Bobbi swallowed. "Ok"
By the time Bruce had finished with his questions, the equipment and camera was ready. Bruce brought over the anesthesia.
Bobbi grabbed hold of Coulson's hand in a tight grip...and then Bruce was telling her to swallow.
Coulson gently squeezed Bobbi's hand. "You're going to be all right," he said softly. "If it's an ulcer, we'll make sure it's treated. And if it's something else, we'll make sure that's treated." He was worried, but the care and affection on his face and in his voice were obvious.
The procedure went forward without problem and Bruce was able to take a tiny sample for analyzing, as well as the visual provided by the camera. JARVIS was able to analyze the sample almost immediately.
Looking at the pictures and scan results, Bruce cleared his throat. "Well, I can say with absolute certainty that you do have an ulcer. It has, fortunately, not eaten through the lining of your stomach and so surgery will not be necessary. It was caused by bacteria that I assume you picked up during one of your operations and was aggravated by your heavy use of Ibuprofen. I'm giving you a prescription of antibiotics and, until further notice, you should not take any type of pain reliever without running it by me first to make certain it won't cause problems. Also, no drinking alcohol. I'm also giving you some Prilosec to try and neutralize acid until things get back to normal. Any questions?"
Bobbi shook her head no, but then asked, "What if I get another tension headache?"
"Moist heat applied to the back of the neck, hot showers and massage should help. Also...don't skip eating. I know the burning stomach and nausea make you feel like you can't eat...but it actually hurts less if you have food in your stomach to act as a buffer between the acid and your stomach lining." Bruce gave a gentle smile. "And with that recommendation, I think all of us should go to breakfast."
Bobbi hesitantly looked at Coulson, remembering his statement that he would discuss her behavior after Bruce examined her. She was hoping he'd change his mind- she doubted he'd forget- but didn't want to bring it up either.
Coulson nodded, shifting his arm to around Bobbi's shoulders once more. He looked at his daughter, relieved that the ulcer was easily treatable. "I think we'll go and have breakfast... and then we will have our discussion," he said, his voice gentle, but still firm and with a slightly stern undercurrent.
Bobbi gave Coulson a nervous and slightly nauseated look. "Please, it's going to be difficult to eat...but if I know that...." She swallowed hard then winced. The anesthesia was wearing off. Her throat was going to sore and make it difficult to swallow as it was; her stomach was tying up in knots at the idea of a discussion- would it be a normal Coulson/child 'discussion' or would it actually involve talking? It said something rather sad about the state of her life and all the secrets she was hiding that she hoped it was a 'normal discussion'.
Coulson tightened his embrace around his daughter, aware that she might not be able to eat, due to nerves, if she was dreading their discussion. "We'll take care of it now," he said.
Bobbi looked at the floor, but gave a quick nod to show she understood. She didn't move, though.
Coulson thanked Bruce and then gently guided his daughter from the medical floor, taking Bobbi to his floor.
Bobbi found herself tensing up despite herself. She hadn't really focused on it earlier, due to being worried about what Bruce might find when he examined her, but now that that particular worry had been addressed, she could focus on it- Coulson had called her his daughter. As in she was his...she belonged to him...with him...he loved her. She'd let this go on entirely too long and when the truth came out, it was going to be agony. Unless she found a way to pull back at least a little emotionally...separate herself from Coulson and get him to step back and separate from her. Straightening up, she stopped just outside of the elevator and stepped a few steps away from Coulson, glancing up but not quite able to meet his eyes. "I...I know I should have obeyed your order immediately, instead of thinking about disobeying it, but I never actually disobeyed it; and if you believe my reluctance to obey immediately deserves discipline of some sort, it should be official. You...you aren't really my father, after all. Legally, I'm nothing to you...." She couldn't bring herself to say he was nothing to her. That was one lie she just couldn't put voice to.
Coulson looked at Bobbi, but he didn't pull away from her or decide not to respond to her behaviour. Instead, he said simply, "I'd like to show you something." Gesturing for her to follow him, he headed through to the study and over to the filing cabinet, opening one of the drawers and taking out the paperwork he'd had drawn up... the final step to making Bobbi officially his daughter. It was signed by him and as he held the paperwork out to her, he commented, "All it's waiting for is for you to sign."
Bobbi looked wide-eyed at the paperwork, but didn't take it...she was suddenly afraid. Not of Coulson, never of him, but of herself and what her actions were going to do to this caring man who had done nothing but try and help her and protect her. She really needed to talk to Mack. She couldn't do this anymore. The lies were too much. Swallowing hard, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. When she opened her eyes again, tears were running down her face. She had to make herself look up into Coulson's face, but she did so. "Ok..." she whispered finally. "You...you have the right to deal with me however you believe best...." It was the closest she could go to telling him that she'd accepted him as her father, even if she couldn't sign the paperwork to make it official.
Coulson had hoped that Bobbi would take that step and sign the paperwork, but he wasn't too surprised that she didn't. Putting the paperwork away safely, he leaned in and kissed her forehead. "I love you, Bobbi. I don't want to lose you," he said softly, then wrapped his arm around her shoulders and guided her through to the bedroom.
Bobbi followed quietly, her eyes on the ground the whole way. She was nearly blind from tears, so she could only be grateful that he had a good grip on her and was able to lead her so effortlessly.
Coulson guided his daughter over to the bed and took a seat. Deciding that he didn't need to drag this out any more than necessary, he gently moved Bobbi across his lap, wrapping an arm around her waist and drawing her in tight. He rubbed her back gently a moment or two before baring her.
Reaching down to grasp Coulson's ankle, Bobbi let out a tiny sob and let herself go limp over his knee. "I'm sorry...." And she was. She was sorry for all the lies, all the secrets, all the mess that was going to land on everyone's heads...all the things she couldn't talk about or admit or confess to. She was so very sorry.
"I know." Coulson's voice was gentle. "And nothing will make a difference to how much I love you and want you as my daughter... officially as well as unofficially." He rubbed her back a moment or two longer and then brought his hand down in the first sharp swat, then repeated the swat.
Bobbi shivered at the words; she wanted to believe them so badly, but she couldn't allow herself the luxury of believing them. She knew if the choice were his, it would be true- but she wasn't sure the choice ever had been his. She was in too deep and nothing and no one could pull her out. She didn't want to think about that. Instead, she forced herself to focus on the swats. They stung, which wasn't surprising. What was surprising was that she wanted it to hurt worse. She wasn't a masochist. The guilt was just becoming so difficult to deal with. She let out another tiny sob, her hand clutching at Coulson's ankle desperately.
Coulson continued to bring his hand down in the hard swats, holding back on his true strength as he went down to his daughter's thighs and then started over from the top. "You are important... and anything to do with your health should not be taken lightly."
Bobbi knew that deserved some sort of response. Choking back yet another tiny sob, she gasped out, "I know, sir...I know better... I am sorry...." The tiny sobs were becoming larger and louder the longer the spanking progressed.
"If this happens again, you will be back in this position, because if left untreated, the ulcer could have become much worse... and you're mine. My daughter. You are more important than I could ever truly put into words." Coulson began using a bit more force behind the swats, going somewhat harder. He shifted Bobbi forward slightly for better access to her sit spots.
"Ye...y'sir...." Bobbi gasped out, as the swats became more forceful and her sit spots began to burn. "'m yours...I'm....I'm yours...." Her voice trailed off as she realized the truth in that statement and then she just collapsed, sobbing as if her heart would break.
Coulson stopped, quickly drawing Bobbi up and into a tight embrace. Hugging her close, he threaded his fingers through her hair. "I love you so much," he said softly.
Bobbi whimpered slightly, then wrapped her arms tightly around Coulson and hid her face against his chest, continuing to cry. She was afraid to say she loved him back, but she did. Oh, she was in so much trouble....
Coulson tightened his embrace around his daughter, rocking her gently as he continued to stroke her hair and back. "That paperwork is never going to go away," he whispered to her. "No matter what. Even without it, you'd still be mine." He didn't say that he felt she wanted this more than she let herself say... but he was pretty certain she did.
It took longer than Bobbi wanted to admit to herself, let alone anyone else, for her to calm down and regain control over her emotions. Finally, though, she was able to breathe without sobbing, though there was still a quivery quality to her inhalation and she was shivering noticeably. Every so often, she'd hiccough, her arms tightening reflexively around Coulson. She hadn't yet lifted her face from his chest; partly because the petting was soothing and she didn't want it to stop, but also partly because she was afraid he'd be able to see everything in her eyes that she couldn't say. By this point, she was convinced Coulson knew everything and could do anything...and it made her wonder how she'd ended up where she had ended up. She was an idiot.
Coulson kissed the top of Bobbi's head, continuing the gentle stroking of her hair and back. This was making him even more determined to sit down with her and Mack and find out exactly what was going on... what they were hiding from him and the others. Because the sooner they were able to get it out in the open, the sooner Bobbi could realize that she was an important part of his family... and she could start healing.
Closing her eyes tightly, then hesitantly relaxing her grip on Coulson and reaching up to wipe the tears from her face, she finally said in a soft, contrite whisper, "I'm sorry...for everything...." She had to talk to Mack. There was no way around it. She couldn't keep going the way she was going; it was tearing her up inside.
"I know." Coulson knew she was sorry. All he wanted was to take care of her. Kissing her forehead again, he said softly, "Whenever you're ready, I think we need to go to breakfast... I want you to eat a sensible amount. I know it might be difficult, but your health is important."
"Y'sir." She snuggled against him for a few more moments, loath to end the moment and have to face everyone else; but eventually, she knew she couldn't hide away forever. Especially not on his lap. Carefully, she stood and pulled her clothing back into place with a tiny whimper, then gave him a chagrined smile. "Do I...you know...look like I've just been soundly spanked?" She wiped at her eyes again in an attempt to remove any remaining tears. She also sniffled like a snot-nosed brat, but she didn't want to think of that. She already felt childish as it was.
Coulson stood up, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and giving her a gentle squeeze. "Washing your face will help, but even then, it's not exactly a secret how things are dealt with here. Even if you can't get rid of all the traces of your tears, no one will comment on it."
Bobbi nodded, hesitant. "Ok..." She glanced at him uncertainly, but still went to the bath so she could wash her face. When she returned, he was waiting for her by the door so they could head to the elevator together.
Bobbi watched Coulson as they walked. She wanted so much to confess to him at this moment. She wanted to confess so badly, she had to keep herself from saying anything just in case she started blabbing. Sighing softly, she looked forward again, getting onto the elevator quietly; never quite leaving his side, even though she knew that was what she needed to do if she wanted to keep from becoming even more attached.
The thought of eating was daunting, but she'd just have to suffer and force herself to do it. One more time of Coulson stepping in and showing her who was in charge...whose she was...and it would be all over.
Coulson stuck close to Bobbi's side as they took the elevator to the common floor, his arm around her shoulders. He guided her off and through to the dining area, where most of the others were finishing off their breakfast.
Grant, seeing his father and baby sister arriving, stood and pulled out two chairs for them, which happened to be near him, then went to plate up some food for the both of them. He glanced at Bobbi with a tiny worried frown. "Bruce didn't go into detail, but he suggested some foods that might be better for you to eat until you were better...so I kinda fixed something up for you to go with the pancakes..." He handed his father a plate piled with pancakes covered in syrup. The plate he put in front of Bobbi only had one pancake- and it was covered with apple slices, cranberries and yogurt. She blinked at the difference in the two then gave Grant a questioning look.
"The yogurt has probiotics... the apples and cranberries actually can help speed up healing.... I had JARVIS look it up." Grant blushed, then placed a glass of cranberry juice in front of both of them and went back to his own seat.
Coulson smiled at Grant as he took his seat, leaning across to give his youngest son a quick hug and kiss to his forehead. "Thank you," he said, his voice sincere and containing a note of pride.
Bobbi gave Grant her own, almost shy, smile. "Thanks...." She made sure to take a bite while he was watching, then gave him two thumbs up to indicate that it was good.
Grant smiled, relaxing a bit, then went back to eating his own breakfast. He'd been eating slow. Partly because he wanted to be able to eat with his father and baby sister, but partly because he knew the third and last discussion between him and his father was going to occur at some point after he ate. As much as he wanted to get it over with, he was also kind of dreading it. Glancing around at his cousins, he could tell he wasn't the only one. Brock was quieter and more subdued than normal; and Tony? Well, Tony looked like he was looking for any opportunity to jump up and disappear. He'd even checked his office calendar three times in the last thirty minutes to see if he had a meeting scheduled that he had forgotten about. Shaking his head, he went back to eating.
Coulson gave his youngest son and daughter a tight squeeze around their shoulders, then began eating. He knew that Grant was dreading the last spanking... and to be honest, he wanted to get it over with as well. He didn't like causing any member of his family pain and he'd already had to punish two of his children twice... as well as stepping in and helping Loki.
Not that he really regretted that. After all, something had had to give between them.
Fury was seated between his sons and he gently touched Brock's shoulder, knowing how his youngest was dreading the coming spanking. He didn't say anything, though.
Steve was also considering the possibility of Tony trying to make a break for it and his arm around his son's shoulders was as much to remind him that he was there as to keep him from abruptly bolting.
Loki glanced around the table, noting those who looked nervously anticipatory, the one who looked relieved and a bit clingy and the parents who were tending to all of them and raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything. Until he did say something. "I believe I would like to go shopping for some clothing that is more suitable to blending in to Midgardian culture. Would anyone who is not going to be having discussions or naps later like to join me?"
Mack almost choked on his juice.
"I'll join you," Natasha said with a slight smile. She wasn't much one for shopping... but she figured at least this way, she would show she'd accepted Loki into the family.
"What the hell... I'll join you as well." Lance shrugged. "Maybe we can stop and get some beer after the shopping's done."
"What the heck. I'll go too." Mack nodded, glancing at Bobbi to see if she'd be joining them. If she did, it would give them an excuse to be out of the building.
Catching Mack looking at her, Bobbi cringed inside, though no one else could see then silently sighed. She gave a crooked smile at Mack to acknowledge what he wasn't saying then grinned at Loki. "I'll go, but I want to be able to pick out at least one shirt for you!"
"Well, if you all are going, then I'm going too!" Clint announced, before stuffing the last bite of his pancake into his mouth.
Jemma gave Loki a curious look. "Did you really mean to have that many people come with you to pick out clothing?"
Loki shrugged nonchalantly. "I'm a prince. I need an entourage." His voice was droll, but his eyes were glinting with humor; he was obviously teasing.
"Well, far be it from us to make your entourage less than magnificent. Leo and I will come along as well," Jemma declared, ignoring Leo's surprised look. "And Skye as well....." She ignored Skye's surprised look as well.
Natasha glanced at Mack and her baby sister, then at Clint. She didn't say anything. She didn't need to suggest to her brother they keep an eye on Bobbi and Mack... since she imagined they'd take the opportunity to sneak away from the group.
"I suppose my experiment can wait..." Leo smiled, a bit self-consciously. He never seemed to find it easy to say no to Jemma.
"I could do some shopping anyway," Skye admitted.
Trip frowned. "Well, if all y'all are going, then I may as well tag along. Maybe we can catch a movie after."
Bucky nodded. "I could do with a movie." He smiled at Lance, hoping the younger man wouldn't mind his father tagging along.
Bruce glanced at his son and daughter, then at Skye, then looked at May. "Since the kids apparently have plans, I think it's time for your annual check-up." He finished the last bite of his pancake, then stood and cleared his dirty dishes away, ignoring the death glare May was sending him.
"It really can't wait any longer..." he said before she could open her mouth and protest. He was amused when she got a disgruntled look on her face, glanced at Skye, then rolled her eyes and nodded briskly.
"Fine..." May mumbled. It wouldn't do to argue about taking care of her health in front of her daughter. Even if she didn't think she needed a checkup.
Loki chuckled, giving Thor a sideways look. "Are you coming as well, brother?"
Lance smiled at his father. "Great. We can make a day of it."
Thor swallowed his mouthful of food and gave Loki a wide smile. "I believe that was a given."
"Good. I shall expect my entourage to meet me downstairs in the garage in thirty minutes. I must make myself presentable." Loki sniffed haughtily. The effect was ruined when he began to clean up dirty dishes and cutlery, though. And when he couldn't help but snort at the look on some of the others' faces.
Snorting softly, Thor nudged his brother as he stood to help clean the used plates and cutlery. "We did not even have that kind of entourage on Asgard, brother." He smiled.
Loki huffed. "And now we will not have that kind of entourage here, now that you have told everyone!" He pouted then started chuckling.
Bucky grinned. "Yeah. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that Loki is going to end up carrying Skye, Jemma, Nat and Bobbi's bags...."
Thor wrapped his arm around his brother's shoulders, squeezing gently as he smiled. It seemed to him that a weight had been lifted from Loki and seeing his brother happier made him happy, too.
Lance smirked. "I have the feeling most of us are going to be doing that." He stood and walked over to clean his own dishes.
"Aw...it won't be that bad," Bobbi teased. "I only plan to buy maybe five pairs of shoes. Maybe...."
Clint looked perplexed at that. "How does anyone need that many new pairs of shoes?"
Loki smiled to himself, hearing the banter flying back and forth between all the family. He glanced at Coulson and nodded, his smile turning more personal but happier, if that were possible. He hadn't realized how much his guilt about the other man had been weighing him down; but now that things had been addressed, he felt more able to bond with everyone else.
Mack thwacked Clint gently on the back of the head. "You never question a woman about her decision to buy shoes. Not if you aren't paying for them yourself...and even then, do so at your own risk."
"I'm not planning on buying clothes... much," Skye added. Then again, she was more likely to get bigger, bulky, electronic items.
"I'm sure I can find something." Natasha smirked at her big brother. "You really should know better by now."
Coulson returned Loki's smile and nod, happy that the Asgardian was feeling able to bond with the rest of the family. He could see that Loki seemed much more relaxed and comfortable... and that made him happy.
"Well, then. Are we all ready to go?" Loki asked, clapping his hands together and glancing around at the group. It seemed that all the ones who planned to go with him had finished eating and were cleaning up.
There were various sounds of agreement from the others who were attending and it didn't take long before the group was leaving the tower. Although none of them were really loud, it was obvious when most of the inhabitants were gone.
Tony, who had been conspicuously quiet during the whole proceedings, glanced around the table at who was left; Brock, sitting so close to Fury he might as well have been on the older man's lap; Grant, leaning toward Coulson with his head on his father's shoulder; and himself. He glanced at Steve and gave a nervous little smile. "Any chance we can say I learned my lesson enough from the first two times we discussed matters?" He didn't care if the others heard him. He suspected they had been having discussions of their own.
Fury had his arm around Brock's waist, having gently tugged his son in close to himself, stroking his hair and back gently.
Coulson pressed a kiss to Grant's head as he held his son close, glancing at Tony as he spoke.
"I'm afraid not." Steve tightened his embrace around Tony. "We discussed this and agreed on it. It won't help any of you to cut the punishment short." No matter how much they might want to.
"Yeah. Thought you'd say that," Tony said with a sigh, then stood up and slowly walked toward the door. He really didn't want another spanking. When the first one had occurred, he'd been feeling so guilty he didn't think he could ever be punished enough... after the second though, the guilt had eased enough that he had been able to forgive himself- and let go of the things he'd had no control over. Now? Now he was dreading the third one. He knew Steve wouldn't do more than he needed to, to get his point across- but even though there were no marks on his backside (he'd checked) his butt was still tender from the other two punishments. The thought of a third punishment made his stomach twist up. He couldn't think on it without being nervous...almost scared. Heck. Who was he kidding? He couldn't think on it at all without thinking he should run and hide. Running and hiding seemed like a really good idea about now. Really good. Tony walked normally until he reached the door to the kitchen, carefully opening it and stepping through...then slamming the door shut and running like hell hounds were after him to the stairwell. He wasn't going to take the elevator. JARVIS would lock him in place until Steve could catch him- the traitor.
Grant watched his cousin, his mouth dropping open in shock as the door was slammed closed. "uh...that just happened...."
Brock snorted. "Foolish man...."
Steve sighed and stood up. "I'm going to go after him." He headed to the elevator, somehow not surprised that his son had decided to make a break for it. Truth be told, he was surprised it hadn't happened before now. "JARVIS? Keep me updated on Tony's position, please."
Coulson hugged Grant close a moment or two longer and then spoke softly. "Why don't we have our discussion on my floor?"
Fury shook his head then looked at Brock. "I think we should do the same."
Grant nodded and stood up, waiting for his father to stand and lead him out.
Coulson stood up as well, wrapping his arm around his son's shoulders and guiding him towards the elevator. "I love you," he said softly to Grant. "And once this spanking is over, that's it. We don't have to bring up what happened again."
Stepping onto the elevator, Grant moved closer to his father. It didn't take long to reach Coulson's floor. Grant assumed they would head through to the bedroom; but just in case, he waited for his father to direct him.
Coulson headed through to the bedroom, not wanting to drag this out any longer than he had to. He walked over to the bed and took a seat, gently tugging Grant across his lap and wrapping an arm around his waist to draw him in close and tight. He then proceeded to tug down his son's pants and underwear.
Grant was relieved that his father got straight to the point; or, in this case, straight to putting him over his knee. As always, he was hit with a sense of vulnerability; it was hard not to feel vulnerable when you were half-naked and at the mercy of the person who was going to make you hurt. At the same time, he felt a sense of relief- his father had everything under control- and safety - his father had everything under control. Reaching down, he grasped his father's ankle and squeezed gently, allowing himself to lie there; not exactly limp, but not tense, either. "I love you daddy...." His words were soft but heartfelt.
"I love you, son." Coulson's voice was filled with sincerity and love. "There is nothing that could ever change that. I never want to risk losing you. You are so important to me." He lifted his hand and brought it down in a sharp swat, then another one just below the first.
Grant grunted at the first swat and it didn't take long before he began to whimper as well. His backside, while not bruised and not really hurting from the other spankings, was still tender and the spanking was reigniting the soreness from the other two. He didn't try to hide any of his reactions from his father. His father deserved to hear him be affected...so he would know he was making an impression and hopefully, Grant would learn from it. He didn't even try to hold still, trusting that his father would be able to keep him in place where he wanted him. "I'm sorry, daddy..." he finally gasped out, as tears began to fall down his face.
"I know." Coulson spoke gently, his tone in stark contrast to the hard swats he was delivering to his son's backside, covering every inch down to Grant's thighs and then starting a new circuit of swats. "You need to try and remember just how important and loved you are... how devastated I and the rest of the family would be if we lost you."
"I will! I will try!" Grant gasped out, twisting the fingers of one hand into his father's pants leg. He couldn't help but throw the other hand back in an effort to block the swats. It hadn't taken long at all for the fire to reignite from the last two spankings and he was beginning to think he'd never be able to sit comfortably again. Tears weren't just falling down his face now...they were pouring from his eyes and his breathing was out of sync as he tried to keep from breaking down into sobs.
Coulson moved Grant's hand out of the way, holding it against his son's back and lacing his fingers through Grant's, trying to provide him with some comfort. "I love you, Grant. I want you to stay safe, even when I'm not there to pull you back." Wanting to end this, so he could move onto comfort, he began swatting a bit harder and faster.
At the faster...and harder... pace, Grant couldn't control it any longer. Letting out a wail, he kicked his legs out behind him in a futile effort to ease the burn then went limp over his father's lap, sobbing brokenly. "I'm sorry, daddy...I'm sorry...sorry..." Once he'd broken, he gave up completely, apologies and promises to be good pouring from his lips.
Coulson stopped when his son went limp and quickly tugged Grant up and into his arms, wrapping his son into a tight embrace and kissing the top of his head. "I love you," he whispered, rocking him gently.
"I'msorrydaddy...loveyou...wannabegood...sorry...so sorry..." Grant continued to sob in his father's arms, curling up as tightly against him as he could.
Coulson hugged Grant tightly, pressing another kiss to his head. "You are good, Grant. I know you were trying to do the right thing. You just went about it the wrong way. I love you. So much more than I could ever put into words."
Grant snuggled closer, nuzzling against his father. He finally regained control over his emotions, only sniffling once in a while and taking quivery breaths, but he didn't move from his father's lap. He needed the comfort and the closeness. His father felt safe. "It hurts, daddy..." he finally admitted in a plaintive tone...not exactly whining or feeling sorry for himself; more surprised that it still hurt. Normally, the actual pain stopped with the spanking, leaving only mild discomfort. Not this time. He supposed it made sense. Three spankings...even spread out over five days...didn't leave his bottom much chance to recover. This would be one lesson he remembered for a long time.
"I know," Coulson replied gently. "This was a more severe punishment. But it's over now... and the pain won't last much longer," he promised. "I love you. And I'm glad I have you safe with me."
"I love you...I'm glad you have me too." Grant said softly, snuggling more. Finally, reluctantly, he stood and fixed his clothing with a whimper. "Can...can we just stay here for a little while? Until everyone else gets back?" he asked hopefully. He was suddenly feeling very tired, but didn't want to leave his father's sight.
Coulson nodded, giving a gentle smile. "Of course we can." He held his arms out to Grant, to indicate the comfort was still there if he wanted it.
That was all the invitation he needed. Grant moved back into his father's arms, wrapping his own arms around the older man and putting his head on his shoulder.
"Yeah, ok." Brock stood and waited for Fury in the same way. He just wanted to get it over with; dragging it out by running wasn't on his to do list.
Fury headed to the elevator, walking next to his son, so they could take it to his floor.
Brock glanced nervously at Fury as they finally reached the older man's floor. He knew what to expect...he knew his father wouldn't be overly harsh, but would be firm enough that Brock would feel and understand 'the point' within seconds of beginning. That's how the other two spankings had been. He also knew that, while he didn't have any bruising or other marks from the first two spankings, he was still very sensitive; and this one was likely to hurt a lot worse just because it was being given on already sore muscle. He wanted to get it over with, though, so he didn't argue or try and delay the inevitable. He just walked into his father's bedroom, dropped his jeans and shorts and waited for his father to take him in hand.
Fury stepped over to the bed, gently guiding Brock with him, and took a seat. He tugged his son across his lap and then wrapped an arm around Brock's waist, tugging him close against his stomach before he lifted his hand and brought it down in the first hard swat.
Brock hissed as his backside was reignited with just that one swat. This was not going to be easy, by any means. Closing his eyes and reaching down with one hand, he wrapped his fingers around his father's ankle and held on firmly.
Fury continued the hard, sharp swats down to Brock's thighs before he started over from the top. "Putting yourself in any kind of danger is not acceptable. Even before I adopted you, it wasn't... but now, you mean much more to me personally. I don't want to lose you."
Brock winced at the words. He could handle any amount of pain, but disappointing or hurting those who meant something to him...who he loved? It was always hard to take. "I'm sorry, dad...I don't mean to worry you...I love you..." he ground out between clenched teeth. He was trying not to, but he was soon squirming and wriggling around, trying to move his backside out of range. And his eyes were watering....bad.
"I know. And I love you too," Fury said, his voice sincere. "I know you didn't mean to endanger yourself, but you shouldn't have gone in without backup. There's more than just me and Trip who don't want to lose you."
"I...I know. And I'm so sorry." Brock's voice broke and then suddenly he was crying, limp over his father's knee. It hadn't taken much to break him, to his shame...but then, it was his father. "I'm sorry," he cried softly.
Fury stopped and quickly tugged Brock into his arms and settling him on his lap, holding him close. "I know. And I'm very glad that you're safe."
Brock pressed as close to Fury as possible, just crying softly. "I don't know if I should be worried I broke so quickly or not..." he admitted with a soft snort. "I...I just know I don't like disappointing you...or worrying you...or doing things I know you won't like..." He frowned slightly then gave Fury a crooked smile. "You really are my dad...."
Fury smiled, tightening his embrace around Brock. "We were friends before you were taken and brainwashed, but you're my son now... which means that I don't want to lose you even more. You and your brother are so important to me."
"I'll do my best to make sure you don't, dad..." He gave Fury a rueful look. "I'm fairly certain anytime I think doing something reckless is a good idea, if I remember how sore I am now and how it felt to...to worry you...I'll change my mind." He cuddled into his dad some more, before leaning up and kissing his father on the cheek. Then he carefully stood and pulled his clothing back on, wincing as the material brushed his sore backside. Finally, he carefully sat next to Fury on the bed and leaned against him. "What now, dad?"
Fury wrapped his arm around Brock's shoulders, drawing him close against his side. "We could stay here for a bit," he suggested. "Take the opportunity to spend some one-on-one time."
"I'd like that," Brock admitted, snuggling in close again. "I'd like it a lot."
Tony hadn't really thought things through that well. He could admit that to himself as he reached his father's floor. Why in the world had he run in this direction? He was already winded; although running up several flights of stairs would do that to a person if they weren't used to running up stairs. Maybe this could work in his favor. Steve would never suspect that he'd run to his floor when trying to escape from him. "JARVIS. You DO NOT tell him where I am! Got it?" Tony gasped out, as he quietly opened the door from the stairwell, stepped onto Steve's floor, then closed the door quietly again. Of course, he had a feeling JARVIS wouldn't listen to him in this case, but he had to try. Glancing in both directions, he ran down the hall to Steve's room- that bed was bigger- and crawled underneath the bed, scooting as far back and against the wall as he could in the hopes that if Steve looked, the darkness would hide him.
"Of course, sir. I will not tell Captain Rogers you are on his floor and hiding under his bed like a naughty toddler. I will definitely not say that to him at all." JARVIS's tone could only be described as sarcastically mocking. The fact that he had said it to Tony, and made certain it was broadcast in all the quarters so that Steve could overhear him saying it to Tony, never registered with the hiding brunette.
Tony winced then pouted at the AI's response. "Smart-arse AI..." he muttered under his breath. Tony wasn't sure his hiding place was the best in the world. Oh, who was he kidding? He knew it was the worst possible hiding place ever in the history of hiding places. He would have been better off running down to street level and taking a cab somewhere that JARVIS couldn't tell on him if he was truly serious about escaping his father. Now...now he was probably going to be found within the next few minutes and his father was going to be disappointed that he ran; and who knew if that would add to the punishment or not. Closing his eyes and holding a hand over his mouth to keep his breathing from alerting Steve, he could only hope he had a few moments' reprieve before he got dragged out.
Having been alerted to where his son was hiding, Steve immediately took the elevator to his floor and went through to his bedroom. Crouching down, he wasted no time in tugging Tony out from under the bed and wrapping his arms around his son in a tight embrace.
Tony huffed, a pout on his face, but didn't try and pull out of the embrace...and actually pressed closer, as if needing reassurance that Steve wasn't too angry at him for behaving like an idiot. "I'm sorry, dad...I...I really don't know what I was thinking. That was unfortunate and rather embarrassing, now that I'm thinking about what I just did...." he admitted with a wince.
Steve pressed a kiss to Tony's head as he held him tightly. "I don't think you were thinking," he said, a wry note to his voice. "But it wasn't entirely unexpected. This isn't the first time you've run from me, after all."
Tony sighed. "No. And sadly, it probably won't be the last...even if I wish I could promise it would be. Something about going over your knee...just makes me feel like a little boy and then I go and react like one." He sighed again, nuzzling against his father. "Sorry to be such a brat..."
Steve stroked his son's hair and back. "You aren't a brat, Tony. I understand you. I know why you run." He kissed Tony's head again. "And I know this is going to be hard on you, but I think we both know we need to get this over with."
"Yes, sir..." Tony said softly, his voice catching. He reluctantly stepped back from Steve and undid his jeans, letting them hang loose on his hips. "I'm still a little sore from last time..." he muttered softly. "...This is going to suck so bad." Swallowing hard, he took a deep breath and stepped back within Steve's reach, so that his father could put him where he wanted him.
Steve took a seat on the bed. Reaching for Tony's hand, he gently tugged his son across his lap. He rubbed Tony's back gently and then drew his jeans and underwear down, rubbing Tony's back a moment or two longer before he brought his hand down in the first sharp swat.
Tony yelped as the first swat landed, then remarked ruefully, "And I was not wrong. Ooooow!" He didn't move or try to get away though, he just put his hands down in front of him to keep his balance and waited for Steve's hand to fall again.
Steve continued the hard, sharp swats down to Tony's thighs, before starting over from the top. "I don't want to ever risk losing you, Tony. You're my son... my boy... and I love you, far more than you know."
As always, it was Steve's words that had the most impact. He hated worrying or upsetting or scaring the other man. The words, along with the sharp swats, worked to quickly demolish what little barriers Tony had up; and he really didn't have any up. If his backside was still sore from the two previous spankings, his emotions were more so. "I love you too, daddy..." Tony choked out, before he started to cry quietly. "I'm sorry I scared you...I'm sorry I don't listen...I'm sorry I... I'm just sorry." He swallowed hard and reached one hand up to wipe at his eyes. "I always want to be yours...I don't want you to regret it..." he whispered, reaching back with his other hand; not to block the spanking, but because he needed reassurance.
Steve laced his fingers through Tony's, gripping his son's hand tight. "I could never regret you. I would never regret adopting you. You were mine long before we made it official. You are always going to be mine. I promise that. I love you." The swats had become more of an emphasis for his words.
"I love you..." Tony said softly. He believed Steve...believed every word. He finally just relaxed, slumping over his father's knee as he quietly cried. "...Hurts, daddy..." he finally said with a catch in his voice. He wasn't certain how many more swats he could take before his quiet crying became loud sobs.
Steve could have continued, but Tony's crying tore into him. He believed his son had learned his lesson and that the spankings had succeeded in taking care of any residual guilt. He stopped spanking and drew his son into a tight embrace, kissing Tony's head and just hugging him as tight as possible.
Tony snuggled as close as he could possibly get, managing to get his crying under control and only sniffling now and then. "I love you, daddy...and I really am sorry..." He snuggled some more, pressing a kiss to Steve's shoulder. "Thank you for keeping me...." He glanced up, giving Steve a tiny smile.
Steve leaned in and kissed his son's forehead. "I'm always going to keep you, Tony," he said softly. "I know you're sorry and I forgive you. I'm just so relieved to have you here and safe with me."
Tony snuggled a bit more before carefully standing and fixing his clothes... and then promptly crawled back into his father's arms and began snuggling again. He figured he'd be glued to his father's side until bedtime...and maybe even then. "You think everyone will want to be together tonight?" he asked randomly.
Steve hugged Tony tightly to himself once more. "I think that would be good if you'd like us to all spend time together," he said softly. "Why don't we see if the others all want to watch a movie together right now? And then we can see if there's something all of us want to do together." For now, though, he just cuddled Tony... enjoying having his son with him more than he could ever put into words.