Author’s Note: This was written as a RPG (roll playing game) between co-authors Hope1iz and BlackFox12. Set after the season one finale. Fortieth 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: Families grow, lessons are learned, lives are saved- a typical day in the lives of the tower residents.
Warning(s): Spanking; spoilers for Agents of SHIELD; Avengers movies to date; DareDevil; and Spider-man.
Co-Author’s Website: BlackFox12's fanfiction.net page
Author's Second Note: Just to clear things up because this universe is written as a role-play story between Hope1iz and Cat2000 (a.k.a. BlackFox12), with each playing different characters, this is the breakdown of the families and who plays each member. Just to make it easier to figure out who's part of what family. Feel free to skip over it:
Coulson's Family: Ben, Cathy, Phil, Natasha, Wanda and Pietro (played by Cat2000); Paul, Clint, Grant and Bobbi (played by Hope1iz)
Fury's Family: Fury (played by Cat2000); Trip, Brock and Kara (played by Hope1iz)
Steve's Family: Steve, Aunt May, Leo, Peter, Harry (played by Cat2000); Bruce, Tony, Pepper and Jemma (played by Hope1iz)
Thor's Family: Odin and Thor (played by Cat2000); Loki and Mack (played by Hope1iz)
Skye's Family: May and May's mother (played by Hope1iz); Skye (played by Cat2000)
Bucky's Family: Bucky (played by Hope1iz); Lance (played by Cat2000)
Sam's Family: Sam (played by Cat2000); Matt (played by Hope1iz)
Steve put his phone down and smiled, looking through the paperwork that had been sent over. All told, things had moved quite quickly. There were some advantages to being known heroes.
"Veronica? Can you ask Tony to come and meet me here, please?" Steve was in his office... and he knew Tony should be just finishing up a training session with Grant.
"He is on his way, Captain Rogers" the AI answered shortly afterward.
True to her announcement, Tony popped his head into the office five minutes later. "Did you need me, dad?"
Steve smiled at his son. "I have the paperwork here for the service dog we've been talking about," he said. "I just made an appointment for us... if you're still interested in getting one."
Tony blinked in surprise, before a huge grin spread over his face. "I am...having seen Grant and Copper, I can't help but feel it might be a big help for me....I didn't expect you to have to take care of everything, though...."
"I didn't 'have' to take care of it... I wanted to." Steve stepped over to Tony, wrapping an arm around his son's waist. "I know seeing the therapist has been helping... but I think having a service dog will be even better." He kissed Tony's forehead. "We can leave whenever you're ready."
"That soon?" Tony was surprised, but very excited. "Let me just take a quick shower and change and I'll be ready!" He gave his father a quick but strong hug then ran upstairs to get ready.
"I'll meet you at the van," Steve called after his son. He took the elevator to the common floor, letting the others know where they were going (and taking note of the news report currently on), before heading down in the elevator to the ground floor.
Tony had got ready in record time and had soon joined his father in the garage. He nodded at Happy, who was already sat in the driver's seat.
"Hey, boss! Cap! That's really something, what the news is talking bout, ain't it?" The friendly bodyguard/driver/friend smiled.
Tony gave a confused look toward Happy and Cap. "What news?"
"A vigilante... they call him Spider-Man," Steve commented. "I caught a bit of the news feed when I went to tell the others where we were going. He's had a couple of big busts against bank robbers... but it doesn't sound like the police are too happy with his help."
"When are the police ever happy with a vigilante's help?" Tony laughed shortly. "I can remember when I was doing my thing, before I came out as Iron Man... the army wasn't terribly happy about the fact I was going in and blowing up all the weaponry that Obi had sold to terrorists and bad guys.... Of course, when they found out it was me and I was trying to clean up a mess that my company had made and that SHIELD was actually keeping some small control over me... they suddenly thought it was wonderful. I guess it isn't so much what a vigilante is doing as the fact that they aren't answering to anyone that bothers them the most...."
"It doesn't give them any protection, either," Steve commented. "The way we do things... we've at least got a whole team at our backs if anything does go wrong. Or if the police need to be involved."
"Yeah...but usually us vigilante types aren't thinking about our own safety...as I'm sure Matt and this Spider-man will attest to. It's why we need responsible guys like you and Sam to step in and save us from ourselves..." Tony's grin was teasing...but his eyes were serious.
Steve placed a hand on Tony's shoulder and squeezed gently. "I'm always here for you, son." His voice was just as serious as the look on his face.
"I know...it's a large part of why I'm not a vigilante anymore..." Tony admitted.
"And I have to say, I'm glad you showed up when you did, Captain, because I tried my best, but I couldn't keep up with him..." Happy interjected, nearly as serious as the captain. "I may not be family like you and the rest of everyone in the tower, but I still view him like my brother." The chauffeur's voice was gruff.
"I know," Steve said. "And you're still an important part of our group." In much the same way Rhodey was... and JARVIS had been, before Ultron and then the Vision.
Tony swallowed. "You kept me alive long enough for Cap to get here, Happy... I think you did a pretty bang up job for 'not being able to keep up' with me..." He cleared his throat then smiled, trying to get back onto an even keel after all the emotion. "How far away is the place where we're going to pick him or her up?" he asked eagerly, almost sounding like the kid he'd been turned into that long ago day when Steve had finally admitted to himself that Tony was his in every way that mattered; and Tony had been too young to fight his own feelings of wanting Steve to be his 'daddy'.
Happy chuckled. "We're almost there, guys..." he answered for Steve.
Steve smiled, wrapping his arm around Tony's shoulders and squeezing him gently. "I'm glad you're excited about this. I am too. Especially since I imagine it'll help you a lot." Tony had come a long way... but there were still some leftover issues that Steve hoped having a dog would help with.
"I never had a pet before..." Tony admitted, a hint of worry in his tone.
"You'll do fine," Steve said reassuringly. "We've all managed well with Copper... and the kittens picked up at Phil's dad's farmhouse."
Tony grinned. "Yeah...kittens. Pepper has been talking about adopting a cat from a shelter now. She fell in love with Nat's cat and was complaining about missing it when she had to leave it in their apartment." He laughed. "...And you do realize that Phil's dad will probably look on you as a son just as much as he does Uncle Nick? I mean, Uncle Phil considers you a brother, after all; and his family has seemed to take on the mantra of anyone Phil adopts is our family too.... Or so it sounds like, from what Trip told me...."
Having lost his parents when he was young, Steve found he quite liked the idea of being considered a son by the father of a man he himself considered part of his family. "I think they'll adopt you as well, Tony. Phil was talking to me about arranging for them to be flown here and it sounds like they want to do that."
Tony nodded. "I never had a living Grandpa...I kinda like that idea." He slanted his head as Happy parked the car.
"We're here..." the chauffeur/bodyguard announced unnecessarily.
Steve smiled at his son and got out of the van, moving round to the other side so he could help Tony out with him, pressing an affectionate kiss to his forehead. "I love you."
"I love you too, dad." Tony smiled, turning to walk to the office, where they'd turn in or sign the paperwork.
Two hours later, they were leaving with a black Lab, all papers signed and having met several dogs. The Lab and Tony had hit it off immediately.
As they got into the van, Happy called back, "I hope I didn't overstep my bounds, but while you were taking care of paperwork and meeting our newest family member, I went to the nearby pet shop and got supplies. We can go straight home now, if you all are ready."
"I'm ready," Tony answered, looking at Steve for confirmation. "I still need a name for this big boy, though."
"I'm ready, too." Steve smiled at his son. "What name springs to your mind first?" he asked curiously.
Tony slanted his head, rubbing the dog between his ears. "...Rocket...Turbo...Jet..." The dog just looked up at Tony, its tongue lolling out of its mouth and not giving any type of response. "...Shadow..." At this, the dog's ears perked up slightly. "Shadow? Do you like that name?" Tony asked the dog, as if he would be able to answer him back. The dog barked.
"I think he might be saying yes." Steve smiled, wrapping an arm around his son's shoulders and squeezing gently. "Shadow's a good name."
"Huh...I think you're right. Shadow it is!" He grinned and scratched the dog between the ears. "Let's go home!"
"On it, boss!" Happy grinned. Soon they were on their way.
It was later in the day that the students came to the tower on a field trip. Harry had joined Peter... but spent the entire time quietly seething. He'd figured out his friend (though maybe Peter wasn't that any longer) was really Spider-Man... and that made him feel even worse about Peter's refusal to help him. Harry was wearing gloves, which hid his mutation... but still made him feel like a freak.
"Hey... you okay?" Peter had dropped back to talk quietly to Harry.
The concern was obvious, but Harry chose to ignore it. He pushed past Peter to join the rest of the group, leaving the other boy looking after him worriedly.
Tony had got Shadow settled into the apartment; then, deciding the dog needed to meet the rest of the family, had taken him to the various family apartments as well as the common floors. He'd also decided to take the dog to the lab floors and business floors for Stark Industries...he needed to get used to various situations that he would possibly be exposed to with Tony, after all.
It was because of this that he was down in the lobby when the school group came by. And noticed the two teenagers near the back of the group, one obviously vaguely hostile toward the other. That was never a good sign. Angry young men tended to do things like fight...and he didn't need to do any more repairs on the tower...or fight off a lawsuit because some kid was injured on his property while fending off a fight. "C'mon, boy," he said to Shadow quietly and began to trail behind the school group, as if he was a chaperone.
Neither Harry or Peter took notice of the new addition to the group... Peter because he was worried about his friend and Harry because he was quietly seething. If Peter had left it alone, the chances were good that Harry would have been perfectly content to pretend that the other boy didn't exist.
But when Peter placed a hand on Harry's shoulder, quietly leaning in to ask again... Harry flipped and shoved the other boy violently away. "I said I was fine! And what do you care anyway?" That last was muttered... but not as quietly as he would have liked.
Tony, worried that an actual fight was about to break out and none of the school chaperones seemed aware of the fact, moved closer. Shadow barked loudly and then whined. Tony heard Harry but didn't say anything, not certain what he should do, but fairly certain the teenager wouldn't take well to a strange man telling him it wasn't as bad as he thought, especially if Tony really had no clue how bad 'it' was.
"What's your problem?" Peter's voice was frustrated.
"My problem? You lied to me! I know your secret!" Harry's voice had risen... though he didn't actually voice Peter's secret, some part of him not wanting to betray Peter like that. For a moment, he looked like he wasn't sure if he was going to take a swing at Peter or turn tail and run from the tower. He took a half-step forward.
Tony would never be able to explain why the fight in front of him affected him the way it did. There wasn't anything too familiar about it as far as reminding him about any fights he'd been in, after all. Something in the words of Harry sent his mind back to the moment he and Obie were facing off. And once he was thinking of that, he couldn't stop thinking of it. He just stared into space, not moving, his breathing becoming shallow and slightly erratic.
Shadow, noting Tony's sudden lack of focus, began to whine and lick at his master's hand in an attempt to snap him out of the flashback.
It was the whining from the dog, a sound he hadn't expected or anticipated, that brought Peter's attention to the person he only just realised had been there for a while. He held up his hands to Harry, not certain his friend wouldn't attack... or try to run from the tower. Neither option would be a good one.
Harry wasn't as unaware of his surroundings as he seemed. When Peter's attention was divided, he also focused on the man... someone he was not only reasonably sure he recognised, but who also seemed to be in the middle of a flashback.
"Harry." Peter spoke softly, drawing his friend's attention back to him. "I promise I'll help you. I was never unwilling. But..." He indicated Tony with a slant of his eyes. "Can you stay with him? I'm going to see if I can find someone who can help..."
Now with something else to focus on, Harry felt drained rather than angry. He nodded and watched as Peter moved off, then took a step closer to Tony. "Mr. Stark?"
Figuring out how to work the elevator (it helped to have an AI telling him what to do), Peter set it to go to the medical and lab floors. He wasn't sure of who was in the tower... but hoped there might be someone there working.
Bruce had been working in the lab when Veronica had quietly informed him that a young man was coming up on the elevator and needed his help. Quickly putting his experiment in a safe location, he walked out to meet whoever it was. It wasn't difficult to know who Veronica had warned him about when Peter walked off the elevator. He quickly walked to meet the young man. "Veronica said you needed help..." His voice was worried.
Peter nodded. "Mr. Stark was downstairs... while we were doing the field trip. I... think he had a flashback or something. His dog started reacting." He shifted from one foot to the other. "My... friend is with him." He stumbled over the word, not sure they were still friends.
Bruce sighed softly. "Shadow is a service dog and he's doing his job, it looks like. My name is Bruce; Tony is my brother, so thanks for helping him...." He glanced up as the elevator began to move. "Veronica...please let Steve know what happened?"
"Of course, Dr. Banner," the AI quickly responded.
Peter nodded, glancing at Bruce. "When... you've checked on your brother... could you run some tests on my friend? He's sick. Mutating somehow. It's too dangerous for me to help him how he wanted, but..."
The elevator stopped and Steve joined them on it. "How is he?"
"He was out of it when I left," Peter said. "But my friend's with him."
Bruce blinked at the request. "Mutating?" He glanced at his father, a worried look in his eye. "If he consents, I'll run some tests. See if I can do anything and make sure nothing is happening that isn't visibly obvious...."
"Whatever it is, it's hereditary," Peter said. "It killed his dad." Not that Harry had had a good relationship with the man even when he had been alive. "I wanted to help, but..." Harry had told Peter as Spider-Man. And now that his friend apparently knew the truth, Peter wasn't even sure Harry would trust him enough to let him near him.
Steve frowned, his own worry sparking, and looked at his son. "Does that sound like something you've seen before?" he asked Bruce.
Bruce frowned, something in the explanation sounding familiar, but not able to place it. "I don't know..." He looked at his father, a bit worried. When the elevator stopped, he quickly nodded at Peter, expecting him to lead them the right direction.
Tony couldn't hear what was being said to him by Harry. He was too busy hearing Obadiah Stane telling him what a waste and disappointment he was. How he had ruined the company, his father's company, and was refusing to do what was necessary to help save it. That he couldn't be trusted.
He could feel Shadow nudging at his hand and recognized the dog whimpering and barking every so often, but Shadow and he were still learning each other and Tony hadn't yet got to the point when he would automatically respond to the dog. It was something that Tony needed to train in...and they hadn't yet given Tony any item that the dog could activate to 'call' for help. Even so, Shadow did what he had been trained to do and didn't leave Tony's side.
Eventually, the 'Mr. Stark?' seeped deeper into his consciousness. Blinking slowly, he finally, slowly turned his head to look at Harry. "W...wh...yes?" He asked the question uncertainly and like he was a little confused.
Harry swallowed. "I think you might be having a flashback, sir." He looked around, then reached out with one hand so that he could guide Tony towards a chair. While he wasn't the best at social interactions, he made a couple of random observations about the tower... trying to draw Tony out of whatever he'd ended up in.
Tony nodded, still slightly confused, but trying to focus...answering Harry's questions and observations as best he could. Shadow followed beside him, not whimpering any longer, but staying close enough to gently bump Tony's leg as they walked to a nearby bench.
It was a bit awkward, especially given that Harry had just come so close to losing his temper, but he helped Tony to sit down on the bench and sat next to him, continuing with the questions... about Tony's work, mostly; nothing really personal.
Tony was grateful that the younger man was with him. Reaching down and patting Shadow on the head, he gave Harry a crooked grin. "What's your name, kid? I'd kinda like to know the name of the guy who helped me out."
"Harry." Harry glanced down at his gloved hands and then back at Tony, his expression one of guilt. "I think... what happened was probably my fault. I didn't realise you were there..." His voice trailed off. Now that he'd had the chance to calm down, he didn't feel angry anymore. Just... drained. And hopeless.
"Nah, it wasn't your fault, kid...I was deliberately following you and your friend because I could see you were upset and wasn't sure if you'd both start fighting or not; and none of your chaperones were paying attention. The fact that something you said reminded me of something I'd been through wasn't your fault at all. If anyone can be blamed, it is me for sticking my nose where it wasn't invited." Tony gave Harry a wan smile. "I expect my father and brother will be here shortly." He gave Harry a concerned look. "Do you feel okay?"
Did he feel okay? Harry wasn't even sure how to answer that one. He was quite tentative when he said, "I don't think I'm going to be picking a fight." He was hurt now, more than anything else. He tugged the glove further down his wrist, worried the mutation might be spreading.
Tony might still be slightly confused and affected by the flashback, but that didn't mean he wasn't observant. "Do your hands hurt? Because my brother can take a look at them for you..." His tone was worried.
"It doesn't hurt," Harry said quietly. He wasn't sure if that was a good or a bad thing. His father hadn't told him much of anything... and Harry was still sorting through the notes that had been made about the mutation.
Peter stepped over to them at that point, leading the way for Bruce and Steve.
Steve immediately went to Tony, wrapping an arm around his son's shoulders and pressing a kiss to his head.
Bruce stood in front of his brother, careful not to crowd him; especially as Shadow was still close to the genius, his head on Tony's lap. He began to ask Tony a series of questions that were meant to focus him on the here and now.
Tony chuffed good naturedly. "I'm ok, dad...Brucie. Although I appreciate how quickly you rushed down to help me... Harry here managed to get me refocused on what was around me, though...." He smiled at the younger man. "But maybe you can look at his hands for him; he says they don't hurt, but I'm not entirely certain if he's just trying to keep me from worrying and they actually do...." He grinned at Harry, before glancing at Peter. "Thanks for getting my family, by the way."
Peter looked a bit more relaxed now that Tony had come out of his flashback and he nodded in acknowledgment to the inventor's thanks... but he was still obviously worried about his friend and went over to stand by Harry... who twitched, but didn't actually pull away.
Glancing around to make sure that no one else apart from the Avengers (who Peter trusted, even if he wasn't sure he wanted to tell them outright what his identity was), Peter spoke to Harry. "I was never refusing to help you... but I can't just give you my blood and let you inject yourself with it. Not without running some kind of trials beforehand. What if it didn't work? What if it made you worse?"
Steve would have caught the conversation even if the two boys had moved away and he frowned, looking at Peter. "What's different about your blood?"
Peter swallowed visibly. "It's... radioactive."
Bruce's eyebrows rose into his hairline at that information. "How about we take this conversation up to my private lab...?" he suggested softly, glancing around to make certain the rest of the school tour group wasn't listening in. "If you need a note for your teacher, I'm sure, Tony, me, or dad could provide it...."
Tony nodded, standing up carefully so that he didn't jar the dog, before leaning down and petting Shadow on the head. "That sounds like a good idea to me...especially since you obviously have something wrong that you need help with. Especially if you wanted him to do what it sounds like you wanted him to do...." He glanced at Harry.
Steve smiled at his sons, though his expression was somewhat worried. "I'll go and have a word with your teachers... Tony, Bruce, do you want to take them to the lab? I'll come and join you when I'm done, unless you need me there immediately." His voice was calm, but still serious.
Harry didn't say anything... but he twisted his hands as he stood. He looked... scared. Now that his anger with Peter had drained away, he was right back where he'd started... not knowing what his own body was doing, or if he was even going to survive.
The mutation was spreading... and for all he'd been charting its growth, he was no closer to figuring out a cure than his father had been.
"That's fine, dad...I should be ok until you can join us again," Tony answered, quickly but firmly, knowing that his father was still worried about him, even if he'd found another person to focus worry on. "In the meantime..." He gently took Harry by the arm and started heading back toward the elevator, expecting that Bruce would bring Peter. "Come along, Shadow!" he called out gently to the dog, who was already following closely.
Bruce couldn't help but chuckle at his brother and the newest four-legged member of the family. "He's doing a good job so far..." he remarked to his brother.
"Yes...yes, he is," Tony agreed easily, looking over his shoulder with a grin, even if his eyes were worried when they darted in Harry's direction.
Harry flinched when Tony took his arm, but didn't pull away, instead going along willingly with the man towards the elevator. He continued to fidget and pull alternately at his sleeve and glove, unwilling to risk showing the spread of the mutation.
Peter took a deep breath and followed with Bruce to the elevator, every glance he directed at his friend indicating just how worried about Harry he was.
"You know...I won't be disgusted or, you know...ridicule whatever has happened to you...I'd be a hypocrite to do anything but feel empathy, considering I had a huge magnet in my chest for the better part of going on five years..." Tony said off-handedly.
Bruce found himself putting a hand on Peter's shoulder to calm him down and provide some semblance of support, much like he would Leo or Jemma.
Harry looked at Tony. "I... don't know what's wrong with me." It was the first time he'd truly voiced that out loud. He grimaced, dropping his gaze to the ground. "Even my father couldn't beat it." Of course, thinking about his father didn't make him feel much better. It wasn't like the man had cared about him in any way.
Peter relaxed under Bruce's hand without realising. He was still obviously worried, but it helped to know that someone was going to help them.
Tony glanced at Harry and nodded, leading the younger man onto the elevator with him and Shadow and waiting until Bruce and Peter were on before directing Veronica to go to the common family floor, where Bruce's private lab/medical was located. "Dad will meet us up there later, so you don't have to be nervous or anything. I mean, if you can't trust Captain America....?" He grinned unrepentantly at the two younger men, giving Bruce a questioning glance.
Bruce chuckled slightly. "I'm sure we can figure out what is wrong; maybe not right away, but between my experience, Tony's experience and my children's experience with different strange items... I'm sure we'll be able to figure something out." He didn't comment on Harry's comment on his father, just the tone in the younger man's voice indicating it hadn't been a good situation. He could tell his brother related to the younger man; although Bruce was certain Howard would have tried to help Tony if he'd been alive when the whole arc reactor and eventually extremis occurred, there was no real way to know, since the man had been dead for years by that point in time. Although Obie had tried to kill him, so there was that. It wasn't hard to understand why Tony had gravitated to Steve once the older man had decided to step in. He glanced at Harry, then at Peter, to see how they responded to the various comments.
Peter shrugged. "The tower's probably better equipped than I would have been anyway..." He glanced apologetically at Harry, figuring he should have tried harder to explain to his friend that he wasn't refusing to help him...
Harry glanced at Peter, but didn't comment on the note in the other boy's voice. "He made a lot of notes about it... trying to prolong his life." And it had still all failed him in the end. Harry scratched almost absently at the glove. He knew he shouldn't, but the mutation itched.
"And there is that..." Bruce agreed, with a grin. The elevator stopped and he motioned everyone off, finally leading them into the medical area. He smiled at his daughter as she quickly came over.
"Veronica said you might need some help, dad..." She smiled at her father, while giving the two strange boys a surreptitious look.
"You want me to leave?" Tony asked Harry, with a serious expression. He wasn't sure the younger man would want him to see what he'd been hiding under long sleeves and gloves.
Harry hesitated, but then shook his head. "No." His voice was very quiet. "You can... stay." He looked down at his gloved hands, clenching them for a second before he tugged off first one glove and then the other. "It's called Retroviral Hypodysplasia."
Peter winced at the sight of the green, almost lizard-like skin that now made up Harry's hands. His right hand was the worst... but it was spreading up his wrist; and his left hand was showing signs of the disorder.
Tony didn't even wince, although the sight was sobering. "We'll help you kid...somehow, someway...."
Bruce nodded. "I'm assuming your father had notes from everything he attempted to do to try and stop it?"
Jemma gently took the gloves from Harry, setting them aside before getting a needle ready to draw blood. "Do you want me to or my dad to?" she asked calmly, figuring the more choices the kid was given, the less scary things might seem.
"It doesn't matter," Harry said quietly. "All of the notes are at my apartment," he added to Bruce.
"Want me to go and get them while they're drawing blood and running tests?" Peter asked softly.
Bruce nodded. "It will be helpful to know what has already been done and with what results...even if we have to redo some of the tests he ran, it might give us some clues on which direction to go...." He looked at Harry and gave a small smile.
Jemma carefully swabbed his arm and drew the blood. "How are you feeling...beyond the obvious?" she asked quietly. "Do you live with anyone who can help you if needed?"
Peter nodded, reaching out to squeeze Harry's shoulder. "Where abouts is the paperwork?"
"The disk's in the study... still in the computer. Everything's backed up on there... even what little I could add to what's already there." Harry held still as Jemma drew the blood. "I think it... affects me emotionally as well. It makes me angry... irrational. And..." He hesitated. "There isn't anyone. Not since my father died."
Peter quickly left the lab, passing Steve on the way out.
Tony did frown at that information. Knowing somewhat what it felt like to live in a giant mansion by yourself without anyone else to care about you or about what you did, he also knew the problems that could arise from such a situation when one was experiencing health issues. Especially those that affected your emotions and mental outlook. "Is there anyone you could go and stay with?" he asked softly.
Pepper passed Peter on her way to catch up with Steve. She'd heard about Tony's flashback and, despite knowing that he'd had his new dog with him and that his father and brother had quickly joined him as soon as possible, she wanted to see for herself that he was alright. She managed to catch the last bit of the conversation as she moved up beside Tony and put a hand on his shoulder, leaning over and kissing him on the cheek before giving Harry a kind smile.
Harry hesitated. "Not really," he admitted quietly. "Peter's place isn't really big enough... and I don't actually have any other friends. Only Peter because we were friends when we were kids... before I was sent away." He hesitantly smiled back at Pepper, though was still clearly nervous about his hands and how others might view his mutation.
"You'll stay here, of course...." Pepper announced, without any preamble, before looking around. "Oh, come on. I can tell from all of your faces, you wanted to ask him to. So unless he has a reason to not want to be around any of us..." She glanced at Harry to see if he would object. "...I don't see any reason why we can't have him stay at the tower until you've found a way to help him and it isn't such a bad idea for him to be by himself. Considering he doesn't appear to be above the age of eighteen, I'd say it's more than a good idea for him to stay with us...."
Tony chuckled, giving Harry a chagrined look. "She's right. I was looking for a way to ask you to stay at the tower with us...You may as well say yes. It's very difficult to say no to Pepper." His grin grew.
Harry hesitated. "I... don't want to impose or anything..." He looked uncertainly between them, not all that used to people wanting him around... and especially not adults.
"The tower's big enough and we have many other people staying here... a lot more than those of us here." Steve gave him a reassuring smile. "It wouldn't be imposing."
"Yeah...I think it would be good if you stayed with us in our apartment." Jemma looked around at the gathered family members. "But if that makes you uncomfortable, there are guest apartments in the building that would at least enable us to reach you quickly if something happens."
"I don't really mind where I stay." Harry didn't say that he'd been lonely, left in the big house with only one friend who visited... but there was a slightly sad note to his voice nevertheless.
Peter returned with the disk at that point. There were a lot of advantages to being able to propel himself with his webs and being much faster when he ran... not least the fact that he didn't have to fight his way through traffic. Or take time walking.
"Well, in that case... you're staying with us in our apartment. There's a room on dad, Pepper and my floor with your name on it. Yours, too, if you are interested..." He glanced at Peter, one eyebrow shooting up at the fact that the boy had already returned. He couldn't have gone much faster in his suit. "And may I say, you are really quick...."
"I can't really leave my Aunt May," Peter said, handing the disk over. "But I'm glad you're taking in Harry." He looked at his friend, but didn't say what he was thinking. "And I work out a lot."
"Or does it have something to do with the radioactive blood you mentioned having?" Steve asked, raising his eyebrows.
"Of course you can't..." Pepper easily agreed. "Although there is room any time you need to stay over...and I'm sure she would be welcome as well, if you wanted to bring her over for any reason..." She wrinkled her nose daintily. "Now what is this about radioactive blood?"
Peter hesitated, glancing at Harry, who shrugged. "Don't look at me. I lost that temptation to tell your secret." Though he wasn't sure what would have happened if he hadn't been given something else to focus on.
Sighing, Peter winced and explained, "I got bitten by a... radioactive spider a while back." He didn't say anything else.
He didn't have to. Steve picked up on what wasn't being said. "You're the Spider-Man they've been talking about on the news?"
"Yeah... Didn't really have a chance to figure out a better name," Peter said.
"Huh..." Tony mused. "Yeah. You shouldn't be needing to go solo anymore..." His voice was matter-of-fact. He fully expected that he and the rest of his family would back up the kid in whatever endeavors he thought were worthwhile...Just like they had decided to back Matt up on his own endeavors. He turned toward Harry. "I'm just as certain that Brucie will find a way to help you."
Bruce smiled. "I'll certainly do my best."
"I'm not used to playing on a team," Peter said.
Steve snorted softly. "You wouldn't believe how many times I've heard some variant of that protest. If everyone here can manage to be a part of a team... I'm sure you'd have very little trouble."
Harry nodded. Now that he'd made the decision to trust them, it was easy to have faith that they'd be able to help him. They were heroes, after all. And there was a big part of him that was almost desperate to trust them... to trust someone. The matter-of-fact way they expected him to stay with them helped, too. "I know."
Jemma couldn't help but snort at her grandfather's comment. "Oh, have we ever heard that protest a lot!"
Tony grinned, somewhat sheepishly. "Ok, squirt. I know darn well you weren't here when I was making those claims. The only one I've heard make that protest in front of you is Matt... so what gives, Miss Snarky-pants!?"
Bruce raised an eyebrow at his brother. "Just because she wasn't here to witness it in person doesn't mean it isn't obvious who has made such a protest in the past...I can figure it out fairly easily and I wasn't here for every single one of them, either." He laughed.
Pepper nodded. "He has a point, sweetheart."
"And you were very vocal about not being part of a team... though I'm not sure any of us were much better." Steve wrapped his arm around Tony's shoulders, squeezing him gently. He looked at Harry. "I figure either one of us can go with you to pick up anything you need, or you give us a list and your key and one of us will drive over to collect what you need."
"I can still go and get my things," Harry said.
"You don't have to." Steve's voice was firm, but not unkind. "You've taken the first step in letting us help you. The next steps are easier."
"It's easier just to go along with it." Jemma grinned.
"I'm going to insist you go along with it..." Tony remarked. "There is no way I will feel comfortable having you expend energy you can't afford to waste, doing something we could easily help with."
"I..." Harry glanced hesitantly between them, but nodded uncertainly. "I can make a list... there's not really that much. Just some clothes. My laptop..." To be honest, he didn't have a whole lot of personal belongings. It was a bit sobering to think about how easily he could pack up his entire life.
"Ok..." Tony blinked at that; it was unusual for a teenage boy not to have possessions, but he didn't want to ask and step into a landmine without meaning to. "That will make it easy enough. I'll send you back home with Happy- he can help you pack up whatever you need. If it fits into the car, you can bring it back with you; if it doesn't, he'll contact one of the movers we frequently use to come pick it up and bring it over."
Harry nodded. "I don't think a moving van will be necessary." He reached for the gloves, feeling a bit exposed with them off.
Bruce gave the younger man a slight smile. He knew what it felt like to be exposed; he felt that way every time the 'other guy' took over. Although it hadn't been quite as bad the last few times, due to the fact that his family now knew how to calm him down and bring him back out of a change. And the changes were more often than not needed and actually helped, instead of causing more problems. But that was entirely due to his family and their acceptance. He hoped for Harry's sake he could figure something out to help.
Tony nodded. "Veronica? Could you contact Happy, please and let him know that we need him to drive someone to pick up some items and then bring them back?" He waited for the AI's affirmation of his order before turning to Harry. "I'll walk you down to the lobby, then; Happy will pick you up out front." He turned toward his father. "Is everything squared away with his school? I don't want anyone to get into trouble or anyone else panicking...."
Steve nodded. "I've spoken to the teachers. While I didn't tell them the reason Harry and Peter are here... I did indicate they didn't need to worry about them."
Harry nodded and stood up, adjusting his gloves once more.
"Great...C'mon, kid." Tony motioned Harry to precede him out of the medical lab and to the elevator. "We'll go get your things, get you moved in...and give my brother and his darling daughter time to begin working on your problem." He grinned at said brother and niece before giving his father a quick hug and a kiss on the cheek. "We'll be back soon, hopefully...if you wanna meet us in the apartment."
Steve smiled and hugged Tony tight, kissing him on the forehead. "Do you want us to get a takeaway for when you come back?" he asked.
"Actually, that sounds good..." Tony grinned as he moved to hug and kiss Pepper. "You know what I like..." He glanced at Harry. "Do you have any preference?"
Harry shook his head. "I'm not really fussy," he answered.
"Let me know if you need anything," Steve said. "Or if you think you might be late."
"Yes, sir!" Tony grinned at his father; then, standing close enough to Harry to take his arm- but not actually doing so, because he wasn't sure if the younger man would find it intrusive or not- Tony led the way back out to the elevator and down to the lobby...Shadow keeping close the whole way.
Pepper had an odd look on her face that Bruce couldn't help but make a slight snorting noise at, though it was very low and brief. Pepper still heard it, though.
"What?" she asked curiously.
Bruce smiled. "Nothing...you just look like you were thinking of something and I'm wondering if I dare place a bet on what I think it is..." His eyes were gleaming.
"I have no idea what you are talking about, Brucie!" Pepper's protest was amused more than convincing.
Steve looked at his daughter, raising his eyebrows. "What's on your mind?" he asked gently, wanting to give her room to talk if she needed to. He smiled at his other son as he wrapped an arm around Pepper's shoulders, squeezing her gently.
"Hmmm... nothing bad. I promise." She smiled at Steve and Bruce innocently, eyes darting to Peter briefly, knowing they'd realize that she didn't want to talk in front of the kid.
Steve nodded and looked at Peter. "You're welcome to stay for dinner... and bring your Aunt, too, if you'd like," he said, his voice warm. "Harry's staying, so I'm sure he'd like to have a more familiar face here as well."
"I suppose..." Peter nodded, knowing his Aunt would tell him to accept the invitation. And at least he could bring her as well. "Do you need anything from me? Blood samples or similar?" he asked Bruce and Jemma... in case they did want to try testing his blood out for Harry's sake.
"That might prove helpful." Bruce nodded, smiling as Jemma was already preparing a vial and needle to draw the blood. "I think I'll also use my own blood; and, if dad doesn't mind, his blood. I'll also ask Tony when he gets back- he's still got the extremis in his blood as of the last time we drew some...it could possibly help as well..." Bruce was talking to himself by this point, figuring out all the different possibilities he should check out for a possible cure once he had a better idea of what he was dealing with.
"Of course." Steve squeezed Pepper gently and then stood by, waiting, as Peter sat to allow his blood to be drawn, before taking Peter's space.
Quietly excusing himself, Peter left so that he could go and talk to his Aunt.
Pepper gave Peter a smile as he left, waiting until he was out of earshot to voice what she'd been thinking. "Tony attached himself to Harry rather quickly- wanting to help him and getting him to move into the tower, considering they just met...."
Steve nodded, not reacting to his blood being drawn. "I noticed that as well. From what I've learned so far... it seems like they have had very similar home lives." He didn't go into detail, but he knew his son and daughter would know what he meant. "On some level, he might be responding to that." Then, too, Harry had been there when Tony was vulnerable... and had apparently managed to talk him out of the flashback. Steve knew what it felt like to be grateful to someone and want to help them the same way they'd helped him.
Pepper nodded. "Yeah...I could see that... Harry seems like a nice kid. If Tony's going to get attached to him, maybe I should make an effort to get to know him too...." Pepper bit her lip uncertainly.
"You'll have the opportunity to," Steve commented, "since he'll be staying here, at least for a while." He wondered if it might not turn into a permanent arrangement... but decided not to mention that.
"True. His friend Peter seems nice as well...I would have never known that Spiderman that we see on the news was a teenager, though..." Her voice was worried.
"He mentioned his blood was radioactive," Steve said. "I'm going to guess there was an accident that gave him his abilities... though it is possible he did it deliberately," he added, a bit ruefully, thinking of his own history.
Pepper shook her head. "Well, whatever happened, I never expected a teenager to be playing super-hero. Although I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Old enough to be able to do something; young enough not to think about the fact that they really shouldn't be doing things like that without back-up of some sort.... How old is Matt again?" She shot Steve an impish look.
"Physically or emotionally?" Steve asked, a wry, humorous note to his voice. "I think Sam has his hands full with him..."
"He can handle it." Pepper smiled. "Eventually, Matt will 'grow up'. Tony has, for the most part."
Steve smiled, a note of pride creeping into his voice. "Tony has come a long way." And he was proud of his son... and made sure he told Tony that whenever he could.
Pepper nodded. "He just needed an authority who believed in him and held him accountable... We're both lucky and grateful to have you." Her voice was soft but earnest. Grinning impishly again, she hugged her father. "I better go inform the others that we've got three guests coming to dinner and help get it started."
Steve smiled, hugging Pepper tight in return. "I think we were going to have a takeaway... so, really, all we need to do is figure out how to fit three extra people around the table and I can call in the order for when Tony gets back with Harry and Peter with his Aunt."
"That's right...I was so distracted by everything, it slipped my mind..." Pepper blushed. "I'll go let the others know, though, so they don't start making something...."
Waiting until Pepper had left, Bruce turned toward Jemma. "I don't think we're going to find a cure in the next few hours, so why don't you go meet everyone on the common floor and relax? We'll be working hard for the unforeseeable future to try and find a way to help Harry...." He smiled at his daughter lovingly, waiting until she was also gone before turning toward his father. "The quick look I've had at his blood has me worried, dad. I'm not sure what it is I'm looking at, but it may take a combination of all our bloods to stop it from progressing. And even then...there's no guarantee it will work or not make things worse...." Bruce gave his father a worried and nervous look.
Steve wrapped his arm around Bruce's shoulders, squeezing him gently. "We'll just have to do what we can... and if you need any kind of help, you know you'll get it. His best chance is here. And... even if it doesn't work... we can at least make him comfortable. And be sure he isn't alone." It was hard to consider the fact that someone that young might be beyond hope... but Steve knew that his son and the rest of their family would exhaust every possible avenue before even considering giving up.
Bruce nodded briskly, leaning against his father for a short time before straightening. "You're right. We'll do everything possible; and if it ends up beyond us, at least he'll be with people who care and can help make him as comfortable as possible. But... failing isn't really an option. I can't look at it as one. Seeing how Tony was with him...I don't think I've ever seen him get that protective over someone that quickly; not without being uncertain about it and nervous that they won't want him feeling protective, anyway... they connected somehow and did so quickly...." Bruce smiled ruefully.
Steve nodded in understanding. "We'll do everything we can. We have some of the best minds working here... and it isn't like we haven't dealt with uncommon diseases before," he added, remembering (and how long ago it seemed now) when Coulson had brought Grant to the tower because his son was sick. "I'll call in the order and we'll eat... if you need any more of my blood, you can take samples at any point. And it might be worth taking some of Grant's, in case there's any way of using the traces of the serum," he added.
Bruce blinked. "I never even thought of taking a sample of Grant's blood... but you're right. Whatever serum they injected him with that made him sick...it might have some property in it that will help fight this disease of Harry's...and I won't know without testing it. I'll ask him if I can get a sample at dinner... I want to begin working on this puzzle as soon as possible, but what I said to Jemma likely holds for me as well. I won't do as good a job if I wear myself out...." He laughed softly.
Steve smiled and kissed his son's forehead. "I'll make sure you don't work yourself to the ground," he promised. "We'll figure out a schedule... where you can get plenty of rest and relaxation, rather than wearing yourself out. Do you think it might be worth contacting Helen Cho?" he asked. "Her speciality is biology, after all."
"I think that would be a very good idea...and since she has worked with the Avengers, we won't have to worry about confidentiality or anything like that." Bruce nodded, turning to head to the common area with his father.
Steve walked in that direction, arm wrapped around his son's shoulders, while he took his phone out and called in an order to be delivered to the tower. He made sure to order plenty of food; as well as a variety, in case the newcomers didn't like certain things.
Bruce got onto the elevator with his father, not attempting to pull away; he may not be the type to always need physical affection and reassurance...but he also wasn't going to pull away from it when it was offered. He stood close to Steve, letting himself lean into the man while the elevator took them to the common floor. When the door opened and they stepped out, Bruce glanced around to see who all was there already.
Coulson glanced over and smiled when he saw his brother and nephew exit the elevator, stepping over to them. "Pepper mentioned that we'll be having three extra people coming. We've managed to make sure there's enough space, though we might want to get another, slightly bigger table made."
Quite a few of the other family members were there, Lance having claimed the seat next to Bobbi. He'd been able to speak to her while she was away, but he'd still been worried.
Pietro had placed items on the table at superspeed, cutting vastly down the amount of time that chore would usually take. He stood next to Wanda as the two of them prepared drinks for those who had said what they wanted. Skye was helping.
Leo had come to sit next to Jemma, talking to her about Harry's situation... or, rather, letting her talk to him about it.
Grant was slouched in his seat, watching his baby-sister and cousin, looking like he was going to start teasing; if his father wasn't also there to see him do so.
Clint was talking quietly to Natasha and Bucky, his hands animatedly moving all over the place as he explained something to the soldier.
Loki was talking to May, explaining some of the techniques used on Asgard that he thought the woman might find useful, Mack listening in to learn the techniques himself and every so often questioning Thor about it, to make certain he'd heard correctly.
Matt was sat at the table, attempting to listen to all the conversations... a slightly confused look on his face.
Kara had sat down next to the young lawyer and was leaning in close, observing him....why was anyone's guess, but Matt didn't seem to mind, so Brock didn't pull his baby sister away. He just watched her closely and tried to figure out what she was trying to accomplish.
Trip leaned in close to his father and whispered, "Is she still feeling unsettled?"
Pepper glanced over as her brother and father entered the room. "Hey, Dad! Did you place an order for food, or should I do it? I got sidetracked making certain that the guest room in our apartment was set up... and that the guest apartments had everything they'd need as well, if Peter decided to bring his Aunt May and they stayed the night...."
Steve smiled at Pepper. "I've put an order in and it should be here... well, in a while." It was big, so a few minutes wouldn't cut it.
Sam had taken the seat to the other side of his son, glancing at Kara, but voicing no comments on what she was doing.
Matt, without altering his facial expression or his focused intent on what was going on around him, finally asked Kara in a soft but quizzical voice, "Is there something on my face? Can I help you?"
Kara blinked and blushed darkly. "Sorry...no...I just... I was trying to figure out your ability to 'see' so much when you technically can't see...I know you explained it once, but I get confused really easily, so..." She was completely open and honest in her acknowledgement of what she was doing and why. When she'd first arrived with the family, Kara had gone through a period of being distrustful of everything; even if she trusted the people she was with, she had a hard time trusting the situation and was reticent and secretive because of it. The longer she lived with her family and the more secure she felt, the less reticent and secretive she'd become... now, she'd almost swung to the other extreme, almost being too open and direct. Add to that her currently more immature outlook and method of dealing with things and it made for some interesting situations.
Brock smiled faintly at her words, but waited to see what Matt did before deciding on if he should step in or not. His sister was still recovering from brainwashing and so they gave her a bit more leeway in some things, as long as she wasn't causing problems for anyone. He knew she'd eventually level out and maybe then they'd be able to see what her personality truly was when she wasn't brainwashed or reacting to having been brainwashed. After all, he himself had eventually leveled out....although he still had his moments. They constantly had to remind Kara of that fact, because she had a tendency to get down on herself when she realized she was behaving in a manner that a normal adult woman wouldn't normally behave. That was why he was waiting for Matt's response.
Matt's eyes widened slightly at her answer, but then smiled crookedly. "I'm afraid you wouldn't be able to figure it out just by watching me sit here. I'm not even sure I can explain it better than I already have. It occurred because of a chemical spill and I'm not entirely certain how or why it occurred. But... a lot of it has to do with using my other senses to their fullest ability. Which is something you can learn to do...if you want to learn it and practice at it." His smiled grew brighter as he issued the mild challenge to his cousin.
Kara leaned back and slanted her head. "With fighting?"
Matt mirrored her pose. "Not just with fighting.... For example, I can tell your father is behind me, watching us carefully, even though he's deliberately not looking directly at us...." His voice was amused. "Although your brother Trip seems to have no problems with staring...."
Kara blinked in surprise, her eyes darting toward her father and brother to see if Matt was correct.
Fury had overheard Matt's response to Kara, though he wasn't actively trying to listen. He was mostly just checking to make sure his daughter felt comfortable and didn't get upset. After all, in many ways, she'd gone back to being a child... at least emotionally.
Steve still had his arm around Bruce's shoulders and he guided his son round so that Bruce could sit with his son and daughter. "I'll be on standby to grab the food."
"I can help," Lance offered, standing up. "There's probably too much even for Captain America to carry in one go," he teased.
Kara grinned as she realized Matt was right and her father and brother had been watching, her at least. Trip didn't look embarrassed to have been caught at all, while her father didn't give any indication that he'd heard Matt, although she was sure he had. "Does that bother you? Them watching so close?" she asked softly.
"Not at all..." Matt shrugged and smiled again. "They worry about you...it's only natural they'll keep an eye out. I think it's great." His voice was honest. It had only been recently that he realized how important the concern of family was. He wouldn't begrudge anyone having someone else who cared about them.
Bruce sat down between Jemma and Leo, giving them quick hugs. "If you need my help, have Veronica get me?" he said to his father.
"I'm sure it'll be fine." Steve smiled warmly at his son. "I can collect Peter and his Aunt, too... and Tony and Harry." Having been alerted to the delivery having arrived, he smiled at Lance and allowed his nephew to precede him into the elevator.
Leo's mind was racing. "Is there information on anyone else who had what Harry does, apart from his father?" he asked his own father, already wondering if it was something that could cross over species.
"If there is, I've not heard of it before..." Bruce admitted. "I'll look, though...maybe Betty would have an idea."
Leo nodded. "Maybe specialist doctors have seen it? Or heard of people suffering from the disorder..."
Bruce nodded. "It's something to think about..."
By the time Steve and Lance reached the lobby, Peter had already arrived with his Aunt May... and the delivery man was downstairs as well.
It hadn't taken Harry long to pack at all. Tony, who had decided to go with the younger man to help carry things if needed, was surprised at the fact. The boy didn't seem to want to take anything from the house except his clothes and a laptop. It couldn't help but make Tony wonder how much like his own life Harry's was, as far as having fond memories of his childhood home. While Happy had been putting the bag and laptop into the car, Tony had convinced Harry to go through his father's office and grab any files that looked promising. Who knew what information might prove valuable in trying to find a cure?
They were soon on their way back to the tower.
Harry sat quietly in the backseat, watching out of the window. He'd removed his gloves so he could pack up what he needed to, despite having some difficulty with flexibility, but now he felt... well, it wasn't quite wistfulness. Like he was saying goodbye, maybe? There were few memories attached to the house and not many at all in the way of good ones... but it had been a kind of home for the first several years of his life; before his father had sent him away to school...
Even so, Harry was feeling more emotional than he thought he should be.
"Kind of bittersweet, huh?" Tony remarked quietly. He'd been watching the younger man for a few moments, noting the wistfulness and the fact that Harry appeared to be lost in memories. He certainly hadn't noticed Tony watching him. Licking his lower lip, Tony sighed and looked out the opposite window. "Someday, you'll look back on all the good memories, even if they were few, and be glad you have them. And you'll look back on the bad memories, however many there are, and be grateful that they helped forge you into who you are...even if you can't be overly thankful for them themselves...." He snorted. "At least that's my experience....I don't know if the emotion ever fades completely...or even if it should."
Harry blinked, coming out of his thoughts as Tony spoke to him, and focused on the other man. "You... know what it's like?" He hesitated, not sure if it was all right to continue, but spoke anyway. "Your... dad? Captain America..." He winced, not sure how to finish that sentence. For all Steve looked younger than Tony, he should, in reality, be in his nineties. So maybe Tony did understand what it was like to be abandoned by a father... even though he clearly had that now.
"My blood father was friends with Cap.... Sometimes, I'm not entirely certain that Steve disappearing at the end of the war like he did wasn't part of the reason my father had such a hard time caring about me; or at least showing that he cared, since I did find a video, after his death, that indicated he did care. That's not really the point, though... what is the point is that, yeah. There were a lot of times that I felt like I was alone, even though I was surrounded by servants in a huge mansion. If it hadn't been for Edwin Jarvis, I don't know what would have become of me. My father was always gone on trips; a lot of times looking for Cap. My mother would either accompany him, or would be too busy attending to social functions. I was like the cute knick-knack that they stuck on the shelf until they wanted to show me off to some important person. Steve's gone to a lot of trouble to make it clear to me I'm not just a knick-knack..." He chuckled slightly.
"I could see it... that there's a close bond between you. Even if I don't know what it's like to experience that for myself," Harry said. "It's not exactly a secret that there's a big family unit living in the tower... but I guess people have been expecting things to fall apart. Except... that's clearly not going to happen."
Tony blinked at that. "People talk about us? And think we'll fall apart?" He wasn't sure if he should be amused or offended at that news. "I guess we never really pay much attention to what anyone outside of our family and close friends would think...." he admitted quietly. "Well...anyway. You're right that Steve and I are close. Once we got over a few issues that I had, preventing me from letting him get close...well, I'm evidence that it is never too late to forge a bond with someone. After all...I didn't get my close bond with Steve until I was in my forties. It's never too late...."
Harry nodded, but there was a slightly sad look on his face that suggested he thought it might be too late for him... He didn't say that out loud, though. "It's not like most of the people outside know you," he said instead.
Tony saw the sad look and couldn't prevent himself from reaching over and gently squeezing Harry's shoulder. At the younger man's words, however, he smirked. "That wouldn't stop any of them from thinking they know me..." He laughed. "I'm sure you've heard all about me yourself. Depending on who you ask, I've been anything from an alcoholic, womanizing killer to a rich, generous know-it-all. Usually, it isn't flattering. I think it's one of the reasons I had such a hard time listening when Steve tried to tell me he cared and that I was a good person. I'd pretty much stopped listening to anyone else's opinion by that point, self-preservation and all, and let's face it. I might talk a good game, but the truth is, I'm my own worst critic..." His smile was chagrined and a bit sad.
Almost against his will, Harry relaxed a fraction into Tony's touch, almost leaning towards him. "I don't tend to listen to rumours about other people," he said. "Not that many people talk to me about the latest gossip anyway..."
Tony slanted his head. "Even Peter? You two seemed close, is all...."
"I was away at boarding school for a long time, so we weren't really in contact... and then I found out he was Spider-Man, after having asked him for help," Harry admitted. "I was kind of desperate..."
Tony nodded. "You were mad at him...I don't know the exact details, but it seems like you aren't mad anymore...at least not at him...so.... Actually, I'm not entirely sure where I was going with that line of thought." Tony laughed. "I don't focus on rumor or public opinion, either, as much as Pepper wishes I would pay attention to it more often than I do.... so telling you that you can talk to me about the latest gossip really doesn't make sense." He squeezed Harry's shoulder again. "I'm glad you're staying with us, though....that I can tell you."
Happy pulled into the tower garage. "Would you like help carrying your bags up to the apartment?" he turned around to ask Harry and Tony.
"I can carry my things." A bit reluctantly (even if he wouldn't admit that out loud), Harry moved away from Tony so that he could get out of the car and collect his things.
"I'll help him...thanks, Happy." Tony smiled at his friend before getting out himself and grabbing what bags Harry couldn't carry. As soon as everything had been unloaded, Happy went to park the car. Meanwhile, Tony led Harry to the elevator. "We'll put your bags in the guest room in my apartment and then we'll meet everyone in the common dining area so we can introduce you."
"Okay," Harry said, a bit nervous. "There are... a lot of people here, right?" He wasn't sure the accounts were entirely accurate, but considering how many people were seen coming and going from Stark Tower... "Are they all family units?" he asked, following Tony.
"Yeah, kid...there are a lot of us..." Tony smiled sympathetically. He didn't mind large groups so much, but he knew it could be overwhelming until a person got used to it. "We are all family in one way or another, but there are at least seven main groups with two subgroups. You'll figure them out quickly enough, once you figure out who is in charge of each one..."
Harry nodded, though he was still a bit nervous. Even in boarding school, he'd been very much a loner. It was hard for him to make friends and he wasn't sure this wouldn't be similar. "Is everyone officially adopted?" he asked after a second or two, trying to distract himself from his nerves by asking questions.
Tony thought about that then nodded. "Yeah. Most of the 'kids' are officially adopted. Even Mack was 'officially' adopted; by Thor's father Odin, of all things. Their family group is the only one where you won't see their dad around much...due to him being the ruler of Asgard." Tony chuckled. He was looking at Harry sideways, though, as if trying to figure out something.
Harry started to ask something else, but paused as he noticed the way Tony was looking at him. "Do I have something on my face?" he asked hesitantly, wondering if the mutation was spreading faster than he'd realised.
Tony blinked then actually blushed. "Naw, kid. I was just thinking...the girls are all gonna wanna mother you. I hope you're prepared."
Harry looked completely lost. "Mother me?" He wasn't really sure he knew what that was. Except... he knew Peter complained about something similar; with the sort of complaining tone that indicated he didn't really mind. So it probably wasn't a bad thing.
"You'll see..." Tony assured with a grin. "But if it gets to be too much, let me know and I'll help you out..."
Harry nodded slowly. "Okay." Although a bit more nervous, he mustered up a smile... grateful for being invited to live here, even if he was fairly certain it would be temporary.
Tony winced. "I didn't mean to make things more nerve-wrecking for you..." he said softly, his voice apologetic. "They really aren't that bad...." It was at that point the elevator reached his floor and the door opened. Nodding at Harry to follow him, Tony carried the bags he had to the door of the apartment and opened the door. "I figure you can stay on Dad, Pepper's and my floor, unless you want to be on the same floor as Brucie and his children, Leo and Jemma....."
Harry followed Tony without hesitation, carrying his own bags... even with Tony carrying some, there were precious few to indicate his entire life was being moved here. "Unless I need to stay on your brother's floor because of my medical issues... I'd like to stay on yours," he said, quietly but plainly.
Tony grinned at that, more pleased than he probably had a right to be. "Good!" He led Harry through the downstairs hall, quickly leading him up to the second floor. Passing two rooms near the stairs, he led Harry to a room that was right next to a large bath. "I thought you might like this room, since it has a view of the park, but if you want to change it...." He opened the door so Harry could take a look.
Harry looked into the room. "It's nice. I like it," he said honestly, carrying his bags inside so he could set them down. "So... is there a floor plan or something? Of where everyone lives?"
"Yeah...sure. How about we go down stairs, eat, you can meet the others and then Veronica can give you a map of the building, so you can figure everything out?" Tony said helpfully.
Harry nodded. "That sounds good," he said quietly, still a little nervous... but feeling more at ease around Tony, at least.
Tony hadn't wasted any time leading Harry back to the elevator and taking him to the common floor, where everyone else was already gathered so they could eat. He quickly began introductions.
Returning with the food (and Peter and his Aunt), Steve had taken the seat on the other side of Pepper, leaving the seat on the other side of her for Tony and a second seat so Tony could have Harry next to him if he wanted.
There were various greetings and smiles from the others round the table.
Tony, realizing that Harry might be feeling overwhelmed, quickly led him to the chair Steve had left for him. As soon as they were both sat down, everyone began passing the food around.
Tony nodded at Peter and smiled at the older woman he figured must be Peter's aunt.
Peter had wound up in the chair on the other side of Harry, his aunt on the other side of him. More confident than his friend, Peter quickly allowed himself to be drawn into the conversations, asking questions of Bruce, Leo and Jemma primarily. After all, he considered himself a scientist... even if he wasn't sure what field he wanted to specialise in.
Jemma had many questions of her own- but she refrained from asking a lot of them since she wasn't certain how much of Peter's situation his Aunt May knew and didn't want to unnecessarily upset the older woman. It wasn't every day that you met someone with radioactive blood and the ability to maneuver like an insect though.
Peter made some attempt to draw Harry into the conversation, even though his friend still seemed kind of overwhelmed. May also spoke to Harry, asking how he'd been... even if she didn't know exactly what was wrong with him, she could tell Peter had been worried about his friend.
Meanwhile, Tony was making certain that his younger charge ate...much like his father did with him. The actions weren't going unnoticed by Pepper; but since she'd be doing the same thing if she was sitting next to the young man, she couldn't really tease her fiancé about his 'mother henning'. Or would it be considered 'father henning'? Blinking her eyes at the odd thought as it flit through her head, she instead passed Tony more of the vegetables to put on Harry's plate.
Harry obediently ate what was put in front of him, not wanting to cause problems (even if he wasn't all that hungry... he suspected the disorder had something to do with that).
Even with the larger amount of people and the ongoing conversations, eventually, people began clearing their plates away, filtering into their family groups.
Steve leaned in close to Bruce. "Would you like me to ask Grant about taking samples of his blood?" he asked his son quietly, figuring it made sense to approach Grant privately, rather than subject Harry to more questions and scrutiny.
Bruce nodded. "If you wouldn't mind. I'm going to go back to the lab and start working on some of the samples we already have. I get the idea that time is of the essence as far as finding a cure...."
It hadn't taken long for the table to be cleared and all leftovers stored and dishes washed; one of the benefits of a large family was that jobs that might normally take a longer amount of time didn't take long at all. Grant had stayed on the common floor, curious about the visitors and why they were there.
Steve smiled. "Of course." He stepped over to Grant. "Can I talk to you for a second?" he asked.
Harry frowned unhappily at his empty plate. "I don't know how easily I can wash my things up..." he said apologetically.
Grant nodded at his uncle with a smile. "Yes, sir...what can I do for you?"
Pepper shook her head as she gathered Harry's empty plate and utensils. "Don't worry about it...with all the people in the kitchen, there's not much room for one more person anyway," she attempted to ease his concerns.
Steve motioned for Grant to follow him to the corner of the room, where people weren't in earshot... with the exception of Bucky, who would hear any conversation going on in the same room as him. "If it's possible, I think Bruce would find it helpful to take some samples of your blood," he said quietly. "Harry has a disorder of some kind that appears to be spreading. We're hoping to figure out a way of curing it."
Harry gave Pepper a grateful, if slightly nervous, smile. "Thank you," he said softly.
Grant blinked, but looked willing to help. "If you think it will do any good...I'll head to the lab now and let Bruce take what he needs.... I don't have a serum or anything in me, though, so I'm not sure how I can help...."
Pepper smiled brightly, giving him a quick, one-armed hug on her way by and into the kitchen. "No problem, sweetie."
Tony smiled at his fiancé as she walked by, winking at her then blowing a kiss in her direction.
"There might be some traces left. It's possible there isn't anything... but I think we need to try every possibility, however slight." Steve smiled at his nephew. "Especially as it seems the family's growing again."
Peter nudged Harry gently, trying to cheer him up. "Do you know where you're staying yet?"
Harry nodded. "Uh-uh. On Mr. Stark's floor."
Grant slanted his head then nodded. "Well, if whatever Hydra injected me with can do some good for someone, I'm all for finding out..." He smiled crookedly. "I'll just head to meet Bruce now." With one last nod at his uncle, Grant gave a tiny wave to his father then headed toward the family medical labs.
Tony came over to where Peter and Harry were talking, hoping to get a more personal introduction to Peter's Aunt May.
May smiled warmly at Tony as he came over and held a hand out to him. "Hello. I'm May. I'm afraid I didn't quite catch your name in all of the introductions," she said apologetically, Tony having come in after she'd been introduced.
In the process of asking Harry if he was going to get a map of a tower (and Harry answering an affirmative), Peter looked up as Tony came over, so he wasn't ignoring the man. It was clear that the altercation between him and Harry was over, as Peter had angled his chair so he was closer to his friend and Harry had allowed himself to shift closer as well.
Tony smiled at the evidence that the two younger men were getting along again, but then focused his attention on May. "I am sincerely pleased to meet you, ma'am," he said, gently taking her hand and kissing the top of it. "Please, make yourself at home. I am Tony Stark and this is my rescue companion, Shadow." He watched Shadow carefully to see if the dog was being alerted to any distress.
May smiled. "Thank you... and I'm very pleased to meet you." Her gaze lingered on the teenagers a moment or two. "And thank you for taking an interest in the boys." She remembered how close Peter and Harry had been and was happy to see that the evidence of conflict between them seemed to be resolved.
"Yes, well, they're good boys. Willing to step in and help a total stranger. Gotta encourage that in a world like we have now, don't you think?" Tony's grin was genuine if impish.
Grant had gone into the lab and straight to Bruce. While his cousin was drawing the blood, he couldn't help but ask, "Do you really think that virus I have in my blood might help find a cure for Harry?"
"I'm not ruling anything out," Bruce said gently, as he placed a bandage where he'd drawn the blood before he took it to store. "How are you doing? With all the upheaval constantly occurring?"
"Copper helps a lot," Grant admitted shyly. "Dad helps even more."
"I'm surprised he didn't come down with you," Bruce observed.
"He was with the rest of my family. I didn't want to drag him away just so I could have a bit of blood drawn. It's not like I'm really sick or anything." Grant smiled crookedly. "Having said that- I really don't like hospital type settings. No offense."
"None taken." Bruce's smile was amused. "I'll just walk with you back upstairs. I've got some tests running already and Veronica will let me know when they are through. Watching won't make them go any faster and I can't do anything else until this set of tests is complete."
Nodding, Grant waited for Bruce to join him before they both walked to the elevator. "Veronica? Are the families doing things in their own apartments, or are they gathering on the common floor?" Bruce asked curiously, not sure where to go.
"Most of the families are congregating in their own apartments, though your immediate family are still on the common floor, Doctor Banner," Veronica replied. "Agent Coulson... your father wanted me to ask if you'd like to join the rest of your family for a movie."
Grant blinked at the name then almost beamed happily. He didn't get to hear his rightful name that often; most of the family called him Grant and they didn't interact with outsiders who would use a name that often. "I'll just head to our apartment, then...please tell him I'm coming, Veronica?"
"Of course, sir..." the AI agreed.
Bruce rode the elevator with Grant till the younger man got off at the floor where his apartment door was. He then rode the rest of the way in silence, stepping off at the common floor and going looking for his family.
Steve was waiting for Bruce to come back before he suggested they have Harry, Peter and May join them for a game or a movie... anything they wanted to do. He stepped over to Bruce and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "I thought we could all watch a movie in our apartment."
Bruce smiled at Steve, letting himself be led back toward the group. "That sounds good, dad."
Steve still held Bruce as he led his son over to his other son, daughter and the newcomers. "If you'd like, I thought we could retire to our apartment and watch a movie or play a game." He included Harry along with Peter and May... because he wasn't sure Harry would assume he was automatically included; particularly not as Steve could recognise a lot of Tony in the teenager.
Pepper had finished up in the kitchen and gone in to join Tony and the others. She gave a tiny smile to Steve, then a glance toward Harry that could only be described as 'worried mother'. Tony couldn't not see the look and gave his own father a wide eyed look in response to his observation. Bruce saw the look as well and couldn't help the tiny chuckle that escaped, drawing everyone's attention to him and Steve.
"Daddy! Leo and I were just about to join you in the lab!" Jemma remarked cheerfully.
"No need, sweetheart. The tests are running and we can't do anything till they finish. Veronica will let us know. Until then, I figured we'd relax and have some time together with the rest of the family...." Bruce answered quietly.
Steve smiled at Tony and wrapped his other arm around his other son's shoulders, giving him a tight hug as well. He wasn't surprised by the look on Pepper's face... he'd noticed the way both had made sure Harry ate enough food. "The invitation is still there for you both to stay here tonight," he said to May and Peter.
"Well... it would probably be rude to refuse the offer of hospitality." May hadn't failed to notice Peter's worry about his friend... or the way he perked up when the lab was mentioned.
Bruce couldn't help but smile knowingly at Peter's aunt, realizing that the only reason she had stayed was because of Peter's worry about Harry and his interest in what Bruce and the other scientists were doing. He was happy that she'd decided to stay. At the same time, he knew that it was difficult going to a new place where you would be surrounded by strangers and wanted to make it as easy for her as possible. "Would you like to see my lab, May? I can give both you and Peter a tour while everyone else decides what they want to do, if you're interested."
May smiled at Bruce, grateful he'd picked up on Peter's desire to see the labs. "I'm sure that would be a good idea." She looked at Peter, waiting to see if he was going to act on his desire.
Peter grinned at Bruce and his aunt and then gently nudged Harry. "You all right if I go and see the lab? I'm sure you can get a message to me if you need to."
Harry nodded and mustered up a smile for his friend. "I'm sure I'll be fine."
"Why don't you come into the family room with us, Harry? We can pick out a movie to watch when Bruce, Peter and Aunt May return..." Pepper suggested softly, with a smile.
"Oh, yes! And maybe if you put in your two cents now, we can avoid having to watch Robocop again!" Jemma rolled her eyes good-naturedly at her Uncle Tony, obviously not terribly upset at the fact that they watched it so many times, instead teasing him.
"Okay." Harry nodded, though he didn't plan to make any suggestions. He didn't want to stop anyone from watching what they wanted.
"Let us know when you're done and we can get the movie ready to play," Steve said to his other son and grandchildren.
"I don't know what's wrong with Robocop!" Tony muttered in a mock offended tone.
"Other than the fact that you like to pick it apart and point out when something is scientifically impossible?" Pepper grinned. "Probably the fact that we've seen it at least fifteen times and can recite the dialogue."
Jemma giggled. "I was thinking maybe we could watch Wizard of Oz..." she suggested softly, giving her grandfather a glance.
Tony blinked. "That's actually a good idea. Is that alright with you, Harry?"
Harry nodded. "I'm good with anything." He'd watched movies when he'd been little and couldn't actually remember any of the details... less so as he'd grown older.
"I can make popcorn and drinks... hot chocolate, too," Steve suggested, glancing around to see if everyone was all right with that.
"Oh, that would be great!" Jemma enthused. "I'll help you, grandpa...."
Tony plopped down on the couch and smiled at Harry. "Pick a seat, kiddo..."
Smiling at Jemma, Steve joined his granddaughter in the kitchen, showing her how he made hot chocolate.
Harry hesitantly sat on the end of the couch; next to Tony, but not quite touching... worried that it would make the man uncomfortable.
Jemma paid close attention, wanting to make the chocolate just the way her grandfather did. Once they had finished making it, she carefully helped pour the drink into mugs then helped carry them out to the rest of the family, making certain to save three mugs for her father and Peter and May.
Tony, not in the least uncomfortable to be sharing his space with Harry, spread out with his arm draped across the back of the couch; not quite on Harry's shoulders (Tony didn't want to make the younger man uncomfortable any more than Harry wanted to cause him discomfort), but close enough that it could be around Harry's shoulders if he moved just an inch lower.
Pepper sat on the other side of Tony, snuggling up close to her fiancé and wrapping her arms around the inventor. She gently placed one hand on Harry's arm, however, just to let him know she was there. She glanced over at him with a smile.
Leo had settled on one of the other chairs, figuring he'd leave the other couch in case Peter wanted to sit next to his aunt.
Harry relaxed somewhat when it didn't seem like he would be pushed away (and at Pepper putting her hand on his arm). While he didn't lean in close (even if on some level, he kind of wanted to), he did allow himself to slant a little.
Steve helped Jemma to carry the mugs in, handing them out to those who were there. He was very careful when handing the mug to Harry, not sure how well he could grip and not wanting to embarrass the teenager.
Bruce had led Peter and his Aunt May to his own private labs, where he pointed out some of the experiments he was currently running. He wanted to ask Peter what type of experiments he'd done and how exactly he'd got radioactive blood, but he wasn't certain how much Aunt May knew of the situation and didn't want to cause problems for the boy, or unnecessary worry for the older woman. Although he felt she should know what her nephew was getting up to in the evening as far as his vigilantism went. "Here is where I'm running the tests on all the different bloods I gathered this afternoon. I'm hoping one of them might provide a clue to helping Harry," he said softly.
Although May didn't quite share Peter's interest in science, she watched as he moved over to study everything he could see. He probably would have made some excited exclamations... but the look on his face indicated just how worried he was about Harry as he looked anxiously at Bruce. "It's spreading... I'm worried it's going to speed up the more it spreads."
"We'll figure it out. Somehow, someway, we'll do it. Even if I have to work around the clock." Bruce promised. Giving Peter a tiny smile, then nodding at May, he said "The tests are still running so until Veronica lets me know I can continue...why don't we go join everyone else and relax while watching the movie?"
Peter looked like he was tempted to try and stay to work, but May put a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sure Doctor Banner will welcome your help when it's time to do something."
"I would welcome your input...you likely know Harry best of all of us and that could be key in kicking this disease." Bruce nodded. "But we really can't do anything else until the tests I have running are complete, so we should relax or rest while we can." Gently, he took May's and Peter's arms and led them out of the lab. Within five minutes, they were walking into his family's apartment and he was leading them into the living room, where everyone else was.
"After the movie, I can either show you the guest rooms that are near my room; or, if you prefer, I can show you one of the guest apartments that are next door." Bruce smiled as he helped May to sit, taking a seat nearby.
Peter sat down in the chair next to Harry's side of the couch. He glanced curiously at his friend, noticing that Harry seemed to have relaxed around Tony and Pepper, but didn't comment on it.
Coulson went to meet Grant off the elevator, stepping to his youngest son and wrapping an arm around his shoulders. "How are you feeling?" he asked gently.
Grant leaned into his father. "I'm actually doing okay. The hope that what happened to me might prove helpful to someone else offset the nerves I would have been pushing down."
Coulson smiled and pressed a kiss to Grant's forehead. "I hope you know you could have asked me to come with you if you needed," he said softly. While he knew that Grant was a more than capable agent, there were times Coulson stepped in automatically... and he knew it was important for his son's growth that Grant make the decision to lean when he needed to; at least some of the time.
"I know, dad...and if it had gotten too much for me to handle comfortably, I would have had Veronica send for you immediately," Grant promised. "He just needed a little blood, though, to try and help someone. And Copper was with me, so I was able to stay focused on the present instead of...you know...."
Coulson nodded. "I do. And I'm proud of how you were able to handle it." He kissed Grant's cheek. "The others are discussing what movie to watch... would you like to join them?" he asked gently.
Grant smiled at his father. "Yes, let's join them...We'd better do it quickly though, unless you want to watch Princess Bride again..." Grant shook his head in amusement as he thought of his brother's obsession with that particular movie. Clint hadn't admitted the reason why he loved that movie and Grant hadn't pushed- he normally didn't mind- but if he could get a suggestion in before the movie was chosen, it would still be good....
Smiling, Coulson wrapped his arm around Grant's shoulders, leading him through to the family room to join the rest of his children and grandchildren, his smile widening as he walked into a debate that, by all accounts, could be called lively.
"But we watched that last time we did a family movie!" Bobbi laughed with only a hint of frustration. "I think we should watch While You Were Sleeping!"
Coulson raised his eyebrows. "Any whittling down on the choices yet?" he asked, teasing them gently.
"Not really. They just all vetoed the Princess Bride..." Clint pouted, but he wasn't too upset.
Grant chuckled. "How about Star Wars? Now that we know aliens are actually a thing, it might be interesting...."
"Star Wars would be a good choice." Coulson looked at his grandchildren. "Have either of you seen any of the movies?"
There were twin shakes of their heads. Wanda was sitting curled up next to her father, Pietro on the other side of her, with her kitten curled up on her lap.
"Then we should watch the first one from the original trilogy," Natasha said with a smile.
Grant nodded. "Definitely the first one. Come, Copper..." Grant sat down next to his father, the dog at his feet.
Bobbi curled up on the other side of her father, holding Runt...the kitten purring loudly enough to be heard down the hall.
There was just enough room for one more person on the couch next to Grant. Patting the spot, he smiled at his older sister. "Sit next to me, Nat?"
Coulson wrapped an arm around each of his youngest, drawing them in close, though his loving smile was for all of his children and grandchildren.
"One moment." Natasha went to retrieve the drinks and food, passing them round before taking the seat on the other side of Grant.
Grant wrapped an arm around his older sister, pulling her in more snuggly against him; and closer to their father as a result.
Clint waited until everyone was situated, then clicked play on the remote. Soon, an orchestral tune that most of the family could recognize and hum in their sleep began playing from the television.
Wanda snuggled into her father's side... almost sitting on his lap; and if it wasn't for her kitten, she might have been. It didn't take long for her focus to be entirely on the movie, though.
The next day, not wanting to overwhelm Harry any further until he'd got used to his new situation, Tony and his family had eaten in their apartment before everyone went to go to their various jobs for the day. Bruce had taken Peter to help him in the lab, while Tony had taken Harry to work with him. They'd left Aunt May in the care of Steve.
Although clearly excited to be working in the labs with Bruce, Peter was also obviously very worried about his friend. He could see that Harry hadn't slept well and was really concerned that the disorder might be affecting his mind in some way. Even so, he paid attention to Bruce and made some observations of his own.
Bruce knew Peter was worried about his friend, so he attempted to be optimistic for the younger man's sake. He had to admit that he was stumped, however. Harry's condition was unlike any disease or illness that he'd ever seen before; he couldn't see any similarities with anything, at least not that he was knowledgeable about. As a result, other than testing the blood to see if any of the compounds he'd isolated from the other's blood would affect things, he didn't have a clue which direction to go. He found himself making more than a few phone calls, one of which was to a scientist that had worked with Howard Stark once upon a time. He bit his lip as the phone rang. When it was finally answered, he couldn't help the somewhat hesitant tone in his voice. "Hello...May I speak to Hank Pym?"
Peter glanced over curiously from where he was studying the slides, but since he didn't recognise the name, he quickly returned his attention to what he was looking at.
"Who's calling and what is it regarding?" a professional-sounding voice asked on the other end.
Bruce, realizing that he needed to convey the seriousness of what was occurring, spoke in his most professional and confident voice. "This is Doctor Bruce Banner, calling from Avengers' Tower in New York. I have a young man with a very rare, if not completely unknown illness. He has run out of all other avenues of help and has requested me to look into his situation. I was hoping for a consult with Dr. Pym." Bruce glanced at Peter and gave him a hopeful smile.
Peter had still been paying attention and the look he gave Bruce was hopeful. He was desperately afraid for his friend.
"I'll put you through," the person on the other end said.
'They're putting me through,' Bruce mouthed to Peter by way of encouragement. He could only hope that Hank Pym would have some suggestions or opinions on the matter. He was fully prepared to have Veronica send the scientist pertinent information to get more accurate help.
Peter nodded, now completely focused on Bruce, hoping he'd hear something encouraging.
After a couple of rings, the phone was answered. "Hank Pym here."
"Hello, Dr. Pym. Bruce Banner here. I have been given a rather difficult puzzle to try and solve; and a young man's life depends on my finding the answer. I was hoping you would be able to give me some suggestions and insight on the following situation...." Bruce began speaking with the other scientist, asking questions and listening intently, writing down everything that seemed pertinent, so that Peter could begin looking things up or working immediately while he spoke.
Peter moved closer to Bruce so that he could listen to what the man was saying, taking notes so he could look up information and start making experiments.
Harry was interested in the workings that went on in the tower... and even though he had slept badly, he was trying to put on a brave face and hide how he was feeling... in part helped because of the third cup of coffee he was carrying.
Tony was well on his way to his fourth cup of coffee, so he didn't say anything about Harry's dependence on the drink. Tony hadn't slept well, either; mostly because his mind was racing with different ideas of who they could call for input and what he personally might be able to do to help Harry out, since he wasn't a medical doctor. Even though Bruce technically wasn't a medical doctor either, he at least had some experience. Tony didn't even have half the experience Bruce had in dealing with sickness. "Do you know if this illness runs in your family? I mean, was your father the first one to contract, it or did your grandfather and great-grandfather also have it?" he asked suddenly, thinking of something that he hadn't heard anyone else mention yet.
Harry nodded. "The files indicate that it's hereditary... but there was nothing about any women of the family suffering from it. I don't know if that means they were carriers, or just that it bypassed them."
Tony nodded, slanting his head. "If it is a disease that is attached to the Y chromosome, then the women in your family would have nothing at all to do with it. How much of your father's research covered the chromosomes?"
"Most of the research is gene therapy... trying to isolate the gene that causes the mutation," Harry answered. "There's not much about the chromosomes... I think my father must have disregarded it as being unimportant."
Tony's eyebrows went up slightly at that. "I dunno...seems that if something is attaching itself to the Y chromosome... indicating that it will pass only to the men in the family, through the men in the family, that would be important to know... but then, I'm not a geneticist or even a biologist, so what do I know? I'll mention it to Bruce and see what he thinks.... "
"I suspect it has an effect on the mind as well," Harry said. "The notes mentioned strange dreams... trouble sleeping... It's something I've been experiencing. And I got physical with Peter." Which wasn't something he could have imagined doing before.
Tony gave Harry a worried glance. "How far along was your father in the illness when...the dreams and trouble sleeping started?" he asked softly.
"According to the timeline, it was very recent... not that long before he died." Harry clenched his more-normal hand around the cup of coffee. He understood the implications of that.
Tony swallowed. "Yeah..." he said softly, reaching out a hand and gently squeezing Harry's shoulder. "Well, we'll figure it out, kid. Somehow. I've been where you are, you know. Dying of something that I couldn't figure out how to stop... but the answer came in the most unexpected place and I was able to stop the progression of the poison that was killing me...so I have no doubt we'll find what we need to help you too." His smile was genuine and honest, if a little weak due to his concern for Harry.
Harry sighed and leaned just a little towards Tony. "It's... hard to be hopeful," he admitted. "But I know you and Doctor Banner will help..."
Tony decided that he just couldn't hold back this time and wrapped his arm around Harry's shoulders, giving another gentle squeeze. "We will give our best...I promise that."
Thor had ordered breakfast for him and his brothers, so they could eat on their floor. He joined Loki and Mack in the dining hall, speaking as he did so. "I thought perhaps we should send a message to Father... about the young man with the disorder," he clarified, sitting at the table with them.
"Do you think that they would be able to help him? The mortals do not know what ails him...and even I am at a loss as to what has caused it, despite all the time I spent with the healers." Loki spoke curiously, not questioning the need to contact their father and ask. He'd got over his distrust of Odin when he had returned home, made amends and been taken back in hand and heart by his father. He had no doubt Odin would be willing to try if his sons requested it.
"I believe it is worth trying," Thor replied. "Even if one of our healers cannot help him alone, working with Bruce and any other doctors will hopefully provide an advantage."
Mack nodded. "I agree. We can't not try. Having the help of one of the Asgardian healers might be the difference between success and failure...."
Thor smiled. "I am glad you both agree. I will send a message to Father after we have eaten." He looked at both of his brothers. "Would you be happy if I invited Father to stay here for a few days?"
Loki's smile broadened. "I would be more than happy..."
Mack nodded. "I'd like for him to meet everyone else...and for them to meet him."
Thor's own smile grew. "I'm very happy to hear that. Would either of you like to send a message to him as well?" he asked.
Loki shook his head, but then grinned crookedly. "Only to tell him I miss him...."
"Same here," Mack agreed again.
"I can tell him that... or you can both write messages. I am sure he would like that," Thor said.
"Write? You actually use writing to communicate between dimensions?" Mack blinked in surprise.
Loki couldn't help but laugh at his youngest brother's facial expression. "It isn't like we have an inter-dimensional computer set up so we can send E-mail..." He chortled.
Thor smiled. "We could perhaps look into setting up an easier way of communication later."
"I would have thought you'd at least have some 'magic mirrors' or something..." Matt mumbled, slightly embarrassed.
Loki just looked at him oddly with a raised eyebrow. "Do I look like a Harry Potter to you?" He sniffed disdainfully, although the twinkle in his eyes proved he was just teasing.
Thor reached over to pat Mack's hand. "There is no need to be embarrassed," he said. "We could perhaps talk to Tony about creating a better way of communicating."
Loki nodded. "Anything has to be better than yelling up into the sky for Heimdall to notice us and take our missives, or us, to father...."
Mack snorted then laughed softly at that. "I have to admit, watching Thor hollering for Heimdall to open the gateway the last time we visited was amusing, but I think it scared the locals."
Thor nodded. "I believe both of you are right. We will discuss a new way of communicating with Tony... once we are sure Harry is safe and recovered from this disease."
Both Loki and Mack sobered up quickly at that. "Yes, brother...it is not something that needs to be done immediately. Hopefully, father can bring one of the healers and they can help Harry...." Loki said softly.
"I've got some paper in my room...let's write those letters and get them up to dad as soon as possible..." Mack added.
Thor looked fondly at his brothers. "Once that is done, I will fly to the gateway so as to get the messages passed on as fast as possible."
Mack quickly retrieved the paper, handing a piece to both Thor and Loki before writing his own letter. He didn't write much, only that he missed spending time with his adopted father and hoped he could come visit so that Mack could introduce him to his other family and closest friends. He also mentioned Harry and how worried they were.
Loki's missive was much the same with a bit more reminisces snuck in, indicating his desire to see his father again.
Thor's own message was brief and to the point; he didn't do subtle very well. He simply stated that he and his brothers missed their father... and they had a friend who was suffering and couldn't be helped by Midgardian medicine.
As soon as the letters were written, Mack and Loki handed theirs to Thor. "I guess all we can do now is wait." Mack sighed. "Want to go train a little while we wait for big brother to deliver the notes?"
"Yes. That would be agreeable." Loki nodded, before glancing at Thor to make certain he didn't need anything from them first.
"Once I return, I will come and join you." Thor drained the last of his drink and then headed to the elevator, so he could take it to the roof.
May was sat at the kitchen table, drinking her coffee, having finished the eggs and toast she'd had for breakfast some time before. As usual, she'd been up fairly early for training, but breakfast was the time she would normally allow herself time to relax and catch up on news or read, if Skye wasn't with her, or talk to her daughter if Skye happened to be up at the same time. Currently, Skye wasn't with her, but May was pretty certain she'd heard the younger woman moving around in her bedroom, so she expected that her daughter would be coming in to get some breakfast fairly soon.
Having showered and dressed, Skye stepped into the kitchen with hair that was still slightly damp from the shower. She headed over to make herself a cup of coffee. "Morning, Mom." Although she'd grown used to having a mom now, it still gave her a little jolt to be able to say that to someone who wanted her.
"Morning, sweetheart. Would you like eggs and toast to go with that coffee?" May's question sounded more like a suggestion than question.
Skye nodded. "I guess you've already eaten? Did you want some more?" She found the eggs and began frying them, putting two pieces of bread in the toaster.
"I did and no, thank you." May smiled at her daughter. "I was wondering if you'd like to go to an exhibit at the museum this morning and then catch lunch at our favorite Bistro."
Skye smiled in return, her face lighting up at being able to spend time one-on-one with her mother. "I'd like that..." she replied.
"Well, then..." May's smile broadened and she stood to clean up her dishes. "I will just go get ready. As soon as you are done with breakfast, we can borrow a car and head out...I might even see if I can convince Phil to loan me Lola...." May's grin turned impish.
Skye grinned at her mother. "Good luck with that. I know Grant and the others are more important to him than the car, but I think Lola might be a close second."
May couldn't help but laugh at that. "Maybe I'll just have to make him an offer he can't refuse..." She smirked, before turning toward the door. "I'll meet you in twenty minutes?"
Skye nodded. "I'll be finished and washed my things up by then." Even as she was speaking, she was plating up her food.
May had quickly taken a shower and got dressed for a day out with her daughter. She still had ten minutes left of the twenty she'd arranged with Skye and so went in search of her oldest friend, going to his apartment and knocking on the door. If she could convince him to let Lola out to play, it would be a nice surprise for her daughter.
Having just finished clearing up after breakfast with his children and grandchildren, Coulson was on his way to finish up some paperwork when he heard the knock. He opened the door and smiled at May. "Melinda. What can I do for you?"
"I've come to beg a favor, Phil..." May smiled slightly. "I'm taking Skye out for the morning and then to lunch and I was hoping to convince you to allow me to drive Lola...."
"I trust you, Melinda... but Lola is an old car," Coulson said. "I have to know where you'd take her."
May raised an eyebrow and gave Phil a flat stare before chuckling. "I'll be taking Lola to an exhibit at the museum and then she'll be going to a little Bistro a few blocks from the museum. I promise I won't keep her out after curfew and will treat her with the utmost respect, sir....Can I please go out with her?" she said in a slightly teasing tone, as if asking a father for a date with his daughter.
Coulson smiled at the woman he considered one of his closest friends. "I trust you to take care of her. Just no chases if you happen to spot anyone," he teased, knowing she would take the utmost care with the only thing that could even touch how much he cared for and loved his children, grandchildren and the rest of his family.
"Of course, Phil. I'll have Skye with me..." May nodded. She might be willing to chase after a suspect if they were actually on missions and prepared for such situations, but she was going on an outing with her daughter, not going on a mission, and going after a suspect without the backup of the rest of the team knowing what was going on and being prepared to help wasn't something she was willing to do.
"I know," Coulson replied. He went to get Lola's keys and brought them back to pass them across to May.
"Thanks, Phil, Skye is going to be shocked..." Melinda's grin turned impish again and she impulsively gave her oldest friend a kiss on the cheek. "Want me to bring you back anything from that Bistro when we return?"
Although a bit surprised, Coulson smiled at May nevertheless. "I'm sure some sweet things wouldn't go amiss." He'd share them with his children and grandchildren anyway.
"Some cookies and brownies then... I'll bring them by when I return your key to you." May smiled again, gave a jaunty little wave then quickly left, closing the front door behind her before heading back to her apartment.
Coulson smiled after May then went to join his children and grandchildren and find out what they wanted to do today.
Even though Lance was quite an early riser, his father always seemed to get up before him. Lance was reasonably sure his dad didn't need nearly as much sleep as everyone else... but so far, Lance hadn't been able to see enough to support that theory.
Since today was a close family day, instead of going to train straight away, Lance went through to the kitchen, expecting his dad to be there already.
Bucky was sat at the kitchen table, a cup of coffee in front of him, staring into space. He had obviously been reading the morning news, as it was open to a story about health issues for vets returning from the warfront, but he wasn't currently reading. He was past being deep in thought, not even blinking when his son came into the kitchen.
Lance focused on his dad, noticing that he didn't react when he came into the kitchen. Unsure if he was even seen, Lance approached carefully, but didn't touch his dad, taking a seat opposite. "Dad?" He spoke softly, not wanting to startle his father.
Bucky blinked owlishly, before looking toward Lance. "Oh, hey, kid...sorry...was just....thinking...." He sighed, reaching out a hand without even thinking and squeezing Lance's wrist.
Lance turned his hand over so he could grasp his father's, looking worriedly at him. "Want to talk about it?" he asked softly, clearly worried and wanting to help in some way.
"It just hit me again...that other than Steve...almost every person I had ever known or was friends with before has died. It's just...I...." He shrugged slightly, not sure how to express what he was feeling, since he wasn't entirely sure. He squeezed Lance's hand and smiled crookedly. "I'm glad I have you in my life, kid. It's hard being alone..." His crooked grin faltered slightly as he remembered the years of being 'the soldier', when he pretty much was alone. The people surrounding him certainly hadn't been friends. Natasha had been the closest he'd come to forming an attachment during those years; and they'd made certain to separate them and never let him see her again when they realized he'd begun to care about the young 'widow'.
Lance kept hold of his dad's hand, even as he leaned over to wrap his arms around Bucky, hugging tightly. "Well... I'm in your life. For as long as I live. And you aren't alone anymore," he said softly, not sure how to help, but wanting to do something.
Bucky closed his eyes, putting his prosthetic arm around his son and hugging back almost as tightly, always aware of the fact that the fake arm had a lot of power in it and he didn't want to hurt his son. "Thanks, son...that does help..." he said softly, before kissing the side of Lance's head. Clearing his throat, he asked gruffly, "How would you like to go out today? Maybe we can go to one of the nature reserves and hike...."
Lance nodded, still hugging his father. "Sure, Dad. We can do whatever you'd like to," he said softly, wanting to spend some time with his dad... as well as to help him feel better, even if he suspected those emotions would never fully go away.
Bucky smiled sadly, knowing that his mood had affected Lance and hating that. "How about I make you some breakfast? And then we can borrow one of the SUVs and be on our way. I remember this one spot from before I went into the service...it was a popular hiking spot because the view was terrific. I haven't been back there since I left for Europe so long ago. It'd be interesting to see how much it had changed...." He chuckled.
Lance smiled and nodded. "I'd like that... maybe there are other places you could show me from before?" he suggested, wanting to be able to see more of what his dad had liked in the past.
Bucky's grin widened. "I'm sure there are...if you really want to see them."
"I would," Lance replied sincerely. "I know about that bar you and Uncle Steve used to go to... but I realise I don't know a whole lot about what you liked before. And I'd like to."
"Ok...well, how'bout we get ourselves some breakfast, then we can head out?" Bucky looked a lot less sad than before, the thought of sharing time and memories with his son cheering him up. "I can make waffles...."
Lance nodded. "I can put some more coffee on if you want another drink... waffles are always good." He hugged his father, kissing him on the cheek.
Bucky nodded, beginning to gather ingredients for the waffles. "That sounds good." He paused. "Thank you, son..." It was obvious he was thanking Lance for more than the coffee.
Mack grinned down at Loki, having tussled his brother to the ground and pinned him. "How long do you think it will be before Thor returns and we have an answer from dad?" he asked curiously.
Loki shook his head. "I'm not certain..." His voice was hesitant.
Having returned to the tower, Thor headed to the common floor rec area, having checked with Veronica and finding out where his brothers were. As he stepped inside, he made sure to make plenty of noise so Mack and Loki knew he was coming.
"Speak of the devil...." Mack grinned, rolling off of Loki and quickly standing to go meet Thor.
Loki quickly jumped up to join his brothers. "What was decided?" he asked curiously.
Thor smiled at his brothers. "Father will make sure everything is in order and then arrive with one of the healers... tomorrow, at the latest. I informed him that I felt it was urgent."
"So...should we clean up the apartment to get it ready for his arrival?" Mack asked hesitantly.
Loki added, "And do you want to have Jane and Darcy come to meet him as well? I know Jane has met him, but Darcy has not...."
Thor nodded. "While I am sure Father will stay with us, we may wish to speak to Tony about somewhere for the healer to stay. I am sure inviting Jane and Darcy would be a good idea."
"I have a feeling Tony will want the healer as close to Harry as possible; he'll likely keep them in a room next to the kid..." Mack commented.
"Do you wish to invite the ladies now or wait?" Loki added.
"Considering Harry is the priority, I feel we should wait before we invite them," Thor replied, nodding to acknowledge Mack's comment. "Perhaps we should talk to Tony and let him know the healer is definitely coming?"
Mack also nodded before looking up. "Veronica? Is Tony in his apartment, or did he go back to the labs? We'd like to speak to him...."
"Sir is working in his offices with Master Osbourne," Veronica replied.
"Then we could go there," Thor said.
Loki smiled. "Veronica, please tell Master Stark that my brothers and I will be coming to speak with him shortly..." he requested of the AI politely.
Mack grinned. "So formal..." He chuckled "...I will probably need to take some etiquette courses before I return to Asgard, especially if I need to attend any of the public functions. I managed to stay hidden away in private most of the last visit, but somehow doubt I can do that next time."
Thor wrapped an arm around each of his brothers' shoulders so he could steer them out of the room, heading to the elevator so they could go to Tony's office, as the AI responded to Loki's request. "You do not need to change," he said to Mack. "Both of you are fine the way you are."
"Are you certain?" Mack asked worriedly. "I don't want to embarrass myself, or especially you both and father, by acting in some way that is considered barbaric or uncivilized...."
Loki shook his head. "I do not think you could ever behave in such a manner; and even if you did...at least one of the warriors three would be right there with you, behaving in the same manner, so...." He gave Thor an impish look and deliberately didn't say which one would behave in such a manner.
Thor smiled, though it took on a reassuring edge as he looked at Mack. "I do not believe you would act in such a way either. There is no time I have ever seen you in such a manner."
Mack's smile became a little more assured. "I'll take both or your words for it..." he said softly, though he did sound a bit relieved. By this time, they had reached the floors where the offices were at. Stepping out of the elevator, he glanced toward Thor, waiting for his older brother to take the lead in speaking to Tony.
Thor led his brothers along the corridor, only releasing them when they reached the office Tony was inside with Harry. He knocked lightly on the door, waiting to be invited rather than just barging in... He had learned.
"Come in..." Tony's voice carried easily through the door. He had already stood up and was moving toward a grouping of seats in the corner of the office when the three men entered, motioning Harry to come over and join them in their talk.
Loki sat down on one side of Thor, watching as his little brother sat on the other side of their big brother.
Harry hesitantly sat down next to Tony, not sure what to expect.
Thor sat in between his brothers, giving a smile and nod to Harry before he began speaking. "We sent a message to our father, asking if he would come and stay... and bring one of the healers from Asgard with him. We hoped that it might help to have another healer looking at this disease."
Tony blinked in surprise, but then gave Thor a grateful look. "Do you think they might be able to find something we missed? Biology wasn't really my field of study, even though I've learned quite a bit over the years due to what happened to me.... Still, what I'm seeing isn't normal for earth based organisms...it's almost like a hybrid of an earth illness and something- unearthly...." He swallowed as he glanced at Harry. He didn't like being pessimistic or act like they wouldn't be able to find a cure in front of the boy...but he also believed that Harry knew too much and was too aware to be fooled by platitudes and skirting the truth.
"I know finding a cure won't be easy," Harry said solemnly. "It's possible it's not just biological... there might be a psychological element as well."
"I think it could not cause any harm to have another healer look over you," Thor stated. "The more people involved, the better the chance that pooling knowledge will garner a cure."
"Thank you for doing this, Thor..." Tony said solemnly. "The more options for finding a cure there are, the better I feel about our chances," the billionaire admitted softly. It was clear that he cared a great deal about the younger man.
He wasn't the only one, either. At that moment, Pepper came briskly walking into the room. "I've arranged for Dr. Pym to look over your notes and call you about them, all you need to do is email him..." she said to Bruce without preamble, as she gently ran her fingers through Harry's hair.
Thor's smile included both Harry and Pepper as well as Tony. "It would be wrong not to do everything within our power to help."
Harry didn't remember ever having had a mother, so Pepper's obvious care meant more to him than he could ever put into words. Still, he leaned into the touch without any conscious thought.
Pepper smiled brightly at Harry, before leaning over and kissing him on top of the head. She then leaned over and kissed Tony on the cheek, before waltzing toward the door again. "Would you three boys like to join the rest of us for dinner tonight? I'm making a stroganoff...." She paused at the door and looked expectantly at Thor, Loki and Mack.
Mack blinked. "I...I would love to have some of your cooking, Pepper...it beats mine by a mile. But..." He glanced at Thor. "What time was dad planning to arrive?"
"I believe he said he would be arriving fairly late, due to the arrangements he needs to make," Thor said. "I am sure we can join you for a meal." He smiled at Pepper.
"Great! I'm going to go run some errands, but dinner should be ready by six o'clock, if that is alright?" She waited long enough to get nods from the various men and then disappeared.
Tony sighed. "I'm the luckiest man alive...." He grinned sappily.
Thor smiled, but didn't reference Tony's comment as he spoke. "We plan to have our father stay in our apartment, but thought you might have a preference for where the healer stays."
Tony nodded quickly. "There is one more guest room on my floor next to where Harry is staying. If they stay there, they'll be close by if needed."
"I'm sure there will be no problems with that," Thor said, smiling warmly at both Tony and Harry. He could see how worried Tony was... and how scared Harry clearly was.
"Good...good...great!" Tony clapped his hands together and grinned. "Do you have plans for the rest of the day?"
"I am not sure." Thor glanced at his brothers. "Did you want to continue sparring?"
Mack shrugged. "Sure. Can never get enough sparring in...keeps me on my toes and all..." He grinned at his brothers, flexing exaggeratedly.
Tony couldn't help but snort out a laugh at the antics, glancing at Harry. "See what you have to look forward to, once we get you all healthy again?" He smirked.
"I'm not sure I could keep up with any of you," Harry said. His father had always prized intellect more than physical strength, after all.
"Yeah....I felt the same way for a long time. That's what's so great about this group of people, though- our family- they go with your strengths and build on the rest. I mean, you've seen Pepper...she's learned enough that she's managed to best the biggest and strongest of us at least once." Tony grinned, obviously proud of his fiancé.
Thor smiled at Harry. "It would be an honour to help train you once you have recovered."
Harry nodded. "Thank you..." He left unclear whether he was saying thank you for the reassurances... or for them believing he would recover.
"Well, if you'll excuse us, gentleman...I had some business I needed to discuss with Harry." Tony smiled. He had planned to ask Harry if he'd be willing to assign Tony power of attorney to be able to make medical decisions for him should it be necessary, though he hoped it wouldn't be.
Thor nodded and stood. "We will see you later, Tony." He waited for his brothers to join him before he left the offices.
Tony waited till the three had left before pulling out the paperwork and beginning the task of convincing Harry. "Harry, there's something I'd like you to consider...."
"With all the change the area has undergone in the last seventy odd years...this place hasn't changed a bit!" Bucky's voice was soft and almost in awe of the fact...and a tiny bit relieved. He glanced at his son and smiled. They had eaten breakfast, cleaned up, and headed into the national park. After a short hike, they had reached the overlook Bucky had wanted to share.
Lance smiled and shifted closer to his father. "I'm glad it's still intact," he said softly, looking out. "Maybe we could bring a picnic here next week or something?" he suggested, wondering if that might help his father.
Bucky blinked, his smile broadening. "I'd like that, kid...maybe I'll invite Stevie...he used to come here too...not sure if he's been back since...." He chuckled. "We used to bring dames here...."
"If Uncle Steve comes, it might be after they figure out how to treat Harry," Lance said thoughtfully. "I can tell Tony's really worried about him..." It was a bit surprising how quickly Tony had taken to Harry... but then again, most of the family adoptions had happened fast.
"Yeah...that's true. Steve wouldn't want to go too far from the family, even for a short period of time, until his future grandson is cured..." Bucky smiled knowingly. It was fairly obvious to everyone where things were headed; as long as Harry agreed, anyway. Bucky chuckled. "It's a dang good thing Tony is a billionaire and owns the tower...if things keep up the way they have been, there won't be enough room for the family to all live in one place."
Lance nodded his agreement. "Do you know how it all started?" he asked curiously.
Bucky slanted his head. "How what started? The family growing through adoption?" He shrugged. "As far as I know, the very first adoption was of Clint by Phil...but that was years ago. The current situation also started with Phil, though...when he chose to adopt Grant. It put the notion into everyone's heads that adult adoptions weren't all that odd and for our families, they seem to work...."
"It does seem to work," Lance commented. "I'm glad he put that idea in everyone's heads." He gently nudged his father.
"Yeah...me too." Bucky grinned then threw an arm around Lance's shoulders, tugging him in closer. "If we keep going, though, I'm going to need a calendar to keep track of all the nieces' and nephews' birthdays..," he teased.
Lance leaned into his father. "Maybe we could get one specially made," he joked. "Or Veronica to give us reminders about a week beforehand."
"Hmm...Veronica would probably by the best option..." Bucky pondered. "Still have a hard time getting used to interacting with her. I'd just finally got used to JARVIS when...well..." He shrugged slightly with a sheepish look.
"It's a bit strange, talking to someone you can hear but can't see," Lance commented. "But I guess we'll get used to her eventually."
"Yeah...so...you want to stay here a few minutes more, or walk further down the trail? I figure we have about thirty minutes before we need to think about starting to head back toward the car if we want to get lunch." Bucky grinned.
"I'm good with whichever," Lance replied. "Do you have a preference about what to do?"
"If I remember correctly, the trail continues further south, but there isn't really any scenic lookouts for about another mile and a half, which we could possibly make in the time we have, but we'd be moving quick and I'm more in a mood to meander. How about we head back to the car, go into town to find a greasy spoon and then spend the rest of the afternoon walking through the city and seeing if I can find anything I recognize?" Bucky laughed.
Lance nodded. "Sounds good to me. And when we come back for that picnic, we could always wander along the trail then," he suggested.
"We might even be able to turn that picnic into a backpacking trip; follow the trail as far as our time will allow us, camp out..." Bucky added, as he turned to head back toward the car.
Lance smiled as he walked alongside his father. "I like the sound of that. I can look into whether we need to get permission or not," he offered.
Bucky blinked at that. "Yeah...that would be good. I forget we need to get permission sometimes. Used to be it wasn't necessary...and then even when it was, as the soldier, I never worried about asking for it...." He couldn't help but blush slightly.
Lance nudged his father gently. "We probably don't need to ask for it now... being part of the Avengers and all," he joked. "And if there was any red tape, I'm sure we could get Tony's lawyers involved..." He was mostly joking about that, too. Lance didn't think any of them would use Tony's influence without good reason.
"Nah..." Bucky shrugged and waved off the suggestion, amusement on his face. "Wouldn't want the common citizens watching and thinking they could behave that way too, since the 'Avengers did it'." He chuckled. "You have any preferences for lunch?" he asked curiously.
Lance shrugged. "Greasy spoon sounds good enough to me," he commented.
"Alright, well let's go, then..." Bucky patted Lance on the shoulder and then took off down the trail, heading back to the car.
May looked at the exhibit in front of her, her expression completely blank. She wouldn't tell Skye this; it seemed like the girl liked this particular exhibit. But May just didn't get it. What exactly were three tin cans, a bottle of Drano and a dead cactus supposed to represent anyway? She glanced at her daughter out of the corner of her eye, trying to find some clue as to what she was supposed to think about this work of 'art'.
Skye felt her mother glancing at her (she'd become better at noticing these things since she'd been adopted) and looked sideways at her. "It's interesting, isn't it?" she asked, fairly certain her mother didn't know what to make of it... though, to be honest, neither did Skye. She just thought it looked unique.
"I truly have no words..." May said by way of agreement, her voice carefully modulated so that it wouldn't be clear if she meant it in a good or bad way.
Skye pressed a bit nearer to her mother. "We can move on," she suggested.
May shrugged with a smile. "I'm in no hurry," she said quietly. "Maybe the museum bulletin has some information that will shed some light on it..." She waved said brochure gently in front of her daughter.
Skye smiled and took the brochure from her mother. "Maybe." She flicked through until she found the right passage and glanced over it, then passed the brochure to May.
May took the brochure and read it quickly, her grin turning somewhat amused. "From the sounds of it, either the artist was confused also; or whoever wrote down their explanation didn't have a clue what they were talking about. Oddly enough, that makes sense...." She chuckled then wrapped an arm around Skye's shoulders. "Are there any other exhibits you'd like to look at?"
Skye leaned into her mother. "Not any specific ones," she answered. "What about you? Or should we go to the Bistro now?"
"I think I've seen enough to think on for a while...and I'm starting to get hungry. Let's go to the Bistro..." May smiled again, leading her daughter out of the museum and toward the restaurant.
Skye walked willingly with her mother. "I still can't believe you got AC to let you borrow Lola," she commented... though she was definitely happy about the fact.
"Phil and I have been friends for forever..." May smiled. "...Although that won't save me if we do anything stupid and get her messed up. So we will not be eating or drinking in her," she added, her voice entirely serious.
"That's all right. I had no intention of eating or drinking in the car anyway," Skye said honestly. "I like having the time to eat inside places, rather than being constantly on the move and having to grab a bite where I can."
"Yeah, we had to eat on the go more than enough times while on the bus..." May agreed, carefully driving down the streets toward the Bistro.
Skye nodded. "Living in a van wasn't exactly conducive to sitting down and eating," she commented.
"I imagine it wasn't..." May agreed as she deftly pulled Lola into a parking spot not too far from the Bistro.
Skye waited for her mother to park and then got out of the car, waiting so that she could walk into the Bistro with May.
Soon they were sitting at a table in the corner with a good view of everything going on around them but secluded enough they could still carry on a private conversation. The waiter took their order and soon they were happily munching on their lunch.
Peter wasn't entirely sure that his Aunt May wasn't just staying in the tower to make sure he did. But even if he knew Harry was in the best possible hands... Peter couldn't help but be worried. So when his police scanner alerted him to a gang attack not that far from the tower... Peter was heading to the elevator without any conscious thought, planning to change into his Spiderman costume once he was outside.
Matt had been staying out of the way in his and Sam's apartment, not wanting to interrupt the important work of finding a cure for Harry. It wasn't easy, however; Sam had got called into the hospital to help one of the members of his support group, the man not having any family nearby to help him. Matt was bored, worried and feeling a bit useless and helpless. It didn't take him long to decide to go 'bust some heads' when he heard of the gang activity nearby. He took his suit and found a deserted alley to change in as soon as he felt he was far enough from Veronica's purview. It didn't take him long to find the gang's hangout.
Peter, dressed in his Spiderman outfit, very quickly tracked down the gang. Noticing that they had taken hostages, he started to head inside... but spotted movement. Fairly certain he recognised the costume as belonging to the Devil of Hell's Kitchen (and wasn't that Matt, Sam's son?) Peter headed towards him. Just because he was normally a lone wolf, it didn't mean he wasn't prepared to work with someone else.
Matt blinked as he saw Spider-man approaching him. He supposed he shouldn't have been surprised; Peter was currently living at the tower, so of course he would have heard about the gang activity nearby, when normally he wouldn't have been anywhere near the area. He was a bit surprised the younger man had managed to sneak away when his Aunt May was there (and the ever-watchful Steve). Even if he hadn't been officially adopted by anyone, yet, it was pretty obvious that a certain branch of the family was about to become two members larger. Stifling a snort, Matt moved further back into the secluded area he was hiding, waiting for Peter to reach him. It didn't matter how Peter had snuck out- he probably had done it much the same as Matt; what mattered was that they bring down this gang...preferably without any innocents being hurt... and return back to the tower before anyone in charge realized they'd taken off. Matt had no doubt that if his activities became known, Sam would be called, hospital or not, and told of his actions. He didn't want his father to worry. Especially not when there really wasn't any reason to.
Peter shifted into the area... though he'd kept to the shadows enough so that he wasn't obvious even in his costume. Not rushing in wasn't something he was used to... but there were a lot of gang members. "Saving the hostages needs to be our priority," was the first thing he said.
Matt nodded in Peter's direction. "You should probably work on getting the hostages out while I concentrate on keeping the gang away from you and the hostages. You have a better reputation among the public than I do and the hostages are less likely to be afraid of you...." He kept his voice low, but couldn't hide the hurt in his tone that people were afraid of him.
"I'll get the hostages to safety... then I'll come and help," Peter said. It didn't sit right with him to leave Matt on his own, but the hostages were important... and he couldn't deny that they probably would react better to him. Even so... "I can probably take a couple out as I go inside... leave you with slightly less to face off against."
"If they come after you, then yes...take them out. If they don't come after you, then go straight for the hostages and leave them to me. The less opposition you have, the easier it will be to get the hostages free without one of them being injured..." Matt agreed slightly, but not completely.
"Yeah..." Peter decided not to waste time arguing. If he could safely take out a couple, he would. But he didn't say that. "Ready?" He paused long enough for an acknowledgement and was then moving, heading towards the hangout.
Matt quickly moved to take on the gang members, hoping to draw their attention enough that they'd leave Peter alone to help the hostages. There were a lot of them...slightly more than he normally took on...but his reputation preceded him and some of the newer gang members were frightened enough that they didn't come after him as strongly as they should have if they wanted to stop him. That didn't mean he didn't take his lumps. He was soon covered in various cuts and bruises from the fight. Only his skill and extreme luck kept him from being shot.
Peter wasted no time in ushering the hostages out, taking a few shots with his webslingers as he did so and managing to pin a couple against the walls. Still, it took longer than he would have liked before he could return to help Matt out.
Matt sensed when the hostages were no longer anywhere in his vicinity and could only hope they were getting to safety. A particularly vicious uppercut to his stomach had him doubled over, just as a bullet whizzed by where his head would have been. He never sensed the extra people hanging around in the form of S.W.A.T. members or reporters.
Pepper had taken off work early do she could begin making dinner. Realizing that there hadn't been any big family meals that day, she decided to make enough for everyone if they wanted to join; and to further that goal, she went to the common kitchen. She turned on the tv in the common family room, turning the volume up enough to be able to hear it in the kitchen, but wasn't really paying much attention. It was loud enough to draw the attention of whoever else came in, though.
Steve wandered into the common area, planning to see if his daughter needed any help. It didn't take long before his attention was drawn to the television, though. And it took barely a second for him to realise that two of the newer family members were involved.
Almost immediately, Steve requested that Veronica call the other members of the family who were there... carefully omitting Peter's Aunt May.
Pepper, hearing her father speaking to the AI, walked out of the kitchen, her eyes wide. "Dad? Is everything ok? What's going on?" She glanced toward the television, only then realizing exactly what she had been listening to as background noise was. "Oh...no... Sam is not in the building, dad...he is at the hospital helping one of his veteran friends...."
Steve nodded to show his daughter he understood and then took out his phone, tapping out a quick message to Sam to let him know what had happened. It wasn't long before he received an acknowledgement. "He's on his way back."
Pepper nodded. "Is there anything I can do?" she asked softly. Matt was a recent addition to the family and she really didn't know her new cousin as well as she'd like. She knew less about Peter, other than the fact that it appeared he had a good chance of becoming her nephew. She didn't want anything bad to happen to either of the younger men, but she also knew her skill-set wasn't really in the line of rescue. She'd do what she could, however.
"Could you talk to Peter's Aunt May and keep her distracted?" Steve requested. "I don't know how much she knows about what Peter's doing... and I don't want her to worry."
Pepper got a worried and slightly shell-shocked look on her face then bit her lip. "Ooookay... what if she asks a direct question though? I don't want to lie..." Pepper blushed when she realized her voice sounded almost childish in her reluctance to tell an untruth to the older woman.
Steve wrapped an arm around Pepper's shoulders and squeezed her gently. "Just tell her that it's confidential and you can't discuss it," he suggested.
Pepper nodded. That seemed like a reasonable enough answer; and chances were if May was asking questions, she probably already suspected what was going on and would accept Pepper's answer, only to ask someone else closer to the situation later. "Ok, daddy. I haven't started anything cooking yet...I was mostly cutting up items to be cooked. Let me stuff it all back into the refrigerator and I'll go find Aunt May to hang out and have some 'girl talk'." She smiled at Steve, turning in his arm so that she could give him a quick hug.
Steve hugged his daughter, kissing her forehead. "I'll help you cook, once we've got our wayward family members back," he promised.
Pepper nodded, snuggling for a tiny bit before reluctantly stepping away. "If something happens...please call me? Or have Veronica let me know somehow? I don't mind ordering in if necessary, either; I just want everyone to be safe...." Her voice trailed off as she slanted her head. "Do you think maybe I should pick Harry up on my way to go see Aunt May, or would that make her suspicious? I hate for him to be left alone and if you need Tony to go with you to help...."
"I think there are probably enough of us here that Tony can stay with Harry," Steve replied reassuringly. "I'll make sure to keep you in the loop," he promised. "But we'll make sure they're safe."
Pepper visibly relaxed. "Good...good....thanks, daddy. I appreciate it. Good luck and I hope everything goes well..." Her worry for Matt and Peter was strong in her voice.
Steve kissed her cheek. "It will be fine," he said reassuringly, glancing towards the elevator as everyone began to filter onto the common floor.
"I'll just go find Aunt May and keep her company..." Pepper whispered, standing on tip-toe and kissing Steve on his cheek before quickly stepping away, shoving the food back into the fridge and heading for the elevator. She did stop long enough to give Tony a kiss, but was moving so quickly, he was left blinking in her wake.
"Where's hurricane Pepper going?" he asked his father curiously.
Bruce watched Pepper kiss his brother then disappear, before giving Steve his own confused look. "What's going on, dad?" He sounded calm, but it hadn't taken him long to notice that Peter wasn't in the room with the rest of the 'kids'... and neither was Matt.
Steve looked around, noticing that everyone took their seats around the room... and how Harry stuck close to Tony; possibly without being truly aware of it. "Both Matt and Peter took off to go after a gang's hangout," he said, trying to stay calm... but knowing that two of his family members were in trouble made that difficult.
"Is it too much to hope that they cleared their trip with one of you?" Bruce’s question was deceptively calm and it was obvious he already knew the answer. The fact his skin had a green tinge to it indicated his true state of mind.
Steve shook his head. "Sam's on his way back towards the hangout. The news report is outside... I saw Peter go back in. I figure he must have got the hostages out and then returned to help Matt."
"Who do you need to go with you?" Coulson asked.
"If there is still battle going on, I would willingly join you," Thor offered. He knew his own strengths... knew he was better in battle.
"Pepper is going to stay with Aunt May, isn't she?" Tony asked. "I'll stay here with Harry on standby for if you need me."
Bruce ran a hand through his hair. "Let me grab the med kit. I'll go, but stay back to provide medical support. If needed, Hulk will come to play."
"I'll do whatever is needed," Mack said, noting that all the other kids were nodding.
Steve nodded and quickly organised the people going with him... Bruce, Thor, Mack and Loki. While he hoped they wouldn't need that many, he didn't want to risk getting there without the support.
Waiting long enough for Bruce to grab his medkit, the group headed down in the elevator to the garage to take one of the SUVs.
Grant, not wanting to be in the way, but also wanting to be useful, offered, "If I can do anything at all...I'm ready and willing...."
"Me too..." Bobbi piped up.
Kara didn't say anything, instead pressing closer to her father. She'd been doing a bit better since returning home, but she still had moments where she acted more like a scared teenager, alternating between needing her father to step in and 'protect' her by taking over and chafing at his authority and trying to do things completely on her own without his input. Currently, she was in one of her clinging moods and while she'd have no problem going in and using her specialist abilities if they were needed, she didn't feel any particular need to offer.
Trip smiled at his baby sister, then glanced at Brock and nodded at the other man, before putting in his two cents. "I think it is safe to say that any one of us is willing to step in and help if needed. So...with that in mind... I suggest those of us who aren't actually going with Cap stay on the common floor so we are easily accessible and can move quickly if he does need to call us in." He glanced at Fury and then his uncles, apologizing but not apologizing for stepping in and giving direction to the others.
Fury nodded. "I think that would be a good idea," he agreed.
Coulson, sitting in between his two youngest children, stood up. "I'll go and get the comms," he said.
On the way to the hangout, Steve stopped long enough to pick up Sam, before moving fast enough that the driving could almost be called reckless. Almost... but not quite, since he always made sure he was careful.
Bruce didn't comment on the driving...his worry for Peter strong. Stronger than he had expected, to be honest.
Loki watched the doctor silently. "I have faith that we will arrive in time and both of our family members will go home safe where they belong," he finally said, the conviction in his voice strong.
Mack nodded with a crooked smile. "What he said." He slanted his head in Loki's direction.
Sam's own worry was obvious. He was barely holding still as Steve parked the SUV outside the hangout... and then he was moving almost before it stopped, undoing his seatbelt and scrambling out.
Hammer in hand, Thor followed the others, looking round for anyone leaving the hangout.
Steve moved to usher the people who were standing too close away, clearing a path for the rest of them to enter.
Bruce hadn't taken much longer than Sam, jumping out of the SUV and running after the other man. He did veer to a more sheltered area as soon as they were inside; no sense inviting the Hulk out to play needlessly and a stray bullet would do just that, but he still kept close enough that he could step in if the others started having trouble.
Mack nodded at Steve on his way by then barreled into the mob.
Loki made use of his ability to double himself and was soon surrounding the various gang members causing confusion and fear in the enemy.
Matt was caught off guard when the extra fighters arrived; luckily, he had spent enough time with his father and the rest of the family that he'd sensed who they were nearly immediately and didn't try and attack one of them. It was worrisome that they'd shown up, though. "How did you...?" he finally asked the room at large, as he ducked a two-by-four aimed at his head.
Sam made good use of his own fighting abilities as he made his way to his son's side. While he knew Matt could protect himself, he couldn't prevent how scared he was. "Steve saw it on the news." He punched one gang member in the face, breaking his nose and disarming him.
By this point, Steve was able to join the fight, quickly incapacitating gang members.
Thor put his hammer to use, taking out several gang members at once.
With the arrival of the other men, it hadn't taken long at all for the gang members to be subdued. At that point, the S.W.A.T. members who had been containing things on the outside (making certain that their presence scared off any reinforcements the gang might have called in) came in to make their arrests. The captain of S.W.A.T. went to speak with Steve, but if the look on his face was any indication, only the fact that Matt and Peter had been helping to protect hostages and the fact that several well-known AVENGERS had come for back-up was keeping them from being arrested right along with the gang. There had been a plan in place...but that plan had gone all to hell when Matt and Peter had jumped in and begun doing their thing.
Matt winced as he overheard some of the choice words the officer said to Steve in regards to the actions he and Peter had taken, but didn't say anything to try and defend himself. Mainly because he was standing next to his father, who couldn't hear a conversation that was being whispered from across the room and wouldn't know what he was talking about, and because the officer wasn't wrong. Matt bit his lip as he realized that his actions could have caused more harm than good, something he hadn't given thought to before he and Peter dove into the situation head first. Matt forced himself to stop eavesdropping and instead focused on his father's body language- his heartbeat, his breathing, the tenseness in his muscles- and tried to gauge how upset his father was with him.
Steve did his best to smooth things over with the captain, apologising for the two younger team members and explaining they'd only wanted to help free the hostages... and weren't used to trying to work with other people.
Sam wasn't just standing there. As soon as the gang members were subdued, he was checking Matt over for injuries. And then he grasped his son's arm... not tightly, but still firmly. "I want Bruce to check you out." He began guiding his son towards the doctor, snagging Peter on his way past. "You too."
"I'm not hurt." Peter's argument was weak, however, as he allowed himself to be tugged along.
Matt blinked, unable to say anything in argument against Sam's directive. Sam wasn't being harsh; the grip on his arm was firm, but not painful. His voice didn't sound angry. At the same time, Matt couldn't help but think his father was upset, or at the least disappointed. It surprised him how much that thought hurt. He didn't fight or argue and soon he found himself standing next to Peter in front of Bruce. Swallowing hard, he had to ask, "Can't you check me over back at home?"
Bruce nodded at Sam, before glancing at Matt and answering the younger man's question. "I could. But I want to make certain you aren't bleeding, at the least, before we leave here. In case you need to go to the hospital." He quickly began his examination of Matt, a stern look in Peter's direction giving the young man an unspoken order not to move, because he was next.
Mack watched quietly as Bruce and Sam cornered the two errant young men and began to check them. He then glanced at Steve, noting that somehow the Captain had managed to calm the captain of the S.W.A.T. team down considerably. Sighing, he glanced toward Thor and Loki. "I don't know if I should feel sorry for them or not...their hearts were in the right place. It was their heads that need screwing on right," he muttered.
"Taking matters into your own hands is not something that family members should do," Thor stated. "I believe they tried to do the right thing... but I myself have learned the wisdom in not rushing headlong into danger without informing my family members first. It appears that is a lesson Matt and Peter still need to learn."
Mack nodded. "Can't say I don't still have a problem with that myself sometimes..." His voice was empathetic.
"I would have to admit to the same failing..." Loki said with a huff, his tone chagrined.
Thor wrapped an arm each around his brothers, squeezing them gently. "I think many of us in the family have had that problem... even the parents at times. Are either of you wounded?" he asked, his concern obvious.
Mack shook his head with a smile. "No...unless you count scraped knuckles from where I hit one of the gang members' eyebrow ring...."
Loki looked affronted, although the amusement in his voice indicated he really wasn't upset at the question. "I never actually entered into a fight- my clones did all the work." His smirk was broad and not hidden at all.
Mack glanced back toward Bruce, Sam and the two errant family members. Bruce had finished checking Matt and was now checking Peter. Matt looked like he wanted to disappear.
Thor nodded, relieved, even though he knew his brothers would have said if they were injured. Still... "Perhaps we should join the rest of our family members?" he suggested, leading Mack and Loki over to said family members even as he spoke.
Steve was finally able to extricate himself from the captain of the S.W.A.T. team, after another apology, and walked over to join them as well.
Peter held still while he was being examined. Since Matt had had the brunt of the attack, he was only bruised and not bleeding anywhere.
Sam kept his arm around Matt's shoulders, finally satisfied his son was safe.
Matt did his best not to wince as his father's arms went around his shoulders, but Bruce saw the look on his face anyway. "When we get back to the tower, both of you are getting scanned by Veronica. Just because there aren't any obvious serious wounds doesn't mean there isn't something hiding that I can't see or that the big guy can't sense...." Bruce's voice left no room for argument.
Mack blinked at the words. This was the first time Bruce had ever mentioned Hulk sensing things. "He can do that? Sense when someone is wounded?" He shifted uncomfortably.
Bruce glanced over at his cousin in amusement. "Sometimes...if the wound is close enough to the surface. If it is deeper, he doesn't usually; although he might still feel unsettled."
Thor glanced at Mack, raising his eyebrows at his brother's shifting. "Is something bothering you, brother?" Although his voice was calm, it was clear he was expecting an answer.
Although still holding his son, Sam was careful not to put too much pressure on Matt... just in case there was something else wrong.
Mack blinked again, this time looking at Thor with wide eyes. "No...no...I just...never realized Hulk sensed things like that; and apparently shared his 'sensings' with Bruce...." He wrinkled his nose. "No wonder it's so dang difficult to hide anything from you..." He glanced at Bruce again, a disgruntled look on his face.
Bruce just raised an eyebrow. "Hiding things from me shouldn't ever be an issue anyway...." he said in a droll tone, then looked at Peter and Matt, making it clear that they better not be trying to hide anything from him.
Matt couldn't see the look exactly, but he felt it and found himself hunching down into himself almost sheepishly. "I...I don't think I'm hiding things..." he finally said uncertainly.
"I only got some bruises... I wasn't in the fight long enough for anything more serious," Peter said with a shrug.
"Surely that is a better way," Thor said. "After all, if you hid a wound and it became more serious, then you could become even worse."
"We'll get you scanned anyway, kid," Sam said, his tone not allowing for argument.
Mack didn't say anything to Thor's remark. He knew his older brother was right, after all; and he'd be the first to insist that one of the younger team members got checked out and not hide things. It was easier to insist on the younger members being upfront with their injuries than to actually do so himself, though.
Bruce nodded at Peter. "Even so, I'll feel better after we've done some proper scans to make sure."
Matt just nodded at Sam's words, not having the energy to argue, tone or otherwise. He really felt like he'd been run over several times by a truck, so he had a feeling if Bruce didn't find anything, he'd be lucky. "Do we need to stay any longer? Answer questions or something...?" he finally asked softly, wanting to go home now that all the excitement and adrenalin was wearing off, but not certain if they were able to.
Steve had stood by quietly during the course of the examination, but now he spoke up to reply to Matt's question. "As soon as Bruce is satisfied, we can leave. I've already covered everything we need to." While not angry, his voice was slightly clipped. They were fortunate he'd been able to smooth things over.
Matt bit his lip at the cadence in his uncle's tone. It was obvious that his and Peter's actions had caused some bit of difficulty. "I...I'm sorry that you needed to cover for me..." he finally said in a strained tone, part of him frustrated that anyone other than himself was taking responsibility for him (he still hadn't got used to having someone in his life who was able and willing to take charge; and now here was another), the other part embarrassed and guilty that he'd caused problems that needed someone to take responsibility.
"I'm as satisfied as I'm able to be before they can get properly examined..." Bruce said to his father, his tone even but still worried.
"Don't worry about it." Steve sighed. "As long as the two of you aren't badly hurt... it's not like this is the first time I've had to step in and smooth things over." He nodded to acknowledge Bruce's words. "Let's go home... I'll call in on the way and let the others know we're coming back."
Sam still had his arm around his son and he walked Matt from the warehouse. "If you find something hurting, or if you start feeling weak, I'd like you to tell me," he said, his voice soft, but filled with concern and worry.
Matt swallowed and nodded in response to both his uncle and his father, not sure what he could say. He wanted to say something to the effect of everything hurting; because it did, really... just because he was able to take on numerous opponents easily didn't mean he got away without the bruising and pains that accompanied such a fight and this particular fight really hadn't been all that easy, truth be told. But he wanted to get home, not go to a hospital, and he wanted to do it without further worrying the men who had become his family. So he didn't say anything. Of course, not saying anything didn't mean he was able to keep from wincing and letting out tiny hisses of pain when he stepped wrong and jarred a particularly sensitive area of his body.
Bruce sighed softly as he put his own arm around Peter. "I think I'll run the scan over Matt, since apparently he took on the bulk of the fight so that Peter could get the hostages out safely..." He eyed Peter sideways. "But while I'm taking care of Matt, if you feel anything that is concerning, you will come straight to me, am I clear?"
Mack followed along behind, walking next to Loki and Thor, shaking his head silently at the stubbornness of certain individuals in the family.
Sam's concern was obvious as he did his best to support his son. When they reached the SUV, he made sure Matt was buckled in to keep him as still as possible and then carefully took his son's hand.
Peter nodded. "I'm fairly sure I'm all right... but if something does feel wrong, I'll let you know," he promised.
Thor brought up the rear with his brothers, allowing everyone to enter and get settled first before he went up the front with Steve... since Sam was sitting in the back with his son.
Matt tried his best to hold still and not jar himself too much; he knew that each sound of pain he let out worried his father more and he was beginning to feel very guilty about the fact that he had needlessly concerned the man. "I really don't think I'm more than bruised..." he finally said softly. "I'm not arguing about being checked out...I'm not...but I don't think you need to worry quite so much..." He tried to sound convincing, but he couldn't help the guilty tone that his voice took on, no matter how much he tried to disguise it.
Mack was sitting in the very back with Loki and couldn't help the tiny grin that passed over his face as he heard his cousin. Matt was a lawyer through and through, always trying to convince someone of something, even if he shouldn't be trying to convince them.
"You're my kid." Sam's voice was firm, if a little exasperated. "I'm going to worry about you. I'm going to keep worrying about you until I know for sure you're fine. Because you are my son and I really don't want to see you in pain."
Matt wrinkled his nose in confusion. It might have been considered 'cute' by some, had his face not been turning dark shades of blue and purple from the fight he'd been in. "It's my own fault I'm in pain, though...."
Loki rolled his eyes and let out an exasperated huff. "Odin's beard, man... that does not matter to him! It does not matter to any of us. When you care about someone, you do not want them to hurt, period... no matter what boneheaded stunt they have done which could conceivably be thought of as their own fault! Even when I thought my father hated me, I never believed that he wanted to see me suffer for my foolishness.... See me die, yes, but not suffer...." He eyed his cousin, as if unable to understand the younger man.
"You're a part of the family... a part of my family," Sam said. "I wish you hadn't gone off and got into a fight, but it doesn't make me care about you any less. I want you checked out because I want to make sure you're all right... for no reason other than that I love you and want you to stay safe."
Matt shifted uncomfortably, feeling like every eye in the vehicle was on him, even though it likely wasn't the case. "Ok...ok... I said I'd get checked out. I just...didn't want you to worry, is all. Sorry I said anything..." His voice and tone were odd, as if he couldn't decide between feeling grateful and happy that he was cared about that much, or offended and embarrassed that he was cared about that much. It made him feel small and somewhat out of control and he felt churlish even being slightly upset about it, which made him irritable. He hadn't had his emotions all over the board like this since he'd hit puberty and he couldn't figure out what was wrong with him, so he didn't say anything else. He did, however, lean on his father, as if to apologize for his behavior and attitude.
Mack, wanting to lighten the tension in the car somewhat, asked Loki curiously, "Why do you talk about dad's facial hair that way? I mean...I know it's sort of a way to put an emphasis to what you are saying... but...it's dad...."
Loki blinked in consternation and didn't know what to say.
Sam wrapped his arm carefully around Matt's shoulders, squeezing him as gently as possible, and pressed a kiss to his head.
Thor turned round so he could address Mack. "He is our father, it is true... but he is also the AllFather. In a higher position of authority than your president is. If you swear by the AllFather, that is a way of making sure you make an oath that is unbreakable."
Matt slumped at the affection. It never ceased to amaze him how Sam had a way of making him feel like a guilty little boy without even having to say anything; although if he hadn't been in the wrong, maybe he wouldn't feel that way. Swallowing, he lay his head on Sam's shoulder and whispered. "I'm sorry...."
Loki nodded at Thor's words. "That is so."
Mack chuckled, "So what does dad think when you say Odin's Beard to emphasize your words? Since it obviously wasn't meant to be an oath...."
Loki rolled his eyes and actually blushed. "I do not say such things in front of him, so I do not know," he admitted.
"I know." Sam gently stroked his head. "And we will be having a discussion once I'm sure you're completely safe. For now, we'll get back to the tower and you can be scanned, in case there's a wound that isn't obvious."
Thor nodded his agreement. "I do not think Father would take offence, but it is better perhaps not to use those kind of phrases within his hearing."
"Yes, sir..." Matt sighed. He wasn't terribly surprised and he knew whatever his father 'said' to him, he'd have it coming. He had been told enough times that his solo vigilantism wasn't acceptable after all.
Loki's eyes couldn't roll any further back into his head, but it was his loud huff and accompanying words that had Mack nearly rolling on the floor in amused surprise. "Ya think?" Loki drawled out, in a perfect imitation of Tony at his most ornery.
Bruce turned wide eyes onto the young demigod then said firmly, "No taking after my brother! I love him dearly...but one of him is enough!"
Sam kept his arm around Matt's shoulders, surreptitiously checking his son for signs of him being in worse pain even as he kept up the gentle, comforting touch.
Thor's voice was amused. "I was not addressing my comments only to you, Loki."
Matt bit his lip and swallowed. He still hadn't got used to the fact that people cared about the fact he got hurt when he went out to fight mobsters and such...hadn't got used to the fact that people worried, even though he knew it was true. He couldn't help but feel guilty about causing that worry. "I'll heal fairly quick..." he finally said, not certain what else he could say. It wasn't like he could give an adequate defense for his actions. He knew that he'd done something that everyone in his family would disapprove of. His reasons weren't good enough to fly in the face of that.
Loki grinned mischievously. "I realize that, brother. But I have been waiting for a long moment to say something like that... did I sound Midgardian? Did I succeed in mimicking Tony?"
Mack shook his head and laughed. "You should use that tone with Tony. He'd probably be flattered that he was the one you chose to copy."
"It doesn't matter if you heal fast or not," Sam said, his voice calm rather than being raised or angry. "I don't want you putting yourself in danger. I don't want you getting hurt. But it's not going to change anything between us, or make me not want you in my family." There was the unspoken, 'but you're still in trouble'.
"The resemblance is uncanny," Steve said dryly.
Thor laughed. "I'm sure there are worse Midgardians you could copy."
"I know..." Matt's voice was soft and as close to contrite as it could be without him actually apologizing. He was surprised at how guilty he felt. He hadn't expected to feel guilty about his actions...he'd actually thought he'd be arguing a defense by now, but he couldn't work up the energy or desire to do it.
Loki grinned. "Thank you, Uncle Steve..." he said as if he'd been paid a compliment. "Perhaps I should copy Clint next..." he teased his brother.
Sam still had hold of Matt's hand and he squeezed it gently. "We'll talk after you've been scanned."
"Are you threatening me with that?" Thor teased his brother back. "I think Clint has grown more responsible since he became a father, so that does not worry me as much."
Sighing in resignation, Matt slumped down into the seat, letting his head fall against Sam's shoulder. "Ok, sir..." he said softly.
Loki wrinkled his nose, slanting his head. "You are right. He has become very much responsible since adopting.... Perhaps I will copy Bobbi or Kara," his voice changed into a hybrid of the two women's voices.
Mack looked at his brother in shock. "How....?"
Sam stroked gently over Matt's hair, holding his son close. He just felt the need to hold Matt and assure himself that his son was safe with him... even though he wasn't going to be fully relaxed until he knew for sure Matt wasn't seriously hurt.
"The ability to clone himself is not the only thing Loki can do," Thor commented, amused by the surprise displayed by some of the others.
Matt perked up slightly. He may have been listening to his father, but that didn't mean he'd stopped listening in to the other's conversations. "Are the myths true, then? You can change into a woman...or an animal...if you want to?"
Loki glanced at Thor a little sheepishly. He hadn't really planned to bring that part of his abilities up at any point unless necessary. Blushing, he shrugged and answered, "The myths are not completely untrue...depending on what you have heard... I am capable of such things, yes."
Bruce chuckled. "Good to know...." He wrapped his arm around Peter without thinking about it, some need to draw the teenager into the group overcoming his decision to give the boy room. It was possible the boy had been given too much room lately; why else would he think going and fighting a gang with just him and Matt was acceptable?
"What else can you change into?" Sam was still holding onto Matt, but he couldn't deny being curious. He knew that Thor and Loki were both from Asgard, of course... but even though they were allies, he hadn't questioned them about what they could.
Surprised, Peter allowed himself to be drawn in, leaning against Bruce even though he wouldn't admit he'd done that out loud. He'd been listening to the conversation and been interested, though.
"Well...basically, if it lives and breathes, I can change into it. I can't change into non-living things, though...." Loki admitted hesitantly, not certain how everyone else would take his ability.
Bruce didn't react visibly to Peter leaning on him, but he did firm up his grip on the boy a bit, squeezing his shoulder gently.
"That could be a useful ability, if you wouldn't mind using it to help out," Steve commented. "If we were planning an op and could capture a HYDRA agent, for instance... it would make infiltrating a base much easier. We'll have to sit down and talk about how comfortable you feel using those abilities."
Thor gave Loki a reassuring smile, understanding how his brother was probably feeling.
Peter relaxed somewhat. Although he was bruised, he wasn't in very much pain... which allowed him to worry more about Matt and hope the older man hadn't ended up damaging himself badly.
Loki relaxed when he realized that the others, or Steve at least, was viewing the ability as a positive and not suspiciously. "If you think it will be useful, I will of course do my best to help out," he said firmly, if quietly.
Bruce glanced at Peter. "I know you weren't wounded as thoroughly as Matt was, but I still want to do a scan on you. Sometimes small wounds can cause big problems." His voice was firm; he really didn't expect Peter to argue.
"There is a lot you do to help us out anyway." It was second nature for Steve to reassure his family members... and Loki was no exception. "No one will treat you any differently because of what you can do, I promise."
Peter half-considered arguing, but thought better of it and simply nodded instead.
Loki smiled at the words from Steve. "Thank you...." was all he said, but there was a wealth of gratitude in his tone that indicated how Steve's words had made him feel more secure.
By this time, Matt was more than leaning against Sam; he'd started to list to the side, grogginess overtaking him as the last of his adrenaline wore off and the tiny wounds that had been sluggishly bleeding bled enough to cause him to become weak. Luckily, they weren't far from the tower when he finally passed out on Sam's shoulder, the car being driven into the garage and parked within moments.
Sam noticed immediately when his son passed out and almost as soon as the vehicle stopped, he unbuckled both himself and Matt and carefully lifted his son into his arms. "I'm going to take him to the medical floor," he announced. Without waiting for a response, he was carefully moving out of the car and into the garage, carrying Matt carefully to the elevator.
Bruce, having quickly noticed that Matt wasn't moving on his own volition, got out of the vehicle as well, turning to Peter long enough to tell him, "I want you to go to Jemma; she can ask Veronica to run the scans on you, since she knows what to look for, and she can take care of any wounds that you have.... I'll be by to check on you as soon as Matt has been taken care of...." He then ran after Sam, asking that Trip join them in medical, since Trip had trained as a medic and would be able to help him if needed.
As soon as they were both in the elevator, Sam directed it to the medical floor. His eyes were wide with worry as he cuddled his son close... scared that something was seriously wrong with Matt. He carried his son fast off the elevator and onto the medical floor, carefully placing Matt on one of the beds as he anxiously looked over his son's unconscious form.
"Veronica, please do a deep scan of Matt...look for internal bleeding and tears; the visible wounds I tended aren't enough to cause this kind of reaction..." Bruce said worriedly, as he began to remove the layers of uniform from the young lawyer. "Sam...help me get him undressed so I can see if I missed anything...if you have to, cut the uniform off. He can have Tony make him a new one if he needs...."
Sam was moving immediately, going as quickly and carefully as possible so he didn't risk pulling or tearing at his son's visible wounds. Eventually, it became necessary to cut the suit... but parts of it were so damaged, Sam wasn't sure it was salvagable. "Is there anything else I can do for him?" he asked worriedly.
Bruce tried to smile reassuringly, but he couldn't hide his own worry...especially when it became obvious he hadn't missed a wound. "Veronica?" he asked, needing his suspicions confirmed before he decided on surgery.
"There is an internal tear to his kidney, doctor," the AI quickly supplied. "I have already called Dr. Cho and she will be here as soon as Mister Laufeyson has retrieved her."
Sam stayed by his son's side, gripping Matt's hand as tightly as he could without hurting his son. His worry made him tense and anxious... for all he had little trouble staying calm in most situations, he couldn't keep calm when his son was obviously hurt and in very real danger.
Bruce was so focused on prepping Matt that he didn't even blink when Loki popped into the room, gripping Dr. Cho's arm firmly. She quickly moved to assist.
Loki went to Sam's side, gently drawing him back out of the room as Jemma and Trip moved in to help. "Why do we not wait out here....? If they need us, I'm sure they will let us know."
Sam didn't take his eyes off his son, even though he allowed Loki to draw him out of the room. His entire world... his whole being... was focused on his worry for his son. Matt had to pull through this... Sam couldn't lose him. Not now; not ever.
"He said he healed quickly..." Loki said, by way of trying to encourage Sam. "If he heals quickly, then the surgery should be a success and he should be all right...." He couldn't help his own worry. He might not know his cousin that well yet, but he knew how a death in the family would affect everyone and he was as worried about what it would do to them as to Matt himself. "I am sorry...if I had realized what he was doing, I could have gone with him and maybe prevented this...provided some protection..." He sighed softly.
"It wasn't your fault..." Sam might be worried about his son, but that didn't mean he was ignorant of how the others felt. Most of his attention was caught up in hoping that his son was all right... but there was still a small part of him that was aware enough of the rest of his family.
Loki nodded. "I know...I just feel like I could have done something if I had realized...and I hate my family being hurt. It reminds me how fragile..." he stopped before he voiced his true fears, but he couldn't stop thinking about how the people he considered his family- with only a few exceptions for those who had enhanced bodies- would all eventually grow old and die...if an accident didn't take them out first. He didn't like being reminded of that fact. It made him anxious and feel helpless. It really wasn't a good combination.
Sam glanced at Loki, trying to pull his mind away from how worried he was about his son so he could reassure another member of his family. "Most of the family members are careful..." But he needed to get Matt to that point.
"We have all had to learn to be that way..." Loki admitted. Even he himself had been corrected when he took unnecessary chances; and liked to think he'd learned his lesson enough that he wouldn't cause his family unnecessary worry or stress. He wouldn't say that out loud, of course, lest something happen to prove him wrong. Still.
Sam nodded slowly, but didn't say anything. He began pacing, constantly glancing towards the door as he waited impatiently for any news.
Loki stayed with Sam the entire time, nodding at Mack when his brother brought him and Sam something to eat and drink and smiling at Peter when the younger man joined them in waiting, Veronica having made it clear that he did not have any internal injuries so that Bruce could give his full attention to Matt and not worry about the boy. He wasn't certain how long they were there for, really; he just knew that he didn't want to leave until Matt was no longer in danger of dying...the younger man's mortality affecting him more than he wanted to admit. He couldn't help but think of Idunn's golden apples and the fact that they aided in Asgardian health and longevity. He wished the Midgardians had such an item to help them. He'd go and retrieve it and bring it to his entire family if there were such a thing.
Finally, Bruce stepped out into the hall where Sam and Loki were and looked at Sam. "He's stable now. I don't know how accurate his claims that he heals quickly are. I suppose we'll find out in the next few days. I recommend that he stay in the medical area for at least tonight, though...if he shows marked improvement, then he can return to your apartment tomorrow at lunch." He smiled wearily. "It seems Tony- or at least Pepper, since I'm sure she had a hand in designing this floor- made certain each room on the medical floor had two beds in it, so you can stay with him. I know you won't want to leave him alone tonight, so at least you'll be fairly comfortable; or at least as comfortable as one can be in a hospital bed."
Sam focused immediately on Bruce, relaxing somewhat when the other man told him that Matt was stable... but he was still very worried. "Can I see him?" he asked quietly, resisting the urge to just push past Bruce and get to his son's side. He was grateful for how quickly they'd worked on Matt... but he needed to see his son.
"Of course... Trip has moved him into the room he'll be staying tonight...you can go straight there..." Bruce nodded before glancing at Loki and Peter. "You should go join your brothers," he said to Loki. "It's a lot later than you think and I'm sure they are worried about you."
Loki nodded. "I will go join them now," he agreed. His relief that his cousin was safe was obvious and he slumped a little, suddenly realizing how tired he was. Nodding at Sam, Peter and then Bruce, he turned and headed back to his apartment.
Bruce glanced at Peter. "Have you spoken with your Aunt May yet?"
Sam gave Bruce and Loki a grateful smile, then went through to the room so he could join his son, carefully looking Matt over so he could assure himself of Matt's stable position.
Peter nodded. "She doesn't know... about me... so I couldn't tell her very much," he admitted. "She thinks I just got into a fight with some guys from school." That was his excuse most of the time.
Bruce frowned at that information. "Have you considered telling her the truth? She isn't stupid....She likely suspects more than she lets you know."
"I don't want to put her in danger," Peter said. "I know she might suspect already; I just..." His voice trailed off, as he wasn't sure how to finish that sentence.
"You don't want her to worry about what you are doing. But she is going to worry anyway. The fact that you come home hurt enough to have to tell her that you are getting into fights at school would worry her. I won't tell you that you need to tell her the truth; not yet, anyway... but I am going to insist that you stop doing these unauthorized solo missions." Bruce's voice was firm, as if he expected compliance, even though inside, he was nervous that Peter would argue against him having the right to make such a demand.
"This is what I'm used to doing, though..." Peter said. "I'm not sure I'd find it easy to just stop." His tone was apologetic... even though he wasn't sure why Bruce seemed to be so concerned.
"No, it likely won't be easy for you to just stop...there will likely be set-backs that will need to be addressed. I still want you to stop." Bruce's voice was still firm, but he allowed sympathy to come through in his tone. "I'm not asking you to give up fighting for the side of good completely, but there are people willing and able to back you up and protect your back...going in alone doesn't allow them to do that and it puts you at risk that you really don't need to be in. So no more unauthorized solo missions. If you sneak out again, we'll be having a discussion to remind you."
Peter frowned, not sure what Bruce meant by that. "A discussion?" He'd seen how Sam was with Matt, before the man had collapsed, and had had the impression that there were some things Sam was going to say privately to Matt... but he had no idea what kind of disciplinary action would be taken if he went on a solo mission.
Bruce couldn't help but smile, though it was crooked and not entirely happy. "Yes, discussion. Although the form it takes really depends on you and the decision you make to the question I'm about to ask you." Bruce slanted his head and tried to come up with the right way to say what he meant to say. "I'm sure you've noticed how everyone in the tower has...formed smaller families within the larger family group..." He glanced at Peter to see if Peter had noticed. He didn't think Peter wouldn't have noticed; if the way Tony and Pepper were reacting to Harry was any indication, Peter would be witnessing one of the family's many adoptions soon. Bruce couldn't fault his brother and sister for their quick acceptance and bond with the other young man...he felt the same about Peter. The only difference was, Harry had no family left in the world, while Peter had his Aunt May. Bruce wasn't certain Peter would want Bruce's attention to be more than that of a concerned friend. Shaking his head, he finished his question. "...Tony and Pepper are well on their way to making Harry a part of their small family. I want to bring you into mine."
Peter certainly hadn't missed the way Tony and Pepper seemed to care about Harry... and how his friend was responding. He'd thought it was good, knowing how bad Harry's relationship with his father had been. But he'd not expected someone to want to accept him into their family, even though, with the death of his uncle Ben, he had lost the only father figure he'd ever had. "When... you say that... what exactly do you mean?" he asked, a bit hesitant.
Bruce's smile was a bit bigger. "It means that I care about you, mentor you, protect you.... It means I watch your back...make sure you have what you need to succeed...make sure you take care of yourself and don't do things that will get you killed. It means I'm there for you when you need me. And I know you wouldn't want to leave your Aunt May alone, so I'd like nothing more than to bring her into my family as well...I think having her for an aunt would be 'cool'." Bruce slanted his head.
"Having said that, if you'd like for me to be able to do all those things...if you want to be part of my family like I'd like you to be...you can't do things the way you've been doing them. You can't run off without telling people where you are going and fighting bad guys all by yourself. Matt took the brunt of the violence today. I get the impression he maneuvered you so that he could, but if he hadn't been there...." Bruce swallowed hard. "If you choose to join my family, running off without word and fighting on your own will not be acceptable. It isn't acceptable even if you don't join my family... but if you join my family, I'll be doing my best to train you to stop doing it."
Peter opened his mouth, but then closed it again, not sure how to put into words what he was feeling. Finally gathering his thoughts together, he spoke. "I know I haven't known you for all that long, but... I want what you're offering." Even if he didn't know what 'training him to stop doing it' really meant.
Bruce nodded, a pleased smile brightening his face. "Good. That makes me happy. Very happy. Now I can tell you that there will be no more solo-missions without the approval of dad or Phil or Nick. Going on a solo mission without approval, especially if you neglect to inform anyone...will lead to a discussion. Discussions involve you telling me why you did what you did, my deciding if your reason earns you leniency or not; if not, my explaining where you went wrong and talking with you about it until you understand.... and a spanking." Bruce waited a few moments for that to sink in before continuing.
"Since you hadn't agreed to joining my family and were not aware of how family deals with unnecessarily putting your life in danger, you won't get a spanking this time. But if it happens again, you will receive one. That's one part of training. The second part of training is my being there for you so you can tell me what you want to do...and so I can help you come up with alternative ways to handle situations that don't involve you putting yourself at risk. That might be even more difficult than accepting a spanking; I know, for me, it has always been more difficult going to someone else for help than it was to accept the consequences of my actions. For others, it's the opposite. I hope it isn't difficult for you to come to me for help, though; I really want to be there for you." Bruce swallowed and waited for Peter's response.
Peter couldn't stop his eyes from widening. "A... spanking?" He looked like he was expecting to be told this was a joke; but he could tell, from Bruce's tone, that he was completely serious. "I... think it's going to be really hard to get used to that," he said quietly. "I'm not used to anyone stepping in..." Not since he'd lost his uncle. His aunt cared a lot, but Peter was so concerned with keeping her safe that he kept her deliberately out of the loop. "Does everyone here have a... person in authority to listen to?" he asked, not sure if 'family' meant 'parent'... or something different.
Bruce nodded, not elaborating on the question of spanking; Peter seemed to believe him and understand what he had said, despite the question. "All of us have someone who has taken on responsibility for us. Even my dad allows himself to be accountable to his brothers and I suspect my grandfather; and they are accountable to him," Bruce explained. "We would likely include your Aunt May in the mix, although we would protect her from what we do as much as possible. Protect her, but not hide things from her," he added solemnly.
"Your dad... Captain America?" Peter hadn't missed the close relationship between Steve and Bruce... or how the others all treated each other like family. "I'm used to trying to protect my Aunt," he admitted. "Not just from worrying about me... but also from being targeted because of me."
"Yes...Captain America is my father..." Bruce chuckled slightly, having never said it in that way out loud before. "Captain America has a big green rage monster for a son..." he added, an impish gleam in his eye. Sobering up, he sighed softly, before continuing, "I know you tried to protect her. But hiding things from people can only go so far in protection...and sometimes it puts them in more danger than if they knew the truth. My best case scenario is that we convince her to move into the tower with us...give her her own apartment, so that she can feel as if she isn't being smothered...but still in the building, where security is tight and we're close by if needed. Then tell her the truth about what we do and what you've been doing so that she isn't given a nasty surprise some day. Next best-case scenario... she stays in the house you currently live, since that is where her friends and memories are... but allows us to install Veronica, so that the AI can keep a constant watch on her as long as she is at home and alert us if anything suspicious is occurring or if she needs our help. And tell her the truth so that she is aware that she needs to keep her guard up to be safe from potential enemies that we have. In both cases, she'll know that you are being kept as safe as we are able to do, so hopefully, she won't worry too much."
"I don't know if she'd be that happy to move away from her home," Peter admitted. "That's where she and my Uncle Ben lived." He sighed, conceding that Bruce was right. "I... see your point about telling her the truth."
Bruce nodded. "Trying to keep your family safe by hiding things from them seldom works out the way you'd want it to...I think you'll be happier telling her the truth in the long run...and she more than likely suspects anyway."
He waited a few seconds before continuing, "After hearing all I've had to say...do you still want to join my family? I still want you to, but I'll understand if you've decided you don't want to live with the rules or expectations...." His voice was soft and hesitant. He tried to keep his tone as neutral as possible, not wanting to pressure Peter, but he couldn't keep all the hope out of his voice.
"I would really like to," Peter admitted. "I know it might not be easy, but I can see how close you all are. Aunt May's the only family I have... apart from Harry and I think he hated me for a while." It might have been the disease as much as anything... but that had still hurt.
Bruce nodded. "Would you like to make it official, or have it be unofficial first? Because I can have the paperwork done up tonight.... And Harry doesn't hate you. I think the illness made him less in control of his emotions and he didn't understand things that made him feel betrayed. But I saw how he related to you once he realized he wasn't alone. It wasn't hate."
"Harry was my best friend when we were kids," Peter said, almost wistfully. "When he came back... it was easy to fall back into that friendship. I don't want to lose him to whatever this disease is," he admitted, before focusing on the first thing Bruce had said. "Paperwork... you mean adoption paperwork?" he asked, not sure he was understanding correctly.
"You won't lose him. We will do everything possible to make certain that doesn't happen." Bruce smiled. "And yes. I mean adoption paperwork."
"...You really want to be my dad?" The closest person Peter had had to that was his Uncle Ben... but even though his aunt and uncle had been his guardians, they hadn't been his parents. He was having trouble getting his head round the fact that Bruce wanted to actually adopt him.
Bruce slanted his head, trying to determine if the sense of disbelief he was sensing off of Peter was due to Peter being unable to believe Bruce wanted him, or if it was just because of how quickly he'd made the decision. "I know it's been a rather fast decision..." he said hesitantly. "I guess in our family, we've gotten used to making important decisions we are sure about quickly, because of the lives we lead. I know that I enjoy spending time with you and already care about you and feel responsible for you. The only thing that saved you from a spanking for your actions tonight is the fact that you had no clue that was even on the table...." He smiled. "I do want to be your father. I hope you can believe that."
Peter watched Bruce's face carefully, trying to see if he really was serious about this. For all it was quite a short amount of time... he did want Bruce to be his father. "I want it to be official," he admitted quietly... even though he knew curbing his reckless behaviour would be hard, to say the least.
Bruce nodded, his smile widening. "Good...good. I'm glad. I'll have the lawyers get the paperwork together so we can take care of it as soon as possible. Let's go find your Aunt May and tell her what is going on...ask her if she wants to move into the tower as well; and if not, if she'll allow us to install Veronica into her house to help keep watch." He put an arm around Peter's shoulders to lead him toward the elevator.
Peter smiled, leaning into Bruce a bit. "Maybe she could spend time here and at the house?" he suggested, knowing his Aunt was unlikely to want to move permanently into the tower... but might be willing to come and visit.
"She's more than welcome..." Bruce said, leading Peter onto the elevator and pressing the button to head to the business section of the tower, planning to find the lawyers.
It was late in the evening by the time Odin and the healer were able to arrive. Knowing to blend in, when the two Asgardians arrived at the tower, Odin was dressed in clothes more befitting a Midgardian... while the healer looked fairly uncomfortable in their own Midgardian-style clothes.
Jemma had gone to the roof of the tower for some fresh air. The day had been stressful, between working on trying to figure out what might be ailing Harry and then suddenly being thrust into a situation where she had to assist her father performing surgery on her newest cousin. She'd needed to go someplace quiet with fresh air, but hadn't wanted to go too far from the tower, in case something had happened and she was needed. Because of this, she was standing looking out over the city when Odin and the healer had arrived. She stared at him with wide eyes before swallowing and squeaking out, "Veronica, could you get Thor or Loki? Or both? And send Mack, too, while you're at it...." She gave Odin a crooked smile, not sure if she should bow or curtsy, or if this was actually someone she should be scared of and run; although she didn't get the feeling she should be afraid, just very respectful.
Odin gave Jemma a polite smile and nod, having landed with no difficulty... more than used to using the Bifrost to travel. He glanced around, but didn't move, considering he imagined his sons would be coming to meet him.
Thor had been relaxing and playing a quiet game with his brothers when Veronica contacted them. He smiled and stood up, knowing Loki and Mack would accompany him to the roof.
"Sir...." Jemma began hesitantly. She thought this might be Odin, but without having been formerly introduced, she didn't want to cause an inter-dimensional incident by calling him by the wrong name or title or whatever. She swallowed again. "...I've sent for Thor, Loki, and Mack...is there anyone else you wish to speak with?" She bit her lip.
"I understand that one of your family members is ill," Odin said. "This is Bryce, a healer from Asgard. Whoever is in charge of Harry's treatment should speak with him. He believes the symptoms are similar to something seen before... but he will need to see Harry before he can confirm anything."
"My father has been the one attempting to help him...I have been working with him and can take you to him now, if you'd like to follow me?" Jemma's hesitancy disappeared with the knowledge that they were there to help and her eagerness and curiosity to find out what was wrong so they could cure Harry took precedence over everything, even her nervousness.
By that time, Odin's three sons had arrived to greet their father.
Bryce glanced at Odin, who gave him a nod of permission, and then turned back to Jemma. "Please lead the way."
Seeing his sons, Odin smiled and walked over so that he could greet them properly.
Jemma couldn't help giving Odin a small curtsy after all; then, blushing darkly, she led Bryce back to medical and had Veronica call Harry, Tony and her father to meet them there.
Loki, not even pretending to be aloof like he once might have been, moved in quickly to wrap his arms tightly around his father. Now that he had finally made things right and they had finally began mending their relationship, he missed the older man considerably.
Mack smiled and nodded at Odin, warmth in his eyes.
Odin didn't hesitate, wrapping his own arms around Loki just as tight in return. His eye moved over all three of his sons, reassuring himself that each was safe and well.
Mack's smile grew at the affection he saw between Loki and Odin. "I'm glad to see you, sir..." he said softly.
"I'm glad to see you... all of you," Odin said. "You each appear to be well." He paused to allow his sons to voice anything that might be worrying them.
Thor smiled, genuinely happy to see their father... but his voice was serious when he spoke. "We are well... but concerned about Harry and another member of our family who has been injured in battle."
"Yes, we hope that Bryce will be able to find a way to help young Osborn... I believe Bruce has done all he is able for young Matt...the boy is lucky he was not killed." Loki's voice was matter of fact, but there was still the hint of worry underneath in his tone.
Mack just nodded. It wasn't as if he had never done foolish stuff himself in the past, so he didn't feel comfortable commenting on Matt's foolishness...but he was worried as well.
Odin nodded. "I am sure Bryce can also check on Matt and see if he can help," he said, his voice calm.
"Would you like to come inside?" Thor asked, aware that, although the cold of being on the roof wouldn't affect them, they'd probably be more comfortable inside.
"Yes...we can show you our living quarters!" Loki said excitedly.
Mack grinned. "We've got a room set aside for you that Loki arranged himself...."
Odn's smile widened and he nodded to his sons, lightly squeezing each of their shoulders. "I am very interested in seeing where you stay... and I'm sure my room is perfect."
Mack's grin grew. "This way then, sir..." He turned to lead his father and brothers back into the tower. It didn't take the four of them long at all to reach the floor where the entry to their apartment was.
Loki glanced at Odin. "I am sure the other members of the family would like to meet you soon... we can have them come to the apartment to meet you, if you would prefer. Otherwise, there is also a common floor where all the family members congregate when everyone wishes to spend time together in the larger family group...."
Odin walked as close to his sons as he could get, watching them as much as the surroundings of the tower. "I would be willing to meet everyone either in the apartment or on the common floor," he answered.
Mack nodded. "Maybe we can meet everyone on the common floor tomorrow for breakfast. I know that there has been a lot of stress lately because of those who are sick or wounded. Sam won't want to leave Matt's side until he's allowed to leave the medical wing... and Harry and Tony will be with Bryce for as long as Bryce is willing to allow. We can just spend tonight, the four of us...."
Thor smiled. "I think that would be a very good idea."
Odin nodded. "I would like that."
Loki nodded. "I would like that as well..." he admitted, almost shyly, as he glanced at Odin. "Are you hungry, father?"
"A little," Odin replied, wrapping his arm around Loki's shoulders. "Have the three of you eaten?"
Mack shook his head a bit sheepishly. "Not since lunch time... we went to help get Matt and Peter out of trouble and then with Matt being wounded and all..." He shrugged slightly.
"I fear I have not eaten recently, either. But it should not take long to fix soup and sandwiches...and perhaps a plate of fruit..." Loki added.
"Or we could always order in something," Thor suggested. "It would mean we'd have something a little more substantial."
"Chinese?" Mack raised an eyebrow in query.
Loki shrugged. "I like Chinese...."
"I have had very little in the way of Midgardian food recently, so I will allow the three of you to decide what is best," Odin said.
Thor smiled. "I believe Chinese is a good choice."
"Chinese it is, then. Veronica could you call and have two of our usual delivered?" Mack asked politely.
"Of course, sir," the AI intoned quickly.
Loki smiled at his father. "The food should be here in about thirty minutes. If you'd like to come this way, I can show you your room." He glanced at his father's attire, his grin growing. "I don't think Jemma was expecting to see Asgard's King in jeans and a flannel shirt," he teased.
"I am aware that my usual attire would draw unnecessary attention," Odin answered, allowing Loki to lead him to his room. "You and your brother are well-known to the Midgardians, but I did not wish to cause any alarm or panic."
"By now, I'd be surprised if they were overly alarmed; they are so used to seeing unusual sights, as long as you weren't attacking anyone, they'd probably ignore it..." Mack said with a snort. It wasn't clear if he thought that was a good thing or a bad thing.
"Still, I would prefer not to draw attention to myself where possible," Odin commented.
"I fully understand and agree with that viewpoint," Loki said quietly, shuddering at some of the things that he knew could happen when you drew undue attention to yourself.
Odin smiled affectionately at his sons. "And I believe spending time with you, as father rather than King, is in order."
"And I can fully get behind that idea!" Mack grinned as they headed into their family room where they could talk.
"I will be right back," Loki said. "The food should be here now." He nodded at his family, before heading down to the lobby to get the food.
Matt squirmed in his bed, not tired enough to sleep, but not willing to bring his father or Bruce's disapproval down on himself by getting out of the bed. Because of that, he saw when Bryce entered the medical floor.
Sam had stayed by his son's side, only stepping away so that he could put in an order for food for them. He didn't miss Matt's squirming and reached out to carefully take his son's hand. "I know you're feeling very restless right now, but you need to let your body heal."
Bryce was checking over Harry, using his own equipment to scan the teenager as the adults responsible for him waited.
"It will...I always do..." Matt said softly, but stopped his squirming; for the moment, anyway. He watched Bryce, wondering if the healer would have better luck than Bruce had.
Bruce seemed to have the same thought, as he carefully watched what Bryce was doing. "Would you like to see our test results?" He wanted to help, but had to admit he had no clue how Asgardian medicine worked.
Tony stayed close to Harry, his hand on Harry's shoulder in a show of support.
Sam rested his hand on Matt's shoulder. "I've ordered us food," he said softly. "It'll be here soon."
Bryce nodded to Bruce. "That would be helpful." His voice was calm, not revealing even a hint of what he might be feeling.
Matt winced, his stomach still sensitive due to the fight and emergency surgery he'd had to have. "Do I have to eat?" he asked, almost plaintively.
Bruce quickly gathered the files of research and brought them to the healer.
Tony swallowed hard. "You can help him?" He didn't bother keeping the worry out of his tone.
"I ordered food that will be easy on your stomach," Sam said. "You will need to eat something, but not anything that will put too much strain on you."
"I will certainly do everything within my power to do so," Bryce answered, taking the files.
"Yes, sir..." Matt didn't argue, although it was clear he was unhappy about his father's order.
Tony nodded and tried not to fret while the healer looked over everything. He only relaxed marginally when Pepper arrived and stood on Harry's other side, taking Harry's hand in her own; and that was only because he could see how nervous they were and didn't want to make it worse for them.
Sam reached out, gently squeezing his son's shoulder. "I know eating is not a very pleasant prospect... but it is important," he said, a reassuring note in his voice.
Harry had been tense, but he relaxed a fraction with Tony and Pepper on either side of him, watching the Asgardian healer with a slightly fretful expression.
Bryce finally raised his eyes from the files, pausing to gather his thoughts before speaking. "I have come across a similar type of mutation before..." He hesitated, giving the impression he'd like to speak outside of Harry's hearing.
Pepper's face took on a more serene and calm expression at the healer's words, although anyone looking into her eyes could tell her worry and fear for Harry had just skyrocketed.
Tony, realizing that Bryce didn't want to mention what he knew in front of Harry for some reason, glanced at Pepper and then at the young man he had pretty much adopted in his heart, if not legally. "Trust me?" he asked Harry softly, not wanting to exclude him from learning about his own health, but sensing that it might be better for the younger man if someone else found out first and then helped the healer explain to him.
Matt swallowed, but didn't say anything to Sam, his attention having been caught and held by the activity across the room. It was hard to feel sorry for himself when there was someone else in worse shape. Especially when his own problems were due to actions he had taken. He'd tried not to eavesdrop, but his hearing was too good and the worry and anxiety too thick for him to be able to ignore. He leaned toward Sam, the worry and anxiety making him more anxious than he would like to admit.
Harry's nervous gaze darted between the others around him, finally settling on Tony. Swallowing hard, he nodded... even though he was intelligent enough to realise that, if Bryce was reluctant to speak in front of him, the outlook was probably bad.
Sam didn't have advanced hearing in the same way that Matt did, but he didn't fail to notice the obvious tension coming from the other side of the room. His hand shifted towards Matt's shoulder, squeezing gently, before wrapping around his son in a hug.
Matt would have been embarrassed to admit that he snuggled closer to Sam if it had occurred even a few months earlier. However, he'd become so used to seeing the hands on way the family interacted with each other and become so used to Sam caring about him that it was natural for him to seek out comfort from his father, even if he wasn't sure exactly why he was upset.
Tony gave Harry a tight but genuine smile. "It will be ok. I don't know how, but I won't rest until it is..." His promise was fervent, as was his deep hope that he wouldn't end up a liar.
"Go...find out..." Pepper's voice was soft but firm. She moved her hand from Harry's shoulder and wrapped her arm around him instead, leaning over and kissing the top of his head.
Tony turned toward Bruce and Bryce. "Your office, Brucie?"
Bruce nodded, motioning for the two men to follow him. Once they were safely in the area where he did his work when not researching or caring for patients, he turned toward the healer. "You've seen something similar?"
Bryce nodded, a serious look on his face. "The instances I have seen, the physical mutation is matched by changes in the mind, including bouts of anger or depression and nightmares." He hesitated. "I have seen very few where the sufferer has survived," he admitted. "I believe a cure could be created from the samples of blood from each of you... but it would not be a certain thing." His voice and face were sympathetic. He cared about the teenager, young even by Midgardian standards.
Tony swallowed hard but nodded. "The chances of survival without attempting to make a cure are zero, correct? So I don't see that there is any choice. I'll give you my blood now." He began to roll up his sleeve so Bruce could arrange for a donation.
"You'll have my blood as well, I'll call Jemma and Trip down to help with the donations." Bruce paused for a moment. "Have you ever determined how the illness is caught, or if it is contagious? We believed it was something genetic passed through families, but as there have only been two people from earth that we know of who had or have it, there was no way to prove the theory."
"From everything I've learned of it, it's genetic and normally passes through the male line... though females can be carriers," Bryce said. "While it's possible this mutation might be different, it shares enough similarities that I believe it must be at least related to the ones I've seen before."
"Well...at least it doesn't appear to be contagious." Tony sighed. "Veronica, could you contact Dad and Bucky? And maybe Grant...his blood has some irregularities due to the virus he was given. Also send in Jemma and Trip?" He glanced at Bruce. At his brother's nod, he added, "Also Peter."
Bruce glanced at Bryce. "Would Thor or Loki's blood be useful? And maybe we should ask Matt, too."
Bryce nodded. "Anyone with blood that isn't a normal Midgardian's would be of use. There are ways to buy him time... in case the mutation spreads faster." From the tone of his voice, it was clear he'd seen this happen before.
"But there is no way to stop the mutation..." Tony was trying hard not to sound hopeless. Even buying Harry time was one bit further than they had been.
"And that is what the priority will be... creating a cure." Bryce didn't say that they had to buy Harry enough time for the cure to be created, but he did say, "Many of those here have blood that automatically heals them if they're wounded and prevents them from getting sick. There is hope."
It didn't take long for the family members who had been called to make their way to the medical floor.
Jemma smiled at her dad as she began to help him get vials ready to draw blood. "Should we wait to draw Matt's blood? He did just undergo a massive surgery, after all...."
"We'll do him last... give him more time to recuperate. Even if he does heal faster than most normal people, he does need time to heal," Bruce said softly, before glancing toward Bryce.
Trip helped Jemma quietly, motioning Grant to him when the other man entered the area. Grant quickly moved to Trip's side, holding out his arm without comment or argument.
Bucky came in shortly after Grant and nodded at his nephews. "You want someone with you to help explain what's going to happen?" he asked Tony curiously, assuming that Tony would be the one to go back and explain to Harry. He didn't even wince when Bruce cleaned his arm and drew blood.
Tony smiled briefly at his uncle. "Maybe...if you or dad want to go in with me...." He tried to put on a brave face for Harry and Pepper's sake.
Steve walked into the room, allowing his blood to be taken without any protest. His eyes were fixed worriedly on Tony. "I'll go with you to support you, son," he said softly, knowing how much this had affected his son and hoping, for Tony's sake as well as Harry's, that this would work.
"I might not be able to do anything for Harry right away, but I can help your other injured family member," Bryce offered.
Thor wandered in, having left his father with his youngest brother. He gave his own blood without a word of complaint, having seen the state Harry was in and hoping they could help him.
Jemma glanced at Bryce, wide-eyed. "Could you? I mean, beyond the whole it would let us draw blood from him to help Harry sooner; he was really messed up and even though the surgery was a success, there are always risk of complications and if you could prevent that, I know that Sam and the rest of the family would be grateful and..." She stopped and bit her lip, blushing slightly as she realized she was rambling.
Tony just nodded at Steve, giving his father a grateful look, moving closer to the older man and drawing strength from him for a few moments before he straightened his shoulders and sighed softly. "Now to go let Harry and Pepper know what is being done...."
Grant gave his cousin a brief but sympathetic smile, letting him know without words that the rest of the family was there if needed. "I'll just go let dad and the others know what is going on...."
"I'll go with you," Trip said, just as quietly. "I can tell my dad and siblings."
Bucky reached out and gave his brother's arm a squeeze before patting Tony on the shoulder and giving his nephew an encouraging smile of his own. "It will work out, kid... I'm going to go let Lance and May and Skye know what is going on." He nodded at the healer, before following Grant and Trip out of the medical wing.
"Jemma, if you could lead Bryce to Sam and Matt and let them know what is going on, I'll start preparing the blood. After you've taken him to Matt, go find your brothers and Aunt May and see about getting something to eat. I know we're having a big family breakfast tomorrow but I don't want you all to go without dinner...." His voice was firm, even if he did seem a bit preoccupied with preparing the blood. "Tell Peter if he wants to contribute to the blood pool, he may do so after he's eaten dinner."
Bryce stood back, waiting for Jemma to lead the way. There was a thoughtful look on his face, as if he was already planning tests and figuring out a way of developing a cure for Harry.
Steve wrapped an arm around Tony's shoulders, squeezing him gently. "Whenever you're ready," he said softly.
Jemma led Bryce out of the office area and back into the area where the two patients were, heading to the side of Matt's bed immediately. "Uncle Sam...Bryce thinks he might be able to help Matt...." Her voice was soft and she glanced at the healer.
Matt swallowed, turning his face instinctively toward where the Asgardian stood.
Tony waited until Jemma had led Bryce out before he walked back into the room and stood next to Harry's bed. He was thankful for Steve's presence as he cleared his throat and began quietly explaining to Harry and Pepper what was being done to help Harry...and what it all meant.
Bryce stepped over towards the bed. "Hello, Matt," he said. "My name is Bryce and I'm from Asgard. With your permission, I'd like to examine you."
Although clearly trying to be brave, a look of hopelessness came over Harry's face, despite how Tony was wording the explanation. While he knew that everyone was doing their best... he could also tell that their best might not be enough.
Matt hesitated, but he knew that no one in the tower would allow someone in that had harmful intentions, so he hesitantly nodded. "Ok...what do you want me to do?"
Pepper looked close to crying; but, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, she finally straightened up and, in a no-nonsense voice said, "Ok. That isn't any different than what we knew previously and actually corroborates some of what we thought. So, we'll work on the measures needed to slow down the progression of your illness and keep working. We'll figure something out, somehow. With the help of Asgard, our chances increase a great deal."
"Just lie still," Bryce said, his voice reassuring. "I'm going to scan you first of all. You won't feel anything."
Harry nodded, forcing himself not to look as hopeless as he felt. "I... know you're right..." He still looked scared, though... almost younger than he actually was.
"Sure...yeah...I can do that..." Matt said softly, leaning back into the bed and then holding as still as possible, only the tension in his body betraying the fact he was nervous.
Biting her lip, Pepper glanced at Tony, slanting her head and giving him a 'look'. It took him a second to realize what she was trying to silently tell him...ask him...whatever. He shook his head and took a breath. "Yeah, so...I.... I was wondering if... Well... Pepper and I want to adopt you," he finally blurted out, then winced.
Pepper rolled her eyes and sighed, but gave Tony a love filled smile before looking at Harry. "Tony is right. We want you to be part of our family. A permanent part."
The scan was completed fairly quickly and Bryce checked the results before speaking softly to Matt. "I'm going to help speed up your healing further and ensure there is less chance of infectionn. It will not hurt," he promised.
Harry darted an uncertain look between Pepper and Tony. "You... really want to adopt me?" He wasn't sure if he was understanding correctly... or if it was because they felt sorry for him, rather than wanting him in their family.
"Yes, we do!" Pepper said firmly, the look in her eyes hopeful and hesitant at the same time, worried that he would say he didn't want that.
"I know we spoke about my helping you out by taking on some of the responsibilities that you'd had to shoulder for so long..." Tony added, "...and there are things that we will discuss and work out when you are feeling a bit better from the treatment Bryce has in mind...but at the end of the day, the most important thing is we want you to be part of our family. And we want it to be legal."
Matt just nodded, then closed his eyes tightly and reached for his father's hand. "Ok," he whispered, taking a leap of faith that the healer was telling him the truth.
Harry still wasn't sure... not a hundred percent... but he wanted to believe. He wanted this... a family... even though he wasn't sure he knew exactly how he should act as part of one. "I... want that..." he said, softly and hesitantly.
Sam immediately grasped Matt's hand, squeezing gently to reassure him.
As promised, Bryce's actions were painless as he helped to speed up Matt's healing process, already quite fast, and formed protections around where the operation had occurred to prevent the healing wounds from becoming infected.
Tony and Pepper's smiles couldn't have gotten any wider. Tony glanced at Steve, reaching over and tugging him closer. "Hear that, dad... you've got another grand-kid!"
Matt hadn't realized that he was still in pain, until Bryce had caused his injuries to heal even more quickly and set the protections. He found himself relaxing and it was fairly obvious to his father and the healer that he'd been hiding the pain before. Letting out a slow breath, Matt asked, "Do you need my blood now?"
Steve smiled, allowing himself to be brought in closer and touched each of them on the shoulder, looking at Harry. "I'm glad you're going to become a part of this family."
Harry gave a hesitant smile back. "Me too..." Even though he was still worried and scared.
"If you feel up to it, I believe now is as good a time as any," Bryce answered.
"The healer will be working with the blood, so you can come back to the apartment." Pepper leaned over and gave Harry another kiss on the top of the head.
"Ok, Doc....drain away..." Matt said with an impish tone and held up his arm.
Harry nodded, relaxing and almost leaning into Pepper. His father hadn't been a very good one... but he'd never actually known his mother. He wasn't sure if it was possible to miss affection he'd never had... but he did.
"Thank you." Bryce drew the blood carefully and quickly.
Tony helped Harry up and then led him out of the medical wing, to the elevator, Pepper and Steve following behind. It didn't take long at all for them to reach the floor their apartment was on and soon he was leading him inside the dwelling and glancing around. "I guess your uncle is still in the lab, but your cousins should be somewhere around here...." He grinned. "Tomorrow is going to be a big family breakfast so we can all meet Thor, Loki and Mack's dad.... If you feel up to it, that is."
"I've never met a king before..." Pepper said off-handedly, as she gave Harry a quick hug. "I'm going to go get everyone something light to eat and drink..." She smiled, before heading toward the kitchen.
"I thought we could spend the evening quietly together," Steve commented to Tony and Harry. "Maybe play a game or watch a movie." In other words, take their minds off of the worry... at least for a couple of hours.
"That sounds good to me...what do you think, kid?" Tony looked at Harry closely, not wanting to tire the teenager out, but not wanting to prevent him from doing things unless absolutely necessary; especially if it involved bonding with the family.
"I'd like that," Harry admitted quietly, the day's events plaguing his mind. Not having to think about all this for a little while sounded really good... but he was still scared. And whether it was due to the mutation or not, he did feel hopeless.
Pepper popped her head back into the hall. "I have sandwiches and juice if you all want to come into the kitchen to eat. I figure we can play cards around the kitchen table and if anyone else joins us, there will be enough room."
Steve smiled. "That sounds good to me." He gently squeezed both Tony's and Harry's shoulders, waiting for his son and grandson to precede him into the kitchen.
Matt lay still as the blood was drawn, slanting his head toward his father. "Will I be allowed to go back to our apartment now, or do I still have to stay in the medical wing overnight?" he asked, trying not to sound too hopeful.
"How do you feel?" Despite the obvious note of worry in his voice, Sam clearly expected Matt to tell him the truth.
Matt bit his lip and gave the question serious thought. "I feel much better than I did. What pain was there from the fight and from the operation is now just a dull ache. And while I'm still a little tired from blood loss...I don't feel nearly as weak as I did; whatever Bryce did helped a great deal...." He swallowed. "If you want me to stay here tonight, I won't argue, but I'd really rather go home with you..." His voice was soft, uncertain and more than a little guilt filled.
Sam rested his hand on Matt's shoulder, squeezing gently. "If you honestly feel up to moving, I'll take you back to the apartment with me," he said. "But I still want you to take it easy."
"Yes, sir. I won't do anything unless you ok it first, if it means I can sleep in my own bed tonight...." Matt's smile was slightly impish, but a lot apologetic. He knew he'd messed up...again...but wasn't sure how to broach the subject with his father so that he could apologize. He wasn't even certain an apology would be enough, considering what he'd just put Sam through. On top of that, he was feeling a bit off balance; his abilities nearly back to normal, but not completely. It made him hesitant and a little nervous. Carefully, he reached out for his father's arm; just having the other man there helped stabilize him. He wondered if Sam knew that, knew how much Matt counted on him to keep himself in check and in control when his life felt anything but.
Sam leaned over, brushing a kiss over Matt's head, before carefully helping him up off the bed. He wrapped his arm around his son's shoulders, careful not to put any strain on his wounds. "When I get you settled, I'll pick up our food," he said gently.
"Ok, dad..." Matt whispered, leaning into his father; not so much because he couldn't stand up on his own, he'd been telling the truth about feeling better, but because he couldn't help but feel like he'd put a wedge between them that shouldn't be there because of doing something he knew his father wouldn't approve of. The need to prove to himself that he hadn't pushed the other man away was stronger than he wanted to admit to himself.
Sam kept his arm around Matt, holding his son close, as he guided him to the elevator. The look on his face was worried and concerned as he watched Matt, to make sure this wasn't a strain on him.
"I'm sorry to be such a bother..." Matt finally said as they stepped onto the elevator. "...Sorry I worried you....sorry bout a lot of things, really...." He couldn't figure out why he felt so guilty. It wasn't like he hadn't gone after gangs of bad guys before. He had. He'd done it several times and come out on top; sometimes barely, but still on top. He'd never felt guilty about any of those times, except when someone he hadn't meant to kill had ended up dying. This time? He felt guilty about even being there and he didn't understand why.
"You aren't a bother." Sam set the elevator to go to their floor. "And I worry about you because you're my kid and I love you. I was scared when you collapsed... when Steve contacted me, even... because I don't want to lose you."
"I know..." Matt's voice was subdued. "I...I didn't want to scare you..." He huffed, wrapping his arms around himself defensively. "I feel...guilty...I've never felt guilty about fighting the bad guys before!" His tone was aggrieved and confused.
Sam wrapped his arms around his son. "You didn't feel like you had anyone to answer to before," he pointed out. "You know I expect you to come and find me when you want to go off on one of your vigilante missions." His voice was calm and not raised... but he still couldn't quite let go of the fear that had plagued him since realising where his son had gone.
"I do know you expect that..." Matt admitted quietly, less defensive and more shamed. "I don't like feeling guilty..." He couldn't help but pout.
"I don't think anyone likes that." Sam squeezed him close and then gently guided his son from the elevator onto their floor.
"Yeah, I guess they don't..." Matt smiled weakly. He had no clue what he could do to make up for his actions. "I am sorry I worried and scared you...how can I make it up to you?" he finally asked hesitantly.
"When you're recovered, we'll deal with what happened," Sam said. "But it won't change anything between us. You'll still be a part of my family."
"I know, Dad. That's the only thing I'm not all mixed up and wound up about. I know you aren't going anywhere..." Matt's voice was sad but convinced. "So what now?" He tried to keep the weariness out of his tone, not wanting to worry Sam further, but his body had undergone too much for him to not be tired.
"We have something to eat and then you get some rest," Sam replied, his voice firm but still gentle.
Matt slanted his head, focusing on his stomach, and realized that whatever the healer had done had gone a long way to making his stomach feel better and he might actually be able to eat without throwing up. "Yeah...ok...." he finally said, letting his father take him wherever he wanted. He could have used his senses to move around and find his own way to the kitchen, but he was mentally tired of fighting, of pushing himself so that he didn't need anyone, and part of him was still uncertain he hadn't pushed Sam too hard with his latest stunt. Relying on his father for everything was his way of 'rolling over and showing his belly'.
Sam guided Matt into the kitchen, a bit surprised (though maybe he shouldn't have been) to realise that someone had already brought the food up for them. He moved to the table and helped his son into one of the chairs. "I ordered food that would be light on your stomach," he said, knowing Matt would be able to 'see' what was in front of him. "What would you like to drink?"
Matt sat down quietly, not arguing in the slightest. While he could 'see' what was in front of him... it appeared to be a type of soup... it was slightly more difficult to tell what kind of soup. He leaned over and sniffed it tentatively, before glancing up at the question. "Oh...uh...water is fine, sir...." he answered quietly.
"Water it is, then." Sam poured out a glass and set it in front of Matt, taking a seat next to him. "It's chicken soup," he said, placing a hand on Matt's shoulder and squeezing gently. "Depending on how you're feeling in the morning, you might be able to have something a bit more substantial."
"Yessir..." Matt smiled tentatively, before carefully taking a sip of the soup. He waited a few moments to see how it settled before taking another spoonful. "It's good..." he finally said, after having eaten half the bowl.
Sam smiled, having started on his own food only after he was sure that his son could keep his down all right. "I'm glad to hear that," he said, clearly relieved.
They ate in silence, Matt not certain what to say, but it wasn't uncomfortable. Soon, he had finished the bowl and was sipping quietly at his water. He was tired and knew he needed to go to bed, but he still felt oddly unsettled and didn't want to leave his father's side. It didn't make sense to him.
Finishing his own food, Sam collected their plates and utensils to clean up and then returned to his son's side, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. "I know it's been a long day for you. I figured we could have an early night." He paused, wondering if Matt would feel better if he offered to have them both in the same room, at least for tonight, or if that would embarrass his son.
"Ok..." Matt's voice was hesitant, though. He swallowed hard. "Are we ok?" he finally blurted out, blushing after. He couldn't help being nervous that he'd put a barrier between his father and himself, even though he kept telling himself that wasn't the case.
"Nothing has changed between us, kid," Sam said firmly. "We will deal with what happened and then we'll move past it. No bringing it up again. I'm just glad you weren't hurt worse and could actually be treated..." His voice was soft; haunted, even. He couldn't recall ever being that scared before.
Matt winced at the tone in his father's voice. The guilt he'd been feeling grew and he was chagrined to find his eyes getting watery. "I'm sorry..." he said again, with a swallow.
Sam simply wrapped his arms around his son, hugging him tight. "I'm just glad I have you here safe," he said softly, kissing Matt's head.
Matt found himself pressing closer; he still had a hard time believing that Sam wasn't more upset than he seemed and needed physical proof of the fact. "Bed now?" he asked hesitantly.
Sam tightened his embrace a fraction, still careful not to put too much strain on his son. "I think that would be a good idea... but if you think it might help you feel better, you could stay in my room with me," he offered, not wanting to embarrass his son, but unwilling not to make the offer.
Matt found himself slumping in relief, relaxing noticeably at his father's offer. "I want to..." he whispered, blushing at how needy he sounded, but unwilling not to accept the offer.
"Good." Sam kissed his forehead. "You don't need to be embarrassed. I suspect we wouldn't be the first here to sleep in the same room." In the same bed, really, but he didn't feel the need to specify that. "How are you feeling? Do you need a hand with getting changed?" He spoke in a matter-of-fact tone, trying not to embarrass Matt any more.
Matt leaned even more into his father. "I'm not sure? I mean, I feel ok...but I haven't tried to change or do anything like that on my own yet, so...."
"Do you want to try?" Sam asked. "Or are you all right if I help you this once?" He still had his arms around Matt and he gently stroked his son's hair and back.
"I feel like I should try..." Matt said sheepishly. He didn't say that he wanted his father's help. He wasn't sure why he was feeling so emotionally strung out and needy; it didn't make sense and he was ashamed that he was feeling so out of sorts with no discernibly good reason. He did want his father's help, though and that came through in his tone, even if he tried to act otherwise.
"You don't have to try and do it alone, kid," Sam said. "If you want my help, you'll always get it," he promised.
Mart nodded, looking down toward his feet. "Yes, sir...please?" he finally said in an uncertain tone, still not sure he shouldn't force himself to do it on his own, since he really wasn't feeling that bad and wasn't a child; no matter how much he might feel like he acted like one.
Sam just squeezed his son gently and walked into Matt's room, his arm still around his shoulders. "Where are your pajamas?" he asked.
"They should be hanging on the back of my door," he said quietly, not moving from the spot his father left him.
Sam retrieved his son's pajamas and then returned to Matt's side to help him into them, careful not to put strain on his healing wounds.
With his father's help, it didn't take long at all for Matt to be ready for bed...and there wasn't any pain; which, despite healing quickly, Matt had been expecting. "Thank you." He smiled once he was ready. He didn't move toward his bed, though. "I...can I..." He swallowed and wrapped his arms around himself, almost shyly.
Sam wrapped his arms around his son once more, kissing the top of his head. "We'll go to my room." He began leading Matt there, needing to keep in constant contact with Matt... to remind himself his son was safe.
Matt didn't argue, following silently beside his father. Once in Sam's room, he waited for Sam to tell him what to do, not wanting to just make assumptions.
Sam simply led Matt over to the bed, helping his son to settle on it before stretching out next to him. "If you start feeling pain, or have any bad dreams, I'd like you to wake me up," he said seriously.
"Ok, dad..." Matt whispered quietly, settling down and closing his eyes. Within moments, he was asleep.
Bobbi wandered into the common kitchen early the next morning. She and Kara had got up early to train and now that they were finished, they planned to make breakfast for the rest of the family.
Kara followed her cousin in, running her fingers through still damp hair. "Pancakes, eggs and bacon? Or waffles?" she asked, as she began to gather ingredients.
"Ask a few of the others...I'm leaning toward waffles, but they may not want them." Bobbi smiled.
Natasha wandered out of the elevator, having just finished a fairly rigorous training session with Steve and May and taken the time to have a quick shower before going to meet the rest of the family.
Stepping into the kitchen in time to hear the last comment, Natasha slanted her head. "What are the other options?"
"Just eggs, sausage or bacon; and pancakes or waffles if I'm the one cooking. I never learned to cook anything else..." Kara smiled impishly.
"I might be persuaded to make crepes." Bobbi slanted her head.
Natasha smiled. "I'm good with any combination of those... though I'm sure other members of the family will have a preference. Would you like me to help?" she asked.
"Yes, please!" Kara grinned.
"You know...if Kara handles all the egg orders; you handle all the sausage, bacon or fruit orders; and I handle pancakes, waffles, or crepes, we can make use of these industrial size appliances Tony supplied and everyone could have what they wanted..." Bobbi pulled out a rather large electric griddle from one of the lower storage cupboards.
"Works for me..." Kara shrugged. "Veronica could take orders, so we know what to get together...."
Natasha nodded. "I'm fine with that. I noticed some of the other family members going to the rec area, so I imagine it won't be long before they start coming here." She began to retrieve what she needed.
"I've taken the orders from everyone," the AI announced. Soon, the three were cooking together like a well-oiled machine.
When Pepper came in ten minutes later, they were well on their way to having a veritable buffet. "Would you like me to set the table and get juice, tea and coffee brewing?" she asked.
Natasha nodded. "I'm sure that would be helpful." She looked at her sister and cousin for confirmation.
"Sure...that'd be great!" Bobbi added.
Pepper began gathering plates, utensils and glasses to set around the table and then put a kettle of water on for the tea and turned on the coffee maker. She left the juice in the refrigerator, so that it would stay chilled. She smiled at Tony and Harry when they came in and motioned them to sit, before heading back into the kitchen. "People are starting to arrive now..." She smiled as she finished grabbing last minute items, like condiments, to take to the table.
"That's good, because the first of the orders are ready to go," Natasha commented, beginning to plate up the first orders of the food she'd been in charge of.
Harry sat down next to Tony... still a little uncertain, but wanting to be close to those he did believe wanted to be his parents.
Coulson came onto the floor, stepping into the kitchen to give both of his daughters a quick hug and kiss to their cheeks, before moving to help with taking the filled plates into the dining area.
"Hi, daddy!" Bobby grinned at her father as she flipped another pancake onto a platter.
Kara smiled at her uncle as she placed another platter of scrambled eggs within reach of whoever could take it into the dining room first and began working on fried eggs.
"Hey, sis and cousins!" Trip grinned at the women as he came in and grabbed two platters to carry out. "Smells good!"
Coulson returned Kara's smile and then carried two of the platters out, passing by Fury on his way.
Fury stepped over to his daughter, giving her a one-armed hug, before he also retrieved two of the platters.
Thor exited the elevator with his father and brothers, hanging back so that Mack and Loki could have Odin's attention.
Mack led their father to one of the chairs. "I'm going to pop in and see if they need any help. What would you like to drink, dad?" he asked Odin.
"Water is fine," Odin replied, allowing himself to be led to the chair and sitting down, leaving space for one son to sit on either side of him.
Skye wandered off the elevator, having a conversation with Lance.
Mack was returning with a tray holding the juice, as well as several cups of coffee and glasses filled with water, when Grant came in from the stairwell and began helping him pass the drinks out. "Hi, Harry!" He waved at the newest member of the family, before glancing around for the others.
Steve came onto the floor with Peter and Aunt May, having ducked in to remind his son and grandchildren that it was time for breakfast. He'd waited long enough to be sure Bruce, Jemma and Leo were packing up before taking Peter and going to retrieve the teenager's Aunt.
Bruce came in, Jemma and Leo in tow, not long after Steve. Smiling, he walked over and put an arm around Peter's shoulders, giving the younger man a gentle squeeze before wrapping Aunt May in a warm hug. "Good morning...I hope you both slept well?" He waited until all his children were seated before finding a chair for himself.
Tony grinned at his brother. "Did YOU sleep well?"
Bruce chuckled slightly. "I actually did. Bryce insisted I go to bed about an hour after everyone else had already gone to bed. Speaking of which...did anyone invite him to join us for breakfast? If not, I'll go bring him in...."
Pepper nodded. "I asked Veronica to ask him to join us. If he isn't here soon, I can go get him...."
Having woken up earlier, Bryce had set a couple of tests running before stepping into the elevator. He reached the floor at about the same time Sam did, who'd checked how his son was doing before deciding to join the others for breakfast.
Wanda and Pietro reached the common floor moments later, having had an early morning workout.
Matt had followed Sam in, staying close to his father. He was feeling more like himself; physically, at least. Emotionally, he was feeling guiltier by the moment and it was resulting in a more clingy behavior.
Clint and May arrived with Bucky and Brock, the four having gone for a run outside the building. They'd had just enough time to shower before heading to the main floor.
Sam stayed close to Matt, not angry or upset that his son needed to stay close to him. He squeezed his son's arm gently and headed over to two seats next to each other, arm wrapped around Matt's shoulders, so they were in contact without it looking like his son was leaning on him.
Wanda took a seat with Pietro on one side of her, leaving the other side free for her father.
Brock plopped down in a seat next to his father, leaving the other open for either Trip or Kara. The seat on the other side of his father was free as well, so their whole family could sit next to each other. He grinned as he watched all the 'smaller' family groupings beginning to sit next to each other, or save seats for each other. Soon, all the food had been brought out and Bobbi, Kara and Nat finally joined the rest of the group, taking their seats. "Looks good, ladies..." he said, by way of acknowledgement and appreciation for their efforts.
Grant grinned at his sisters and cousin. "Yeah. It looks great. Thanks!"
Coulson smiled. "I saw how hard the three of you were working... and you definitely did very well." He ate a bit and his smile grew. "It tastes even better than it looks."
Many of the others made varying sounds of agreement.
Bobbi sat down next to her father and glanced around the table. There were so many people, all her family. It sometimes amazed her that she'd gone from having no one, to having just Mack and Lance, to having this. It was hard to fathom, but she knew she would never choose to go back to the way things were, before when she didn't have anyone. Smiling at her thoughts, she began to spoon some food onto her plate, making sure to take enough that her father wouldn't worry (or tell her to take more). She may be in a good place emotionally and not likely to skip eating, but she also knew he never stopped his vigilance in making certain that she took care of herself and was feeling good. And her eating was one of the things he used to figure out what was going on with her. Taking a bite of the food, she had to agree that it was good. Swallowing, she glanced around the table again. "So what are the plans for today?"
"I suspect there'll be some splitting into family groups." Steve didn't say that many of them would be devoting their time to finding a cure for Harry... even if they all would know that's what they'd be doing.
Harry caught the 'hidden' meaning and lowered his head, determinedly taking bites of his food and forcing himself to eat.
Coulson rested a hand on his youngest daughter's arm. "Is there anything you'd like to do?"
"I dunno..." Bobbi shrugged. "I feel a bit useless...I mean. I have a biology degree...I could be helping Bruce and everyone else, but I'm afraid I'd just get in the way at this point.... Unless Harry would like to get out of the building and do something fun..." she glanced at Harry with a questioning look. She knew when she was sick and housebound for any length of time, she appreciated any chance to get outside in the fresh air. Maybe her cousin was the same?
Surprised to realise he was actually being talked about, Harry raised his eyes, searching Bobbi's face quickly to try and see if she was serious or not. "I haven't done much for fun in a while..." But his curiosity had obviously been piqued.
"Do you like old movies?" Bobbi asked hopefully. "They're showing Hitchcock's The Birds at Anthology Film Archives...." She'd wanted to go see the film as soon as she'd learned it was showing, but hadn't wanted to go alone; and if Harry was interested....
"I haven't seen enough to know if I like old movies or not... but I wouldn't mind seeing it." Harry tried to remember if he'd ever gone to see a film... and was reasonably certain he hadn't.
"Oh, good! I think you'll like it...." Bobbi grinned happily, before glancing around. "The rest of you are welcome to come, too, if you'd like..." she offered, not wanting anyone to feel excluded.
"Maybe next time..." Clint smiled at his kid sister, before nodding at Harry.
Pepper looked at Tony, then Harry, almost wistfully. "I wouldn't mind going to see it, but work beckons..." She sighed. It would be nice to have a date with her fiancé. The fact that their newly adopted son was going as well would have made it doubly nice.
"You could call in; take a day, Pep..." Tony cajoled, reaching over and playing with a lock of her hair, before glancing at Steve and Harry, hoping that they might help him convince her.
"We've talked already about you not over-working yourself," Steve commented to his daughter. "I think you can take a personal day."
"It would be nice..." Harry said, almost a bit wistfully.
Pepper gave her father a startled glance then slanted her head thoughtfully, before giving the three men an impish grin. "Yeah...I think I will...." She pulled out her phone to make certain there weren't any appointments that she absolutely couldn't miss (or that she might need to send someone in her place), then looked up. "Veronica, would you call my assistant and tell her I won't be in today and she should only interrupt me in case of impending company takeover or end of the world scenarios?"
Bobbi's eyes widened fractionally at that and she quickly reached over and rapped her fist on the table. "Don't say things like that! You know how our luck runs!" She laughed semi-nervously.
Harry's face lit up, even though he thought he shouldn't get his hopes up. He really did want to spend time with them, though... even if he still held a lot of fears; not only about what was going on with his body, but about if he really was wanted... if he would still be wanted even if he did recover.
Coulson smiled and wrapped an arm around his youngest daughter's shoulders, squeezing gently. "We could all do with some 'quiet' time." He knew how hard they'd been working to find intel on HYDRA... and other children the organisation might have taken.
Pepper couldn't help but smile at the look on Harry's face. It made her decision to take the day off so that she could join him at a movie that much more obviously the best choice. "I'm looking forward to it..." she said softly, reaching over and squeezing his wrist gently.
Bobbi snuggled closer to her father. She'd been with the family long enough now that she realized behaving in what some people might consider a childishly clingy way wasn't looked down on by the family, the parents more than willing to give every bit of affection their children felt the need of...and Bobbi seemed to need it frequently. "Maybe we could play cards or something tonight...?" she whispered into her father's ear, before kissing him on the cheek.
Harry relaxed, smiling back hesitantly. "Me too," he admitted quietly.
Coulson smiled, pressing a kiss to Bobbi's forehead. "I'd like that. I always like spending time together." His voice was gentle, affectionate and loving.
"Great! What time do we need to be ready, Bobbi-sox?" Tony grinned at his young cousin teasingly.
Bobbi wrinkled her nose at the nick-name. If it weren't for the fact she knew Tony only gave nick-names to those he cared about, she'd have got irritated. As it was, she was exasperatedly amused. "It's an 11:00 am showing, so we have about two hours before we need to be there..." she said with a laughing huff. "...and Bobbi-sox? Really?"
Grant leaned over and tickled his little sister, before giving her his own smile. "If you don't mind my joining in, I think the movie sounds interesting...."
Bobbi blinked and grinned. "I don't mind. So is it just the five of us, or does anyone else want to go too?" she asked the room at large.
Coulson gave his children a loving, affectionate look. "I think I'll join you," he said, always wanting to spend time with them... no matter what.
Thor turned to his father. "Have you seen what the Midgardians call movies, Father?" he asked curiously. "Perhaps you would find it entertaining."
"That would depend on your brothers." Odin looked at Loki and Mack, wanting to know what they thought.
Bobbi couldn't help herself. She bounced in place and clapped her hands, squealing. If her father always wanted to spend time with his children, the same could be said of his children wanting to spend time with him. Although his youngest was by far the most demonstrative of that fact.
Loki couldn't help but grin at his cousin's excitement then looked at his father. "If it interests you, I would enjoy going, father. It will give you an opportunity to see some of what we do in our free time...."
"Bobbi knows I love that movie, so I'd like to go..." Mack added with a grin.
Coulson smiled at the evidence (not that he needed it) of Bobbi wanting to spend the time with him. He kissed her cheek and squeezed her close to himself.
Odin nodded. "Then I would be interested in seeing the kinds of things you like to do here on Midgard," he said to his sons.
Kara glanced toward her own father, giving him a big eyed hopeful look. It wasn't necessarily that she wanted to see a movie, but a chance to be with her father sounded wonderful.
Fury rested his hand on his daughter's shoulder, squeezing gently. "Would you like to go and see the movie together? Or would you like us to do something else?" he asked, trusting his sons to let him know if they wanted to join him and their sister or not.
"Do you think...maybe...we could go to a ball game? Maybe?" Kara bit her lip, but smiled happily, pressing closer to her father.
Trip slanted his head. "I like that idea. Brock does, too, if the way he is nodding is any indication."
Fury included all three of his children in his smile. "I'm sure we can manage that. I'll ask Veronica to purchase the tickets for us."
"Thank you, daddy!" Kara's smile could have lit up the room and she threw herself into her father's arms, hugging him tightly.
Trip watched her, an affectionate if worried smile on his face. She'd been showing signs of being a bit more independent the last few weeks, being closer to being the emotionally mature person he knew she'd been before she'd been taken and brainwashed and it was hard to tell if this exuberance was just because she felt so safe and comfortable around her family that she didn't mind letting her guard down and being herself, something no one (with a rare few exceptions) ever had truly been before the fall of SHIELD (even before they knew HYDRA had been hiding in their midst); or if this was a sign that she was going into one of her 'childlike' phases. He supposed it didn't matter, other than if it was a regression of sorts, it would be nice to know what caused it. He glanced upward into his father's eyes, to see if Fury was worried as well. If his father wasn't worried, he'd relax.
Fury wrapped his arms around his daughter automatically, drawing her in close. He could see the worried look on his oldest son's face and he caught Trip's eye to give his son a reassuring smile. While he was fairly certain he knew why his son was concerned... he also knew that Kara was still needy emotionally at times. And he'd been honest when he told his daughter that she could be his little girl for as long as she needed to be.
Trip gave his father a faint nod and relaxed. If his father wasn't worried, he wouldn't worry. It wasn't like clinginess was a dangerous trait to have; well, as long as she was only clingy to her family. He glanced toward Odin, wondering what the Asgardian ruler thought about the chaos that was his family, immediate and extended.
Bobbi grinned as she glanced around the table. "The offer is open to any of you that want to go. I figure if we leave at 10:00, we'll get there in time to find parking, get snacks, find good seats...." She blinked as she looked down at her plate and realized she'd not only eaten everything she'd taken, but her brother had snuck her some extra fruit and she'd eaten it without even realizing. "Huh...guess I was hungrier than I thought..." she muttered in amusement and managed to stop Grant from sneaking another piece of fruit onto her plate.
May snorted at the antics of Coulson's two youngest then looked at her daughter. "What would you like to do? Join the movie brigade, go to a ball-game, or do something completely different?"
Odin had taken everything in and there was a look on his face that might have almost been wistful, were it not for the iron control he normally kept over himself. He remembered the easy way he and his sons had interacted when they were children... but also how much of a relief it was now that he had not only repaired his relationship with Loki, but now had a third son... even if Mack's life would be comparably shorter to those of his brothers.
Skye smiled at her mother. "I'm not really in the mood for a movie... maybe we could spend the day out and get some pampering done?" she suggested, a bit mischievously.
Lance grinned at Bobbi. "I'll join you all the next time you go to a movie," he said, having very little interest in the old-style movies. "I've got an appointment, anyway..." And he was the only one who knew said appointment was really 'had intel from one a contact about the hideout of a HYDRA agent'.
Wanda had finished what was on her plate and turned to Clint. "What are you planning to do, Papa?" she asked.
Mack chuckled, the excitement in the room contagious. He caught his father's eye and gave Odin an impish smile, but didn't say anything.
Loki got an impish grin on his face as well, leaning over and whispering not so softly to Mack, "Do you think a popcorn fight would be amiss? We want to introduce father to as many Midgardian customs as possible, after all...."
"I could do with some pampering. Let me call the spa and see if they have two spots for unexpected appointments..." May grinned at her daughter, standing and beginning to clear their dishes so that she could go make the call.
Bobbi slanted her head at Lance's announcement of an appointment. "Appointment? Is everything all right?" Her voice held concern. The only thing she could think someone would need an appointment for where they wouldn't just say what they were going to do is if it was for a doctor.
Bucky gave his son a confused and curious look as well. "Do you need me to go with you?" he asked, trying to keep his voice from sounding overly worried or parental.
"I don't really have any set plans. If you want to go see the movie with your aunt, we can do that. Or, if you prefer, we could go to this practice range I know of and I can teach you a bit on bow and arrow..." He wiggled his eyebrows comically at his daughter. "I think the range is also next door to a gymnasium, where we could go learn some acrobatics. I haven't flown through the air 'with the greatest of ease' in a while now...."
Odin couldn't fail to hear the comments made by his youngest sons... especially since Loki was leaning over him to address those comments to his brother. "I am not certain that having a food fight somewhere public is befitting two of my sons..." But there was a note of humour in his voice all the same.
Skye smiled and stood up to help clean her own dishes, wanting to spend time with her mother as fast as possible.
"It's not anything to worry about," Lance said. "Just my regular checkup with the doc." The lie tripped easily off his tongue, helped by the fact that Lance did have regular checkups with his doctor... just later in the year.
Wanda smiled, lighting up at the idea of being able to spend some time with her father, and glanced sideways at her twin. "Pietro? Are you going to come to the practice range and the gym?"
Pietro shrugged and then smiled at his sister. "Sounds good."
Loki straightened up, although he was still leaning slightly on his father, and grinned up at Odin. "That is true. A food fight in public is probably not a very good idea. We could save that for one of the movie nights here in the tower..." he teased.
Mack couldn't help but laugh at Loki's antics. It seemed like the younger Asgardian had lost a weight that had been weighing on him; and his happiness at his father's presence was causing him to behave much younger than he normally would. Although, hadn't Loki admitted in Asgardian terms he was still fairly young? Maybe he finally felt able to act his age....
Bucky narrowed his eyes; something seemed off with Lance's explanation, but he didn't want to draw attention to it until he'd had a chance to speak with his son privately. "Are you sure you don't want me to come with? We could go do something ourselves afterwards...."
Clint smiled at his daughter's happiness, then glanced at Natasha. "Are you going to go with Dad and the munchkins, or do you want to join me and the rug-rats?" His grin broadened at the wide-eyed, affronted looks on Bobbi, Grant and his own children's faces at the nicknames he'd given them.
Odin smiled and draped his arm casually around Loki's shoulders, no longer having to worry about his son not welcoming the contact. "I am certain there will be plenty of times you can introduce me to more Midgardian customs."
Lance nudged shoulders with his father, trying to reassure him... and draw attention away from his bald-faced lie. "It's not the first time I've had the checkup. But I can let you know when it's finished and we can still do something together," he suggested hopefully.
Natasha smiled at Clint. "I thought I'd go with Dad and the kids," she teased. "But if you'll be out for a while, maybe I'll join you later."
Grant wrinkled his nose and playfully pouted at Bobbi. "Did I somehow de-age again without knowing it?" he asked, in response to his older brother and sister's teasing.
"I dunno...I was wondering the same thing..." Bobbi laughed.
Clint grinned. "We should be out for a while. If you want to call when you are done at the movie, I can let you know if we are still at the same place or if we've moved on."
Loki nodded, enjoying the affection from his father. Thor was affectionate with him as well, so it wasn't like he never got any affection; but it was different when it was his father providing it. "I look forward to doing so."
Mack was still grinning when he stood up and began to gather his family's dishes. "It's good having you here, sir..." he said to Odin seriously.
Bucky let out a tiny sigh. He just knew Lance was hiding something, but he had no proof and nothing he could actually point at as a reason for his suspicion. Just his gut. He let it go and reached up to pat Lance on the back. "Alright...give me a call when you're through with your appointment and I can meet you; we can have lunch and then go do something fun."
Coulson smiled lovingly at his two youngest. "After we've cleaned up, we can figure out what we'd like to eat and drink in the theatre," he suggested, knowing that it would be easier all round to go there with a list already prepared. He wrapped an arm around Natasha's shoulders and squeezed her close a moment.
Natasha nodded. "Sounds good to me." She leaned into her father, her response to the affection alone indicating just how comfortable she felt with her family.
Odin held eye contact with his youngest son. "It's good to be here," he said, just as seriously.
Lance nodded and smiled. "Sure thing, Dad. Maybe we could have that picnic we were talking about?"
"Sounds good to me!" Grant said with a grin, standing up and beginning to gather nearby empty plates and cutlery, while Bobbi began to gather glassware from those who were finished eating.
Clint stood as well and began helping.
Tony glanced toward Steve. "Well, it looks like pretty much everyone has decided what they are going to do except you, dad. Are you going to go with us to the movie? Go with Uncle Nick to the ball game? Go to the spa with Melinda and mini-Mel?" Tony's grin was impish as he shot a wink in Skye's direction. He glanced at Bruce, wanting to ask if his brother and niece and nephew's would join them as well, but he suspected that Bruce wanted to get back to the puzzle that was Harry's disease. If he'd thought his presence would contribute to a cure, he'd be staying home working on it.
Bruce caught the look and smiled. "I've made arrangements to meet with Bryce to further talk over what we've discovered, what he's concluded and then work with our blood samples for something that will help Harry feel better. I don't think I'd be able to concentrate on anything else, really, as much as I love spending time with all of you, so I'm not going to even try." He chuckled slightly. "If Leo, Jemma and Peter want to join you, though, I'd be happy...." He glanced at his children with a fond smile.
Coulson began helping to clear the table as well, moving over to give a quick hug and kiss to all his children and grandchildren. His love and affection for his children were obvious.
"I thought I'd come with you to the movie," Steve answered, smiling at Tony. He looked at his other son. "Unless you'd like me to stay and help out with anything...?"
"I'm going to stay and help." Peter couldn't hide his worry about his friend and wasn't ready to relax... not until he was sure Harry could be saved.
"I'll stay and help, too!" Jemma added, wanting to help her new cousin as much as possible.
Bruce grinned at his two children then looked at his father. "Go to the movie and enjoy yourself, dad... I think I'll have plenty of help...."
With everyone pitching in, the dining room was soon spotless and all dirty dishes were washed, dried and put away and the leftovers (not that there were many with the appetites in the family) were stored. Tony let out a tiny breath then glanced at Pepper and Harry. "Why don't we go upstairs until it is time to meet for the movie?" he said quietly, thinking that some one on one time to get to know his new son better was always a good thing. He glanced at Steve, nodding his head to include him in his question.
Steve smiled and wrapped an arm around Tony's shoulder, squeezing gently, before doing the same to Pepper and Harry. "I think some one-on-one-time will be very good." He made eye contact with Bruce. "If you need me to come and help you at all... just let me know."
"Oh, believe me, dad...if I need help, I'll definitely call..." Bruce smiled as he wrapped an arm around both Jemma and Peter then glanced at Leo. "I hope you plan to join one of your family members and aren't planning to sit around by yourself..." he said, semi-teasingly. He wasn't sure Leo would want to join his siblings in helping to look for a cure, since he was more an engineer than a biologist; at the same time, he didn't want Leo to feel like he wasn't welcome to join them if he wanted.
"I was hoping I could help you out," Leo said to his father. "I know my specialty is engineering... but I'd still like to help out."
"Is there anything you'd like to do before we go?" Coulson quietly asked his children.
"Come along, then..." Bruce smiled at Leo, making it clear he wanted his older son to join in just as much as he wanted Jemma and Peter.
"Not really, daddy..." Bobbi said softly. "Just being with you is nice. Maybe you can tell us a bit more about when you were a kid..." Bobbi pressed closer to her father, laying her head on his shoulder.
Leo smiled and went willingly with his father and brother and sister.
Coulson smiled and kissed Bobbi's cheek. "I'm sure we can arrange that."
Lance waited quietly for the HYDRA spy to leave the hotel room and then used his credit card (that he kept simply for that purpose) to break into the room. He left the chain on the door, to give him some warning, and then began to quickly and carefully rifle through the papers he could find.
Bucky glanced at his watch for what had to be the twentieth time that hour. Of course, if Lance had really been at a doctor's appointment, it might be another hour before he called to say he was ready to meet his father. The problem was, Bucky was positive that Lance wasn't really at a doctor's appointment. He'd been tempted to follow the younger man- find out what he really was going to do that was so secret he felt the need to lie about it- but despite the fact he knew Lance had been lying, he didn't want his son to feel like Bucky didn't trust him. So, Bucky stayed in their apartment and waited. Of course, if he didn't hear from Lance by the time everyone else returned from their outings, all bets were off....
Lance quickly took photos of the information that seemed to be relevant, noticing a few details of a virus. It occurred to him that it might have been the same virus Grant was infected with and he made doubly sure that he got pictures of all the information.
As soon as he'd replaced the paperwork, Lance heard the sound of the chain rattling. He ran to the balcony, reflecting that at least there was a balcony, and climbed over, quickly shimmying down the drainpipe.
At least this wasn't the first time he'd done that.
Bucky glanced at his watch for the twenty-first time. Who was he kidding? He was worried and until he heard from Lance...no, until he saw his son safe... he wasn't going to be able to not worry. Picking up his phone, he dialed. Hearing his son would have to suffice. "C'mon, kid. Pick up..." he muttered.
Not quite clear of the balcony when he heard the footsteps, Lance had to stop just below it. He could see the shape of the HYDRA agent looming over... and then felt his phone beginning to vibrate. Cursing under his breath, Lance shifted position, in the hopes that he could muffle the sound, and waited for the agent to disappear, reflecting that at least he'd turned the volume down on his phone.
Bucky frowned as the phone went to voice mail. Something was wrong. He wasn't sure what, but his gut was screaming at him that Lance was in trouble. "Veronica...can you locate Lance? Tell me where he is?" he asked the AI, as he headed toward the elevator so he could go down to the garage and get one of the bikes.
It didn't take long for the AI to give him a location.
"Great. I'm headed there now. If his location moves, update me...." Bucky's order was full of worry.
"Of course, Sergeant," Veronica responded.
It was quickly becoming apparent to Lance that the HYDRA agent wasn't going back inside. Whether the man was suspicious or not, he continued to look over the balcony... and Lance's whole body vibrated with the tension as he held himself as still as possible. He was too high up to easily drop down and escape unscathed, so he didn't try it.
Bucky broke every traffic law imaginable to get to the location Veronica had given him, every instinct he had telling him he didn't have much time. Even so, when he pulled into the hotel parking area and glanced up, he hadn't expected to see his son dangling high above the asphalt. Swallowing hard, he counted windows and floors so he'd be able to find the correct room then headed into the hotel.
He didn't go to the floor of the balcony his son was hanging from, though. He went one floor below. Knocking on the door of the room he needed to enter, he waited just long enough to confirm no one was inside before he quickly shorted out the lock so he could open the door. Within seconds, he was stepping out onto the balcony and reaching toward his son. He wanted to say something encouraging, but was afraid the HYDRA agent would hear...so he kept quiet.
Lance wasn't unaware of the balcony below him becoming occupied and a glance down revealed that his father was there. Carefully, he began edging backwards, so he could drop into his dad's arms when he released, his arms beginning to ache from the strain.
Bucky moved forward as far as he was able, getting a good grip on Lance so that he could pull him back as soon as his son let go. He squeezed gently to let Lance know he was ready.
Trusting his father completely, Lance let go with a barely audible sigh of relief as the strain disappeared from his arms.
As soon as he felt Lance dropping, Bucky was tightening his grip and pulling him back more securely into his arms. As soon as he was certain Lance was securely on the balcony, Bucky shifted his grip so that he was holding the younger man in a tight hug. "You are in so much trouble when we get home," he whispered into Lance's ear, the relief in his voice palpable.
Lance thought he should probably be nervous about that... but he was more relieved that his father had come when he had and he wrapped his arms around Bucky just as tight in return. "I'm sorry," he said softly, now having the chance to feel guilt.
Bucky just held his son tightly for a few more moments, before he whispered gruffly, "Let's get out of here before they realize we're here." Carefully, he led Lance back into the room and closed the balcony, so the room's occupant wouldn't see it, then led him out of the room and shut the door, making sure it was locked. They'd have to get the hotel to let them in, but since he'd taken care to leave everything where it had been, they'd just assume the electronic lock had malfunctioned. "C'mon..." He quickly pulled Lance with him, down the stairs and to his bike, where he handed the younger man a helmet, then got on the bike and started it, waiting for Lance to get on behind
Lance followed his father obediently, without saying a word. He took the helmet and quickly climbed onto the bike behind his father, wrapping his arms around Bucky's waist and holding onto him.
Bucky managed to obey all the traffic laws on the way back home; his son was safe now, so there wasn't a good reason to risk drawing the attention of law-enforcement, or anyone else that might be watching. Even so, they made good time and were soon pulling into the garage. Bucky turned off the bike and just sat on it for a few moments longer, before asking, "Veronica, are any of the rest of the family back from their trips yet?" He wanted to take care of things with Lance as soon as possible. At the same time, he had left rather quickly and while Bruce hadn't called him to find out what was up, he knew the other man had seen him rushing out with what was likely a frantic look on his face. There would be questions. He glanced at Lance as he swung his leg over the cycle so he could stand.
"We need to discuss what you did...is what you did something that needs to be explained to the whole family? I know at least one person is going to want to know why I rushed out of the tower. If there is something that needs to be explained to everyone, we can hold off our discussion until everyone is present, so you only have to explain once. Or you can explain to me, we take care of things, and then you can tell everyone else later." Bucky had to take a deep breath when he thought about the situation he'd found his son in. Part of him hoped Lance wanted to tell everyone else first and then return to their apartment for Bucky to deal with him; every time he thought of the situation his son had been in, his emotions spiked and he needed to calm down again. He didn't feel quite ready to deal with his son's actions, but he didn't want to put things off for too long, either.
Lance slowly got off the bike, even as he thought about his father's question. "I think... it's intel the rest of the family are going to need to know as fast as possible," he said, his voice soft... knowing how much he'd worried and hurt his father. "I was taking pictures of the information... mostly... but I saw details about the virus Grant was infected with. I think HYDRA's preparing to release it."
Bucky's glance at his son sharpened at the information. Nodding briskly, he moved to stand next to Lance Gently but firmly taking his son's arm in hand, he walked to the elevator. "Veronica? Who is back from their trip? We need to meet with everyone on the common floor as soon as everyone is available...." He glanced at Lance. "In the meantime, I'd like Bruce to take a quick look at you, to make certain you didn't get injured while you were hanging from the ledge...."
"All of the family members have returned from their outings, Sergeant," the AI replied.
"I think I got a bit scraped up," Lance admitted. "But I'm not in a lot of pain, so it probably wasn't serious." He wasn't arguing against his father, though.
"Thank you, Veronica. Could you have them all meet Lance and I in the common room in thirty minutes? And let Bruce know I'm heading his way now and would like him to do a quick check of Lance to make certain he wasn't injured? I want to be sure he didn't sprain or tear a muscle in his arm from having to hang there for so long...." Bucky stepped onto the elevator, careful not to tug on him too roughly, but still obviously in control of where they were going. Soon, they were stepping off the elevator and into the lab, where Bruce and his three children stood with Bryce.
"Something happen?" Bruce looked at his cousin with a raised eyebrow.
"I found him hanging off a balcony, several stories above the pavement. I just want to make sure all he has are scrapes and that he didn't strain or tear anything..." Bucky said calmly. Now that he was in a position where he could get help for his son if Lance needed it, he was able to calm down much more quickly than he had been able to. He gently pushed his son toward Bruce, so that the other man could check him over.
"Is your hanging off a balcony, the reason we've been called to the common room for a meeting?" Jemma asked Lance curiously, as she handed her father the scanner that would enable him to look under the skin for any unseen injuries.
Lance didn't fight or protest being pushed towards Bruce and stood still, allowing the doctor to check him over. The only part of his body he moved was his mouth... as he answered Jemma's question. "I was... spying on a HYDRA agent." There was a sheepish look on his face... and the glance he directed at his father was guilt-filled.
Jemma's eyes widened slightly, but she didn't say anything more.
Bruce just shook his head as he ran the scanner over Lance. "I don't see anything in any of my scans. He might be a bit sore tomorrow from having to use those muscles, but they aren't damaged. Just let me put some antibiotic cream on the scrapes on your hands and we can all head up to the common floor...." Bruce started out speaking to Bucky, but ended up giving direction to Lance.
Bucky let out a relieved breath. "That's good to know..." he said, by way of thanks.
As soon as Bruce was finished, he motioned toward everyone to head toward the elevator. "Let's go and have this meeting, then...."
Lance continued to stand quietly as his hands were treated and then he also began walking towards the elevator. He moved to stay close to Bucky, casting a sideways glance at his father and trying to read if his dad didn't want him close or not. While Lance knew he should be more confident in his relationship with his father... times like these were more difficult for him to read.
Bucky moved onto the elevator with the other five, putting his arm around Lance and pulling him close. It didn't take long for them to reach the common floor and soon Bucky was leading all of them into the family room where everyone else was waiting.
Lance leaned against his father, not really wanting to leave his side even when they reached the family room... though he did straighten up as he looked around at the rest of the family. "I got some intel about a HYDRA agent staying in a hotel not far from here." He got that in the open straight away.
Bucky waited to see if anyone else commented, before he stepped in.
"What kind of information?" Kara asked curiously. "Are we going to go pick them up to question?"
"I'm not sure taking him in for questioning would be wise." Lance took out his phone that he'd used to take the photos. "I took pictures of the documents, so as not to raise any suspicions... and from what I did manage to see, I think HYDRA might be close to a release of that virus." He handed the phone over to Coulson, so the other man could look at what he'd found.
Bruce, knowing that Lance had been hurt and that Bucky was upset, asked, "Are you sure the HYDRA agent didn't see you?" He moved to stand next to Coulson, so he could look at the information as well; information on the virus was important, if only to see if he'd missed something in all his research that might cause problems later.
"The agent might have seen you?" Bobbi sounded worried; not that Lance had been followed home...the tower was the most secure place in the world...but afraid her ex might have put himself onto HYDRA's radar and encouraged attempts on him when he wasn't in the tower. She glanced at Bucky, her eyes scared.
"I got over the balcony before the agent came fully back into the room and although he did come out onto the balcony and possibly knew someone had been there... I was under the balcony and out of view," Lance answered.
As he clicked through the pictures to the ones pertaining to the virus, Coulson handed the phone to Bruce so he could take a look.
"If he knew someone had been in the room, SHIELD will probably be the obvious culprit anyway," Steve said. He didn't say anything about the fact that Lance had obviously gone off on his own, since he had no doubts his brother would be dealing with that.
"Believing a faceless SHIELD agent broke in and snooped is different than knowing exactly which SHIELD agent." Bobbi's voice was still worried, but slightly less so when she looked at Bucky and realized that, while the man was worried, he didn't seem to be worried about anyone specifically targeting Lance.
Bucky gave his niece a tiny smile. "The HYDRA agent didn't see our faces...and we were careful to avoid video cameras, so him finding out later should be impossible. Any other issues have been or will be taken care of, so you really don't need to worry."
Bobbi relaxed noticeably then blushed when she realized she was reacting like a scared wife; something she didn't really have the right to act like anymore. "Sorry..." she whispered in Lance's direction.
Bruce looked through the photos before glancing up. "While I might recommend having an actual team go in next time, this information might be exactly what I've needed to complete the vaccine to that virus we've been attempting to make. This is really big!"
Bucky looked through them as well. "Look at this...it seems to indicate a location for a secret lab...."
Lance just gave Bobbi what he hoped was a reassuring smile. After all, if their positions had been reversed, he'd be just as worried and show it just as much.
"If the lab is where they're keeping the vaccine, hitting there will take out at least some of their stock," Fury said. While people needed to be protected against the virus in case it was released, preventing it from being released in the first place was the better option.
"So we'll be going on a mission soon?" Trip grinned wolfishly.
Mack gave his cousin an equally wolfish grin. "Count me in...."
Coulson smiled at the enthusiasm from his two nephews, knowing that all of them wanted to prevent the virus from being released... as well as being antsy about not having missions. "We'll work out the details and get the mission planned as soon as possible," he said.
"Yeah...ok" Brock nodded, anxious to go and find what they needed to put a stop to the viral threat that had been hanging over their heads since they'd first discovered Grant had been infected.
Grant smiled crookedly. "It will be good to know that we stopped this particular threat at least...."
Fury glanced at Coulson. "I can help you check through the images... see if there's anything else about any of HYDRA's other plans." What he really meant was looking for more information about any of the children HYDRA had taken and brainwashed, as well as other agents... though he didn't say that.
Matt glanced at his father. "I'd like to be included in whatever group is sent out..." he said quietly, not sure if Sam would object after the last stunt he'd pulled. He swallowed, trying not to act too guilty, although it was difficult. He felt guilty for what he'd put Sam through and they still hadn't fully addressed his actions. He couldn't help but be worried he'd messed his relationship with his father up, despite Sam's claims to the contrary.
Sam rested his hand on Matt's shoulder. "When it comes to the time, we'll figure out what the best plan is, but I'm sure everyone will keep in mind that you'd like to be part of it." As long as Matt didn't endanger himself, Sam figured his son could be included in the mission as soon as they were ready.
Matt smiled crookedly and nodded, leaning naturally toward his father. Any sign of affection, at this point, helped him feel like maybe he didn't need to worry about pushing his father away. It didn't help with the guilt, but it helped alleviate his fears.
Sam wrapped his arm around Matt's shoulders, automatically drawing his son in close to him and gently rubbing over his shoulder.
"Unless we need to discuss anything else, I think we can end this meeting for the time being," Coulson said. "As soon as we have a plan in mind... we'll figure out the teams and what everyone will be doing."
Bucky nodded. "In that case, if you'll excuse me, my son and I need to have a private conversation." He motioned for Lance to follow him as he turned to head for the elevator.
Matt couldn't help but hear the tone in Bucky's voice and found himself feeling very sympathetic toward his cousin. He swallowed hard.
Lance took a deep breath and followed his father towards the elevator, trying not to look like a kid about to get punished by daddy... even though that was technically what he was.
Bucky stepped onto the elevator and, as soon as Lance was close enough, pulled him in tight to his side and wrapped an arm around his shoulders. "We'll discuss what you should have done and what you shouldn't have done and then we'll put it behind us," he said gently.
Lance instantly leaned on his father, having not even realised how much he needed the physical demonstration of Bucky's affection until then. "I'm sorry." His voice was quiet and guilt-filled. He wasn't trying to get out of his punishment... but he wanted to make sure his father knew that he was sorry.
Bucky immediately pulled Lance in more tightly, leaning in and kissing his forehead. "I know you are. I'm also pretty sure you know where you went wrong; but just in case...can you tell me what you did that you shouldn't have? And what you should have done instead?" He carefully led Lance off the elevator and into their apartment, taking him into the living room and sitting down on the couch, tugging his son down beside him.
Lance sat next to his father, shifting in close to him. "I... well, the first thing was that I shouldn't have lied to you," he said quietly. "I should have told you I was meeting with a contact... and then I should have told you what the contact said. And I shouldn't have gone looking for information on my own, without a word to anyone... no matter how restless and useless I was feeling."
Bucky nodded gently to everything Lance said, but at the last words, he wrapped his arm around the younger man and squeezed. "I hope you know that you aren't useless..." His voice was firm. "But you are right that you should have been upfront about everything and not gone on your own. I could have gone with you after we formed a plan and at least let Steve know what we were doing. There was no reason to hide things from me and go by yourself...."
He swallowed hard. "When I saw you hanging from that balcony, I was terrified that I was going to lose you...that I'd watch you plummet to your death and I couldn't do anything. I wouldn't be able to get there in time."
Lance immediately moved closer to his father. "I'm sorry I scared you," he said quietly. "I'm just... I was used to doing things on my own before and it's been hard to just wait around, while knowing what HYDRA's been doing."
"I know it's hard and when you're used to going things on your own, remembering not to is difficult as well. That's why I'm going to do my best to help you remember..." Bucky glanced at his son. "I'm going to spank you, but then it will be over and behind us; no dwelling on it. Ok?" He spoke softly but firmly, not expecting any argument.
Lance nodded... though it still bothered him that his father felt the need to do this. "Okay," he said, his own voice soft. "I just... hate not being able to do anything."
"But see...that's where you're wrong...." Bucky smiled. "There are lots of things you can do...just not by yourself and not without letting those in charge know what you want to do." He hugged Lance close and kissed the top of his head again.
Lance nodded and wrapped his arms around his father, pressing closer to Bucky for a second or two. "I just want to stop them," he said quietly. "It's like we're always waiting for HYDRA's next move."
"I know...I feel the same way. But we do what we can..." Bucky said softly, rubbing Lance's back gently.
Lance nodded and sighed. "Sometimes it doesn't feel like enough," he admitted.
"I know. It's not easy. Still, you don't go to take care of things alone without telling anyone else." Bucky's voice was sympathetic, but stern.
Lance nodded. "I know, Dad." He hugged tighter a moment or two and then sat up, waiting for his father to position him.
Bucky knew that his son knew what he'd done wrong and there wasn't really anymore else to say or explain. Not wanting to drag things out any longer, that wasn't fair to the boy, he gently tugged until he had Lance positioned over his lap, then quickly and efficiently bared Lance. Rubbing his son's back gently for a moment, Bucky finally raised his hand and let it fall with a sharp swat against the bare skin. He waited for a few seconds for the first swat to be felt before raising his hand and letting it fall again, landing slightly below where the first swat had landed. "I love you, Lance. I don't want to lose you to something that can be prevented...." he said brusquely, his voice catching as he thought again about seeing his son hanging so far above the ground and not able to get to a safer spot because the HYDRA agent was above him.
Lance winced at the first smack, automatically reaching down to grab onto his father's leg. He tried to hold back a whimper at the second... but hearing his father's voice catch and knowing he was the cause of that made it nearly impossible.
Steeling himself against the sounds his was making (this wasn't something he could let go with a token punishment), Bucky continued swatting Lance, making sure to cover every bit of his backside and upper thighs, keeping the swats firm but not too harsh.
Lance couldn't hold still for very long and within a few moments, he was shifting over his father's lap, clenching his fingers so he wouldn't let go and throw his hand back. His eyes began to water fast, from guilt more than the spanking.
Bucky tugged Lance closer and tighter to his torso so that the younger man wouldn't shift himself onto the floor, beginning a second round of the firm swats. "I appreciate the initiative in looking up information and finding a possible source of intel. But next time, you will tell myself, or Steve, or Phil, or Nick before you go off on your own to get that intel. You will allow us to form a plan and have back-up available for you, so that you are in the least amount of danger possible. You will allow us to know what is going on, so that we can reach you quickly and help if things go wrong...if my gut hadn't been screaming at me this afternoon, things could have ended much differently. I had to ask Veronica to track your phone to find you. If I'd been even a few minutes later than I was, you might not have survived. That's not acceptable, son..." His voice broke again and he had to take a deep breath to keep his emotions in check.
The tears began to slip down his cheeks and Lance couldn't hold back a sob. "I'm sorry..." His voice was soft... almost as if it was about to break. His hand flew back... though not because he was trying to stop the punishment; because he needed the contact with his father.
Bucky stopped long enough to carefully take Lance's hand in the hand he was using to hold him in place, gently moving it so that it was against the small of Lance's back. He continued to hold his son's hand as he continued swatting, working his way back down to upper thigh again. "I know you are and as soon as we're done here, it will be behind us, not hanging over your head..." His voice was gentle, if gruff from his own high emotion. The sob told him that Lance was almost to the point he needed to be, so as soon as he had reached upper thigh again, he gently tipped his son forward and began to target the more sensitive sit spots, smacking just as firmly, although not as hard as he could have.
Lance slumped over his father's lap, beginning to cry. Although he wasn't sobbing loudly, it was still audible... and although he hadn't been actively fighting the punishment, even his squirming stopped by then.
At feeling Lance go still and hearing his cries, Bucky immediately stopped, gently tugging until he held his son tightly on his lap, holding him close and kissing his forehead. "It's over...you've been punished and we can move forward now...I've got you..." he whispered softly, soothingly, trying to calm his son down.
Lance immediately latched onto his father, wrapping his arms around Bucky and holding on tight. He took a deep breath, the sobs beginning to die down... even if he was still crying. "I'm sorry... I'll do better next time," he promised.
"I know you will..." Bucky agreed easily, hugging tighter and kissing his son on the top of his head.
It took a little while, but Lance finally calmed enough so that he could pull back long enough to replace his clothing... but then he returned to the comfort his father offered. For all he tried to pretend he was well-adjusted... he knew that he was still affected by hurting or upsetting his father.
Bucky just pulled Lance in closer and offered as much comfort at his son was willing to accept. "I love you, son..." he said quietly.
"I love you, Dad." Lance pressed in as close as he could get. "I'm sorry I hurt you," he whispered. "I promise I'll be more careful."
"I'm just thankful you weren't hurt..." Bucky said softly. "I'll hold you to that promise...." He continued holding Lance content to just be with his son. He wasn't sure how long they sat there- it was a while- when he finally asked, "You want to go to the common floor...see if anyone wants to play cards? We never got to do anything fun with each other."
Lance nodded. "I like the sound of that," he replied. "It'll be nice to be able to relax for a while." And he could relax without feeling useless.
"Let's go, then." Bucky slowly released Lance and stepped back before gently directing him out of their apartment and to the elevator, heading back to the common floor.
Bruce glanced at his children...he and all three of them had gone back to the labs after the impromptu meeting they'd had regarding the information Lance had found. He'd set Jemma and Leo to work on the new information regarding the virus, while he, Peter and Bryce continued on finding a cure for Harry. He blinked at the slide he was staring at, before turning toward Peter and Bryce. "Second opinion...is this sample doing what I think it is doing?"
Bryce stepped forward immediately, taking a look at the slide, before moving back to let Peter take a look as well. "It seems the samples taken from those here in the tower contain elements that are attacking the mutation in Harry's blood."
Peter stepped back after taking his own look. "It looks that way to me... that was the combined samples, right?"
"It was a combination of all the original samples we took...plus the small amount that I took from Matt after he'd healed some. All other combinations did nothing...all of them together did this! I'm going to take our results to Harry and his parents. So they can decide if they want to try it." Bruce's voice was calm although it was clear the discovery had him excited. "Veronica, can you have Harry, Tony and Pepper meet us in the medical wing? And Steve, if Harry doesn't mind?"
"Of course, Doctor Banner," the AI replied, informing the family members of that request.
"What do you think it was about Matt's blood that made the antidote work?" Jemma asked curiously. "I didn't think he had super-serum or extremis or any other oddity in his blood that gave him powers....although his ability to see things without actually seeing them would indicate something different about him...." she mused thoughtfully, as they waited for everyone else to arrive.
"He said he healed fast," Peter commented. "I don't know what happened to him... but I know my abilities developed after being exposed to radiation."
At that moment, the other family members began to arrive. Having checked with his grandson, Steve had joined the group.
Bruce looked at all of them then focused on Harry. "Harry...we've tried numerous combinations for the blood that we drew from the family and actually found one that seems to be fighting the illness in your blood. We've tried it numerous ways and at various different temperatures and the result is always the same; this particular combination always fights the illness. Now...because the only other known instance of this illness was observed in your father, we don't have a lot of information to go on. And there is no guarantee that it will work if we inject you with it. There are always risks...but this is the first sign that we've seen anything can stop the illness, so I'm feeling optimistic. The question I have is, are you willing to use this injection, despite not knowing if it will actually work or if it might make things worse? The decision is yours...."
Harry listened quietly and then hesitantly glanced at his parents. "I..." He stopped, hesitated then continued, "If it's left untreated... I think the end result would still be fatal. I'm not sure there's much of a choice other than to try it..." He looked nervous, but also determined to see this through.
Tony nodded, looking relieved at Harry's answer. He'd pretty much come to the same conclusion. "Let's do it, then...Is doing it now feasible, or do you need to complete a few more things and want to schedule for later this week?" He glanced at Bryce, to see if the healer had anything to add.
"I feel we could realistically do it now," Bryce said. He didn't say it, but if any of the others thought they should wait... he wouldn't protest it.
"Ok, then. If you're sure...Jemma, could you bring the vaccine?" Bruce turned to his daughter, who had already prepped the syringe with the antidote and was also gathering antiseptic wipes.
Handing the syringe to her father and then carefully swabbing the site where Harry would receive the shot, Jemma gave her cousin a crooked grin. "You might feel a tiny pinch, but dad's really good at giving shots, so it shouldn't hurt...." she said softly.
Tony smiled at his niece, only refraining from ruffling his hand through her hair because he had his arm around Harry and wasn't inclined to move it.
Pepper squeezed her son's hand gently, then stepped back so that Bruce could get close enough to work. It didn't take long for the doctor to give his nephew the antidote. "Now we wait and see?" Pepper asked hesitantly.
Bruce nodded. "Now we wait and see. So...why don't we all go to the family floor and give everyone else an update and just relax together?"
Harry held still as the injection was given and then stood up, sticking close to his parents.
"If you notice anything, you need to let one of us know," Steve said to Harry. "As soon as possible."
Harry nodded. "I will..."
Bruce motioned everyone to head out while he put away the supplies...then followed behind. Soon, they were all heading to the common floor.
Harry walked alongside his father, his mind turning over. "So... is Lance grounded?" he asked, having been wondering about that... and what he'd seen of Sam and Matt; though he'd been able to see Lance was obviously in trouble.
Tony blinked then gave a sideways glance towards his son. "I don't know. If he is, he needs to be the one to tell you, though, as it would be between him and his father. It isn't unusual for a parent to ground one of their children if the child in question has done something that was unnecessary and could have led to their death...You can bet if you ever do something that is completely unnecessary and that could cause you to die, grounding would be the least of the consequences you'd receive." His voice was teasing, but serious at the same time.
An uncertain look came over Harry's face. "What... consequences would there be?" he asked, wondering if he should have asked about that before agreeing so readily to the adoption... though he wasn't sure he could have made another choice.
Tony glanced at Pepper, then at his brother and niece and nephews, then at his own father, letting his glance fall over the Asgardian healer briefly, before he finally turned to face Harry fully. "If you ever deliberately put your life in danger and there wasn't a very good reason for it? I'd spank you. Taking unnecessary chances with your life is not acceptable, will never be acceptable and will always get you those results. That's the way the entire family handles things, not just me. That's how dad handles things..." Tony couldn't help the tiny wince, remembering his own moments of deliberate stupidity, and blushed as he gave his father a tiny smile.
Harry's mouth dropped open and he stared at Tony, not sure how to respond to that. He looked almost like he thought his father was joking. "That's a thing here? Really?"
"It's generally private between the individual family members involved, but it's not exactly a secret." Steve rested his hand on Tony's shoulder, squeezing gently.
Bruce managed to keep his grin from covering his face, although he didn't hide it completely. Having already had this conversation with Peter, albeit in a less crowded spot (he likely would have told Harry to wait until they were in their own apartment before he answered questions, but Tony always had been straightforward, bite the bullet, no matter how uncomfortable, in his interactions with people), he was sympathetic to the uncomfortable position of both Tony and Harry. So he helped his brother out. "It's a thing...like dad said; it's just usually not brought up in conversation unless those who have been on the receiving end choose to say something about it."
"Hey..." Tony placed an arm around Harry and pulled him closer, whispering into his ear, not wanting to embarrass him if it could be avoided (although he was fairly certain his father and probably Bruce and the Asgardian could still hear him), "...If the situation ever comes up between us and you really can't handle a spanking, we'd figure something else out. A spanking is relatively painless and allows things to be taken care of quickly so that it can be put behind you...but I'd never force you to accept one if you were vehemently opposed." He kissed the side of Harry's head and squeezed his shoulders.
Harry relaxed into the contact, feeling safe... and the affection went a long way towards easing his nerves. "...I guess it's better than being frozen out..." he said quietly.
"Yeah...That will never happen," Tony promised. Having grown up feeling like he didn't really matter to his father (even if he found out later that his father actually had cared, it didn't really help that much when he thought of all the lost time), he knew he would never just ignore Harry, or shut him out whenever something happened that irritated him.
Pepper reached over and took Harry's hand, giving it a gentle squeeze before letting go so that he could get off the elevator with everyone else. They'd reached the common floor. Bruce led the way, walking in and glancing around at everyone else who was milling around, either talking or playing cards. Glancing at Harry, he raised an eyebrow, asking without words if Harry wanted to tell everyone else what had just occurred, or if he wanted Bruce to, or if he wanted to keep it quiet for a bit longer.
Harry pressed a bit closer to Tony, still a bit hesitant when there were so many people around... even though being paid attention to was infinitely preferable to being ignored. "Could you explain?" he asked his uncle quietly.
Bruce nodded. "Yeah, kid. I'll let everyone know." His voice was soft and he gave a tiny smile to his nephew, even as he wrapped one arm around his daughter and the other around his youngest son, reaching over and grasping his older son's shoulder to lead all three of them into the main family room. He waited until the others had entered in behind them and everyone had found a seat before addressing the room at large. "Well, there is good news. We believe we found a cure for Harry...using the antibodies and elements found in the blood we gathered from several of us." He glanced at Bucky, Grant and Matt as he said this. "We will be keeping a close eye on Harry for the next several weeks to make sure there aren't any unexpected outcomes, but...I think we found it. I think we found the cure." He glanced toward his nephew and gave him another smile.
Matt perked up at that, turning his face toward the younger man. "That's great...I'm glad they were able to find something that worked..." he said emphatically. He was obviously happy for Harry, although there was an undercurrent of unhappiness in his mood. Anyone who'd been around him for any length of time could tell he felt guilty about something and was trying to not let it show, not wanting to rain on anyone else's parade or bring the mood down.
Grant shot Matt a sympathetic, if unseen glance, then turned his full attention to Harry and grinned. "Wonderful....I'm glad I could help in some small way...."
Harry smiled. "It all helped," he said softly.
Sam wrapped an arm around Matt's shoulders, squeezing gently. "I think we should go and talk," he said softly to him.
Tony grinned and clapped his hands together. "I was thinking, by way of celebration, we could order in an enormous amount of pizzas, play Charades, Twister and other various group games and maybe end with one of Harry's favorite movies. Anyone else up for that?" He avoided looking toward Matt and Sam, wanting to give them some small amount of privacy; plus, he figured they'd be returning to the group eventually. (It was fairly obvious Matt needed some TLC from his dad... or maybe some LC, since the T wasn't likely to be present for part of it.)
Matt bit his lip and swallowed. "Yeah, ok..." he whispered to his father and moved closer so that Sam could lead him out of the room.
Coulson smiled. "That sounds good to me. I can put the order in, if everyone else would like to start setting up one of the games."
Sam wrapped his arm around Matt's shoulders, guiding him towards the elevator, holding his son tight to himself.
"I've got them!" Bobbi piped up, heading toward the closet where they stored all the 'family' games.
Kara followed along behind. "I'll help!"
"Want me to take orders down for everyone, so we know what kinds of pizzas? Or do you think you'll just order a large variety to choose from?" Grant asked his father.
"I think ordering a variety of large pizzas would be better... and I think I have an idea of what everyone likes." Coulson smiled.
Matt swallowed hard as they stepped onto the elevator and the doors closed, separating him and his father from the rest of the family. His breathing increased fractionally. He was trying not to get worked up...trying being the operative word. As guilty as he felt and as much as he believed he deserved something for the actions he'd pulled...he was becoming more and more nervous.
Sam kept his arm around Matt, even as they waited for the elevator to reach their floor. When it did, he guided his son off and into the living area, sitting down and gently tugging his son down with him.
Matt couldn't help the tiny snort that escaped him when he sat, even as he leaned closer to his father, as if seeking comfort. "How many times am I going to be in this position for the same damn thing?" he whispered in obvious exasperation at himself. "I never meant to be such a problem for you..." he added morosely, his guilt rising as his voice fell.
Sam tugged Matt in close, wrapping his arms tight around his son. "You aren't a problem for me," he replied. "When something happens, we'll deal with it and move on. I still want you as much as ever, kid. I still love you."
"I love you too, dad..." Matt whispered, pressing his face against Sam's shoulder. "...Never thought I'd be shown your love quite so often...but...I'm grateful you still want me...." His voice was a mixture between amusement, chagrin and resignation to his fate. There was also a hint of relief vying with the guilt that he obviously still felt.
"I do want you, son. That's never going to change. I promise that." Sam kissed Matt's head and then spoke softly. "Are you ready to get this over with?"
"Yes sir..." Matt said softly, nodding, before sitting up enough that Sam could direct his movements.
Sam hugged his son once more and then gently moved him over his lap, tugging Matt's pants and underwear down. He rubbed his son's back gently a moment or two and then brought his hand down in the first sharp swat before repeating it.
Matt couldn't be certain if it was the position itself or the fact that, due to his heightened senses, he could 'feel' more than most people would to make up for his lack of sight, but being over his father's knee- the cold air brushing bared skin and the very faint whoosh of air right before the sharp pain of the swat was felt- had a way of bringing out a vulnerable nervousness that only escaped being fear because Matt trusted Sam implicitly. Even with that trust, he couldn't stop himself from grasping Sam's ankle tightly and shivering, tiny whimpers escaping as he was punished. He did his best not to tense up, but that just meant he couldn't stop himself from wriggling at the discomforting heat that was already beginning to build.
Sam settled quickly into a rhythm of swats, landing them down to mid-thigh before he started over from the top. It was then that he started speaking quietly. "I know you're used to doing your own thing, Matt, but that isn't acceptable. You put yourself in danger when it wasn't necessary. I could have lost you."
"I...I know, sir...I didn't mean to...I didn't think about it...I know that's wrong too, but it wasn't...I didn't mean..." Matt swallowed and stopped speaking; not only because he was finding it difficult to speak, but because he wasn't sure exactly what to say. He knew he'd done wrong; he wouldn't have been feeling so guilty if he hadn't known.
"I love you, kid." Sam continued the hard swats, though they served as an emphasis for what he was saying as much as anything else. "I don't want to lose you. I can't lose you. When something happens, I'm not going to shut you out. I'm not going to regret adopting you and making you part of my life. What will happen is this... and we'll figure out how to get you out of the habit of a lifetime."
"I...I believe you! I love you too....and I'm sorry! I'm so sorry, dad..." Matt cried out, tears running down his face. "I'm sorry I didn't think...I'm sorry I make you worry and scared about me...I'm just so sorry." Matt had been doing okay, other than squirming, but Sam's words had reached him and between the guilt he'd been feeling and the knowledge of how Sam felt, he suddenly found himself unable to breathe through the tears. He grasped at Sam, trying to calm down but finding it very difficult, if not impossible.
Sam stopped spanking and immediately brought his son up and into his arms, wrapping them tightly around Matt and hugging him tightly. "I love you, son," he reiterated. He didn't voice how scared he'd been when Matt had collapsed... though everyone had been able to see that.
Matt burrowed against his father's chest, holding on as tightly as he could, his body shaking as he cried out all the guilt and remorse, all the uncertainty and fear. "...Love you..." he managed to gasp out, the few times he attempted to talk.
He still wasn't used to having someone care about and love him who was able to step in and make him pay attention or listen. The relief that he hadn't pushed Sam away with his thoughtlessness was staggering. He took several gulping breaths, before finally going limp and lying boneless in his father's arms. He needed to literally feel that his father still wanted him and had him.
Sam hugged his son tighter, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. "I'm glad you're safe. I love you," he repeated. His relief that his son was safe was obvious... but so was the fear, in that he was still holding Matt tightly.
"I'm sorry..." Matt mumbled against his father's chest, even as he snuggled closer, Sam's tight hold calming him the rest of the way. He felt drained, not inclined to move unless he absolutely had to. He thought maybe he should feel ashamed, sitting half-naked on his father's lap like a needy toddler- that he should get up and clean up and act like the adult he purported to be; but the last couple of days had been hard, between the guilt and the worry that he'd messed everything up. He didn't have the energy to do more than hold onto his father. "I'm sorry..." he mumbled again, this time for his inability to act his age.
Sam pressed another kiss to Matt's head. "Don't apologize for needing the comfort," he said, pretty sure he knew what was bothering his son. "There's nothing wrong with you."
Sniffling slightly, his voice shaky, Matt let out a tiny laugh. "You sure about that? Nothing feels normal anymore, if it ever did...." He swallowed hard, snuggling a bit more before reluctantly crawling off his father and fixing his clothing. He then rubbed at his eyes, feeling a way lot younger than he thought he had a right to. "I love you, dad..." he said hoarsely, taking in a slow, deep breath, but not moving any further away than he'd moved to fix his clothes. The neediness was unsettling; he'd been too used to taking care of himself and doing things alone and now that he wasn't allowed to, he found himself torn between wanting to fight for his independence and wanting to crawl back onto his father's lap for a cuddle.
Sam reached out and gently tugged his son towards him once more, settling Matt on his lap and in his arms. "I love you, son. There's nothing wrong with being close to me. I know you don't see in the conventional sense... but I'm sure you haven't missed the way everyone here is affectionate. You shouldn't ever feel uncomfortable with me."
Matt relaxed as he slowly began to realize Sam meant it and that he didn't need to be ashamed of needing comfort or affection. He didn't have to be a rock...not all the time. To his chagrin, his eyes began watering again, but he didn't attempt to hide it this time or attempt to pull away. "Dunno what's wrong with me..." he muttered softly, sniffling once more. "...Never thought I was starved for affection before...but now I can't seem to get enough..." He huffed slightly as he pressed as close to his father as he was able.
Sam tightened his embrace, pressing another kiss to his son's head. "There's nothing wrong with you, though I'm guessing it's been a long time since you did have anyone to give you affection." Foggy was probably an exception to that... but no parental figure had probably had a detrimental effect on Matt. Sam stroked gently over his hair and back. "Sometimes you don't realise how much you missed something until you get it back."
"It doesn't bother you? Really?" Matt uncertainly glanced up at Sam through wet lashes. He didn't want to be so clingy that it was irritating to his father, but at the same time, Sam was right. It had been a long time that he'd gone without physical affection in the form Sam was offering it. Slaps on the back and 'bro hugs' from Foggy were nice, but it wasn't the same as being held close in a protective way.
"It would bother me more if you didn't want to let me close to you," Sam replied honestly. "I like being with you. And it's good to hold you like this and know that you're safe." He continued the gentle, comforting touch.
Matt made a tiny humming noise in the back of his throat, accepting the answer and internalizing it. He stayed quiet for a bit longer, just relaxing against his father, being comforted. He blinked when it finally dawned on him. He didn't feel guilty any longer. And he wasn't afraid of Sam dumping him as a hopeless cause any longer, either. Somehow, his father taking him in hand and then holding him had eased both issues. "...Thank you," he finally whispered, hoping Sam would understand what he was thanking him for; Matt wasn't sure he'd be able to adequately explain.
"You're welcome." Sam's voice was soft... sincere... as he held his son tight, gently stroking over his hair and back. "I'm glad I have you safe with me, kid. I'm not going to risk losing you."
"I'm glad...I don't wanna be lost..." Matt admitted softly, the gentle stroking lulling him into a sleepy state. He blinked, trying to remain awake- not wanting to miss out on any family time, either with his father or with the rest of the family. Assuming he wasn't grounded and not allowed to leave the apartment. "Am I grounded?" he asked quietly, needing to make certain.
"You are in the sense that you're not to leave the tower without my permission," Sam answered. "But not in the sense that, if you'd like, we can join the others for family time. Or we can stay here and just spend some time together."
"Can we do both?" Matt asked hesitantly. "I want to celebrate Harry's good news, but I want to be with you too…." he admitted, "…And….do I need to work from home while I'm grounded? I don't think I'm due in court for another two weeks, but I'll still need to let Foggy know if I'm not coming to the office...." His voice was still quiet. He wasn't arguing in the least; in fact seemed relieved at the restrictions Sam was placing.
"We can do both, of course," Sam replied, wanting to be with his son just as much as Matt wanted to be with him. "Apart from any court cases... you will be working from home," he added, voice firm though not unkind. "But Foggy can always come here if you two need to do any work together."
"Yeah...ok." Matt gave a sheepish grin. "He's gonna give me grief that I managed to do something to warrant being grounded again. I think he's as happy about the fact you have me as I am."
"I know he worried about you a lot." Sam smiled. "But at least he knows you're safe with me. And I'd rather keep you close than risk anything happening."
Matt gave a quick nod to show he understood, before taking a deep breath and standing back up. "I guess if we go hang out with everyone for a little while...we can sneak away later if we want." He couldn't help the yawn that escaped and gave a rueful chuckle. "I might not be up to staying up too late, anyway...feeling guilty was wearing me down more than I realized. Can..." He bit his lip uncertainly, feeling childish for asking, but still feeling the need to do so. "...Can I stay with you tonight?"
"Of course." Sam stood up, wrapping his arm around his son's shoulders and squeezing gently. "You don't even have to ask." He pressed an affectionate kiss to the side of his son's head.
Matt leaned into his father, letting Sam guide him back to the elevator so they could join the others. He could have done it on his own, but he found he rather liked being 'taken care of'. He surreptitiously wiped at his eyes one last time to try and remove any lingering tears. He didn't bother with washing his face; he somehow doubted it would hide the evidence that he'd been crying. Besides...after what he'd put everyone through (and he wasn't unaware that his actions had affected everyone in the family, not just his father), he figured they deserved to know that he'd been disciplined for his actions. If they were clued into the fact by his face instead of him saying anything- well, it would be easier for him really.
Sam kept Matt close as he led his son to the elevator and they stepped on. "If you start getting tired at all... just tell me and we can come back to our floor," he promised, his voice loving and affectionate.
"Yes sir..." Matt easily agreed, letting his head fall onto Sam's shoulder. Soon, the elevator was stopping with a ping and Veronica was announcing they had reached the common floor. She'd taken to announcing floors whenever Matt was on board the elevator, even when someone else was with him. Even though he knew where they were, Matt still waited for Sam to lead him out, some small part of him wanting to just give control over to his father and enjoy the feeling of having someone take care of him. He knew once he was back to one hundred percent and not feeling so emotionally drained, he'd want to control himself again; but at this moment in time? It wasn't a high priority for him.
Sam kept his arm around Matt's shoulders as he guided his son off the elevator, going to join the others in the living area... where everyone had congregated after the pizzas had arrived, so that they could play board games and eat at the same time.
Tony glanced up as his newest uncle and cousin re-entered the room, pointing to a spot on one of the couches. "Have a seat, Uncle Sam." He gave Sam an impish grin. "Matt..." He noticed the tear streaks on his cousin's face, but didn't say anything about them and carefully avoided staring, so that he wouldn't be the one to draw anyone else's attention to them. "We have all varieties to choose from and then afterwards, we were going to play a game. Did you decide on charades? Or one of the other games, son?" He smiled fondly at Harry.
Sam smiled at Tony and guided his son over to sit down on the couch. "Anything you're not a fan of?" he asked Matt, taking a seat next to him.
"I was thinking one of the other games," Harry replied, looking for one he thought Matt would be able to play.
"I pretty much will eat anything...except anchovies..." Matt smiled crookedly.
"We could play Taboo, or Password, or some other word guessing game..." Grant suggested quietly, while he piled two plates up with a variety of pizza slices and handed it to Sam; while he wasn't entirely certain which type of pizza Matt would prefer, he'd been around Sam enough times when he was visiting Steve that he knew most of what Sam liked. He figured if he gave them some of everything, it wouldn't go amiss. Since there wasn't an anchovy in sight, he wasn't too worried about Matt not liking any of the ones he handed them.
Bobbi stood up and glanced toward Sam and Matt. "What would you two like to drink?" she asked, as she headed toward the bar where they'd stored all the drinks in the mini-fridge to keep them cold. "Harry? You want another drink, hon?"
Sam took the plates with a smile and handed one to Matt, telling his son quietly which pizzas were on the plate. "I'll have a water, thanks," he added to Bobbi.
"Soda, please?" Harry asked. "I like word guessing games..." he added. "If everyone else doesn't mind, maybe we can play one of those?"
"Water for me too, thank you..." Matt smiled toward where he thought his cousin might be, before thanking his father and picking up a slice of pizza to eat.
Bobbi grinned. "Ya'll got it!" She grabbed a soda for Harry and two bottles of water, bringing them over to the men and handing them out.
"Word guessing games sounds great to me!" Pepper grinned mysteriously.
Tony gave a comically nervous face. "Uh oh...she's got her 'I'm going to wipe the floor with you idiots' face on!"
Harry smiled at his mother, but spoke to both of his parents. "There are a lot of us... maybe we could be on teams?" he suggested.
Sam settled his arm around his son's shoulders, eating his pizza with his free hand.
Pepper smiled back, reaching over and squeezing Harry's arm gently. "I like the idea of teams. How many teams? And how do we want to break them up? Family groups? Men vs. Women? Random number draws that we can put in a hat and pass around?"
"Maybe we could put the numbers in a hat?" Harry suggested, figuring it might be fun to mix the teams up a bit.
It didn't take long before the family were preparing to play the game, having finished eating and clearing up. Harry relaxed, feeling free of the worry and fear that had been plaguing him since his mutation had started.