Author’s Note: This was written as a RPG (roll playing game) between co-authors Hope1iz and BlackFox12. Set after the season one finale. Thirty-nineth in the Redeeming Grant series.
Disclaimer: We don't own anything that belongs to MARVEL and we're not making any money from this fic
Summary: When information is too hard to handle, so is staying in one place.
Warning(s): Spanking; spoilers for Agents of SHIELD Seasons one and two; spoilers for all Avengers movies to date; spoilers for DareDevil season one.
Co-Author’s Website: BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page
It had been about a month since Sam had made the decision to move into the tower. He'd gently encouraged Matt to do the same and the other man had finally given in, knowing how much his friends worried.
They'd finished moving the last of Matt's things... not that it had taken long... and Sam now looked at Matt. "What do you want to do about lunch?"
"I...don't know." Matt's voice was uncertain. Now that he officially lived at the tower with Sam, he suddenly realized his days of sneaking out without anyone knowing, were at an end. He'd not really had a choice, though.
"We can eat out somewhere... or order something in. Maybe see if any of the others are free, if you'd like to have company," Sam suggested.
"I think...maybe we can make soup and sandwiches...I need to familiarize myself with the kitchen, among other areas of the apartment...although as often as I've been here, that shouldn't take too long..." Matt couldn't help but smile.
"Sounds good," Sam agreed. He started towards the kitchen. "You shouldn't have many problems finding things... but if you think anything should be moved, we can do that."
"Yeah...ok. I probably should call Foggy and let him know I'm completely moved now and he can let it be known that I moved out of the old apartment because of all the unwanted guests I kept getting...." He smirked. He'd had to move when some of the more nefarious individuals he'd dealt with as a vigilante had followed him home one night. Afraid that they would assume it was him (which would have been a very valid assumption) and that they would then target Karen and Foggy...he'd passed around a story about the vigilante breaking into his apartment. He'd then indicated that he was worried about being caught in the cross-fire between said vigilante and whoever he was fighting and had decided to move. All that remained was to have 'the vigilante' break into said apartment now that Matt was no longer living there to firm up the story.
Sighing, he looked toward Sam. "Thanks again...for letting me move in with you." His voice was soft. "I know it's my own fault...I wasn't careful enough and they followed me...and I know I wasn't meant to be going out alone anymore, so... yeah. I owe you for bailing me out..." He cleared his throat. If Sam was going to lecture him, now would be the perfect time for him to do so.
Sam clasped Matt's shoulder briefly. "I'll always come and bail you out, kid. You don't ever have to worry about having to call me for help." He paused. "But you're right... you shouldn't have been going out on your own. When it's that important... you need to let someone have your back. So you don't get hurt. Or worse."
Matt nodded. "To be honest...when I had to call you and tell you they'd followed me home and what I had to do to make sure they didn't target Foggy or Karen...I thought for sure you'd be reading me the riot act. I know I'd deserve it..." He sighed.
"This isn't about trying to control you, Matt," Sam said seriously. "I know what you do is important... but doing it alone is just going to get you hurt. Your safety is important. And you know that... if not for your own sake, then for the sake of the people who care about you."
"Yeah..." Matt gave a crooked grin. "I try to remember that. Sometimes I remember better than others..." He sighed softly again as he carefully got out a pot to make the soup in. Moving over to the pantry, he reached in and pulled out a can. "Is this the soup?" he asked curiously.
"It is," Sam confirmed. "I can grab the bread and butter us some slices," he offered. "Maybe we can braille the cans and other things."
"Yeah. That or make sure everything in the pantry goes in the same location every time...but then I still wouldn't be able to tell what kind of soup it is." Matt laughed.
"We'll figure something out," Sam said. "Just in case you're on your own and want to get some food."
Matt nodded. "Thanks again, Sam...for...you know...caring and all. For a long time, I could count on one finger the amount of people that would care...now. It's a bit overwhelming sometimes..." he admitted.
Sam smiled and squeezed Matt's arm gently. "I want to keep you around, kid. I meant what I said when I told you you're part of my family."
"Good and bad..." Matt teased. "Hopefully mostly good."
Sam released him after one last squeeze. "I'll take the bad with the good," he commented, as he began to butter slices of bread.
Matt couldn't help the huge smile on his face. He quietly stirred the coup and just relaxed with his friend.
Bobbi had done a little more research during the last month, but her results always came back the same, with very little new information. She was responsible for what had happened to her cousin. She was the reason Kara had been captured by HYDRA and eventually brainwashed. The knowledge made her feel sick inside. She wanted to apologize to the other woman...to try and make things right...but that would require admitting what she had been responsible for. So she shoved the guilt she felt down deep and tried to act normal...like nothing was wrong.
She wandered into the kitchen and grabbed herself a bottle of water. She knew she should eat something, but the thought of eating just made her feel sick.
Coulson was just leaving his office, planning to ask his children if they wanted to have lunch together. As he wandered into the kitchen, he spotted his youngest and stepped over to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "Hey," he said softly, looking over her carefully as his 'dad-radar' told him Bobbi wasn't looking too good.
Bobbi jerked, having been so lost in thought she hadn't noticed her father arriving, let alone moving over to her. "Oh... hi, daddy." Her smile was genuine, if a bit forced.
"Is something wrong?" Coulson brought his other arm around his daughter so he could give her a tight hug, concern and worry lacing his tone and obvious on his face.
Bobbi wrapped her arms around her father and held on tightly. "It's nothing you can do anything about, daddy..." she hedged. "...But thanks...."
Coulson frowned, pressing a kiss to his daughter's forehead. "Are you sure?" he asked softly. "Even if you just talk about what's bothering you... you know sometimes having a friendly ear can help."
Bobbi felt a strong compulsion to just admit the whole sordid mess to her father, but couldn't bear the thought that he'd look at her with disappointment. "I'm sure, daddy..." she finally said softly, "...But thanks."
Coulson kissed her head again. "I'm here for you, sweetie. Always," he said, his voice soft and sincere.
Bobbi swallowed hard, her father's words of support making her tears. "I know, daddy...I love you so much!" She held onto him tighter, just snuggling.
Grant wandered in at that moment. "Hey, runt!" he teased his duster. "Dad..." He smiled as he got out a pot and filled it with water. "Is spaghetti alright for lunch?" he asked them both.
Bobbi gave a reluctant look. "I'm not really that hungry..." she said softly. As usual, guilt made her lose her appetite.
Coulson nodded to Grant, but eyed Bobbi with obvious worry. "I'd like you to try and eat something." His voice was gentle, but still firm. Skipping out on meals wasn't going to help his daughter.
Bobbi just nodded. She'd known the minute she realized her father was in the kitchen that she'd be expected to eat something. Skipping meals was one of the frowned upon things in the family, so she knew that anything short of throwing up non-stop would not be a viable excuse not to eat. "Yes, daddy," she acquiesced.
"I can just add a little butter to your noodles if you don't want sauce..." Grant eyed his sister in worry.
Coulson slid his arm around Bobbi's waist, drawing her in close and pressing a kiss to her head before he addressed Veronica. "Veronica? Would you send a message to my other children and grandchildren and ask if they'd like to join us for lunch?"
"Of course, sir..." the AI quickly responded.
It didn't take long at all for Clint to show up. "Hey, dad...." He smiled at Bobbi. "...Princess....Brat..." He finally grinned at Grant with a teasing look.
Grant just rolled his eyes, but he was grinning too. "Pasta should be done in five minutes..." he said to the room at large.
Natasha came into the kitchen a couple of minutes later, her niece and nephew following her.
Wanda walked over to her father and leaned against him.
"Where are we eating?" Pietro automatically went to get plates and cutlery for them, pausing long enough for Coulson to respond that the dining room was best, and then carried the items there.
Natasha went to get glasses and drinks for them all.
Clint wrapped his arm around Wanda, squeezing gently. "Smells good..." he said to Grant, before leading his daughter out to the dining room.
Bobbi smiled crookedly as she took in her family's presence...feeling a little better at witnessing all the affection. It didn't erase her guilt, but it allowed her to focus on something else for a bit.
Grant finished cooking the pasta, plating it on a serving platter then putting the sauce in a bowl with a ladle before putting both on a tray, along with some garlic bread he'd toasted and a salad that he'd made and stored in the fridge. He carried everything out to the table.
Coulson still had his arm wrapped around Bobbi's waist and he guided his youngest daughter through to the dining room, sitting her down on one of the chairs and then sitting next to her.
Wanda leaned into her father as they walked, but took a seat next to him without a word. Pietro sat down on the other side of his sister.
Natasha sat down next to Pietro, putting herself on the other side of Bobbi.
Grant took the remaining chair next to their father after placing all the platters of food on the table. "Bon Appetite!" he said with a teasing grin.
Bobbi's smile was wan as she watched everyone else spoon food onto their plates. She didn't put anything onto her own plate, though...she knew she was expected to eat, but found herself being stubborn about actually serving herself something. She wasn't sure why.
Coulson didn't miss that his youngest didn't put any food on her plate. Giving her an encouraging smile, he did it for her then kissed her cheek before smiling affectionately at Grant. "It looks really good," he praised softly, reaching to take some of his own food... though he kept a careful watch on Bobbi, clearly worried and concerned.
"Thank you, daddy..." she whispered and forced herself to begin eating, her stubbornness not so strong as to carry over into refusing what was on her plate.
Grant smiled at his father, even as he darted his baby sister a worried look.
Coulson rubbed Bobbi's arm gently, the look on his face loving along with the concern. He recognised the worried look on Grant's face and rubbed his son's arm as well, trying to reassure both of his youngest.
Clint, noting the tenseness of his younger siblings and father, attempted to start conversation. "So...anyone up for that new Bond film that's coming out?"
Natasha swallowed her mouthful of food and raised her hand. "I am."
Wanda looked interested. "I'd like to go."
Pietro snorted softly, but didn't comment on his sister's need to spend time with their father... it wasn't like he didn't feel the same when he allowed himself to. "Yeah... me too." He shrugged.
"I could be persuaded..." Grant nodded. "Dad? Bobbi?"
Bobbi shook her head briefly, but managed a smile. "I promised Kara that I'd go clubbing with her...But maybe some other time." She smiled again, hoping no one would question those plans further.
"I'll join you all." Coulson smiled, though his eyes rested worriedly on Bobbi a moment or two. There was no reason to think she was lying... yet he couldn't let go of the sense she was hiding something.
Clint nodded. "Great! If you and Kara decide you'd rather see a movie, we'd love to have you come..." he said to Bobbi, not wanting to push.
Bobbi nodded. "Ok..."
Coulson smiled lovingly at his daughter, but didn't say anything as he ate. While he wanted to know what was troubling Bobbi so much, he wasn't going to push his youngest daughter yet. He just hoped she'd know she could talk to him any time she needed to.
Steve returned to the tower a little later than he'd planned, but he still hoped he'd be able to eat with at least some of his family members. He parked his motorbike in the garage and then took the elevator to his floor.
Tony glanced up as he heard the front door to their apartment open. The whole family was sat in the family room talking quietly, waiting for the 'head' of the family to get home so they could all eat together. It was later than they normally ate, but not unreasonably so and Tony was happy to see Steve had made it home before the time Bruce had set when they'd all go ahead and eat without their father. "Hey dad, we waited for you...everything is ready if you are though..." he called out onto the foyer, as the entire family stood to head into the dining room.
Bruce smiled. "Just sit down, sir and we'll bring everything out."
Jenna whispered not so softly, "it's nothing fancy, grandpa. We kept it simple cuz dad was teaching Uncle Tony how to cook...." Her grin was infectious.
Steve smiled and stepped through to the dining room, taking a seat. "I'm sure it's good anyway," he said warmly. Being around his children and grandchildren was always good for when he had to deal with difficult people... and today was no exception.
Leo had already made sure the table was laid, but he stepped into the kitchen to help bring the last few items through.
"Of course it's good!" Tony boasted with a grand bravado- not quite masking the nervousness he felt that it actually taste good and not make his family sick. There was a reason he normally 'ordered in' when it was his turn to get the meals ready.
Pepper smiled at her fiancé and kissed him on the cheek before taking her normal seat at the table. "Of course!" she agreed with him firmly and fondly, pulling him down into the seat next to her.
Bruce took his seat across from Tony, waiting just long enough for Jemma and Leo to sit down on either side of him.
Soon they were all set around the table looking expectantly at Steve.
Steve smiled round the table at them all. "Thank you for waiting for me," he said, simply and sincerely. It was a small thing to eat with his family, but it was something he preferred to do when he could. "It does look good, Tony... and I'm sure it tastes just as good, too." His voice was warm, affection and love clear in his tone and on his face.
"Of course we'd wait for you grandpa..." Jemma smiled. "It wouldn't be a family meal without you...."
Tony smiled around the table at everyone waiting until everyone had a bite of food in their mouth or a sip of their drinks before he gave a wink to Pepper. At her own wink back, he said offhandedly... "So what would you all think about a baby moving in with us?"
Leo blinked, caught off guard... though he was thankfully able to swallow his mouthful of drink, rather than cough it out. "So me and Jemma would have a cousin to spoil?" He smiled.
Steve wasn't as taken off guard by the question... mainly because he knew it was a probability for his son and daughter to get to that stage. "I think an extra addition to the family is always good," he said with his own smile.
Jemma grinned at Leo. "I like that idea...a cousin to spoil...."
Bruce gave his own enigmatic smile. "Whatever happens, you know the kid would be loved..." was all he had to say.
Tony nodded. "That's good to know.... Pep and I were discussing it and we got off on a tangent on if we'd need to move into our own apartment if it ever occurred; I mean, a baby is a big change and all and if we didn't move into our own apartment, you'd all be going through it with us... we just thought it might be good to find out what everyone thought before it actually ever became an issue." His smile was a bit dopey as he was looking at Pepper. Her smile wasn't much less dopey, though. It was apparent that the discussion had been fairly serious.
Pepper blinked then shook her head before giving a sheepish look around the table. "Of course, we really need to have the wedding before anything else... horse before cart and all...I don't want any of those gossip rags to have anything that they can comment about when it comes to our child. Tony and I are adults and can handle their nastiness. A child shouldn't have to handle it...." She sighed.
Tony nodded, his own smile sheepish. "Yeah...the more I think about it, the more I think I'd rather just do a small wedding with our family and closest friends.... The thought of inviting some of those busybodies that constantly harass you and accuse you of nonsense because they don't like that I chose you to run my company instead of one of them..." He wrinkled his nose.
Pepper let out her breath in a whoosh. "I am so glad you said that! I've been trying to figure out a way to ask if we can just elope without having it sound odd... but if we could go to the island again; just bring all the family this time...and my parents...and Happy, Rhodey, Jane... well, you get the idea...." She stopped and looked around, realizing everyone was staring. "...Um. Sorry. We can talk about it more later...."
Steve smiled warmly at his daughter. "There's nothing wrong with talking about it now," he said. "Everyone here will be happy however you two want to do it... I hope you both know that."
Pepper was glowing as she nodded. "I know..." Her grin turned a bit more bashful. "You all are my family...."
"So...what do you think of Thanksgiving? Or near then? Too soon?" Tony slanted his head and smiled at Pepper.
"I like it...." Pepper nodded then glanced at the rest of the family. "I...I think we just set a date!" She laughed happily.
"I think Thanksgiving is an excellent time," Steve commented. He gently hugged both Pepper and Tony, happy that things had settled down enough that they could start realistically looking at actually getting married and have it happen soon.
"Thanks, daddy..." Pepper murmured into his shoulder, hugging him tightly. "Do you think you could be the one to marry us?" That was something she and Tony had talked about as well...she wanted her father to walk her down the aisle...but Steve was her parent now, too, and she wanted him to have a part. So did Tony. If he was willing....
Steve smiled, gently stroking Pepper's hair. "I'd like that very much," he whispered softly to her. It meant a lot that they wanted him to have such an important part in the ceremony.
Tony's smile lit up the room. "Great! I think I'd like to celebrate..." He pulled a bottle of chilled champagne out of a bucket of ice he'd hidden behind the toaster while Bruce went and found some glasses. Soon, they all had s glass in hand. Looking around at everyone, Tony cleared his throat then held his glass up. "To family...."
Steve lifted his own glass, joining in with the toast.
Leo did the same, smiling round at the family members and happy that things had finally quietened down enough for this.
Kara got the last of the meal she'd made completed and looked up at the ceiling (despite knowing the AI wasn't located in the ceiling). "Veronica, could you please let my father and brothers know lunch is ready...." She smiled as the AI quickly did so.
Fury was just finishing off some paperwork when the AI addressed him and he came out of the office and walked to Kara, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "It smells good," he commented.
"I hope it is..." Kara grinned uncertainly. "I followed a recipe that sounded like everyone would like it."
Trip came in, sniffing loudly. "It smells wonderful!"
"Yeah...it really does. And I'm starving. Thanks, sis..." Brock smiled.
Fury gave his daughter a reassuring squeeze and then moved to collect glasses and drinks for all of them. "Where would you like to eat?" he asked his children.
"We can eat in the kitchen..." Kara smiled as she began to bring the food to the table.
Trip quickly retrieved plates, while Brock gathered silverware.
Fury set out the glasses, having poured them all out drinks, and took his seat at the table. "Do any of you have plans later?" he asked.
Kara grinned. "Bobbi and I were going to go out clubbing!" She couldn't hide her excitement at the idea. It had been a long time since she'd gone out and done anything that could be considered remotely a girl's night out and she genuinely enjoyed being with her cousin.
Trip grinned at his baby sister's enthusiasm then shook his head. "I hadn't made any plans yet, dad. Although I wouldn't be against going to a movie if you and Brock are interested...."
"I wouldn't mind doing that..." Brock said agreeably.
Fury couldn't help his own smile at his daughter's obvious enthusiasm, before glancing at his sons. "I'm all but finished with the paperwork, so it'll be good to watch a movie with you both... and perhaps do something involving all four of us in the next few days."
"I'd like that, daddy..." Kara said happily.
After finally accepting her place in the family, Kara had become very attached to her father. Trip might have teased her for being a 'daddy's girl' if he hadn't been so relieved and happy that she wasn't fighting them any longer. And he had to admit, he found it rather endearing (even if he knew that his gruff father had a soft spot for his family, he didn't often show it in soft or sentimental ways, but Kara was working on him).
Fury smiled at Kara, including his sons in that, and began eating. "It's as good as it smells and looks," he told his daughter, after swallowing his mouthful.
"Thank you!" Kara's smile grew larger, if that was possible. She smiled even more when Trip took a bite and readily agreed with his father, as did Brock. Today was a good day.
It turned out that quite a few of the family from the tower were interested in seeing a movie, so a phone call was made to book a movie theater and it wasn't long before various family members were piling into vehicles to leave the tower, while the ones who weren't going proceeded with the plans they had made.
It had taken Kara longer to get ready for her night out than she had planned, the question of 'mini-skirt' or 'leather pants' taking up a large portion of the extra time. She'd finally decided on the pants, the specialist in her realizing that if she had to move quickly, or fight her way out of a situation, she'd rather not be flashing her underwear at unsuspecting civilians. She'd gone down to the common area to meet Bobbi like they'd planned, but didn't see the other woman immediately upon stepping into the entertainment room. "Veronica? Where is Bobbi?" she asked curiously, thinking maybe Bobbi was running late as well.
"She is in the common office, miss...." the AI answered.
"Oh. Ok." Kara headed that way to let Bobbi know she was ready. Her cousin was looking at a computer screen, the look on her face one of abject misery. Frowning, Kara walked over, worried when Bobbi didn't even notice her, let alone acknowledge her arrival. Stepping closer, she began to read over her cousin's shoulder. The more she read, the more tense and unhappy she became herself.
Grant had noticed Bobbi looking a bit nervous before they'd gone and had almost suggested he go with the girls as a 'wing-man'...just so he could make sure she was ok. But he'd refrained. He wanted to spend time with his father and the rest of the family; and she and Kara had obviously wanted a girls’ night out. But it didn't stop him from worrying. "You want popcorn, dad?" he asked, in an attempt to get his mind off of his baby sister.
Coulson nodded with a smile that somehow did little to hide his worry about his youngest daughter and slid an arm around Grant's waist. "Do you want some as well? We could get a large and split it..."
Grant smiled at his father. “Yeah…I can split one with you. Want some candy to go with it?” He tried to relax, even though his gut was screaming that something was wrong. The problem was, he couldn’t figure out exactly what would be wrong, so he didn’t want to ruin everyone else’s evening. So he kept quiet.
Kara had been there about five minutes and read through everything three times before Bobbi snapped out of the headspace she was in and realized her cousin was there…and had read everything. Swallowing hard, she turned to face the other woman with guilt-filled, tormented eyes. “I’m so sorry, Kara….”
“You were the one who gave me up?” Kara’s question really wasn’t a question; it was obvious by the way Bobbi was acting, and by the incriminating words on the computer screen, that it was Bobbi who had given her location to HYDRA and that decision had led to Kara being captured, tortured, and brainwashed into being a powerless pawn by the enemy.
Kara’s voice was strained with underlying hurt, confusion and anger that Bobbi could hear clearly. Had she stayed in one place long enough to talk to her cousin, she would have found that the hurt was because she hadn’t told Kara immediately when she’d found out- she’d been acting strangely for a while now; the confusion was because Kara still became confused when trying to remember events from before the brainwashing; and the anger was toward HYDRA and how they had nearly ruined Kara’s life. None of it was truly directed at Bobbi. But Bobbi didn’t stick around to talk and so she thought that Kara was angry and hurt because of what she had done. She’d not intended Kara to find out and especially not in this manner. Letting out what could only be described as a horrified whimper, Bobbi stood up from the computer and ran from the room, jumping onto the elevator as fast as she could and insisting Veronica take her to the garage.
Kara watched her cousin disappear rapidly, her eyes wide in surprise. She hadn’t expected Bobbi to just take off like that. Turning to follow, she bit her lip and turned back to the computer, exiting out of the screens and then turning it off. She didn’t want anyone else to come in and read it accidently. If the family found out what had happened, she’d rather it be because she or Bobbi told them…and at this point in time, she had no plans to mention it to anybody. Not if it caused Bobbi to feel so badly she’d run. As soon as the computer was turned off, Kara ran for the elevator as well. “Veronica…I don’t know if you can make this thing move any faster, but I need to catch my cousin…” she said in an urgent voice to the AI.
“I can make it go a little bit faster, miss. But you will need to hold on to the rail,” Veronica responded.
On the table on the foyer of the common floor were two cell phones docked in their charging stations…neither girl had thought to grab them before running.
Kara had reached the garage in time to see Bobbi getting onto one of the motorcycles. She wasted no time in running and grabbing herself a key to one and was mounting it by the time Bobbi was peeling up and out of the garage. Cursing to herself softly, Kara followed as best she was able; the only reason she even knew which direction Bobbi was heading was because the other woman had stopped for a red light. Keeping far enough back that Bobbi wouldn’t realize she was being followed, but close enough to see where she went, Kara followed her cousin to the bus station. She parked her bike next to the one Bobbi had left and quickly went into the terminal. Bobbi was in line to buy a bus ticket. Swallowing, Kara slipped into the shadows and changed her face, hoping that her cousin had been distracted enough not to notice what clothes she was wearing, and then stepped into the line directly behind Bobbi. Maybe she should confront Bobbi. Convince her to turn around and go back home with her. But she didn’t think Bobbi would listen and Kara’s own emotions and confusion at discovering the truth was affecting her own ability to make good decisions. So she waited in line, wearing another face, and waited to buy a bus ticket to wherever Bobbi was going.
There was a bit of good-natured teasing between some of the younger members of the group. Neither Wanda or Pietro had had much of a chance to do something fun like seeing a movie before being adopted into a family and this was the first time they'd been on an outing like this.
It didn't take long, even with how many of them were going, for popcorn, candy and drinks to be bought and then the family members were piling into the screen. It took a few minutes for everyone to figure out where they wanted to sit, but once they were settled, they watched the movie with no fuss.
It was late by the time they all went back to the tower, having stopped off to get a meal first of all. Coulson wasn't worried that his daughter wasn't there, since he expected Bobbi and Kara to get back late, and looked around at his family members. "Is there anything in particular you'd like to do now?" he asked them.
Grant glanced around at all the gathered family members, immediate and extended. "Maybe we can play games until Kara and Bobbi get home. I think the clubs close in another hour or so...."
"Playing games sounds good to me, Cuz..." Trip grinned.
Everyone had quickly agreed and soon everyone was involved in the family fun.
Bobbi had bought her ticket and then immediately headed for the bus because it was due to leave in fifteen minutes and was already loading.
Kara quickly went to the window. “I want the same ticket she got.” She pointed toward Bobbi with her thumb and was relieved when the ticket agent didn’t bat an eye, just handed it over in exchange for the cash she offered. Looking at it, Kara swallowed and quickly ran to get on the bus before the doors closed. When she stepped up into the coach, she noted that the seat next to Bobbi was not taken yet and quickly went and sat down next to her cousin.
They’d remained quiet for the remaining ten minutes or so before the bus began to pull away from the station. Once it was on the road and on its way out of town, Kara finally spoke. “I wasn’t angry at you…if that’s what you thought….”
Bobbi looked up in shock. “Kara?”
Kara’s smile was crooked as she looked at her cousin. Glancing down and hiding her face, she changed her features back into her normal appearance then looked up again “Surprise?”
Bobbi slumped. “I…why did you come after me? It’s my fault you were hurt…” Her voice was soft and guilt filled.
“I don’t blame you. I read all the information. You gave them a location in order to keep your cover. If you hadn’t, they would have suspected you and might have killed you. You didn’t know I was there, did you?” Kara asked softly.
“No…I thought it was empty…” Bobbi sniffled, her eyes filling with tears. “I found out afterwards that they’d caught someone, but…I never tried to find out who they caught. I never tried to do anything about it. And you were hurt by them because of me.”
“I was hurt by them because of them…” Kara’s voice was firm, even if she was just as close to tears as Bobbi. “I…I don’t want to think about it anymore. Just…don’t run off and leave me? Please? I…I don’t even know where we’re going.” She let out a little amused huff of breath as tears ran down her cheeks.
Bobbi let out a little huff herself, her own face wet with tears as she turned and wrapped Kara in a tight hug. “I’m so sorry for what they did to you. I’m so sorry for having any part of it…” she whispered in her cousin’s ear. Finally leaning back into her own seat, she gave a chagrined look. “I’m not entirely sure where we’re going either. I just spouted off the first town that came to mind, but for the life of me, I don’t even know why I thought of that town.” She grinned. “Maybe when we get there, I’ll recognize it and can figure out why I’d choose there…I’m having a hard time concentrating lately….”
“Because you found out what happened and have been obsessing. Admit it…” Kara’s teasing was gentle and worried.
“Probably,” Bobbi agreed. “I vaguely recall the ticket agent saying this was twenty hour trip. We may as well try and get some sleep while the bus is moving…” She sighed.
“Yeah…ok,” Kara quickly agreed, leaning back into her own seat. “We left in such a hurry we didn’t bring any clothes…” She turned to face her cousin. “I only have a few bucks left from what I spent on the ticket. How much you have left?”
Bobbi frowned. “A couple of bucks….” Sighing, she looked out the window. “We’ll figure it out when we get there.”
Kara nodded before asking one more question. “You gonna call your dad and let him know when we get there?”
“I dunno…” Bobbi admitted. “I…” Her eyes widened. “Crap! I left my phone at home!”
Kara’s eyes widened as well. “Me too!” she squeaked then slumped into the seat. “Dad’s gonna tan me good!” she muttered unhappily.
It had been three hours since they'd all got home and begun to play games. And the girls still weren't home yet. Grant had watched as first his dad, then Fury, had taken turns calling the girls' cell phones to try and find out where they were, with no success. By this time, everyone was worried. They should have been home, or at least called to let their fathers know that they were running late and where they were. But they hadn't called and they hadn't answered their phones. Grant swallowed and wandered out into the foyer to where the elevator was, pacing slightly. His dad was getting ready to try again and Grant didn't have the heart to stand there and see the worry and hurt concern in his father's eyes as Bobbi neglected to answer yet again. Suddenly, he heard a rattling coming from the table next to the elevator. Frowning, he walked to it and looked down...at the two cell-phones still charging where they'd been all night long. The ringers had been turned to silent, but the one phone was vibrating and only the cord kept it from vibrating itself right off the table. Sighing, Grant took both phones off the charging cords and walked back into the room where everyone else was congregated. "You may as well stop trying to call; I found out why they aren't answering..." he said somberly, as he held out both of the cell phones toward Coulson and Fury.
Coulson looked at the cell phones, but tried really hard not to give up hope. "They wouldn't have left without a reason... something must have triggered that." He sighed. "I know Bobbi was bothered by something... I'm not sure how it affects Kara, but that's the only thing I can think of..."
"Veronica... do you know what either of them were doing before they left?" Fury addressed the AI.
"We can start calling nearby travel companies... in case one or both of them took a bus somewhere," Natasha offered softly.
Thor, who had joined the family excursion with his brothers, turned to address Loki. "Brother, can you get any sense of where they might be?"
"Director Fury...Miss Bobbi was looking at information on her laptop. Miss Kara joined her briefly. I am not certain what occurred, but Miss Bobbi left rather quickly for the garage. She seemed upset. Miss Kara shut down the computer then followed her, also quickly. They both took motorcycles and left the building. That was approximately five hours ago." The AI was precise in what she told.
Tony frowned. "Veronica...is the laptop she was looking at here still?"
The AI quickly responded, "Yes, sir. It is in the common office."
Bucky nodded at his niece, pulling out his phone. "What if they paid in cash, though?" he asked Natasha in an aside.
Trip slanted his head. "I realize that it isn't exactly legal...but are you all able to tap into the video feeds for the bus terminals and airports? If they went to any of those places, they should show up on the video and then we'd at least know where we need to go to question people...."
Loki swallowed and closed his eyes, trying to concentrate on his cousins' aural signatures. Finally, his shoulders slumping, he shook his head. "I thought I had a sense of it, but they are either moving, or they are in a location with properties that are able to block my abilities...." He glanced at his uncles Phil and Nick. "I'm sorry...I will continue trying...."
Jemma felt a bit useless at the moment, but wanted to remain nearby, in case she was needed. Her father had other ideas though.
"Leo, Jemma...I want you both to go to bed. Get some sleep. If anything happens or we find out anything, I will wake you both...." Bruce voice was firm, if loving.
Jemma would have argued if she didn't want to keep from worrying him further. "Ok, daddy..." she said softly, quickly giving him a hug and a kiss on the cheek, before waving at everyone else. "...Wake me if I can help at all?" she finally asked hesitantly, before nodding and heading to her apartment and bed.
Clint watched as Jemma left then turned to Wanda and Pietro. "You two should go to sleep also. If we need you, I promise to wake you, but there is no need for the entire family to be worn out and since all you can really do at this point is stand around watching everyone else...You need sleep." He walked over to his daughter, pulling her into a tight hug. "Love you, sweetie." He reached out and pulled Pietro in close and included him in the hug. "Love you too, Speedy..." Stepping back and giving them each a tiny smile, he turned them to face the elevator. "Go on with you. Bed!" He gave them a gentle push in the direction of the elevator and a soft swat on the backside to send them on their way, not looking away from them until he was certain they were following his directions.
May stood to the side, her face calm, although her eyes showed how worried she really was. Turning to Tony, she asked, "Do you need Skye's help in looking at the laptop?"
Tony shook his head, sending Skye a small grin. "No...not right now. I might need her in the morning, though, with fresh eyes, depending on how much there is to read through."
"Alright, then, you heard the man, Skye. He needs you to have fresh eyes in the morning, which means you need to go get some sleep now. I'll walk back with you to our apartment...unless you want to join Jemma or Wanda, so you don't have to be alone while I am helping out?" May wrapped an arm around her daughter, deciding that giving her a choice to spend the night with one of the other girls would be a good idea, since they didn't share an apartment with anyone but themselves. She didn't want Skye to be alone during a family emergency.
"It might still be possible someone might remember them," Natasha replied. "Provided they ended up going to the same place and didn't just take off separately to each other." She kept her voice low... though she was certain both her father and uncle had already considered the possibility.
Wanda had started to follow her brother when May spoke to Skye. She returned so that she could grasp Skye's arm. "You could stay with me... that way, you don't have to be on your own," she offered.
"Okay." Skye nodded, giving her mother a quick hug before allowing Wanda to tug her to the elevator.
Leo went with Jemma without protest.
Thor placed a hand on Loki's shoulder and squeezed reassuringly. "If they are moving, perhaps you will gain a better sense once they have stopped," he suggested.
Lance stayed close to his father, but looked like he'd be prepared to take off the moment he had an idea of what direction to go in. He was used to late nights, running the ops he did, and now the only thing he could think was how concerned he was about Bobbi.
Clint nodded. "I don't think they would have gone different directions unless they had an argument...."
Loki nodded at his brother. "We can hope..."
Bucky wrapped his arm around Lance and kissed the side of his head. "We'll find them."
Trip had gone to look over Tony's shoulder while he searched the laptop. "I...I think I know why they took off," the billionaire finally said to the room at large. "Uncle Phil...Uncle Nick?" he called to the older men.
Coulson and Fury both headed over, looking at the screen of the laptop. They exchanged glances and then Coulson spoke with a worried tone to his voice. "Maybe they did go off separately..." He was trying really hard not to panic, but he was so worried about his daughter...
"Kara went after her," Fury said. "Unless they had an argument away from here... they probably are together. But where they are..." He addressed his nephew. "Tony, are there trackers in the motorbikes as well?"
"Yes, sir," Tony answered. "I already checked and they were both left at the bus station..."
Clint glanced at Nat. "We'll have to go first thing in the morning to ask...were you able to get hold of their camera feed at the station?"
Natasha nodded. "I can set it up on the laptop." She moved over to do just that, giving her father and uncle a light squeeze to their shoulders as she passed them.
Lance's eyes narrowed in worry. "Isn't there anything we can do now?" He was clearly desperate enough to hop into a vehicle and drive around searching... and he was reasonably sure only his uncles' training stopped them from doing the same.
Trip gave Lance a sympathetic look before glancing toward Mack and Brock. He understood how the other man felt; Kara was his sister and he was just as worried. But he also knew that Mack and Lance had formed a tight bond with Bobbi before they were all adopted, so he didn't question their worry. "Until we have a lead on where they might have gone... just driving around won't help. Especially since they left the motorbikes at the bus station. They could be on a bus somewhere...they could have left them there to throw us off and took a cab somewhere else... or walked somewhere else. Unless the camera can give us an idea...." He sighed.
Clint nodded at Trip's words. "As much as I hate to say it, if the camera doesn't give us any good leads, we should probably all try and get some sleep so that we can go to the bus station as soon as it opens to question people. It won't do anyone any good if we're too tired to go get them when we finally find them...."
Natasha brought up the camera feed and looked through the images, letting the others look over her shoulder. "Well, Bobbi's there..." She peered at the woman behind her sister, noting the way she walked. Even though the woman was wearing a different face... Natasha was certain she knew who it was from the walk and facial expressions. "I'm fairly certain that's Kara behind her."
Steve moved a bit closer, angling his head for a better look. "The camera angle isn't good enough to get a look at the tickets they purchased," he said.
"That's Kara..." Brock agreed. "I remember she was wearing that outfit when we left to go to the movies."
Bucky nodded. "So a trip to the bus station is a definite tomorrow morning then. As difficult as it will be, I think Clint is right. We need to get some rest so we can be one-hundred percent to begin searching again tomorrow." He reached over and put a hand on Fury and then on Coulson's shoulders giving them each a squeeze before glancing at the 'kids' with a look that they all understood to mean 'don't leave them alone tonight'.
Natasha made no outward response to Bucky's actions, but she stepped over to her father and placed a hand on his arm. "Come on, Dad... you have to set a good example, otherwise Grant and Clint will want to stay awake, too," she teased gently, before wrapping her arms around him in a tight hug.
Coulson took a deep breath, embracing his older daughter just as tight in return. But he knew he wouldn't feel right until they were all with him.
Trip came and put an arm around Fury's shoulder. "Yeah...C'mon dad. I don't think I want to be alone tonight...if that's ok with you?"
"Me either..." Brock muttered, slumping slightly with his hands shoved into his pockets and looking like a bashful ten-year-old.
Tony sighed. "Well, Pepper went to bed as soon as we got home. She doesn't even know anything is wrong. I figure I'll go to bed and tell her first thing in the morning so she'll at least be able to sleep..." he didn't ask Steve to stay with him and Pepper, but the hang-dog expression on his face as he looked at his uncle's with various children hanging off them and then looked at his father made it clear he wanted to.
Although Fury was very worried about his daughter, he couldn't help but respond to his sons exactly the same way Coulson responded to his children. He wrapped one arm around Trip and extended the other to Brock. "We can use my room..." he said.
Steve moved to Tony's side and wrapped his arm around his son's shoulders. "Why don't we both go up together?" he suggested.
Natasha let go of her father so she could lean into him, guiding him towards the elevator as she glanced towards her brothers, silently signalling to them that their dad was likely to want them close too.
Grant quickly followed Natasha and Coulson, grabbing Clint on his way by. He had no intention of not being with his father tonight.
Trip smiled at Fury. "Ok, dad..."
Brock quickly moved to Fury's extended arm, snuggling up under it. "Yeah...Ok. Thanks...."
Tony nodded. "Yeah. Thanks, dad...." He smiled at Steve, before glancing at Bruce. "C'mon, Brucie. You can either join us, or go in with your kiddies. I don't think any of us should be alone tonight...."
Bruce gave his brother and father a crooked smile. "I'll go in with Jemma and Leo...I want to make certain they are ok...." He didn't say that the fact that two of the 'kids' had disappeared had made him worried for his own children.
May frowned. "I might just be visiting your apartment, Phil. Skye should already be asleep in Wanda's room and I don't much relish being by myself, either." She sighed.
Bucky tugged Lance in closer. "C'mon, kid. Sooner we sleep, sooner we can head to the bus station tomorrow." He glanced at Thor, Loki and Mack. "You three should get some rest, too. We'll need you tomorrow."
Mack nodded. "Yeah...ok." He wasn't going anywhere without his brothers, though. He smiled when Loki moved closer to him and wrapped an arm over his shoulder.
Coulson looked at May and nodded. "You're more than welcome to." With one arm around Natasha, he reached out with his other so he could touch both Clint and Grant, assuring himself they were safe with him.
Fury held his sons close as he followed his brother to the elevator. He was worried, but was grateful he had both of his sons close.
Steve gently steered Tony towards the elevator, hugging his son close to himself and relieved he had Tony and Bruce close by and knew where Pepper was.
Thor wrapped his arm around Mack from the other side. "Come. We will begin searching in the morning." His voice was reassuring.
Lance sighed, but leaned into his father... even though he was feeling hopeless.
They'd all eventually made it to bed and despite everything that was going on they'd managed to get a little sleep. At least, Trip thought they had. He was currently standing with Natasha, in front of the ticket window where they'd seen the images of Bobbi. He'd got Veronica to make a picture from a still of the video and was doing his best 'transit authority' impersonation. It hadn't helped, though. "You can't give us any suggestions of where the two women might have gone?" He sounded frustrated (because he was), but underneath the frustration was fear and sadness...he was sure his family could hear it, even if the ticket agent couldn't.
"I'm sorry, sir..." the agent apologized again. "I remember them buying the tickets...but they paid cash; and I get so many people that go through in a day, I can't remember everyone's names and destinations. Especially when they are in a hurry because the bus is about to leave...." The agent bit her lip. "I can give you a list of the ten busses that were leaving around that time...and as long as they didn't give a false name when buying the ticket, maybe you can find out which one they got on that way? But there's no guarantee they didn't get off the very first stop or any other stops on the way so...."
Natasha exchanged a glance with Trip and then nodded to the agent. "That would be helpful, thank you." Given the emotional upheaval Bobbi and Kara were going through, there was a very slim possibility that neither had thought to give false names... even though Kara had changed her appearance. And even though the potential lead was a small one, at least they had a place to start.
The agent had quickly got them the list and handed it over to Trip. Realizing that they'd likely got all the information they were going to from the station, Trip glanced at Natasha. "Let's do a quick glance through the passenger lists of these buses, just in case they didn't change names; but if they did, then I suggest we go back to the tower so we can compare the lists to the known aliases both Kara and Bobbi have used in the past. And maybe have Veronica do a comparison between those aliases and names on the list to see if any seem similar..." He walked over to a quiet corner so they could do a quick glance through the lists given them.
Natasha nodded, following Trip over without hesitation. She took half of the lists and began scanning through them, looking for anything that might jump out... even if it wasn't Kara and Bobbi's actual names, that didn't mean Natasha might not recognise something.
Sighing, Trip finally looked up at Natasha. "I'm not seeing anything on my pages. How about you?"
Natasha was quiet for a moment or two, then, "Here." She turned her pages round so that Trip could see and pointed to two of the names. "I can't be completely sure... but both of those sound familiar."
Trip glanced at the page she indicated, his eyes narrowing. "They do...Let's go back to the tower and have Veronica do a search on past aliases and see if we're correct...."
Natasha nodded and placed the list on the top of her pile of papers as she headed back to their vehicle.
Trip followed behind, hoping that their 'hunch' proved correct.
It hadn't taken them long to get back home to the tower and soon they were on the common floor, the rest of the family surrounding them...including Sam and Matt, giving Veronica the list of names so that the AI could compare with known aliases as well as possibly find a pattern that could give any clues.
Coulson was pacing up and down, unable to stay still with how worried he was for both his daughter and his niece. All he could do was hope they would find them... before any of HYDRA's agents realised that two people connected strongly to their enemies were vulnerable.
Fury was just as worried, though it didn't show as obviously as it did Coulson. Reminding himself that the girls were trained well wasn't enough. Kara had been taken once already. If HYDRA managed to get to her again... He just hoped they were thinking clearly enough not to take any chances.
It felt like hours... although it couldn't have been longer than one hour... when Veronica finally announced, "I have compared the lists given to you with all known aliases and patterns that were used to form those aliases and I can say with 99.9996 percent accuracy that the Devana Morrison and Diana Palmer are in fact Bobbi Morse and Kara Lynn Palamas. Their bus is set to arrive in Eau Claire, Wisconsin at 1:00 pm today."
Grant blinked, his gaze automatically going to his father's face. "That's close to Grandpa... like only an hour's drive from him...."
Coulson frowned. "While it's possible they got off the bus beforehand, I'll call your Grandpa... check to see if he's heard from Bobbi at all." He was trying to stay calm and not immediately go tearing off... if only because they couldn't be completely certain that that was where the girls were headed.
"If that is where they're closest to... we can take the Quinjet there," Fury said. "That'll cut the time right down."
Clint nodded. "It's about 10:00am now. So they wouldn't be pulling into that bus station for another three hours. Are you planning to fly out there and wait for them at the bus stop, taking a chance they didn't get off?"
"I don't really know what else we can do," Coulson said, clearly desperate to get to his daughter.
"Maybe you could fly the Quinjet to Grandpa's farm?" Natasha suggested. "Bobbi might be likely to call him... and if you're there and they see you, it'll be less obvious if they panic and try to run. And also more remote," she added.
"The Quinjet would make it there in about an hour. I remember there being a small landing strip about fifteen minutes away from Grandpa; he said it was used for the crop dusters that the farmers hired. That would give you two hours to either drive to the bus stop and wait yourself, or have Grandpa or Uncle Paul do it... That way, if they don't show up, you'll be close to the Quinjet and able to fly to one of the other stops right away, instead of having to wait another hour to drive back...." Grant suggested, somewhat hesitantly.
Tony interjected. "It's not a Quinjet and won't go quite as fast...but you can make use of my jet as well. If only to drop everyone off at the various airports closest to the stops the bus would have made..."
Brock glanced at Fury. "What do you want to do, dad?" he asked softly.
Fury took a deep breath, looking at Brock and then addressing them all. "The Quinjet might be faster... but it would be worth using your jet, Tony. Just in case we miss them, or they changed buses."
Coulson nodded. "We can drop everyone on route... and in the meantime, head to the farm in case they get there. If someone else spots them... then they can make contact with us." He was focusing on planning this out, rather than the very real fear for his daughter.
Tony nodded. "So I'll keep my jet on standby... Everyone who is going to be dropped off can go on the Quinjet... if they see them and contact the rest of us, Uncle Phil and Uncle Nick will go after them in the Quinjet while I pick everyone else up in the jet? All you need to do now is decide who is going to go and check out the different spots. How many stops were on that bus route, anyway? Veronica?"
"According to the schedule, sir, there were three stops along the way before the final stop in Eau Claire," the AI answered.
Trip nodded. "So three stops. Five siblings... plus a slew of cousins that would like to help. Who do you want to stay behind to remain on call and who do you want to go check out those stops?" He looked at his father and uncle.
Coulson exchanged a glance with Fury and then nodded to him. "I think it makes more sense for our other children to come. While Bobbi and Kara might be reluctant to talk to us, their dads, they might be more willing to talk to their brothers. And sister," he added, with a smile to Natasha.
Fury nodded his agreement. "Depending on how many we want to be there... I'm sure others of you can come as well," he said, knowing they all wanted to help.
Grant nodded. "If you drop me at the first stop with Nat, maybe Clint, Pietro and Wanda can take the second stop and Trip and Brock can take the third?" He glanced at his siblings and cousins to see if they agreed with his idea.
Natasha nodded. "I'm good with that plan."
"I just want to help in some way," Wanda said honestly.
Coulson nodded. "If we're all ready, then..." He looked around, trying to see if someone had anything they wanted to add.
Tony nodded. "I'll just sit tight until you let me know if you need my jet or not...and if you need the rest of the family to come...." He felt perfectly confident in saying such a thing, because he could tell his father agreed with him.
Clint nodded at his cousin. "Alright...Quinjet is already all fueled up...c'mon, kids." He wrapped his arms around Pietro and Wanda, leading them to the elevator.
Grant followed his brother, Trip and Brock following behind him.
"Thank you," Coulson said gratefully, before following his children, grandchildren and nephews, walking alongside Fury.
Wanda leaned into her father, a worried look on her face.
Natasha brought up the rear, entering the elevator with the rest of them.
Kara awoke with a jerk, blinking her eyes blearily. "It's ok...you're with me. We're on a bus headed to Eau Claire, Wisconsin..." She could recognize the soft tones of a woman's voice; it took her a moment to realize it was her cousin Bobbi. Slowly, she sat up and glanced at the other woman, only realizing that she'd been using her cousin's shoulder as a pillow when she noticed Bobbi slowly moving that arm to wake it back up. "Sorry..." she said sheepishly.
"Don't be." Bobbi smiled gently. "It was a long and exhausting night...with all the confessions and forgiveness and everything else..." she whispered. "I mean...you forgave me for what I did to you, so the least I can do is let you sleep on me...."
Kara frowned. "You didn't do anything to me. That was all HYDRA." Her voice was no less emphatic or firm for the fact that she was whispering where no one but Bobbi could hear. Watching Bobbi with a stern look until the other woman sheepishly nodded, she finally smiled and asked, "Where are we exactly?"
"We're about two hours away from our destination..." Bobbi said quietly. "When we get there, we're going to have to decide what to do...."
Kara nodded. "Yeah. Ok."
Grant glanced at Natasha as he sat quietly on the bench just outside the bus station. They'd been dropped off maybe an hour before. They'd received a text message each time one of the other groups had been dropped off at their spot... the final text from his dad and Uncle Nick had just been received. They'd landed at the small landing strip near the farm and had called Uncle Paul and Grandpa to come pick them up. "Do you think they'll go to the bus terminal to wait for the girls themselves? Or have Grandpa do it?" he asked his sister quietly.
"I suspect they'll have Grandpa do it," Natasha replied, sitting next to her brother and sitting with her hands folded in her lap, the very picture of calm... to anyone who didn't know her well, that was. "They can't run from the farmhouse very easily..."
Fury and Coulson got off the Quinjet and talked quietly after Coulson had called his father and brother. Both of them were incredibly worried... not sure what state their daughters were in, but desperately hoping they were both safe.
Paul pulled up behind his father in the pickup truck, his father driving the old family station wagon. Turning the truck off, he climbed out of the cab and walked over to his brothers. "Phil, Nick... Dad didn't explain much about what was going on when he told me to follow him in the truck... Is everything alright?" He couldn't help but give worried glances between both men.
Ben got out and walked quickly over to his sons, knowing how worried they were.
Coulson took a deep breath. "Bobbi and Kara took off. We tracked them down to the bus station... we found out the bus they were on comes to a stop about an hour's drive from here." He sighed. "We're hoping one of them might make contact..."
Paul took a deep breath and let out a sigh. "You want to borrow one of the cars so you can go wait for them?" he asked, assuming that was what they'd wanted and he'd just followed his dad to give him a ride back to the farm.
"Actually... if they call you, we thought it might be best if one of you goes to fetch them," Fury said. The two of them had been talking about it while in the Quinjet and figured that might be the best one.
Coulson nodded. "They might panic and take off without thinking if we show up... at least here, they don't have far they can run."
"Of course... if they call either of us, I can go and fetch them," Ben said.
Paul nodded. "Let's go back to the farm, then... do they have phones that they can call?" he asked curiously, as he headed toward the truck.
"They didn't take their cell phones with them," Coulson replied, following his brother. "But they'd still have remembered most of the contact numbers. If they want to call... they'll find a way." He didn't want to say how worried he was that they wouldn't call. He had to hope they would choose to.
Ben walked alongside Fury, giving the man he considered a third son a reassuring smile. "If they don't call, we'll figure out how to deal with it."
Fury nodded, but his own worry was still obvious.
Paul nodded. "Definitely. Although...I think they'll call. Something caused them to buy a ticket that brought them real close to family; even if they aren't aware of the fact, they want you to find them. They'll call."
The bus had finally pulled into Eau Claire and they were able to get off for one final time. Stretching wearily, Bobbi glanced around then started walking toward a map to figure out where exactly they'd ended up. She'd bought a ticket to Eau Claire because she liked the name and for some reason, it soothed her... but she knew she'd not been in this particular place before, so wasn't sure why she'd felt inclined to go there. Stopping in front of the map, she studied it before her eyes widened slightly. "I think...I think I know where we are...or at least I know where we're near...." she said softly.
Kara blinked. "Oh? Where? Have you been here before?"
"No...but I've been about an hour from here..." Bobbi admitted. "When we went on vacation and I met my grandfather. The farm is about an hour from this little town here... we're only slightly further than that from family...."
Kara bit her lip. She and Bobbi had spent a large portion of the night talking and Bobbi had finally been convinced that Kara didn't blame her for what had happened, especially since Bobbi hadn't known and was obviously so distraught and remorseful over what had occurred. Of course, once they'd settled everything, they'd had to face the fact that they both had basically run away from home with no note or anything; and had left their phones behind, on top of it all. They knew they were going to be in very big trouble when their fathers caught up to them. "Maybe we should call Grandpa..." she suggested hesitantly. "If he comes to get us, then maybe he can call our dads and let them know we're safe and we're sorry and we didn't mean it...."
"Maybe..." Bobbi swallowed. "Let's go find a phone..."
Somehow, they did find one.
It was as he was back in the vehicle, about to drive back to the farmhouse, that Ben heard his phone ringing. He dug his cell phone out and glanced at the display. He didn't recognise the number... but he answered anyway, knowing it was possible it might be his granddaughter. "Hello? Ben Coulson speaking."
Bobbi faltered for a moment as she heard her grandfather's voice...the enormity of what they'd done finally landing fully on her shoulders. She glanced at Kara, who looked like she'd already realized that fact then swallowed hard. "G...grandpa? I...it's Bobbi..." she said in a scared, tiny voice. For all that she was a highly trained specialist without a hint of fear when facing the enemy, she regressed to a child almost immediately whenever she disappointed her father...or, as was possible in this case, her grandfather.
Kara bit her lip and waited.
"Hi, sweetie." Ben's voice was calm and reassuring. The last thing he wanted was to spook either of them and have them run. "What's wrong?" He knew his sons would realise he'd been called... so after he spoke to Bobbi, depending on how the conversation went, he planned to text them if Bobbi asked him to pick her and Kara up.
"Why would something be wrong? Can't I call my favorite grandpa just because?" Bobbi hedged, her voice trembling.
"Bobbi, I can tell you're upset about something," Ben said, his voice gentle rather than angry or accusing.
"I messed up, Grandpa...I messed up bad and dragged my cousin into messing up bad with me..." Bobbi said quietly, again sounding like a scared child.
"You didn't drag me into anything! I messed up all on my own!" Kara protested loudly enough that it would be heard through the phone. For all her protest was vehement, she also sounded like a scared kid.
Bobbi swallowed. "W..we're at the bus terminal in Eau Claire...w...would...c..could you come pick us up and let us stay with you?" Her voice was hesitant again.
"Of course," Ben replied, without any hesitation. "I'll be there in about ten minutes. Everything will be all right," he said, his voice reassuring.
"Thanks, Grandpa..." Bobbi whispered, biting her lip then hesitantly hanging up the phone. She didn't know how she had got lucky enough that he would be close enough to the bus terminal that he could be there in just ten minutes...she knew the farm was further out. She wondered if her dad and uncle had called him, worried about her and Kara and asking him to keep an eye out for them. It would be like her daddy and Uncle Nick to do something like that. She looked at Kara. "He said he'd be here in about ten minutes...I guess we should go stand somewhere that he can see us easily..." She sighed.
Kara winced. "Dad and Uncle Phil called him? Was he waiting for us to call?"
Bobbi shrugged. "He didn't say...but since he's so close when I know he doesn't really live near here...I'm guessing they did call him and he knows exactly what we did. He...he didn't sound angry...just worried...but once we're in the car and safe...." She shrugged again, unhappily.
"You don't think he'd..." Kara glanced around to make certain no one was listening. "...You know. Spank us...do you?"
Bobbi's eyes widened fractionally. "He never has...but then again, last time any of us kids got in trouble when he was around to do something about it, daddy was there too, so he took care of things. I really don't know if he'd do that since daddy and Uncle Nick aren't here...." She wrinkled her nose, not sure what she felt about the possibility.
"Yeah...ok." Kara sighed. "Let's go stand over next to that sign, then...." She pointed at the sign that had the name of the bus terminal and the city on it.
Nodding, Bobbi headed that direction, Kara tagging along behind. Their grandfather might only be ten minutes away, but it was going to be a long wait.
Ben had sent his sons a text to let them know he was on his way to pick up the girls. He drove as fast as he could, aware that the girls' nerves would be working them over.
It felt like a long time, even though it wasn't, by the time Ben reached the terminal. He recognised Bobbi straight away and assumed that the woman with her was Kara.
Ben pulled up next to the girls and got out of the vehicle. Stepping over, he gave first Bobbi and then Kara a tight hug.
Bobbi was just so relieved that her grandfather didn't appear angry that she wanted to hold onto him for as long as possible. She barely let go of him so he could hug Kara.
Kara was quite honestly surprised to be included in the affection. Her grandfather had never met her, after all; and she was positive he had to be disappointed in their actions. The fact that he'd still want to hug her didn't make sense. Of course, she was still getting used to the fact her father and brothers loved her unconditionally; not to mention the rest of the family that knew her. "G...grandpa?" she finally asked hesitantly, by way of introduction.
"Did daddy call you?" Bobbi asked in the same tiny voice she'd been using on the phone. Part of her wished her grandfather would scold, so she could know immediately how much he knew without actually having to bring it up or say anything herself. She didn't even think to ask if her father had actually come to the farm; she was still thinking he'd just called ahead to her grandfather and told him what happened, so the older man would be prepared to come get them if called.
Ben squeezed Kara gently before releasing her, giving her a warm smile before he addressed Bobbi. "Your fathers are both very worried about you." He didn't tell them that their fathers were there at the farmhouse, deciding not to let the anxiety and fear build up and make them think even more about running away.
"We thought they would be," Kara said softly, the guilt and shame in her voice for causing her father worry and pain- again- clear.
Bobbi nodded, "Everything just got so messed up, Grandpa and by the time we both calmed down enough to think things through, we were on a bus and had left our phones at home...." Her own voice contained the shame and guilt, as well as a bit of frustration at herself.
"Still feeling a bit...off kilter..." Kara admitted wrapping her arms around herself in a self-hug that Bobbi quickly mimicked.
Ben wrapped an arm around both of their shoulders and gave them a tight squeeze. "Why don't we get in the car and I'll drive us to the farmhouse?" he suggested. "Your Aunt Cathy will love to have two more people to feed." His comment was addressed to both of them... making it clear that Kara was as much a part of his family as Bobbi was.
"Thanks, Grandpa." Bobbi smiled hesitantly and let Ben lead her to the car.
Kara meekly followed him as well. "Yes, thank you....Grandpa..." Her voice was tentative and she glanced up at him to see if he seemed upset at her calling him that.
Ben smiled reassuringly at them both, appearing perfectly happy at the form of address from Kara as well. "You're both welcome. If either of you need to call me at any time, or just show up, it won't ever be a problem."
Both of the girls' smiles were a little less hesitant and unsure when he said that. Kara found herself warming up to the older man almost immediately, relaxing against him as he led them to the station wagon. If she and Bobbi had to mess up badly, she was glad they had done it in such a way as to end up in the custody of a family member who could and would help them.
Bobbi leaned over and kissed her grandfather on the cheek. "Thanks again, Grandpa. I wish the visit were under less... undesirable circumstances... but it helps to know you've got our back..." she said softly.
Ben's smile turned warm as he gave them both another squeeze. "Always." He didn't point out that their fathers were the same. He hoped they'd understand that when they saw them.
Ben opened the backseat and waited for the girls to get in before he got in the driver's seat and started up the engine.
Paul had driven his brothers back to the farmhouse and led them into the kitchen, where Cath had poured everyone a cold drink of water. They'd then sat around the kitchen table, waiting for their father to contact them and let them know what was going on. When the text arrived, Paul felt himself relaxing noticeably. "Bobbi called dad...he's heading to the terminal to pick them up now and bring them home. You should have your girls back in your arms within the next hour and a half..." He smiled at Phil and Nick, his eyes sympathetic.
Coulson smiled at his brother, but his worry was still obvious. He wasn't going to relax until he had his daughter back with him.
Fury was clearly just as worried, glancing at the door... even though it would still be a little while before his own daughter was back with him.
Paul sighed softly. "You, of course, have use of any of the guestrooms that you would like; I'm assuming once you have the girls back, you'll be planning on them staying with you where you can keep an eye on them.... I figure we can grill tonight- it's sposed to be a nice evening... if that's alright with you both. Are the rest of the kids going to fly in to be with you too?"
"I think the plan is to stay here a while with the girls... a couple of days perhaps... and then have our other children fly in to spend some time bonding as a family," Coulson answered.
Fury nodded his agreement. "After all, there are my sons you have yet to meet." Just from the tone of his voice, it was clear how much he cared for and was proud of his children.
Paul grinned. "Well, the more the merrier. I've been wanting to meet your boys since Phil told me you'd adopted them. You don't come visit nearly often enough, Nick," he gently chided his 'adopted' brother. "Dad and I have actually been talking about adding a couple more rooms onto the house, so that you all can come visit more often and there will be enough rooms for everyone without having to have three to a room...." Paul admitted as he glanced at his watch. By his reckoning, if his father had picked the girls up within ten to fifteen minutes of when he sent the text message and they hadn't run into anything to slow them down, his father should be pulling up the long farm drive in about twenty minutes. "If you both would like to pick the rooms you want to take... we can figure out sleeping arrangements for the other...seven?...there will be two rooms, but maybe some of the fella's wouldn't mind camping out in the living room...."
"I'm sure that wouldn't be a problem," Coulson commented. "I expect Wanda and Pietro will be happy to stay with their father... Natasha will let me know whatever she feels comfortable with. And Grant gets on well with Trip and Brock." He looked at Fury. "I'm good with staying in any of the rooms... so it depends on where you think you and Kara will be the most comfortable." It went without saying that Bobbi would stay with him and Kara would be with Fury.
Fury nodded. "I'd think any of the rooms would be suitable enough. After all, all of us have stayed in places nowhere near as nice as this."
"Well... if Natasha is comfortable with it, I'm sure she could stay with Cath and I... or with Dad. That would fill up all the rooms with no one needing to stay on the sofa." Paul nodded, slanting his head. "Either of you want another drink before they get back? I have some beers in the fridge if you want something a bit stronger than water to help your nerves...."
Coulson smiled at his brother. "I'm good with water." While he enjoyed drinking a beer occasionally, he wanted to keep his head clear right now so that he could handle his daughter calmly and rationally.
"A beer would be handy to have later," Fury said.
Paul nodded. "The beers are ready whenever you are. Did you all happen to bring any clothing with you when you flew out here? If not, I've got some things in my closet that I think might fit you, Nick. And I know Phil fits into dad's clothes. Cath and Bobbi are about the same size, but I have no clue what size Kara is... so we may need to make a quick run into town tomorrow to pick some items up for your daughters if they didn't think to pack."
"I'm almost certain they don't have anything other than what they're wearing right now," Fury said. "There was no sign of any clothing having been taken... and both were in too much of an emotional upheaval to think about even taking their cell phones."
"We have clothes with us... enough for a couple of days," Coulson said. "I think we both felt staying here with the girls would be the best thing."
Paul nodded. "I suspected you both would be prepared. If your other kids are coming out in three days, they can pack something for the girls and the girls can wear what we have available until then...if you don't want to leave the house for a shopping trip, that is. And on that note, by my reckoning, they should be pulling down the drive any moment now. Do you want to wait inside until they actually get here, or wait on the porch?"
"We can wait outside." Fury stood up and walked immediately towards the door, his impatience to have his daughter close in every movement.
Coulson followed nearly as fast, intense worry for his own daughter nearly overwhelming him. He stepped out after Fury, leaving the door open in case Paul wanted to join them.
Nodding at Cath, Paul followed them at a more leisurely rate, closing the door behind him.
The closer they got to her grandfather's farm, the more nervous Bobbi became. She knew she needed to call her father and let him know they were okay...although she suspected that either her grandfather or her aunt or uncle had already done so, it wouldn't be the same as hearing from her. She didn't have a clue what to say to him. She knew she'd messed up badly and dreaded hearing the disappointment in his voice.
Kara was just as nervous as her cousin. While her reasons for running were more because she was worried for Bobbi and wanted to make certain she stayed okay, the fact was she'd forgotten her phone and hadn't bothered to let even Veronica know what was going on or where she was going, so her father had likely been frantic with worry as well. She almost hoped when she called him that he yelled at her. At least that way, she wouldn't have to hear the disappointment...while her father often got very loud with those not in his family, he seldom, if ever, got loud with his family. She had a feeling she was going to hear not only disappointment, but the worry and hurt she likely caused.
Finally, they were pulling up the long drive-way, the farmhouse coming into view. When the car finally stopped, both girls carefully stepped out and closed the door, walking toward the house resolutely, forming in their minds exactly what they would say when they called their fathers. It all flew completely out of Bobbi's head the moment she saw her father on the porch. Letting out a tiny squeak of surprise and shamed distress, she turned tail and quickly ran toward the field...not quite ready to face her father.
Kara's eyes widened as, in the same second, she saw her own father standing on the porch and Bobbi taking off. Her running toward the wooded area was purely a reaction to Bobbi's running, not because she actually wanted to run. Of course, once her feet started moving, she felt it was probably better to continue on as she'd begun.
Coulson hadn't had to deal with one of his children running off, even though he was fully aware of (and had seen it happen) Tony having run from Steve in the past. He exchanged a glance with Fury and then quickly moved in pursuit of his daughter. While not as fast as, say, Pietro, he kept in enough shape that he was easily able to match his daughter's speed.
Fury didn't hesitate in joining his brother. He knew, like he was certain Coulson did, that he was unprepared to take the risk of losing Kara... even if it was simply to her running with her cousin.
Bobbi was running full tilt toward she knew not where. Had it been earlier in the season, she might have been hidden by growing corn. The season was almost over, though and the field she currently ran in was clear and wide open. And then it suddenly hit her. She was running from her father...from her daddy. The thought caused her to falter in her pace.
Kara was in flight or fight mode; the fact that it was her daddy in pursuit hadn't made it through to her brain yet. She was heading for the nearest tree...intending to climb high out of reach.
His daughter's faltering allowed Coulson to catch up to Bobbi. Immediately and without any hesitation, he wrapped his arms around her, drawing her to a stop.
Fury could see the direction Kara was heading in and he moved to cut her off. While he had no problem following her up a tree, he didn't want to risk a repeat of her spraining her ankle.
As soon as her father had her, Bobbi spun around and threw her arms around him tightly, hiding her face against his shoulder. "I'msorryI'msorryI'msorry...." she kept repeating over and over, unable to look her father in the eye.
Kara had almost reached the tree when, somehow, her father managed to cut her off. She was so startled at her pursuer suddenly being in front of her that she was already moving to attack before her brain finally kicked in and she realized she was about to fight her daddy. She immediately attempted to stop her original movement, but the effort caused her to over balance and fall forward.
Coulson tightened his embrace around Bobbi, pressing a kiss to her head and gently stroking her hair. "I've got you..." he whispered, his voice loving and relieved. "I love you."
Fury reacted immediately, reaching out and grabbing his daughter before she could fall. He wrapped his own arms around Kara, relieved to have her here, where he knew she was safe.
Hearing her father say he loved her was all it took. Soon, Bobbi was sobbing brokenly, trying to explain why she had run in the first place, but the words were garbled and she was having difficulty catching her breath.
Kara, finally allowing her brain to catch up with her actions, wrapped her arms around her father and jumped up to wrap her legs around his waist, hiding her face against his neck. "Sorry, daddy..." she said contritely. "My body started moving before my head kicked in..." Her voice was apologetic and sheepish.
Coulson stroked Bobbi's hair, holding her close and kissing her head. "It's all right... take deep breaths... calm down... I know what you found out." His voice was soft, loving and gentle.
Fury hugged Kara tightly. "Reacting without thinking seems to be a fairly common problem," he said wryly.
Bobbi stopped trying to talk at Coulson's reassurance that he already knew what had occurred, but it was difficult to stop crying. She just clung to him desperately and tried to breathe. Slowly...very slowly...she was able to catch her breath and breathe deeply like her father was urging. And then, finally, she was able to regulate her crying; not stop crying, but at least keep herself from sobbing so hard that it cut her breathing off. Through all of it, she held onto her father like she was afraid if she let go, he'd disappear.
Kara tightened her arms and legs around her father and clung to him like a monkey, also becoming a common situation. She giggled against his neck, although it was a rather embarrassed giggle. "Yes, sir," she admitted hesitantly. She was not proud of the fact that she couldn't seem to control her body better than that. Everyone told her she'd been a rather talented specialist...but she figured you couldn't tell that by watching her. Not when she continually did things without engaging her brain first.
Coulson stroked Bobbi's hair and pressed a kiss to her head. "Let's go inside," he said, his voice soft. "You can have some water... calm down. Then we can talk." He kissed her cheek. "I love you, sweetie. No matter what happens, there will never be a time that isn't true."
Fury hugged his daughter close. "Why don't we head inside?" he suggested. "Have either of you eaten anything?" His worry for her was obvious.
Bobbi sniffled and nodded her head wearily. "Ok, daddy..." she said softly, her voice hoarsened by her crying. She shivered from the effort to not begin crying again. She knew her father loved her and would never stop; but she knew that didn't eliminate the possibility of his being extremely disappointed in her- not that she hadn't already earned his disappointment, just by running. Sniffling again and running a hand over her eyes, she pressed closer to him, letting him lead her back to the farmhouse. She could see her grandpa and aunt and uncle standing worriedly on the porch, but they must have seen some signal from her dad or something, because they all three turned and went back inside as soon as her father began walking them back.
"Ok, daddy..." Kara said softly, not making any move to put her feet down and walk on her own. She just snuggled closer, trying to get as much cuddling in as she could; she knew that as soon as her father was assured of her well-being, he'd take her to talk...and then the 'affection' he gave would be of a different sort that she really wasn't looking forward to. She thought back to try and remember when she last ate and cringed inside when she realized. "We haven't eaten since lunch yesterday, daddy. We had planned to eat when we went out and then everything just happened and we both spent all our money on the tickets and..." Her voice trailed off, not seeing any need to make more excuses.
Coulson still held his daughter close as he guided her into the farmhouse. He overheard Kara's comment, but as he took Bobbi inside, he saw that Cathy had put a selection of food out on the table. He walked over to take a seat, settling his daughter in his lap... still feeling the need to be close to her.
Fury carried Kara inside the farmhouse and over to the table to join his brother and niece. Like Coulson, he sat down and settled Kara on his lap. Now that he had his daughter with him, he didn't want to let her go any time soon.
Bobbi snuggled closer to her father and looked at the food her aunt had put out. "Thanks, Aunt Cath..." she said softly, before looking around at her entire family. "Thank you all...." Her voice held a hint of shame, but also gratitude that they would immediately jump in to take care of her and Kara when it was needed, even though they lived so far away and had been given no warning.
Kara finally loosened her grip on her father so that he could sit down comfortably. She shifted till she was facing forward and leaning back against him. She glanced around at the family as well...a mixture of sheepish embarrassment (though not enough to cause her to get up) that they would see her craving attention like a toddler; and curiosity, since she'd not been introduced yet. She snuggled back against her father, suddenly bashful; much like the toddler she was embarrassed at acting like. "Hi..." she said hesitantly then glanced at the food. Her stomach growled in reminder that she needed to eat, but she waited to see what everyone else was doing.
Cathy smiled reassuringly at her nieces. "Eat up," she invited. "There's plenty of food. And we'll have some later as well." She didn't say that she knew they likely wouldn't have eaten, even though she was fairly certain they hadn't.
Ben smiled at them both. "Any of you are free to come here at any time you want to."
Fury wrapped his arm around Kara's waist. "Kara... these are other members of your family. Your grandfather Ben... your Uncle Paul... and your Aunt Cathy."
Coulson gently stroked Bobbi's hair and kissed her head... though he didn't say anything, even though his love, worry and concern for her were obvious.
Bobbi's smile turned a little more happy at her family's words, even if there was still a lot of guilt in it. "Ok, aunt Cath..." She slowly began eating.
Kara smiled brightly at her newly introduced family. "Hi...thank you for coming to get us..." She smiled at her grandfather. "...And for the food." She turned her smile toward her aunt. "I'm happy to meet you all," she finally said to all three, letting her smile land on her uncle, before carefully beginning to eat. While she ate, she continued to snuggle back against her father.
Neither Fury or Coulson had had much of an appetite, even though they had forced themselves to eat to set good examples for their other children. Both began eating as well, keeping in contact with their daughters.
It didn't take long before both girls had eaten their fill and soon they were just sitting on their fathers' laps, snuggling and fidgeting a bit because they knew they had acted very wrongly and had consequences coming their way.
Coulson held Bobbi close, gently rubbing her hip. "Why don't we go upstairs and talk?" he suggested, his voice soft.
"We should do the same." Fury squeezed Kara gently.
"Ok, daddy..." Bobbi's voice was soft, contrite and willing. She stood up carefully then waited for her father to lead her upstairs.
Kara nodded, not feeling the need to say anything. She knew she'd done something bad. She carefully got up as well, managing to refrain from jumping back into his arms, even though emotionally all she wanted was to be held by him.
Coulson stood up, wrapping his arm around Bobbi's waist and guiding her up the stairs, pressing a kiss to her head as he led her inside their room, gently closing the door behind them.
Bobbi stood next to the bed, unable to face her father. "I know I shouldn't have run...I found out the truth of what I'd done and thought for sure Kara would hate me- she had a right to- and I just needed to get away. I felt so guilty, I just felt like I didn't deserve to be happy with you all. I wasn't really thinking clearly," she admitted.
Coulson sat down on the bed, wrapping his arm around Bobbi's shoulders. "I know you weren't thinking clearly," he said gently. "But running away can't be a reaction... we were all so scared for you both. Your brothers and sister... Wanda and Pietro... but the rest of the family, too."
"Yes, sir..." Bobby whispered as she leaned into him. "It was entirely selfish, but I didn't think about what it would do to everyone else. I didn't think until I was on the bus and it was too late to do anything because we'd both left our phones behind...." She looked up at her father with sorrowful eyes. "I know now that it hurt you...it hurt everyone...but at the time, I thought I was doing you a favor because I felt like I was the most horrible...." She stopped and closed her eyes, swallowing hard.
Coulson gently tugged Bobbi down to sit on his lap, pressing a kiss to her head. "I know there are times you might feel like that. You aren't the only one to think that about yourself. But I can promise you that anything bad you feel about yourself... is not accurate. You didn't give up Kara deliberately. And I'm going to guess that Kara doesn't blame you either."
Bobbi sniffles. "She doesn't...I'm not sure how, but she doesn't. She came after me because she knew I thought she hated me...." She finally glanced up with teary eyes. "We talked on the bus."
Coulson pressed a kiss to Bobbi's head. "I'm glad you both sorted it out," he said softly. "I love you. I don't want to see you hurting... physically or emotionally."
"I know you don't, daddy...and I'm so sorry I hurt and worried you. I never wanted to do that. I just didn't think. I never think...until it's too late." She sniffled again, her voice catching and coming close to tears again.
Coulson wrapped his arms around Bobbi's waist and kissed her cheek as he held her close and tight. "I'm just so relieved to have you safe back with me," he whispered. "I was worried because of how much I love you."
"I'm sorry, daddy...I'm so sorry...I don't want to worry you...I don't want you to be hurt because of me..." Bobbi snuggled closer, her relief that her father was with her and not angry warring with her guilt that she'd yet again done something she knew would cause him pain.
Coulson threaded his fingers through his daughter's hair. "I know you don't." His voice was gentle... soothing... reassuring. "You panicked and ran. I was so desperate to find you because of how much I love you."
Bobbi pressed closer still, the gentle soothing helping to calm her slowly. She still felt guilty. She always felt guilty after the fact. She wished she'd been able to keep her calm long enough to think things through; she never would have run had she stopped to think. She hated that she'd made her father go through another episode of her running away.
Coulson continued gently stroking her hair and back, hugging Bobbi tightly to himself. "We'll deal with the running away... and then we'll work on what to do the next time you're suffering an emotional upheaval," he said, his tone gentle and loving.
Bobbi shivered slightly then nodded, hugging her father tightly before loosening her grip. "Ok, daddy..." she said softly, standing up slowly and moving beside his knee. As much as she hated being spanked, she couldn't help the feeling of relief that her father was being consistent. She knew what was coming, but she also knew, when it was all over, that she'd be forgiven and not only would she not need to continue thinking about what she'd done wrong, but she'd be expected to let it go, because it would have been dealt with. That was nearly as soothing as her father's cuddling had been.
Coulson wrapped his arm around Bobbi's waist, drawing his daughter forward and across his lap and securing her with an arm wrapped around her waist. He rubbed her back gently a moment or two before baring her. "I love you," he reiterated.
Closing her eyes and reaching down to grasp her father's ankle, Bobbi swallowed hard before answering. "I know, daddy... I love you too...."
Coulson rubbed her back gently another moment and then lifted his hand, bringing it down in the first swat, before repeating it. He didn't use anything like his full strength, but he made sure the swats were felt.
Bobbi let out a tiny gasp as the first swat landed, but managed to keep from making any noise beyond that. She felt she deserved the punishment too much to make a fuss over it; she'd already hurt her father by running away. She didn't want him to feel badly because he was causing her pain, especially when it was deserved. Instead, she gripped his ankle more tightly.
Coulson drew Bobbi in closer against his stomach, settling into a pattern of swats. He continued down to Bobbi's thighs and then started over from the top. "I love you, Bobbi," he said quietly. "You don't need to run... you have a family who loves you and who want the best for you."
"I know, daddy...I know. I don't know why I keep running when I know I don't have to. When I know that it...it's wrong and just hurts everyone else that I love...I don't know why I do it..." she choked out, her voice tight with the effort of not giving in to tears.
"We'll work on it, sweetie," Coulson promised. "We'll figure out ways of coping that mean your first instinct is to come to me or one of the other family members... not to let your fears spiral out of control and hurt you."
Shivering and tightening her grip on her father's ankle, Bobbi swallowed hard again, her fight against tears being lost as tears began to seep from her eyes. "Ok, daddy..." she said with a quivery voice.
"I don't want to see you hurt, Bobbi." Coulson started a third circuit of swats, though they were as much an emphasis as anything else. "It won't be the end of the world if you do run... because I will always come and find you, no matter what. I love you, Bobbi. And I won't allow you to be lost to me."
It was the promise of him not letting her be lost that broke her will. "Ok....ok, daddy," she finally sobbed out, going limp over her father's lap and crying. As much as the spanking hurt, it hadn't hurt nearly as much as her fear that someday she'd go too far and her father wouldn't come after her. She trusted her father, though and if he made a promise like that, she knew only death would prevent him from keeping it.
Coulson stopped immediately and then quickly gathered his daughter into his arms, enclosing her in a tight embrace and kissing her head. "I love you so much, Bobbi," he whispered, rocking her gently.
"I love you too, daddy and I'm so sorry I keep running away...I don't want to...not really...." Her voice was tiny and depressed, showing how hopeless she felt to stop doing so.
"I know." Coulson kissed her head. "And we will work on it," he promised. "It isn't the end of the world when something like this happens... it just shows us what we need to work on."
Bobbi snuggled close, holding tightly and listening to what her father told her. "Ok, daddy..." she finally responded, sounding a little more hopeful that he'd be able to help her. "I love you so much..." she finally whispered, before standing and fixing her clothing. As soon as she was dressed again, she sat back on his lap and put her head on his shoulder, wrapping her arms around him, snuggling as close as he would allow.
Coulson wrapped his arms around her tightly once more. "I'm so glad I have you here safe with me," he whispered, kissing her cheek.
"I'm glad you have me too, daddy...more glad than I can ever say...." Her voice was soft, tired...content. Kissing him on the cheek, she relaxed in his arms and just soaked in the affection, her fears replaced by the knowledge that, no matter what she did, her father would always come after her to keep her close.
Fury stood and gathered Kara in close as he followed his brother and niece, moving into their own room.
Kara stood in the middle of the room where she and her father would be staying. Now that she was actually alone with him, the weight of what she'd done to her family finally settled on her shoulders completely and she slumped from guilt. Of course, that didn't mean she wanted a spanking. Not really caring if her question sounded rather childish; she'd been fighting being childish all day (it was hard to remember how she would have responded before), she turned to face her father and bit her lip, before giving him a hesitant and slightly impish smile. "Are you going to 'remind' me not to run away now?" Her voice wasn't quite hopeful; she realized what she'd done required more than just a 'reminder', but maybe he'd give an indication of how much trouble she had gotten into.
Fury stood facing his daughter, a serious, almost stern look on his face... even though he had no intention of raising his voice at her. "We're going to deal with your running away... but we're also going to discuss how we can stop it from happening again," he said, his voice firm... though not unkind.
Kara bit her lip and nodded hesitantly. She wasn't surprised, really...her father didn't really need to tell her what he planned to do, because she'd been expecting it ever since she'd let her brain catch up to her body. She still felt the need to ask, though. "Are you very terribly mad at me?" she asked hesitantly, even as she moved closer to Fury's side so that he could position her.
Fury closed his hand around his daughter's wrist, walking over to the bed and taking a seat so he could draw her over his lap. "I'm relieved to have you here safe," he replied. "I know you were going after your cousin... but leaving without even a note, or taking your cell phone with you, meant you could have been in big danger."
Kara meekly followed behind, not attempting to fight or break free. "I worried you again...scared you. I didn't mean to...I know it doesn't change anything; I should have thought, but I didn't...." Her voice was filled with guilt. "I don't know why I can't seem to think first...I'm sorry, daddy..." Her voice was soft and apologetic. She didn't wait for him to draw her over his lap. As soon as he was sat, she placed herself over his knee, reaching down and holding onto his ankle with one hand while reaching back with the other hand, hoping that he would take hold.
Fury grasped hold of his daughter's hand, holding it against her back, lacing his fingers through hers. He rubbed her back gently before baring her.
Taking in a shuddery breath, Kara gently squeezed her father's hand. She couldn't help but tense up when he bared her and whimpered softly, anticipating the first swat.
Fury rubbed his daughter's back gently again, before lifting his hand and bringing it down in the first swat, which he then repeated.
Kara didn't bother trying to keep quiet, or hold still, or be brave. She knew she'd messed up and she knew how and she knew she deserved every swat. She also knew her father had a firm grip on her and wouldn't let go...and he wouldn't hold it against her for being honest with her response. It didn't take long at all for tears to start falling from her eyes, for her first initial whimper to turn into several whimpers and whines and to begin squirming in an attempt to find some way to make the spanking less painful.
Fury settled quickly into a pattern of swats, going down to Kara's thighs before starting over from the top... which was when he started speaking. "Running like you did hurt and worried everyone, Kara, not just me. None of us knew where you'd gone... if HYDRA could get to you again..."
Kara let out a longer, mournful whine at her father's words and began to cry vocally. "I know, daddy...I know...I'm sorry...I don't want to be bad...I don't...I just don't think! I'm sorry, daddy!" She tried to hold still, but soon gave up and began wriggling even more, in danger of falling off her father's lap.
Fury tightened his hold on his daughter, drawing her in close against his stomach as he completed the second circuit before starting a third, swatting a bit harder and faster. "I know you didn't think, Kara." His voice was quiet... gentle. "I know you didn't mean to. You aren't bad. You just need to remember how much you're loved and cared for."
"B..bu...but how?" Kara nearly wailed. "If I'm not thinking, how do I remember?" she asked hopelessly, before going limp over Fury's lap and just sobbing. She was so distraught trying to figure out how to remember things when she couldn't even stop long enough to think that she completely missed the fact that she no longer felt guilty...and felt safer and more secure over her father's lap than she had the entire time she was away from him.
Fury stopped spanking immediately and gathered his daughter into his arms, tugging her in close and stroking her hair and back. "It isn't hopeless," he said. "We will deal with it. We'll figure out ways to help you calm down and remember what to do when things get too overwhelming for you."
Kara immediately wrapped her arms tightly around her father and hid her face against Fury's neck. It didn't take her long to calm down. She trusted her father to help her. "I hope so, daddy...I don't like hurting you or everyone else."
"I know," Fury replied. "But we will work on it. I'll help you," he promised. "I know it's scary sometimes... but there are ways we can deal with it. Even then... even if it happens again... it's not the end of the world."
Kara nuzzled against her father. "Ok, daddy," she whispered, completely trusting in her father. "Thank you for taking care of me..." She sniffled slightly. "It doesn't feel as scary when you have me...."
"I'll always have you," Fury promised. "You have a family here with me. Your brothers, too... not to mention your uncles and aunts, your grandfather and a whole myriad of cousins. We're all here for you..."
Kara had finally stopped crying by this point, content to just stay in her father's arms and snuggle. She got up only long enough to pull her clothes back into place and then crawled back onto her father's lap and pressed even tighter. "I wish I could just stay next to you all the time, so you could tell me when I'm about to do something stupid...or stop me. It'd be a lot easier." She pouted. She was teasing, sort of...part of her really did wish that, even if she knew it wasn't healthy and she needed to learn how to make decisions on her own again. "Whitehall really messed me up..." she admitted softly with embarrassment. "...I'm too used to just doing and not thinking because I was being told what to do...that doesn't work if I haven't actually been given directions...." She sighed and tightened her grip on her father, resting her head on his shoulder. "Do you know why Bobbi ran?" she asked out of nowhere.
Fury held his daughter close, stroking her hair gently. "HYDRA has messed up a lot of the family," he said quietly. "But healing is possible... even though it's not a fast process. And Tony found the file you and Bobbi looked at," he added. "We know why Bobbi ran and you went after her."
"Do you think I'll ever learn to make good decisions again?" she asked softly, sniffling again and shifting slightly because she could still feel the sting from the spanking. "Cuz I know you'll always have me and always come after me and always take care of me... but if I can't learn to think before doing stupid stuff, I'm afraid I'm never going to be able to sit right ever again...." She snorted, glancing up at Fury with an impish grin.
Fury pressed a kiss to Kara's forehead. "I think you'll heal," he said. "Both Brock and Grant were brainwashed... though in different ways. And I'm sure you've seen that they're recovering. Even when there are moments they backslide, they're gradually getting better. And you will as well."
Kara looked up into her father's face, as if trying to see something in his expression. She must have found what she was looking for, because she gave him a sweet smile and snuggled closer before whispering, "Thanks, daddy...." She was quiet for a few moments more then asked, "Am I grounded? I'm just wondering, cuz Bobbi seemed to think that she had more than a spanking coming to her, or at least that's what she was mumbling to herself on the bus, and since I went with her, I figured I'd be in just as much trouble...." She bit her lip and suddenly found the buttons on her father's shirt interesting.
Fury tightened his embrace around Kara. "We'll be staying here for a few days... and you will be sticking close to me. Just like I'm sure Bobbi will be kept close to her daddy."
"I like sticking close to you..." Kara admitted, playing with the buttons that she'd found so interesting. "I don't much like you being disappointed in me, but the sticking close part? I really like that..."
Wrinkling her nose, she slanted her head thoughtfully. "I hope Aunt Cath has something that will fit me, though. My phone wasn't the only thing I forgot when we left. Although I'm so dang short, I could probably wear one of your shirts as a mini-dress and get away with it...." She giggled slightly.
"I thought we could all head to the shops and get some clothes for you both... as a temporary fix, since I expect your brothers will be joining us in a few days and can bring some clothes," Fury answered.
Kara smiled, just snuggling closer. She'd known her father would have a plan and make sure she had what she needed. Everything else in her life might be scary and confusing, but the one thing she knew she could believe was that her daddy would take care of her.
It was almost an hour later and Paul was sitting in the family room, reading. It would soon be time for him to begin the evening chores, but he'd wanted to wait until his brothers came back down to find out if his nieces were alright and if there was anything else he could do before he headed outside. That and normally, whenever they visited, his brothers always wanted to help; it gave them time when the three of them could talk and catch up on each other's lives.
He glanced toward the hallway when he heard footsteps.
Coulson had stayed cuddling with Bobbi for a while before suggesting they head downstairs to see the others. He had his arm wrapped around his daughter's waist as he guided her into the family room.
Paul smiled as his brother and niece came into the room. "Hey, sweetheart... Phil..." He put his book down beside the sofa and stood up, walking toward them. "I was about to go do the evening chores, but wanted to wait and give you an opportunity to join me, if you feel up to it..." He looked between the two of them, trying to determine if his niece felt up to doing any manual labor or would be too sore... and if his brother looked like he'd got any sleep in the last twenty-four hours and would feel up to helping. He could hear Nick and his daughter moving around upstairs and figured he would ask him as well, if they decided to come down to join everyone. He hadn't got to know Kara yet and wasn't certain if she'd need a bit more time to adjust to new people or not.
Coulson squeezed Bobbi's shoulders gently. "If you feel up to it, maybe you can give your horse a rub down," he suggested... also remembering there were kittens that had, more than likely, been weaned by now.
Having suggested to Kara they go down for a bit, Fury stepped into the room in time to hear Coulson's comment. "Are we dividing up chores?"
"I'd like that..." Bobbi smiled. "Would you like to help, Kara? All the horses are very sweet. And maybe we can see the kittens...."
Kara blinked, glancing at her father as if to ask permission. "That sounds like fun...maybe..." she said softly.
"Go ahead," Fury suggested. "When we're done, we can sit and have something to eat and drink... maybe play a game." He squeezed Kara gently.
Coulson pressed a kiss to Bobbi's forehead. "You might find you like one of the kittens."
"The kittens are weaned now, so if you do find one you like...." Paul smiled, giving his brother a look- not wanting to offer it outright in case they weren't able to take it.
Kara looked excited at the prospect though. "Oh! Can I have a kitten, daddy? Please?" She was literally bouncing in place while clasping her hands together.
Bobbi blinked, then turned toward her own father and gave him a wide-eyed, pleading smile. "Pleeeease, daddy?"
Fury and Coulson exchanged a glance and then Fury shrugged. "It's not like the tower isn't plenty big enough."
"I'm sure both of you can get a kitten," Coulson said.
Kara squealed happily, throwing her arms around Fury's neck and hugging tightly, still bouncing in place in excitement with the exuberance and happiness of a child.
Bobbi's hug was more sedate and less likely to knock her father over, although she was smiling widely as well. "Thanks, daddy..." she said softly, in a pleased tone.
Paul shook his head as he watched his nieces, grinning from ear to ear, but not commenting. He didn't want to embarrass Kara; he suspected her behavior and lack of 'maturity' was in large part because of what she'd gone through. At the same time, he was wishing he had his camera on him, so he could take pictures for the other men.
Fury smiled and tugged his daughter in close, squeezing her gently. "You and Bobbi should see if you're taken with any of them."
Coulson held Bobbi close, stroking her hair. "I'd do anything to make you happy."
"You too, daddy... you have to like him or her too..." Kara announced, kissing him on the cheek, then grabbing his hand and dragging him toward the back door so she could go look for said kitten.
Bobbi couldn't help but laugh at her cousin's impatience. "Slow down, Kar-bear. The kittens aren't going to disappear on you!" she teased gently. "Besides...we need to do the chores first. C'mon and I'll show you what to do..." she offered, giving her father one last smile before gently extracting Kara from Fury, giving her uncle a grin as well and then leading her cousin outside to show her how to do the chores.
Paul blinked then looked at his brothers. "Well...Bobbi does know what needs doing. Maybe I should let her take care of things in the barn and can make use of my unexpected free time to fix the cellar door like I've been promising Cath for the last week..." He laughed softly. "Either of you two want to help me? Or do you want to go help your daughters?"
"I'll go and supervise the girls... make sure they don't get too engrossed in looking at kittens," Fury said, knowing that he and Coulson were both unwilling to leave the girls on their own for long.
Coulson nodded, looking at Paul. "I'll give you a hand."
Paul nodded. "If they do pick out which kittens they want, when we go into town tomorrow for those supplies that they'll need before the rest of the kids get here, we can pick up some things for the cats as well. Also, I can call the traveling vet to have them come out and check out all the kittens and give them whatever shots they need. They should be old enough now to receive them and you may as well take care of that before taking them home." He went to the hall closet and got out his tool box, before glancing at Phil. "C'mon, baby brother. Help me with the cellar door and I'll let you pick where we eat lunch tomorrow while we're in town..." He grinned boyishly at his brother.
Coulson returned his brother's grin. "Where are the tools?" he asked, walking over to the cellar so he could see exactly what work needed to be done.
"Right here!" Paul smiled, holding up the tools he would need. "What I need help with is someone to hold the door in place while I reattach the hinge."
Coulson nodded, getting a good grip on the door so he could hold it steadily in place.
Bobbi had quickly led Kara to the barn and was explaining what all needed to be done for the horses. She couldn't help but laugh at her cousin's face when she explained how they needed to muck out the stalls.
Kara stuck her tongue out at Bobbi's laughter, but gamely forged ahead with cleaning the stalls. She grinned when her father came into the barn with them. "You going to supervise, daddy?" she teased gently.
"I thought I'd give you a hand... but, you know, I'm perfectly fine with just supervising," Fury said, keeping a straight face... even though he knew his daughter and niece would know he was joking.
Kara grinned at her father and went back to mucking. Or, at least, she'd planned to go back to mucking...until something ran up her leg. Shrieking, she let go of the pitchfork she'd been holding and jumped up onto the stall's gate, kicking said leg spastically. "What was that?!"
Bobbi, eyes wide at her cousin's sudden panic, said in a hesitant, rather timid voice, "It was a mouse...they have them here in the barn. It's why they have barn cats...." Biting her lip, she smiled crookedly. "I didn't know you were afraid of mice...."
Kara swallowed and glanced around the ground uncertainly. "I didn't know I was afraid of mice...until just now..." she admitted. "I'm not walking on the ground. I won't. The mouse might get me! Come get me, daddy!" she demanded imperiously, too nervous about the potential 'attacker' to realize how she was being demanding.
Fury's eyes had narrowed with worry when Kara had cried out. But whether she was scared of the mouse, or of what the mouse represented, he couldn't ignore her. He walked over to his daughter, helping her down.
Kara's eyes widened as her father tried to help her back onto the ground. "No...nononono!" She clung to him, refusing to get down. "Bobbi has to find the mouse first!" She shivered, hiding her face against her father.
Bobbi, meanwhile, was carefully but quickly checking the stall and the areas around the stall. "It's gone, Kar-bear... I think you scared it just as bad as it scared you. All that's left is dirty hay..." she tried to soothe her cousin.
Kara shivered slightly, but finally slid down out of her father's arms, her face bright red. "Sorry..." She glanced between the two of them sheepishly and slowly, checking for the mouse the entire time, picked up the hay fork and began working again. It was obvious she was still nervous, though, even if she was slowly calming down. "I used to like mice, I think..." she said in a soft, rather disappointed voice. It hurt not knowing why she was afraid. Especially when she suspected it wasn't a fear she'd always had.
Fury stepped over, squeezing Kara's shoulder before he began helping them out. "It might be related to what you went through while in HYDRA's clutches," he said, his voice gentle. "Most of the family have issues... things we need to work through. And when something happens, it isn't a problem. Because then we can work on a solution."
Kara sniffled slightly, continuing to work diligently, but her eyes darted around nervously, as if she expected to be attacked at any second. "Work on a solution how, daddy?" she finally asked softly. She'd finally finished the stall she'd been working on and stepped back so her father and Bobbi could check and make sure she'd done it right, Bobbi having already finished the other two stalls.
Bobbi glanced in and smiled, giving her cousin a thumbs up before indicating they now needed to put fresh hay into the stalls by beginning to do exactly that. Kara watched how Bobbi did it for a moment then began to copy her movements, but she didn't say anything, waiting for her father to answer her question.
Fury continued to help the girls, even as he responded to his daughter. "It might be worth looking into getting counselling. I know it's helped Grant a lot. And it gives you a safe place to talk through what you need to."
"Maybe..." Kara didn't sound overly enthusiastic about talking to a stranger, but she didn't outright refuse either.
Bobbi smiled crookedly at her uncle, the guilt she felt for having played any part at all in what happened to Kara showing in her eyes. "We've cleaned the stalls," she finally said softly. "...All that's left is to put feed in for them and lead the horses in for the night. Then maybe we can go look for the kittens...."
"There are three horses... we can lead one each in," Fury said calmly, noticing the look on Bobbi's face... but knowing that she would need to come to terms with the guilt in her own way and with her father's help.
Kara perked up at being able to lead in one of the horses and then look for the kittens. Smiling, she glanced toward where the horses were outside waiting patiently. "They're gorgeous..." She grinned.
Bobbi couldn't help grin back. "They are. That one there is mine when I visit. Maybe you'll bond with one, too." Walking over, she took hold of the harness, handing 'her' horse an apple, then motioning Kara to take the harness of one of the other ones. Slowly, she led her horse into its stall, crooning to it the whole way.
Kara carefully walked over, looking at both of them. The one stallion looked huge and a bit more energetic than she felt comfortable trying to lead, so she carefully took the harness of the second one, handing an apple over and letting it sniff against her neck. She giggled softly, petting the animal, before leading it to a stall.
The stallion snorted and pawed its foot, then looked at Fury, as if to ask what was taking the man so long. It wanted to go into its stall and eat.
Fury stepped over to the stallion, giving his neck a reassuring pat before he took the stallion's harness, feeding it an apple from his hand before he guided it into the stall, making sure it was secure and could easily get to the feed and water buckets.
Once the horses were finally stabled and secure for the night, Kara looked at Bobbi and began to bounce in place again. "Where are the kittens?!" she blurted, glancing around.
"Last time I was here, mamma cat had them over behind that barrel there..." Bobbi pointed. "Of course, now they are weaned and able to go around on their own, who knows? We'll have to hunt. Do you hear any meowing?"
Kara's nose wrinkled as she quieted down and held still to try and hear. "I...think?" she finally said in a whisper, before taking off out of the barn and toward a hay wagon that was sat not too far outside the barn.
Fury followed his daughter a bit more slowly, looking around and listening so he could see if there was any sign of a kitten... or more than one...
Climbing up into the wagon, Kara slowly made her way to where an old blanket had been carelessly tossed over a couple of hay bales. "Oh...hi kitty!" she held out her hand carefully- gently.
Bobbi carefully climbed up beside her cousin and knelt down on the wagon bed, looking at the blanket. "If I remember correctly, there were only four kittens...and it looks like they are all here...." she whispered herself, holding out her hand as well, not wanting to frighten the animals away, but hoping that one of them would be curious enough to come and get to know her.
"There were four kittens?" Kara slanted her head. "Do you think Uncle Phil would let Wanda and Nat have one too? They wouldn't have to be separated; or at least separated as much, that way...." She grinned as the smallest of the bunch came out and sniffed at her hand, playfully batting at the finger she was wriggling at it.
"I don't know..." Bobbi blinked at the question. "What do you think, Uncle Nick?" She laughed softly as the only male kitten in the group padded over and head butted her leg.
"I'm sure your dad would be fine with your sister and niece adopting a kitten," Fury commented. "But you might want to ask him yourself... I suspect that we might end up with an extra dog or two in the tower as well."
Kara giggled as the tiny kitten began to rub up against her hand in a bid to be pet. Gently, she picked it up and held it close to her chest, snuggling it. "We'll have a regular kennel in the tower if we do..." She grinned at her father.
Bobbi carefully picked up the kitten that was still head-butting her leg and scratched it behind the ears, her eyes widening as a very loud rumbling sound carried in the air. "You're a loud boy, aren't you?" she cooed to the animal, continuing to scratch behind its ears and under its chin.
The other two kittens, realizing that their two siblings were getting attention and they weren't, scrambled out of the blanket and began weaving around Kara and Bobbi, meowing pitifully, before going over to Fury and meowing at him.
Fury crouched down to pet the two kittens. "We'll have to check with your Uncle Paul about whether they want to keep any of the kittens," he commented... though he suspected the family would be happy with them taking all of the kittens.
Kara nodded, humming to herself.
Bobbi nodded as well. "That's true. We don't want to take all their mice'in cats. Although if the way mamma cat looks is any indication, they'll be getting replacements soon enough."
"I was afraid of that..." Their uncle's voice could be heard coming up behind them. Paul and Phil had finished fixing the cellar door and had decided to come see how the girls were doing on the chores. "You girls did a good job on the stable. And that was actually the only chore I had left to do for today, so we have the rest of the evening free until dinner. Are those the two kittens you girls want?" he asked curiously.
Kara nodded hesitantly, before answering softly, her smile timid, "Yes, sir. I'm going to name her Whisper..." she added with a grin. "...Cuz her meow isn't very loud at all...."
Bobbi chuckled as the kitten she held head butted her on the chin. "And I'm going to name this one Runt...because I think he is going to be a very big cat and I think that would be funny." She glanced at her uncles and father with an impish gleam in her eye.
Turning to face Phil more fully, but including her Uncle Paul in her gaze, Bobbi asked, "If Uncle Paul and Aunt Cath don't mind giving up all the kittens...would it be ok for us to take the other two home as well? So Nat and Wanda can each have one?" She bit her lip as she watched the two men.
Paul shrugged, glancing at Phil. "I don't mind. Especially not if we're going to get another litter of kittens. I can have the vet out here by tomorrow afternoon for shots and such...and make an appointment to have Esmerelda fixed as soon as she has the last litter."
Coulson had headed out of the farmhouse with his older brother and he smiled at the sight of his daughter with the kitten she wanted. He stepped over and kissed Bobbi's cheek. "I'm sure Nat and Wanda will be very happy to have a kitten each," he commented.
"Good! We won't have to separate them from each other...just from poor mamma...but I guess she'll be ok with that if she has other kittens to look after..." Bobbi smiled, still cuddling her own kitten.
"I'm sure she'll do fine," Coulson said. "Are you both ready to come inside? Have something to eat?"
Fury placed a hand on Kara's shoulder and squeezed gently, happy to see her having fun... enjoying herself.
Bobbi nodded, reluctantly putting the kitten back down. Until they had a litter box and other needed items, she figured it likely needed to stay outside. "Yes, daddy, I'm ready."
Kara nodded, also putting her kitten down, then moving closer to her father. "I'm hungry..." she admitted quietly.
"You can come and see your kitten again in the morning." Coulson wrapped his arm around Bobbi's waist so that he could lead her inside.
Fury drew Kara in close, heading back into the farmhouse with his daughter.
It didn't take the girls long to head back upstairs to wash up, but it quickly became apparent it would take longer to actually get clean. Both of them realized that they were wearing the same clothes they'd had on exactly twenty-four hours earlier; and not only that, but they'd mucked horse stalls in said clothes (which probably hadn't been an overly wise idea). Neither girl wanted to go to the dinner table smelling of horse, but weren't sure what to do about it. They really needed to shower as well. "I'll go ask..." Kara said hesitantly, still feeling a bit out of sorts after everything that had happened, but not wanting to admit it.
"No need to go back downstairs." Bobbi shook her head. "I'll just yell down for daddy and when he comes to chide me for yelling in the house, I'll let him know." Her impish grin was infectious.
Both Coulson and Fury had thought about their daughters needing showers and clothes and they'd checked with Cathy, getting some clothes from her that would do until they could head into town in the morning.
Knocking on the door, Coulson waited a beat and then opened it, revealing both himself and Fury. "You should have enough time for a shower and change of clothes before dinner," he said, handing the clothes over. "One of you can make use of your aunt and uncle's shower. There are towels in both of the bathrooms."
"Thanks, Daddy...We should have known you'd both have it figured out and taken care of before we even thought of it...." Bobbi grinned, handing a set of the clothes and a towel to Kara. "I'll let you have the hall shower if you'd like, Kar-bear...."
Kara nodded, blushing slightly, but smiling. "Yeah...ok. Thank you, daddy...." She smiled hesitantly again, before quickly disappearing into the hall bath.
"I'll be as quick as possible..." Bobbi promised, before heading into her aunt and uncle's room to use their shower.
Thirty minutes later, Kara and Bobbi had trooped downstairs and were sitting at the kitchen table, freshly scrubbed and looking a lot more innocent than they had a right to. It was amusing to Paul, who knew how mischievous Phil's youngest daughter could be; and he suspected, when she was feeling more like herself, Nick's daughter was the same. "We'll head out early in the morning for town so you both can get clothes that actually fit you right," he teased, noting that Bobbi kept tugging her sleeves down because the clothes were just a bit too short for her, while poor Kara had the opposite problem and kept having to push her sleeves up.
Coulson and Fury each took a seat next to their daughters. Coulson kissed Bobbi's cheek and squeezed her shoulder gently, while Fury wrapped his arm around Kara's shoulders, giving her a gentle squeeze.
Cathy finished putting the rest of the food on the table and then sat down next to her husband.
Ben took his seat at the table. "While you're here, we can look at making plans to expand the farmhouse," he commented, as he began helping to pour out drinks.
Bobbi blinked. "Expand it how, grandpa?" she asked curiously.
Kara snuggled against her father, kissing him on the cheek, before straightening up to listen to the conversation.
"There's a lot of land around the farmhouse that's not in use," Ben explained, motioning for them all to start eating. "Considering how the family's grown... we've discussed making the farmhouse bigger. So that more of you can come... or you can have a bit more privacy."
"It would be nice if everyone could come see you if they wanted...but I don't know that I need more privacy..." Bobbi shrugged. "I kinda like being under your feet." She gave her grandfather a way too innocent smile.
Ben shook his head, amusement passing across his face. "In any case... I'm sure you two could come up with plenty of ideas while you're staying here." His tone was fond.
"Oh...I have lots and lots of ideas..." Kara nodded, her eyes wide. "...If you're sure you want them...." She bit her lip, looking back down at her plate and taking a quick bite of food.
Bobbi sighed silently. Finding out what had happened had set her cousin's healing back considerably and Bobbi couldn't help but feel responsible, even if Kara had forgiven her and told her it wasn't her fault.
Fury placed his hand on Kara's and squeezed gently.
"I want any and all of your ideas," Ben said. "After all, this is as much your home as the tower. You should be able to have a say in it." He smiled at Kara.
Noticing his own daughter's unhappiness, however slight, Coulson wrapped an arm around her shoulders and squeezed gently.
Kara looked up at her grandfather and smiled shyly. She couldn't figure out why he had accepted her so quickly and whole-heartedly, but it helped her feel a bit more confident. Turning her hand over, she grasped her father's hand back and squeezed, giving Fury a tiny smile, before looking back at Ben. "Thank you...I...I still don't remember much from before, so I don't know if I had a home or not; but knowing I have two homes now...where I'm wanted...I..." She sniffled and looked down, her face turning red. "Sorry. Don't mean to be a baby...."
Bobbi couldn't help it. She began to sniffle, too. "You aren't a baby!" she protested hotly. "You're very brave and...and...well you have a right to cry and..." She swallowed hard. "Just, you aren't a baby..." she finished weakly.
Fury wrapped his arms around Kara, hugging her close. "You aren't a baby." He reiterated her cousin's words. "It's been an overwhelming day for you so far." He stroked her hair gently.
Coulson hugged Bobbi tightly, aware of the fact she was close to tears as well. "I think we should have an early night... you'll both feel better once you've been able to have some sleep that isn't on a moving vehicle." He leaned in and kissed her hair.
"And we can discuss your ideas tomorrow," Ben said. "After the trip into town, of course."
Paul agreed, "An early night would be perfect for me as well since I will want to get up a bit earlier to take care of the animals before we leave." He smiled as he noticed both Kara and Bobbi automatically begin eating so that they could cooperate and obey their fathers. He watched them for a few more moments to make certain there wasn't anything he could do to help, glancing at his brothers and his own father before he continued eating with a smile.
It didn't take long for either Kara or Bobbi to finish eating, once they'd set their minds to it, and soon they were waiting patiently for everyone else to finish so that they could help their aunt Cath clear the table and clean up.
Coulson and Fury finished their own food quite quickly and also stood to help with the clearing up.
It didn't take long for the clearing up to be finished and once it was, Coulson and Fury wrapped their arms around their daughters to guide them upstairs to bed.
Bobbi snuggled closer to her father, the last several days of guilt-filled worry and running away catching up to her. She couldn't help the huge yawn that escaped her mouth. She grabbed the pair of pajamas that her aunt had left for her and quickly changed before crawling into bed and waiting for her father to finish getting ready. She sighed softly, thinking about what she had done, and wondered out loud, "..Do you think I'll ever learn to come to you first? Before I just take off running like a little idiot?" She toyed with the cover on the bed.
Coulson got ready and slipped into bed, wrapping his arms around his daughter and drawing her in close. "You have come to me in the past," he pointed out gently. "You had a big emotional upheaval this time."
Bobbi snuggled as close as she could, putting her head against her father's chest. "I...I know some things I've done in ops in the past have hurt innocent people. I try not to think about it, because the end result was saving a lot of people... but... finding out exactly how badly Kara was hurt because of what I did, even though she understood and forgave me immediately, I just... it feels horrible, daddy. Kara's family...and a friend...and what she went through..." She sighed softly. "And I can't help wondering if there were other innocent people that were hurt as badly or worse because of something I did. I can't stop thinking about it now...." Her voice was tired and sad, but she tightened her grip on her father instead of pulling away.
Coulson leaned in and pressed a kiss to Bobbi's head. "People make mistakes. You didn't know that Kara was there. How could you? I know you feel guilty, but it wasn't your fault. You didn't deliberately hand Kara, or anyone, to HYDRA."
"I know that in my head. It's not helping my heart, though," she admitted sadly. "A part of me still feels like I don't deserve to be here with you, or the rest of my family, because of what I did...."
Coulson tightened his embrace around his daughter. "Making a mistake doesn't make you a bad person," he said gently. "You won't need to pretend to work for HYDRA again... so you know you won't be in a situation like that. And you can help Kara to heal..."
Bobbi pressed closer to her father, sniffling slightly. "I want to help her..." she whispered. But what should I do if...if it just gets overwhelming again and I feel like I need to run again? How do I stop myself? I knew I shouldn't run this time and my emotions just took over...." Her voice was filled with apology and regret but also a tiny hint of fear. What if next time she ran, her father couldn't catch her or even find her?
Coulson threaded his fingers gently through Bobbi's hair. "When you feel yourself getting to that point, it's often good to take a step back. Coping mechanisms like mantras can help... and when I notice something's wrong, I'll encourage you to talk to me."
"I don't wanna run away from you, daddy..." she said in a very small voice. "...As soon as I'd calmed down, I regretted running this time," she admitted.
"I know." Coulson kissed her head. "I know this has been tough... but no matter what, I will find you. I will never stop loving you," he promised.
"I'm afraid, daddy..." She swallowed hard. "I'm afraid that I won't be able to learn or figure out how to calm myself down enough to think before I run...and that you might not be able to find me, no matter how hard you look. I don't trust myself anymore." She shivered slightly.
"It's like with anything," Coulson said gently. "It might take a while, but if you do run... I'll always do everything within my power to find you." Stroking Bobbi's hair, he continued, "Grant has a bracelet that has video feed and a tracker in it... do you think you might feel better if we arranged something similar for you? At least on a temporary basis."
"It would let you find me faster?" Bobbi asked with a quivery voice. "If so, then...then yessir. I...I think I'd feel better...at least if I go stupid again, you can get me quick...." She sounded discouraged and defeated, her self-confidence shaken till it was almost gone.
"You aren't stupid, sweetie," Coulson said, voice firm and loving. "But if you think it would help you... help you feel better in case something does happen... we can talk to Leo. It isn't hopeless," he promised.
"Thanks, daddy..." she whispered, snuggling closer. "I love you...."
"I love you, sweetie... so much." Coulson kissed her head. "I'll always take care of you," he promised.
Reassured that her father had everything under control, and would continue to do so, Bobbi finally allowed herself to close her eyes. Within a few moments, she was sound asleep.
Kara was so tired. It had been an eventful twenty-four hours. Prior to learning the secret Bobbi had discovered and chasing after her cousin, she had actually been in a pretty good place mentally. Then she'd found out how HYDRA had got hold of her and while she didn't blame Bobbi (the other woman hadn't known she was there and was obviously remorseful about the fact), it had still brought up a lot of bad feelings that she couldn't attach to any particular memory, so dealing with the feelings was difficult. More than once, she'd found herself reacting or behaving in ways that she was positive a healthy adult woman would not have reacted or behaved, but it was the only way to ease the anxiety her lack of memory and the feelings were causing. She felt extremely lucky her father understood and was willing to work with her where she was at.
Aunt Cath had left a pair of pajamas for Kara as well and she put them on, but something felt wrong somehow. It was while her father was taking his shower that she came up with her idea; and implementing it had calmed her considerably. Smiling softly to herself, she crawled into bed and waited for her father to return, wondering if she'd have to explain why she raided his clothing and was now wearing one of his older sweatshirts overtop the pajamas. She pulled the neck up so it covered her mouth and nose and just breathed in, her father's scent calming her. She curled up on the bed, sweatshirt still covering her nose, and was soon sleeping.
Fury returned from getting ready for bed, seeing his daughter already there and asleep. He got into bed with her, wrapping his arms around her and drawing her in close.
Kara wrapped herself around her father snugly, waking up very briefly to notice that she wasn't alone. "...Love you, daddy..." she whispered against his side, where she'd buried her head under his arm.
Fury gathered Kara in close, stroking her hair. "I love you too," he whispered to her.
Despite not having had that much sleep, Coulson woke up fairly early. He looked down at Bobbi in his arms, not sure if she was awake or not... but unwilling to move much in case she was still asleep. He gently stroked her hair.
Bobbi whimpered slightly, not asleep anymore, but not fully awake either. She cuddled closer to her father, shivering slightly.
Coulson frowned in concern, still stroking her hair... though he didn't try to wake her up. He eased the blankets up tighter over her body.
She settled down at the affection and comfort; even so, it wasn't that much longer before she woke herself, blinking bleary eyes.
"Hey," Coulson said softly, pressing a kiss to Bobbi's head. "How are you feeling?" His voice was filled with concern and love for his daughter.
"I'm ok, daddy..." Bobbi answered, her voice sounding rather stuffed up and gravely. "...Mostly," she reluctantly added. Suddenly twisting away from him, she sneezed into her elbow.
Coulson frowned with worry, reaching out to gently stroke her hair. "Do you have a cold?"
"Nguh-huh" she answered, her face still covered by her arm, as she wasn't certain she wouldn't sneeze again. "Guess I didn't take good nuff care of myself the last few days or something..." She sighed then suddenly sneezed again. "Ugh...."
Coulson continued gently stroking her hair. "Why don't I get you a drink? Do you feel up to eating something?"
Bobbi just snuggled closer. "I prolly should...not really hungry, but not eating right prolly contributed to my getting sick...so yeah." She sighed, before forcing herself up and out of bed. "Maybe some warm tea?" She gave her father a tiny smile, not sure if he would be addressing her comment about eating or not.
Coulson kissed her cheek. "You can stay here... I'll bring you up breakfast and some warm tea," he offered, knowing he would make sure that any crumbs were cleaned up.
"Oh...but you don't have to bring it up to me, daddy... I want to be with you...and everyone else...unless you think I'm too contagious..." She bit her lip, smiling at him. "It's just a cold..."
"If you're sure you feel up to it, then of course you can join everyone else." Coulson kissed her cheek. "I don't hear anyone in the bathroom, if you wanted to quickly wash up."
Giving her father a brilliant smile, she quickly hugged him. "Ok, daddy. Thank you!" she said softly, cuddling just a bit more before scampering to the bath. It didn't take her long to get ready, so she was leaving by the time Kara was dragging herself towards it.
Coulson stood just outside the room, waiting so that he could use the bathroom. He could hear Cathy moving around downstairs and expected it wouldn't be long before his father and older brother joined them.
Paul walked out of his room, noticing that his brother was stood outside the room waiting on the bathroom. "You can go through and use Cath's and my bath," he offered with a smile, just as the hall bath's door opened. "Or Nick can..."
Kara blinked at seeing her uncles standing outside the door, then wrinkled her nose and blushed. "Sorry. All yours!" She smiled, pulling her hair back into an elastic band. "Bobbi downstairs?"
Coulson nodded to his brother. "I'll use yours, thanks," he said, noticing Fury stepping out of his room. He looked at Kara. "She is... she's also come down with a cold. Nothing serious, but she should be having something to drink."
Kara's smile grew as she saw her father, then she nodded at Phil. "Ok, uncle Phil... I'll make sure she's drinking it, then..." She waved, gave both her uncles a quick hug, then bounced over to her father and gave him a longer hug, before ducking back into her room to drop off what she was carrying. She then dashed downstairs, only stopping her running and changing it to a fast walk at the look all three men gave her. "Sooorrrrry..." she sang up the stairs at them, before disappearing from view.
Paul shook his head and snorted in amusement. "It's always good to have young blood in the house..." He smiled at his brothers. "I'm going to go help Cath with the breakfast. Want to give me your orders before I head down? So it will be ready and waiting when you get there? I believe she said she was making pancakes, but if you want blueberries or bananas added, I should let her know."
"Blueberries would be good," Coulson commented. "I won't be too long in the bathroom." He smiled, knowing that Bobbi wasn't seriously ill... but he still intended to make sure she had plenty to drink and kept warm.
"I can do blueberries, too," Fury commented, nodding to his brothers before making his way to the hall bathroom.
Bobbi was setting the table when Kara made it downstairs. "Hey, Kar-bear...I'm heating water for tea. Want some?" Her voice was more rough and hoarse than when she got up.
Kara raised an eyebrow. "How bout you not talk too much before you lose your voice...?" she said gently. "And yes, tea sounds wonderful."
Paul came in at that moment. "Phil and Nick both agreed to blueberries in their pancakes." He smiled at his wife, before gently pushing Bobbi down into a chair and motioning Kara to sit as well. He then got out a glass, put a tablespoon of salt in it, filled it with warm water, stirred it then put it in front of Bobbi. "Go gargle with this, it will help your throat."
Bobbi eyed the salt water dubiously, but did as directed, heading into the hall bathroom with the glass.
Coulson and Fury came downstairs, both having showered and dressed. Coulson gave Bobbi a quick hug and kiss to her head before he headed into the kitchen.
Fury walked over and sat down next to Kara, wrapping his arm around her shoulders, as Cathy began plating up the pancakes.
Ben came into the farmhouse at that moment, having finished his morning chores.
"We finished everything early, so as soon as you all are ready, I figured we could load up the station wagon and head to the city. I know Cath was looking forward to getting a bit of shopping in herself." Paul smiled at his wife then took the glass from Bobbi as she returned to the kitchen.
Bobbi went to the stove to retrieve the kettle and began to pour the water into mugs for the tea. "Anyone else want some chamomile?" she asked softly.
"Me!" Kara piped up, giving her cousin a grin.
Coulson smiled at his daughter. "I'll have some as well," he said.
"I think I'll have coffee," Fury commented.
Cath and Ben joined them at the table, waiting for everyone to be seated before starting to eat.
Bobbi quickly fixed all the drinks, passing them out then sitting down with everyone else.
Breakfast had been calm and enjoyable. After eating and cleaning up, Bobbi had taken some cold medicine courtesy of her aunt, then they'd all piled in the station wagon and headed toward the city and shopping.
The first order of business was to get their daughters some new clothes to last them for a few days. Coulson and Fury headed to one of the women's clothing stores with Bobbi and Kara, waiting for them to pick out some clothes they liked.
Paul...seeing his brothers accompany their daughters...gave his father a wistful look as the older man headed toward a sporting equipment store, then looked at his wife, who had glanced at him on noticing the girls being accompanied. Smiling at Cathy, he leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, before saying, "I'll stay with you and offer opinions if you'd like..."
Cathy smiled at her husband. "It's fine with me if you want to go with Dad. I'm sure I can find some things without you," she teased gently, knowing that Paul wasn't a big fan of clothes shopping.
"We can always meet up with dad after we're done here..." He wrapped an arm around his wife and smiled more brightly. "It isn't often we get to come into town together...."
By this time, Bobbi and Kara had found the women's section and were looking for jeans in their size. "Good grief..." Bobbi muttered to herself then showed Kara a pair of shorts that were impractical at best, given that they had so many strategically placed holes in them, the wearer might as well just go out in their underwear.
Kara impishly took them and said, loudly enough that her father could hear, "These would be perfect to go to the club in.... What do you think?" She winked at Bobbi, before glancing toward her dad.
"If you're sure." Cathy smiled, leaning into her husband. "Of course, you've just volunteered yourself to give advice on everything I try on," she continued to tease.
"I'm vetoing those," Fury said immediately. "Anything that shows that much is not practical. Or safe."
"I'll give advice if I get to help you take it off again..." Paul gave his wife a teasingly lecherous look, leaning over and kissing her nose.
Kara, who'd been about to playfully argue with her father about his 'lack of fashion sense', blinked and got a confused look on her face, as if she couldn't figure out if she should find her aunt and uncle 'cute' or disturbing. "Ok, daddy..." she finally said, not even bothering to say she'd deliberately been teasing.
Bobbi started coughing as her attempt to not laugh at her cousin backfired.
Cathy kissed his cheek then laughed as she noticed the look on her niece's face. "Let's go and pick out some clothes before we scar the kids..."
Coulson stepped over to Bobbi, rubbing her back gently. "Have you found anything?"
Fury smiled at the look on his daughter's face, but reached out and gently took the shorts from her. "We'll find some things that aren't so... revealing."
"Right behind you, Sweet Pea!" Paul grinned, giving his brothers and nieces a jaunty wave before following Cathy to the section she wanted to look in.
"I think I want these jeans...they look durable enough to work in, but dressy enough that I won't feel like a total slob when we're all cleaned up and eating dinner or something..." She slanted him a look before asking cautiously, "...Is two pairs too many?"
Kara relinquished the shorts without any argument at all; she hadn't really wanted them, had only wanted to get a rise out of her father (and have him step in and be all over-protective papa, if she were honest with herself, although she wasn't allowing herself to think of that). "Ok, daddy..." She smiled sweetly and pulled out a pair of jeans she had been considering and handed them to him. "What about these?"
"You can get two pairs," Coulson replied. "I'm sure you'll use them other times as well, so it won't be a waste."
Fury carefully looked over the jeans and then nodded. "I'd say they're suitable. How many pairs do you want to get?" he asked.
"Thanks daddy!" Bobby smiled, hugging her father, grabbing two pair of the jeans in her size and then glancing toward the shirts. "A couple of t-shirts to work in and maybe one dressier shirt for dinner and then all I'd really need are underclothes. Maybe a nightshirt..."
Kara bit her lip uncertainly, giving Fury a shy smile. "Two?" she asked hesitantly. "Since Trip said he'd pack some stuff for me and bring it when he and Brock come later...."
"Whatever you want and feel comfortable in," Coulson said. It wasn't as if they couldn't afford it... and he wanted to make sure his daughter was comfortable enough.
Fury nodded. "Two pairs is fine. You might want to get a couple of shirts, too." He didn't mention the underclothes, figuring his daughter would have already thought of that... and not wanting to embarrass her.
Bobbi smiled and headed toward the shirts, quickly finding two t-shirts that she wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen in, then grabbing a dressier shirt for dinner. "You can sit on that bench there and wait for me if you'd like, daddy..." She smiled again, not wanting to drag her father through the lingerie department, for both their sakes.
"Ok, daddy." Kara grinned and headed toward where her cousin already was. It didn't take her long to find two shirts and a blouse that she liked. "I'm going with Bobbi to get the rest of the stuff I need..." She piled the items she'd decided on into her father's arms. "I'll be right back, if you want to go sit with Uncle Phil." She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, in lieu of asking him to hold her things, and ran after Bobbi.
Fury looked after his daughter with some trace of amusement and then moved over to sit down next to Coulson. The two talked quietly, holding their daughters' clothes, as they waited for Bobbi and Kara to return.
Paul returned with Cathy, maybe ten minutes after the girl's had gone off...his own arms filled with bags. "You didn't get out of pack-mule duty either, I take it?" He chuckled. "Although, not for much longer, it looks like...they have a bunch more stuff and are heading our way. I'm thinking after we've paid, we can put the bags in the car and then go to the other shops."
Coulson nodded. "Don't think I've forgotten your promise to let me choose where we eat," he teased, glancing towards where his daughter and niece were coming from. Although he knew they were safe, he couldn't help checking on them. He knew Fury was the same, as his brother also checked.
Bobbi noted her father and uncle watching them carefully and felt another stab of guilt at the worry she'd caused her family. She could tell by the way Kara moved closer to her that the younger woman felt the same. There wasn't much to do about it, though, except try and make certain they didn't give their fathers another reason to worry. Smiling at her father, she stopped in front of him, noting Kara did the same with Fury.
"We think we've gotten everything we need from here and can go pay now," Kara said chirpily, doing the talking for Bobbi so that her cousin could try and save her sore throat.
Coulson smiled and wrapped his arm around Bobbi, pressing a kiss to her head as he guided her towards the counter, still holding the clothes they were buying... but also holding his daughter close.
Fury did the same, arm around Kara's shoulders and drawing her in close.
Cathy smiled at her husband and went to join the line.
"Makes you want to adopt, doesn't it?" Paul whispered to his wife, so that only she could hear.
It hadn't taken long to pay for everything and walk it back to the car and pretty soon, the group was heading toward the sporting goods store that Ben had disappeared into. Paul knew his father could get lost for hours looking through all the fishing tackle and hunting gear and had no doubt they'd find Ben happily browsing in one of those areas. He wasn't wrong. What he hadn't counted on was Kara's squeal of excitement as she ran over to look at the bow her grandfather had pulled out to look at.
Bobbi blinked. "I didn't know Kara knew how to use a bow....or, at least, I didn't know she remembered how...." She cleared her throat and coughed slightly. It sounded as if the cold medicine was beginning to wear off.
Fury stepped over to join his daughter as Ben handed the bow over to Kara so she could take a look. "Brings back memories?" Fury asked his daughter softly.
Coulson looked at Bobbi, concerned then opened his bag, pulling out a bottle of water that he handed to her. "It's still a little while before you can take another dose, but maybe this can help."
Kara blinked then nodded. "More like...a feeling," she admitted. "But it was a good feeling, so..." She shrugged almost apologetically at her father, wishing that she could tell him she'd remembered something. She looked at the bow her grandfather had handed her, holding it up perfectly; she'd obviously learned how to use one from somewhere.
Bobbi took the bottle of water gratefully and drank half of it before capping it, then smiling at her father. "Thanks, daddy..."
Fury gave her a gentle squeeze. "We can buy it," he said. "Since it gives you a good feeling." There'd been too little of that for her after she'd been taken by HYDRA... He wanted to give her something that could help her feel better.
Coulson kissed Bobbi's cheek. "You're welcome," he said, his voice warmed with love and affection.
Kara's eyes widened at the offer, obviously the idea exciting her, but she bit her lip hesitantly. "Really? I mean...you don't have to get it for me, daddy...it's a lot of money and it isn't like we don't have bows back at the tower...." she said softly, thinking about the bows that Clint used. Although they had never given her the same feelings this particular one had. She wasn't sure why this one brought such a feeling forward.
Bobbi grinned and snuggled closer to her father, while they waited on her grandfather, uncle and cousin.
"The bows back at the tower haven't triggered that same feeling in you... at least not where I can see," Fury said. "I'd like to buy it for you."
Carefully handing the bow to her grandfather, Kara threw her arms around her father and held onto him tightly. "Thank you, daddy," she whispered, suddenly fighting back tears. She didn't know what she'd done to deserve someone to care about her the way that her father did, but she was so thankful he had found her.
Fury responded by wrapping his own arms around Kara just as tightly in return, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. He didn't say he'd do anything for her... but the feeling was there. And it was real. He stroked her hair gently.
"I love you daddy..." Kara hugged him tightly for a few seconds more before stepping back. "Could we set up a target back at the farm?" she asked her grandfather hopefully.
Ben smiled. "I'm sure we can find a good area to use as a practice range."
Coulson squeezed Bobbi gently. "Anything you like the look of?" he asked her gently.
"There's nothing that I really need," Bobbi hedged. She was looking toward the knives, though.
"What about what you want?" Coulson was well aware of his children 'hedging'.
"Well...." Bobbi took his hand and led him over to the knives displayed. "...I kinda like that one there..." She pointed at a simple but obviously well-made switchblade.
Coulson nodded, reaching out to pick up the switchblade and giving his daughter a gentle smile. "Anything else?"
Bobbi smiled. "No thanks, daddy...this is great, though... Thank you!"
Paul walked over to Ben, who was still looking. "You going to get anything, dad?"
Coulson kissed her cheek. "I love you," he said simply.
"I'll probably get this fishing rod and a few pieces of extra equipment," Ben answered. "Some of ours is getting a bit worn."
"I love you too, daddy..." Bobbi smiled again, hugging her father.
Paul nodded. "It really is. Maybe I should look into something, too. Hey, Cath? You interested in anything here?" He glanced toward his wife.
Coulson hugged Bobbi close and then moved to join Fury and Kara in the queue.
"I think there's a lot here we could use." Cathy's attention was drawn to a couple of radios... a bit higher quality and longer battery life than the ones they had already. "Like these."
"You're right. If we ever get a storm and the phone lines go out, radios would be useful. If only so we could call Phil in to help us out..." He gave his wife a cheeky grin and looked more closely at the radios. "You like these the best?" he asked...trusting her judgement.
Cathy nodded. "They've got a longer battery life than the ones we already have. There's also a tracking feature..." She nodded to the part of the packaging that indicated a button could be pressed to cause a beeping sound if one of the radios was lost.
"Then these are what we'll get," Paul agreed. "Do we need anything else while we're here?"
"I can't think of anything," Cathy replied. "Can you?"
"No...I think between the radios, the fishing gear and this here knife I'm getting...we're covered. Let's go wait in line with everyone else." He smiled, wrapping his arm around his wife's waist and leading her to stand behind Ben and the rest of the family.
They'd paid for all the items and walked them back to the car and were now trying to decide what to do next. "Well, I did promise to buy lunch, so if you all are hungry and know where you want to go, we could head to eat..." Paul suggested.
"There are a couple of nice cafes," Coulson commented. "I remember going to them before," he said to his daughter... though he was including the others in that. "They have some lighter lunches there."
"I'm ok with that," Bobbi agreed.
Kara nodded. "Me too."
Paul glanced around. "Well, if everyone else is in agreement, we can head down this street. A block from here is one of my favorites."
The others all made varying sounds of agreement and it wasn't long until all of them reached the cafe, piling in and finding a table that would fit all of them around. It wasn't long before they were all ordering and waiting for the food.
Several hours and one trip to the drugstore later, Paul was driving his family back home to the farm. It had been an enjoyable day. He'd got to catch up with Nick and got to know niece Kara. He'd got to spend more time with Phil and Bobbi. He'd got to do some fun family time with his dad. And he'd set up a date with his wife for the next evening, both Kara and Bobbi promising to take care of the evening chores so he could take her out to a nice restaurant and a movie.
Glancing in the rear view mirror, he couldn't help smiling at seeing both his nieces sound asleep against their fathers. Kara had begun developing cold symptoms shortly after lunch, so they'd both taken the cold medicine picked up at the drugstore; despite being the non-drowsy type, it had still made them sleepy. Reaching over, he took his wife's hand and gave it a squeeze. It had been a very enjoyable day.
Coulson had his arm wrapped around Bobbi's shoulders, holding his daughter close as he gently stroked her hair.
Fury had his own arm around his daughter, stroking her back as he watched the passing scenery.
Cathy didn't say anything, but she smiled at her husband and gave his hand a gentle squeeze in return.
Grant was in the common kitchen, making dinner for the rest of the family, when Clint walked in.
"You packed and ready to head out to see Grandpa the day after tomorrow?" his older brother asked curiously. "Tony says that he can fly us out in his jet early in the morning; he's already cleared it with the landing strip near the farm to land there."
"I've been packed since we got home after learning that they had definitely gone to Grandpa's..." Grant admitted with a tiny grin, glancing over as Nat, Trip and Brock came into the kitchen.
Trip grinned. "You too?"
"One thing I wasn't clear on..." Brock said softly. "...Is it just us seven that are going out there, or is the entire family going?"
Natasha glanced at Brock. "While I'm sure they'd like to have everyone there, I don't think there'll be enough room... it'll likely be a bit of a squeeze with us all there anyway." She smiled. "Besides, it's a lot of people for Grandpa and Uncle Paul and Aunt Cathy to meet all at once."
Brock nodded. "Yeah. I can see that. It was a lot of people for me to meet at once and there was actually room for me to hide away if it got overwhelming..." He laughed softly.
"Although I'm sure we could arrange for them to be flown out here soon." Natasha stepped over to start collecting plates and utensils to put on the table.
"Wonderful idea! You can issue an invite and ask when a good time for them would be," Tony piped up, as he walked in and began to gather glasses for the drinks.
Natasha nodded to Tony with a smile. "I'll make sure to bring it up."
Pietro came in at that point, not quite at full speed... but close enough. Wanda followed her twin at a much more sedate pace.
Loki came in next, walking next to Mack and carrying on a lively conversation regarding a movie they had both watched.
Bucky came in behind them, raising an eyebrow. "What's up?"
"Just talking about seeing the rest of the family and them perhaps coming here." Natasha finished putting the plates and utensils on the table.
Thor came into the room after Bucky and Skye followed close behind, having been all but dragged away from her laptop.
May walked in, patting Skye on the back before leading her to a seat and urging her to sit, then sitting next to her.
Pepper came in and began helping Tony with the drinks. "What's for dinner?" she asked curiously.
"Roast beef," Grant answered with a grin.
Leo walked into the kitchen. "Wow... it smells good," he said, sniffing the air appreciatively.
Sam came in after Leo, having just finished a session in the rec room.
Bruce, Jemma and Matt came in next. Matt automatically sat next to Sam. While he'd been accepted into the family, he still felt a bit uncomfortable, the amount of people who now cared about him unsettling.
Lance came in with just enough time that he wasn't late, having been caught up following a lead... which hadn't gone anywhere. He hid his frustration well... but most of the people in the family knew him well enough to see through the 'shield' to how frustrated (and useless) he was feeling. He took a seat next to his father without saying anything.
Bucky glanced at Lance and wrapped an arm around his shoulder, giving him a tight squeeze. "Whatever is bothering you," he said softly, "I am willing to work with you to take care of it." His offer was firm yet gentle.
Lance sighed and leaned into his father, giving a slight nod... though he didn't say anything. It meant a lot that the offer had been made, though.
Natasha moved over to help Grant with putting the food onto the table, before taking her seat, listening to the good-natured conversations going on around.
"Where's dad?" Tony glanced around, before looking at Pepper.
Pepper shrugged, a hint of worry in her eyes. "I thought he was working out with one of the others..." she said uncertainly.
It was at that moment that Steve came in... a bit hurried, but he'd taken a quick moment to clean up. "Sorry I'm late. There was an unexpected meeting... some extra intel." He smiled apologetically and took a seat on the other side of Tony.
Pepper grinned in relief, passing Steve a bowl of the vegetables.
"Anything we can make use of for an op?" Tony asked curiously. Things had been quiet of late. Almost too quiet. It was worrisome.
Steve took the bowl, putting food on his plate. "There are a couple of locations I think might be worth checking out," he answered. "A few HYDRA agents who are higher up than the ones we usually get hold of."
"How much higher up?" Grant asked, a hint of worry in his tone. In his experience, the higher up the chain HYDRA leaders went, the more insane they seemed to get.
"High enough that we could possibly get to some of the ones in command positions through them," Steve answered.
Grant took a deep breath then nodded. "That would be good..." he agreed.
"Once everyone's settled in the tower again, we'll work on arranging an op," Steve said. "I still need to go through all of the intel and put it in order."
Bucky glanced over at his brother. "Do you need any help with that?" he asked quietly.
Steve nodded. "I think so. Another pair of eyes would help in any case." Just in case he missed anything.
"Of course." Bucky's smile was fond.
Matt slanted his head. "I know I don't usually go up against the big secret organization type armies... but if I can help in any way.... Even if it is to offer legal advice...."
"I'm sure we can use any help we can get," Sam commented from his seat next to Matt. He didn't comment that Matt's style of fighting could be useful... they would have to talk through any of those kinds of ops. And Sam was more worried than he wanted to admit about Matt potentially getting hurt. After all, he had been so many times already.
Matt could hear the underlying worry in Sam's tone, as well as the way his breathing and heartbeat changed after Matt had made his offer, and he could make an intelligent guess as to what Sam was thinking. "You're worried about me joining you all on your ops. You think that I'd either hold you back? Or get wounded?" He slanted his head.
"I'm not worried about you holding us back." That was never a factor. "But you have been hurt, badly, before. I think training as part of a team would be a good idea before any ops, since you're so used to working on your own. I'd rather not risk losing you, kid."
Matt could feel himself blushing. Everything Sam said was true. Even so, it was an adjustment, realizing that, yes, there was someone, other than Foggy, that actively cared about him and was trying to do something to protect him. He'd protected himself for so long, it was still a novel idea that someone else wanted to. "Yeah...Ok..." he finally said. "That makes sense."
"And we can always train together," Sam added. "There are plenty of rooms here for that purpose." He rested a hand on Matt's shoulder, squeezing gently. He didn't say that it would give them a chance to spend more time together; that he wanted to spend more time with Matt.
Steve had a slight knowing look on his face, pretty sure that there was going to be another family made. Thinking about that made him think of his other son... who he had yet to adopt officially. While Bruce seemed happy with the way things were... Steve wasn't sure he was.
Bruce watched Sam with Matt and couldn't help but grin. He'd only just met the younger man recently, when Sam had brought him over to doctor his wounds, but he was already fond of the boy and he was glad to see Sam taking an active interest in his welfare. He caught Steve looking at them and gave his father a crooked grin.
Steve smiled back at Bruce, reflecting that he was going to talk to his other son after they'd eaten... it was about time they made it official, because for all that it was real in every way... making it official was a good way of settling any lingering doubts.
"You doing anything in particular this evening?" Sam asked Matt. "Maybe we could do something together."
"Um.." Matt wrinkled his nose. He'd actually planned to try and go out and do his 'night job'... but he didn't think Sam would be overly happy if he admitted to that, so biting his lip, he shrugged instead. "...I guess I'm not. What did you have in mind?" It wasn't like he wouldn't enjoy spending time with Sam. It wouldn't hurt him to wait a few more days before going out after the guys who'd busted him up so badly. Might even be good to wait; they'd get complacent, thinking that he wasn't coming back.
Sam shrugged. "I figured we could sit and talk while we let our food go down... then maybe we could get a bit of training in." He noticed the look on Matt's face and thought he knew what had probably caused it.
Matt thought about it for only a few seconds before quickly agreeing. "I like that idea..." He grinned wolfishly. "...Maybe we can do some training in the dark as well, so you can get used to using more than your eyes to 'see' with."
Sam grinned in return. "I think that would be good... for everyone else, too. Might be worth doing as a training exercise in the future."
Matt's grin at Sam's quick agreement was less wolfish and more happy. "Maybe...maybe we could get Foggy and Karen to train, too. If only to learn a little self defense...."
"I think that would be a very good idea," Sam agreed. "I'd like them to stay safe as much as possible as well."
"Maybe you could be with me when I ask...as back up?" Matt suddenly looked uncertain.
"I'll back you up with anything, kid." The words might have been joking... the tone was completely serious.
Matt swallowed hard, suddenly overcome by a strong emotion he didn't want to attempt to understand. "Thank you..." He cleared his throat.
Sam just squeezed his shoulder gently. He didn't respond to Matt's comment... but wrapped his arm around the other man in a hug that wasn't too obvious.
Matt found himself leaning into the embrace. It had been a long time since he'd felt protected by anyone else in the way Sam was offering protection, since his father had died. He was knocked off balance when he realized how much he had missed and needed it.
Sam tightened his embrace a bit, realising that his own feelings towards Matt ran deeper than merely friendship... There was a big part of him that was already considering Matt his son. And he wondered if he and Matt should talk about that... knowing most of those in the tower had made their own families legally official.
Matt stayed in the embrace for a few moments before clearing his throat again and reluctantly pulling away. "Are any of the rest of you gentlemen interested in training in the dark with Sam and I?" he asked with a slightly daring tone.
"I think it would be a very good idea," Steve commented. "We can always use different types of training. And utilising other senses is a strength we could all do with."
"Great! Then whenever everyone is ready, I'm ready." He grinned again.
"We should probably give a few minutes to allow the food to go down..." Steve glanced around the table. "In about forty-five minutes work for everyone?"
Bruce noted everyone else agreeing before he asked his father. "You've been looking at me weird all night, dad...did you need to talk to me? We could do so before you head down to train and I go to meditate...." Bruce seldom, if ever, trained with the others. He was too worried that the 'Big Guy' might get excited or misunderstand what was happening and make an appearance.
Steve nodded. "I would like to talk to you, yes... as soon as we've done cleanup, if that's all right." He smiled reassuringly at Bruce, not wanting his son to think that anything might be wrong.
"That's fine, dad." Bruce smiled back, before looking at his own son and daughter. "I'd like you two to participate in the training tonight. I don't think you train nearly often enough and I want to be certain you can protect yourselves if the need ever arises and the rest of the family isn't there to help."
Jemma blinked then nodded. "Ok, dad... I guess I don't really train as often as I should." She sighed softly and gave her grandfather a crooked grin. She'd had this conversation with Steve not terribly long ago and while she'd made an effort to train more after the conversation, not too much time had gone by before she was falling into old habits and skipping the training.
Leo had made the effort to train... and especially with Grant. But he nodded anyway, knowing that he and Jemma didn't really train as much as the rest of the family did. "Okay, dad," he said agreeably.
Bruce gave Leo a quick smile and a wink; he realized that Leo did attempt to train more often...it was Jemma that needed to be pushed into training. But he wasn't going to single her out and it never hurt to get in extra training with different people. With that in mind, he said hesitantly, in case his own father thought it was a bad idea and vetoed it, "I might attempt to train with you as well. It might be good for me to practice keeping control when under attack, so that I don't immediately give over to the 'Big Guy' in dangerous situations...."
Steve smiled at Bruce. "I think that would be a very good idea," he agreed. "The capture the flag exercise worked out well, after all..."
Bruce nodded. "That is true...."
"Capture the flag exercise?" Matt asked curiously, a slight hint of confusion in his tone.
"It's a game where you split up into teams and the goal is to capture the other team's flag... but you can also capture members of the other teams," Steve explained. "We played it last at the mansion... I'm sure we could always go back there to play again. It's good for teamwork." He smiled, remembering.
"That sounds interesting..." Matt said wistfully, not certain it would be a game he'd be very good at, even with his 'abilities'.
"We could always experiment with how it would work with you involved," Sam commented. "If we could find an area a little bit smaller that you could familiarise yourself with first..."
"I'd like that," Matt agreed. He waited and listened to everyone else, trying to figure out what would be done next. Forty minutes wasn't a long time, but it was long enough.
As everyone began milling around, Sam spoke softly to Matt. "We could go talk before we start training."
Bruce smiled at Steve. "Did you need to talk to me, Dad?"
Steve nodded. "It might be good to go to our apartment. It's nothing bad... but it might be better to have the conversation in private."
Bruce nodded. "Sure thing." He turned to his kids. "Your grandpa and I are going back to the apartment to talk. I'll see you both in the training room in forty minutes." He then moved over to go back to the apartment with Steve.
Steve wrapped his arm around Bruce's shoulders as he headed to the elevator, stepping inside with his son and setting it to go to their elevator.
Bruce leaned toward Steve, giving his father a fond and amused look. "You're acting like a kid in the candy store, Dad. Good news?"
Steve tightened his arm around his son. "It's more something that's been on my mind for a while... something that I think would be good for both of us." When the elevator stopped at their apartment, he stepped off, guiding Bruce along with him.
Bruce smiled crookedly. "Yeah? What's that, Dad?"
Steve smiled. "That. You're my son as much as Tony is... but we haven't made it official. And I'd like to do that. I want to adopt you... to make it real in every way possible."
Bruce blinked then slanted his head thoughtfully. "I hadn't been worried about the fact it wasn't official...in my heart, I know we're father and son and that's what matters to me. But...I have to admit that now that you want to make it official, the idea really appeals to me...."
"You've been my son as long as Tony has," Steve said. "But I'd like to make it official with you as well." He smiled. "Once I signed the papers for Tony... it felt good. Really good. I couldn't love you any more than I do... but it'll be nice to have it be official."
The look that took over Bruce's face could only be described as pleased. "I...I'd really like that, dad," he admitted softly, with a big grin.
Steve smiled, wrapping his arms around Bruce in a tight hug. "I love you," he said, his voice sincere and warmed through with affection.
"I love you too, dad..." Bruce hugged back just as tightly.
Steve continued to hold his son close. "We can talk to your brother about getting his lawyers involved... or maybe Matt can do something."
Bruce nodded. "Maybe asking Matt to help would be good...it might help him feel more connected to the rest of the family as a whole..." he offered quietly.
"I think that's a good idea," Steve agreed. "I have the feeling there's going to be another adoption as well."
"You got that feeling too, huh?" Bruce chuckled lightly. "If this family were growing by pregnancies, someone might say there's something in the building's water. Not sure what they'll say about it growing by adoptions every time someone moves into the building." He shot his father an amused grin.
"I think people moving in can see the effects having a family can have... and when they already feel that way about someone, it's easier to do something when you know others have," Steve said.
"You aren't wrong about that..." Bruce smiled. Pausing for a moment, he slanted his head. "When do you want to talk to Matt about getting the papers together?"
"As soon as possible," Steve replied without hesitation.
Bruce's grin grew bigger. "I guess we need to go look for them, then...."
Steve smiled. "We could ask Veronica to send a message and ask them to meet us," he suggested.
Bruce nodded. "Veronica?" He couldn't help but look up into the ceiling, even though he knew that wasn't where her program was located. "Can you have Matt and Sam meet us in the office area of the common floor? And let Matt know it's in regard to filing an adoption...."
"I will do so immediately, Doctor Banner," the AI agreed.
Matt nodded, latching onto Sam's arm and letting him lead. "What do you want to talk about?" he asked quietly, uncertain if he'd done something wrong or not; he didn't think he had, but he was still getting used to following Sam's direction and rules, so it was possible.
Sam waited until they were in the elevator before talking. "You know, I didn't really understand the emotions that led to so many of my friends adopting the 'kids' in the tower... kids at heart, if not in body... not until now, in any case."
Matt slanted his head curiously. "What do you mean?" His tone was a mixture of suspicious confusion.
"That I know how they feel... cause I feel a similar way," Sam said. "Even before I found out about your secret, Matt, I cared about you. Knowing everything now... it's like everything's shifted. The way I care about you now..." He shrugged. "You might as well be my kid. You're important enough."
Matt swallowed, torn between feelings of warmth that Sam cared about him so much and worry that Sam cared about him so much. "I'm not a kid, though..." he said in a hesitant tone, before wincing. That wasn't exactly what he meant to say.
"You don't have to be a kid for someone to care about you that way," Sam pointed out.
Matt found himself nodding in agreement. "I...I know. I didn't mean..." He swallowed, not entirely sure what he did mean. He only knew he was nervous. He suspected where Sam was going with this conversation and if he was right, he was certain his friend could only get pain and suffering from it.
Sam rested his hand on Matt's shoulder. "How do you feel about it?"
Matt swallowed again. "Truthfully? It scares me..." he admitted in a whisper. "I've already caused you more headaches and pain than I have a right to. This..." He waved his hands nervously between the two of them. "...I can't help but think it will be even worse. I'm not good, Sam." His voice was shaking by the end.
Sam wrapped his other arm around Matt, enclosing him in a tight hug. "I'm not expecting things to be perfect. There are gonna be problems, kid... but those come with the territory. I can deal with the problems. There might be mistakes made... I'm not saying I'm perfect, either. But it means you have more of a family. I can't take the place of your father by blood, kid... but I want you."
Matt had been prepared to argue against whatever Sam said, but after Sam admitted he knew things would not be easy and there would be problems...and he wanted him anyway...Matt found himself unable to. He didn't want to. He already considered Sam family, although after being spanked by him, he had to admit his views of the other man had shifted somewhat from that of big brother to 'something more'. The fact that Sam wanted to make their connection official and viewed him as his kid...it didn't upset Matt like he thought it should. It actually made him feel good. How could he argue against it?
With a little embarrassment, Matt had to wipe tears from his eyes. All he could do was nod and hope Sam understood.
Sam tightened his embrace a fraction. "So... do we need to get Tony's lawyers involved? Is it a conflict of interest if you draw up the papers?" he asked, wanting to make it official as soon as possible.
Matt swallowed hard. "I could represent myself, but...maybe having someone else do it will help...so that no one can call it into question later...we...we could ask Foggy to handle it..." he suggested softly. If anyone other than himself was involved in making his ties to Sam legal, he'd want it to be his brother in everything but blood. And he was pretty certain Foggy would be over the moon at the news; the other man would probably look at it as one more tether to prevent Matt from 'doing stupid crap'.
Sam nodded. "Sounds good. I'd like to get it done sooner rather than later. Not like it'll make any difference to how I feel... but I suspect we both might feel more settled once it is actually official."
"Yeah...me too..." Matt couldn't help but let out a little laugh. "...Does this mean I'm moving in with you permanently? I...somehow don't see you letting me go back to my apartment now, given where it's located and other stuff...." He sounded resigned to the fact. Oddly, the thought didn't upset him like it might have even a few days before. Although it would make him alter his plans and ways of doing things somewhat.
"I know you can fight, but your apartment isn't exactly safe," Sam pointed out. "I've moved in here... and, yes, I would like you to move in with me on a permanent basis. It'll be easier to adjust if you live here."
Matt nodded, not entirely certain adjusting was going to be that easy, no matter where he lived. The only reason he wasn't refusing Sam's offer was because the thought of refusing made him feel horrible inside, more than the idea that he'd have Sam watching over him and stepping in made him feel hemmed in. It was like he could accept being Sam's adopted son and everything that went with it, including the consequences when he inevitably went off and did things he knew Sam wouldn't approve, or he could refuse to be adopted...retain his freedom to do whatever he wanted without consequence, but then be miserable and hopeless, because even the thought of saying no to being Sam's family made him feel that way. "You...you do realize what you're getting into, right?" he asked in a teasing tone, although his question was serious. He knew himself enough to know he would be running Sam ragged (even if he tried to behave). He hoped Sam realized the same.
"I know it might not be easy, but I also know it's worth it to me," Sam said honestly. "It doesn't matter what problems there are. We'll deal with them together. It won't change anything. I won't discard you or not want you as my kid."
"I...I know you won't discard me or not want me...I just hope you don't regret me..." Matt couldn't help the worry in his tone.
"That's never gonna happen," Sam promised. "I couldn't ever regret you."
Matt couldn't help himself. He moved into Sam's space and wrapped his arms around the other man in a tight hug, hiding his face against his friend's...his father's...shoulder and just held on.
Sam tightened his own embrace around Matt, rubbing his back gently. "I'm glad you're here with me," he told him honestly.
Matt snuggled even closer in response, unable to say the words, but feeling just as glad to be with the older man.
"Excuse me, sirs... but Doctor Banner is requesting Mr. Murdock's presence in the office on the common floor. He and Captain Rogers wish to make his adoption legal and would like your assistance, if you are able to provide it," the AI interrupted.
Matt chuckled. "Too bad Foggy isn't in the building. We could get the paperwork for both of us completed tonight and file it in the morning...."
"We could always call him and ask if he's able to come by," Sam suggested. "If he is, you could talk to him then about training and I can back you up, as well as making the adoption legal." He hugged Matt close a second or two longer, but even after releasing him, he wrapped an arm around Matt's shoulders so he could guide his son back into the elevator so they could go to the common floor.
"Would...would you call him?" Matt asked hesitantly. He was pretty certain that his friend would be happy for him and want to play a part in the proceedings. At the same time, there was a small part of him that was afraid Foggy was still a bit irritated at him and would be irritated at the request, although he wasn't sure why he was afraid of that. He had no real reason to think it. He let Sam lead him to the elevator. It was much easier to let himself be led when his focus wasn't fully on his surroundings.
"Of course," Sam replied, taking his phone out and dialling Foggy's number without any hesitation.
"Hello?" Foggy answered almost immediately, a hint of worry in his tone. "He's still ok, isn't he, Sam?"
"He's fine," Sam replied reassuringly. "We were wondering if you'd mind swinging by... I'm planning to adopt Matt and it would be good to have you involved."
The line was quiet for several moments. Finally, before Sam could assume the call had disconnected, Foggy responded, "...That was quick. But not entirely unexpected. I can bring the paperwork with me. You planning to keep him close and out of trouble?" Foggy's voice was amused and hopeful.
"That was a given anyway," Sam said. "There's another adoption that Matt's going to help out with as well..." He glanced at his son. "Do you need Foggy to bring anything for you?"
"If he could bring the papers needed for Bruce and Steve, that would be great. I'm not sure if they have everything already and just need me as their representation...or if they need the papers as well," Matt said.
Foggy could hear through the phone. "Ok, I'll bring two sets of documents just in case. I'm already at the office, lucky enough, so unless traffic is horrid, I should be there in thirty minutes."
"Sounds good," Sam replied. "Just ask Veronica to send you up when you get here. Or you can call me."
"Will do..." Foggy answered, then hung up.
Matt bit his lip, an uncertain and scared look on his face. "Are you certain? That you really want me?" he asked softly, before swallowing. "...I...I just...I..." He faltered, not certain how to say that he didn't trust himself not to hurt Sam down the road. He knew he'd try really hard to prevent it, but he also knew how stubborn he could be. He also knew that he'd do things that Sam disagreed with and even disapproved of, despite knowing what was expected...because he was going to clean up Hell's Kitchen and he knew how he was going to do it and he couldn't change his plans just because his friends...his family... had discovered the truth. He didn't know how to.
"I'm sure I want you," Sam replied without any hesitation. "Even if something happens... it won't change anything. It won't make a difference to how I feel about you," he promised.
Matt took a deep breath before letting it out slowly... "Ok..." he finally said, deciding he'd just have to trust Sam's feelings, even if he couldn't trust his own. Feeling a bit overwhelmed, he shifted closer to his friend...his father... and hesitantly wrapped his arms around him in a hug.
Sam responded by wrapping his arms around Matt in a tight hug. "I promise you, nothing will change how I feel. I'm certain now... and I always will be certain."
"Ok..." Matt's voice was a little less uncertain and a little more grateful and hopeful. When the elevator pinged to let them know they'd arrived at their floor, he didn't move, choosing instead to let Sam take lead again.
Sam led Matt off the elevator, guiding his son through to the office on the common floor.
Bruce glanced over as Matt and Sam entered, smiling at the two newest members of the family. "Gentlemen..." he greeted.
Matt smiled at the tone in the doctor's voice. "I've called Foggy to bring over the paperwork...I wasn't certain if you had that already or not. He said he'd be here in approximately thirty minutes."
Steve smiled. "That's very helpful, thank you." He looked at his brother and then at Matt. "Is there going to be another adoption?"
"Yes, there is," Sam replied.
Matt could feel himself blushing, but he couldn't help but grin, even as he found himself looking at the ground.
"Congratulations," Bruce said, his smile growing bigger.
"I'm happy to hear that," Steve said.
Sam wrapped his arm around Matt's shoulders. "Anything we can take care of before Foggy gets here?" he asked his son.
"Most of what needs doing will be in the paperwork signed..." Matt said quietly. "If you want to add any extra clauses afterwards, the fact the relationships will be legal already will make it easier."
"I think the only real extra clause to add would be power of attorney in case something does happen," Steve said, remembering how awful it had been to see Tony in hospital... and that at least he'd been able to be told how his son was doing.
Matt nodded. "I wouldn't be surprised if Foggy thought to bring that paperwork as well...he's been after me for some time now to designate someone in case something happens to me, since I had no official family...."
"And you would be correct..." Foggy's voice carried from the hall, where he was standing after exiting the elevator. "Captain...Doctor...Sam...." He nodded at the other three men.
"Please, call me Bruce..." protested the quiet scientist.
"And feel free to call me Steve." Steve smiled warmly at Foggy. "Thank you for coming at such short notice."
Sam smiled at Foggy. "No trouble with traffic, I take it?"
"The cab driver knew a shortcut, as luck would have it." Foggy smiled. "If you all have a place where we can sign...we can fill in the names and signatures and it will be ready to file."
"Here's fine," Steve said, stepping over to close the door... just to give them a little bit of privacy.
Foggy quickly pulled the papers from his case, handing one set to Steve and the other to Sam. The areas that needed to be filled out and signed were flagged and so it took no time at all for everything to be completed, including power of attorney.
Foggy gathered the signed documents and put them back into his case. "I will take these and personally file them. Meanwhile, I'd like to offer my own congratulations. It's two boys!" he said teasingly to Sam and Steve.
Steve gave a quick grin at that. "Literally, in my case..." Since he had two sons and one daughter, after all.
Sam grinned in turn. "Thanks." He placed a hand on Matt's shoulder, squeezing gently.
Matt rolled his eyes good-naturedly, a smile on his face. He couldn't help but move closer to Sam. "Thanks, Foggy...it means a lot that you helped..." His voice was soft.
"It means a lot that you asked..." Foggy smiled at his friend, nodding at Sam. "Have a good afternoon and if I can help with anything else, just call..." he said to all four men.
"Thank you again," Bruce said.
"The same goes for you," Steve said to Foggy. "If you need anything... you can come by any time," he offered.
Foggy had left with the paperwork to get it filed before the court closed. The four men had then quickly gone to change so they could meet up with the rest of their family in the training room. It had been slightly longer than forty minutes, but that hadn't seemed to bother anyone; they had begun 'working out' with each other by playfully wrestling.
Jemma glanced over at her father and grandfather as they entered the room. "Dad! Grandpa! I pinned Uncle Tony!" She gave an impish look toward the inventor.
Steve smiled warmly at his granddaughter. "Well done," he praised. "I know you can do anything you set your mind to."
Tony gave a fond look at his niece and teased, "You weren't supposed to tell them!"
Jemma gave her uncle an innocent grin, her eyes twinkling. "I suppose, in fairness, I should have also told them it was because I took advantage of you ogling Pepper while she was pulling her sweatshirt off...."
"Tony!" Pepper spluttered, though it was clear she was amused. Especially when Tony actually blushed.
"Yes...well...er...." Tony wrinkled his nose. "I'm just going to go over here and do some pull-ups..." He wandered toward the corner.
Steve laughed outright at that, but then glanced towards Matt. "Still interested in helping us train minus our sight?" he asked. "I'm sure Veronica can dim the lights... though we might want to have them low, at least at first, rather than out completely."
"I am...I think it would be useful for all of you to be able to use all your senses, not just sight...." Matt agreed. He didn't need to point out that some needed this training more than others, it was quite obvious some had learned those skills long before, but practice never hurt anyone.
Steve nodded and caught Bucky's eye, stepping over to his brother. "How low do you think we should dim the lights?" He knew that he and Bucky wouldn't have a problem training in the complete dark, but he didn't want to throw the younger members in at the deep end straight away.
"Since they are just beginning, I'd suggest maybe to the level that sun setting outside without outside lights. Shadows..." Bucky responded.
"Good idea." Steve smiled at his brother and then glanced around at the others. "We're going to have the lights set to shadow... the same as the sun setting without street or building lights." He waited for any objections before addressing the AI. "Veronica? Can you do that, please?"
"Of course, Captain," the AI answered.
"I'm not allowed to use my suit, am I?" Tony asked, with a hint of humor in his tone.
Bruce snorted with a smile. "That would defeat the purpose of learning how to fight and survive just using your own body and mind, wouldn't it?"
Tony stuck his tongue out at his brother.
Jemma watched as the lighting dimmed considerably. "I'm guessing we're not allowed to use our night vision goggles or anything like that either?"
"I'm afraid not," Steve answered. "We all need to be able to adapt to the loss of a sense... this is the safest way of doing so."
"Do we have an end goal? Or is it just a free for all?" Natasha asked.
"And what about any of our other abilities?" Pietro broke in.
"I figure as long as you aren't using something to counter-act the darkness, it will be like any other training session. You use the abilities you have or know. Granted, that's more of a handicap for some of you than others, since I'm pretty sure if you lost sight you would make something to counter it, but that takes time. We're treating this exercise as if it just happened and you have no time to make something; you just have yourself...." Bucky explained.
"Makes sense," Lance said. "Are we splitting into teams on this one?"
"That might be a good idea," Sam commented, thinking that it could get a little messy otherwise.
"Are we gonna have enough room for everyone to be in teams and going after each other at once?" Matt asked in surprise. He knew the training floor was large, but he didn't realize it was that large. He sounded a bit nervous; he'd never trained with anyone else and any time he'd gone against someone, it was life or death.
"I was leaning more towards two teams," Steve replied. "I figured it would be easier rather than having a complete free for all."
Sam couldn't help but respond to the nervous note in Matt's voice and he squeezed his son's shoulder gently. "You have another idea?"
"Not necessarily..." Matt hedged, a bit embarrassed that he apparently was worried about something no one else was. "I thought it would be more like taking turns sparring...but I've never trained with you all, so...."
"If you'd rather take it in turns sparring, we can do that," Steve said, his voice reassuring. "You don't need to feel worried about voicing any concerns you might have. And we can always separate into pairs... it's big enough that we can have more than one sparring match going on."
Sam squeezed Matt gently. "Want to spar with me for your first match?" he asked, wanting his son to feel as comfortable as possible.
"I think...maybe until I get used to everything...I'd prefer small pairings. I've never actually fought with people before that I wasn't trying to hurt..." He gave everyone a chagrined look.
"Don't worry about it," Steve said. "I understand it might be difficult to adjust to a different way of doing things. Whatever you feel comfortable with, we can do."
Matt nodded thankfully, giving a small smile. "Thank you..." he said softly. "And yes, I'd like to partner with you, Sam...."
Sam grinned. "Sounds great." He looked at Steve. "I'm guessing you and Bucky will sort out the other pairs?"
Steve nodded, already doing so. When he started pairing them together, he put the more experienced with the less... just in case something went wrong.
Jemma grinned as she found herself paired with Natasha. "So...I'm meant to try and take you down..." she couldn't help but giggle.
Natasha smiled. "You can certainly try..."
Leo found himself paired up with Brock... mostly because he'd been training so much with Grant, Steve thought he'd have a bit of an advantage against his cousin. Leo smiled at Brock, but knew better than to just throw himself into the sparring match like he might have done so long ago.
Brock smiled at his cousin. "You've learned a lot...let's see if you can put it to use against someone you can't predict the actions of...." His grin was friendly, but challenging.
Leo returned Brock's smile, keeping his attention fully on his cousin. He shifted his stance slightly, preparing to feint and then land a blow with his other hand.
Brock, meanwhile, braced himself to take a blow- planning to strike when Leo was extended toward him.
Pepper bit her lip as she glanced at her partner. Of all of the group, she was the one with the least experience.
Lance had ended up paired with Pepper and he smiled at her. "Ready?" His voice was light with a note of humour in it... but he still took his training seriously, no matter his attitude outside of missions.
"As ready as I'll ever be..." Pepper smiled back, still nervous.
"Don't be nervous. I know you've had some training." Even while he was talking, Lance was moving... though he made sure that he didn't put too much force behind the blow. And he moved to allow Pepper to see him doing so. While she wouldn't get that sort of help in a real combat situation, Lance was reluctant to plunge her into the deep end right away.
Jemma had yet to make a move, carefully circling her cousin. The darkness of the room was making her very cautious.
Natasha watched Jemma calmly, but held still, waiting for her cousin to make the first move.
The darkness was a bit unnerving to Leo, but he was doing his best to ignore that. When he struck out at Brock, he twisted himself to the side at the same time, hoping to avoid the counterstrike.
Brock was impressed when Leo managed to evade his counter blow. He immediately made a secondary counter, to see how Leo reacted.
Jemma finally made a move, straightforward and communicating exactly what she was going to do, hoping that the unexpected 'honesty' would surprise her cousin enough to let her connect.
Natasha sidestepped neatly, coming back round behind Jemma and lightly clapping her shoulder and then her waist. While she didn't put force behind her strikes, holding back, she made contact.
"Oh!" Jemma exclaimed, realizing if this had been a real fight she would have been out of commission. She attempted to make her own connection.
Natasha circled round the other side of Jemma, avoiding her cousin's response, but following with another two touches
Sam led his son to an area where they had enough space to train. "Don't worry about holding back," he said to Matt. "I can take a punch."
Matt took his father at his word, quickly beginning to fight like he always fought...the only concession being that he aimed for areas that wouldn't damage his father.
Sam quickly began blocking his son's strikes, responding with attacks of his own.
Leo ducked under the second blow and aimed one at Brock's side, focusing all of his attention on the sparring match.
Brock allowed Leo's hit to connect, using his cousin's forward motion to make his own jab. He had to admit, fighting in the dark was affecting his perception and he had to be more careful and precise.
Leo might have become better than he was, but he still wasn't anything like as good as many of the specalists. He felt the jab connect and drew back, seeking out another opening.
Pepper was grateful that Lance was allowing her time to observe his movements. She watched carefully, striking at a moment that she thought he would have struck; not certain she would connect, but feeling she had to at least try.
Lance grinned when he found his attempted strike blocked by Pepper. "Hey, good job." He drew back, beginning to circle Pepper.
Pepper grinned at Lance. "Thanks," she responded, carefully keeping her eye on the ex-mercenary.
Lance grinned at Pepper and made a quick jab towards her shoulder.
Matt was used to fighting with impaired sight. But even so, he hadn't wanted to use his extra-sensory perception to give him an advantage and so had worn a blindfold. As such, he and his father were fairly evenly matched. He was enjoying the challenge.
Sam was smiling, having a lot of fun sparring with his son. He blocked where he could and struck where he could, careful not to strike with too much force. While he was sure Matt could handle it, he didn't want to actually hurt his son.
The sparring between the first eight went on for almost an hour, the second group watching and learning, before Bucky clapped his hands. "Ok. First group rest up and watch the second group. Tony, you're with Trip; Loki, you're with Wanda; Mack, you're with Pietro; Clint, you're with Bruce; Thor, Steve, and I will be having a three way match."
Jemma quickly obeyed, going to the side and grabbing her towel to dry off and swiping a bottle of water from a cooler. She sat on the bench on the wall and began to watch the rest of the family maneuver, amazed at how difficult it was to see; it really was dark and she felt a little pride that she had done as well as she had...even if she knew Nat had gone easy on her.
Leo sat next to his sister, having grabbed his own bottle of water, and drank some as he watched the others prepare.
Wanda had already decided she was going to focus on developing her physical skills and to only use her abilities as a last resource. Of course, she knew that Loki might use his abilities... but she figured she wanted to be sure she was prepared. In case something went wrong in the future.
Pietro had no qualms about using his abilities and it didn't take long before he was dodging and weaving, using his speed to his advantage.
Loki, having been raised in a warrior society and being at least a century old, looked on the session as a time to practice and teach rather than learn since fighting in the dark wasn't unusual for Asgardians. He didn't use his magical powers and made sure to not use his full strength, but he did move quickly.
While she knew she was unlikely to actually land a hit on Loki, Wanda still put herself completely into the sparring match, taking the time to observe and learn as much as actually spar. She knew she still had a long way to go to catch up to the other members of her family.
Loki smiled at his cousin, making her work for every connection she made, but he was impressed. "You've obviously been practicing hard..." he commented.
Wanda smiled at the praise. "Papa helps me..." He was the one she took most of her cues from. And even though she knew Pietro looked up to Clint in the same way, her brother relied a lot on his speed. Wanda was trying to develop her fighting skills in other areas, too.
"He should be proud..." Loki nodded.
"He is proud..." Clint called over, from his own sparring session with Bruce.
Wanda smiled brightly, though she still kept herself focused fully on the sparring match... She just liked being able to make her father proud.
The second group sparred for about as long as the first group did, the more experienced fighters going easier and teaching the less experienced, although not too easy. Pretty soon, everyone was done and Bucky suggested showers before heading to the common dining area for dinner. "Maybe we can watch a movie afterwards, if everyone feels like it..." he ended on a question.
There were varying sounds of agreement from the others and a few good-natured teasing comments made to each other on the way to their floors so they could shower.
Clint had been the first one back to their apartment, so his children had to wait for him to finish in the shower. He grinned at Wanda as he exited the bath, running a towel over his still damp hair. "I'm going to the common floor to begin cooking dinner for everyone. Any preferences on what you'd like to eat?" He glanced from Wanda to Pietro, who was patiently waiting for his own turn.
Wanda shook her head. "I'm fine with anything, Papa." She gave him a hug before going into the bathroom.
"Yeah... we're not exactly fussy eaters, Pop." Pietro grinned.
"Chili it is...quick, easy and can feed an army..." Clint nodded to himself, heading downstairs to catch the elevator to the common kitchen. It didn't take long for him to get there and he blinked when he saw Mack already there, staring into the fridge.
The taller man grunted. "I thought I'd help start dinner, but I have no clue what to fix..." the mechanic muttered.
Clint grinned and gently pushed the other man out of his way, pulling out various ingredients. "I'm going to make a big pot of chili, if you want to make toast or rolls to go with it." His grin grew as Mack just grunted and began to do what he'd suggested.
Natasha had finished showering fairly quickly and joined her brother and cousin in the kitchen. "Anything I can do to help?" she asked.
"Can you think of anything other than toast or rolls that will go well with chili?" Clint asked. "Maybe a desert or a side dish?"
Mack grinned. "If we make pasta, anyone who wants to could put the chili on it...."
"I can do pasta." Natasha began retrieving the ingredients so that she could do that. "As for dessert... maybe banana splits? Or fritters of some kind..."
Lance wandered in at that moment. For all that he had managed to settle a bit during the training, he was still worried... and stressed because he was worried. He was feeling out of sorts because of his failed attempt at intel-gathering, too, and halfway worried that he'd end up taking off again... which was why he was sticking close to the others, in a subconscious attempt to behave.
Bucky came in behind his son and glanced at the younger man with a hint of worry. "Everything ok there, Sport?" he asked quietly, bumping shoulders with Lance. His look was fond and conveyed his worry; he hoped Lance remembered that he could always talk to him if needed.
Trip came in, dragging Brock behind. "You worked out hard...you aren't skipping dinner. And if I have to, I'll tell dad on you, so don't even argue with me...."
"You wouldn't!" Brock protested, although he did stop pulling against his brother's grip.
Lance started to respond in the positive... and then realised that he didn't really want to lie to his dad. He sighed and snagged a beer from the communal fridge. "I guess not..." he admitted quietly.
Skye wandered in as Thor followed on behind, having various questions about her hacking skills. The two were deep in conversation... though not so deep that Thor didn't notice the obstacles and steer himself and Skye around them.
"Do I need to keep an eye on you?" Bucky whispered, so that only Lance and anyone with really, really, good hearing, would hear him. It wasn't a warning tone or a suspicious tone, but a genuinely worried tone that conveyed that Bucky was willing and able to step in if needed because Lance was important to him.
Loki tagged along behind Thor and Skye, surprised that his brother was so interested in hacking, although he shouldn't have been. His brother was not stupid by any stretch of the imagination, no matter what 'impression' he liked to give to those around him. Loki knew that one of the best tools at one's disposal was others underestimating you, after all. It was more surprise that the subject had interested his brother at all, because so much of it seemed to be a sit and wait type of activity. He listened closely, trying to learn as much from Thor's questions as Thor was learning, in an attempt to see what appealed to his brother.
Lance took a deep breath. "I guess so..." It wasn't something he would have admitted before; but... before, he hadn't had Bucky. He hadn't had his father.
Thor was aware of his brother and he automatically moved so that Loki could be a part of the conversation as well... even if he wasn't saying anything. From the questions he asked Skye, it was clear he was more interested in the 'attack' portion of hacking... even though he knew that gathering information was just as important. As a warrior, being able to fight on more than one front interested him more than anything.
Steve wandered in, glancing around as he considered whether he needed to go and extricate Tony from his lab... or if his son was with Pepper and he could rely on her to drag him in for food.
Bucky just nodded, wrapping an arm around his son and leading him to the table. "You want me to find out if they mind you going with the others when they head to meet up with their family?"
Loki smiled at Thor at his consideration. Now part of the conversation, he felt more comfortable interjecting and asking his own questions.
Pepper came in not far behind her father, her hair still wet. She'd obviously just finished her shower. Tony was nowhere in sight. Looking around, she sighed. "He said it would only take him a few minutes...Veronica, is Tony still in his lab?" she asked more loudly.
"Yes, Ms. Potts. He appears to have discovered something and is single-mindedly focused on it. I cannot seem to get his attention, but as it is something not directly within my control, I can't interrupt him either." The AI sounded slightly frustrated.
Lance automatically leaned into his father. "I don't want to intrude on their time together. But..." He hesitated. "I think I'd feel better if I could talk to her... and more so if we could find useful intel and do something with it," he muttered.
Thor grinned at Mack when he saw his other brother, but finished his conversation with Skye before he wrapped an arm around Loki's shoulders, heading to find them both seats at the table, leaving one for Mack to join them.
Loki also smiled at Mack. Mack, for his part, finished up his portion of the meal, plating it and bringing it to the table. Once the platter was sat down, he sat next to his family.
Sam headed into the kitchen, having suggested to his son that they go and join the rest of the family for food.
"I'll go and find him." Steve smiled reassuringly at Pepper as he left the kitchen and headed to Tony's lab.
Bucky nodded. "I'm sure we can arrange for you to talk to her; today, even, if you'd like... as for the useful intel. I know you are working as hard as you can to find information, but you can't let it get to you that you haven't found anything yet. Until Brock, no one even knew that we needed to be looking for intel. HYDRA has had a very long time to hide their actions...."
"I know, but still..." Lance sighed. "Knowing something logically isn't the same as knowing it emotionally." He looked at the food on the table and reached for some... even though he didn't have much of an appetite... because he knew his father expected him to eat.
"I can agree with that..." Bucky's smile was sympathetic. He put food on his plate also...to set a good example.
Matt followed Sam quietly, still unused to being part of such a large group who knew all (or at least most) of his secrets. He waited for Sam to tell him where to sit, afraid he'd sit in someone else's spot.
Sam found a seat at the table and guided Matt to the chair next to him, squeezing his son's shoulder gently. "We've got chili and pasta," he said, not sure his son's infra-vision would allow him to tell what kind of meal they were having.
Matt smiled and took a deep breath. "It smells wonderful!" He carefully spooned a little pasta into his bowl and covered it with chili, eager to show that he was able to take care of himself to the rest of the family.
Sam patted Matt's shoulder affectionately and then began eating, having worked up quite an appetite.
Everyone else began eating, too, engaging in conversation and generally having a good time.
Tony was looking through a microscope at something, his mouth pressed in a firm line as he was completely engrossed in what he was observing.
Steve knocked lightly on the door of the lab before he opened it and stepped inside. "Tony. It's time to eat." His voice was firm, but still gentle.
Tony blinked and looked up. "Ok, dad...." He carefully stored the slide he was looking at so he could return to it later. He was obviously reluctant to stop what he was doing, but obeying his father had become more ingrained...at least for some things.
Steve smiled and wrapped an arm around Tony's shoulders so he could guide his son from the lab. "What were you working on?"
Tony glanced up at his father as they left the lab to head to the dining area. "I was wondering if maybe there was something that HYDRA was using to aid them in brainwashing that wasn't biological...and it looks like I might have been right. Comparing Brock, Kara and Bucky's blood to the rest of us yielded interesting results. Their blood was closer to my blood...with the extremis...than to say Bobbi or Leo. Bucky's was also closer to yours...because of the serum. I'm not sure what the information is indicative of, but it's something we didn't know before due to not looking for non-biological elements...."
Steve squeezed Tony gently to himself. "Do you think it's something we might be able to work with?" he asked. "If we can capture HYDRA agents and get samples of their blood... is it possible to tell who's been brainwashed and who hasn't?"
"Well." Tony gave the question serious thought. "I'm not sure every brainwashed person has the element, so I'm hesitant to say that those who don't have it aren't brainwashed...but I'd think the element's presence is a high indicator that they are."
Steve nodded, guiding his son into the kitchen. "It gives us somewhere to start, at least." He led Tony over to where Pepper was sitting, noting two chairs had been left, and gently pushed Tony into the chair next to Pepper while he took the chair on the other side of his son.
Tony wasn't bothered in the least at being 'manhandled' by his father...easily going where Steve sent him. As soon as he was sat down, he began to serve himself some of the food, continuing the conversation. "It does give a place to start. I'm just wondering why the element is there in the first place. I mean...I know the Extremis affected me mentally, but I didn't have any urges to give up my free will or anything like that... what is it about this element that made them use it? I've just raised a question that I have no idea how to answer if I don't want to fall down the same slippery, nasty slope that HYDRA has gone down...."
May looked up at that, her eyebrow raised. "What do you mean?"
Bruce answered for his brother, having some idea what his brother had been doing and what the main problem was. "You found a new element?" He glanced at Tony to confirm, before continuing, "In order to test the new element, you need test subjects. To be able to determine why HYDRA would have used the element on people to...control them mentally?" He glanced at Tony again. "In order to determine that, he would need to test the element on people...which, given the fact that we don't know what the element does, what it was used for, and have no goal in mind other than to find out... well, it's one thing to use experimental procedures on consenting adults when the goal is to find a cure for an illness or disease. I'm not so sure this would fit that scenario...." He shrugged.
Steve frowned. "I'm not so sure that trying to test the new element out on people is a good idea, but we have HYDRA agents already in custody. Is it worth testing them, to see if the element is there?" If it was, that meant they did have an obligation to break the brainwashing, of course... but if they could find a faster way of doing so... Well, Steve hoped that the agents would understand.
"We can always start off with animal trials... see if it has an effect cross-species," Leo said. "If it does... that might be something HYDRA's planning to release into the wild."
Tony nodded and quickly swallowed the bite of food in his mouth. "It would be worth it to see who of the captured HYDRA agents has the element and who doesn't. Then, going from there, see if we can determine which, if any of them, are brainwashed. It might also be useful to call in an old friend of my father and Aunt Peggy...he's a brilliant scientist that dealt with non-biological elements and the human body. He might recognize the element I isolated...." He didn't sound quite as sure of himself this time. His father and Pym hadn't parted under the best of circumstances, as far as he knew. Of course, he'd got his information about their disagreement through Obadiah Stone, so who really knew?
Steve rested a hand on Tony's shoulder and squeezed gently. "We'll do what we can to make sure you get the help you need," he promised. He didn't say anything about making sure Tony didn't push himself... because he knew Tony knew Steve would make sure that his son ate, drank, rested, spent time with them...
Tony nodded then slanted his head. "Who made the chili? It's really good...." He shoveled another spoonful into his mouth, hungrier than he had thought he would be. Training had taken a lot of energy that he normally didn't expend.
"I did..." Clint told his cousin with some amusement. "And thanks."
Pepper nodded. "It is very good. Then again, so are the toast and the pasta."
Everyone ate quietly for a few moments, before Matt interrupted the silence with a question. "When are the rest of you flying out to join Coulson and Fury?" While he had figured out most of the family dynamics, he was still a little uncertain about it and assumed that everyone was going out to join them.
"We're not all going," Steve replied... not wanting Matt to misunderstand and assume he and Sam were going to be on their own. Even if he did wonder if it might be good for Matt and Sam to spend some one-on-one time together. "The rest of Phil's and Nick's kids, along with Pietro and Wanda, are flying out... tomorrow morning, I believe?" He glanced at said kids for confirmation.
Natasha nodded. "Though I think Dad said something about flying them here in the future... gives you all the chance to meet them." She smiled.
Matt nodded, "I'm...are they...?" He paused, not exactly what it was he was trying to ask; just that he wasn't entirely sure what the family dynamic between Phil's family and the rest of the 'adopted' family was. "Do they consider all of us family too?" he finally settled on, still not certain about the question.
"Yep. They do," Clint answered. "They're dad's family by blood, but they consider all of dad's adopted siblings as their siblings, or children in grandpa's case. Which means any of us kids that have been adopted by said siblings are their nieces, nephews, grandkids... or great grandkids. They are a big believer in chosen family."
Matt blinked, unconsciously leaning toward Sam. He swallowed, before asking his father softly, "And you're one of the brothers? Which makes me...?"
"Which makes you part of their family as well." Sam wrapped his arm around Matt's shoulders. "Now that I've adopted you, you're part of a big family, kid. You have a place here... a home. And you'll get to meet them, too."
Matt swallowed again, the fact that he'd gone from orphan with one really good friend to being a part of a huge family finally sinking in. He found himself leaning even more into Sam, feeling a bit overwhelmed, but not wanting to admit it. "Yeah...ok...."
If anyone else noticed his sudden discomfort, they didn't comment on it. They knew sometimes it took longer to adjust to the new family dynamics.
Sam hugged Matt close. "You'll get used to it, kid," he said, a trace of humour in his voice underneath the reassurance. "I know it's a bit overwhelming at first."
"Yeah...." Matt said weakly, but still managed to smile. He took the last bite of chili from his bowl. "I...I'll help clean up when everyone is finished," he said softly.
Bobbi stood on the porch, looking out toward the fields. Today was the last day she would have her father all to herself. As much as she missed her brothers and sister and wanted to see them, she couldn't help but feel a little sad that their alone time was coming to an end. She fidgeted slightly and shot a guilty glance toward her father, who was stood next to her. She thought it had to be selfish of her, wishing that she'd have a few more days before her siblings came...especially knowing how worried they'd been. Plus, she'd been having to fight impulses all day to keep from doing things she knew would get her into trouble. It didn't take her long to realize the impulses were some irritating need she had to 'get and hold' her father's attention.
Of course, it seemed that she wasn't the only one having that problem. Kara had been a complete grump all morning. She watched quietly as her cousin snuck around the side of the house and headed toward the woods, despite the fact that Fury and Coulson had told the young women in no uncertain terms that they weren't to go into the woods today. Bobbi had to push down yet another impulse to disobey and join her cousin. She fidgeted again, looking away, not sure if her father had seen her cousin or not.
Coulson was more observant than even he tended to let on and his arm snaked around his youngest daughter's waist, drawing her in close and pressing an affectionate kiss to her forehead. "I love you." His words were quiet and sincere. He actually didn't need to draw his attention away from his daughter to tap out a quick message to Fury... letting him know that he'd just seen his niece sneaking towards the woods.
Both of them were expecting something to happen. It was fairly obvious that both Kara and Bobbi were feeling out of sorts... and Coulson was fairly certain he knew why, too.
Fury had been inside the farmhouse, talking to Paul. As soon as he received the message from Coulson, though, he excused himself and walked outside... moving to intercept his daughter.
Bobbi bit her lip, pressing closer to her father. "I love you too, daddy," she said softly, noting Fury aiming to head Kara off at the pass... Or, more accurately, the big oak tree at the edge of the woods that was begging to be climbed. "If you weren't standing next to me, I woulda been doing that..." she admitted, somewhat sheepishly.
Coulson kissed her cheek. "You know, there are always other times we can spend some one-on-one time together," he said softly to her. He loved each of his children, completely and with his whole heart... but he also knew how important it was to them to sometimes be the sole focus of his attention. And he tried to make sure each of them had that.
Bobbi snuggled closer, a little of her anxiety easing, but not all. "I know, daddy..." she spoke softly. "I know and that's why it feels so stupid of me....I just...I feel like...like..." She sighed and looked down. "Like I want to push to see how far I can go before you have to step in. It's just stupid and I know what I'm feeling and thinking and wanting; I just don't know why."
Coulson kissed his daughter's head, gently threading his fingers through her hair. "I might not know all of the details of your past, but I think I understand enough to know that you didn't really have anyone before I came into the picture. Pushing at the boundaries is something that's a natural part of joining a family... whether it's because you want to make sure you're still cared about, no matter what, or because part of you thinks you don't deserve to be happy and loved."
"I know..." Bobbi sighed softly, leaning against her father even more. "I guess I just figured if I knew what was going on, could recognize it in myself, that the urge to act up would go away. But it isn't going away, daddy...." She sounded frustrated. "I don't want to disappoint you. I don't want a spanking. But my ability to ignore this urge to push is becoming less and less the longer the day goes. Just...warning you." She sounded resigned to the fact.
Coulson tightened his embrace around his daughter. "It doesn't matter how strong your urge to push is," he said honestly. "I'll be here... always here to catch you. Just like I told you before. You can let go... because I'm here for you. I will always be here for you, no matter if things are easy or difficult. Having you in my life is worth everything, so it doesn't matter if you feel the need to push. I will always be here."
"I know, daddy." Bobbi's smile was confident, if embarrassed. "It isn't that I doubt you will catch me. I just don't want to get into trouble, even if sometimes I seem to need to." She laughed softly.
"Pushing is a natural part of a parent and child relationship... especially when you haven't had a parent in a long time," Coulson said gently. "We'll deal with it when we need to."
Bobbi nodded. "Yeah, ok. So...do you think you can help me...with the needing to push even though I don't want to...?" She glanced at him. "...Cuz I honestly don't know what to do to calm this urge down...I just know what I don't want to do...."
Coulson kissed her forehead again. "I'll help you with anything, sweetie." His voice was calm and loving. "Why don't we go inside?" he suggested, remembering the light spanking he'd given his daughter the last time they were here... and suspecting that might help to settle Bobbi.
Bobbi pressed closer and nodded slightly. "Ok, daddy..." she said quietly, ready to do whatever he suggested. Anything was better than what she was contemplating doing, especially when she knew what she was contemplating was unnecessarily dangerous; would scare, upset and disappoint her father; and really didn't have a point, other than to relieve the tension she was feeling.
Coulson wrapped his arm around Bobbi's waist, after kissing her cheek, and led her inside, heading to their room as he kept his daughter close. "I love you," he said softly to her.
Bobby smiled up at her father. "I love you too, daddy. So much..." She followed him obediently, some of the tension she'd been feeling all morning pooling in her stomach.
Coulson closed the door and kissed his daughter's cheek, then led Bobbi over to the bed. "I understand you're feeling out of sorts," he said gently to her, "but if you let me, I'll help you... all you have to do is trust me." He looked lovingly into her eyes.
"I do trust you, daddy..." Bobbi whispered. She gave him a crooked smile. "...You're the only one who can help me when I'm feeling this way...." she admitted shyly.
Coulson smiled and cuddled his daughter close for several moments. "And I will always help you," he promised. "Any time and with anything you need." He kissed the top of her head then took a seat on the bed, gently drawing Bobbi across his lap.
Bobbi allowed herself to relax over her father's lap, the knowledge that he had her and wasn't going to let her go helping calm her somewhat. "I love you, daddy..." she whispered softly.
"I love you, Bobbi. So much. You are more important to me than I can put into words." Coulson rubbed Bobbi's back gently and then brought his hand down in a swat that was mild... more of a love pat.
Bobbi closed her eyes and reached down to hold onto her father's ankle. The swat didn't hurt at all...just stung enough to help her focus on what was important; her father's love and the fact that he had her and was there for her when she needed him. With that knowledge, an unease she hadn't been aware of feeling slowly seeped out of her, alleviating a lot of the tension she'd been feeling. She was chagrined to find herself tearing up; this wasn't even a 'real' spanking... why was she crying?
Coulson continued bringing his hand down repeatedly, still keeping the swats at the same mild force. He went down to Bobbi's thighs and then started over from the top, speaking softly as he did so. "You can always rely on me, sweetie. I'm here for you. I won't ever let you down," he promised.
"I know, daddy! I know and I love you so much and I'm so thankful that you won't give up on me and will help me and...and..." She choked back her words, sniffling loudly. She shifted slightly as the slight sting began to build, but didn't attempt to get away. Even more tension drained from her body.
Coulson rubbed Bobbi's back gently as he completed the second circuit and began a third, still at the same level and speed. "Don't ever feel like you can't come to me. Don't ever feel guilty for needing to push. When you need to push, we'll handle it and then move on."
"O...okay, daddy..." she said quietly, with a whimper. She was only able to handle a few swats when he began a third circuit, the sting finally building enough that it had become painful. Squirming slightly, she threw her hand back and whimpered again, more loudly.
Coulson laced his fingers through Bobbi's, moving her hand to the small of her back and holding it there. "I love you. There will never be a time that ceases to be true," he promised.
Bobbi squeezed her father's hand tightly, just that small gesture allowing her to relax and accept what he was doing calmly. "I love you too, daddy..." she said in a quivering voice, sniffling again and wiping at her eyes with her other hand.
Coulson still held his daughter's hand as he continued the mild swats. "You are so important to me... more important than I could ever fully explain." His voice was calm, gentle and loving.
It didn't take much longer before Bobbi was completely limp over her father's knee. She wasn't sobbing; she hadn't actually done anything wrong, so guilt hadn't been an issue and, despite the soreness she currently felt, it still didn't hurt that badly. She was, however, crying quietly, the tears just running from her eyes...aiding in the release of all the tension that had been building up. Bobbi's focus was completely on her father and the knowledge that he loved her and wasn't letting her go; and her focus was on the not-punishment, the gentle swats preventing her from being able to focus or think about the things she'd been contemplating doing (that she knew her father would disapprove of).
When the last of the tension had drained away and even the tiniest desire to 'act up' had disappeared, Bobbi whispered, "You stopped me, daddy...I don't wanna be bad anymore...." Her voice was weary, as if it wouldn't take much to put her under in sleep, and while she shifted slightly, it was obvious she wouldn't be moving without her father's permission or help. "I love you, daddy...."
Coulson stopped the spanking, gathering Bobbi close and into his arms. "I love you," he said, cradling her close and stroking her hair. "No matter what, that will never cease to be true." He cuddled Bobbi as he continued stroking her hair and back, hoping to soothe her to sleep.
"I love you so much, daddy..." Bobbi snuggled as close as she could, tucking her head under her father's chin. She felt so incredibly lucky that he was in her life and that he was willing to help her and protect her, from herself even. It didn't take long for her father's gentle affection to soothe her into slumber.
Kara had seen her father heading her direction, but instead of stopping or going to her father, the impulse to just 'push' became that much stronger... So she began a sprint toward the tree, just to see if she'd get away with it.
Fury wasn't very surprised when Kara began sprinting. He sped up his steps to catch up to her before she reached the oak tree, moving to wrap his arms around his daughter.
Kara hadn't been running her fastest- she would easily admit that. This whole action wasn't meant to get her away from her father, after all. She wanted him to catch her...wanted to be stopped. She hadn't given the whys of what she was doing as much thought as Bobbi had, so if anyone had questioned her about her actions, she would have just shrugged and muttered, 'I don't know...' But it was obvious to anyone watching that she was testing her father, again; a need to have him prove that he was in charge and in control overriding everything else. After all, the brainwashing hadn't just taken her memories or freedom while she was under Whitehall's control. It had made it extremely difficult for her to function without someone else being in a position of power and control over her; not because she was incapable of controlling herself or making her own decisions, but because she was quite honestly terrified to do so. The minute her father's arms were around her, she stopped running, going limp against him.
Fury wrapped his arms tight around Kara, hugging her close to him. "I believe we talked about not going into the woods today." Although his voice was firm, he wasn't actually scolding... having at least some understanding as to why Kara was acting the way she was.
Kara just nodded her head in agreement against her father's chest, snuggling closer. Leaning back just enough to look into his face, she got a strange look on hers before letting out a tiny giggle. Knowing he'd want to know what was so funny about what had just occurred, she explained. "I just remembered something, someone...I don't know if they were a relative or a friend or what...but I think I was young anyway. They were watching this nearly two year old who loved to run. One day, he looked over his shoulder, gave a big grin and just took off for the road. They knew immediately what he was planning and were already running after him before he'd taken his first step, but even then, he had nearly reached the street before they caught him up." She looked up at her father again, her eyes a mixture of impish sheepishness and questioning dare.
Kara wasn't to a level of self-awareness where she could understand her needs or motives yet, let alone tell her father. She had obviously identified with that toddler, though, even if she'd never admit it. She had reached her limit for being able to handle herself; the normal boundaries that usually helped her feel secure, while giving her plenty of room to find herself, suddenly felt too expansive and frightening. She felt out of control and only knew one way to get herself pulled back to a safer level. Of course she'd acted on it.
Fury gently stroked Kara's hair, holding his daughter close. "Even adults feel the need to have their family act at times," he said. "I understand you might be feeling overwhelmed right now... but I'm going to be here for you. Even if you can't always tell me what you need."
"I love you, daddy...and I know you've got me...but I'm still scared and dunno why and..." She swallowed hard. "Am I in trouble?" She winced at the hopeful tone of her voice. She wasn't certain exactly what she was looking for, only that her father was the only one who could help her with it.
Fury looked into his daughter's eyes, stroking her cheek as he tried to read her expression. "What do you think?" he asked.
Kara bit her lip and sort of shuffled from one foot to the other, not moving out of her father's arms. "...Yes?" She sounded hesitant and uncertain and still hopeful. She couldn't help but blush; she wasn't sure if she was hopeful she wouldn't be in trouble, or that she would be.
Although he hadn't actually heard what his brother was saying, Fury's mind had turned to the same thing Coulson's had. He gently stroked Kara's hair. "Let's go inside."
Biting her lip again, Kara wrapped her arms around Fury more tightly, mumbling into his chest, "Yessir..." He was giving direct orders that didn't give an option; rather than irritating her, it actually helped calm her somewhat. That was one less thing she had to make up her mind about....
Fury held Kara close as he guided her inside the farmhouse, leading her to their room without so much as loosening his hold on her.
Kara didn't even try to step out of her father's arms, let alone get away. She'd been looking to get her father's attention and now that she had it, she couldn't help but grin. She did make an attempt to hide the fact that she wasn't upset or nervous, pressing her face against her father's chest as he walked her into their room, but even if her father could tell that she was happy, she had a feeling he'd understand and not be irritated at it. She didn't really understand herself, but he seemed to have no problem at all understanding her.
Fury guided Kara into their room and closed the door behind them with his elbow, still holding his daughter tight. "I know you've been feeling off for most of the day," he said. "I think there are times you feel a need to push... to know I'm willing to step in."
Kara snuggled closer to her father. "Uh, huh.... I...I just wish I knew how to just say it in words instead of my actions. I can't help thinking you're gonna get tired of chasing after me like I'm a toddler...." She sighed softly.
"I'm not going to get tired of chasing after you or being there for you," Fury promised. "You're my daughter... and that is never going to change."
Kara just snuggled more closely. "Thank you, daddy...I love you so much!"
"And I love you." Fury held her tightly for a few seconds longer and then gently steered her over to the bed.
Kara glanced up at her father as he led her to the bed. She wasn't certain if she'd gone far enough over the line to warrant a spanking, or if he'd stopped her in time for her easy capitulation to just earn her a scolding reminder. She knew full well she'd been a brat all morning long, though, so she wouldn't be surprised if she'd earned a spanking. Now that her father was actually stepping in to do something, she had to wonder why she'd thought pushing so hard was a good idea.
Fury kept his arms around Kara as he guided his daughter over to the bed. While he didn't plan on punishing her outright, he hoped that using the milder form of spanking would help settle her. He reached the bed and sat down, gently tugging his daughter across his lap.
Kara let out a tiny huff of relief as her father positioned her...her subconscious fear that he'd let her behavior go without any real consequence assuaged. Of course, now she was over her father's knee about to be spanked and, as much as she'd been asking for it, she couldn't rightly say she was looking forward to it. "I'm sorry, daddy?" She winced at the uncertain tone in her voice. It wasn't that she wasn't sorry; she was just so conflicted....
Fury rubbed her back gently. "I know you're feeling unsettled and out of sorts. Those feelings are natural and nothing to be ashamed of. And I will be here to step in whenever it's necessary. And it will change nothing about our relationship." He rubbed her back gently a moment or two longer and then brought his hand down in the first mild swat.
Kara felt some of her anxiety ease as her father spoke, the knowledge that he had everything in hand and knew and understood what she was feeling, even if she didn't, helping to calm her down. The fact he wasn't giving her a punishment and was just 'reminding her', as he'd said the last time he'd stepped in like this, told her he understood a lot more completely than she had thought. "I'm not being punished?" she asked, in a tiny voice. She had really been a brat all morning.
"You haven't done anything wrong, even if you have been out of sorts," Fury replied, continuing the mild swats down to Kara's thighs before starting over from the top. "You don't need a punishment. You need to be reminded of your place in my life."
Kara thought about that, letting herself lie loosely over her father's lap. She reached down and held onto his ankle. "...My place as your daughter?" she asked tentatively. Why she was asking, she wasn't certain. She knew she was his daughter. She wasn't certain what she was looking for from him. Trying to figure it out wasn't going to be all that easy, either. Every time she thought she might have an idea that she could ask about, a gentle smack would land and distract her from her worrying.
"As my daughter," Fury agreed. "In my life... with me. I know it frustrates you that you still don't have all of your memories. I know that you still feel bad about what was done to you and what you were forced to do. No matter how much time passes, or how many more things we uncover, it won't change anything. And if you feel better with more boundaries and expectations than your brothers? There's nothing wrong with that..."
Kara sniffled at her father's words as she realized that he really did understand what was wrong and why she had been acting out. "You...you don't think I'm weak or a baby or...or pathetic? Needing to give you so much control? I'm...I'm an adult, but...but I'm so scared all the time and I don't want to be a grown-up..." she admitted with a choked whisper, ashamed that she was so messed up.
"I think you've been hurt deeply and there's nothing wrong with you for needing to lean on your family," Fury said honestly. "Being scared is normal, especially when you've gone through what you have. Recovery takes time. It doesn't matter how long you need me to be in control for. I'm here for you," he promised. "And even when you start to feel more at ease and comfortable... I'm not going to stop being your father."
"Ok, daddy..." Kara's voice was soft, but her belief in her father was clear. Squeezing his ankle gently, she allowed herself to relax even further. Being over her father's knee...having him demonstrate his willingness to take control when needed...helped her feel safe and less out of control. Assured by her father's words, she lay still and focused on the reminder he was giving.
Fury slid his other arm around Kara's waist, drawing his daughter in tight against his stomach, and continued with the mild swats, carefully watching her reactions so he knew when she reached the point she needed to.
Kara couldn't help but wriggle a little at the swats. While they didn't hurt...only mildly stung...there was a point where the sting built up instead of disappearing immediately. It began to feel uncomfortable, but that just served to focus her attention more on what her father was doing and why. She couldn't withdraw into her own thoughts and worry when her father kept drawing her attention to him. Sniffling slightly, Kara let out a tiny whimper, squeezing her father's ankle a little harder.
"I love you." It was getting easier for Fury to voice his emotions to his children, no matter that Trip, at the very least, knew how he felt. "Your place is with me. No matter what. I promise it will always be the case."
"I love you too, daddy!" Kara whimpered, just before throwing her hand back to cover her bottom. It might not hurt like an actual punishment would, but it was still uncomfortable and the longer it went on, the more vulnerable and young she felt.
Fury took Kara's hand, squeezing it gently, and held it to the small of her back as he started another circuit of swats. "Every time it becomes necessary, I will step in like this," he promised.
Kara grasped her father's hand tightly and whimpered as he started a new circuit. "Ok, daddy..." she said softly, accepting his words as truth and a promise. Wriggling one more time, she finally went limp and just accepted the attention, focusing completely on the strength in her father's grip, the steady fall of his hand and the fact that he would decide when the lesson was over. What little remained of her nervousness and anxiety drained as a feeling of safety replaced them both.
Fury had kept a careful watch of his daughter's reactions and saw the moment she surrendered completely. He stopped and drew Kara into a tight embrace, holding her close and pressing a kiss to her forehead.
Kara quickly wrapped her arms around Fury, snuggling close. "I love you so much, daddy...and I'm sorry I was such a brat today...but I'm not sorry you have me." Her voice was soft as she cuddled as close as she could. "Am I grounded?" she asked hesitantly; asking because she wanted and needed to know if her father would be willing to take the responsibility of making most choices for her...at least for a little while.
Fury tightened his arms around her. "You are for the time being," he said, understanding that his daughter needed him to keep her close... and just like his brother, Fury knew there was nothing he could deny his daughter. Or any of his children.
Kara let out a tiny sigh of relief, the knowledge that she could just exist and let her daddy take care of everything easing what little bit of unease she'd held. "Ok...thank you, daddy..." Her voice was quiet and it was clear she was glad about his answer. "You really don't think there's something wrong with me...you know...wanting you to control everything?" There was an element of real fear in her tone that maybe she shouldn't be so eager to surrender her freedom to him...that the fact she was eager to not have to make decisions for herself was a sign that she was permanently messed up.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with you," Fury replied. "I think you've been hurt badly and full recovery is going to take time. I understand trying to be independent and make your own choices is a scary prospect." He gently stroked her hair. "You're my daughter anyway... you can be my child for as long as you need."
Hearing her father's acceptance and gentle permission to be however she needed to be to find healing, Kara couldn't help but start to quietly cry. Pressing closer, she held as tightly as she could and whispered, "I'll always be your daughter. Maybe...maybe I'll get better enough that I won't need to be your little girl...eventually..." She sniffled, a tiny snort of self-mocking laughter escaping.
Fury pressed another kiss to her head, continuing to stroke her hair in gentle, soft motions. "Whatever you need... whenever you need it... you'll have," he promised, his voice filled with sincerity.
Kara sniffled once more, snuggling closer to her father and just cuddling, nuzzling against his chest. "I love you, daddy. And I really am sorry I was a brat this morning. Forgive me?" She finally glanced up into Fury's face, her eyes wet, but a peaceful and content look in them that hadn't been there for the whole day prior to her father catching her and putting a stop to her misbehavior.
"Always." Fury's reply was given without a single moment of hesitation. "I love you. That isn't going to change. And I understand how you were feeling."
"I'm glad you understood...understand...daddy. Because I didn't and still don't. Not fully," Kara admitted with a tiny sigh.
"You don't need to worry about understanding." Fury's voice was gentle... a tone that only appeared when he was with his family; and more so with his children. "Just know that I'm here. For whatever you need."
"Can we just stay here for a little while, daddy? I...I like when you hold me," Kara admitted shyly, pressing her ear to her father's chest and listening for his heartbeat.
"Alright, the flight plan was filed and there will be a mini-van waiting for you at the airport. Give us a call when you land, alright?" Tony told Clint, since the archer would be the one flying the jet.
Natasha was standing with the rest of the family, holding herself still... though to everyone who knew her well (and there was a lot), it would be fairly obvious she wanted to see the rest of her family.
Pietro wasn't even bothering to hide his impatience. He much preferred it when action happened fast... and he was antsy, waiting for them to board the jet and start on a journey that was, admittedly, much shorter than it would be on a norrmal plane.
Clint nodded at his cousin. "Thanks, Tony. Ok...all aboard. This jet takes off in ten...."
Natasha headed onto the jet first, it being second nature to go ahead and make sure there were no traps that had been laid... even though the chances of that were nearly impossible. And she didn't actually say she was subconsciously doing that, of course.
Pietro and Wanda waited to get on the jet after their father.
Trip, Brock and Grant were only steps behind Nat, assisting with their own check. Clint just grinned at his family, shrugged at Tony and then led his children on as soon as he could tell the other four were satisfied.
Soon, the jet was in the air. They'd be at the farmhouse within three hours, especially if Nat was the one to drive the van from the airport.
Natasha moved to the front of the jet with her older brother, settling in as co-pilot with Clint while everyone else took their seats.
The ride on the jet had been uneventful. They'd had a good tail-wind and actually arrived to the airport slightly earlier than they'd planned; the van was waiting for them just as Tony promised, and they had quickly loaded their luggage and themselves and were on their way. Somehow, Natasha managed to avoid any traffic and managed to make really good time, so they were very early by the time they were within thirty minutes of the farmhouse. Clint called ahead to let the family know they would be getting there sooner than expected. When Natasha pulled the van up the farm drive, Clint could see that Bobbi and Kara were standing on the porch, waiting for their siblings. The apologetic and shamed looks on the younger women's faces told him that the first item on his to do list was to make sure 'baby sister and cousin' realized that he wasn't angry at them and was just happy to see them healthy and whole. As soon as the car had stopped, Clint was out the door and heading toward his younger family members, his arms open in invitation.
Trip was out the door nearly as fast as Clint, his own arms open wide.
Bobbi had been pacing the porch ever since Clint had called ahead to let them know they were close. While her father and uncle had forgiven her and Kara for running and weren't angry, she couldn't help but be nervous that her siblings would be upset. When she'd seen Clint get out of the van and motion that he wanted to hug her, it was such a relief, she couldn't help but jump off the porch and run into his arms, holding onto him tightly and apologizing profusely over and over.
Kara had been less nervous about her siblings' reactions, but it was mostly due to the fact that she had glued herself to her father for most of the morning and hadn't given herself time to be worked up. She'd only moved out onto the porch about five minutes before the van had pulled into the drive. It didn't stop her from launching herself off the porch and into Trip's arms the moment he held them out to her, though, her own apologies being said to him.
Grant got out of the vehicle more slowly, helping his niece and nephew out of the back of the van before slowly walking toward his older brother and baby sister. Brock followed quietly.
Coulson and Fury both stood close to their daughters. Even though they knew that their other children didn't blame their daughters, Coulson could tell that Bobbi had been nervous... and the two of them had been as close to their daughters as their daughters were to them.
Coulson smiled as Clint hugged Bobbi, looking at each of his children and grandchildren in turn and giving them a gentle, affectionate smile.
Natasha stepped over, hugging her father and then waiting for her turn to hug Bobbi.
Fury moved closer to Kara and Trip, looking over their heads and locking gazes with Brock, trying to signal to him everything was all right.
Pietro and Wanda followed a bit quietly, though both were relieved that their aunt and cousin seemed more or less all right.
Clint had whispered into Bobbi's ear that it was ok...he wasn't mad and he forgave her for her brief insanity, then he'd given her a cocky grin and passed her over to Nat. Bobbi, relieved that her siblings didn't appear to be harboring any anger at her, latched onto Natasha and gave her a hug that, under normal circumstances, might have made the older woman uncomfortable; Natasha really wasn't the touchy feely sort, after all.
Grant stood to the side, waiting for his own turn to hug his sister, but smiled at his father to let the older man know everyone was ok.
Brock nodded at his father, giving a slight grin; then, as soon as Trip had released their kid sister, he swept Kara up into his arms and spun her around, admonishing gently, "Don't ever do that again, kid...."
"I'll try not to..." Kara whispered into Brock's ear, before giving him a quick kiss on the cheek.
Natasha hugged Bobbi back tightly. Even though she wasn't really the touchy-feely sort, it was slightly different when it came to her family... her father and siblings especially. "I'm glad Dad got you," she said softly to her sister, before gently releasing her so that Grant could hug her.
Grant had quickly hugged Bobbi then wrapped his arm around her waist and began to lead her back up onto the porch where their father stood.
Brock pulled Kara along with him, back to Fury's side, grinning as she snagged Trip on their way by.
Clint nodded at Natasha before walking over to Wanda and Pietro, wrapping an arm around both of their shoulders and following behind the others. "We'll get our luggage later- let's go say hi to Grandpa, Uncle Paul, and Aunt Cath...." he said to his own children, but loudly enough that it included everyone.
Coulson wrapped his arms around Grant and Bobbi as soon as they were close enough, pressing a kiss to each of their foreheads before he guided them inside. "Your Aunt Cath's been cooking for most of the day," he commented, reaching out to stroke Natasha's arm once she was within range.
Fury smiled at his children, squeezing each of them gently on the shoulder before speaking. "Ready to go inside?"
Wanda immediately cuddled into her father. "Okay, Papa," she said agreeably.
Pietro didn't say anything, but he leaned into his father from the other side.
Bobbi was surprised that everyone actually fit into the kitchen, even if it was a tight squeeze. She couldn't help but laugh when Grant pushed their father down onto a chair, then pushed Bobbi so that she was sat on one knee, before sitting on their dad's other knee himself. He looked so proud at the fact he actually fit on his father's knee at the same time as his sister. "We're going to break daddy!" she snorted out and made to get up.
Brock didn't do what Grant had done, but he wasn't far from it. He'd maneuvered Fury to one of the benches to sit, letting Kara sit on their father's lap while he and Trip sat on either side of him like book-ends. It was a tight fit.
Clint snorted at seeing his younger siblings and cousins crowding Coulson and Fury. Tugging his own children over to the other bench, he sat down and pulled Wanda onto his lap, while bringing Pietro close to his side. He left his other side free for Nat to sit if she wanted to. That would leave three more chairs, just enough for Grandpa, Aunt Cath and Uncle Paul to sit and talk with the family.
"Yeah...I think we definitely need to discuss our plans for expansion..." Paul chortled as he brought a pitcher of tea over to the table. "Dinner will be ready soon... there are some fold-out chairs in the hall closet, so that we can all actually sit comfortably to eat. We can get them in a bit, once everyone is done with the snuggling...." he teased gently.
Smiling, Coulson wrapped an arm around each of his youngest’s waists, drawing them in close to himself. "I'm not going to break. Both of you are fine to sit on my lap." He spoke with complete sincerity in his voice. He liked being this close to them.
Fury wrapped his arm around Trip's waist, drawing his oldest in close so that his same arm could wrap around Kara. His other arm slid around Brock's waist, drawing his other son in close.
Natasha settled on the other side of Clint, smiling at her niece on her brother's lap. The smile turned into a soft chuckle at her other uncle's words. "I'll help bring in the other chairs in a few minutes."
"So...there isn't really any news from home to report, from the whole three days you were gone..." Grant grinned. "Although, I'd be surprised if there isn't some when we all get home.... Matt's settling in quickly; or at least seems to be. He had us all training in the dark the other day. Says we should 'learn to listen' to our other senses...or something like that."
Clint grinned at his brother crookedly. "You know, he isn't wrong...."
Brock looked at his sister, noting how clingy she was with their father. He had a lot of questions about what was going through her head, but he didn't want to ask them unless she initiated the conversation first. He sighed internally. He'd just have to trust that, if he needed to know something, his father would inform him.
Coulson nodded. "It's a useful skill to have. If the lights were suddenly pulled during an op, you'd want to still be able to fight." He pressed a kiss to the back of each of their heads and smiled at his other son and daughter and grandchildren. "I'm glad to have all of you here..."
Fury noticed Brock's look and shifted his hand to his youngest son's shoulder, squeezing gently. He didn't say anything... but hoped to provide some reassurance to Brock.
Natasha stood up to give her aunt a hand with laying the table.
"We're glad to be here..." Clint responded. "I do have to warn you, Tony is angling to have Grandpa, and Uncle Paul, and Aunt Cath fly out to the tower. Once he realized that Grandpa viewed everyone as just as much family as we did, he decided he really needed to meet 'the only grandparent I have, apparently....'"
Brock smiled at his father, nodding to let him know that he was ok.
Paul glanced at his wife and, noting that the food was ready to be brought out, stood up. "I'm going to go grab those fold-out chairs..."
Grant quickly but carefully stood up. "I'll help, Uncle Paul...."
"Me too..." Bobbi gave her father a quick kiss on the cheek, before standing to go help bring in the extra chairs.
Ben walked in just in time to hear Clint's comment. "I hope you told him that he and any of the others are welcome to come here any time they'd like to."
Natasha smiled at her father as he stood to help lay the table as well.
Fury squeezed Kara's waist gently, but didn't encourage her to move. If she was comfortable like this, then so was he.
Clint grinned at Ben. "Of course, Grandpa. I suspect he would have come this time, if he didn't think it would be overwhelming for so many new faces to just show up." He left unsaid that everyone had believed it would be better to keep the visit to just Phil's and Nick's immediate family, since a large part of the reason for the trip was the two runaway daughters. Even so, Tony had finagled a promise from Clint that he would extend the invitation for the others to visit. "He made me promise to let you know you were welcome to come out, though- and maybe even get you to give a specific date, if possible." He grinned.
Kara snuggled closer to her father, smiling shyly at both her brothers. She noted when Bobbi placed two foldout chairs around the table, near the bench. Trip and Brock both moved to a chair, leaving the bench for her and her father. She didn't get off her dad's lap, though, figuring she'd wait until everyone was sat down and it was actually time to eat before she'd move to sit beside him.
Ben smiled at Clint. "I'm sure we can figure out a date soon." He didn't press Clint about Tony not coming this time, understanding it might have been difficult on his two granddaughters.
Coulson finished helping to lay the table and then settled back on his chair, a fond smile on his face as he looked at his children and grandchildren... his brothers, sister and father.
Fury didn't tell Kara to get up, choosing to let her if she preferred... and quite happy for her to stay on his lap if she'd rather.
Within moments, everyone was seated around the table, piling food on their plates and pouring out drinks.
Kara had slipped off of Fury's lap and onto the bench close to him just before everyone began plating their food. It was a little awkward at first, but soon, the two of them had developed a system so that they weren't bumping into each other and were able to serve themselves and eat without any difficulty.
Bobbi quickly began a conversation with Wanda regarding the kittens outside. She was in a much better place emotionally than she had been the day before. Her father stepping in had been just enough of a nudge that she had been able to relax and stop worrying... and it showed in her behavior at lunch. She was happy and in full control of herself again. Any residual guilt she might have felt about what had occurred with Kara was small enough that she could accept it and then ignore it.
Kara wasn't yet to the point where she felt in control of herself...but then, she wasn't really trying. She'd given control over to her father, for the moment, choosing instead to deal with things as they came at her and let him take care of the rest. It was making it much easier for her to relax and enjoy her time with her family...even if it did result in her being more clingy and dependent on him. She smiled at Trip and Brock, noting their concerned looks. She'd explain to them later...or ask her father to explain. She didn't want them worrying unnecessarily; and it might be helpful to have them as back-up, in case she was in a situation where she needed someone to step in and her father wasn't close by.
"Has Lance called you yet?" Grant asked Bobbi off-handedly.
Bobbi blinked and shook her head. "Not yet," she finally said, after swallowing a mouthful of food. "Is he alright?"
"He's been worried about you," Natasha said. "I know he was hoping to talk to you... he might be waiting until he's sure that you're not eating... and that we're all settled in." She smiled at her sister.
Coulson rested his hand on Bobbi's shoulder, squeezing gently, though he didn't say anything. He kissed her cheek gently.
Wanda listened intently to Bobbi, her eyes wide with longing as she chanced a look at her father. She hadn't been able to have a pet before...
Clint tried to pretend he didn't see his daughter's longing look, but he wasn't doing a good job of it. He finally turned to look at Wanda, a serious expression on his face, even though his eyes were twinkling. "If your Great-grandpapa says he's willing to part with one more...you can pick out one of the kittens that's left to bring home." He glanced at Natasha, wondering if she was going to try and take the final kitten, or if their Aunt Cathy would decide she wanted to keep one of the kittens for herself.
Bobbi smiled at Natasha. "Maybe I should just call him when we are done eating..." She glanced at her father, not exactly asking for permission, but still trying to see what he thought about the idea.
Wanda gave a big smile as Ben nodded his permission, smiling at his great-granddaughter. Wanda threw her arms around her father and hugged him tightly. "Thank you, Papa! And Great Grandpapa!"
Ben smiled and then looked at Natasha. "I know you've never really kept pets, but since the other girls will take three kittens, which means there'll be one left..." He allowed his voice to trail off.
Natasha's smile was one of fond amusement. "I'm sure I could be persuaded to take the last one off your hands."
Coulson squeezed Bobbi's waist and kissed her cheek. "I think that would be a good idea." He was certain it would help both of them.
Paul threw up his hands and let out an exaggerated sigh of relief. "Oh, thank goodness... I was positive we'd end up with just one wee one left and Cathy would feel sorry for it and it'd end up coming into the house and become king of the roost....and that's MY job!" he said teasingly to Natasha.
Clint hugged his daughter tightly, chuckling at her enthusiasm. "You're welcome, Sweet-pea..." he said softly, before kissing the side of her head.
Bobbi grinned at her father, returning the hug, before she turned toward her niece and sister. "We went shopping for the kittens the other day, but we bought enough stuff that they can share until we get back to the tower and you can go get your own things for them..." she offered helpfully, not certain if the family would want to take another shopping trip, especially with this many people.
Grant smiled at his brother. "Looks’ like everyone in the family has a pet now except you, bro." He reached down and snuck a piece of his chicken to Copper, who was lying between his feet.
"Dad doesn't have one either," Natasha pointed out innocently.
Coulson smiled. "That's because I don't need any pets... I have all of you to love and take care of." Despite the slight teasing note to his voice, it was still loving and affectionate. He wouldn't change any of them for anything.
"I'm sure you can introduce your kitten to your brothers later," Fury commented to Kara.
Trip grinned at his sister. "If it's as cute as you, then maybe I'll have to borrow it; might improve my 'game'...."
"Nothin' gonna improve your game, bro... just saying..." Brock snorted teasingly.
"You've got game?" Kara asked, too innocently.
"Wh...wha...whe...Did you hear that?" Trip looked at his father, eyebrows going up in mock offense. "What would you know about it, huh?" He grinned at Kara.
"I know enough to know I better not say what I know, or we're gonna have to hide some bodies...." Kara whispered loudly, with an impish grin at her father.
"And I thought we were bad...." Grant said in an aside to Bobbi and laughed.
Fury gave his daughter a gentle nudge. "Maybe you should say what you know," he jokingly suggested.
"I don't think there's a competition," Coulson said, teasing gently.
Kara gave her father a very wide eyed look, then very deliberately pressed her lips together and drew her thumb and index finger across them, like she was pulling a zipper.
Brock burst out laughing.
Clint snorted, giving his father a knowing look. "Are you sure about that, sir?"
Paul burst out laughing at that.
"I stand corrected," Coulson said dryly.
Fury just shook his head, wrapping his arm around his daughter's shoulders. "I'm sure I can find out on my own," he continued to tease.
Grant just grinned at his father, before sneaking another piece of chicken to Copper.
Trip shook his head. "I'm gonna be single the whole rest of my life..." he moaned playfully.
"I'm sure that's not going to happen," Fury commented, teasing. "Maybe Kara will let you borrow her kitten so you can make a good impression." He poked his daughter gently.
Coulson wrapped an arm around Grant's shoulders, squeezing him gently and kissing his cheek. "I'd like to talk to you once we've eaten," he said softly.
Kara grinned, leaning into her father. "Of course, daddy.... Would you like to borrow my kitten to pick up women, Trip?" she asked sweetly.
Trip face-palmed and groaned.
Grant glanced up into his father's face, trying to determine if he was somehow in trouble for something, but his father didn't seem worried or overly serious, even if he wasn't joking in his request. "Yeah. Ok, dad." He smiled at his father.
"Ah, to be young again..." Paul teased his nieces and nephews.
Fury smiled at his daughter and oldest son. "I'm sure it couldn't hurt," he continued to tease.
Coulson smiled at his other brother, even as his hand shifted to the nape of Grant's neck, squeezing gently to reassure his youngest son. "Don't say that... you'll make Dad feel old." He grinned at Ben.
Paul laughed. "I'd agree with you, if I didn't know for a fact he could run circles around us when doing farm chores...."
"Please...no more..." Trip held up a hand. "You two are seriously going to ruin my street cred!" He grinned at his father.
Fury smiled at Trip and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, squeezing him gently. "I'm sure you'll do fine."
Ben smiled at his sons. "And I'll be doing that for a long while yet."
"Hear, hear...!" Grant said in response to his grandfather's boast, his grin growing.
"I'll drink to that!" Bobbi added, holding up her glass of juice.
Trip just nodded at his father before keying in on the other conversation. "I will too!" he interjected.
Natasha smiled and raised her glass. "Same here."
There were murmurs of agreement from the others around the table.
Dinner had continued in much the same vein, gentle teasing and fun conversation. Clean-up had been quick, with everyone helping. Cathy hadn't had to lift a finger, just offering suggestions or directions on where to put items, and soon, everyone was spread out in the living room, talking.
"Want to come see the kittens?" Bobbi asked Wanda, her eyes lighting up.
Wanda lit up, but looked at her father. "Can I, Papa?" she asked.
Coulson put a hand on Grant's shoulder. "Can we talk now?"
"Of course. I wouldn't mind seeing these kittens myself, since I have a feeling I'm going to be tripping over at least three of them...." Clint grinned at his daughter.
Kara looked at her own father and bit her lip. "Can I go with them, daddy?" she asked quietly.
Trip, catching the question, glanced at his dad. "I could go see them too... " The unspoken 'if you want me to stick by her' clear in the look he gave his father.
Fury nodded, smiling in acknowledgment at Trip, but he asked his daughter, "Are you good with Trip going with you?"
Wanda smiled. "Okay, Papa."
Kara quickly nodded, latching onto her brother's arm with a happy smile. "Yes, daddy!"
Clint wrapped an arm around his daughter's shoulder, then took his baby sister's arm and urged, "Ok...take me out to meet the little balls of fur...."
"We'll do just fine, won't we, Pipsqueak?" Trip gently teased his sister, tugging her in closer, before wrapping an arm around her waist.
Grant shifted closer to his father as he watched the other 'kids' get ready to go out and see kittens. "Do you want to go back into the kitchen?" he asked softly.
Fury smiled. "If either of you need me... you know where I am." He gave them both a quick hug and then shifted closer to Brock, wrapping his arm around his youngest son's shoulders.
Wanda leaned into her father.
Coulson nodded, pressing a kiss to Grant's head before steering him in that direction.
"Sure thing, dad..." Trip smiled back, gently guiding Kara out to follow Bobbi, Wanda and Clint.
Brock pressed closer to his father, not saying anything, just relaxing and enjoying the knowledge that he was with his family and everything was all right.
Grant followed his father into the kitchen, waiting until his father had shut the door before sitting down at the table and looking up at his father with wide eyes. "What did you need to talk with me about, dad?" He couldn't help the hesitant and slightly worried tone in his voice. He still wasn't entirely certain he hadn't done something to get into trouble, though he wasn't sure what he could have done.
Coulson sat down next to his son, wrapping an arm around Grant's shoulders and drawing him in close and tight. "You aren't in trouble, son." He said that right off the bat, not wanting to cause Grant any worry. "I wanted to talk to you about the bracelet."
Grant blinked and looked at the wrist where the bracelet resided, holding that arm up slightly. "What about it? To be honest, I don't even think of it most the time...did it stop working or something?"
"I thought we should discuss if we both feel it's still necessary," Coulson replied. "It was always supposed to be temporary, after all. You've been doing a lot better and it might be time to remove it... What do you think, son?" he asked gently.
Grant slanted his head thoughtfully. "I...I think I like the idea that I've grown enough not to need it to help keep me in line...I mean. I really haven't given it much thought the last couple of months, so that means I've started developing good habits on my own, right?" He looked at his father and bit his lip.
Coulson leaned in and kissed his son's forehead. "I think you've come a long way since I brought you into my life," he said softly. "And I think you have started developing good habits. You've grown into your own person, son." He gave Grant a proud smile. "Exactly how I told you that you could. And I'm happy to be a part of your life," he said softly.
Grant's smile grew at his father's words and he couldn't help but blush slightly. "I wouldn't have grown even a tiny bit as much if it weren't for you, dad. You're the whole reason I was able to start being good...I'm so grateful you found me and are with me now...." He twisted around and hugged his father tightly. "Makes me kinda sad to take the bracelet off, now..." He chuckled. "Since it's kinda a physical sign of how much you love me when you aren't with me...."
Coulson wrapped his arms around Grant and hugged him just as tight in return. "With or without the bracelet... I love you more than I could ever fully put into words," he said simply. "If you're glad I found you... I'm just as glad I found you. You've proved my faith in you over and over." His only real regret was that it had taken him so long to reach out to his son in the first place. He kissed Grant's head. "I love you," he reiterated.
"I love you too, dad..." Grant smiled and had to swallow back the sudden emotion. "You want to do the honors?" he finally asked, holding his wrist out. "Maybe we can keep it in storage as a memento or something...."
Coulson pressed a kiss to his son's forehead and then gently removed the bracelet. "Keeping it in storage sounds good... but if you want to keep it somewhere in particular, you can," he said softly. "I'm going to talk with Fitz and Bobbi about a new one... Bobbi's worried about taking off and us not being able to find her again. I think she feels the security of a bracelet like this one will help."
"I know it helped me...knowing that if I lost control of myself and just took off without thinking that you'd be able to find me and get me quickly...it was a relief. It also, oddly enough, made me able to keep better control of myself." Grant grinned. "You know...it's funny. I never would have thought I'd have so much in common with my other siblings, but... we aren't all that different when it comes down to it."
Coulson smiled. "There are a lot of similarities between all of you. But there are a lot of differences, too... I love all of you equally and being able to be father to you all... I couldn't ever imagine anything different now. There has not been a single moment I've ever regretted any of you."
Grant wrapped his arms around his father again in a tight hug. "I love you so much, dad..." he whispered, kissing his father on the cheek. "...And your trust and belief in me. So much of my accomplishment the last year has been because of you. Thank you...."
Coulson tugged his son in close, pressing another kiss to his forehead. "I might have given you the tools to grow, but you still took those steps yourself," he said softly. "Without your decision to allow me into your life, we wouldn't be here now." He gently threaded his fingers through Grant's hair. "You've done so much that I'm proud of," he whispered in his son's ear.
"Best decision I ever made..." Grant grinned crookedly. "I'm sometimes surprised I managed to make the right one when I think back on it; among all the completely wrong decisions I'd made in that time, I managed to get the most important one right...It frightens me what might have become of me if I'd been too stubborn to listen to you and give you a chance...If I'd been too proud to let you take charge...to let you take care of me..." He shook his head slightly then gave another crooked grin. "I know you don't like thinking about it, either; I'm fairly certain I'd be dead now, if it weren't for you...."
"I wouldn't have given up on you." Coulson spoke with complete certainty. "Not after I had the chance to calm down and think things through... to know you weren't beyond hope. Even when you tried to push me away when I visited you in the prison... I knew better. I made my decision the moment I saw you and chose never to look back after that. I would never have left you there, no matter how long it took for you to see that there was still hope." Even before HYDRA had sprung his son, Coulson had called in all the favours he could to make sure Grant didn't suffer through any more beatings.
"Because you're a good man...a good person...a hero. You're my hero...." Grant's smile was sincere and filled with love.
Coulson pressed a kiss to Grant's forehead. "And you were important to me early on," he said, softly but no less sincerely. "Even before HYDRA... your safety and wellbeing were important." He continued stroking Grant's hair as he added, "But now... and for a long time... it's run far deeper than that. I love you. And I am very proud of you and how far you've come in such a short time."
"Any progress and success I've had was because of your love and belief in me...." Grant said softly. "I was going to give up before you stepped in...."
"I know how close to losing hope you were," Coulson said softly. "I should have come to you earlier. While I'm glad I wasn't too late... I regret that I left you there for so long."
"After what I did, I deserved it...." Grant sounded sad and regretful himself. "If you'd come earlier, I don't know if I'd have been ready or able to listen."
"You were then... and you let me in." Coulson kissed his head. "It was that moment I knew I would do everything within my power to protect you. To bring you back to us... to me."
"How I could have ever thought I owed my allegiance to anyone else...that I belonged with anyone other than you..." Grant shook his head.
Coulson continued the gentle, comforting touch, stroking over his son's hair and back. "You felt you owed your allegiance to the man you believed saved you. You weren't given the chance to learn any different. Now... you've grown into a person untouched by those influences. You have a whole family, not just me and your siblings. And while there still might be issues... I fully believe we can continue to work through them."
Grant leaned against Coulson. He never stopped craving affection from his father, having spent so much of his life without love or affection. "I know we can..." Grant agreed.
Coulson tightened his embrace around Grant. He enjoyed being able to cuddle and give affection to all his children... not just because they hadn't had much of that from parental figures (with the exception of Clint), but simply because he loved them so much. "I love you. I can't put into words how glad I am that I have you..."
"I love you too, dad...so much!" Grant wrapped his arms around his father in a tight hug. He leaned over and kissed his father on the cheek.
Coulson kissed Grant's forehead. "Is there anything you want to talk to me about?" Although he knew that his son knew that he could talk to him about anything, he wanted to make sure Grant knew that... especially if he had anything playing on his mind.
Grant just shook his head softly. Waiting a few moments, he added, "I'm doing good, dad. I mean, I'm still worried about my kid sister...but I know we'll find her eventually. So...I'm good."
Coulson nodded. "I've been trying to find intel on her... even before you discovered that about her. I know she's important to you... She's been a priority since you were deaged." Although he had had teams on it before then, it had been after his son was deaged, and seeing how worried Grant was for his sister, that had caused Coulson to step up the search.
"I know." Grant smiled at his father. He knew Coulson had done and was doing everything possible to right wrongs that HYDRA had committed while hiding in SHIELD. And he had every belief that his father would succeed- even if it took him the rest of his life. Snuggling a bit more, he chuckled. "You want to go join everyone else again? As much as I like having you to myself, I know Clint and Natasha missed you just as much as I did- and I think Wanda and Pietro did as well. Plus, I had some questions I wanted to ask Grandpa...." the impish look on his face betrayed the fact that the questions most likely had to do with his dad when he was a young man."
Coulson smiled at the impish look on Grant's face and kissed his forehead. "We can go back in... though no matter what your Grandpa tells you, remember I was much younger then," he teased. He squeezed Grant close a moment longer and then gently released him.
Grant laughed, his grin growing. "When did you grow up enough not to get into trouble, then?" he teased gently, as he carefully got up and held out a hand to his father. He suspected he knew when, but he liked hearing his dad tell about himself and his life before Grant had become a part of it.
Coulson took Grant's hand and stood, wrapping his arm around his son's shoulders and pressed a kiss to his head. "It was about the time your Uncle Nick recruited me to join SHIELD." He didn't say that his reckless behaviour had sparked again after losing his wife and baby son... but considering he'd then adopted Clint, even that hadn't lasted for very long.
Grant gave his father an interested glance. "Really? So Uncle Nick remembers a time when you weren't responsible?" He slanted his head, obviously thinking about asking his Uncle Nick some questions as well.
"Considering your uncle Nick and I have been best friends for a long time... I imagine he has all sorts of stories he could tell you." Coulson kept his arm around Grant's shoulders as he steered his son from the kitchen.
"Did you know each other before SHIELD?" Grant asked curiously, as they entered back into the living room. He gave his Uncle Nick a huge grin.
"We did, yes." Coulson smiled at the members of his family still in the living room, as he walked over to sit with Natasha and Pietro.
"What have you been talking about?" Fury asked, noticing the grin on his nephew's face.
Grant went over and sat next to his Aunt Cath, sandwiching her in between himself and his Uncle Paul. He gave Fury the same impish look he'd given his father in the kitchen. "Dad knowing you from before he got all responsible...."
"Oh... does that mean Uncle Phil knew dad before he got all responsible too?" Trip couldn't help but egg his cousin on, giving his father and uncle his own version of an impish look.
Fury shook his head. "Why do I get the feeling we're going to be telling stories all night?"
Coulson laughed. "We can't deprive them of knowing about what they've missed out on."
"I can confirm that they knew each other before both of them got responsible...." Paul interjected. "...I can recall a few times where I thought for sure they'd never make it to their next birthday and Dad stepping in to drag them out of trouble...." he laughed.
"I remember that happening more than once," Ben commented, giving a smile. "A particular camping trip springs to mind..."