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-ninth 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: Even when someone reveals the worst about themselves, they’re still a part of the family.
Warning(s): Spanking; spoilers for Agents of SHIELD seasons one and two; some mentions of violence.
Co-Author’s Website: BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page
Coulson had already been thinking about confronting Bobbi and Mack directly about what they'd been hiding. When Clint and Natasha mentioned that the two of them had sneaked off during the shopping trip, he knew it was time they deal with what the two of them had been hiding.
To that end, Coulson requested that JARVIS send a message to the family to meet in the common floor living area... and he headed that way himself, determined to now find out the truth.
Bobbi and Mack were on Bobbi's floor, having a discussion of their own.
"We have to tell them, Mack..." Bobbi implored. "...He's not listening to us. He's not even pretending to listen to us and hasn't since the explosion...."
The day of the explosion:
Bobbi couldn’t help looking over her shoulder for the fifth time in as many minutes as she and Mack made their way to the rendezvous. She had the strongest feeling that someone was following them. Unfortunately, every time she glanced around, she didn't see anyone who seemed out of place and she and Mack had searched the area thoroughly before giving the all clear to their contact.
Mack was acting a bit more skittish than normal as well, so she didn’t think she was alone in her unsettled feelings. Although it was possible it was guilt causing her paranoia to rise to the surface, she didn’t think that would be affecting both her and Mack. Unless he was feeling guilty as well? She glanced at her team-mate and partner.
“I don’t like this,” Mack said quietly. “Something just feels wrong and even though I know we’ve checked out the site several times already, I can’t help but feel like we’re missing something,” he muttered reluctantly. “I tried to send warning that it might be better to postpone the meeting and even requested we do so, but Weaver said it was impossible.”
Bobbi sighed. “I know. They are becoming more and more demanding…” she muttered back to him.
“Perhaps if we are becoming demanding, it is because you are providing less information than you should, considering your position in Coulson’s group,” the sternly gruff voice of Robert Gonzales said from the shadows.
Both Bobbi and Mack quickly straightened to attention as their director moved out of the shadows and Bobbi winced at the words. “We report everything that we learn, sir,” she said calmly, despite feeling the injustice of his accusation.
“You were meant to find evidence of Coulson’s mindset, so that we would know if we needed to take him out of the field… or out of the equation entirely. Instead, you send us chipper little memos saying that the dangerous ex-HYDRA agent is completely under his control and that the two brainwashed operatives are within his sphere of influence.” Gonzales wasn’t happy; but then, Bobbi and Mack would have realized that when they discovered he was the one meeting with them instead of Agent Weaver. “You have yet to glean any information on how it is that he still lives…we had to gather that information from other sources. You have yet to tell us if his ‘resurrection’ has affected his usefulness to SHIELD or if he is a dangerous threat. Hell! You didn’t even see fit to tell us that Fury was actually still alive- and you’ve been living with the man!”
Mack straightened his shoulders while Bobbi visibly bristled. “With all due respect, sir…” the tall mechanic began, “…you asked us to gather information on Coulson. Not Fury. We had assumed you already knew of his being alive, since he hasn’t been making that large of an effort to hide of late.”
Bobbi continued, “We have been observing Coulson and his behavior and neither of us has found any indication that there should be concern about Coulson or his loyalties. Yes, he has an ex-HYDRA agent working with him…who happens to be his long lost son and who he also happened to rehabilitate. Grant is a loyal member of Coulson’s team now and works for SHIELD and ….”
Gonzales interrupted. “They are not SHIELD, Agent Morse. Do not forget that. The real SHIELD does not waste time chasing after an organization that has been outed to the world and who regular government agencies are actively pursuing. The real SHIELD concerns itself with threats from outside the jurisdiction of the regular agencies…something that Coulson seems to have abandoned.”
“That’s not fair, sir!” Bobbi protested. “Coulson and the rest of the team work closely with Thor Odinson…with the Asgardians as our alli….”
Gonzales interrupted again. “Was it not Loki Odinson who directly brought an alien war to our world? Loki Odinson, who even now resides in the tower with his brother, as a trusted member of Coulson’s team? Forgive me if I don’t find Coulson’s judgment in that very reassuring.” He paused, noting that the two younger agents in front of him looked frustrated and defensive. “I realize that Coulson is a good man. No one is questioning that,” he conceded. “But I and the rest of the board of directors of the true SHIELD do believe that his judgment was affected by what he went through…and those following him now are too influenced by their feelings and loyalty to him to realize the mistake they are making.” He paused long enough for that to sink in before finishing. “If you can’t find any evidence to convince us otherwise, I believe the time to take over is near.”
Bobbi’s eyes widened. “Is that really necessary…..” For the third time, she was interrupted. This time, it wasn’t Gonzales interrupting her, though. She was interrupted by the sound of an explosion; the room she, Mack and Gonzales were standing in shaking, pieces of the ceiling falling down around them in large chunks.
Mack hadn’t wasted any time grabbing Director Gonzales and Bobbi and quickly dragging them outside into the back alley, where they were less likely to be crushed by a falling building. “We’ll go find out what happened, sir…you should leave.”
Gonzales said nothing in response to Mack’s flat out ordering him around, just nodding brusquely and taking off in the opposite direction. Waiting a few moments, Bobbi and Mack went into the nearby buildings and began evacuating them, in case there were more explosions; making certain not to be seen by anyone until the rest of the Avengers and Coulson’s team had arrived.
Mack frowned patiently. "Bobbi...I agree with you, but...."
JARVIS interrupted at that moment. "If I may have everyone's attention, please. Director Coulson would like to meet with everyone on the common floor right now. It is a matter of some urgency."
"He knows..." Bobbi turned pale. "I told you I thought I saw Clint behind us! And if he was there, you know Nat was! We aren't going to have a choice now; we aren't even going to have time to be able to figure out how to phrase things...."
Mack sighed, then shrugged. "To be honest, I'm relieved that they've taken the choice out of our hands. We should have told them weeks ago."
"I know..." Bobbi bit her lip. "He's going to hate me...."
"He's not going to hate you," Mack disagreed.
"Well...he's probably going to be very upset with me and set my butt on fire...." She threw her hands up and then yanked on her hair.
Mack nodded. "Yeah. He'll probably do that."
Bobbi glared at her partner in crime. "Wow. Thanks. You really know how to make a girl feel better." She spun on her heel and began heading to her bedroom.
"Where are you going?! They expect us downstairs now!" Mack protested.
"I'm changing," Bobbi called out.
Mack was confused. "Changing?"
"Yeah. Into a skirt...." She wandered back out five minutes later, straightening said skirt. "Maybe if I make it easy on him, he'll go easier on me..." She didn't sound too hopeful.
Mack snorted, then began to walk to the elevator. "Yeah, good luck with that..."
Everyone was in the common living room area... apart from Bobbi and Mack. Coulson took a deep breath and addressed everyone in the room. "I think we've all noticed that Bobbi and Mack have been keeping something a secret from us. Whatever it is, I suspect it's going to affect all of us here... which is why I've requested we all come together to discuss this."
Lance swallowed, though he didn't say anything. He wasn't surprised, though. He'd noticed that there was something going on with his friends, after all.
Thor frowned and nodded. "It has not been as obvious with Mack... but I have seen him acting suspiciously with Bobbi..."
"I have observed this about our younger brother as well," Loki commented.
Grant sighed. "I've thought for a while Bobbi has been alternating between acting like a condemned person and someone with a ton of guilt on their shoulders. She reminded me of...well...me. Before dad got hold of me. I was thinking of talking to her, but was afraid if I was wrong, she'd get the wrong idea. Maybe I should have said something anyway."
Bucky glanced at Clint and Natasha. "Did you see anything when you followed them?" He didn't even bother pretending that he believed the two had disappeared without Clint, Nat, or both trying to follow.
"They were obviously talking to someone, but it was difficult to tell who," Natasha replied. "They knew what they were doing and kept to the more shadowed areas. And since they know we suspect something's up, they might have spotted us following them. Or assumed we did." Which was more or less the same thing.
Clint was about to add something when the elevator pinged...and out stepped Bobbi and Mack.
They both looked nervous, Bobbi more so than Mack.
Mack went to stand near the only empty chair.
Bobbi followed him, sitting down almost reluctantly. She glanced around the room. Everyone was staring...they definitely suspected. Swallowing hard, she turned toward Coulson. "You had something to announce, sir?"
Coulson nodded. He glanced around, realising that everyone was going to let him take point, and then addressed Bobbi and Mack. "We know something's going on." His voice was quiet, but calm. "The two of you have been acting suspiciously for a while now and although I would have liked to wait for you to tell me on your own, the fact is that it's been having a detrimental personal effect." More so with Bobbi than Mack.
Bobbi visibly winced and shrank back.
Mack sighed and ran a hand over his face. "To be honest sir," he began, "the reason we are so late is we were trying to figure out the best way to tell you; Bobbi has wanted to for some time, but refrained because of me. I didn't think things had gotten so bad that it was necessary, but..." Mack glanced around, his shoulders slumping.
He was tired of acting like it wasn't affecting him. He suddenly wasn't the strong agent that they'd have to 'convince'. He looked sad and broken; as if he'd lost something very important. Swallowing, Mack took a deep breath and finished, "...But today, I discovered- we discovered- that things not only had gotten that bad...but that they likely had been that bad from the beginning. Everything I had believed about my mission..." Mack shook his head and slumped further.
Bobbi, watched Mack with worry. This was the first time he'd allowed his true feelings of the situation to show... He was as upset about events as she was. She was sure of this when she saw the glassy sheen in his eyes. "Sit down," she finally whispered to him. "I'm ok...."
Thor had noticed Mack's reactions and he stood from his chair, silently walking over to his brother and wrapping an am around his shoulders. He didn't say anything... but the care and affection in his action were obvious.
Coulson simply reached over to place a hand on Bobbi's knee, squeezing gently. "Tell us everything." There was no blame or accusation in his voice... just a deep-seated need to take care of his daughter.
Seeing that Mack was struggling- he had been hit harder by the revelations they had learned that afternoon, since he hadn't been as uncertain about what they were doing as Bobbi had been- Bobbi swallowed, looking at her father's hand on her knee and began to talk.
Earlier that afternoon...
"I swear, Mack...I saw Clint. And if he's following us, you know Nat isn't far behind...." Bobbi stressed.
Mack sighed. Bobbi had been progressively more anxious about their situation the last week. He only hoped this meeting might calm some of her nerves, because it was going to be impossible to keep their secret if she lost it. "I don't see him now... and we went through that area where, if he had been following us, he would have been out in the open where we'd see him for certain."
"Ok..." Bobbi relented, then took a deep breath as Gonzales stepped out of the shadows. She walked forward with Mack to meet their director. "Sir..."
Gonzales didn't waste any time on pleasantries. "Did you find out what you were tasked with? Do you know how Coulson's being brought back to life has affected his personality? His mental acuity? His focus? Is he a potential loose cannon? Did you even find out what his agenda is?"
Mack blinked at the rapid fire questions. "Sir...nothing has changed. Coulson is still the same level headed, fair man that he was before he died; from everything we've heard. He has shown no indications of mental deterioration. And his agenda is the same as ours... stand as a guard and shield for the people who can't protect themselves...."
Gonzales eyed Mack. "I think you know by now what our agenda is, agent. Our agenda is to bring Coulson back into the fold of the real SHIELD. Under the guidance and direction of the council. And if he won't come back to the fold, remove him from the equation so he doesn't get in our way."
"Remove..." Mack felt sick at the implications. "He's a good man, sir...I don't understand why we can't work with him. He wants to protect the world...I thought that's what we were meant to do...."
"We are protecting the world, Agent Mackenzie. From Coulson." Gonzales turned toward Bobbi, eyeing her closely. She'd been the one protesting Coulson's loyalty to the cause and how nothing she'd seen indicated he was a threat. She hadn't said anything yet and when he looked at her, he could figure out why. "You let yourself get too close to the target, Agent Morse. Is that going to be a problem, or are you able to pull yourself back before you ruin the operation?"
Bobbi swallowed hard and forced herself to focus and look like she was on board. "I can pull myself back, sir. I...I am disappointed. I think Coulson would be a good asset. But that isn't up to me and if the council feels he needs to be taken out.... Just. Will we be given some warning? I'd rather not be in the way when events go down. And HYDRA has made several attempts at Coulson, so I'd hate to attack our own people, thinking it was HYDRA."
Gonzales looked suspicious, but answered anyway. "Three days from now. We'll hit early morning, before the employees at Stark Tower begin to show up. We'll attempt to take Coulson alive...if he doesn't fight us. We also plan to take a few of the... enhanced... people that are staying there. Coulson has been collecting 'powered' people and having them all in one location is not good. Be ready if you don't want to fall under friendly fire."
"Yes, sir," Bobbi managed to say calmly, even though she wanted to scream. Glancing at Mack, she noticed his imperceptible nod, then turned back to Gonzales. "If that is all, sir, they'll get suspicious if we are gone from the group much longer."
"By all means." Gonzales gave a dismissive gesture, then slipped back into the shadows.
Mack took Bobbi's arm and began to lead her back the way they'd come.
Bobbi had somehow managed to relay all the information without losing control of her emotions, but by the end, tears were sliding down her face. A quick glance at Mack showed that he was unabashedly crying as well. They were so completely screwed and she didn't even care. All she cared about was that these people, her family, have enough time to prepare for the assault that was likely coming well before three days was up. Gonzales had had a shifty look in his eyes when he gave her a time.
Thor slid his arms around Mack, hugging his brother close. If he could forgive Loki for his brother's actions, he could do the same to the other man he'd adopted into his family as well.
Coulson had done the same to Bobbi, reacting as he did with his other children when they were hurting. This was bigger than he'd expected... but all he could care about was how much Bobbi was hurting and that she had finally been honest with him.
The rest of them had been silent during the explanation, but Steve finally spoke up, his voice serious. "I think we can safely say they're going to hit sooner than three days. We need all the information you can give us about them."
Bobbi nodded bleakly at Steve, shifting closer to Coulson. He hadn't pushed her away yet, so she'd take what comfort she could get before he wised up and sent her packing. "They are a group of four, claiming to share equal power; but Robert Gonzales has a great deal of influence on the decisions made. When SHIELD fell to HYDRA... Mack, Hartley and I were on the carrier where he was captain. We saved his life and in turn, he gave us direction when no one knew what to do or where to go..." Her voice trailed off.
Mack swallowed. "He was a good man. I thought he still was...until he revealed his true plans for everyone here.... He'd convinced us that you were misguided and that if we just found the information he was seeking, he'd be able to come to you and convince you back to what really needed doing. Now... He believes what he's doing is right. I could see that. What I can't see is if he's unbalanced, or just really really misguided."
"One of the others who seems to have a bit more pull is Agent Weaver," Bobbi said softly. She gave a sympathetic look to Leo and Jemma when they jerked in surprise at the news.
Jemma looked at Fitz, then at Bobbi. "We were led to believe that everyone in the academies who hadn't been evacuated in the first five minutes died. She wasn't listed as being in any of the evacuation vehicles, so...."
"She's still alive. Gonzales found her. We thought he'd convinced her to join him because he was trying to rebuild SHIELD. I suspect now he capitalized on residual feelings of abandonment...." Mack said in a gentle voice, not wanting to hurt the two young scientists any more than he had to. "I never heard her actively bad mouthing Coulson, or acting like she thought Coulson was behaving questionably, like I did with Gonzales."
Jemma frowned. "But you never heard her defend him either, did you?" She didn't need an answer to that, though; the look on her face indicated she already knew.
Mack continued, "The other two, we were never given names for...one of them seemed to dislike you intensely though, sir." He looked at Coulson. "I know you were having difficulty finding people to be agents for you...trying to keep under the radar so that the government agencies didn't go after you. He had some friends in high places that allowed him to look without hiding. A lot of the agents that might have joined you, he got to first. It's why they turned you down. He told anyone who joined his version of SHIELD that if you tried to recruit, not to let you know that they were already working for SHIELD. Since most of them didn't know you personally and he had given them a job and a place to go to after everything fell apart, they didn't question the order and just obeyed. Needless to say, he has a large contingent of agents that he plans to send after you. The only thing that has kept him from moving before is the fact that he is quite honestly scared of Tony and the pull Tony has." Mack gave a crooked grin to his cousin.
While the explanations had been going on, both Mack and Bobbi had been moving closer and closer to their respective family members. Bobbi had got up off her chair and moved to sit on the couch next to Coulson and the rest of the family; and had done it without thinking, if the look she had on her face when she suddenly realized she was on Coulson's lap was anything to go by.
Meanwhile, Mack was as close to Thor as he could get when standing, his arm wrapped around the Asgardian as if needing support to stand. If Thor were to sit down, Mack wasn't entirely sure he wouldn't end up on Thor's lap.
Steve nodded, looking quite serious still. "We're going to need to set up defences... prepare for when he makes a move." He looked at his son. "Do you have anything available apart from what we know already?"
Coulson responded by wrapping his arms around Bobbi's waist, drawing her in close to him and threading his fingers gently through her hair. "Although I'm sure they won't have the same limitations, I think we need to avoid bloodshed where possible," he said.
"You're thinking about trying to recruit some of them back." Fury knew his best friend well, so it wasn't a question.
"It's fair to give them all the information," Coulson replied.
Thor drew Mack over so that he could put him between himself and Loki, silently giving him the support of his family.
"Gonzales...Gonzales... Yeah. I think I know which senator he is friends with. If I'm right, the man is normally level headed and fair; and persuasive. He might be able to talk Gonzales down enough to see reason. Maybe convince him that he doesn't have to see us as the enemy.... I've got to make some calls...." Tony was already thinking three steps ahead about who he could contact.
Bobbi huddled down so that Coulson's arms were like a blanket of protection around her. Her face was pinched...worried...sad. "They're all good people... good SHIELD agents. If you'd found them first...."
Grant watched his father and baby sister, reaching out and running his own hand through her hair gently. "Dad won't hurt anyone that gives him even half a choice..." he said firmly.
May slanted her head. "Maybe we can start giving them all the information now?" She glanced at her daughter with a tiny smile. "If the two of you can supply us with some names of some of the agents you've worked with... Skye can find their emails... we can send them the information. If they are even worth half their salt, they'll read the information we send, if only in the hopes of figuring out what we are up to. Give them enough proof...."
Loki wrapped his arm around Mack once the younger man was firmly sat between him and Thor. "I have no doubt my presence is part of the problem Gonzales has with you." His voice was calm and stating a point calmly, if only a bit regretful. "I do not know how you will convince them that I'm not waiting to slit all your throats when you least expect it...but if you have any ideas, even if it is to put me under 'house arrest' until things blow over, I am willing to consider it."
Steve nodded, wrapping his arm around Tony and squeezing him gently. "Anything you think you can think of to help would be good." He looked at Loki. "There's plenty of evidence of you helping us... I don't think it would be necessary to put you under house arrest."
Skye nodded, her own mind already working. "If you wanted to record a message, I could send it as a video," she said.
Coulson kissed the top of Bobbi's head. "Violence should always be the last resort, when all other options are unavailable," he said firmly.
"I can provide my own view on things," Fury commented. "If they need proof about the brainwashing... we still have that."
"Can you give me and Clint any details about their base?" Natasha asked Bobbi and Mack. "We could turn the tables on them... do a little spying of our own."
Loki shrugged. "Maybe it is not. But if it would help in swaying those who have not had opportunity to learn of my most current actions...I would willingly put myself into your custody until things were resolved."
Bobbi just snuggled closer to Coulson. Now that she'd bared her soul...given her secret away...and she was no longer trying to actively hide anything...she was just so very sad. And worried. Had they waited too long to come clean? She felt her guilt in hiding the truth for so long. If the others had known, maybe something could have been done before it reached this level of criticalness.
Mack, feeling his own guilt and wanting to do whatever he could to atone for the predicament he'd placed the family in, nodded at Natasha. "Yes, I can..." Leaning forward, he began to give details, beginning with location.
The rest of the day had been fairly long. Natasha and Clint had put their heads together to plan out infiltrating Gonzales' base, while Fury and Coulson had worked together to put evidence and a video into an e-mail for Skye to send to the addresses she'd found. In the meantime, Tony had made good on his promise to utilise his contacts.
It was fairly late by the time Coulson was able to think about retiring to his floor with his kids... but he'd noticed, all through the evening, how quiet and subdued Bobbi had been, despite his constant attempts to touch her and reassure her of his affection and love. He was already considering the possibility of moving all four of his kids to his floor, simply so that he'd then have them close to him... and each other, something he felt was going to be important.
But Coulson prided himself on reading his children well. And he was fairly certain that he needed to address things with Bobbi. After suggesting to Clint, Natasha and Grant that they look at ordering in some dinner for them to share in a little while, he approached Bobbi, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and kissing her cheek. "Let's go and talk."
Bobbi looked up at Coulson, her eyes bleak. He'd been very kind through everything, making certain to keep her close and showing affection... but she was certain that was only so she wouldn't completely break down and be useless to them. And he wasn't a cruel man, so he probably realized she needed it. But the fact was, she had been betraying him from day one; and what made it worse was she knew what had happened between him and Grant before he made Grant his...and she knew what it had felt like to be betrayed herself... and she'd still done it. Now that things had been settled as much as they could be, he was going to send her away. Swallowing hard, she followed him. Once they were in the elevator, though, she forced herself to step out of his embrace and away from him. "I'll pack my things and be out of your sight before bed...I don't know how you could stand looking at me for as long as you did..." Her voice broke on the last part of her sentence and she had to wipe at her eyes to keep from crying.
Coulson looked at Bobbi and then simply stepped forward, wrapping his arms around her and drawing her in tight once more. "I love you. That was true the first time I said it and it's true now. I don't want to lose you. I don't want you to leave." He kissed the top of her head. "You're still my daughter. I don't throw my children away just because they make a mistake."
"But I'm not..." Her protest was more of regret than denial. "I turned you down...so you don't need to feel obligated...I know how badly I messed up. I know how awful my actions against you were. You don't have to keep me when I... I don't deserve it." She wiped at her eyes again, but tears were streaming down her face, so it was a useless endeavor.
Coulson tightened his embrace around Bobbi. "I don't feel obligated. I love you. I still want to adopt you officially... but even if you don't want to sign the paperwork yet, it's not going to change how I feel about you. You're one of mine, Bobbi. I know how much keeping this secret has been hurting you. Having it out in the open is better, because now we can work on healing and becoming the family I think we all want."
"You still want me? After all the lies I told? After everything that happened and almost happened? You...you still...still want me?" And now she was crying...and couldn't stop...because after all her fear that she had lost her chance...after her belief that she deserved to be sent away...Coulson was proving himself to her again. "I...I want to be yours....daddy?" Her tone was hopeful, but hesitant and uncertain...and tearful.
Coulson hugged Bobbi tightly to himself, kissing her head. "You are mine. My daughter. I love you," he whispered to her, gently stroking her hair. "No matter what. There is nothing that will change that. I don't want you to leave, because I can't bear the thought of losing you."
Bobbi turned so she could press her ear to his chest and held on tightly. "I...I want to sign...make it official..." she whispered. "...Then...then...." She sniffled. She knew she deserved to be punished for her actions...wanted and needed to be, if she was honest with herself. But something inside her wanted him to be her father officially and legally before he took her in hand. She wasn't sure why, unless her own fears and insecurities were acting up...but it felt important somehow that he be her father completely before handling her this time.
Coulson nodded, stepping off the elevator onto his floor, while still cuddling his daughter close. "You can sign the paperwork... and then we'll deal with what happened," he said softly. "And then the five of us can eat together... can be a family. Without you torturing yourself because of your guilt."
Bobbi just nodded, still pressed so close to him that she was sure he felt the movement. Quietly, she walked with him to where he had stored the paperwork before and waited for him to direct her where to sign.
Coulson took the paperwork from the filing cabinet and grabbed a pen. Kissing his daughter's cheek, he directed her on where to sign, giving her time to read over the paperwork if she wanted to.
Bobbi didn't need any time to think about it or read it. She knew she wanted this with all of her heart; she trusted Coulson with all of her heart as well. She didn't need to read. Quickly signing her name, she put the pen down and looked up at her father. "I'm yours now...legally..." Her voice was soft, still tear filled; but her happiness was clear.
Coulson smiled, his happiness obvious, and kissed her cheek. "I'm glad," he said softly, stroking her hair. The strain and stress that had affected him when seeing how much Bobbi had been hurting was gone. For a moment, he just held her tightly to himself, then he kissed her forehead. "I love you," he reiterated.
"I love you too, daddy...so much," she responded, wrapping her arms around him and holding on tightly. She snuggled for a long moment, letting the fact that he really wasn't sending her away sink in. So much stress, worry and anxiety had dropped off her shoulders at her confession; now the remainder was easing as well with the knowledge that she still had a home and family. The only thing left that was tormenting her was guilt.
Coulson held Bobbi a few moments longer, taking advantage of being able to hold her without her struggling to pull away, whether physically or emotionally. "Are you ready to take care of this now?" he asked, his voice soft and loving, as he continued stroking her hair.
"Yes, daddy..." she said quietly. "I'm ready for you to take care of me, daddy..." She was so much more at peace, having finally accepted her position in her family's life...accepting her father's love. She couldn't stop calling him by 'name'...repeating the term of address as often as possible. Driving home the knowledge that he really was her father, every time she called him daddy. Snuggling closer for a moment, she finally stepped back so he could lead her.
Coulson slid his arm around Bobbi's waist, pressing a kiss to her cheek, before he put the paperwork away safely and then guided her from the study and through to his bedroom. Taking a seat on the bed, he gently tugged his daughter across his lap, securing her with an arm wrapped around her waist.
Bobbi took a slow, deep breath, but otherwise didn't move. She wasn't scared. She knew she deserved this. And she was still floating on an emotional 'high' from knowing that she was still loved and wanted. And the guilt she felt needed to be answered. "I'm sorry, daddy...I'm so sorry I lied for do long...so sorry I worried you...hurt you...I can't ever make up for it..." Her voice was soft and contrite. "But I will try so hard to do better....so you can...can be proud of me..." Her voice caught and tears started to fall down her face.
Coulson stroked Bobbi's back gently for a few moments. "I am proud of you, sweetie." The term of endearment slipped out, but there was something that felt right about it; just like calling Grant and Clint 'son' felt right. "I forgive you, Bobbi. I was hurting because I could see how much you were and I was helpless to do anything to help you." He continued the gentle, comforting touch for a few more moments and then flipped up his daughter's skirt, before tugging her underwear down.
Taking another quivering breath, Bobbi grasped her father's leg with both hands, almost hugging him. She felt like she should be ashamed or embarrassed...being bared. The other times she'd been punished she had been flipping out too much to really notice the lack of clothing...now she was so calm, she wondered if she was dreaming. The fact she was bare over her father's knee still didn't shame her. What did shame her was the fact this was even necessary. "I'm sorry..." She repeated in a tiny voice.
"I know," Coulson replied gently. "We'll get past this and then it'll be over. We won't need to talk about this any longer. I love you." He brought his hand down in the first sharp swat at the crest of Bobbi's backside and then repeated the swat just below the first.
Even expecting it, the first swat caught her by surprise and elicited a high pitched squeak from her. She blushed darkly at having made such a sound, her whole body turning bright red. She managed to keep quiet on the second swat...just barely. Her quick inhalation of breath prevented her from vocalizing. She was certain her father wasn't using his full strength...but the swats he'd delivered still hurt. And he wasn't finished yet....
Coulson settled quickly into a rythym, bringing his hand down in the hard, sharp swats, working his way to Bobbi's thighs before starting over from the top. "I don't want us to be in this position again, Bobbi. You need to trust me to help you. I would never do anything to cause you pain."
"I do trust you, daddy...I do..." Bobbi cried softly, realizing that to be truthful, she should have added a 'now' to her declaration of belief. "I was just...I was so scared, daddy...I...I couldn't believe you'd still want me.... But I know I was wrong...and I'm so sorry..." Her soft cries became a little harder.
"I will always want you," Coulson promised. "I love you. More than I could put into words. Nothing will ever make me withdraw from you... no matter how much you might try to pull away. You are mine." He was continuing the swats, now a bit harder and faster... though still careful to hold back on his full strength.
Bobbi couldn't help it. As the swats became harder and faster, she started squirming in an attempt to lessen the sting, at one point throwing her hand back for protection and kicking her legs hard enough that her panties fell to the floor under the bed.
"I know, daddy...I know I'm yours....I'm yours...I'm...I'm yours...." Bobbi choked as what he'd said and what she was repeating finally sunk into her head. "I'm... I'm sorry, daddy!" Finally going limp over her father's knee, Bobbi's crying turned into full sobs.
It was so confusing to her; she wasn't sobbing because the swats hurt (even though they did) or because of the guilt from everything she'd done (even though she felt very guilty.) She was sobbing because her father loved her and she finally believed it.
Each hard swat seemed to repeat his words back to her: 'you are mine'. After being so positive for so long that it wouldn't, couldn't be true, he had finally broken through to her. The last shred of doubt she'd harbored, even after signing the papers, disappeared. He'd taught her a lesson...maybe not the one he'd intended, but probably the most important.
Coulson stopped, knowing that the spanking had done what it needed to, and quickly tugged Bobbi tightly into his arms. Pressing a kiss to the top of her head, he rocked her gently in his arms. "I love you, sweetie," he said softly in her ear. "No matter what, that will never cease to be true."
"Daddy....." was all Bobbi could vocalize. She was crying too hard to form coherent words, but as soon as she was right side up, she'd wound her arms around his waist as tightly as she could and pressed her ear to his chest and just held on. The events of the last several months and especially the last several days had led to a soul-crushing guilt. While the guilt wasn't completely gone, it had been taken care of to the point that all the tension and uncertainty had just drained out of her and her body didn't know how to deal with the sudden release, so she quivered in her father's arms and cried.
Coulson hugged his daughter tightly, kissing the top of her head again and stroking her hair. "You are so important to me," he whispered to her, continuing to rock her gently in his arms.
Eventually, Bobbi didn't know how long she cried on her father's chest....eventually, her sobs ebbed to soft hiccoughing sniffles and the quivering turned into tiny shivers. She didn't want to move from her father's arms. She felt safe there. She was afraid that feeling would disappear the moment she stood up. But she knew eventually she'd have to be brave and let go and trust that he'd be close enough to catch her if needed. "Daddy...." she whispered softly against him, still testing out the new term of address for the man who now held her and smiling at the happy feeling it gave her when she called him that.
Coulson smiled as he continued to to stroke his daughter's hair. "You're my daughter now... in every way possible," he said softly. "You were before, but now it's legal and official."
Bobbi finally sat up so she could look into her father's face...wincing slightly at the sting she still felt, but then smiling because of what it reminded her of. "I love you, daddy...." she said softly, leaning forward and kissing Coulson on the cheek, before hugging close to him again, this time her head on his shoulder.
Coulson gently threaded his fingers through Bobbi's hair, kissing the side of her head. "I love you. So much," he said, his voice soft but completely sincere.
Bobbi whispered softly, reluctant to dampen the mood, but knowing there were pressing matters due to her actions...or inaction, as the case might be, "Do you think it will work? Do you think Gonzales will back off?"
"I'm not sure," Coulson said honestly. "But we'll do what we can to protect everyone here... and thanks to you and Mack, we do have a bit of warning."
"We almost waited too long...I'm sorry, daddy. No more secrets...ever. Even if I'm scared....I promise..." Bobbi's voice was soft and very contrite.
Coulson kissed her head. "I believe you. I forgive you. Nothing could change how much I love you. I promise."
Snuggling a little more, Bobbi asked hesitantly, "Will I be staying on your floor tonight?"
Coulson nodded. "Actually, I have an idea I'd like to run by the four of you."
Bobbi nodded, then gave a sheepish smile. "Guess I better find my underwear and wash my face...." She reluctantly got off her father's lap and began to glance around the floor.
"I think they went under the bed." Coulson kissed Bobbi's forehead as he stood up, then addressed JARVIS. "JARVIS? Could you let my other children know it's all right to come to my floor, please?"
"Thanks, daddy!" Bobbi grabbed her clothing from under the bed and flounced to the bathroom to make herself presentable.
"Of course, sir. It has been done," the AI responded.
Five minutes later, just as Bobbi was exiting the bathroom, the elevator pinged, announcing the arrival of Coulson's three older children.
Bobbi wandered over to stand by Coulson, not certain if he'd call the others into the bedroom, or meet them out in the living area.
Wrapping his arm around Bobbi's waist, Coulson guided her through to the living room area.
After a while of talking about it, the others had agreed on pizza and Natasha carried the boxes as she stepped off the elevator with her brothers.
Grant glanced at the way Bobbi stood nestled close to their father, his arm around her waist. She seemed at peace and happier than he'd ever seen her. "Does this mean baby sister has finally accepted her place in our lives?" he asked with a grin.
Bobbi rubbed at the sting she could still feel twinges of and smiled brightly at her siblings.
Clint's eyebrow went up. "Well, now I can say I've seen everything. I've seen winces, guilty looks, sheepish looks and every variation thereof whenever the sting of one of dad's corrections is felt after the fact." He chuckled. "This is the first time I've seen one of us smile like it was the best thing in the world...."
Bobbi blushed, shrugging....but still smiling brightly. "It just reminds me...."
"That you're a part of the family, no matter what?" Natasha smiled at her sister, setting the boxes out on the table, and then headed through to the kitchen to get plates and drinks.
Bobbi nodded at Nat, her smile turning shy. "Yeah...."
"I have an idea I'd like to run by all of you," Coulson said when all his children were settled.
Grant opened up the pizza boxes then passed out the plates so everyone could serve themselves.
Clint grabbed a slice before looking at Coulson. "What idea, dad?"
Coulson collected a couple of slices of pizza after all of his children had helped themselves, settling back on the couch as he spoke. "We've got a floor each here in the tower, but not only did it occur to me that Tony's having to repurpose a lot of his floors here so that each of us can have our own space... the four of you have been ending up on my floor anyway. I wondered what you might think about condensing out floors down to two of them... combining our living space... while having maybe one or two floors for if any of us needed a bit of space."
Grant slanted his head, thinking about it. "You know....I think I'd actually prefer that..." he admitted. "Right now, it feels like I'm split in two places...never really settling into one area. And...I like being near you." He shrugged.
Clint nodded. "Makes sense. If we all move back with you...we could easily combine your floor and Grant's, since his is directly above yours. Living area on this floor, convert Grant's floor to sleeping only...maybe have a private stairway to connect the two.... Then just keep one more floor for 'just in case' and the other two floors could be returned back to Tony for his company use. Never noticed, but we did just kinda take over his building...."
Bobbi bit her lip and answered shyly, "I'd like it too...."
Natasha smiled. "Even if we don't all end up in your bedroom, we often end up on your floor... so I think that makes a lot of sense."
Coulson nodded. "I'll let Tony know once everything quietens down a bit. It wouldn't surprise me if some of the others do that." He'd noticed that the rest of the family tended to stick together in their own groupings at night.
Bobbi hadn't yet eaten any of her pizza, but after Coulson made the final decision, she looked at it and realized she was famished. The lack of guilt and worry from keeping secrets was gone, so it was no longer negatively affecting her appetite. Still nervous that the ulcer might make her get nauseous if she rushed eating, she took a tentative bite. It stayed down without any problems at all and she began to eat more quickly, letting out tiny sounds of appreciation...this was the first meal in a long time she'd been able to enjoy.
Coulson smiled as he saw Bobbi was actually eating and he squeezed her gently to him then looked round at the rest of his children with a loving, contented smile.
Thor approached his brothers, having asked JARVIS to order in food for them. "Shall we retire for the evening?" he asked Loki and Mack... looking carefully at the latter, knowing Mack was likely still feeling bad about what had happened.
Mack blinked then looked at Thor. He'd been lost in thought...more like lost in recrimination...and hadn't heard the question. "I'm sorry...what?" He blinked again.
"He wants to know if you are ready to retreat to our floor for the night. There is nothing else that needs doing, is there?" Loki repeated for his older brother. Loki had no problem referring to Thor's floor as 'our'. It was, after all, where he stayed when he needed his brother's care and support...among other things. He had no doubt Thor would want him close until the danger from this 'true' SHIELD was passed. He had even less doubt that Thor would want Mack to join them.
"Oh." Mack had a lost look in his eyes for a moment then shook his head. "Yes...I am ready...." His answer was brief, his body was slumped in defeat and his eyes were guilty and hurt. Even though it was his and Bobbi's own secrets that were causing most of the problems, he had believed in Gonzales. The man had proven that had been a mistake and it had hit Mack hard.
Thor reached his hand out, placing it on Mack's shoulder and squeezing gently. "We will eat... and talk," he said. His voice was quiet, but still filled with sympathy and care. "I have requested that JARVIS place an order for food."
Mack just nodded, but found himself stepping closer to Thor, the Asgardian providing a sense of comfort and security just by his presence. Mack felt like his whole world had tilted on its axis and Thor and Loki's presence next to him was the only thing keeping him from going to the training room and tearing himself up on a punching bag.
"I...was constantly telling Bobbi that Coulson wouldn't toss her away when he found the truth. I was never afraid of you tossing me away; but now that I can see the results of my actions...my secrets...I can't help but think you should," he admitted softly, forcing himself to stand straighter when he just wanted to curl up and hide.
Thor wrapped his arm around Mack's shoulders and hugged him close. "There have been mistakes made by everyone here. I would not toss you away. Or no longer consider you part of my family. You should have been honest earlier, but I am sure it was difficult for both of you to come clean."
"No...when we finally decided to do so, it was easy. Coming to the decision that we needed to do so; that was difficult...but...but only because I truly believed Gonzales wanted what was best for the world and had some plan to... but he just wanted to take out Coulson and the Avengers... the powered people. He was so focused on that, he didn't care the damage that would do... And I believed in him. For way too long...." His voice shook. "I was a fool."
Thor stepped into the elevator, but didn't let go of Mack. "You did what you thought was the right thing. Realising something is the wrong thing is difficult... but you have managed that. And now we all know, we can figure out how to deal with it."
"Yeah, ok," Mack responded, moving closer to Thor, as if needing the support. "I still can't help but feel like this is all my fault. Bobbi would have talked sooner if I'd been agreeable..." he said quietly.
Loki sighed softly, moving to the other side of Mack and putting his hand on the other man's back. "You did agree eventually. And we had time to formulate a defense...a plan."
Thor tightened his embrace a fraction. "After we've eaten, if we need to, you and I can discuss this in more detail," he said to Mack... knowing that Loki had struggled to move on until he'd felt punished for his actions.
Mack gave a brief nod then forced himself to smile crookedly. "What are we going to eat?"
"There should be a selection of the food from the Chinese and Indian." Thor had discovered quite an appetite for curry and hot, spicy food. It wasn't that different from the food he'd consumed on Asgard.
Mack's eyebrow went up and despite his depressed demeanor, he did manage a smile for his brother. "How many of those selections would make a normal Midgardian cry?" he teased.
Loki snorted. "More than likely, all of them." He gave Thor his own grin.
"I knew you would be eating with us," Thor said to Mack. "There's plenty that you will be able to eat."
"Oh," Mack protested. "I didn't mean I didn't like spicy food. I actually like it hot myself..." He laughed lightly, before his grin slipped. "It...sounds good." Too bad he felt so guilty, it had ruined his appetite.
Thor nodded. "I am aware of what you prefer to eat... and I did order some of the dishes I know you like." As the elevator reached his floor, though, the look he directed at Mack was concerned. Keeping his arm around his brother's shoulders, he gently guided Mack from the elevator. "Perhaps you would prefer to eat after, though." He'd noticed the look on his brother's face.
Mack looked at the ground. When he finally looked back up into his brother's face, his eyes were tormented. "I don't know if it will help..." he admitted, his voice rough with unshed tears. "I don't know if anything will ever help...."
Loki sighed softly, reaching up and squeezing Mack's shoulder. "I will go downstairs and wait for the delivery person...." he said softly, nodding at Thor, as he headed back to the elevator to go down to the lobby.
Thor squeezed Mack's shoulders gently. "Sometimes feeling like you have answered for what you have done helps." He guided Mack through to the living room area. "I will not leave you alone for this guilt to overwhelm you."
"Thank you, brother..." Mack's voice shook. It was obvious he was already very close to tears, the guilt wearing him down. "Thank you for not leaving me...."
Thor wrapped his arms around Mack, hugging him tight a moment. "I would not leave you." He guided Mack towards the couch, taking a seat and gently tugging his brother across his lap.
Mack took a steadying breath, closing his eyes and moving his hands forward to balance himself. He wasn't foolish enough to believe this would erase all his guilt...but maybe it would help.
Thor slid his arm around Mack's waist, drawing him in tight against his stomach, and then eased his pants and underwear down. "You are still a part of this family, my brother." He brought his hand down in the first hard swat and then repeated it, careful not to use too much strength.
"I know. And I'm...I'm very grateful for that..." Mack admitted. "I just don't think I deserve it." He tensed up at the swats. He was already dangerously close to tears; he doubted it would take long to break him, but he wanted to at least attempt to be strong and take his punishment like a man. Make Thor proud of him.
Settling quickly into a rhythm, Thor began swatting down to Mack's thighs before starting over from the top, still careful to hold back his true strength. "I know you were trying to do what you thought was right. Perhaps you should have told us earlier than this... but you have told us. You have given us time to formulate a defense."
"I should have told you sooner..." Mack lamented. "I'm so sorry I didn't...."
"You're forgiven. You did do the right thing... and you are still a part of this family," Thor said. "Of my family." The swats worked as an emphasis for what he was saying.
"I don't think I can forgive myself..." Mack admitted brokenly. "If you didn't have me...accept me...I don't know what I would do." His voice broke and he finally let the tears that had been threatening fall.
"It will take time," Thor said, his voice gentle and understanding. "Forgiving yourself is harder than anything else. But you are my brother. And you mean as much to me as Loki does... as the rest of the family here does."
"Thank you, brother..." Mack finally slumped over Thor's knee and allowed himself to cry.
Thor stopped spanking and quickly tugged Mack into his arms, hugging him close and tight to himself. "I know it is hard... but you are still a good person."
"I don't know if I can believe that," Mack choked out, already trying to stop his tears, but snuggling closer to Thor.
Thor tightened his embrace. "I know it will take time to believe that."
"You'll still want me...even if I can't believe it?" Mack asked hesitantly.
"I still want you, Mack," Thor said sincerely. "Just like I still want Loki, despite what he has done in the past. What you do now is what defines you."
"I am very lucky...and proud...to be considered your brother...." Mack's words were soft and sincere. Hugging Thor tightly, he finally stood and fixed his clothing, before sitting down next to Thor and leaning against him.
Loki had stayed downstairs with the food until JARVIS told him it was safe to come back up. When he walked off the elevator, he had numerous bags in his hands, piled in his arms and even one hanging from his mouth that he had gripped in his teeth. Mack's eyes widened and he quickly jumped up to help his brother with the food.
"Odin's beard, Thor! Do you think you ordered enough food for one meal?" Loki groused, rubbing his jaw. His eyes were amused, though and he couldn't help the grin he gave his older brother.
Thor also quickly stood to help Loki with the bags, giving him an apologetic look. "I apologise, Loki. But I do know how big our appetites are." He knew Mack didn't eat nearly as much as they did... but even Mack's appetite tended to be larger than most of the others in the tower.
"Some more than others...." Loki teased gently. "But I will forgive you if you ordered me the orange chicken...."
Mack had gone into the kitchen and gotten plates and cutlery together- he'd been on Thor's floor often enough that he knew where everything was- and brought it out so they could start serving. "Any fried rice in those bags?" he asked curiously.
"I have ordered plenty of both orange chicken and fried rice," Thor replied, as he began unpacking anything.
Mack and Loki helped and soon, all three men were eating. Mack slowly relaxed as he realized maybe his life wasn't falling apart completely, after all.
Steve, Fury and Coulson returned to the tower after their meeting with Gonzales. Although things weren't perfect, they'd been able to reach a tentative truce... and each was fairly sure that their children would relax upon hearing that.
The worry the rest of the family had been under had been obvious.
Reaching the tower, the three men entered the elevator and Steve addressed the AI. "JARVIS? Could you ask everyone to meet us in the common floor living area, please?"
"It has been done, sir," the AI said a few moments later. "They had all gathered there already. Apparently, 'We're friggin sweating bullets here! Hurry up, dad!'... According to Agent Barton."
Coulson smiled, despite the stressful situation, and when the elevator reached the common floor, the three men stepped off and headed through to join the others in the common living area.
Bobbi was pacing in front of the door...inside the room with the others, but where she could look at the elevator with each pass.
Mack was barely better. He was standing ramrod straight, just staring at the door.
Reaching the room, each of the men went to join their respective children before the explanations started.
"We've reached... a tentative truce with Gonzales," Steve explained. "Helped in large part by the e-mails that were sent that caused approximately half of the agents on his side to abandon his cause."
"We've been able to solve this without bloodshed... though I would suggest we don't relax our guard yet," Coulson said. "He does have people on his side still... and I'm sure he'll send spies to watch us."
Bobbi was still pacing... this time behind the couch where her father and siblings were sat. "Yes...he definitely will...maybe they'll get adopted too and won't be a problem..."
Tony's rather loud snorting laugh clued her in to the fact she'd made that smart-assed comment out loud. She blushed darkly, giving Coulson a sheepish look.
Mack shook his head, but smiled. "What Bobbi meant to say is that Gonzales sent us as spies...so the chances he'd send others is almost a given."
Coulson reached back to hold Bobbi's hand, gently stroking his thumb over her palm.
"He might not try to infiltrate the tower itself... since the two of you switched sides," Natasha said. "But to infiltrate any companies owned by Stark Industries? And keep watch from outside? Both of those are given."
"It's important to be on our guard." Fury didn't mention that he didn't trust Gonzales. He didn't feel he needed to.
"Well, they can try to infiltrate my company...we've done well so far, but I'll tell HR to be wary of new applicants. Can never be too careful..." Tony sighed.
Bobbi had to stop pacing when her father took her hand. She calmed a little at the affectionate gesture, but was still obviously agitated.
Loki sighed. "At times like this I wish Heimdall would watch very closely and tell us what he sees. Even if it meant the All-Father had more information on my behavior."
Steve wrapped his arm around Tony's shoulders, squeezing him gently.
Coulson, without words, gently encouraged Bobbi to come round from behind the couch, so he could cuddle her on his lap.
"We could take it in turns to keep watch," Natasha commented. "As we would on an op."
"And if there's anyone acting suspiciously, I can hack into databases and see what information there is on them," Skye said.
Bobbi came around and found herself on her father's lap. Sighing, she put her head on his shoulder, listening as the family brainstormed how to handle Gonzales.
Bucky nodded. "Until something is actually tried, that's pretty much all we can do. Be wary and keep watch."
Wrapping his arms around Bobbi's waist, Coulson drew her in close as he agreed with Bucky. "I'm not sure I trust that he'll keep his word... but we've got more agents who have switched sides. He's lost a lot of manpower. And, of course, the element of surprise."
Steve nodded. "So he's unlikely to make an overt move for a while. He'll want to wait and see if we lower our guard."
"And while he does that...I continue to work my contacts, make more contacts and in general build up as many alliances as possible so that, if and when he decides to act, it isn't just us he'll have to go after." Tony was in his element.
Bobbi wiggled a little bit, having noticed that she was the only 'child' being held on a parent's lap, but then figured she didn't really mind and calmed down, relaxing into her father's grip once more. "So basically...now it is a game of sit and wait."
"That's what it seems..." Brock agreed.
"So...is that everything we need to discuss about our new nemesis?" Tony asked curiously. "Because if so, I have some info for Uncle Agent regarding the remodeling he wants done."
"What remodeling is that?" Lance asked curiously.
Coulson loosened his grip enough to allow Bobbi to get up, if she wanted, but when she didn't, he tugged her in closer, even as he answered Lance. "I felt that it made sense to condense our floors... mine and my children's... to two, with an extra one for if anyone needs a bit of space."
"Condensing the floors down a bit more might be a good idea," Steve commented. "Most of the time, we end up sharing in the smaller family units anyway..." He looked at Tony. "If people were happy with it... maybe we could have one floor for each family unit, with the exception of Phil's, since he does have four kids, with a couple of extra floors for 'needing space' time."
"That might make things easier..." Fury had had both his sons on his floor since the explosion; and having them both close to him sounded like a very good idea.
"It would leave less personal space to protect...should someone manage to get by the heavy security the building already has..." Bucky said thoughtfully. "And if no one is on a floor by themselves, there is less chance of it taking a long time for someone to discover any problems, should a problem occur...."
May nodded. "JARVIS is good at keeping us apprised of problems...but only if he is asked or the problem is obvious...I know I'd feel better knowing that everyone has someone nearby who can keep an eye on each other." She smiled at her daughter.
"Eh...one of the floors that gets freed up can be converted to a 'war floor' for planning and such. We seem to hold a lot of our business type meetings in the common family room. If we had a designated floor for just operations, it would be a good thing. Then have two floors for if someone really needs space... Whatever is left, I'll use for storage until another use comes up. With the way this family continues to grow, we may need them again." Tony grinned impishly.
"Anyway...I wanted to tell you that the contractor will be here tomorrow to convert Grant's floor into six bedrooms and two full baths. So Grant will need to pack up his stuff and put it in a safe spot. Once that's done, you can decide what you want to convert the three bedrooms you have on your floor into. I figure if you end up needing more than six bedrooms, you can turn one of them back again." Tony's grin expanded when he mentioned them needing more than six bedrooms.
Thor glanced at his two brothers. "Perhaps we should also move to just one floor," he suggested... especially since, with the way Mack was certainly feeling, he felt his youngest brother could use the time with them."
Skye smiled and gently leaned against her mother. "I don't think that's going to change much with us."
Coulson smiled at Tony's comment, but didn't reply to it. It wouldn't surprise him either if he ended up having to use that sixth bedroom... or have more bedrooms needed. "Thank you, Tony," he said.
Natasha leaned in close to Clint. "You think we'll have more kid brothers and sisters to be responsible for?" she asked her brother in a stage whisper.
Bobbi playfully pouted. "You mean I won't be the baby anymore?"
"Oh...I'm sure you'll always be dad's 'baby girl'..." Grant and Clint said at the same time then gave each other weird looks, because they hadn't planned that at all.
Bucky shook his head, but smiled at Lance. "I think it's a good idea personally. You ok with doing that, kid? Or will being on the same floor as me cramp your style?"
Mack smiled then nodded at Thor. "I like the idea..." he said quietly.
"As do I," Loki added his opinion.
Trip glanced at Fury and Brock. "I'm guessing you want to do this too, dad?" he asked amiably. "If so, I'm ok with it."
Brock nodded his agreement, even though he didn't actually say anything.
"To be honest, I talked about it with Pepper this morning after we had a conference call... and we both think it's a good idea, too." Tony smiled at his father crookedly. "If you want to do it, I can get everything taken care of before she gets home this weekend...."
Coulson smiled with amusement at his sons. "Well... no one's going to replace any of you," he said with quiet sincerity. Even if he ended up with more kids, they'd be additions. To put action to words, he freed one hand from Bobbi to reach across and gently squeeze each of his other children's knees.
Lance grinned back at Bucky. "It didn't really cramp my style when I stayed with you before." And it might even help him completely trust his dad.
Thor smiled at his brothers. "Good..."
Fury nodded. "I'd like to have both of you on my floor," he replied.
Steve hugged Tony a bit tighter. "I definitely want to do it. You know I prefer having both of you close to me."
Bruce grinned crookedly. "We kinda already did it with us..." He motioned to Jemma and Leo. "It sort of made sense, considering we were almost always in the lab discussing things. Moving to the same floor allowed us to continue our conversations and still get sleep."
Tony just stared at his brother.
"Ok...will anyone who hasn't already made their move need the contractors? May as well make use of them while they're here." Tony grinned at Bruce, to show he was teasing.
"Probably everyone else," Steve commented. "The sooner the better, really... then we can work out what kind of defenses we can put in place."
Tony nodded. "Well, since they get here tomorrow...why don't all the families get together and figure out exactly what it is the want or need...you and the mini-greenbeans too, Brucie...so we can get them started as soon as possible."
"That sounds like a good idea," Coulson commented. He looked at his children. "Did any of you have any ideas about those three remaining bedrooms?"
Grant shrugged. "Not really.... I mean, we could have three guest bedrooms...If it turns out me and Clint, or Nat and Bobbi have difficulty sharing a room for whatever reason, we can just have one of us move into one of them. I don't see it being a problem, though; we're all pretty used to being up in each other's faces by now...." He batted away Clint's hand as his brother tried to flick his nose.
"Hell, nine-times outta ten, we all end up in your room anyway, daddy..." Bobbi shrugged then eyed her father sideways.
Mack looked a bit flabbergasted at that information. "How'd they all fit?" he muttered to Loki through the side of his mouth.
"There are six bedrooms anyway," Natasha said. "So even if we weren't all in the one room, sharing wouldn't be an issue. We could always have one as a mini-training area, if any of us wanted to have a more private morning workout."
Coulson nodded, letting his fingers run gently through Bobbi's hair. "That is where the specially made bed comes in..." he commented.
Steve glanced at Tony. "Did you and Pepper come up with any ideas?"
Grant shrugged. "We could have an extra office. So that we have a place to do paperwork and stuff without having to get in dad's hair..." he said, as he attempted to pull Clint's hair.
"Maybe an entertainment room, for those times some of us want to watch movies or something while the others want to have quiet conversations?" Clint added, as he grabbed Grant's hand and squeezed a little more tightly than necessary to get his brother to back off.
Tony watched his cousins for a moment then turned toward his father. "Actually, we did. There really isn't any need to change too much on your floor. We already had the room you gave us to stay in anyway...we just need to officially move into it. Move our stuff down and all. If you'd like to add a few more rooms, such as private training areas or entertainment rooms, we could always do what Uncle Phil is doing and combine your floor and our floor into one family unit...."
Bobbi waited till both brothers were distracted and not looking at her or each other and then flicked both of them on the ear, playing innocent when they turned toward each other and began their 'tusseling' again. Smiling innocently, she said, "It might be nice to have a separate entertainment area and sitting area... especially if we have dates and want to bring them home...."
"You're too young to date!" Clint and Grant both said at the same time then gave each other irritated looks. "Stop that!… Damnit, Grant/Clint!"
Bobbi's mouth had dropped open, a mixture of offended pride and amusement on her face. "I am not too young to date!" she finally muttered, realizing that protesting to them wouldn't do much good, as their attention was not on anyone but each other.
Natasha snorted softly, looking at Bobbi. "As the baby, you're going to get a lot of that," she teased. "Over-protection runs in the family..."
Coulson shook his head, an amused look coming over his face even as he gently hugged Bobbi closer to him. "I think it's going to take a little while for everything to readjust." The look on his face suggested he was quite happy with the way things were with his children.
"I don't really need any extra space, so it depends on what you want to do," Steve said. "It might be worth converting the lower floor into a lab area... makes it easier for me to find you if you get too caught up in your work." He smiled, teasing his son.
Tony gave Steve a crooked grin back. "And there is that..." He slanted his head thoughtfully. "Maybe convert part of it to a lab, part of it to an office for Pepper so she can work from home a bit more often, part of it into a space for you where you can draw or paint....Plus the kitchen, dining area, sitting area. Then the upstairs will be our bedrooms, since there will be room for extra bedrooms...if Pepper and I ever have kids, there'll be room for them. Beyond that, it will give us all a bit of storage."
Bobbi grinned at her sister. "I can see that...." She then snuggled closer to her father. "I'm readjusting a lot better than I thought I would, to be honest..." she whispered into his ear.
Trip stretched. "Well...as fun as watching Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum try and annoy the heck outta each other is.... Maybe we'd all be better off going to the floors we will be living on, seeing what suits each of our families the best... write down our ideas for the contractors and have it ready for tomorrow? Because while some of the ideas I'm hearing are really nice ideas, not every family group is the same- either in size or in what they need to be able to function." He shrugged.
"Makes sense to me..." Brock said.
Coulson smiled and kissed Bobbi's head, then leaned over and lightly tapped Clint and Grant. "Come on, you two. Let's go take a look at our floors and figure out what we want to convert." He helped Bobbi to stand up and then did as well, wrapping his arm around her shoulders.
Natasha leaned forward and gently thwapped both of her brothers on the back of the head. "Knock it off..."
Steve nodded and stood up, wrapping his arm around his son's shoulders. "We can go and make plans."
Fury stood up, wrapping an arm around each of his sons' shoulders. "Sounds like a good idea."
Grant grinned at his dad. "Ok, sir...."
"Sure thing, dad..." Clint smiled then dodged away from Nat. "Naaat!"
Bobbi just laughed softly and pressed closer to her father. "Ok, daddy...."
Tony nodded. "You know, Pepper is the big planner. She planned probably 90% of the tower originally...she actually emailed us some ideas to look through...."
Soon, everyone had cleared off to their parent's floor; either to figure out how to rearrange the rooms that were there to be comfortable for both parent and child- and freeing up the child's floor.... or to figure out how to combine two floors in the case of families that needed more space.
Coulson stayed close to all four of his children as they took the elevator to his floor. His arms were around Bobbi and Grant, but he still touched his older children's arms and gave them loving smiles.
Checking the three extra bedrooms, Coulson glanced around at his children. "Any further thoughts about what we could use these extra rooms for?"
Clint smiled at his father. "To be honest, unless you'd like a personal library or game room for all of us, the suggestions already made are good. A family training room would be a nice addition, an extra office would keep us out of your hair when you are working and we have to take care of paperwork too, an entertainment room so that we'd have a loud place to congregate and a quiet place to congregate would be nice...."
Grant nodded. "I can't really think of anything else either."
Bobbi bit her lip and gave her father an uncertain look. "Well, I like the idea of a training room where we can train alone if we don't want to be around anyone else...only...the only time I ever want to train alone is usually when I'm feeling bad about something; and then I train alone so no one will stop me when I do stupid crap that hurts myself.... so..." She glanced at her siblings' uncertain faces. "...And yeah, I meant to admit that out loud. I figured it's something daddy would want to know, so I don't give him a really bad surprise some day....even if it means I'll probably never be allowed to work out alone ever again." She sighed, then looked at her father from the corner of her eye and fidgeted slightly, but didn't pull away from him.
Coulson gently squeezed Bobbi's shoulders. "I think it might be worth still having a training room," he said. "But the room should be big enough to allow for two people to train as well... and perhaps we should make sure there's no way of locking it from the inside, in case someone goes to be alone when that's not what they need."
Grant, remembering his own times of 'punishing himself' with his workouts, nodded. "Yeah. That'd probably be best."
Bobbi shifted closer to Coulson, putting her head on his shoulder. "So that's one room decided... the other two? Office and game room? Library? 'Time-Out' area?" Her grin was impish.
Coulson threaded his fingers gently through his youngest's hair. "I think office and game room sounds good for the other two. There could be bookcases in both rooms, too, if we want to do something with that." He knew how much Grant enjoyed reading.
Natasha got a mischievous look on her own face. "If no one's using the office, it could double as a 'time out' area... or 'cooling off' zone."
Grant gave Natasha a put upon look and groaned. "Why'd you have to go and give him that idea for?" He pouted. "You know who's gonna be spending most of their time there, if he does that!" While his face looked aggrieved, the tone in his voice could only be described as teasing... he obviously wasn't really upset.
Clint snorted. "At this moment in time? Prolly Bobbi!"
"Hey!" Bobbi pouted herself, but didn't argue the point. He was likely right.
"I don't think we need a time-out area as such... but there might be times it is a good idea to have an area where someone can cool off," Coulson commented. "Particularly if there is a situation where someone's pushing themselves too hard in training." Although he had used corner time in the past, it was more to help them think than as a punishment.
"Want me to start sketching out some plans?" Natasha asked.
"Oh! Yeah...can I help?" Bobbi grinned at her sister.
Grant smiled at Nat and Bobbi then looked at his dad. "We probably should figure out if the contractors will need to do major work on my floor- turning the kitchen, dining, office, and living areas into three more bedrooms and another bath. And maybe figure out where we want the private stair. Also, do you think it might be good to enclose the public stairwell and elevator so that when people get off they aren't standing in the middle of our home...maybe add doors so they can't just come in? I know JARVIS has done an excellent job preventing non-family from showing up in our space randomly...but after discovering we have one more enemy than we'd thought...."
Natasha smiled at her sister. "Sure. I have paper and pencils in my room. We could use Dad's office..." She glanced inquisitively at Coulson.
Coulson nodded and then looked at Grant. "I think we should keep our bedrooms private, so I do think that enclosing the public stairwell and elevator would be a good idea."
"We can make sure that is part of the plans." Grant smiled. "Since we're planning out how to convert the rooms on my floor into beds and bath, do you want to assign spaces?" He knew his father wanted all of them nearby, but if he wanted Bobbi in the room right next to his...or him...he figured giving his father a chance to voice his opinion would be good.
Bobbi followed Nat into the office and was soon bent over the desk with her sister, drawing out the plans.
"I thought it might be good to have my room in the middle," Coulson said. "When the rest of you aren't in the room with me... Grant, I think it might be good for you and Bobbi to take the rooms on either side." He looked at Clint, not wanting his older children to feel left out. "But if you and Nat have any preferences, you know I'll listen to you."
Clint snorted then gave his father a grin. "I like that arrangement...and I'm sure Nat will agree with me." He didn't say it, not wanting Grant to feel funny, but he wanted on the end so he could be first in line to offer defense if needed.
Coulson nodded, understanding what Clint wasn't saying... and even though he didn't want to put any of his children in danger, he knew he'd wake up if there was any fighting. "Maybe the empty room should be on the other side of Bobbi's," he suggested.
Clint nodded. "Keep baby sister furthest away from possible retaliation for changing sides, if that occurs?" he asked quietly, so Bobbi wouldn't hear.
"Makes sense to me," Grant said, just as quietly.
Coulson nodded. "I'd much prefer it that way." He wanted to protect all of them, ideally... but just like Grant was in danger from HYDRA, Bobbi would be in danger from Gonzales and the agents who'd remained on his side.
"Then if I may suggest...Bobbi on the very end, furthest from the stairs. Then dad, then Grant, then Nat, then me...then the empty guest room? With two baths across the hall?" Clint waited to hear what his father said.
"I think that's a good idea," Coulson agreed. "And, of course, you all know that you can come into my room at any time you need or want to."
"And you know that we will be doing so..." Grant smiled. "When did Tony say the contractors would be here?"
"He didn't say exactly, but I'd imagine first thing," Coulson replied. "Would you like help moving your things, Grant? We could put most of them into the living room area, so that the other rooms can be converted too."
"I would love the help, dad.... I'm assuming they will work to get the upstairs bedrooms finished before moving to change the rooms downstairs. So I'll be rooming with you until they are done...unless Clint would like company."
Clint grinned. "Considering dad is going to need to move at least his bedroom...maybe both of you can put whatever stuff you need to get out of the way, into the living room...then stay on my floor till renovations are finished."
Coulson nodded. "I think that would be a good idea," he agreed. "Then we can move your things, Clint, after the renovations here are done."
"Works for me...why don't we start packing up all of Grant's things to put in the living room...?Then we'll pack up the three bedrooms on dad's floor...and then both of you pack a small bag and come stay with me tonight. That way, we can be sure we're ready when the contractors arrive."
By that time Bobbi and Nat had finished drawing out their plans for the three rooms they'd been working on. "We're packing Grant up already?" she asked curiously, but ready and willing to help.
Coulson smiled at his daughters. "Clint was just saying we could get everything packed up now, ready for the contractors tomorrow."
Natasha nodded. "I'm ready to help. You three can check the plans we drew up afterwards, in case you want to change anything."
"I'm sure we'll like whatever you came up with, but ok." Grant smiled at his 'older' sister then led them all upstairs to his floor where they could begin packing.
They'd eventually gone back to the common floor, where everyone had enjoyed a dinner of take-out Thai. Almost everyone was weary from the day's events, though; preparing for possible attack...even when a truce had eventually been formed... was tiring mentally, if not physically, and so everyone had quickly retreated to their own floors to sleep. Clint had led his father and little brother to his floor, helping them carry their bags that they'd need while their floors were being renovated, and showing them to the guestrooms on his floor. "If you want...you can take the master room, dad... since it has it's own bath and all," Clint remarked quietly.
Coulson smiled at his oldest. "I can sleep in any of the rooms," he replied. "I'll be comfortable anywhere." He'd already hugged and kissed his daughters good night and, after putting his bags down and helping Grant do the same, he hugged each of his sons and kissed their foreheads too.
Clint grinned and hugged and kissed his father back. "Well, there's no difference in the beds, so the attached bath would really be the only reason you'd want to use the master room.... If you really don't care, though, I guess I'll just stay put in it; that way, I won't have to wake you up to get my clothes in the morning." He laughed lightly. "If you both are ok, I'm gonna go ahead and hit the sheets."
Grant smiled at his brother. "Thanks, Clint." He gave his brother a hug then moved to hug his father and kiss his cheek. "I think I'm going to go to bed too."
Coulson gave each of them a loving smile. "I'll see you both in the morning. Sleep well. I love you both. Very much." He reached out to squeeze both of their shoulders and then waited for them to go to their rooms before he went to his, resisting the urge to go and tuck them in like he had when they'd been deaged.
It didn't take Clint long at all to fall asleep. It didn't take Grant long, either. Soon, both men were deep in slumber.
The same couldn't be said for their baby sister several floors away. Bobbi, to her annoyance and slight shame, had got used to sleeping in her father's arms. The fact that it had taken less than a week for this fact to occur added to the annoyance and shame. She shouldn't need her daddy to be able to go to sleep at night. The fact was, though... she'd been lying in bed for the better part of three hours and hadn't even got a tiny bit of sleep, despite being so tired, she was positive she just had to fall asleep soon. She wasn't even sure what the problem was. She wasn't scared to be alone. At least, she didn't think she was...if she was, it was on some level beyond her own comprehension. She could admit to feeling a bit unsettled, but she really didn't know why. Sighing and giving it up as a lost cause, she got out of her bed and went into her kitchen for a drink of water. It had been so easy to sleep when her daddy was next to her. She wondered if maybe going to Coulson might at least let her get a few hours of sleep before it was time to get up for the day...she hated to do it, though. He was probably asleep himself and waking him up because she was a big baby... but if she didn't go to him and at least see if being near him helped her sleep, she wouldn't get any sleep at all and would likely be a real brat come morning. She didn't want to get into trouble for not sleeping, either.
Sighing, she put her empty glass into the sink then went to the elevator, riding it up to Clint's floor. She cringed at the ping the elevator made and hoped that it didn't wake everyone up. It was going to be embarrassing enough having to wake her father up, without her brothers coming out to see what the problem was. Waiting a few moments to see if they came out looking, she tiptoed down the hall and gently pushed the door to the nearest guestroom open, hoping that it was her father and not Grant. She was in luck....
Coulson wasn't a very deep sleeper and when he heard the door to the room opening, he came awake. Waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dark, he recognized the light hair and form of his youngest. "Bobbi." His voice was soft and loving... not irritated or angry that she'd come to him. He'd had it happen with all of his children at some point. He held his arm out to his youngest, to indicate she was welcome to join him.
That was all the invitation needed. Bobbi quickly moved across the room and crawled into the bed next to her father, snuggling up close. Finally secure in her father's arms, her head on his shoulder, she whispered, "Love you, daddy..." closed her eyes and was promptly asleep.
Clint, who'd woken the minute he heard the elevator ping and had stayed awake listening, in case he was needed, smiled to himself, rolled over and went back to sleep.
Coulson kissed Bobbi's head and settled down with her in his arms, closing his eyes as he whispered to her, "I love you, sweetie." Threading his fingers through her hair, he was quickly asleep as well.
The next morning, Grant was the first one awake and he'd quickly changed and gone to the common training room, where he planned to train with Natasha. He decided to stretch as he waited for her to arrive. He wasn't surprised when Clint joined him five minutes later. "Was dad awake when you left?" he asked curiously.
"If he was, he wasn't moving. He'd not want to wake his visitor up," Clint said quietly.
Grant slanted his head. "I'm assuming you mean Bobbi...."
"The one and only." Clint nodded.
"Guess she's still adjusting. We should have thought of that." Grant muttered.
Natasha, used to getting up early, headed to the training room to join her brothers for their morning session. She came into the area in time to hear Grant's muttered comment. "Bobbi?" she guessed. "It took all of us a while to adjust too..."
Grant glanced up and smiled. "True... and I don't know about you two, but it didn't take me nearly as long to accept dad as my dad.... It took her forever to accept what we all knew was there, so it's gotta be a little unsettling to her. I know dad was worried that she'd never accept it, even if he'd never admit he was worried about it."
Clint finished his stretching. "Want to try some two-on-one?" he asked his brother.
Grant grinned. "You and Nat against me, or me and Nat against you? Or...if Nat prefers, us verses her...." He glanced at Nat, to see what her preference was.
Natasha smirked at her brothers. "You're both welcome to try and take me down," she commented, before adding, "Dad seems much happier now that baby sister has finally accepted him."
Grant smirked back. "Well, that just sounds like a challenge, doesn't it Clint?"
"I'll say it does..." Clint grinned. "And yeah...I agree. He's happier. So is she."
Natasha smirked at Clint in agreement, but merely said, "Bring it on."
Clint looked at Grant; then, without warning, went on the attack.
Natasha very quickly responded, enjoying the training workout, especially since facing two opponents gave her much more of a workout.
Grant was enjoying the workout as well. His sister, even outnumbered, gave him more of a workout and challenge than most.
Clint was just enjoying being with his family. It wasn't often he had to use his close combat skills- he tended to do things from afar- so this practice was good for him as well.
Natasha stayed focused on her brothers as they trained... though she was aware of her surroundings enough to notice when some of the others began filtering in.
Tony had come in and stood on the sidelines, watching the three siblings spar. He enjoyed watching. He glanced at his father with a tiny smile. "I guess I need to train a bit myself. You want to go at it?"
Steve smiled, squeezing Tony's shoulders gently. "I think that would be a very good idea," he agreed.
"Great!" Tony said with an impish grin, before jumping on Steve's back in an unorthodox attempt to take him down.
Half-expecting it, Steve straightened to his full height, reaching a hand round to grab Tony so his son wouldn't fall. "That's cheating," he said, the smile on his face and note of humour in his voice making it clear he wasn't unhappy with Tony.
"How can it be cheating?!" Tony laughed. "The bad guys don't play by rules!"
"Don't make me tickle you," Steve mock-warned, gently helping Tony off his back.
"Ack!" Tony squawked playfully. "Now...that's cheating! Tell him, Uncle Nick!" Tony scurried behind Fury then blew razz-berries at his father.
"I'm not sure I should be getting between you and your father," Fury joked.
"As you said... the bad guys don't play by the rules." Steve shook his head, but the look on his face was amused and affectionate.
"Huh...not even a little bit? Well, that just figures...Uncle Bucky!" Tony threw himself behind Bucky and made faces at Steve.
"You can't hide behind your uncles forever," Steve teased.
"There's still one more uncle left!" Tony retorted with a laugh, as Bucky made a point of holding his hands up and backing away from Tony. "Where is Uncle Agent, anyway?" He began backing away from Steve slowly.
"Probably with the only one of his children not in here." Steve advanced on his son and then grabbed him as soon as he was close enough.
"Oh...." Tony started to say then yelped. Loudly. He couldn't help it when his father caught him so quickly, he hadn't even begun to run when the man had hold of him. "You'd think I'd know by now I can't outrun you..." He groaned then laughed as he was 'reeled in'.
Steve wrapped his arms around his son, drawing him in close and tight. "Yes. You'd think that you would know that by now."
Tony wriggled a bit, trying- barely, but still trying- to get loose. He was busy trying to think of all the moves that his father, Natasha, Bucky; pretty much all of the bad-ass spies and fighters had been teaching him the last several months, to figure out which one to spring on his father. He was getting better at fighting- but things weren't quite instinctual yet.
Grant watched his uncle and cousin with amusement, wondering if Tony would get loose. Then, nodding at Nat and Clint, snuck over toward Fury, before quickly moving to take him down.
An amused look came over Steve's face as he continued holding onto his son, waiting to see if Tony would use one of the moves they'd gone through. Along with the amusement was affection and love.
Fury had seen the three of them sneaking towards him and let them come well within range before he responded.
Finally deciding on a move Natasha had taught him, Tony quickly began to move; just hoping he'd picked the right one.
Clint looked up at the ceiling, wondering just how he'd got there. It took a few more seconds to realize he'd been tossed far enough away that he couldn't immediately rejoin the fight...and definitely not without being seen. He found himself looking to see where Nat and Grant had ended up.
Steve smiled as Tony used the move correctly and managed to get out of his arms. "Good... but we need to work on that becoming instinctual," he said. "Like you said, the bad guys aren't going to play fair." He squeezed his son's shoulder gently.
Tossing Clint away had been easy enough. Fury had very quickly managed to dodge Natasha and then grab Grant in a headlock, using enough pressure to ensure he couldn't get away, but not enough to hurt him.
Tony beamed- there was no other word for it- beamed at Steve's praise. Quickly giving his dad a hug, he asked, "Maybe we can practice again later? Once I've gotten the contractors moving on the projects?"
Grant couldn't believe the position he was in. He knew attempting to get out of this hold was only possible if he injured himself; not something he wanted to do when just 'playing around'. (Plus, he knew if he attempted the one move that would get him free, it might not just be his dad who had a discussion with him. His godfather/uncle would not take kindly to him deliberately hurting himself on his watch...over a game.) "Damn...you're fast for an old guy..." he finally said, voice filled with open respect and admiration.
Clint just flipped back onto the floor where he'd landed and began to laugh.
Steve hugged Tony and nodded. "You've come a really long way, son. I'm proud of you," he said with quiet sincerity.
"Never underestimate an opponent." Fury released Grant. "Just because someone's old, that doesn't mean they're out of the game."
Tony smiled, kissing his father on the cheek. "Let me get cleaned up and then we can head to breakfast?"
"Yes sir." Grant smiled at his uncle and 'fixed' his hair. "I'm going to go shower. See you all in the dining area..." He gave his uncle a quick hug then headed for the showers.
Clint had finally stopped laughing. "Yeah...that sounds about right." He clasped Fury on the shoulder briefly, giving an impish smile then headed for the showers himself.
Steve nodded. "Sounds good to me." He kissed Tony's cheek then gently released him.
Natasha smiled at Fury, giving a small wave then headed out of the training room so she could shower herself.
Coulson had woken, but he didn't move, arms still wrapped around his youngest daughter as he watched her sleeping face. Now that she had finally accepted him as her father, he'd felt a weight lift that he hadn't even realized was there.
Bobbi snuggled closer before she started blinking, slowly waking. Sighing softly, she nuzzled into her father's chest. "Thanks, daddy... I don't think I would have slept at all if you didn't let me come in with you..." she admitted shyly.
Coulson pressed an affectionate kiss to his daughter's hair. "You don't ever have to worry about coming to me when you need to," he said. "My door is always open... to any of you; and all of you at once, when that happens."
"In that case... can I just stay with you tonight too? 'Cuz I'm pretty sure I got used to sleeping next to you this last week... despite how hard I fought you about being yours...and now it just feels like I'm not where I'm sposed to be if I'm not with you." She pouted slightly. "Makes me feel like a huge baby, but part of me likes it too..." she admitted with a sheepish smile.
Coulson gently threaded his fingers through Bobbi's hair. "Needing someone doesn't make you a baby... and I'm glad you stopped fighting me. I couldn't stand to see how much you were hurting." He leaned in to kiss her forehead. "You can stay with me tonight... and any other nights you want to."
Bobbi snuggled closer. "I wish I'd let myself trust you sooner. It would have been so much better. I'm just..." She sighed softly. "Thank you for not giving up on me..." she finally settled on, her voice soft, "…I know I pushed really hard to get you to do so; and I'm just so grateful you knew better than me."
"I love you," Coulson said simply. "I realized you were mine almost straight away... but I would never have given up on you," he promised. "I would have waited for as long as it took for you to accept how much I love you and want you." He continued gently stroking her hair.
Biting her lip, Bobbi leaned up to look in her father's face. "Is it normal? To be so happy but scared at the same time?" She looked down then put her head back on her father's chest. "I finally know where I'm sposed to be...but now it seems I'm afraid to leave your sight...and that's just ... I don't know what to do with that." Her admittance was soft and a little scared. "I'm used to being self-reliant and not needing to depend on anyone. I couldn't even sleep a little last night until I came to you...."
"Adjusting to any new situation takes time... and your siblings went through a similar period of adjustment," Coulson replied honestly. "I'd imagine that you've been having a tough time of it since you joined us and got to know us... you and Mack both. Clint, Natasha, Grant... they each needed time to believe I was there. That I would be there for them and wouldn't throw them away if something went wrong, or I learned something about their past." Stroking Bobbi's hair gently, he continued, "They still need me in the same way I need them. But they've learned to trust in our relationship... and that does take time."
"So...my sudden need to cling...is because I'm getting used to everything?" Bobbi asked hesitantly. "You don't think it's weird or...annoying?"
"It isn't weird or annoying," Coulson said firmly. "If you need to cling, you can... at any time. I will always be here for you," he promised.
"Thanks, daddy..." Bobbi said with a smile, before leaning up and kissing him on the cheek. "I guess I should get up and either take a shower, or get some training in...." She frowned thoughtfully. "I'm leaning more towards shower...." She laughed. "I can begin making breakfast for everyone else. Take my medicine..." She eyed her father sideways. "Bruce didn't happen to tell you how many days I'm 'sposed to take the antibiotics, did he? I have to admit, I was fretting too much about the 'discussion' I knew we were going to have to pay attention when he was giving me the instructions." She blushed.
"He didn't mention specifically when... and I didn't think to ask." Coulson didn't mention that his worry for Bobbi had been what kept him from thinking to ask. He just wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "We can check with him at breakfast."
"Ok..." Bobbi smiled. "I'm gonna hop in the shower, then. I'll be on the common floor in fifteen, if you wanna meet me there...." She grinned happily and hopped out of bed, giving a tiny wave before heading out the door so she could go up to her floor and get ready for the day.
Coulson watched his daughter head back to her floor and smiled, happy to see that she was much more comfortable and had accepted her place in his family. Heading through to the bathroom, he showered and then dressed so that he could meet his daughter on the common floor.
Bobbi quickly got ready, then scurried to the common kitchen to try and figure out what to fix everyone. "I wonder if they'll like crepes..." she muttered out loud, as she stared into the fridge.
Having finished getting dressed shortly after his daughter, Coulson took the elevator down to the common floor and joined Bobbi in the kitchen. "I think crepes is a good idea. Would you like some help?"
"Yes, please..." Bobbi smiled. "This will be the first time I've cooked for everyone as an official member of the family..." Her tone was soft and it sounded like she was still having a hard time believing it...but was very happy.
Coulson moved over to give Bobbi a hand with preparing the crepes, giving her a kiss on the cheek as he went past. "I suspect it won't be long before everyone else joins us as well."
Bobbi grinned happily at him. "I hope they like these..." She finished making the batter, deciding to wait on cooking them when everyone was ready to eat, so they'd be fresh.
"I'm sure they will." Coulson smiled at her. "No one here is particularly fussy when it comes to food. And it looks good."
Bobbi slanted her head then laughed. "Yeah, I kinda noticed that. They definitely aren't picky." She began to pull out fresh fruit and other items to put into the crepes.
It didn't take long for everyone to shower and dress again... soon, everyone was filing into the dining area. Bobbi quickly began taking orders for how many and what kinds of crepes people wanted and soon was quickly cooking up breakfast, a huge grin on her face.
Coulson gave Bobbi a hand with plating up, but let her do the majority of the cooking, guessing she wanted to do her part.
Skye had managed to drag herself out of bed, but she'd stayed up fairly late working and now sat with a cup of coffee to help herself wake up.
Thor sat between his two brothers, eating with a big appetite... which was fairly normal for him.
Steve settled next to Tony, a contented smile on his face as he ate and watched his son eat a healthy amount.
Lance was quieter than normal, still trying to come to terms with the fact that two of his best friends had been keeping major secrets. Although he knew they'd ultimately done the right thing, he still wasn't sure how he felt about everything.
Natasha took her usual seat next to Clint, after helping to pour drinks for everyone.
Leo sat on the other side of his father, taking the opportunity to look over some projects that he needed to work on completing.
Fury sat between his two sons. Just before he started eating, he made a suggestion to Brock and Trip that the three of them do something in the afternoon, since the contractors would be working over a lot of the tower.
May smiled at Skye fondly. "When we're done with breakfast, I want to train a bit with you." She poured some juice for herself and Skye, sliding a glass in front of her daughter.
Loki ate a bite of the crepe and blinked. "This is very good, Bobbi. Thank you."
Mack grinned. "Yeah. Good job, girl! Why didn't you ever let us know you could cook like this?"
Bobbi grinned crookedly. "When did I ever have time?" She glanced at Lance, a sad and apologetic look on her face. She didn't know what to say to him, though.
Brock nodded at his dad. "Sounds good to me...."
"Maybe we can find a pool hall?" Trip suggested.
"When you two are done the project you are working on, I have a project I think you'll find interesting." Bruce smiled at Jemma and Leo.
Skye blinked, focusing on her mother, and then gave a slight smile, picking up the glass of juice and drinking about half of it. "I'm not sure I'll be much good at the training today," she admitted.
"Maybe we would have ended up making you cook for us," Lance said, making the effort to reach out.
Fury nodded. "Anything both of you would like to do is fine with me."
"What project?" Leo asked, focusing on his father.
"There are different types of training," May remarked with a smile.
Bobbi smiled gratefully at Lance, relieved he wasn't so upset with her he wouldn't make an effort. "I might have done anyway...you do remember the last time Mack cooked anything?" she teased gently.
"Nearly burn down a building once and they never let you live it down..." Mack muttered with a smile.
"Something to go along with the new armor Tony has been working on..." Bruce said. "A chemical that will help modulate temperature more effectively, so if you suddenly go from burning hot to freezing cold, your body isn't shocked."
"What sort of training did you have in mind?" Skye asked, her interest piqued.
"Well, we definitely didn't want a repeat of that." Lance smiled, even though it didn't quite reach his eyes.
"That would be really handy," Leo said the look on his face indicating his mind was already working.
"There is stealth training..." May said blandly, but her eyes were smiling.
Bruce nodded. "I thought so..."
Bobbi bit her lip, her own smile faltering in the face of Lance's unhappiness. "No, definitely not..." she said softly, to play along, but her own eyes had lost a bit of their happiness. She glanced at Mack uncertainly.
Mack gave a tiny shake of his head. Telling the truth had been difficult when telling their family. They should have considered how Lance would be affected more. They'd have to let him decide what he wanted as far as their friendship was concerned...since they had wronged him.
Sighing softly, Bobbi went back to fixing breakfast for everyone else. She'd lost her own appetite, though.
"That sounds more like something I could do," Skye said... though she wasn't sure she'd be able to stay awake for long.
"These projects won't take long," Leo said. "Then we can start on that." He finally put the work to one side so that he could actually start eating.
Coulson noticed that, although Lance was trying, he'd clearly been affected by what Bobbi and Mack had done... and it was affecting Bobbi, too. Without a word, he reached out to wrap his arm around his youngest daughter's waist, squeezing her gently.
"Well, I'm thinking maybe we should do a bit of scouting around. Make certain that if our truce with Gonzales falls through that we have an early warning system set in place by using our friendly nosey neighbors...." Grant grinned wolfishly.
Clint nodded. "I could be persuaded to help you in that endeavor."
Bobbi glanced at her father with a grateful look, as she stepped closer into his hug. "Thanks, daddy..." she whispered softly, a tiny tremor in her voice.
"I think I'll join you," Natasha said with a smile.
Coulson kissed Bobbi's forehead and spoke to her in a quiet voice, hugging her tightly to himself. "It'll be better if you and Mack talk to him privately..."
Grant grinned. "The more the merrier."
Bobbi nodded. "You're right, daddy. I'll ask if he will talk with me after breakfast..." she said softly.
"I think that's a good idea." Coulson kissed her cheek. "I know you're not feeling good right now, but you're going to need to eat breakfast." His voice was loving and concerned, rather than scolding.
"Yes sir." Bobbi smiled then grimaced. "I'll force myself to eat, for you..." she whispered.
"Thank you. I love you." Coulson held her close for several moments before he guided her over to the table to sit next to him so she could eat.
Bobbi put enough food on her plate that her father would be happy then began to eat. It wasn't as difficult as she had been afraid, her father's love easing some of the worry and regret she was feeling about Lance and allowing her to enjoy the food, at least a little.
Coulson squeezed Bobbi's shoulder gently and then resumed eating his own food, watching to make sure all of his children ate enough... though it was really mainly Bobbi he was checking on.
Bobbi soon finished her entire plate and even took a second helping of the fruit (since she knew that the various fruits helped healing ulcers). Then, she took the anti-biotic that Bruce handed her, without any prompting or argument at all; although she did make a face at the taste of the pills. Glancing around the table, she tried to figure out if anyone needed anything else or not. While doing so, she shifted closer to her father and, without thinking about it, put her head on his shoulder and wrapped both her arms around his one arm in a semi-hug.
By that time, Coulson had finished his breakfast, which meant he could cuddle Bobbi properly, tugging her in close enough that she might as well have been on his lap. He pressed a kiss to her forehead and just held her.
Grant caught his father's eye and grinned. He found it rather amusing, in a sweet way, that his father had managed to adopt a 'daddy's girl'. Especially given how hard Bobbi had fought being part of the family in the beginning. Standing up to clean up his dishes and cutlery, he leaned over and kissed both his father and his baby sister on top of their head as he passed by on his way to the sink.
Tony grinned at his uncle and 'baby cousin' then glanced at Steve. "Pepper just sent me a text message...she says that they managed to finish up touring the plant early and if she can get through the final meeting early enough, she can be back home tonight at around midnight our time. Or...if she waits a few hours and takes a nap before leaving, she can be here early tomorrow morning. She was wondering which you thought would be best, on account of everything that's happened recently."
Coulson smiled at Grant and rubbed his arm gently as his youngest son passed them.
Natasha stood up, clearing her plate and cutlery, as well as her father's and baby sister's.
Steve kept his arm around Tony's shoulders as he considered that. "Since I know we want her home as soon as possible, my first reaction would be to have her back as early as possible. But I'm not comfortable with her getting here so late, in case something does happen."
Bobbi smiled at her siblings, thanking Natasha for cleaning her dishes. She then glanced uncertainly toward Lance. "Can we talk later?" she finally asked him.
Tony nodded. "That's what my worry is," he admitted. "I want her home so bad...but midnight is...not as safe as it could be." He sighed. "I'll message her to rest and come on the later flight," he finally said.
Lance blinked at the question, but nodded, slightly hesitantly. "I don't have any plans today..."
Steve hugged his son close. "We could Skype her before she takes that nap. It's not the same... but it is something."
Bobbi nodded. "After breakfast? I...I won't take much of your time..." She sounded unusually nervous and uncertain; she had always been confident before...until Gonzales, anyway.
Bucky, who had been watching the interaction between the two all morning and knew that Lance needed to hear what she said...even if he chose not to forgive his friend...smiled encouragingly at Lance. "Sounds good. When you're done, you can come find me and we can go to a movie or something."
Tony nodded at his father. "I'd like that, dad," he said agreeably, before standing up and gathering his and his father's dishes.
Lance nodded and then glanced at Bucky. "A movie sounds good." He stood up, clearing his plate away along with his father's and washing them up.
Coulson kept his arms around Bobbi, even as the others continued to clear up. He pressed a kiss to her head. "Maybe we could watch a movie all together later," he said, including his other children in that.
Steve stood up and squeezed Tony's shoulder gently. "We can do something together... make the time go faster."
Bucky smiled and stood. "How about I go look up the listings, then? When you're done talking, come find me and we can make a decision." Reaching over, he squeezed Lance's shoulder then turned to follow everyone else out of the dining area.
Biting her lip, Bobbi leaned even more into her father. She was feeling a bit hopeless regarding Lance. She'd known he wouldn't be happy when he found out about Gonzales, but it wasn't until she'd actually had to come clean with everyone that she realized exactly how badly it would hurt him. Her reasons for not telling him had seemed valid and good at the time, but now that everything was said and done, she wasn't as confident about her reasons and she really wasn't sure this was something he could forgive.
"Sounds good to me, dad," Grant said, giving Bobbi a worried look, but not commenting.
Clint plopped down in the seat right next to Bobbi and ruffled a hand through her hair. "Yeah. I might even be able to put up with one of those 'chick flicks'." He made a horrified grimace as he said it.
Tony nodded. "I think maybe I need to, dad. Otherwise, I'm liable to hide in my lab to pass time and when I do that...." He gave Steve a crooked smile.
Pretty soon, the kitchen had emptied out except for Bobbi and Lance, everyone else trying to give them a little space to clear the air.
Lance looked down at the table, not really sure what to say... or ask... even though a whole myriad of questions was going through his mind. Finally, he settled on one that seemed innocent enough... even though he knew the answer might hurt. "How long?"
Bobbi winced, unable to look Lance in the eye. "We started working for Gonzales when HYDRA made their move over a year ago..." she admitted softly. "It...it was always his plan that eventually Coulson would send us on an assignment and then we'd...get closer to him that way." Saying it out loud, it sounded just horrible and there was no way she could justify her actions. Not that she'd want to. She'd felt for a while now that it was wrong, had been wrong. Beyond that, though, she knew Lance was asking because he was wondering how long she'd been lying to him. She'd let him think they were working for Coulson from the moment he had joined her and Mack, only a month after they'd been recruited by Gonzales.
Lance tried not to wince, but he couldn't help it. Knowing it would hurt and actually feeling it were two very different things. "You didn't see anything wrong with it? Of course you didn't," he answered his own question. "I get you both thought you were doing the right thing. You should have told me. But what I can't understand is... if I knew they were the good guys from the start, why the hell did you let it go on for so long? It didn't even become obvious you were hiding something until after we came back from the camping trip. I know you didn't become Coulson's till then, but you must have seen the same thing I did."
"I...I saw that he was a good guy... that they all were good people... but Gonzales... At first, we were supposed to be reporting on Coulson's mindset... Gonzales thought that what was done to him, to bring him back, had messed with his mind. We told him repeatedly that Coulson...that everyone was good and he convinced us that they were just really good at hiding the truth..." Her voice was filled with shame. "Until the camping trip, I managed to convince myself that I was just being foolish and seeing what I wanted to see because he was a nice guy... I couldn't easily fool myself after spending all that time in everyone's company with no breaks at all." She knew it wasn't a good reason. She wouldn't have accepted such a reason herself, so she didn't expect Lance to; not really. It was part of why she'd felt so guilty...because she knew deep down it was wrong and refused to listen to her own conscience.
Lance was silent for a few moments before speaking in a quiet voice. "You and Mack... were lying to me from day one." He paused, suddenly feeling like he was close to tears. "Did you ever plan to say anything? To me? Until we came here, you and Mack were the only family I had..." His voice trailed off and he raked a hand through his hair. "Now I don't know what to believe."
"I wanted to tell you....I did!" Bobbi looked at him, unable to stop the tears from falling down her face. "Gonzal..." She swallowed and took a deep breath to try and regain control over her shaky emotions. "Gonzales said if you were told, that you would be given the choice to join us. If you didn't, you'd be 'detained' until the mission was over and you weren't a threat to it." She left unsaid her fear that Gonzales might just want to 'eliminate' said threat all together. Her voice was quiet as she continued, "I knew you would never want to join with his organization; you had always been freelance...helping when you agreed with a mission and staying away when you didn't agree. I knew you wouldn't approve of pretending to... pretending like Mack and I were having to do. I...I told myself I was protecting you by keeping it secret..." She looked down again in shame. "...But I know I was also protecting myself," she whispered. "I couldn't bear the idea that you would be disappointed in my choice to work with Gonzales. Now...now it's so much worse...."
"I don't..." Lance hesitated. "I don't know what to say, Bobbi. I don't know how I feel... how I'm supposed to feel. You lied to me... you and Mack... you kept on lying. But what you were going to do is so much worse." He took a deep breath. "Is there going to be worse? I mean... you look sincere. And it's obvious that Coulson believes in you. But... I did as well. And look how that's turned out."
Bobbi shook her head in denial of his question. There wouldn't be worse...she didn't want to hurt him. She'd never wanted to hurt him. Despite the fact that their marriage had spectacularly failed, he was still one of her best friends in the world and she loved him. And she'd hurt him. Horribly. The guilt from that cut through her and she couldn't help but sob out, "Lance...I'm sorry...."
Lance closed his eyes, trying to stave off the awful feeling that he was going to start crying. "I don't even know how to begin trusting you again. I know our marriage went bad, but even then, at least we were honest with each other."
Bobbi didn't know what to do. Slumping in defeat, she couldn't face him, afraid that not only would she see distrust, but that she'd see disgust. "I know I was wrong..." was all she could say, her voice shaky and heavy with tears. She'd already apologized. Asking for forgiveness wasn't something she could do just yet. She couldn't help but feel it would be selfish, when he was still confused and uncertain about their relationship due to her duplicity. Slumping even further, she held her hand over her mouth to try and contain her crying.
It was rapidly becoming apparent to Lance that, if he stayed here any longer, he was going to either start crying, or start saying things he didn't mean to Bobbi. Standing, he muttered, "I need some space," and then headed to the elevator. He considered, for half a second, seeking out his father... and then the less-logical part of his mind surfaced, pointing out that if two of his oldest friends could spend so long lying to him, who was to say the man he'd come to depend on wouldn't do the same to him?
Taking the elevator to the garage, Lance grabbed his motorbike and drove out. He took his helmet... but not a com or his phone.
Bobbi couldn't help it. As soon as Lance had left, she started sobbing. She'd ruined everything between herself and the man she loved. There was no way Lance would ever forgive her for lying for so long. There was no way they'd ever be able to return to the level of friendship they'd had before...if he was even able to be in the same room with her. It was hopeless.
Mack had waited about thirty minutes for Bobbi and Lance to speak before making his way back to the kitchen. He needed to make things right with the other man himself and while he honestly felt he had done what he'd believed to be right at the time...he knew that wouldn't make Lance feel better and he wanted to at least attempt to bridge whatever gulf would be between them now. He heard Bobbi's sobs as he got off the elevator. Frowning, he quickly made his way to the kitchen, where he saw her doubled in over herself. "Oh, Bobbi... shhh... c'mon, baby girl... you're going to make yourself sick... shhhh... calm down...." Looking at the ceiling, Mack asked, "JARVIS? Could you please have Coulson come here immediately? And do you know where Lance is?" If Bobbi was this upset, then it was possible Lance was hurting just as much and if he wasn't with his father, then maybe he should be.
"Of course, Agent Mackenzie. Agent Coulson is on his way now." JARVIS was silent a moment as he scanned the building and then reported, "I'm afraid Agent Hunter is no longer in the building... according to the cameras, he left several minutes ago, without taking a comm or his phone with him."
By that time, Coulson had arrived in the dining area. Taking one look at his daughter, he didn't hesitate in wrapping his arms around Bobbi and drawing her onto his lap, hugging her tightly.
"Damnit, Lance..." Mack muttered, running a hand over his face. "JARVIS? If Bucky did not go with him, then could you please tell Bucky he is needed in the kitchen right away...." Mack sighed and put both hands on top of his head and began pacing. "And maybe ask Thor to come too....so I don't go do something stupid..." He muttered this last under his breath, but he was pretty sure it was loud enough for JARVIS, and probably Coulson, to hear it.
"I have informed Sergeant Barnes and he is on his way, as well as Thor," JARVIS said.
Coulson cuddled Bobbi tightly to himself. "What happened, sweetie?"
"I hurt my best friend...I ruined everything...he'll never forgive me!" Bobbi managed to sob out, her voice devastated.
Bucky arrived the same time as Thor. He took one look at Bobbi then looked at Mack. "Where's Lance?" His worry was clear.
"JARVIS said he took off without his com or his phone," Mack said...his own worry clear. As upset as Bobbi was, it was hard to say what state of mind Lance was in.
Coulson kissed his daughter's hair and tightened his embrace. "I know it must feel that way right now," he said, his voice gentle, "but repairing things isn't impossible."
Thor frowned. "We should seek him out."
Bobbi had no response to her father's words...she was positive Lance would want nothing to do with her ever again and couldn't stop crying.
Mack swallowed hard and nodded at Thor. "I want to...but I'm sure he's as distrustful and upset with me as he is Bobbi....I'm not sure I should be part of the search...he may hide from me...." His voice was sad and it was obvious he was distressed at the turn of events.
Bucky frowned, his own worry skyrocketing. "You'll look for my son...we need as many as possible out there. In pairs. It's still dangerous and I don't care if you find him and have to drag him home screaming at you... He can be upset and angry in the safety of home."
"I'll contact Clint and Natasha on the comms and ask them to search for him with Grant," Coulson said, having been listening even as he comforted and cuddled his daughter. "If Lance isn't thinking clearly, he might not avoid cameras. Tony and Skye might be able to hack into video feeds."
Thor nodded to Bucky and turned to Mack. "We will search with Loki," he said firmly.
Mack nodded. "Will you want Steve and May to look with you, sir?" he asked Bucky.
"Yes, but I'll explain to the whole group what's going on." Bucky paced. "JARVIS, please have everyone come to the common area so we can explain and form search teams?"
"Of course, Sargeant." Within moments, the AI was calling everyone back.
Bobbi finally got control of herself and wiped her eyes. "I want to help," she said softly, uncertain her help would be welcome.
Bucky looked at the younger woman sympathetically before nodding at Coulson. "That will be up to your daddy, sweetheart..." he drawled. As upset as she had been, he wasn't certain she wasn't at risk for running and figured it should be up to Coulson.
Coulson kept his arms around his daughter. "You can come with me. We'll look together." Partly because he wanted to keep her close to him so she could use him as support... but also because he wanted to be sure she wouldn't give in to her guilt and run off.
People began filtering towards the common floor. Coulson didn't let go of his daughter, instead holding her tightly on his lap, stroking her hair.
Bobbi nodded. "Ok, daddy...."
Tony winced as he walked in and saw his young cousin's face. It was obvious her talk hadn't gone well. By the time everyone had arrived, except for Lance, and Bucky began pacing...it was fairly obvious why they'd been called. He waited for an explanation though.
Bucky didn't waste words. "Lance left the tower in a high state of distress. He didn't take his com or his phone and given his state of mind, I'm not sure he plans to return; at least not anytime soon. I need your help to find my boy and bring him home." He had to clear his throat at the end, his worry choking him.
Steve rubbed Tony's arm and then stepped away from his son so that he could wrap his arms around his brother. "We'll find him, Bucky," he promised.
"I'll get my laptop... see if I can track him through traffic cams," Skye offered.
"We should split up to search." Fury looked at Thor and Loki. "Can either of you do something that could help?"
"When it comes to finding someone, Heimdall is really the most skilled," Thor replied. "I can send a message to him."
"I...am sometimes able to project a...hologram for lack of a better word to certain individuals. Perhaps I can do that to Hunter...and see if there are any landmarks that would clue me in to his position?" Loki said softly.
Bucky hugged Steve back and took a deep breath. "I know. I'm just worried with all our enemies...he isn't thinking straight."
"JARVIS, if you could please assist Skye," Tony said. "Captain..." Tony turned to Steve, making it an official request. "Permission to fly above and scan the area? Iron Man might be able to see something that traffic cameras miss."
Coulson nodded to Loki. "That would be of help, I'm sure."
Steve looked at his son. "I'd like someone to go with you. I don't think any of us should be leaving the tower on our own." He would have gone with Tony himself... but he felt his brother needed his support.
"I will accompany Tony on this endeavour, if Mack is happy to accompany Loki," Thor said, glancing at his brothers.
"Of course, brother..." Mack agreed, going to stand next to Loki.
"I will begin now, if you would like to take note of what I describe." Loki sat on a chair and closed his eyes.
Tony smiled at Thor. "Let's go, big guy! Everybody have their coms so we can communicate?"
Bucky looked gratefully around at his family. "Thank you all."
Steve smiled at Bucky and hugged him. "We'll find him," he reiterated
Coulson helped his daughter to stand up and then stood up himself, helping to organize everyone in teams along with Fury. He also used the coms to contact his three other children.
Thor waited for acknowledgment and then quickly headed to the elevator, so he could take off from the roof.
It had been several hours and Bucky was beginning to lose hope and become frantic. Had one of Gonzales' people taken him? Had HYDRA? Skye hadn't found anything on the traffic cameras, although he hadn't really expected it to be that easy. Hunter was a seasoned mercenary/agent, after all, and knew how to hide from things like cameras. Tony and Thor hadn't had any luck either, though, despite Thor's keen eyesight and JARVIS aiding Tony. Loki had been a little help, but a very little. The only things Loki had been able to see that might have given a clue as to where Hunter had gone were rows upon rows of liquor bottles. Hunter was obviously at a bar. With hundreds of bars in the city itself and who knew how many outside city limits...Bucky was about to tear his hair out. "I think I've lost him, Steve...." Bucky finally whispered his voice cracking as he realized that he might not be able to find his son despite everything.
Steve frowned, wrapping his arm around his brother's shoulders. "You haven't lost him, Bucky," he said, his tone reassuring. "He's hurting right now. He shouldn't have run, but he trusts you. I don't think he's run away... except from how he feels inside." Steve used the com to contact the others back at the tower. "Anything?" he asked, keeping his own worry back as he knew his brother needed his support.
Mack reported back, "Loki has only seen one new thing...but it doesn't make sense to us. He saw a picture of a woman next to an old airplane. He couldn't read the writing on the picture, but there were two big X's and O's next to the signature."
Bucky turned surprised eyes toward Steve. "Do you think....?"
Steve was already heading in the direction he knew that particular bar was in. "It's the first clue we've got, Bucky. I know it's still around... and if that's what Loki's seeing, we need to check it out."
Within seconds, Bucky had caught up to Steve and was passing him, nearly running in the direction of the old bar...hoping that Lance was there and that his search would be over soon. He slowed as he reached the entry to the bar, waiting for his brother to stop next to him before taking a deep breath and opening the door to step inside. It took mere seconds for his eyes to adjust, but as soon as they had, he was looking toward where he knew that picture hung.
Lance's first instinct had been to just keep on riding. He hadn't really planned on where. He just knew that he was close to tears or shouting and he couldn't deal with either of those. Eventually, he'd calmed enough that he'd planned to go and get drunk... but he hadn't been able to bring himself to get more than one beer, which he was nursing morosely in one of the booths. He heard the door open, but didn't look up.
Bucky's shoulders slumped in relief as he glanced at Steve. "You mind letting the others know we found him while I go talk to him?" he asked in a soft whisper that only his brother could hear.
Steve nodded, patting Bucky's shoulder gently and then stepping out of the bar so he could use the com to let the others know they'd found Lance and he was safe.
Walking quietly to the booth, Bucky slid into the bench across from Lance, then cleared his throat. "Lance...." he began softly, waiting for the younger man to look up at him. "Let's go home, son." His tone was loving, but obviously worried and he didn't bother trying to hide the stress that he'd been under since discovering his boy had taken off.
Lance had focused on his surroundings as he realized someone was approaching and he recognized his father's footsteps. "I... you found me..." He was dismayed to find the tears he'd been trying to stave off fill his eyes. Having halfway convinced himself that, because the two people who had been his family longer had been lying to him, his father wasn't likely to track him down, he didn't know what to do with this.
Bucky's glance was loving and sympathetic. "Of course I found you. You're my boy. I will always find you...no matter how long it takes. As long as there is breath in my body and a functioning mind, I will find you."
Bucky glanced around the bar, memories from his and Steve's youth bombarding him. He gave his son a crooked grin. "You know, I used to come here when I was younger 'n you...." He snorted. "Place hasn't changed all that much."
"You know, it still isn't safe to be leaving alone. Gonzales is still smarting enough after his defeat that he'd welcome the chance to take it out on one of us...especially if he could do it without any fingers definitely pointing back at him." Bucky's voice was soft and concerned, with a hint of parental 'what were you thinking?' thrown in. "Steve's outside...we really do need to go back home, where it's safe. Where I can give you my full attention." Where I can take care of you...was left unsaid, though it was obvious in his body language.
Lance swallowed, wondering if he should dread the implications of what was to come... if he should feel anything other than a sense of relief that his father was still there, even when everything else had thrown him off-kilter. He'd been off-balance since realizing that Bobbi and Mack had been lying to him for so long... even before knowing exactly how long it was.
"I'm sorry." Lance stood without any further encouragement. It said a lot to his state of mind that he ignored his nearly-full pint of beer.
Bucky slid back out of the booth and wrapped his arms around his son in a tight hug, something he'd been wanting to do since seeing him. "I know. I also know you weren't really thinking clearly. I understand..." Reluctantly releasing Lance from the hug, but quickly putting one arm around his shoulders so he could lead him out of the bar, Bucky smiled. "I'm gonna see if Tony can come pick Steve up...I'll ride back with you on your bike."
Glancing at the bartender to make certain the drink had already been paid for and hadn't been put on a tab, Bucky led his son out of the bar and over to where Steve stood next to the bike. "Think you can catch a ride back with Tony or Thor?" he asked his brother softly.
Steve nodded to his brother and smiled encouragingly at Lance. "Everyone's happy you've been safely found," he said.
"Yeah... I'm sorry I worried everyone..." Lance nestled in close to his father, wondering if his reliance on Bucky should worry him.
Bucky leaned over and kissed Lance on the top of the head, squeezing his shoulders gently. "They understand. It isn't like nearly every one of us hasn't done something like this at least once before..." Bucky's smile was rueful. He'd run Steve on quite the chase before he'd finally come back to the tower and stayed. Hearing his nephew's arrival, Bucky glanced up as the Iron Man suit gently came down to land a few feet from them.
The visor popped up and Tony grinned at Lance, giving him a wave. "Hey, kid. Glad to see you. You ready, dad?" He glanced at Steve.
Steve smiled at his brother and addressed Lance. "It doesn't make a difference to how anyone feels about you." He looked at his son as Tony landed and headed over to him. "I'm ready."
Tony quickly shifted his feet so that his father could stand behind him but still brace his feet on the boots of his suit, then when he was certain his father had a good grip on him, he took off.
Bucky waited long enough to be certain his nephew and brother were heading back to the tower with no problems then led Lance over to the bike. "I'll drive us back." He held his hand out for the key, not expecting that Lance would argue with him. As upset as Lance had been, and not sure if he was as focused as he should be to be driving through traffic on the bike, Bucky felt it would be safer if he were in control of the vehicle.
Lance handed over the keys without argument and waited for his father to get on the bike before he climbed up behind Bucky. Although he'd managed to calm down somewhat, he was still hurting and he kept quiet, trying not to think about the conversation he'd had with Bobbi that had gone so badly.
Bucky could tell his son was hurting, even if he wasn't talking. "It's ok, kid. We'll get home. We'll go to our floor...and we'll talk. And you'll be ok. It may not seem like it now...but you will."
Once he was certain that his son had his helmet on and was holding on tightly, he began the bike and took off for the tower. It didn't take long to get there. For as long as it had taken them to find Lance, he really wasn't that far away from home. Soon, Bucky was pulling into the underground garage and parking the bike. Then he was helping Lance off the bike, putting his arm around his son's shoulders and leading him to the elevator to go back to their floor.
"JARVIS? Could you let everyone know that Lance and I are back home safe and heading to our floor? And thank them for all their help? Thanks, J." Bucky smiled at the AI's agreement.
When the elevator opened to his and Lance's floor, he glanced around to make certain the contractors who had been working there were gone. They hadn't needed much work done on his floor to make it be able to accommodate Lance living there as well. Really, they'd only had to paint Lance's bedroom and move his things from his floor to Bucky's and that had been done in a few hours. He led his son into the living room and sat down on the couch with him.
Turning to face Lance, Bucky sighed softly, reaching up and squeezing the younger man's shoulder. "I can't even explain how scared I was when I found out you'd just left...." he finally said, his voice gruff.
Lance followed his father without protest and sat on the couch without any kind of argument, his shoulders slumping at Bucky's words. "I... I'm sorry I scared you," he said, a bit hesitantly. "I just knew I couldn't stay with Bobbi... not unless I wanted to start crying or tearing into her and she doesn't deserve that." He closed his eyes, raking a hand through his hair. "I even thought about coming to find you... and then I thought that, if the two people who had been my family longer had been lying to me for so long... how could I trust anyone else?" His voice was a low, haunted whisper.
Bucky winced at that. Even though he understood completely, it still hurt. "Well...I'll just have to do harder to give you reason to trust me..." he said softly.
"As for Bobbi...I understand you not wanting to cry in front of her, or wanting to tear into her. But I'm not so certain you did her any favors by just leaving." His tone was loving; not chiding in the least. But he felt Lance should know that leaving had hurt his friend a lot worse than yelling or tearing into her would have. He'd seen the look on the girl's face when he came in to find out Lance had left.
Lance hunched in on himself. "I... didn't know what else to do," he said quietly. "I do trust you... but the logical part of my brain took a backseat, along with the part that knew I shouldn't have taken off on Bobbi." His voice was even quieter... barely above a whisper. He wanted to lean into Bucky, but wasn't sure he deserved the comfort, knowing that he'd managed to hurt his father.
Bucky had no problem pulling Lance closer into him, holding onto him tightly. "I'm just glad you were safe and we could find you to bring you home. I don't know what I would have done if I'd lost you...." Bucky's voice hitched and he had to swallow at the tightness in his throat. "I understand not thinking things through; not being able to think things through clearly. I just wish...I want your first instinct when you feel that way to be to come find me... not to run..." His voice was hoarse. "But that's something that comes from habit. It has to be learned. Just like not running away when things get difficult has to be learned." He pressed a kiss onto the top of his son's head, still holding him tight.
Lance couldn't help but respond, wrapping his arms around his father and cuddling in close, needing the comfort from Bucky. "I'm sorry," he whispered, the guilt in his voice obvious. "I didn't mean to hurt you... or Bobbi... or anyone..." He lost the fight to hold back his tears and they began slipping out.
"I know you didn't..." Bucky soothed, rubbing Lance's back with one hand while squeezing the back of his neck gently with the other. "And you hurting me is the least of my worries, son... I am worried that if you don't learn not to just take off like this...learn to come to me when you feel unsettled, or uncertain, or like you just need to get away... that next time, I might not be able to find you and something bad will happen to you. I'd die inside if something happened to you, Lance. I really would."
Lance pressed closer to his father, almost clinging to him. He managed to stop himself sobbing audibly... but the tears were still running down his cheeks. "I'm sorry..." he said again. "I'll try to do better... really..."
Bucky just continued to hold his son tightly, rubbing his back and every so often kissing the top of his head. "I know...and you've done so well already. Very well. I'm proud of you. This mistake isn't the end of the world... I'll help you when you mess up. That's what fathers do." He smiled, just rocking his son gently.
Lance sniffled, staying cuddled into Bucky's embrace. "Yeah, well... you're the only one who ever wanted to be that for me," he said quietly. "And I know you mean what you say..." Lance knew it was him with the trust issues. But even from the start, he'd felt himself want to latch onto Bucky. It was a feeling that had only increased the more Bucky proved he wanted him.
"Well, I consider myself lucky that you're willing to let me be that for you..." Bucky admitted. "You're good for me, kid. I really would die inside if something happened to you. Which is why I'm going to need to do my best to make sure you learn not to run off without thinking." He continued holding Lance, cuddling him close, even as he stated the last bit in a firm but loving voice.
"I know..." Lance sniffled. He knew that he deserved what was going to happen. "I am sorry," he said again. "I know I should come to you when I'm hurting. I know you're here for me... even if I don't always act like it," he admitted.
"I know you're sorry.... We'll take care of this and then it will be over and we'll put it behind us. I love you, Lance..." Bucky finally said what he'd been demonstrating the moment he'd found his son. Gently loosening his grip on the boy, he carefully pulled him over his lap, tugging him close to his stomach. "I forgive you, Lance...you won't need to worry about this anymore after we're done. Ok?"
Letting out a quiet sob, Lance reached down to grasp his father's ankle, not fighting the position. "Okay... I love you, daddy." He blushed as he realized he'd used the more juvenile form of address... but to be honest, he was feeling so lost right now, Bucky felt like the only thing that was constant.
Rubbing Lance's back gently for a few moments, Bucky finally steeled himself for what he knew he needed to do and tugged his son's pants and underwear down. Wrapping an arm firmly around the younger man's waist to hold him in place, he raised the other hand up and let it fall in a firm smack; not hard enough to bruise, but hard enough to be felt beyond the initial sting. Raising that hand up, he let it fall again then again, keeping the strength of the swats the same, slowly but carefully covering every inch of his son's backside.
Lance whimpered, tightening his hold on his father's ankle. He tried to hold still and not resist, wanting this over with so that he could go back to being comforted... even though he didn't want to actually admit that out loud.
Bucky swatted until every inch of skin had been covered down to the top of Lance's thighs then started over again. On the second circuit, he began to speak, his voice soft and caring, if firm. "I understand you're upset. I understand you didn't want Bobbi to see you that upset and didn't want to take your feelings out on her. But when you are that upset, you come find me. If you don't feel like you can trust me enough to come find me, then you come to our floor and you can hide in your room with the door closed; I won't force you to talk to me." Bucky's voice sounded slightly hurt- he couldn't hide it, even though he understood.
He continued on, his voice taking on a stern tone. "What I can't allow or accept is you running off without word to anyone. I can't allow or accept you running off without taking a way for us to contact you, or you to contact us. And I especially can't allow you running off when we are at risk from two different groups of people who would like nothing more than to hurt you or use you against everyone else. You are too important to me to allow or accept you running off...and if you ever run off again, you will find yourself in this exact position. Do I make myself clear, son?" He'd emphasized his words with the steady swats. Ending the second circuit with his question, he paused to give Lance time to answer.
It didn't take long for Lance to begin quietly crying, body trembling a little. His emotions were already so close to the surface, it was hard not to show how much the spanking... and Bucky's words... hurt. He didn't try to hide it, guilt stabbing into him as he heard, once again, how much he'd hurt his father. "I...I understand. I'm s-sorry... Didn't mean to h-hurt... worry... any of you..." He couldn't hold back the sobs.
"I know you didn't mean it... and I forgive you. I just need you to understand," Bucky responded softly. Knowing that his son was very close to where he needed to be, Bucky gently tipped Lance forward and began aiming the swats for his sit spots, focusing several swats to one area before moving to another...until the area was a uniform pink color.
Lance slumped, his sobs quickly becoming audible, though not really loud. Almost blindly, he reached back with the hand that wasn't grasping Bucky's ankle... needing the contact with his father, rather than trying to stop the swats.
Bucky quickly stopped spanking as soon as his son slumped and he could hear the sobbing. Taking Lance's hand in his and gently squeezing it, he then carefully lifted his son up and placed him on his lap, holding him close and rocking him gently. "It's over, son. You're forgiven and we'll put this behind us. I've got you....I'll always have you...." he soothed gently.
Lance clung to his father, sobbing into his shoulder... not just crying from the pain of the spanking, but from the hurt and confusion finding out two of his best friends had been lying to him for so long had raised. He hadn't felt right since they'd found this out and he clung to the constant that was Bucky, burrowing close to him.
"I've got you, Lance. I've got you..." Bucky continued to whisper into his son's ear, rubbing his back gently with one hand while carding his fingers through his son's hair with the other, every so often pressing a kiss to his boy's forehead. He knew that Bobbi and Mack's secret had affected Lance harder than most of the rest of the family; they'd been lying to him longer...and he'd known them longer...it only stood to reason that Lance would be questioning everything now. All Bucky could do was offer comfort and be there for his son. "I love you, Lance...and I've got you," he whispered again.
It took a while for Lance's tears to die down... longer than he would have liked to admit, to be honest. He sniffled, unwilling to let go of his father. "I'm sorry I took off," he whispered. "But... I want you to know... my first instinct was to come to you. It's just that then the less-logical part of my brain surfaced and I paid more attention to that."
"That seems to be a common ailment among the children in this family," Bucky remarked with a bit of amusement. "And sometimes the parents." He was able to admit he himself had thrown logic and instinct to the wind and let emotion rule in the past. Not so often since joining the family, and especially not now that he had Lance to worry about, but it had happened.
"...I don't know how to talk to them," Lance admitted, his voice very quiet. "I don't want things to be bad between us. I didn't want to upset Bobbi so much. But I trusted them... and they lied to me. From the first moment I joined them." And now he was questioning everything. He'd finally found himself settled... but now he was struggling.
Bucky hugged Lance more closely and tried to think of what to say. Finally, he settled with, "...I really don't have an answer for you, son. I know you didn't want to upset her and I know you don't want things to be bad between you; from what I know, you've been friends, you've been family, for years now. The lie only started when HYDRA made its move... about the time I showed up and tried to kill my brother."
Bucky winced. It felt like he and Steve had been back in each other's spheres for a lifetime now... but it really hadn't been all that long ago that he was still brainwashed, not remembering who he was, and trying to kill the people that he now considered family. This wasn't about him. Forcing himself to refocus, he squeezed Lance gently, kissing him on the top of the head again. "Surely, not everything in your relationship with them was a lie? I don't think they would have been so upset about hurting you if everything was a lie...."
Lance was quiet for a moment or two before speaking. "No matter what problems there were between me and Bobbi... the one thing that never drove us apart was lying. We were always honest with each other and I thought..." He took a deep breath. "I relied on that. When I joined her and Mack. That I could trust her to be honest with me. I get they both thought they were doing the right thing and they left it almost too late to come clean. But they should have told me the truth." Pressing closer to Bucky, he muttered, "Course, I would have blabbed everything to you the moment you showed you wanted to be my dad."
Bucky nodded. "I understand. In the end, only you can decide if you can ever trust them again. Just know that whatever you decide...I'm here for you."
Lance nodded and sighed, cuddling in close. He'd stopped crying, but couldn't bring himself to pull away from his father. "I know..."
Bucky just continued to hold his son. As long as Lance needed the affection, he was going to offer it.
Despite the events of the day, the families managed to salvage things and, by the time dinner came round, the contractors had completed the work on the floors.
Natasha had roped her brothers into helping her with dinner, letting their father concentrate his full attention on Bobbi. Although Lance had been found, their baby sister was still hurting a lot... and Natasha knew that their father was the best one when it came to helping one of them heal.
As people began filtering in for dinner, Natasha began plating the food up.
Bobbi didn't want to go to the common floor to eat. At least not right away. She knew that Lance felt uncomfortable around her now. She thought she understood why, but it didn't help her feel any better about the situation. As far as she could see, she'd lost her best friend; and it was entirely her fault. So when everyone began filtering down, she followed her father only as far as the hall, before trying to hang back and hide in the shadows. "I'll eat later, daddy...please...I...I don't want to..." She didn't know how to say what she felt, only that she knew she deserved Lance's anger. Hell, she deserved everyone's anger. That Lance was the only one actively angry and upset only showed that she had been very lucky and blessed to find these people that had become her family.
Coulson slid his arm around Bobbi's waist and kissed her forehead. He could understand her reluctance to see Lance. He wasn't sure how to help his daughter, apart from perhaps talking to her about his own experiences... but for now, he didn't push. "Why don't I get us a plate each and we can eat on our floor?" he suggested, his voice loving.
Bobbi looked up at him in relief. "Thank you, daddy." She turned in his arms and hugged him tightly, relieved that he understood.
Coulson kissed the top of her head. "I'll let your siblings know where we'll be. I'm sure they'll come and join us once the meal here is finished... and we can spend the night in my room," he suggested, hoping having her family close would help his youngest.
"I’d like that," Bobbi whispered. Even though her own room was right next to her father's, she knew that being next to him directly would aid her in her sleep.
Coulson held Bobbi close a few more moments, before pressing another kiss to her forehead. "I'll be right back." He stepped into the kitchen area so that he could grab a plate for himself and his youngest. Before he did so, he dropped a kiss to the heads of each of his other children, quietly letting them know he and Bobbi were going to be eating on their floor, before returning to Bobbi's side with the plates.
Grant nodded at his father, giving him a smile. "We will join you after dinner..." he said softly.
Bobbi took one of the plates from her father and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you, daddy."
Coulson smiled at his daughter and wrapped his free arm around her waist. "I love you," he said softly, kissing her cheek before guiding her back to the elevator.
Soon, they were back on their floor and Bobbi walked into their kitchen, placing the plate down on the table. "What would you like to drink, daddy?" she asked quietly.
"Just water is fine." Coulson placed his own plate on the table and reached out to run his fingers affectionately through his daughter's hair.
Smiling, Bobbi brought two glasses of water to the table then sat down so she could eat with her father. "Thank you for understanding, daddy..." she said softly. "Maybe I can face him tomorrow...maybe. But for tonight, I just. After what I did to him...he deserves to not have to be around me if he feels uncomfortable..." Her face and tone were sad.
Coulson sat down and reached across the table so that he could squeeze his daughter's hand. "I understand you feel hopeless right now, sweetie, but I don't think it's hopeless," he said quietly. "Forgiveness can take time... but it is possible."
"I lied to him for over a year, daddy...I mean, I lied to you too...and believe me, I regret that so much....but the look on his face. I don't think he'll ever trust me again...and I can't blame him in the least. I don't know how to make it right or pay for it...." She bit her lip. "To be honest, I don't know how you could forgive me so easily or trust me...."
Coulson gently stroked his thumb over her hand. "I know what it's like to face a similar thing to Lance," he said softly. "I'm not sure I ever felt so betrayed when I found out about Grant being a double agent working for HYDRA."
Bobbi bit her lip. "And then I went and did the same thing for Gonzales....How could you not hate me?" She turned her hand over do she could grasp his hand. "I deserved so much more than a spanking..." She shook her head, a baffled look on her face. "But you forgave me and still love me and I don't understand how... As much as it hurts, I understand Lance hating me...." She sniffled.
Coulson squeezed her hand gently, the look on his face loving... if a little sad, due to the memories of the time before. "It took me longer than it should have to reach out to Grant. What helped were the memories of the good things he had done... things that I knew he hadn't been ordered to do. I know you thought you were doing the right thing. When Lance can see past the pain, he'll remember the good with you as well. He doesn't hate you, Bobbi."
"You..." She swallowed. "You think he'll remember and know I didn't mean to hurt him? That he'll forgive me someday?" Her voice was a bit lost...he truly had been her best friend. "Grant didn't have to do anything first to earn your forgiveness? You didn't punish him first?" She looked down. "I can't go anything to make up for the lies and the only way Lance has to punish me is not forgiving me." She slumped.
Coulson's smile was a bit sad as he wrapped his arm around Bobbi's shoulders. "Grant did his best to drive me away. But the moment I saw him, everything about him told me I'd be wrong to give up on him. While I did spank him, it wasn't about him earning my forgiveness, but about cementing his place in my life. Even then, I cared about him... even if it was a bit later that I realized exactly how much he meant to me." He leaned forward to kiss her forehead. "Lance cares about you a great deal. He's hurting right now, but I guarantee he doesn't love you any less."
"I..I hope you're right, daddy...." she whispered. "...Is that why I can't forgive myself? 'Cuz it isn't something that can be earned or paid for?" She bit her lip, glancing at her plate. "Cuz even though I thought I was right then...I know how wrong I was now and I'm so sorry...not just about Lance, but about lying to you and everyone else. I never want to hide things from you ever again...." She blushed faintly, realizing how much like a child she sounded, but she meant it. "My job is filled with having to lie and pretend to find things out; I don't want my family to become like my job...." Her voice dropped a bit lower.
"I can't keep avoiding him, can I?" she finally asked. "Even though I think he'd be happier if I could....I can't keep avoiding him." She sighed, glancing at her food. "Guess I'll have to put on my 'big girl' pants and learn how to live with him looking at me like...like I destroyed his trust in me." Wincing, she stabbed some food onto her fork and took a bite. As upset as she was, she knew her father expected her to eat; she wasn't going to cause problems on that front.
Coulson pressed another affectionate kiss to his daughter's forehead. "I know it does seem hopeless, but give him time." He stroked her hair gently a moment or two and then started eating as well. "I love you," he said, his voice quiet and sincere.
Bobbi looked up at him, blinking back tears. "I still don't quite understand how you can love and forgive me like you did, daddy...." she admitted. "I'm just so grateful you have... I love you so much!" She sniffled, looking down at her plate, and had to take a deep breath before she could continue eating.
Coulson smiled at his daughter. "You're my daughter and I realized I loved you when we were on the camping trip. Forgiving you is easy."
Bobbi gave him a trembling smile back, close to crying again; although this time, it was with a bit more happiness on her face. "I like being yours...wish I'd become yours sooner. Maybe you coulda stopped me from being an idiot." Her nose wrinkled up in irritation at herself and she continued eating.
"You aren't an idiot, Bobbi," Coulson said softly. "I know you thought you were doing the right thing and I know how much it hurt you to face having to tell us the truth." He'd seen the pain every moment and all it had done was make him fight harder for her. "I'm glad you finally gave in to the inevitable," he said, gently teasing, even though he meant every word.
Bobbi giggled. "I'm stubborn. I'm the first to admit it... but I think I met the immovable force in you, daddy. Inevitable is right... I just have to remember that, if I ever even think about trying to keep something from you that I need to tell you. Not that I ever plan to do that again, because I don't...!" She glanced at him and bit her lip. She had every intention of never hiding anything or being dishonest with her father ever again.
Coulson smiled, gently and lovingly. "I know, sweetie. I trust you. And I love you." And it was as simple as that.
Bobbi's smile was a lot more relaxed this time. Reaching across, she took her father's hand and squeezed it gently, then went back to eating her dinner.
Grant had watched his father leave with the plates, then glanced around the table at the assembled members of his family. Mack was looking at the door with a hint of worry in his eyes, but he didn't get up. When the other man looked in his direction, he mouthed, "Dad's got her," in an effort to calm his friend. It apparently worked, since Mack relaxed noticeably and went back to talking to Loki while he ate his dinner. Grant glanced at Lance, worried about his cousin. Bobbi and Mack's confession had floored all of them, but Lance the most of all. They'd been hiding things from him for a longer period of time, after all. Grant wished he knew what he could say to the other man that might help him, but he had to admit, he understood Bobbi's actions all too well, having done similar himself, so it was hard to know what to say that wouldn't be colored by his empathy with Bobbi. Looking back down at his plate, Grant continued to eat.
Jemma watched everyone and everything that was going on and fidgeted nervously. It was obvious there was a bit of stress between Lance, Bobbi and Mack... and just as obvious that Bobbi was not handling said stress well. Lance either, if his running off earlier was any indication. Without even realizing it, she scooted closer to Bruce, who wrapped an arm around her shoulders without even pausing in his eating.
Lance was subdued, though he glanced up with some worry when Coulson retrieved the plates... also catching Grant's mouthed comment to Mack. He was relieved that Bobbi was with her dad... Lance himself knew that he felt better around his father and he shifted closer to Bucky; not quite leaning into him, but close enough.
Bucky gave his son a tiny smile, understanding without having to be told that his boy was still feeling unsettled. He shifted his chair so that he was closer to Lance and where his leg would be touching his son's leg. "Make sure you eat enough, boy..." he said gruffly, with a hint of teasing in his tone.
Lance relaxed visibly with his father moving into contact with him and began eating. He wasn't really hungry, but forced himself to eat, since he knew that would be expected of him.
Tony felt the undercurrents in the room and sighed, moving closer to his own father and putting his head on Steve's shoulder. "I miss Pepper."
Steve wrapped his arm around Tony's shoulders and kissed his forehead. "She'll be home soon. And then we can celebrate." Though he wasn't sure going out for a meal was the best idea... but the next best thing would be to make sure they ordered in her favourite food. Steve didn't say it, but he missed her probably as much as Tony. It didn't feel right not to have one of his children close.
"She likes that Sushi place three blocks from here...maybe we can get them to deliver?" Tony wasn't even going to suggest going out. Not until things had settled and they were positive they wouldn't be under attack the minute they stepped out.
Trip was listening in and nodded. "That place is good. Pepper has good taste..."
Steve nodded. "That sounds like a good idea," he agreed. "And then, later, we could perhaps watch a movie together... or play a game." He didn't really mind. He just wanted the time with his son and daughter.
"Be prepared for a RomCom...." Tony grinned brightly. It didn't take long for Tony to finish his dinner. He sat quietly next to his father, watching the rest of his family...happy that everyone was safe and sound.
Steve finished his own food and kept his arm wrapped around Tony's shoulders. He was more relaxed than he had been, though he knew they couldn't relax their guard completely. He'd feel better to have Pepper with him as well.
Lance managed to force himself to finish what was on his plate and then stood quietly, taking both his and his father's plates and utensils to clean them.
Bucky watched his son for a second, waiting for him to finish so they could go to their room together.
Mack finished eating soon after and stood to take his and his brother's plates to clean as well. He stood next to Lance quietly.
Lance glanced sideways at Mack, but didn't say anything. He wasn't angry anymore. Not really. He was still hurt... but he knew why Mack and Bobbi had lied. It didn't make it much easier, but at least logic was slowly prevailing.
"If you're expecting me to apologize for lying and hiding things, you'll be waiting a while," Mack said companionably. "I am sorry that my actions hurt you- I had hoped to avoid that- but the other....I did to protect you...to protect my little brother...I will never apologize for that...even if I did end up being wrong about everything else." Mack's voice was calm and matter of fact. While he'd be happiest if Lance could forgive him, he was fine with Lance understanding. He was realistic, pragmatic. He wouldn't stress over something he couldn't control.
Lance was quiet for a few moments before he started speaking. "I know why you did it... why you both did it. But before we joined the family here, it was the three of us. You were both the only family I had then. I know you wanted to protect me, but you shouldn't have lied. I know I don't have a whole lot of experience with family, but Bobbi and I were always honest with each other while we were married. And it should have been the same when we were a team." He gave a slight sigh. "I...need a bit of time." He wasn't sure how to explain that being lied to for so long had shaken his faith in his family.
Mack nodded. "Fair enough. And for what it is worth, while I won't apologize for what I did because my intentions were to protect you....I do regret that it has damaged your trust in Bobbi and myself. I can only hope it isn't irrevocably damaged. But I can give you time. You know where to find me." Mack gave a tiny smile as he finished washing, reached up to pat Lance on the back and then left to go back to his brothers.
Lance sighed quietly as he finished cleaning up. If he was honest with himself, part of the reason he felt so miserable was because he wanted to be able to trust in them again. He cared deeply for both of them and no matter how much the lying had hurt, he hadn't stopped.
Grant walked in quietly with his own dishes. "You ok?" he asked softly. Yes, he was worried about his baby sister...but he was worried about his cousin as well.
Lance glanced up at Grant and tried to smile at him, though he knew it wasn't a very good attempt. "I'm not sure I am... but I'm trying to get there," he admitted.
"Wish I had something to say that would make you feel better," Grant admitted quietly. "Unfortunately, I've had more experience being the liar than the lied to..." He grimaced, his eyes darkening with shame. "Sometimes I still can't believe my father trusts me after everything I did...." He sighed unhappily.
Lance focused on Grant. "It... kind of seems like his trust in you is well-placed," he said. "I didn't know you before, but I think it's obvious everyone here would trust you at their side."
"It took a few lessons, but he finally taught me..." Grant's look this time was sheepish. "In the beginning, though, it was hard. I kept hiding things...I always had a 'good' reason, or thought I did, but hiding things is as bad as outright lying...and it took a while to break the habit. I'm not sure he'll ever fully realize how grateful I am he didn't give up on me...chose to trust me when all evidence and my own behavior indicated he shouldn't." Grant hunched a little.
Lance was silent for a few moments, thinking that through. "I don't know if it makes it harder or easier that they were trying to protect me... that they had good reasons," he admitted. He sighed, raking a hand through his hair, knowing that he didn't want this to cost him Bobbi or Mack.
Grant nodded. "Maybe it's harder...because you feel like you shouldn't be as upset with them as you are and it makes you feel guilty. I dunno. Like I said. I was the one lying.... But maybe my dad could help you. Even though he had every reason never to trust me again and be furious...he chose to give me his trust...even when I abused it." Grant gave a crooked smile. "If nothing else, you'll have someone who's been there to commiserate with..."
Lance nodded slowly. "I guess." He smiled and it was a slightly better attempt this time. "But maybe your dad felt the same way I think I'm starting to... that no matter how much it hurts, the thought of losing them is so much more painful."
Grant slanted his head, his own smile growing a little. "I never thought of that...knowing my dad, you're probably right." He chuckled slightly. "Here I was trying to make you feel better and instead, you make me feel better about something I didn't even know was still bothering me." He shook his head. "Sorry...."
"You don't have to apologize," Lance said. "I mean... you're my cousin. It's nice to be able to help you." His third smile seemed a bit more like a real smile this time. "It's kind of obvious how much your dad loves you and your siblings."
"Yeah." Grant blushed a little bit and couldn't help teasing a little. "I don't think he has the monopoly on that, though....It's pretty clear your dad feels the same way about you...." Bumping shoulders with Lance gently, he laughed. "If you'd told me two years ago I'd be where I am now...I would have thought you were nuts. Now it feels like I don't belong anywhere else.... I'm glad you're here too." He looked at Lance from the side of his eye.
Lance snorted softly. "I'm glad to be here too," he admitted. "I only had Mack and Bobbi before... now I've got a big family. Plus a dad who's not going to just let me take off when I'm in an emotional upheaval."
Grant chuckled. "At least you only went to a bar a few blocks away... When I did my runner, I did all kinds of questionable, if not illegal, things to avoid being found; and ended up getting caught by Fury when I was hitchhiking a few hours out of the city...." Grant's voice was a mixture of embarrassment and shame, his face turning bright red as he thought of that day.
"Why did you run?" Lance asked curiously. Bucky had mentioned that most people in the tower had gone through similar... but Grant was so obviously attached to his father, Lance had to wonder what had made his cousin take off.
Grant's blush turned even more dark if possible. "Er...don't laugh..." He glanced at Lance with a sheepish smile. "But I found out my dad was actually my dad... I mean, he'd adopted me...but then we found out that he was my biological father. I'd been taken when a baby and he'd thought I was dead and it was a big mess. I was so confused at finding out that I just panicked. Not my best moment and considering how many bad moments I've had...."
"Wow," Lance said quietly, laughing being the furthest thing from his mind. "Your past isn't exactly a secret. I don't know all of the gory details, but considering what I do know... it makes sense that finding that out would be hard."
The look Grant gave his cousin was grateful. "Yeah. Dad was very understanding about it. Didn't mean he didn't make it difficult to sit... and I was pretty much grounded for I don't remember how long; that part didn't really bother me much, since it meant staying where dad could see me, but he was really patient and we worked through my issues...." Grant frowned slightly. "I had a lot of issues. Probably still do; just haven't found them yet." His laugh was self-mocking, but still happy. "Anyway. I'm glad you're here. And even though I know you're sad about what happened... I'm glad you got brought back. I'd miss you." Grant reached up and squeezed Lance's shoulder.
"I wouldn't have stayed away," Lance admitted. "I thought I needed some space." He shook his head, a note of self-deprecation creeping into his tone. "By the time I realized I wanted to be here... well, it would have felt like I was creeping back with my tail between my legs." He hesitated and then asked, quietly, "Would you tell Bobbi I'd like to try talking to her again tomorrow? I think I need space this evening, but I don't hate her and I didn't get a chance to tell her that..."
"Yeah...I'll let her know." Grant gave Lance an understanding smile. "To be honest...I'd kinda thought she'd be the one we'd have to be searching for tonight.... Huh. I know the feeling of needing space. Next time, let your dad know that's what you need.... I get the idea he'd happily take you off somewhere where you don't have to see anyone else till you feel like; and it'd be safer." Grant snorted. "Listen to me, giving advice about being safe...Don't tell my dad...." He gave his cousin an impish grin.
Lance actually laughed... and then realized he must be feeling better if he was able to laugh about it. "Yeah... I plan to do that. Not just because of the safe thing, though. I realized how much it hurt my dad that I just took off... and I'm gonna try really hard not to do that again."
"I hear that!" Grant said enthusiastically. He felt much the same about doing things that he knew would hurt his father.
At that moment, Brock came wandering in with a stack full of dishes and cutlery. "I told everyone else I'd take care of their dishes so they could go hang out or sleep. Your dad hasn't moved an inch since you came in here..." He glanced at Lance. "If I didn't know better, I'd think he'd fallen asleep with his eyes open."
Lance nodded to Brock. "I'll go back through to him." He felt better... but could really use the evening with his dad. He smiled at Grant. "Thanks," he said softly, before heading back through to the dining area.
Grant nodded at Lance, then turned to help Brock with the stack of dishes he had.
Bucky glanced toward the door when his son came back in. "Hey, kid..." he drawled, quickly checking over his boy to make certain he was okay.
Lance smiled, looking a bit more at peace than he had been before heading through to the kitchen, and stepped over to his dad. "Sorry I was gone for so long."
"No need to apologize. You look happier...washing dishes must be good for you," Bucky teased lightly, reaching up and tapping his son gently on the chin with his hand. "You ready to go to our floor? I think everyone has decided tonight is a 'small group' night."
Trip, sitting next to Fury and waiting for Brock to get back, nodded. "Yeah. Think we all need the peace and time to regroup. Right, dad?" He peered at Fury through half-closed eyes.
Lance nodded. "Yeah..." He shifted closer to his dad, kind of wanting to hug him, but a bit embarrassed about doing so in front of everyone; even if they were in the same kind of family he was.
Fury squeezed Trip's arm gently. "Right," he agreed. "We've had a long few days."
Bucky, wanting to hug his kid and not caring in the least if anyone in the family saw him, reached out and tugged Lance to him before wrapping an arm tightly around his waist and hugging. "I won't argue with that..." he said to Fury, giving his brother a crooked smile.
Clint, sitting with Natasha at the other end of the table, snorted. "I'd agree with it too... and would like to go to our floor now, but Grant seems to be taking forever washing his one lone dish!" he said, loudly enough for it to carry into the kitchen.
"Grant is helping his cousin wash all of your dishes..." Grant's voice carried back in a sing-song tone.
"Huh. Guess I'll go help them, then...." Clint muttered before standing and meandering into the kitchen to get Brock and Grant moving quicker.
When they'd finished eating, Coulson collected his and Bobbi's plates and utensils, taking them to clean, before he returned to his youngest. "When your siblings get here, perhaps we could play some cards before bed," he suggested, knowing how much Grant enjoyed playing cards and how those games had become a bonding experience for all of them.
"I'd like that daddy..." Bobbi answered. She was much calmer than she had been, her father's love and concern calming her considerably.
Finally, the elevator pinged and she glanced toward the entrance to their apartment...waiting for her siblings to walk through the front door.
Coulson stood with his arm wrapped around Bobbi's shoulders, smiling as his three other children stepped out of the elevator.
Natasha headed over to give her father and baby sister a one-armed hug, holding a bowl in her other hand. "We brought dessert."
"Oh?" Bobbi peered into the bowl curiously.
Grant went to stand next to his sister, leaning over and kissing her on the cheek. "Lance wants to try talking again tomorrow..." he said softly. "He just needed space to think today...but he doesn't hate you. He's afraid you think he does."
Bobbi bit her lip, glancing from her brother to her father and back. "Ok..." she said in a whisper. "Tonight we'll eat dessert and play games..." Her smile was hopeful.
Coulson smiled reassuringly at Bobbi. "That's a good sign, isn't it?" he asked softly.
"Clint... help me dish this up?" Natasha didn't wait for a response, grabbing her brother's sleeve and guiding him through to the kitchen.
"I hope so..." Bobbi said hesitantly, not wanting to assume anything and find out she was wrong.
Coulson pressed a kiss to her forehead and then wrapped an arm around each of his youngests' shoulders. "Why don't we go and start setting up to play a game?" he suggested.
"Ok daddy." Bobbi snuggled close then went into the kitchen where Clint and Natasha were, figuring they could play at the kitchen table.
Grant smiled at his father. "I think maybe we'll all be ok..." he said softly.
Lance had woken up much happier and calmer the next morning. His comment to Grant the night before had cemented in his mind and he knew he wanted to talk to Bobbi before there was the risk of things growing worse between them.
After letting his father know where he was going, Lance showered and dressed and then entered the elevator. "JARVIS? Could you tell me where Bobbi is, please?"
"She is hiding in her apartment with her father. She believes you are on the common floor with everyone else having breakfast and did not wish to cause you discomfort." The AI's tone was indecipherable, as if it actually might feel some exasperation or perhaps confusion at the current behavior of two of the family members and didn't know what to say.
"Thanks." Lance took the elevator to Coulson's floor, going to seek out Bobbi.
Bobbi had got up and taken a shower and got dressed, but she hadn't done much else. She'd thought about going to train with some of the others, but then was worried that if Lance was there, it would just be awkward. She knew she couldn't face breakfast. Not if Lance didn't want her there. She felt so guilty. She'd had time to think even further on her actions; and while her father and the rest of the family had forgiven her (and she still didn't fully understand how they could), the issue between her and Lance was even more personal. She'd been lying to him longest of all and their relationship had been such that... well, she understood now why he was so upset and she was positive, despite Grant's words the night before, that Lance would never be able to forgive her. She bit her lip and looked at her father a bit sadly. "You don't need to babysit me, daddy...you shouldn't have to isolate yourself from everyone else because I was..." She sighed and didn't finish the sentence. She wouldn't call herself an idiot again, even if she felt like one; she got the impression that upset her father as much as her being sad did and she didn't want to hurt him any further either.
Coulson wrapped his arm around Bobbi's shoulders and kissed her forehead. "I'm not babysitting you, Bobbi. I know you're upset and I want to be with you." He glanced up as he heard footsteps and Lance appeared in the doorway of the living room.
"Sir..." Lance nodded to Coulson then looked at Bobbi, his eyes soft. "I'd like to talk to you... this time without me taking off."
Bobbi swallowed. She tried to look calm and collected, not wanting her own emotions to cloud things, but everything she was feeling was too close to the surface and she and Lance had always been honest with each other; at least until she'd lied about Gonzales. She couldn't hide the hope in her eyes- or the guilt, regret and fear. "I...ok..." she finally whispered hesitantly not feeling confident at all. Last time, she'd tried to explain and apologize. This time, she'd let him take the lead in the conversation.
Coulson squeezed Bobbi gently to him and then kissed her cheek. "I won't be far if you need me," he said softly, feeling it was better to give his daughter some privacy... even if he did make sure he was close enough in case something happened.
Lance walked over to sit down next to Bobbi. He looked more at peace than he had been and gently leaned his shoulder against hers. "I don't hate you, Bobbi." He wanted to start with that, aware of how much it had hurt her when he'd taken off.
Bobbi looked down and withdrew into herself, even as her body followed her first inclination to press closer to Lance. "I wouldn't blame you if you did..." she whispered sadly, "…I ruined everything."
Lance shook his head, placing his hand on her shoulder. "I can't say I wasn't hurt by what happened," he said quietly. "But if I wasn't willing to forgive you, I'd end up losing you... and that would hurt a lot worse."
Bobbi glanced up, unable to hide the hope in her eyes or the guilty regret she felt. "I'm sorry.... I didn't think...I didn't let myself think about what my lying would do to everyone. I talked myself into thinking it didn't matter as long as I was keeping you safe, but I was wrong and I know it and I'm so sorry...."
Lance responded by wrapping his arms around Bobbi in a tight hug. The previous day, he'd been so lost in his own pain, he'd managed to successfully ignore Bobbi's... he couldn't do that again. "I know. And I forgive you. I still care about you, you know."
Bobbi couldn't help but start to cry quietly at Lance's words. "I love you....I was so scared you would hate me for what I did..." she admitted tearfully and wrapped her arms around Lance in a tight hug.
Lance just tightened his embrace. "There's nothing that could make me hate you," he promised. "But I reserve the right to tattle to your dad if you lie to me again." A slightly teasing note crept into his voice.
Bobbi blinked. "Well, I'd deserve whatever I got if I did lie again," Bobbi said softly, not letting go of Lance. "Thank you for not giving up on me."
"Well, you're a part of my family," Lance said honestly. "I'm not going to give up on you. Not ever."
Bobbi finally pulled back and gave Lance a crooked smile. "I'll never give up on you either..."
Lance smiled at her. "Did you eat yet? I think everyone's finishing up, but I'm sure they'll save some."
Bobbi shook her head. "Not yet...did you?" She glanced toward where her father disappeared thinking he probably hadn't eaten either.
Lance shook his head. "You want to head down? We can nab your dad on the way..."
"Yeah, I think that would be good..." Bobbi smiled again.
Lance grinned and wrapped his arm around Bobbi's shoulders as he stood up. He headed out of the living room, catching Coulson's attention and waving at the older man. "Coming down to breakfast with us, sir?"
Coulson smiled as he noticed the much happier looks on his daughter's and nephew's face. "Yes. I think I will," he said simply, clearly happy that things between them were being repaired.