Danger and Family
Title: Danger and Family
Disclaimer: We don't own anything that belongs to MARVEL and we're not making any money from this fic
Summary: 41st in the Redeeming Grant series. Four family members are captured and two more join.
Authors: Hope1iz and BlackFox12
Warning(s): Spanking; spoilers for Agents of SHIELD; Avengers movies to date; DareDevil; and Spider-man; some violence; implications of torture.
Lance's information had been studied vigorously by the whole family, but despite having a lot of information, it felt like no one could decide on a course of action to make use of the information. At least, that was what it had felt like to Brock. Anxious to make a move against HYDRA and possibly help other people who were in the situation he had been in, he made plans for a raid. He'd originally thought to show the plans to his father; but then all those 'in charge' had suddenly been called to a meeting with the heads of various other organizations and he was left with no one to tell his plans to. Unless...
"I have an idea for breaching the security in this HYDRA facility. I think we can go in and take it over. According to the information Lance found, it should be an easy in easy out..." Brock found himself telling his brother Trip and his cousins Mack and Loki. "I haven't had a chance to run it by dad, or Uncle Phil or Uncle Steve; they got called away too soon..." he continued hesitantly, "...but if all four of us went together, it shouldn't be dangerous. And if we let the others know we were going on a mission, then it isn't like we just rushed into unnecessary danger...right?"
Trip wrinkled his nose uncertainly. Somehow, he didn't think his father or uncles would see things the same way; but Brock was right. They would be taking precautions, since it wasn't just one of them going in alone... and if they told some of the others, it wasn't like they would be going in without possible backup. There would be someone prepared to help if needed. "Yeeaah..." He sighed. "...Ok. I think we can do this. You two in?"
Mack and Loki gave each other uncertain looks, but then each of them nodded. "Yeah. We're in," Mack answered for them both.
"Who in the tower are we going to let know of our plans?" Loki asked curiously.
Brock slanted his head. "I think I saw Grant and Bobbi in the common floor kitchen. We can tell them."
It hadn't taken them long to inform the brother and sister of what they planned to do. It only took slightly longer for them to reach the base that they had planned to infiltrate. It didn't take them long at all to get inside, which really should have been a warning. Five hours later, when they were waking up from the tranquilizers that had immobilized them, they looked around their cage, disoriented and worried. Mack glanced at Loki. "Can you teleport out?" he whispered.
"No..." Loki's voice sounded faint and weak. "They gave me something and it's all I can do to stay awake..." he admitted, worry in his voice.
Swallowing hard, Brock clenched his fists. "We'll have to wait, then..." he said, with a hint of apology in his tone. Not knowing how many hours they had been out, they had no clue when Grant and Bobbi would begin to worry and send help to them. If they could.
It was perhaps the middle of the afternoon when Coulson, Steve and Fury returned to the tower. Steve went immediately to his floor, planning to seek our his children and grandchildren.
Fury went in search of his children. He'd noticed, before being called away, that Brock had had something on his mind... and he was concerned about his younger son, knowing how affected Brock was by his brainwashing and how much he... all of them, really... wanted to save anyone else from it... of course, there was the virus as well; both things probably added up to a lot of stress in the younger members of the family.
Coulson had called ahead to ask Veronica to pass on to his children and grandchildren that he was on his way back... in case they wanted to play a game or watch a movie together.
Grant, Bobbi and Kara were on the common floor, pacing worriedly. When Veronica informed Grant and Bobbi that their father was back, Kara couldn't help but ask desperately, "Is daddy back too?"
"He is, Miss Kara. Shall I inform the directors that you three are on the common floor and have the rest of your family join you?" the AI intoned.
"Please do, Veronica. I'm not sure who else Brock told of what he, Trip, Loki and Mack had planned, but they have been gone longer than they said they would be and I think...I think we'll need to find them. But we can't do so without letting dad or Uncle Nick know. We probably need to let Thor and Uncle Odin know as well... they weren't in the tower when the guys went on their trip and probably weren't told what Mack and Loki were doing..." Grant's voice was subdued. At the time, he hadn't thought anything of his cousins' plans. It wasn't until after they had left that he'd realized it perhaps wasn't the best idea in the world, but by then, they had already left. He couldn't help but feel as if he should have told someone else immediately, instead of assuming Brock would have shared the information with more people.
A few seconds went by, then, "I have informed everyone in the building that they need to come to the common floor," Veronica announced.
As soon as Veronica contacted them, Steve, Coulson and Fury quickly took the elevator to the common floor, meeting the rest of the family in the living area.
Coulson walked over to his two youngest, able to tell that they were worried. He wrapped an arm around each of their shoulders, pressing a kiss to the side of each of their heads.
Fury could tell the same about his daughter and he moved to place his hand on Kara's shoulder, squeezing gently.
Grant and Bobbi each pressed closer to their father, even as they watched Kara launch herself into Fury's arms and hold on tight as if he was the only thing holding her together. Kara was jabbering something against her father's chest- Grant had a feeling it was about Trip and Brock being in danger- but she wasn't terribly audible or understandable...at least not to anyone who wasn't used to Kara when she'd fallen into one of her 'fragile' states; someone who wasn't used to Kara or who wasn't Matt.
"What's this about Trip, Brock, Mack, and Loki being in danger?" the young lawyer asked, his tone obviously worried.
Grant swallowed and stepped far enough back from Coulson that he could explain to everyone in the room. "They had this plan..." he began explaining everything as it had been explained to him- leaving nothing out.
Fury responded immediately by wrapping his arms around his daughter and hugging her tightly... though his worry grew with the more Grant explained.
Coulson listened to his son without interruption and then spoke. "I think it's safe to assume that they've run into some trouble."
"If they had, then Loki must have been incapacitated." Thor's voice was worried, revealing just how much he cared for his brothers. "If he could have, he would have teleported himself and them out."
Grant nodded. "That's why we were so worried. They made a point of telling us, so that there would be back-up available if needed, but they never contacted us about needing us...and they are several hours past when they expected to return. If Loki hasn't teleported them back, then something bad had to have happened..." He swallowed hard. He couldn't help but feel responsible; that he should have contacted his father and uncles the minute Brock told them of the plans. That he should have double checked with all the rest of the family members who were still in the tower to make certain they had been given the information, too. If the looks on Clint, Bucky, Tony, Bruce, Melinda, and pretty much everyone else's faces were anything to go by, they had been left out of the information loop. Apparently, Brock only felt the need to tell Grant, Bobby and Kara; and likely picked them because they were the easiest to find and tell.
Matt cleared his throat. "I'm not going to even try and pretend I'll be overly useful in this situation. So is there something I can do here, at the tower, to help?"
Jemma bit her lip then glanced toward her grandfather. "What's the plan?" she asked softly.
Kara, still plastered against her father's side, managed to pull away enough to state emphatically, "I want to help save them!" She glanced up into Fury's face, begging him without words not to put her on the sidelines.
Coulson's hands rested on his two youngest' shoulders, squeezing gently. "We'll figure this out." He and Steve exchanged glances and then Coulson looked at Matt. "We'll need members of the family on standby... for either backup or if any of them are wounded. We should also be prepared for any other prisoners..." he added.
"This is the same base where that lab is, isn't it?" Steve said. "We were going to hit it anyway... get what we could and then destroy the lab to try and set them back. We should send at least an extra team in, along with whoever's going to launch the rescue mission."
"Two of my sons have been taken," Odin said. "I would like to be a part of this."
Fury drew his daughter in close and nodded. "Who would you feel comfortable partnering with?" he asked, unwilling to have Kara go in on her own.
Kara glanced toward Grant and Bobbi, realizing that the siblings would likely be pairing up together. She bit her lip, glancing around the room uncertainly. It seemed like almost everyone she was used to working with was already paired up in some way, except perhaps Lance and Skye. She had a feeling Skye would be kept in the background doing computer reconnaissance. "Lance...if he's willing..." she whispered.
Bruce looked at the information that Grant had been given. "It's definitely the same lab. Destroying the lab should be a priority, as soon as we have our boys back. At the same time, we want to get as much intel from it as possible, so that we have some way of combating whatever experiments they had going on in there. Maybe we should send at least one team to retrieve the information. If it's acceptable, I'd be willing to lead a team of four to the labs; Peter, Jemma, Leo and I are capable of handling the experiments and knowing the safest way to destroy them... If you want a larger team of six, we could include Tony and Harry..."
Bucky had deliberately stepped back and allowed Steve, Phil and Nick to take charge, but it didn't stop him from adding in his suggestions. "Bruce is right. Destroying the labs is the second priority, after finding the boys, but we should take care to destroy it in a way that won't cause problems later. If they were doing experiments with biological elements, handling it the wrong way could lead to an epidemic. A pandemic could even be possible..."
May nodded at Odin to make certain his words had been acknowledged. "What are the teams, then? Who is going after the boys, who is destroying the lab and who is staying behind taking care of things from the tower?"
Fury nodded, wrapping his arm around Kara's shoulders and leading his daughter over to Lance. "Lance? If your father agrees, would you be willing to go in with Kara as part of the rescue mission?"
Lance nodded, only having to take one look at his cousin's face to see how worried she was and how much she wanted to be a part of this. "Of course." He glanced at his father, in case Bucky had another preference.
"Clint and Nat... I'd like you two to be part of the rescue mission as well," Coulson said. "Bobbi and Grant... can you take care of general recon? Be on the lookout for any traps or HYDRA agents who might be elsewhere in the base." He glanced at Fury and Odin. "I think myself, Fury and Odin should be outside in the van, preparing for the getaway..."
Fury nodded and then looked at Bruce. "I'd suggest the six of you go. The more of you are there, the shorter time it will take."
Bucky nodded at his brother, then looked in Lance's direction, "Sounds like a good idea to me..." he added, in case his nodding wasn't enough encouragement.
Kara smiled brightly at her cousin and uncle, impulsively hugging Lance. "Thank you!" she whispered, relieved that she wasn't going to be left out of the search for her brothers.
Clint nodded at his father. "Will we be going in through different areas than Lance and Kara, or will the four of us enter the same area but split up once inside?" he asked.
Grant frowned slightly at being part of the group that didn't go after his family, but nodded in agreement. Just because he wanted to be one of the first to find his cousins didn't mean that the job he and Bobbi had been given wasn't important. In some cases, general recon could be the most important job, so he'd do it to the best of his ability. "Yes, sir," he finally answered out loud, in case his father didn't notice him nodding.
Bobby wasn't any more enthused about being left out of the rescue group, but she agreed just as quickly.
Bruce nodded. "Agreed." He glanced around at his children and then at his brother and nephew. "You all know what the plan is for our team?" He assumed they had been listening and paying attention, but asked just in case one of the kids had a question.
Matt swallowed. "What do you want those of us staying here in the tower to do?"
Lance smiled and hugged his cousin in return... then glanced up and towards Coulson, waiting to see what he'd say about the teams.
"I would suggest going in at separate points," Coulson replied. "If you keep your comms on, you can stay in contact with each other in case one of you finds them first... or even if they might be kept separate."
Steve looked at Matt and spoke to him... but also including the others in that. "Anyone staying back here should be prepared in case we need backup... and also make sure the medical floor is ready, in case anyone's injured."
Clint nodded. "Sounds good. Are we all ready to go?"
"I can do that..." Matt agreed.
"We should take five minutes to collect any equipment we need and then meet in the garage." Coulson turned to Odin. "If you'd like to come with me, I can get you set up in the van with a comm, so you're in the loop."
Odin nodded. "Thank you." Only someone very good at observation would be able to see how worried he really was.
"See you in the garage, then..." Bobbi nodded, before disappearing to get her gear.
Exactly five minutes later, everyone was in the garage, ready to load the vehicles.
Coulson and Steve quickly organised the teams into the vehicles and it didn't take long before they were moving out, driving towards the base.
Although holding only just to the speed limit, they still reached the base fast and Coulson, Steve and Fury were checking gear and making sure the other family members knew what they were doing... and reiterating that they shouldn't risk putting themselves in danger.
Loki rubbed wearily at his eyes. Whatever HYDRA was using to dampen his ability to teleport, it was also draining him of energy. He hadn't felt this weak since he and Mack had gone to see the cave on Asgard and inadvertently got too close. He hated feeling weak, he hated feeling useless or like a burden; unfortunately, he felt all three. "I should be trying to help you all find a way to escape," he muttered tiredly.
Mack reached over from his position of watching Brock trying to cause the door locks to malfunction and squeezed his brother's shoulder. "As soon as we get out of this cell and we get you away from whatever is doing this to you, I'm sure you'll be more than enough help..." he said, in as positive a tone as he could. He couldn't hide the worry in his eyes, however, as he glanced at his brother.
Trip swallowed, quickly agreeing. "Yeah, man. Soon as we're out of these dampening fields, I'm sure you'll be able to get us all out of this mess. Just save your energy for the final big push for freedom!"
Brock didn't say anything; he was too busy trying to short-circuit the door's locks and not electrocute himself in the process. He wasn't feeling terribly optimistic, though.
Clint glanced at Natasha as they made their way through mostly deserted halls. The few guards they'd run across had been taken care of efficiently and so far, no alarm had been raised. It made Clint nervous. "Doesn't it feel like this is too easy?" he asked, in a suspicious whisper.
Natasha nodded, her own voice barely audible as it dropped to a decibel only Clint would be able to hear. "I have a strong suspicion we're walking into a trap." Her hand dropped to one of her guns, though she didn't immediately draw it. She sniffed the air and cocked her head to one side. "I don't smell any gas... there's no hissing." She looked around, trying to spot any airvents... or other places HYDRA agents could be hiding.
Clint nodded, becoming even more focused on his surroundings and tense with suspicion. It wasn't a surprise when they suddenly found themselves surrounded by HYDRA operatives; it was a bit of a surprise that they came out of the floor...but he wasn't surprised that they suddenly showed up out of nowhere. He quickly began to fight, his back to Nat's. They might have succeeded in beating the overwhelming odds, had a dart not found its way to the exposed part of his neck. The tranquilizer had him out in seconds.
Natasha fired off her guns, but shortly after her brother was taken out, a HYDRA operative came up behind her and caught her a glancing blow in the back of the head. She managed to fire off one last bullet before she crumpled.
Kara had let Lance take lead while she watched their back, her eyes darting around nervously. Something didn't feel right, but she couldn't figure out exactly what was wrong. Moving closer to Lance, she caught his attention by touching his shoulder and then, using sign language, asked if he felt like something 'felt off'. They'd already gone a fair way into the building. Shouldn't there have been more guards, or soldiers, or scientists?
Lance nodded in acknowledgement of Kara's question. He signed back to her about his suspicions that they were going to suddenly come across some HYDRA soldiers... even as his eyes darted constantly around, looking for any potential threat.
When the floor suddenly started expelling soldiers, looking very much like a boiling-over pot, Kara had quickly begun to fight, confident that her cousin was doing the same. She attempted to get a warning out to the others through her comm... but she didn't hear any response and wasn't sure that the comms hadn't been blocked somehow. It was very possible that no one in the building could hear her warning and that those waiting in the van outside could not hear her call for assistance. She had to operate under the assumption that she and Lance were on their own. She managed to take out four soldiers before one of them hit her on the back of the head hard enough to knock her out.
Lance reacted instantly, but the odds were overwhelming. He got in some good hits... but there were just too many of the enemy and he didn't see one sneaking up on him until he was taken out with a dart.
Bobbi and Grant skirted the perimeter of the facility, scoping out where the best avenues for escape were, should the original entry points not be possible. "I realize that most of HYDRA is likely inside the building... but you'd think they'd have a few more guards outside..." Bobbi muttered softly.
"Yeah..." Grant whispered back. "...Makes you wonder where they are all hiding..." He glanced at his sister. "You ready to go inside and scope the inside escapes? We don't want to send the teams in a direction that has an unmapped hallway that just happens to be filled with HYDRA soldiers..."
Bobbi nodded, motioning for Grant to lead. They quickly moved along the outer halls of the facility. She couldn't help becoming more and more nervous the more territory they covered. There really weren't enough guards for the amount of vehicles outside, or for the amount of people that had entered the building, according to the security feed they'd hacked into. Where was everyone?
Grant had heard Kara's transmission. He'd heard something from Clint and Natasha as well. What he didn't hear was a response from his dad or uncles. "They aren't responding..." he muttered to Bobbi, before he made his own attempt to get his father's attention. If they were cut off from communication with the outside, then it would fall to him and Bobbi to somehow rescue their family.
Bobbi grimaced. "Next guard we run into, we question...find out where they might have taken the others...?" Her voice was hesitant. She wasn't certain they shouldn't abort and go back to the van so that they could get reinforcements. Grant just nodded at her and moved further into the building, heading toward where he thought Clint and Natasha's last location was.
Most of the guards had taken the captured prisoners, but one remained, reporting into his radio about the prisoners they'd captured. His back was to the part of the corridor Bobbi and Grant were on the other side of.
Coulson was nothing if not observant and he very quickly realised there was radio silence. After communicating with the van containing Odin and realising that the comms outside the base were working, he radioed back to the tower, knowing they were likely to need reinforcements.
When Clint was next aware, he was waking to the sounds of groaning and Brock and Trip making muttered comments about checking the girls out to make certain they didn't have concussions. "Wha' 'appened?" he slurred out, the tranquilizer still not completely out of his system, but gone enough that he could sit up and look around.
"HYDRA caught you..." was Mack's succinct and almost apologetic answer. "They tranq'd you and Lance and knocked out Kara and Nat. The girls are just starting to come around now; Trip is worried that they might have concussions, though... Hopefully not- they were hit pretty hard." Mack's voice was almost a growl and Clint didn't envy HYDRA when any of the men got out of whatever cage they were in. Heck, he didn't envy them if the girls got out, either; between three protective big brothers, three protective cousins and the girls' own ability to 'get even', those who had hurt the two women would be facing one hell of a come-uppance.
"Imaight..." Kara mumbled. She weakly pushed Trip's hand away from her face, but didn't have the energy to attempt a second brush off when he moved his hand right back to the position it had been in as he looked into her eyes and began telling her to do different things while he watched her response time. The only thing that kept her from being grumpy about it was the fact that she could tell he was seriously worried about her and the fact that Brock was doing the same with Nat and Nat was stoically putting up with it. Kara wouldn't act like a baby if her cousin could be calm and collected about the same situation.
Mack moved over to Clint's side and helped him sit up, then walked over to help Lance sit up as well, the younger man starting to come to. "We hadn't found a way out of this cell yet...Unfortunately, since all of you were as unconscious when you were brought in as we were when we were brought in, we have no information on what is on the outside of this cell."
Clint grimaced. "I don't see Grant or Bobbi... hopefully, they'll get back to dad and the others and let them know what's happened..."
Lance blinked a few times, allowing himself to come to properly, and then sat up with Mack's help, looking around at everyone else. "Anyone know how long we've been here for?" He looked around at the others, trying to make sure they were unharmed. His eyes narrowed in worry as he saw Trip with Kara and Brock with Nat.
Natasha sat still and allowed Brock to check her over, only moving when Brock directed her to do something to check her responses. "Has anyone been in to question you?" she asked the four family members who had been taken first... also taking note of how weak Loki looked.
Loki grimaced. "No...we do not know how long we were out and whatever is messing with my abilities is also messing with the time pieces. I hazard a guess that you have been here an hour, but I am not certain."
Brock shook his head. "No one has been to question us."
Kara winced as she was finally allowed to shift to a more comfortable position. "So...we have to hope Grant and Bobbi got out..."
"If they aren't here, then the chances are good they haven't been captured," Natasha said. "There'd be no reason not to bring them here as well, unless they wanted something specific, but I don't think either of them would be a target specifically. Even Grant," she added, knowing a lot of HYDRA agents still had it in for him.
"Considering I'm as much on their hit list as Grant is, I think you're correct." Brock gave a humorless smile.
"So we'll have to sit tight and wait for rescue." Lance sighed and rubbed his head, where a niggling pain had set between his eyebrows... probably a hangover from the tranq.
"And we can wait... in case they're stupid enough to give us an opportunity to get at them," Natasha commented.
Kara sighed and leaned against Trip groggily.
"Don't go to sleep, Munchkin..." Trip carefully shook his sister so that he could get her attention, but not so hard that it hurt. "I think you have a concussion..."
Clint frowned at that information. "How about Nat? Does she?" he asked Brock worriedly.
"I don't feel sick and as far as I can tell, my mind's working fine," Natasha answered. "I'll make sure to get checked over once we leave here, though."
Brock nodded at Clint's quick glance for confirmation. "Her eyes are responding correctly as far as I'm able to tell without using medical equipment..."
"Tired..." Kara muttered, doing her best to keep her eyes open.
Lance glanced in concern at his young cousin. "You have to try and stay awake, Kara. As soon as we're out of here, you can get checked out by Bruce or Jemma."
"We need to be ready to leave at a moment's notice," Natasha said. "Trip... you'll take care of Kara if we need to move fast? Loki, do you think you'd be able to move? Or will you need help?"
Kara started to nod at Lance, but then winced and whispered, "Ok..." instead.
"I've got her," Trip affirmed. "Mack will help Loki if needed."
"Sure will..." Mack agreed amiably.
"I am hoping that I can walk out on my own," Loki replied, though his voice was weak, so it wasn't looking optimistic that he could.
"Has anyone made any headway with these locks?" Natasha asked, focusing enough to clear away the last remnants from the bump on her head.
Lance moved over to take a look, although he was reasonably sure that the other family members had tried.
"We weren't able to find any power source to short them out...no keypad to unlock; at least not on this side...so no...no luck." Mack sighed.
Lance sighed. "So now we have to sit tight and wait to be rescued." He hated playing the waiting game.
"I'm sure they're figuring out a rescue now," Natasha commented.
Kara leaned against Trip, trying to keep her eyes open, but didn't say anything. It wasn't like she hadn't waited for rescue before. Of course, the first time it had happened, she'd ended up brainwashed...but at least this time, she wasn't alone.
Bobbi hadn't wasted a second incapacitating the lone guard and dragging him back into one of the rooms that they'd passed early on in the operation. It didn't take long at all for her to truss him up to a chair. Glancing at Grant, she then slapped their prisoner awake and demanded, "You've taken eight people hostage in the last day... where have they been taken?"
The man eyed Bobbi. "You're not going to get to them," he stated. "They're heavily guarded. You'd need a whole army to get past my men."
"You don't need to worry about if we can get in or not...all you need to do is tell us where...possibly how many." Grant smiled but his tone was anything but friendly.
Bobbi shot a look at her brother. She hoped it wouldn't be necessary to force the issue, but if it was, she would assist her brother in whatever way needed.
"I'm not going to tell you anything," the man stated. "There's more than just one base. Cut off one head, two more will grow back in its place."
"We'll see..." Grant's smile was downright frightening. Bobbi swallowed hard.
It didn't take long for the 'interrogation' to move beyond questions...Grant and Bobbi taking turns 'persuading' their captive to give them information.
The man held out... but not for long. Eventually, he was giving them the information... though he still promised that they were all on HYDRA's hit list.
Grant looked at the unconscious HYDRA operative then looked at his sister. The look on her face was bleak and sickened...he had no doubt the look on his own face matched hers. Clearing his throat, he whispered, "We should leave the building and tell dad what we learned...get back up to come with us to get everyone..."
Bobbi swallowed hard then reluctantly nodded, adding, "We should probably take him with us to the van. If he wakes up before we get back and finds a way to get loose, he could warn the others..."
Grant grimaced. "You're right. You'll have to watch our backs while I carry him..."
Soon, they were heading toward the exit of the building.
Bruce looked around the laboratory at all the scientists that had been trussed up like Christmas packages; one even had a red bow on top of his head, courtesy of Tony. They'd got every bit of information they could off of the computers and then Tony had destroyed the machines so that HYDRA would not be able to recover any of the lost information. Bruce himself had directed his children to carefully store any samples that they wanted to take with them; and carefully burned the rest, so that they could not be used. Harry had been helping Tony. He glanced up as the last computer was destroyed and Jemma let out a tiny sigh, saying that the last sample that they weren't taking back to the tower had been burned.
"Were there any other labs in the building, or was this the only one?" he asked curiously.
Tony frowned. "This was the only lab mentioned in the information Lance gathered. It's also the only one that showed up on maps. So unless they have a hidden lab, our job is done..."
It was Jemma's turn to frown. "Hey dad? Have you been listening to the comms? Because I haven't heard anyone for at least thirty minutes..."
Bruce's frown was very worried as he attempted to make contact. "Hulk calling the short bus...come in, short bus..." The scientist tried to reach those who had stayed in the van outside.
When no answer came, Tony made his own attempt. "Veronica...are you hearing me?"
"Yes, Master Stark," the AI intoned.
"Are you able to make contact with Coulson, Fury, or Captain Rogers?" Tony asked, trying to keep the worry out of his tone.
"I will try, sir..."
Harry glanced worriedly at his father. "Should some of us go out and make contact physically with the others?" he asked.
"I can do that," Peter offered. "I wouldn't have to go across the ground... most people don't tend to look up."
"Wait..." Tony held up a finger, listening for something. Suddenly, he smiled. "No. Veronica has made contact with the tower. They can contact the van, even if she can't. We wait for further instructions, but we stay together."
Bruce nodded. "Prepare to move as soon as we get word."
"Do they know about any of the others?" Leo asked worriedly.
"Veronica, please ask for an update on the other three teams and our missing family?" Tony directed.
Matt was worried. Coulson had contacted the tower with news that they had lost contact with all four teams. Skye was going her best to hack into the security so she could turn off whatever was blocking them, but it wasn't easy. Luckily, Veronica had contact with Tony and could send information about the scientific team to the tower, allowing him to pass it on to Coulson.
Matt contacted the van. "Sir, Tony says that Bruce and the rest have accomplished everything they set out to do and want permission to destroy the lab. They also would like to know if you've been able to make contact with the other three teams...they lost contact with everyone except Veronica."
"We've lost radio contact with them." Coulson sounded calm... but anyone who knew him well would know instantly how worried and frightened he was; for the rest of the family as well as his children. "Tell Tony to hold off on destroying the lab... until we know for certain that the other family members are out. Can you ask Sam and May to come and join us?" He had a strong suspicion they were going to need to launch a rescue mission.
Matt quickly agreed. "I just let Tony know. Also, I've let May and Sam know you need them. Do you want anyone else to come too?"
Tony looked at his brother, son, niece and nephews. "They say to not destroy the lab until they find everyone else and make certain they are out of the building, in case they are somewhere close to the lab. So we just sit tight and if someone comes looking...take them out."
Peter frowned. "I could check outside... see if anyone's coming in this direction?" he suggested.
"No." Tony's voice was firm. "We need to stay together until we get further instructions in case we need to move out quickly. Besides...if they are coming this way, a few seconds warning won't really make a difference. We need to set a trap, so if they come inside where we are, most of them will be taken out before we ever need to fight them."
Peter looked like he wanted to voice an argument, even though he held his tongue... while Harry nodded agreeably. He'd never had a chance to be part of something like this before and he didn't want to mess up and have his father not want to bring him again.
"Want to help me set up a trap or two by the door, Pete?" Leo asked his brother.
Peter nodded. "Sure..."
Bruce smiled at his sons. "That's a good idea. If they come in, we won't be able to hide our presence, so there won't be a need to keep out of sight. It would be a good idea to slow them down as much as possible.
"Hey, Veronica..." Tony asked his AI. "Find out if anyone contacted Rhodey. I'm sure he'd be willing to come and I vaguely remember him telling me he was in the area for the next few weeks."
"Of course, Master Stark. I am sending your inquiry through to the Directors and Captain now."
Leo and Peter moved over to the door, Leo rigging up an explosion with Peter's help... one that would be triggered by someone opening the door, unless they knew how to disarm it... and since that could only be done on their side, Leo was fairly confident it would work,
Tony looked over his nephews' work. "Good job, fellas. This should keep them out."
Leo smiled, but then added worriedly, "Should we maybe ask Veronica to let the others know not to approach this direction?" He didn't want to risk the trap catching their family members.
Tony's eyes widened imperceptibly. "Veronica. Pass a message to the others that they need to avoid the section of the facility where we are; or at least avoid going into the lab itself. We have it booby-trapped." He turned toward Leo and gave a tiny grin. "Good thinking, squirt."
Leo shrugged. "I didn't want to accidentally blow up anyone on our side..."
"I don't think any of us want that!" Jemma agreed, with a smile.
"I think we should be okay." Even as Coulson was speaking, he could see his two youngest leaving the base and a relieved look came over his face... though that relief was mixed with worry as he saw the HYRA operative carried by his son. "I've just seen Bobbi and Grant leave the base. I'll put Steve on the comms." He put action to word and then headed out of the van... just in case his children had been followed.
Bobbi was watching their backs, but that didn't prevent her from noticing her father getting out of the van. "Dad saw us and is coming in our direction..." she said quietly.
Grant felt a shudder of shame pass through him when he realized there would be no way to hide what he and Bobbi had done to get the information. The only consolation he had was that there wasn't time to wait for the soldier to answer using more 'acceptable' techniques and the fact that Bobbi had helped him so it wasn't a decision he made alone (as much as he hated his sister feeling the way he currently did; and it was obvious she felt just as much shame.) Straightening his back, he quickly moved in his father's direction, beginning his report as soon as Coulson was within range of hearing a low whisper. "There is another floor below the building that wasn't in the Intel or on any map. That's where the disruptor that is keeping comms from working, and all other electronic spy devices from penetrating is. It is also what is likely rendering Loki unable to act. He said they had a cell in the middle of the disruption device where they'd stash everyone captured." He kept his report as factual and toneless as possible, not wanting to worry his father regarding what he'd just done.
Bobbi added, in her own factual, emotionless tone, "The doors to this hidden floor are actually in the floor. If we can find one, we'd have to find some way to beat it in or pry it up, because there are no obvious methods of opening them. Supposedly, the door that is furthest from activity and least likely to be swarming with HYDRA is near the door we just left through." At this point, her voice was a bit skeptical. She had no doubt that if he could, the man they'd interrogated would send them to a door with the most guards possible.
Coulson listened to their report... but he was watching as well as listening. He reached out, clasping his children's shoulders gently. At any other time, he would have hugged them both... but he was aware of the need to move fast. Still, he used his still-working comms to address Bucky, in the other van with Odin and Thor. "Bucky? We've got a HYDRA operative unconscious here. Can you come and grab him so we can take him to the Fridge?"
That having been said, Coulson turned his attention to his children once more. "We lost contact with all of you in the base, but the comms outside are working and we have Melinda and Sam joining us." His voice was soft... but the look on his face could only be described as loving worry, aware of what they'd had to do to get that information... and how much it had cost them.
Bucky had immediately come at Coulson's request...taking the prisoner from Grant and putting him in the back of the van. He didn't react at all to the state of the prisoner, mostly because he could tell how upset the two siblings were about what they'd done and he didn't want to accidentally make it worse.
Grant looked at his father and tried to push his shame down so he could focus on what needed doing. "We could hear each other in the building; it was the outside we lost comms with. We heard as they were all captured...I know at least two were hit in the head; I could hear the thud..."
Bobbi nodded, straightening her shoulders. "What is the plan to get them back?"
Melinda had driven very fast, so it didn't take them long at all to reach the facility and pull her van up next to the other vans. She glanced at Sam with a crooked smile, before getting out to join Coulson and the others.
Coulson still had his hands on his children's shoulders and he squeezed gently, trying to impart as much love and affection as he could... even while his words were still professional. He wouldn't be able to help them properly until this was over. He glanced over his shoulder as the vehicle pulled up with Sam and May, then back at his son and daughter. "I'm going to assume that all eight of them are together. I don't think there's enough men for HYDRA to keep separate sets of prisoners guarded and to protect the base. If we all go in together, we have a better chance of getting to our family members." He used the comm to let Steve know they might be dealing with a couple of concussions.
Grant agreed with his father. "The prisoner didn't mention more than one room..." he added.
Bobbi smiled crookedly. "Sam and Melinda are here...Uncle Steve said he contacted Rhodey...as soon as Rhodey arrives, are we heading in?"
Coulson nodded. "That's the plan. Do you two need to grab some more gear?" They'd made sure to bring extra clips of ammunition with them.
"Melinda and Sam are on their way..." Matt reiterated for Coulson. "Cap?" He asked to confirm if Steve could hear him yet.
"I'm here," Steve confirmed. "Bobbi and Grant are the only ones out of the base, so I think it's safe to assume that the others were captured and will probably need to be checked over when we get back to the tower."
Matt grimaced before answering Steve. "All our medical people are already with you. Should I call Dr. Cho? Or have Pepper bring in someone from Stark Industries?"
"I think having extra medical personnel would be best," Steve agreed. "There might be a couple of concussions to deal with... possibly the after-effects of tranquilizer darts." He heard Veronica and tapped out a message to Rhodey, asking if he was close enough to come and help. "Veronica? Please let the others know I just sent a message to Rhodey."
Matt was back at the tower, feeling useless. The moment everyone else had entered the building, he'd lost contact with them. If it weren't for the connection Veronica had with Tony, the tower would be completely cut off. Sighing, he began planning for the worst. "Veronica, please have Dr. Cho on standby, as well as any assistants she might need. As soon as we get word from Cap, I want transport able to retrieve her and them if necessary."
"Yes, Master Murdoch," the AI agreed.
"We brought what we needed..." Melinda said brusquely, glancing at Rhodey, who was just walking up to them, a question in her eyes.
Rhodey flipped his mask up. "Everything I need is built into the suit..." His grin was wolfish. "Let's go get our people!"
Coulson waited long enough for everyone else to join them, quickly updating the others on the intel Bobbi and Grant had collected... though he didn't mention how the two of them had got the intel.
"Who's leading the troops in?" Rhodey asked curiously.
"I would suggest that Bucky or Steve take the lead," Coulson answered... simply because they were used to it; and they were enhanced, which would mean they were more likely to hear sounds the others couldn't necessarily.
"Steve's in charge. I followed him all through the war and see no reason to change what works now..." Bucky grinned at his brother.
Steve nodded. "We'll try the entrance you mentioned... but if there's a lot of noise, we can use one of the others." He checked to make sure everyone was ready and then led the way inside, his shield in hand.
Bobbi stuck close to her father, noting that Grant was doing the same. She was a bit worried that the halls were still clear. It made her wonder if a trap was getting ready to be sprung under their feet. "This is where he said the door to the hidden lower level should be..." she finally whispered to Steve, when they reached the correct area.
Steve paused to listen intently, then waved Bucky over, signing to his brother... asking if he thought he could hear anything.
Thor hefted his hammer in hand. The Asgardian looked worried enough that his father moved prudently closer... in case his more headstrong son planned to try breaking the floor.
Bucky nodded; he could hear something under them. He began to look around for a way to get to the sounds.
Rhodey, not quite used to working with the group, even if he was accustomed to working with teams, allowed himself to examine the nearby walls while waiting for instructions. When he noticed a slightly off-color indentation in the wall about three feet away from where Bobbi and Grant had indicated the door was, he waved at Steve and pointed it out.
Steve immediately went over as soon as Rhodey signaled him. He ran his fingers lightly over the indentation in the wall and found the edges of a latch. Waving the others over, he motioned for them to be prepared with their weapons.
Bucky was ready to move as soon as whatever latch Steve had moved clicked. He wasn't terribly surprised when the floor started moving, exposing a staircase leading down one more floor. Motioning the others to stand back and let him go first, he slowly made his way downstairs, expecting an attack at any moment.
Steve went down after Bucky, prepared with his shield, waiting for any HYDRA agents. It wasn't long until he heard the sound of voices growing louder and he gestured to the rest of them to be ready.
Grant tensed up in anticipation. As soon as they turned the corner and saw the first group of HYDRA soldiers, he was moving into position to fight.
Steve immediately moved into position, using his shield to attack the soldiers. Fury, Coulson and Odin joined in the fray... despite not often fighting, all three kept in shape and were still quite good.
Thor immediately made use of his hammer, knocking HYDRA soldiers down and out.
Bobbi pulled out her batons and began to prove why she was a top SHIELD agent, taking down as many soldiers as the more experienced or powered members of her family.
Still the soldiers kept coming. "What? Are they rabbits?" Bucky snarked jokingly.
None of the others were able to spare anything more than a brief smile, pulled into the fray. Even Thor was showing signs of tiring... though he pushed on, fear and worry for his brothers fueling his movements.
"What's this big box?" Rhodey asked suddenly. "It's full of wires..,"
Steve knocked a HYDRA agent out with his shield then quickly moved over to Rhodey so he could see the box the other man had spotted.
"Uuuugh." Rhodey growled. "Permission to fry this thing?" he finally asked, unable to make heads or tails of the circuitry and unable to ask Tony or Veronica for their input, since they were inside the building, where all communications had been blocked.
Steve hesitated, but if the HYDRA soldiers left something that could easily blow up their base... they were far more stupid than any of them gave them credit for. He hit another soldier with his shield and nodded to Rhodey. "Go ahead."
"Yippee! Tony is going to be so jealous..." Rhodey jokingly enthused, before aiming his repulsors at the box and frying everything in it.
"...Hope they find a way to get comms working again soon. I don't like being cut off from everyone..." Matt's voice could suddenly be heard by everyone wearing a comm.
"Matt? We can hear you," Steve said, taking out yet another HYDRA soldier. "Comms are up and working now."
"...Wha...WAIT! You can HEAR me?!" Matt exclaimed, before yelling at Skye (and forgetting he was still on comms), "Skye! Comms are open now. See if you can get a feed into the building, so we can tell them where the others are..."
"I'm on it!" was Skye's response, her fingers flying over the keys of her laptop as she did what she did best... hacked. And with the comms back up, getting the feed into the base was easy... and so was seeing where the rest of their family members were.
"They're on their way towards them... all eight of them." Skye squinted at the screen. "Make that nine. I think they picked up a prisoner. Loki and Kara don't look like they're in good shape."
Loki didn't know how much time had gone by when the door to their cell was suddenly opening. There wasn't enough time to rush it and get out, however, as a petite woman in a flower dress was slipping through the opening before it had fully formed and the door was closing again. A fanatical, almost fevered look was in her eyes.
"It can't be for nothing...I have to know..." she whispered, glancing around the room, before heading toward Loki; the weakest looking member of the group without a head injury.
It wasn't until she'd almost reached him that the syringe in her hand became obvious.
Lance glimpsed the syringe as the woman closed in on his cousin. Having no idea of what the contents of the syringe were... or how it would react with Loki's blood... he moved to tackle her... and then hesitated, some sense of chivalry that he normally ignored surfacing.
Natasha had no such qualms. She launched herself at the woman, recognising her from the files. She knew that this woman was a big part of Centipede... as well as being someone who had captured her father. She knew not to underestimate her.
Raina's eyes widened and she let out a tiny squeak as Natasha barreled into her. It wasn't a matter of seconds before she decided it would be a good idea to change her target, moving to jab Natasha with the syringe.
Natasha had kept her eyes on the syringe as much as on Raina herself... not to mention being prepared for the possibility that the woman would try to turn it on her. Natasha grabbed for Raina's wrist and twisted it... not hard enough to break, but exerting enough pressure to force her to drop the syringe.
"Why don't you want to evolve? Don't you want to see what you can become? How much more special you can be?" Raina was honestly confused. She'd been raised her whole life to believe that she would become something more...she couldn't comprehend them fighting her about it. "It will go to waste!" she cried out, as Natasha forced her to drop the syringe. Not willing to lose the formula she'd worked so hard on, she broke free from Natasha and grabbed the syringe with her other hand. It was obvious they wouldn't let her inject any of them, though. "If you don't want to be better, it is your loss," she finally said coolly, before sticking the needle into her own leg and pushing in the plunger.
Lance forced himself to move and grabbed for Raina, pulling the syringe out of her leg... though not before at least some of the contents had gone into the woman. He quickly passed the syringe to Natasha and took a firm hold on the woman.
Natasha took the syringe carefully, unwilling to lose the contents... though there was a look on her face that suggested she might think that Raina deserved what she got; even though she knew her father (and the rest of the family) wouldn't agree.
"Do you have keys?" Not sure if she was going to collapse on him, Lance quickly began checking for an ID... or something... that meant they could get out. As if from a far off distance, he could hear the sound of fighting... and he was reasonably sure that meant the other family members were coming for them. They were going to need help.
Raina's eyes took on an unfocused, almost blissful sheen. "I am the key..." She smiled beautifully, before her legs gave out and she collapsed into Lance's arms.
Trip snorted. "That woman's one Fruit Loop short a full bowl of cereal," he muttered. "Try finding a plate or something near where she came in...there may be some type of handprint keypad or something similar..."
"Right." Lance half-carried the woman over to where she'd entered the cage, keeping hold of her as he looked. "Think I found something."
Trip came over and examined the spot Lance was looking at. "I think..." he started out, carefully and gently (considering what she'd been trying to do) took Raina's hand and held it up to the spot Lance had found.
For a few seconds, nothing happened...then the door opened with a whoosh.
"Uh..." Lance looked around at the others, noticing who was helping who, and then glanced at Natasha, holding up the unconscious Raina. "You want to take her?"
"You're less likely to give her a concussion." Natasha's tone of voice and expression made it impossible to tell if she was joking.
Lance decided not to test her, figuring whatever the woman had against Raina, they couldn't afford to let it slow them down. He tossed the unconscious woman over his shoulder, to leave his hands free, and then started towards the open door. He might not have his weapons... but he was no slouch when it came to hand-to-hand combat.
Mack, meanwhile, had lifted Loki up and over his own shoulders in a fireman's carry... protecting his brother's head, but also leaving his hands available to fight if necessary.
"C'mon, sweetheart..." Trip urged Kara to stand, wrapping her arm around her shoulders so that she would be able to keep her balance if she suddenly became dizzy.
Brock motioned Clint and Natasha to take the lead. "I'll follow behind and make certain no one sneaks up on us..." he said, suspicious that no one had come pouring into the cell as soon as the door was open and Raina hadn't left.
Natasha went ahead immediately, joining her brother. Leaving the cage, she headed in the direction the fighting sounded from.
Lance went behind Trip, and in front of Brock, figuring he could act as another line of defense if anyone came at them from behind.
Clint hadn't made any comments since Raina had come into the room. He fully understood Natasha's view on the situation. Raina was the one who had injected their baby brother with a deadly virus, just so he could be her guinea-pig. Raina was also most likely responsible for a great many other things that had occurred lately. At the same time, the woman did not seem completely in control of herself; either due to not being sane, or some other reason. He decided he wouldn't weigh in on the situation unless asked directly and let his father take care of it.
Kara moaned softly. "...Head hurts," she said quietly to Trip.
"I know, Kar-bear... we'll be out of here soon..." Trip soothed, even as he prepared to begin fighting. They were getting very close to the sounds of weapons firing and shouting.
It didn't take long for Natasha and Clint to round the corner, to where their family members were fighting the HYDRA soldiers still. Natasha waded in immediately, waving to those with them with the injured members of their family to stay back.
Lance shifted closer to Trip. "Do you want me to take Kara? So you can fight?" he asked, knowing his cousin had been cooped up a lot longer than he had... and probably wanted payback.
"Did you hear that, sir? They're all heading your direction with a prisoner and Kara and Loki will need some help..." Matt repeated what Skye said, not sure if she was wearing her comm or not.
"Yeah, they've reached us. Thanks, Matt..." Grant said.
"Kara, sweetie...I want you to lean on Lance. As soon as I get an opening through these soldiers, he's going to get you to daddy...ok?" Trip spoke softly to his baby sister, glancing at Lance to confirm that Lance would do just that.
Lance nodded, wrapping his arm around Kara's shoulders and drawing her in close against his side. "We'll get you out of here and to your dad," he promised her... thankful that at least their prisoner wasn't waking up. He wasn't exactly sure why he'd decided to bring her, instead of leaving her locked up in the cell... only, it had seemed to him that there was something broken in her.
And he knew that so many of them had been broken and given chances... he didn't think he could have lived with himself if he didn't extend the same to someone who spoke to him like she had. No matter the history between her and the other family members.
For his part, Trip began his own version of being a wrecking ball, plowing into soldiers and rendering them unable to fight or wound his family- although he did his best not to just kill everyone. He couldn't help but remember how his own brother and sister had been on opposing sides to him at one time and if he'd just killed them then- before learning they were brainwashed- he wouldn't have them now. Unfortunately, some of the soldiers didn't give them a choice, but most were able to be knocked unconscious.
Grant bit his lip, glancing at Steve. "How will we get all the unconscious people out before destroying the facility? It just doesn't feel right to leave them inside and unable to at least fight for their lives..."
"We'll bring one of the vans over... put some of them inside," Steve answered, finally having some breathing room. He spoke into the comms. "Matt? Can you make contact with some of the other SHIELD agents? Let them know we've got a lot of prisoners to transport, please?"
Lance quickly made his way through the path Trip had left, getting Kara to her father's side so that Fury could take charge of her.
"I contacted the Playground, sir..." Matt responded quickly. "They are sending three bus transports, but it will take them at least an hour to reach you. Are you able to corral and contain the prisoners until the back-up arrives?"
Kara, as soon as she was near her father, scuttled closer to him. She was attempting to help fight, but every so often, a dizzy spell would hit her and she'd have to hold still till it passed.
Bobbi, seeing Kara's predicament, moved closer to her cousin and uncle to help Fury defend the wounded woman. "Hey, Kar-bear. Did you catch a glimpse of who gave you that goose-egg?" she asked off-handedly, figuring that Hydra operative would get a little bit of special attention for hurting her family.
Kara snorted then winced. "No...it came from behind...sorry."
Bobbi sighed. "Oh, well, probably better anyway. I think we're trying to keep as many as possible alive..."
With their other family members joining in, the tide was quickly turning in their favour. Still... an hour was a long time to wait. Even so, Steve knew that they had to manage it. "We can manage," he said into the comms, knocking yet another HYDRA operative out.
With his hands now free (and Raina still over his shoulder), Lance could concentrate more on fighting, taking out as many HYDRA soldiers as he could get.
Grant grunted as he knocked out yet one more Hydra soldier, wincing as he got grazed by a knife, the metal slicing through his shirt and cutting a thin line on his arm. "Does anyone have contact with Tony and the others? I'm assuming they are waiting till we are out to eliminate this place... Maybe Bruce has a suggestion on how to contain them?"
"Yeah; actually, I do. Are Wanda and Pietro still at the tower?" Bruce cut in, figuring that with everything that was going on, Grant probably forgot that the lines of communication had been opened. "Or did they come in with Melinda and Sam? If they are here… if you can get all the captured operatives who are still alive outside and in a circle... and if you can find any wire anywhere in the facility... Wanda and Pietro could set up a fence around the prisoners and then Thor could electrify it to keep them from trying to escape..."
Tony cut in. "According to their inventory records that Veronica has been snooping through, there are several large spools of wiring in their garage. Skye? Is the garage free of soldiers, so that someone can get in there and bring it out, or will we need to send in a group of people to get it? Also, I'm thinking only one of us really needs to stay behind in this laboratory; setting off the destruction is a one man job. Is it safe for the others to leave the lab and meet up with everyone else? I'll stay behind and follow as soon as I get the go ahead to start the destruction, since I'm able to fly..."
Overhearing, Sam cut in. "Pietro wanted to come... Wanda came to keep him out of trouble, I think. They stayed in the vehicle Melinda and I came in, but I can make contact with them." He switched over to the comms the twins were using (at Wanda's insistence), passing on Bruce's suggestion.
"The garage is free," Skye reported. "And there's a clear line from the labs to where everyone else is," she added to Tony.
Using his super-speed, Pietro had joined them, with Wanda, almost before Skye finished speaking.
Rhodey knocked out the last person that was currently able to be seen. There didn't appear to be anymore reinforcements arriving for the Hydra soldiers; either they were hiding, or they had evacuated and left the area. "Ok...well let's get those still living and..." He glanced around, noting an area separated from the facility that was surrounded by posts on three sides (an apparent attempt to regulate vehicle traffic to one side instead of all four). "We can use this area here; if Pietro would like to come with me, we can get the wire?"
Pietro nodded. "Sounds good to me."
"I can get some of them inside the area," Wanda offered, knowing she would be able to move at least some of the soldiers with her abilities.
Grant wiped a hand over his face, then nodded, hefting one of the unconscious soldiers over his shoulders and carrying him to the area Rhodey had pointed out. "May as well get started..." he muttered.
"Yeah...ok..." Bobbi said in response, grabbing a soldier by the ankles and dragging him slowly in the direction her brother was going.
"Iannaelp..." Kara muttered, stepping away from her father's side with the intention of dragging a Hydra soldier to the containment area.
Trip watched his baby sister, worry in his eyes, but decided to let their father handle her. He grabbed his own soldier and made his way to join his cousins.
Mack glanced at Lance, then at the by now unconscious Raina. "We should probably keep her separate from the rest. Until Bruce can draw some blood and figure out exactly what she injected herself with and if we need to be worried about her being contagious..." he said in a low rumble, before swallowing hard and reluctantly letting go of Loki when the Asgardian attempted to step away.
Loki grimaced, but gave his brother a small smile. "Whatever they did to enable comms to begin working also destroyed whatever it was that was draining me. I'm feeling a lot stronger now..." he said, to encourage Mack. He then glanced over toward where Odin and Thor were. "Ready to face our father?" he whispered.
Mack glanced toward Odin and Thor and winced. "Yeah. Better sooner than later..." he agreed.
Brock bit his lip as he watched his cousins heading toward their father. He bit his lip harder when he saw the condition Kara was still in. Sighing softly, he grabbed two soldiers and began dragging them to join the rest. He'd face his father after the prisoners were safely contained. That way, there would be no distractions.
Wanda concentrated, using her powers to lift the soldiers into the area. She was able to move two at a time... though concentrating her power so much did weaken her quite a bit.
Thor was able to take three of the soldiers, dragging them towards the area and returning just as his brothers joined their father.
Odin looked over Mack and Loki, his concern obvious. "Are you both unharmed?" There was a serious undercurrent to his voice, but it was the worry that came through the most obviously.
Fury wrapped an arm around Kara's shoulders and gently drew her away. "You need to rest and let Bruce check you out. There are plenty of people here who can move the soldiers." He held her close to himself... though he also watched his sons with concern.
Coulson's own face was worried as he watched his two youngest, but he moved to help them, after looking over both Natasha and Clint to assure himself that they were both all right. He hadn't failed to notice the woman dangling over Lance's shoulder, but it was impossible to tell what he was thinking about her.
Bucky, satisfied that the prisoners were being taken care of, quickly made his way to his son and helped ease Raina off the younger man's shoulders. He then looked into his son's face, as if trying to determine if he was alright. "Health rep?" he asked quietly, knowing that his son would know that was his cue to tell Bucky what had happened to him, what drugs he might have been given and if he needed immediate medical attention. He shifted Raina in his arms.
"I wasn't harmed, as far as I can tell..." Mack's voice was soft and a bit sheepish. "I'm not sure what they used to knock me out, but I don't have a headache and I'm not woozy..."
Loki gave his father a crooked and sheepish smile of his own. "The only difficulty I was having was feeling drained and weak; and as soon as whatever force was preventing communication was disabled, my strength returned..." He didn't say anything about the undercurrent he could hear in Odin's voice, not wanting to face whatever trouble he'd gotten himself into until they were safely back at home and in the apartment. He didn't feel up to facing it just yet, though he was pretty sure he was in trouble.
"Oh..." Kara's voice sounded small and a little disappointed. "Ok, daddy..." she whispered, pressing to her father and snuggling so close, her face was in his armpit.
Trip had dropped off the soldier he was dragging then glanced at Brock before looking to see how many more soldiers there were left to contain. "We've got to face him sooner or later..." he finally muttered under his breath to his brother.
"I know..." Brock admitted. "I just... Kara was hurt coming after us. She wouldn't have been if... I just..." He sighed then swallowed hard. "I know." Sighing, he turned and went to get two more soldiers, not surprised when Trip followed him.
By this time, Bruce had reached the group, leading his children and nephew. "Tony says to give him the all clear when you're ready for him to detonate this puppy..." he said, as he quickly moved to Kara's side so that he could make sure she was alright, motioning for Bucky to bring Raina over so that he could check her out as well.
Lance didn't protest his father taking Raina from him and he followed Bucky as he brought Raina over to Bruce. "Pretty sure I was just knocked out with a tranq. Kara and Nat both got knocked out... but Nat seems more with it." He eyed his cousin worriedly then spoke to Bruce, gesturing to Raina. "She injected herself with something... Nat has the syringe and what's left in it."
Fury kept his arm around Kara, even as he waited for Bruce to examine her, gently stroking his daughter's hair, his expression worried.
"I would still like both of you to be checked over." Odin took a gentle, though firm, hold on Mack and Loki, guiding his two younger sons to Bruce's side.
Having noticed Grant's injury, Coulson wrapped an arm around his shoulders and also around Bobbi's, leading them to Bruce. "Clint? Nat?" He looked at his two oldest, expecting them to tell him if they weren't injured.
Bucky carefully put Raina down, where she couldn't escape if she woke up before Bruce could get to her. She was breathing and her pulse was strong enough not to be worried yet, so he was happy to let his nephew take care of those who were obviously hurt first. Especially since the woman had brought whatever was happening to her on herself. "As soon as Bruce has taken care of Kara, Grant and anyone else who was obviously injured, I want you to get checked out as well. Make sure that tranq didn't have anything else in it."
Kara did her best to keep her eyes open as Bruce checked her out. As soon as he was done, she slumped against her father. "...Tired..." she mumbled.
Bruce nodded at her. "I'm going to use this scanner to make sure you don't have any bleeding in your skull. If there is no bleeding and Veronica can't locate any other life-threatening problems, we can let you take a nap and have your daddy wake you up again in two hours. Ok? Just hold on so I can do the scan..." He gave Nick a concerned look. He hoped that there was nothing too seriously wrong; he could tell she had a concussion. It was the slurred words when she talked and her seeming inability to walk straight without help that had him worried. He wasn't sure if that was a sign of something more serious, or just a unique response for her. Carefully, he held his scanner up so that Veronica could scan her head.
Brock and Trip had come over by this point; only a few prisoners were left to be taken to the containment unit and Rhodey, Sam and Thor had them well in hand. Brock bit his lip as he caught the tail-end of what Bruce said. "Is she going to be ok?" he asked, his worry rising.
Grant didn't fight his father directing him toward Bruce, although when he saw his cousin, he was reluctant to draw Bruce's attention away from her. "I know I didn't get any wounds anywhere else, dad... there's no need to have Bruce take care of it; Jemma could do just as good a job..." he said softly to his father, while motioning Jemma over.
Jemma, noting the blood on Grant's shirt, quickly grabbed a med-kit and walked toward her uncle and cousins.
Bobbi glanced at her father. "I didn't get wounded at all and I'm more than capable of assisting Jemma with those that were..." She didn't leave his side, though, wanting to wait until he had approved her plan before just walking away.
Mack just nodded in acceptance of Odin's decree, noting that Loki was nodding as well.
"Hey, guys? I've arranged for the extra medical personnel that were on standby to come to your location. They can assist with any wounds or other injuries with you or the prisoners..." Matt's voice carried over the comms.
Tony's voice broke through a few seconds after Matt's. "Since we're still connected by comms, is everyone out of the facility now and clear of the path of destruction? Have I got a go for blowing the roof off this place?"
Lance nodded, stepping closer to his father, almost without thinking about it. "I will get checked out," he promised. He hadn't been held captive for long... but it had still affected him. He wasn't exactly claustrophobic, but it still hadn't been pleasant.
Coulson nodded to his daughter, even though the look on his face was still worried. "If you realise you have an injury you don't remember getting, I want you to get checked out." His voice didn't allow for any argument.
Fury held his daughter close, his worry for her growing as he moved just enough to allow Bruce to scan her.
"Thanks, son," Sam said into the comms. "There are a lot of injuries among the HYDRA soldiers."
"You're good to go, son," Steve addressed Tony. "Make sure you're out of the line of fire."
"Got it, dad!" Tony chirped over the line. A few seconds passed and then a huge explosion rocked the ground. "Wheeee-haw!" came over the comms and then fire and explosions were erupting all throughout the facility. Tony was taking everything down.
Everyone held still, staring at the facility, for what seemed like minutes, though it was really only seconds, before Bruce cleared his throat and gave his uncle a relieved smile. "She doesn't have any bleeding or other head trauma. It seems as if the slurring and wobbliness is due to the fact that she's tired from the concussion. It should be safe for her to go ahead and sleep, but I want you to wake her up every two hours for the next twenty-four hours, just to make certain that nothing develops that the scans missed. Hopefully, the sleep will help her heal and be back to her normal self sooner..."
"Canilosmyesow?" Kara mumbled against her father's chest.
"Yes, sweetie...you can close your eyes..." Bruce chuckled softly, giving Nick a firm squeeze on the shoulder before motioning Brock and Trip over. "You two have any injuries that need tending?" his voice was firm and expecting the truth.
"Not that we're aware of, Cuz..." Trip smiled, glancing at Brock, who nodded in agreement with his words.
"Good. Help your dad with your sister..." Bruce smiled, then turned to head toward Loki, after glancing over and seeing that his daughter had Grant's injury well in hand.
Bobbi looked at her father. "I will, daddy...promise..." Her voice was soft and reserved. The afternoon had taken a lot out of her emotionally and she was feeling very guilty now that things had slowed down and their family was safe. She didn't want to burden her father with her guilt, however, so kept it to herself and tried to play it off as just being tired.
Grant smiled at his cousin as she finished cleaning and dressing the wound. "Thanks, Jem," he said softly.
"You're welcome." Jemma smiled brightly. "Are there any other wounds between you three, or should I start working on prisoners?"
Matt's voice was serious, "If you need anything else or anyone else, let me know. Skye and I won't be leaving our positions until everyone is safely back in the tower..."
Fury nodded and hugged his daughter close and tight, before gently guiding her towards the vans. "You can lie down in back," he said to her.
Coulson brought Bobbi in close and kissed her forehead. "I love you," he whispered to her. He could hear the soft reservation in her voice... and was pretty sure he knew what was causing it. He looked at Jemma. "I don't think there are any wounds here, but I'd like you to just take a look at Nat. I know she was knocked out."
"I think we're good." Sam glanced at Steve for confirmation.
Steve nodded. "We shouldn't need anyone else," he agreed.
"Ok, daddy..." Kara said softly, following meekly along and then crawling into the very back of the van and finding a comfortable place to curl up, wrapping her arms around herself in a self-hug, attempting to stay warm.
"Of course!" Jemma nodded, quickly heading toward the widow. She motioned her cousin over, smiling when Clint accompanied his sister. "I want to make certain you don't have any problems we aren't aware of, since you were knocked unconscious," she said to the older woman, before glancing at Clint. "And I'm assuming you were tranq'd?" She pulled out a scanner and began to run it over Nat. "Do you hurt anywhere other than your head? Feel nauseous? Anything I should take a look at?" she asked rapidly, even as she was taking the information from the scanner.
"I don't see any blood on her, so I don't think she got hurt in the fighting, just knocked out..." Clint answered for his sister. "Don't see any blood on myself, either, unless it's where I can't see..." He twisted around, trying to look over his shoulder, a comical look on his face. "And yeah, I was tranquilized...but I'm not feeling sick or anything from it, so I think it was a regular run of the mill tranq..." Clint glanced over to where Pietro and Wanda were 'guarding' the unconscious prisoners. Not that the prisoners would need much watching, even after they woke up; Thor had electrified the make-shift fence with enough electricity that it would zap them back to sleep, should they attempt to touch it.
Loki smiled at Bruce when the other man stopped in front of him. "I am feeling much better now that whatever that interference was has been destroyed. And I was not wounded. I really do not think anyone needs to worry; and I promise I will take it easy until you say otherwise, so..." he tried to reassure everyone, but mostly his father.
Mack chuckled. "Just let him scan you and get it out of the way. We don't know how long we were out for before everyone else showed up. Heck...I don't even know if they tranquilized me, or hit me over the head like they did poor Kara and Nat..."
Loki frowned thoughtfully as he glanced toward his cousins that had been 'knocked out', as Mack said. "I hope they are alright..." He couldn't help but feel guilty that they were hurt, especially since they were hurt trying to rescue Brock, Trip, Mack and him from an unsanctioned mission that went wrong.
Fury wasted no time in climbing into the back of the van with his daughter, wrapping his arms around her in a tight hug. Catching his sons' eyes, he motioned for them to join him with a jerk of his head.
Natasha stood quietly by while Jemma scanned her over. "My reaction times are unaffected and although the bump on my head is tender, I don't feel dizzy or sick." She held up the syringe. "I couldn't stop her from injecting herself, but she didn't use all of it. You can run tests on what's left," she suggested.
Coulson watched his children closely, to assure himself they were all right... well, unhurt, at least. He could tell that Bobbi and Grant were affected by what they had done. As Natasha spoke, though, he walked over to Raina's side... and crouched down, so he could check her condition. Yes, she had done a lot of things that were wrong... but so had Grant. So had many members of the family, before they'd become part of the family.
Odin frowned, placing a hand on his youngest' shoulders and squeezing gently. "I still do not wish to risk either of your safety."
Kara couldn't help herself and shifted and crawled until she was laying on top of her father, her head on his chest so she could listen to his heartbeat, his body-heat warming her.
By that time, another van with the medical personnel that Matt had said was on the way was pulling into the lot. The prisoners were secure in the makeshift electrical cell Pietro and Thor had made and Trip could see Tony flying over to join his father... the facility literally going up in smoke. He had no doubt, if he was really needed, that the others would tell him...right now, he needed to be with his family. He quickly crawled up so that he was on one side of his dad and baby sister, leaving the other side for Brock. Trip noticed that Brock didn't waste any time crawling up behind him so that the two of them were bracketing their father and sister like bookends. "She's already asleep..." he said softly, still worried despite the fact that Bruce said she was going to be ok.
Jemma carefully took the half-full syringe. "Thank you..." she said, as she carefully stored the item so that the serum inside wouldn't accidently be lost. "This will be invaluable in figuring out exactly what she was doing...and might prove the missing element we need to form an antidote to the virus, depending on if they really are related." She grinned at her cousins. "I'll just take this to dad now...if you two want to accompany the other medical personnel as they take care of the prisoners? I can't find anything wrong that rest and a good meal won't help..." she told Natasha.
Raina, shivered slightly, letting out a tiny moan. "I failed...I didn't take the full serum; I can't get an accurate reading on just a little bit..." Her voice was disappointed, but resigned. There was a slight sheen of sweat on her forehead...she'd already started developing a slight fever.
"I'm sorry, dad..." Mack said in an apologetic tone. "We shouldn't have gone without getting approval first..."
Loki nodded. "We made such grand plans, but failed to get a director's approval. It was not our place to make a decision of that magnitude and the results could have been disastrous."
Fury shifted so that he was in contact with all three of his children. "She's going to be tired and dizzy. We need to make sure we wake her when we need to." He looked at his sons. "I'm glad you're both safe, but you shouldn't have come here alone and without authorisation."
Natasha nodded. "Thank you." She glanced around at the others, to check if she was needed elsewhere.
Coulson placed his hand over Raina's forehead, feeling how hot she was. "I'm going to get my nephew to take a look at you," he said. "Don't try to get up just yet. You have a fever."
Odin frowned. "You shouldn't have gone on your own," he agreed. "One or both of you could have been hurt a lot worse."
"I know..." Trip whispered, his voice carrying within the confines of the van. "I'm sorry I did...not that that helps anything..." He glanced toward his sleeping sister, carefully reaching up and brushing a lock of her hair off her face. "If something worse had happened to her...I'd never have forgiven myself," he admitted, then swallowed hard.
Brock took a shaky breath. "Me either..." he contributed. He left unsaid that he knew he'd been wrong. He figured the fact that he didn't offer any reasons or excuses would let his father know that he agreed with Fury's assessment.
Clint carefully took Nat's arm and began walking toward where the prisoners were being held. "C'mon...let's help Wanda and Pietro keep an eye on things while the doctors do their thing. When the bus transports arrive to take the prisoners back to the playground, we can go home and relax..."
"It's supposed to be so much more..." Raina's voice was hoarse and her eyes were watering. "I failed...I'm not special at all...he lied..."
Loki winced and looked at the ground, unable to face his father. "No, sir. We should not have gone on our own. I regret that we did..." he admitted softly.
"Dad...I'm really sorry about it, too..." Mack added.
Tony landed on the ground next to Steve and glanced around. "Everyone accounted for?" His voice was jovial, but there was an undercurrent of worry.
Bucky snagged Dr. Cho from among the doctors heading in to work on the prisoners and took her to the van where the prisoner Grant and Bobbi had interrogated was. "Just, you know...make sure he's ok and that there doesn't need to be anything done?" He smiled at the woman. He then went back to Lance. "You get checked out yet?" His voice was worried. He knew that Lance wasn't found of being locked up in small spots... being locked in a small spot with seven other people had to have been very difficult.
Just then, the buses that Matt had promised were coming, pulled into the lot, numerous agents of SHIELD hopping off so that they could take custody of prisoners. Soon, all the prisoners that weren't wounded too badly and were ready to be moved were loading onto the first bus. As soon as it was full, the driver went to Coulson to get the go ahead to head back to the base where the prison cells were...and then the first bus was gone and the second bus was being loaded...more slowly than the first, as they had reached a point where some of the prisoners needed medical attention before they could be loaded onto the transport.
"She wasn't hurt worse... and neither were the two of you," Fury said. "But we will deal with what happened. Later. I was very worried about you... all of us were." His voice was serious... but it was also clear how much he'd worried about them; and how relieved he was that they were safe.
Natasha nodded, walking with Clint towards the prisoners... though she glanced back over her shoulder at their father, her face worried.
Coulson's hand shifted to Raina's hair, stroking it without conscious thought. "You didn't need to inject yourself with the serum to make yourself special." He lifted his head so that he could catch Bruce's eye, reluctant to send the younger woman in the transport with the rest of the prisoners. Just like with his children, he felt drawn to her.
Odin sighed, holding his sons close. "We will discuss it when we return to your home," was all he said... though the tight hold he had on his sons revealed how worried he'd been for them.
Steve wrapped his arm around Tony's shoulders. "Everyone's here. Everyone's safe. What about you? Are you hurt?"
"Not yet... but I should be fine," Lance said. "I mean, now that I'm out of there and I know everyone's safe." He smiled at his father, trying to be reassuring, though he added, "But if you want me to get checked out, I will."
Trip visibly relaxed at his father's words. "Thanks, dad..." he said softly.
Brock huffed faintly, a tiny smile forming on his lips. "Yeah...thanks. Although...it feels like I should have my head examined for thanking you for basically promising that your gonna make it hard for me to sit. Cuz we all know that's what's gonna happen."
"But I did..." Raina's voice was earnest, even if her breathing was slightly shallow. She turned her head without thinking, so that her face pressed to Coulson's hand. "I was nothing before...am nothing...and I failed. I was meant to be something more and now I'm not..." She sounded sad...and also like she was repeating something she'd heard frequently said by someone else.
Mack held onto Odin tightly, not surprised that Loki was also holding onto their father tightly. "Ok, dad..." He sighed. "...When do you think we'll be able to go home? Has anyone said?"
Tony shifted closer to his father and gave Steve a quick hug. "I was wearing my suit, so was fairly well protected. I don't believe I was wounded and I feel better than good, so...I think I'm ok."
"I'd feel better if you had Jemma scan you, if nothing else..." Bucky said firmly, with a smile. "Just to make sure the tranq didn't harm you..." He waved toward Jemma, catching her attention.
Jemma walked over quickly. "Yes, Uncle Bucky?"
Bucky gently pushed Lance toward his niece. "Please check Lance out to make sure the tranquilizer didn't hurt him?"
"Of course!" Jemma agreed, pulling out her scanner and running it over Lance, even as she asked him how he was feeling and if he felt nauseous, or had any other weird symptoms.
"I'll be holding you both accountable for endangering yourselves and going on your own without getting permission," Fury said. "But it won't change anything about our relationship. And I'm still happy to have you both back with me safe."
Coulson heard Raina's words and he gently touched her cheek, stroking his thumb over it. "You aren't nothing. You are worth something... a lot." His voice was soft, but no less sincere for it.
"I assume when all of the prisoners have been moved," Odin said.
Thor nodded. "I believe that to be true."
"Good." Steve hugged Tony. "Your son's safe... so is everyone else, barring a few concussions."
Lance stood still, allowing Jemma to check him over. "I don't feel dizzy or sick. I have a slight headache, but nothing serious."
"Never doubted that for a minute, daddy..." Brock said, before clearing his throat.
Trip reached over and put a hand on his father's arm. "Yeah...never doubted that in the least..."
"You should hate me...I hurt your family...your son...My failure means it was all for nothing..." Raina sighed softly, her eyes drifting closed. "I was meant for great and terrible things..." she whispered.
Mack nodded at his family. "From the looks of it, it won't be much longer, then. The doctors have taken care of all the prisoners and they are loading up the last bus to transport them to the Playground now..."
Grant wandered over. "I think dad plans to bring Raina with us; to get information about the serum she had in that syringe, as well as possible information on what the plans were. And...it looks like they'll be bringing the guy we got the information to find you all, too. I don't see him joining the rest of the prisoners..." He frowned slightly, a haunted look flitting across his face, before he glanced toward the van they'd put the first prisoner in, to make certain he was still there.
Tony grinned, seeing Harry and waving him over. "Thanks, dad... Will there be enough room in the vans for all the family to ride back together? Or should I plan to fly back with Rhodey?" He wrapped an arm around Harry and gave him a rather gentle hug; not wanting to hurt him, since he was still wearing the armor.
"Good...good. I think I can safely say that you will be fine. Just make certain to drink a lot of water when you get home to help flush the tranquilizer out of your body." Jemma smiled, noting that the last prison bus was leaving and the only people left now were the family, two prisoners that apparently were going back to the tower and the emergency personnel who were arriving to put out the fires. "C'mon," she said softly to Lance. "Let's go meet up with our families..." She began to walk toward Bruce, who was checking Raina over.
"Good." Fury patted their arms gently. "And you aren't responsible for anyone getting hurt. Even on a sanctioned mission, that could have happened. It isn't like you planned for that to happen."
Coulson used his free hand to grip Raina's hand, even while he stroked her hair gently with his other hand, careful not to get in Bruce's way. "People make mistakes... do things they shouldn't," he said softly. "I don't hate you. For right now, you need to concentrate on getting better."
Odin looked at Grant and then towards where Coulson crouched next to Raina. "For other reasons as well, perhaps."
"There are many of us needing to return to the tower," Thor observed. "Perhaps I should use my hammer to fly back and meet you there?"
Harry walked over and immediately leaned into his father. Steve watched his son and grandson with an affectionate smile. "If you'd like to come back in the vans, I'm sure it would be doable," he said to Tony. "Otherwise, maybe you could take Harry back with you and Rhodey?" While he would have offered, he thought that might give Tony some time to spend with his son.
Lance nodded and trailed Jemma over to Bruce and the others, moving close to his father. While he was healthy physically, he was still bothered by having been stuck in the cage. "I'm not sure I want to be cooped up in the van driving back..."
"Yes, sir," Brock and Trip answered in tandem. Trip chuckled. "With us crammed together in the back like this, there should be plenty of room for everyone else to find seats...although, I can move up a row so you can buckle Kara in..."
"I don't feel like I did anything wrong..." Raina blinked, a confused tone in her voice."I do know that you should be angry...I expected you to be angry. Why are you being kind to me?"
Grant blinked at Odin's words and looked back at his father, paying closer attention. To his chagrin, he felt a flair of jealousy and resentment that he hadn't expected. Raina had caused a horrible amount of problems for him and the rest of the family, but his father was... Grant sighed and ran a hand through his hair. His father was being his father; forgiving before the wrong doer even realized they needed forgiveness. After experiencing it himself, he couldn't begrudge anyone else receiving it...he shoved the resentment away. He wasn't quite as successful in getting rid of the jealousy, but at least that he could hide somewhat. He hoped. He glanced at his uncle Odin with a crooked smile. "Yeah...other reasons too..."
Tony grinned and waved Rhodey closer. "Rhodey...can you give Lance here a ride back to the tower? I'll follow along with Harry; assuming he'd like to fly a'la Iron Man..." He glanced at his son.
Rhodey looked at Lance. "Sure. C'mon, kid. We can beat them all back..."
Bruce smiled at Thor. "If you wouldn't mind taking Jemma back...she can ready the rooms in the medical lab for when our patients arrive."
Jemma looked a little nervous about flying outside of a plane, her experience of jumping out of a plane when she thought the Chitauri virus would cause her to blow up not being a pleasant experience, but she trusted her cousin. She moved next to Thor and grasped onto his arm uncertainly. "Do you mind?"
"I'm not sure it's necessary to buckle her in," Fury answered, "but if you'd prefer to move up a row, you can. It wouldn't be a problem." He situated Kara into a more comfortable position, gently stroking her hair.
"Because I don't believe anyone is so far gone, they don't deserve another chance." Other reasons, too. Like the way Raina had spoken... as if she'd been mistreated by someone who should have taken care of her. And the fact that Lance had chosen to bring her with them, instead of dumping her with other prisoners.
Coulson gently squeezed Raina's hand and then looked around, so he could lay eyes on all of his children and grandchildren. Wanda and Pietro were with their father and Natasha... But he made eye contact with his two youngest, giving them each loving smiles... not wanting either of them to think he'd forgotten about them or thought about them any less.
Or had no idea that each was going through an emotional upheaval.
Waiting until Bruce had finished examining her, Coulson addressed Raina in a gentle tone. "Can you stand?"
Harry smiled at his father, looking excited before he quickly changed his features to a neutral expression... not sure if that was an appropriate response. "Yes. I would like that..." He still couldn't quite keep the note of excitement out of his voice.
Lance nodded and looked at Rhodey. "Where do you want me standing?"
"Of course not." Thor gave Jemma a reassuring smile and wrapped his arm around her waist, using his hammer to lift them both into the air... though he was careful to go slow and not scare her any more than he could help it.
"I prefer to stay with my family..." Trip said quietly, a tiny smile on his face. "Just wanted to make certain you didn't want to have a seatbelt free..."
"You are an unusual man, Philip Coulson..." Raina said softly, narrowing her eyes as if trying to figure out a puzzle. She wanted to discuss with him his views about second chances and such, particularly since she'd just admitted to not feeling guilty about anything she'd done. Her beliefs that he'd hate her or want her to suffer stemmed completely from the fact that she knew she'd hurt his family and in her experience, people did not react well to having that occur. She wondered if she should feel guilty. It was something to worry about later, though. She closed her eyes wearily.
Bobbi caught her father's eye and gave him a crookedly smile that didn't quite reach her eyes before she glanced away, deliberately avoiding looking at the van where their interrogation victim was being held.
Grant looked away as soon as he noticed his father looking at him, not even able to face him long enough to give him a tiny smile. He too avoided looking toward the van where the other prisoner was.
Bruce finished checking Raina out and glanced up at his uncle. "She'll be fine until we can get her into the medical wing. I'm hoping she didn't alter whatever she gave herself to include being airborne...if she did, she's exposed all of us. Just in case, I'd prefer it if everyone in the van with her at least wore a mask over their mouth and nose. I'll go check on our last prisoner and then we should be ready to go, if you'd like to get her locked up into a van." With that, the scientist moved to take care of the last prisoner, the one that had been interrogated.
Raina opened her eyes again, hearing both Coulson's question and Bruce's directive. "I can stand..." she said calmly, doing so in as graceful and ladylike a way as possible. "I did not alter the virus to be airborne, so that is not a worry. It would be too difficult to control if I did that and it was meant to be controlled..." Her voice was as nonchalant as if she was talking about the weather. She waited patiently for Coulson to tell her where to go.
Bruce had already left Coulson and Raina by this point, quickly reaching the van. He sighed when he saw the condition the prisoner was in; it wasn't anything life threatening... but it looked painful and a few wounds needed tending to make certain infection didn't set in. He quickly began to work. Glancing up, he saw the man looking at him. "What's your name?" he finally asked curiously. He needed to think of the man as something other than prisoner, after all.
Tony's grin broadened at Harry's excitement, even if the kid tried to hide it. "I altered the suit slightly so that there are two tiny platforms on the back of my boots. If you put your feet on those and then wrap your arms tightly around me, I can take off... Also, if you look closely, there is a belt that you can pull out of the suit, wrap around yourself and then attach to the other side. I've been trying to come up with ways to make it easier for my family to catch lifts with me, without messing up functionality..." His grin was almost ear to ear by this point. He glanced at Rhodey. "I updated the War Machine suit to have the same features; never know when you have to rescue the President, after all- and this makes it slightly easier, as long as you aren't catching him in free-fall."
Rhodey blinked at that, his own smile getting bigger. "That's great..." He turned toward Lance. "...So I guess you just stand on the platforms and wrap the belt around yourself and latch it..."
Jemma couldn't help the tiny squeal that escaped her mouth as Thor lifted off, but soon she was looking around, wide-eyed and laughing. "This is wonderful!" she finally said to her cousin, surprised at how much she was enjoying the trip.
"We're fine like this," Fury said, his voice firm. He wanted to keep all of his children close and assure himself that they were all right.
Coulson let his hand rest gently on Raina's shoulder and guided her over to his two youngest. "Bobbi... Grant. I'd like you both to come in the van with me and Raina." His voice was firm, but the look on his face was one of loving affection... intermingled with worry. He could read his children well.
The soldier hadn't moved while everything was going on. Even if his wounds hadn't made movement difficult, his mind found it hard to focus. It was as if everything was foggy... making him question everything. It wasn't a feeling he was used to. When he answered Bruce's question, his voice seemed to come from far away... as if he were lost inside his own head. "Bakshi. My... name is Sunil Bakshi."
Harry nodded, unable to quite stop his big smile as he moved to where his father had directed. He placed himself and then wrapped the belt around him before taking a firm grip on his father. Although it felt strange at first, he quickly grew used to it.
Lance did the same to Rhodey, with a bit more confidence than Harry had. "Ready," he said, relaxing more the longer he was outside.
Thor smiled down at Jemma, amused... and happy to see her enjoying the flight. "It is not so bad, then?" he asked, his amusement colouring his voice.
"Alright, then..." Trip smiled and settled back into the seat, his arm and leg pressing against his father. He glanced over and noted that Brock was as close as he could get to their father without crowding him. "Things could have ended so much worse..." he muttered with a sigh.
Brock glanced over at the comment. "I'm sorry...I should never have talked you into going with me. I should never have talked myself into going..." He sighed as well.
"Yes, daddy..." Bobbi easily agreed. She tried her hardest to smile and look normal, though she was positive her father could tell it was all an act. He was able to see through her in ways that no one else ever could.
Grant grunted softly. "Ok, sir." He wouldn't look at Raina, torn between irritation that the woman who had been a thorn in his side for so many different things had managed to get his father's attention; irritation at himself for being irritated (after everything his father had forgiven him, it felt wrong to be upset that he'd offer forgiveness to someone else); guilt for what they'd done to the Hydra operative they'd got information out of... there were numerous emotions swirling around and overwhelming him. He could only glance at his father long enough to acknowledge him before he was glancing away, yet again.
Bruce nodded. "Sunil...I am going to be cleaning the worst of the wounds and putting antibiotics on them. It shouldn't hurt, but there might be a tiny sting..." He began cleaning the younger man up, bandaging the worst wounds. Soon, everything was taken care of. Bruce looked into Bakshi's eyes, trying to determine if there might be something else wrong. "You'll be locked in a medical cell... so we can keep an eye on you and make certain nothing else is wrong before you are returned to a regular cell. While we are there, I will draw some blood from you to analyze..."
Tony and Rhodey took off at the same time, seemingly racing, although they were both very careful with their passengers. Soon, they were out of sight of the rest of the family, heading toward the tower.
Jemma grinned at Thor. "It is not bad at all...in fact... it is wonderful!"
Loki watched his brother disappear before he glanced at his father and brother. "Do you wish to ride back in the vans with everyone else? Or shall I transport us directly to our apartment?"
Mack bit his lip, giving Odin a sideways glance. Knowing that they'd done wrong and deserved at least a chiding (and likely more) for their actions had him hoping they'd be going in the vans and postponing the confrontation. At the same time, maybe it would be better to get it out of the way before everyone else got home.
"Neither of you should have gone, but we'll discuss it when we get home," Fury said, his voice firm... though not unkind and still caring.
Coulson reached out and gently stroked over both Bobbi's and Grant's arms, leaning in to press an affectionate kiss to each of their foreheads. "I love you both. Very much," he said, his voice soft, but still sincere. "Let's go home." He waited to be sure they were going to follow him before heading to the van, gently guiding Raina with his hand on her shoulder.
Bakshi's eyes were distant, as if he was far away... or perhaps locked deep inside his own head. He nodded once to acknowledge Bruce's words... but it was difficult to say whether they had really registered.
Harry's eyes darted all around, taking in everything... or trying to take in everything... at once. He held on tightly to his father, secure in the knowledge that he wasn't going to be dropped. A whoop of excitement escaped him before he hid his face, embarrassed.
Lance chuckled softly and glanced over, catching Harry's eye. He gave the teenager a cocky grin, trying to make Harry feel better about letting his excitement show.
Thor grinned at Jemma. "I am sure there will be plenty of other occasions you will be able to fly... even with other members of the family."
"I believe we should ride back in the vans," Odin answered. "Until we are certain there are no lasting effects, Loki, I'd like you to rest."
"Yes, daddy..." Trip finally responded in a quiet whisper, his choice of address meant to convey not only that he knew he'd been wrong and was ready to accept whatever came from that, but that he wasn't going to argue with his father about it.
"Ok..." Brock added in, swallowing hard before reaching out a hand to touch his father, as if seeking some physical sign that everything would be okay, despite the errors in judgment made that day.
Bobbi's smile grew slightly at that, even if her eyes were still a bit sad. "I love you too, daddy..."
"Yeah, me too. I love you, dad..." Grant added. He waited for his baby sister to start following their father, before he began to follow, bringing up the rear.
Bruce frowned at the response; or, in this case, lack of response from Bakshi. He didn't think it was the interrogation that had the man acting this way, not entirely. He had his suspicions, but until he was able to draw the blood-work and do his tests, he wouldn't know for certain.
Tony laughed happily at the excitement in his son's voice. "The first time I went flying- well, the first time I went flying in the suit where I wasn't being shot at- I had the exact same reaction. Maybe your mom, grandpa, you and I can get together and discuss the possibility of you getting your own suit... or something similar. If you are going to work with everyone on missions, I'd feel better if you had some form of protection..."
Rhodey chuckled. "You do that and you better make sure Pepper has a suit too! She's not going to want to be left out if flying becomes a family thing!"
"Does Jane like to fly?" Jemma suddenly asked, curious about Thor's girlfriend that no one ever got to see much.
Loki swallowed at the concern hidden in Odin's remark. "Yes, sir... I will rest until you say I am rested enough..." He made the promise without thinking, just knowing that he had worried his father and he would do anything in his power to make the older man's worry disappear.
Fury slipped his hand into Brock's squeezing his son's hand gently, before doing the same to Trip. "It goes without saying that, if either of you start noticing any ill effects, I'd like you to make sure you come and see me, or Bruce at least, straight away.
Coulson checked to make sure that his son and daughter were joining him before he guided Raina into the van, moving to make sure there was enough room for his youngest son and daughter to join them... as well as his other children and grandchildren, if Clint wasn't going to take his children back a different way.
Bakshi sat in silence, his face still distant, as he seemed to draw further into himself. Even though he was in pain, he didn't voice any complaint.
Harry listened to his father. "I'd like that..." he admitted quietly, still a bit embarrassed over letting his excitement show.
"Maybe you could do something similar for everyone else?" Lance half-joked.
Thor's smile grew a bit more wistful. "She enjoys it a lot more than she did the first time."
Odin wrapped his arms around his younger sons' shoulders and guided them towards the van, still unable to hide his worry that one or both of them had been more hurt than he knew.
"I think the only effect I'm likely to feel is being tired. Whatever they knocked us out with had to be strong, since it got Loki too..." Brock admitted. "If you want, I'll go to the lab so Bruce can draw some blood and test, just in case..." He didn't sound like he really wanted to do it, but knew it might be necessary.
Trip nodded, squeezing his father's hand back. "Yeah. I know we weren't physically wounded anyway..."
Grant allowed Bobbi to sit next to their father, since he knew she'd be craving the physical affection and wouldn't mind anyone else watching. He normally wouldn't mind being physically affectionate with his family in front of the other family members, but Raina was an unknown element that he didn't quite feel comfortable around yet. So he was being a bit more aloof with her watching. He did position himself in such a way that if Raina tried anything against his father, he would be able to reach her quickly and stop her.
Bobbi climbed into the van and sat next to her dad, noting that Raina was on the other side of him, eyeing her and Grant curiously. She gave a tiny smirk before sliding down in the seat far enough that she could put her head on her father's shoulder. She then reached out and took his hand in hers.
"You two do not like or trust me..." Raina observed calmly, as if she was discussing what to have for dinner. She didn't sound overly surprised at the fact.
"Not really, no..." Grant said quietly, without heat. "But dad wants to give you another chance, so...I love and trust my father. If that's what he thinks needs doing, that's what we'll do."
Raina blinked at that then turned to look at Coulson with a little more consideration. Nodding slightly, she faced forward again and didn't say anything else.
Clint had reached the van by that point and was helping Wanda and then Pietro up into the middle section next to their uncle Grant. He left the passenger side for Nat and quickly went around to the driver's side, so that he could drive his family home.
Bucky watched Rhodey disappearing with Lance for several moments before he looked back at Odin and his sons. "Why don't you three ride back with Nick and his kids? Melinda can drive you..." He glanced toward Melinda, getting a nod from her that she agreed to the arrangement. "Steve...you and I can ride back with Leo, Peter and Bruce; make sure the other prisoner doesn't cause any problems. Leo can drive."
Tony's voice was amused. "Got it. At least three more suits; possibly more if anyone else wants to take a turn at flying..."
Rhodey laughed. "Maybe you better run that idea by Cap, Coulson and Fury. They may not want half their team in the air..."
Jemma heard the wistfulness and impulsively squeezed her cousin in a hug. "Why don't you invite her to join the family for dinner some time? I'd love to be able to speak with her. Some of her theories are amazing...even if it isn't in my field of expertise..."
Fury nodded. "I would feel better if you both allow yourselves to get tested... before we deal with what happened." He gave his sons a gentle squeeze each, glad to have them close to him.
Coulson gave Grant a gentle, affectionate smile, leaning over to pat his son's knee with his free hand before he gently took Bobbi's hand, squeezing it gently. He allowed his other hand to rest on Raina's shoulder, unwilling to draw away from her. He smiled at his other children and grandchildren as they joined him. "I thought we could order some pizza once we get settled back in the tower," he commented.
Odin nodded to acknowledge Bucky's words and guided his sons into the indicated van, settling in with one on either side of him.
Steve nodded, heading towards the van that had the prisoner in. He waited for Bucky to join him before climbing in, leaving the front free for Peter and Leo to sit there,
"I'm sure they'll come round to our way of thinking," Lance said cheerfully.
Thor nodded. "I will speak to her about doing so," he agreed.
Soon, all three vans were on their way back to the tower. It didn't take long at all for them to arrive, pulling into the garage. Soon, everyone was unloading.
Trip and Brock helped their father get Kara out, but as soon as they were standing, they let their father have her, knowing that she wouldn't want to be anywhere else if Fury was there. They caught Bruce's eye as he was getting out of his van. "Can we meet you up on medical...get some blood drawn, just to make certain nothing odd was done to us while we were unconscious?" Trip asked his cousin.
Bruce nodded. "Actually...I would like anyone that spent any amount of time unconscious, either due to being knocked out or tranquilized, to come to the medical floor so that I can draw blood and make sure there is nothing else going on. Beyond that, the scanners didn't catch anything amiss, so I think it will be safe for everyone to head back to their own floors..."
"Where are we keeping the prisoners?" Grant asked quietly, sparing a glance for Raina, but totally avoiding looking at Bakshi.
"I would like Raina placed in the far back left bed and Bakshi in the far back right bed. Both of those sections are in rooms that can be locked down so that they can't escape...but I will still have full access to all my equipment if I need it," Bruce answered, before any of the directors could.
Brock made a non-committal grunt. "Well, we all heard the good doctor. Let's head up to the medical area so he can play vampire..." He grinned at Bruce's disgruntled look at the wording.
By this time, Tony, Rhodey and Thor had landed on the roof of the tower and Veronica had relayed what was going on in the garage to the six individuals that had come by air. "I'm sending Lance down to the medical floor now..." Tony sent the message down before giving his cousin a stern look. "You heard them. You've gotta give blood..."
"I'll just walk with you so that I can help my dad draw all the samples. Otherwise, he'll be there all night..." Jemma said quietly, shifting closer to Lance and taking his arm. She smiled at Thor. "Thank you for the ride back..."
Fury lifted Kara in his arms, noticing his daughter was still unconscious, but waited for his sons to join him before he walked towards the elevator to take it to the medical floor.
Coulson nodded to show Bruce he understood and then headed to the elevator with Raina, though he glanced at his youngest children, to make sure they'd be all right for a few minutes.
Steve got Bucky to help him with Bakshi, since the man did seem able to walk... just not without help.
"Yeah... I'm going." Lance walked with Jemma so they could take the elevator to the medical floor.
Trip followed behind his father, noting when Brock moved up to walk beside him and Loki and Mack moved to walk behind them.
Clint walked over to Natasha and wrapped an arm around her shoulders, drawing her to follow after their father. "Guess that means us, since we were knocked out in various ways, too..." He glanced toward Bobbi and Grant with an impish gleam in his eye. "Should make you two come, too, just on general principle!"
Bobbi held up her hands as if to fend him off. "No way! I was awake the entire time. I don't need no needles!"
Grant smiled crookedly at his brother and older sister. "Are we going to do a debrief? Just wondering if I can head back to our apartment, or if we should go to the debrief room first..."
Bucky glanced toward Steve for his opinion; although with as tired as half of the group seemed, and as out of it as the rest seemed, he thought it would probably be better to have the debrief in the morning. He shifted his grip on Bakshi so that he could better lead the man to the elevator.
Bruce had gone up ahead of everyone else to ready the beds for the prisoners... as well as getting the syringes ready to draw blood.
Jemma entered with Lance not too far behind him, so she was able to help her father get ready. "Do you want me to draw your blood before everyone gets up here, Lance? So you can go do whatever it is you'd rather be doing?" she teased gently.
Odin moved closer to Loki and Mack, joined by Thor, who had come down to support his father and brothers.
Natasha leaned into her brother without argument. Although she didn't think she had a concussion, she did feel tired... and she was looking forward to having something to eat and then going to bed. Though she suspected her father wouldn't be going to bed for a while, if the way he was with Raina was any indication.
"I think we'll save the debrief for the morning," Steve said. "Everyone needs to focus on resting up tonight. And getting food."
Lance shrugged and leaned against the wall. "Depends on if Dad's in a rush. I'm good with waiting."
"I doubt he'll be in a rush." Jemma shrugged. "But since no one else is up here yet, it will let us get started instead of waiting." She quickly gathered the syringe, then efficiently cleaned the area she'd be drawing blood from and took the needed sample before placing a bandage on the area. "There. All done. Now you just need to go with your dad when he gets here... or help him. Whatever." She shot her cousin a smile.
"Food sounds wonderful...I think I'll go place an order for pizza for the whole tower. People can take it to their apartment if they want, but I don't feel like cooking..." Grant muttered, before asking, "Veronica? Could you please order double our usual pizza order?"
"Yes, Master Grant. I will do so now," the AI answered.
Lance nodded, holding still as Jemma drew his blood and then he moved to the side, so he wasn't stood in the way of the door.
Steve smiled at Grant, just before he joined the others in the elevator. "Thanks."
It wasn't long before everyone was piling onto the medical floor, ready to have their blood taken.
Bruce and Jemma were efficient and soon, the only patients left were Raina and Bakshi. Bruce had pointed out the rooms for them before beginning on everyone else, so they were sat on the beds, safely locked up where they could be cared for without proving dangerous. "Alright, I've just got to draw blood from our prisoners. Veronica ran scans and the only injuries are the external ones Bakshi has and those have been tended. Bryce has agreed to watch over them while I get some rest, so give me just one minute..." He quickly went into the makeshift medical jail and drew blood from the prisoners, marking it carefully and storing it. "...I'll look on these with fresh eyes later."
"What are you all hanging around for? Shoo! Get out of my lab. Go eat!" Bruce waved them out.
Coulson was one of the last to leave, lingering out of concern for Raina, mainly... though he had a strong suspicion that Bakshi had been brainwashed. "I'll bring some food for them," he said to Bruce. "Do you think soup and soft bread would be better for them to eat?"
"Raina was running a slight fever, so that may be better until we can be sure she isn't going to throw it up. Bakshi is able to eat normal food as his jaw wasn't touched...they wanted him to talk..." Bruce's tone was matter of fact although he did look slightly upset about what his cousins had resorted to- although it was mainly due to worry for them.
Coulson nodded. "I'll join my children and grandchildren for food and then bring something back for Raina and Bakshi." He didn't mention his suspicions about Bakshi having been brainwashed... though he was fairly certain that Bruce shared those.
"I'll just follow you out...I'd like to spend some time with my own kids.." Bruce smiled at his uncle.
By the time they'd reached the common floor, the pizza had been delivered and Pepper was helping Skye and Matt hand out boxes to various family members to take back to their floors. "We decided to eat in small groups tonight..." she told them as they came in. "It's been a long day and we figured the kids needed to spend time with their parents..." She left unsaid that the parents needed to spend time with their kids just as much.
Coulson smiled and took a stack of boxes to take back to his floor. "I know I need to spend time with my children and grandchildren," he agreed. "I'm sure we can all have a family meal in the next few days." He carried the boxes to the elevator.
Steve stood by to help Pepper take their food back to their floor. He smiled warmly at Bruce as his other son appeared. "How are you feeling?" He looked Bruce over carefully, to make sure his son was all right emotionally as well as physically.
Bobbi and Grant had gone directly to their apartment and begun getting out paper plates and cups for the drinks; they knew no one would feel much like cleaning up after they were done eating. "You all can go take showers first..." Bobbi smiled at Nat, Clint and the twins. "That way, the water will have time to reheat before Dad, Grant and I go to take ours."
Clint eyed his baby sister and brother, a hint of worry showing clearly. He didn't argue with them, though. He'd let dad take care of that. "Yeah, ok. Nat and Wanda can use the shower on Nat's floor while Pietro and I use the one on ours." He motioned his children upstairs so they could gather clean clothing and get washed up.
Grant was very quiet as he set the plates around the table. He waited until his niece, nephew and siblings were gone upstairs to whisper to Bobbi. "He knows what we did."
"It was fairly obvious..." Bobbi remarked back, guilt lacing her tone.
"It's hard to face him...after everything..." Grant admitted, swallowing hard.
Bobbi didn't respond to that. She agreed. It was hard.
Coulson stepped off the elevator with the boxes of pizza and walked through to the dining room. Setting the boxes down, he moved straight to his two youngest, reaching out and drawing them to him in a tight hug without saying anything.
Bobbi sunk into her father's embrace. It didn't ease the guilt she was feeling for what she'd done to the prisoner and she wasn't sure she would have changed her actions anyway, since it was his answers that allowed them to get to the rest of her family, but that didn't matter when it came to feeling guilt about it. Even so, having her father's arms around her, holding her close, helped her feel less adrift, even if the guilt was eating her up.
Grant swallowed again, but moved willingly into the hug, wrapping his own arms around his baby sister and his father, holding on tightly. Somehow, his father's easy acceptance and affection made the guilt worse and he couldn't figure out why. It wasn't like he wanted his father upset with him. Kissing his father on the cheek, he reluctantly withdrew. "Clint and the others are upstairs cleaning up. I figure I'll clean up right before bed..." he said softly. He hoped it would help him sleep.
Coulson held them for as long as they'd allow, pressing a kiss to each of their foreheads. "When we've eaten, I'm going to take some food for Raina and Bakshi," he said softly. "But I think it's important to be close tonight. Bryce is going to stay with them, so I won't be long... you can both settle in my room," he suggested, his voice loving... and the concern and worry for them both obvious. He stroked a hand over each of their heads.
"Oh...I..." Grant opened his mouth to make an excuse not to stay in his father's room...he was finding it difficult to keep his feelings of guilt and jealousy to himself and had thought maybe being in his own room would at least give him a reprieve from that, but then he couldn't bring himself to do it. His father was obviously worried and if he withdrew, it would worry the older man even more. "...I can take them their food..." he said instead, forcing a smile onto his face and hoping his father didn't question it.
Bobbi smiled crookedly. "Your room is my favorite, anyway..." she said teasingly.
Coulson was fairly sure he knew what Grant had really been about to say and he reached out, grasping both of their hands gently as he smiled at Bobbi, though addressed Grant, his voice as calm and loving as ever. "You don't have to. I know both of you are tired. After you've cleaned up, you can settle in my bed and I'll come and join you." As soon as he'd asked Bryce to let him know if there were any problems.
Grant smiled crookedly, looking down. "Yeah. Ok..." he finally agreed. "It sounds like the others are coming back downstairs...I guess we should find a seat..." He nodded toward the hall, where Clint was just stepping off the last stair and turning toward them.
"Just in time! I'm starving!" he said, with a huge grin on his face, as he walked in and plopped down into the nearest seat.
Bobbi rolled her eyes. "You're always starving!" she teased as she sat down as well, pulling out another seat and pulling Grant down onto it.
Coulson smiled as he took his own seat, looking towards the stairs as Natasha came down with Wanda and Pietro following behind her. The look on his face was loving as he watched his children and grandchildren.
Natasha took a seat on the other side of Grant, while Wanda settled next to her father, Pietro sitting on his other side.
It didn't take long before everyone was eating, passing around slices and making good-natured, teasing comments.
Dinner had been slow and leisurely; mainly because everyone was just so tired, they didn't feel the need to rush. Even so, eventually everyone was full. Bobbi and Nat had gathered what little leftovers there were (not many; the appetites of their brothers and nephew were mind-boggling sometimes) and then everyone was heading upstairs to either bed or to clean up for bed.
Bobbi had got cleaned up in her father's shower so that Grant could use the one they usually shared. As soon as she was clean, she'd crawled into her father's bed and nearly immediately fallen asleep.
Grant had finished his shower quickly as well, but was reluctant to go into his father's room immediately. Instead, he went upstairs and checked on his brother, niece and nephew...calming down slightly when he noted they were safe and asleep. He went back down and then checked on Nat...some anxiety forcing him to make sure everyone in his family was safe before he'd be able to calm down enough to sleep. Copper followed him around as he did his checking, nuzzling his hand whenever he stopped long enough for the dog to get worried.
Coulson had left immediately to make sure Raina and Bakshi were both fed, lingering a little longer by Raina's bedside. If he hadn't been so worried about his two youngest, he would have stayed longer. As it was, he'd told Bryce to let him know if anything changed... and then returned to his apartment, stepping in to find Grant was wandering around, checking on people.
Stepping over to his youngest son, Coulson made sure Grant saw him coming before he wrapped his arms around him, drawing him into a tight embrace. "It's time for bed, son."
Grant slumped against his father then nodded. "Ok, daddy..." he said softly, the guilt he was feeling along with the weariness and worry for everyone else making him feel vulnerable and more prone to neediness. Reaching down, he rubbed Copper between the ears. "C'mon, boy...let's go to bed..." he said to the animal, before letting his father lead him into the bedroom. He couldn't help the tiny smile that formed on his face when he saw his baby sister curled up around their father's pillow, her face buried inside it. "Told you, your scent is calming..." He quietly laughed at his father.
Coulson smiled and kissed Grant's forehead. "I love you... I love you both very much." He helped Grant into bed then settled between his two children.
Grant settled down and, despite the anxiety he was feeling, he calmed considerably as soon as his father was next to him. In a matter of minutes, he was sleeping.
Bruce smiled at his father. "Considering everything that happened and Hulk didn't need to come out? I feel really good."
Steve smiled and wrapped his arm around Bruce's shoulders, hugging his son tight. "I'm glad you came of your own accord, otherwise I might have had to drag you out," he said, his voice gently teasing.
"You needed me. Of course I'd come out..." Bruce smiled, wrapping his own arms around his father. "I'm just glad it was me that was useful this time..." He stopped talking for a brief moment, biting his lip, as if considering his next words. "...I've formed an understanding with the 'Big Guy', but...it's nice to be able to help without having to step back for him to take over."
Steve kissed Bruce's forehead and spoke in a loving tone. "You're my son. I'm always going to need you. Even if there are times the Other Guy might be needed, that doesn't make you any less important."
"Thanks, dad..." Bruce blushed. "Where is everyone else?" he asked curiously, as they walked into their apartment and he glanced around the family living room.
Pepper came out of the kitchen, carrying a stack of paper plates. "Tony is getting the drinks together... Harry, Jemma, Leo and Peter are all getting cleaned up. And I'm here!" she chirped at her brother, leaning over and kissing him, then her father on the cheek. "I'll set the table if you want to put the pizzas down..."
Steve smiled and put the pizzas down before kissing his daughter on the forehead. "I think everyone's going to be having an early night, but perhaps we could do something all together tomorrow?" he suggested.
"That sounds good to me..." Pepper smiled as Tony walked out of the kitchen, carrying a stack of cups and several two-liters of soda.
Tony wiggled his eyebrows at her. "Sounds good to me too. Take off work tomorrow and we'll spend the day locked in our apartment, playing board games and eating junk food..."
"Not junk food; and while I can spend some time in family bonding, would love to, I still have to run some tests on the blood that was taken; make sure everything is ok with everyone..." Bruce said fondly.
"I know that's important, but so is taking breaks," Steve said seriously. "Why don't we sit down in the morning and figure out a schedule, to make sure we can spend some time together?"
Harry wandered in, hair damp from his shower and looking very tired... and very young.
"Making a schedule would work...with Bryce's and Dr. Cho's help; did I tell you she decided to stay for a few more days to help run the tests? ...It should make it easier for me not to overwork myself," Bruce admitted. He glanced over at his nephew, smiling when Pepper gently pulled Harry over and sat him down between her and Tony, placing some pizza on his plate. "Are my kids on their way down?" he asked curiously.
"I'm here, daddy..." Jemma waltzed in, leaning over and kissing Bruce on top of the head before taking a seat next to him. "What's this about a schedule, grandpa?"
Leo and Peter wandered in, talking animatedly about some experiments they had planned for the next couple of days. They paused in their conversation long enough to take seats and then started helping themselves to the pizza.
Steve smiled at Jemma. "I was talking about making a schedule to ensure we have family time as well as the tests that need to be run. I'm glad Dr. Cho is staying," he added. "It means you have less of a workload."
Tony wrinkled his nose, looking around the table before getting up and disappearing into the living room. A few moments later, he was returning, Shadow close to his heels. "Can't have a family gathering without including the family dog..." he said, with an impish grin. "I tried to convince Rhodey to stay, but he said he had a date and he wasn't going to stand her up, no matter how tired he was."
"I'm sure we can invite him to stay another day," Steve responded with a warm smile.
"Oh, I plan to..." Tony nodded, taking a bite of pizza.
They all ate their fill and to Pepper's amusement and amazement, there was nothing left by the time everyone was done. No clean-up necessary. Everyone threw their own trash away and then started heading upstairs either to their rooms to sleep or to the showers to clean-up. Within the hour, everyone was sound asleep.
Melinda glanced at her daughter as she grabbed a box of pizza to share between them. "How hungry are you? Do you want two pizzas?"
"I think I'm okay with one," Skye answered. "I didn't really do that much... but what about you? I know you were fighting a lot..." She couldn't help her worry about her mother, even though she knew that Melinda was highly trained... highly skilled... and didn't take chances.
"I'm fine with one...and don't shortchange what you and Matt did. Without you, we wouldn't have gotten finished nearly as quickly or safely; and the medical help for the prisoners would have been non-existent." May gave her daughter a small smile.
Skye smiled at her mother, but added, "It's still hard to stay behind... especially when so many got captured." She really hoped no one had been affected more than they already knew about.
"That was just hard all around..." Melinda admitted, remembering how the fathers of those taken had felt and reacted. "I was never so thankful that you were back here when that happened."
"I just wish I'd been able to do more..." Skye impulsively hugged her mother tight, relieved she'd come back safe.
Melinda held Skye close, relieved that things had turned out as well as they had and that everyone was safely at home. "C'mon. Let's eat...then I'm going to take a shower and I thought we could settle in front of the TV with some popcorn and watch old Lucille Ball movies. I'm in the mood to laugh..." She gently led her daughter to the food and handed her a plate, before opening up the box and taking a deep whiff. "Mmm... all our favorite toppings..."
Skye smiled and sat down to start eating. "I think everyone knows what everyone else's favourite toppings are by now..." She took a bite and then said, "I like that idea, after cleanup."
"Then that's what we'll do... We can pull some blankets and pillows in with us, just in case we fall asleep, and have a slumber party in the living room." Melinda smiled.
It didn't take long for them to finish eating and after they'd put away the leftovers and thrown away their trash, Melinda had quickly gone to take her shower while Skye picked out the movies she wanted to watch. The only stipulation Melinda had made was that the movies be funny; she wasn't in the right frame of mind to deal with any more drama. When she was clean and dressed in her pajamas, she came back downstairs, holding several blankets and two pillows. "You ready?"
Skye nodded, settling down and snuggling up to her mother when May settled in. She put her head quietly on her shoulder. "I love you, Mom." Her voice was soft, but not really sleepy.
They settled in to watch, Skye staying close to her mother throughout. Try as she might, she couldn't stay awake through the second movie and was quickly fast asleep, still cuddled in close.
Matt had grabbed two pizzas for Sam and himself, taking them back up to their apartment. Sam was busy cleaning up, so Matt got out plates and drinks and sat everything on the kitchen table for when his father came back downstairs. Now that all the excitement and worry was over, Matt was tired; but more than that, he was grateful everyone in his family had returned home relatively unscathed and safe. He tilted his head toward the stairs when he heard Sam coming down them. "Food is ready..." he called out quietly.
Sam stepped over to give his son a hug. "Thanks, kid," he said gratefully. "How are you feeling? I know staying behind is hard..."
Matt leaned into the hug, holding onto Sam tightly. "Better now that everyone is safe again. Worrying is worse than actually being there...can't deny that."
Sam hugged his son tight. "We couldn't have done as much without you and Skye... you did great, son," he said, pressing a kiss to the top of Matt's head.
Matt just held on tightly. "I felt useless...helpless..." Matt said in a whisper. "If something had happened to you...to everyone else...I think this was the first time I realized how important you and the rest of the family are to me." Clearing his throat and swallowing abashedly, he reluctantly pulled back. "If you want a shower first, I'll wait...get plates and all set up."
"I'll have a shower after we've eaten," Sam replied, reluctant to be parted from his son just yet. "You aren't useless, son. Manning the comms like you did was a great help. We wouldn't have been able to act so fast if it hadn't been for you."
"Thanks, dad..." Matt said softly, reluctantly accepting that maybe he'd helped more than he realized. "Is...is this how you feel when I go off on my own without warning or a plan? Because if so...I'm sorry. It's a horrible feeling, not knowing if your family is safe or not..."
Sam reached out, placing a hand on Matt's shoulder and squeezing gently. "It is a horrible feeling," he agreed. "That's why I expect you not to just take off. Because the thought of something happening to you isn't something I can bear." He brought his son closer so that he could press another kiss to his forehead.
Matt pressed closer yet, letting his head fall onto Sam's shoulder. "I think I understand more why you are so adamant about my not doing it...and why you punish me when I do. Can...can I stay with you tonight?" he asked hesitantly. It felt weird, asking such a thing...he wasn't a child, after all; and he hadn't even been in danger. But his father and the rest of the family had been and he didn't want to let Sam out of his sight.
"Of course." Sam pressed another kiss to his son's forehead and then guided him over to sit down and begin eating. He stuck close to Matt, only leaving his side to go and take a shower... and then he guided his son into his room, after they'd both got undressed, and settled them in bed... relieved that they were all safe.
Bucky grabbed two pizzas for him and Lance, then wrapped one arm around his son's shoulders. "Let's take these up then we can both take a shower before eating. They'll hold for that long..." he said with a smile, as they headed up to their apartment.
Lance smiled and leaned into his father. "A shower sounds good," he agreed. "I'm hot and sweaty..." A distinctly unpleasant combination.
"Let's go get cleaned up, then," Bucky said, as they stepped off the elevator and walked into their apartment. He quickly put the pizzas on the table before leading Lance upstairs to the baths. "If you find any wounds you didn't know about, or start feeling odd...yell for me. I mean it." His voice and eyes were serious.
Lance nodded. "I will, Dad," he promised, following where he was led without a word of complaint. He grabbed his towel and pajamas and headed into the bathroom, checking himself over before climbing in the shower.
Bucky finished his shower in record time and was downstairs plating food for when Lance returned. He wanted to make certain his son was taken care of, since Lance had spent an indeterminable amount of time unconscious.
Lance showered quickly and then came downstairs with his hair still damp.
"Eat up..." Bucky passed Lance a plate. "When we're done, I have every intention of getting some sleep...and I want you to get some, too. If you're alright with it, you can stay with me tonight...I just want to make sure you really are alright." He tried to sound nonchalant, but his worry was clear.
Lance nodded. "I'd like to stay with you tonight," he admitted... a bit embarrassed, but still sincere. He ate quickly and then, once cleanup was done, he joined his father in Bucky's room, very quickly falling asleep.
Mack opened the door to their apartment, stepping back so that the rest of his family could go in before he entered and shut it behind him. "I don't know if I want to take a shower first or eat first...but I'm leaning toward shower. My skin feels all crawly." He wriggled uncomfortably, but didn't move, not wanting to just take off until his father had a chance to make his wishes known.
Loki stayed still as well, even though he agreed. "Yes. Cleaning up first sounds wonderful..."
"We will have a conversation after showering and eating," Odin said. "But it's more important for us all to have something to eat and settle down first." He was obviously relieved that his sons were all safe.
It hadn't taken Loki and Mack long to shower and change into clean pajamas...they met each other at the top of the stairs as they were getting ready to head back down to where the food was. Loki gave a crooked smile to his brother. "In hindsight... the plan we thought was so wonderful really was not that wonderful at all..." he said, with a hint of self-derision.
"No...Do...do you think dad will let us have the conversation before eating? I don't have much of an appetite, knowing what we did, what we put the family through...what I've got coming to me..." Mack grimaced.
"We can but ask..." Loki sighed softly, motioning for Mack to precede him downstairs.
They went and each found a chair to sit in while they waited for Thor and Odin to finish their showers, not wanting to eat without everyone being present.
Thor returned from his shower, joining his brothers at the table and smiling at the both of them... clearly happy to have his brothers here and safe.
Odin came back a few minutes after Thor, joining his sons at the table.
Mack gave Thor a rather sad smile. He'd had enough time during his shower and while sitting at the table waiting for Thor and Odin to return downstairs that his guilt had settled firmly in his stomach. It was hard to be really happy, feeling like he was a horrible son and brother.
Loki's smile was even more morose, if possible, and he couldn't face his family, staring at his hands folded on the table.
Thor glanced worriedly at his father, who observed his two youngest sons for a few seconds before speaking. "I'm very glad both of you are safe. I was extremely worried about you... that I might have lost one or both of you." His voice was quiet, but sincerity rang in his words.
"I am sorry, father...it was never my intention to worry or stress you or the rest of our family..." Loki tried to keep his voice formal and calm, but it was impossible to hide the guilt and unhappiness he was feeling.
Mack winced, giving Loki a confused look, not certain why he'd fall into formality when he and Odin had been getting closer the last several weeks. "He's right, dad..." He finally turned to look at Odin. "Neither of us meant to scare anyone..."
Odin looked at both his sons. "Loki, we have spent too much time with our relationship damaged... broken. We've been working on rebuilding it, but even if this was before, I would never have wanted to lose you." There was a reason he'd only imprisoned Loki and not had him executed.
Next, Odin looked at Mack. "You might not have been my son for as long as Thor and Loki... but that doesn't make you any less important to me. I wouldn't have wanted to lose you either."
Loki finally looked up at that. "I believe that, daddy..." He swallowed and blushed slightly. "I did not think we were in danger of being lost..."
"We didn't think at all, really..." Mack admitted.
"You should have checked with someone, at least," Odin said. "I cannot imagine this is normal behaviour for the people who live here."
Thor gave his brothers a sympathetic look, but didn't say anything, knowing that it wasn't... and that they were all aware of that.
Mack awkwardly cleared his throat. "Um...it isn't normal, sir... or, at least, it isn't supposed to be normal and it isn't accepted..."
"You will have noticed that we were not alone in our endeavor, so..." Loki wasn't trying to make excuses, but felt that Odin should be aware that what he and Mack had done wasn't completely unusual behavior for residents of the tower; at least, not the kids. Of course, that didn't mean there weren't consequences.
Odin nodded. "And I saw how worried everyone else was. Things could have gone a lot worse. It seems like neither of you have been affected in a long-lasting way... but that doesn't mean it couldn't have happened. Your lives are not worth less than the mission."
"No, sir, I mean yes, sir, I mean..." Mack winced. "I mean, you're right..."
Loki looked down at his hands again. "We should not have gone..." He whispered the admittance.
"You shouldn't have," Odin said. "It was fortunate that I didn't lose either of you, but I am still going to address what happened. Because it could have gone so much worse and taking those kinds of chances with your lives is not acceptable."
Loki glanced up again, his gaze darting from his father to both brothers and back again. "I understand...I am sorry..."
"I'm sorry, too..." Mack added, in an apologetic tone.
Thor smiled warmly at his brothers. "I am glad you are both here safe..."
"I am too... but we are going to deal with what happened." Odin's voice was firm, but not unkind. "Both of you need to understand that this kind of endangerment is not acceptable." Although he'd hidden it well, he had been scared of losing them.
"C...can we deal with it now?" Mack asked, in a small voice.
"Please?" Loki's voice was even smaller.
Odin frowned, a concerned look passing over his face. "You both really need to eat something," he said.
"I...I do not think could eat now...not knowing how my actions caused worry, pain, or even injury to those I care about.." Loki said, his voice catching.
Mack nodded solemnly. "Right now I don't think I could keep anything down..."
"I could heat our pizza later," Thor offered.
Odin nodded to his oldest son and then addressed his two youngest. "I do not believe anything more needs to be said. It does not sound as if there was a good reason for you endangering yourselves like this. We will take care of this upstairs in my room and then we will spend time as a family together."
"Yes, sir..." Mack said quietly, standing and falling into line behind his father so he could be led upstairs.
Loki was quick to nod in agreement and stand as well, his face turned toward the ground. He was still finding it difficult to face his father.
Odin placed a hand on his sons' shoulders, squeezing them gently, before guiding them upstairs. He stayed close to the two of them, clearly needing to be in contact with them both... further reassuring himself that they were safe.
Loki let out an unhappy breath. "I am so sorry, daddy... I...I do not know why I persist in doing things that will worry you and force you to take action..."
"I'm sorry, too..." Mack added, not sure what else could be said. They knew they'd done the wrong thing, after all.
"I am aware both of you are capable," Odin said, guiding the two into his room. "But neither of you should have endangered yourselves. Your lives are worth everything... to me and your brother, but also to the rest of your family members here." The last time he'd taken his two youngest to task, he'd taken Mack in hand first. This time, he decided to do it the other way round. Gently pushing Loki onto the bed, he kissed each of his sons' foreheads and then guided Mack over to the corner. "I want you to stand here for a few minutes." While he wouldn't force them to watch him punish the other, he did feel that it was important to remind them it wasn't just them involved.
Mack didn't think it was possible to feel any more childish and 'taken in hand by daddy' than he had been feeling, knowing he'd worried and upset his family and earned himself a spanking. Being stood in the corner disabused him of that notion. "Yes, daddy..." he finally whispered, his voice filled with shame.
Loki swallowed hard, not surprised that he could feel his eyes beginning to water. It was hard not to be emotional when he felt all his defenses being rendered ineffective with his father's love and concern.
Odin gently squeezed Mack's shoulder before stepping over to the bed once more. He sat down next to Loki and then reached out to grasp his son's wrist, gently tugging him across his lap and wrapping an arm around his waist, before baring him.
Loki couldn't help the tiny whimper he let out when his father positioned and bared him. He didn't put up any type of fight about it, though, allowing himself to be moved and immediately reaching down and grasping his father's ankle once he was in place.
Odin rubbed Loki's back a moment or two and then lifted his hand, bringing it down in the first sharp swat before repeating it.
Loki let out a tiny gasp and couldn't help but tense up in anticipation of the next swat, despite his attempts to not fight the punishment.
Odin began swatting from left to right in a rhythm of swats, going down to his son's thighs before starting over from the top. It was as he began the second circuit that he started speaking. "I understand you are frustrated... that there are enemies that you are unable to battle at this time. But putting yourself in danger is not the answer. You are an important part of this family... of my family... and I have no desire to lose you. Or to see you wounded."
Loki attempted to hold still, but by the time his father began swatting already punished skin, he couldn't keep from squirming. His father's words just added to the pain. "I was just trying to help..." He defended himself weakly, knowing that wasn't an excuse, but needing his father to understand his motives were good.
"You should not have been trying to help at the expense of your own safety." Odin continued swatting, completing another circuit before he began focusing slightly harder smacks to Loki's sit spots. "You are important. Your life is important. It would have been devastating to lose you."
"But...I didn't know how..." Loki sounded heartbroken. The thought that he had disappointed and hurt his father was more painful than the spanking; knowing he had messed up badly...again...broke what little control he still had over himself and he slumped over his father's knee, sobbing softly.
Odin wasted no time in drawing his son up and into his arms, wrapping them tightly around Loki and drawing him in close. "I love you, Loki." The words were soft, but rang with sincerity and all of the emotion Odin really felt.
"I'm sorry, daddy...I was trying to the right thing and I messed up again...I'm so sorry...I love you...didn't want to hurt or upset you..." Loki continued to cry, even as he curled up on his father's lap and held on as tightly as he possibly could; as if afraid that if he let go, his father would disappear.
Odin held Loki as tightly as he possibly could and pressed a kiss to his son's head. "I know you were trying to do the right thing. I love you," he reiterated. "But I don't want to ever risk losing you."
"I...I don't want to be lost..." Loki said in a whisper, snuggling as he finally managed to calm his tears. His voice was stuffy and his eyes were red and swollen and he really didn't want to let go of his father...but his brother needed his dad, too. Taking a shaky breath, Loki finally sat up, wincing slightly, then stood and fixed his clothing, before standing in front of his father and waiting for further instructions.
Mack had heard everything and, to his embarrassment, was already close to tears and nothing had even been done to him yet. He hated to hear his family upset, though; and between Odin's worry and Loki's obvious distress, it was hard.
Odin stood and gave Loki a tight hug and kiss to his forehead before leading Loki to the corner where his third son stood. He rested one hand on Mack's shoulder gently and then drew his youngest son out of the corner, before placing Loki, just as gently, in there.
Loki didn't fight the position. Even though it made him feel even more like a very young child (as if the spanking didn't make him feel vulnerable and needy enough), he was actually glad to be put there; he didn't want to leave his father's sight yet and since Mack had been forced to listen to his punishment, it was only fair he had to do the same. No matter that he didn't really want to hear.
Mack swallowed when he saw Loki's tear streaked face. He knew it wouldn't be long till he was in the same condition. He could be brave and take any amount of pain and emotional upheaval when it wasn't family; let Odin decide he'd crossed a line he shouldn't have and decide to step in...and it never mattered how brave, stoic and unflappable he normally was. He let himself be led by Odin.
Odin guided Mack over to the bed and took a seat, gently drawing his youngest son across his lap. He rubbed Mack's back a moment or two before baring him and wrapping an arm around his waist, drawing him in tight, before bringing his hand down in the first sharp swat.
Mack was normally a quiet, reserved and fairly responsible man. Being in position over his father's knee, he felt anything but. He had to force himself not to fight the position; the lack of control and the fact that he knew it was his own actions that had warranted a response like this caused him to feel childish and he didn't want to be quiet or reserved. He wanted to argue, or at least beg for leniency. Only the fact that Loki had been already been punished and his own sense of fairness held him still. He couldn't help the whimper that escaped.
Odin repeated the swat and then landed two more, continuing down to Mack's thighs before he started over from the top. Like with Loki, he began speaking quietly. "Your life is important. You are important. You are my son and I do not wish to lose you."
Mack swallowed hard. "Yes, sir...I...I'm sorry I didn't remember that...that I worried you..." His voice caught and he blinked rapidly, surprised to find his face drenched in tears. He hadn't realized he was crying, let alone crying so hard.
Odin began focusing more swats to Mack's sit spots, speaking as he did so. "You will not endanger yourself by going on missions without proper authorisation. Every time it happens, so will this."
Mack, still unused to having someone to answer to after so long being on his own, couldn't help the question that popped out of his mouth. "Even if you are in Asgard if I do it? You'd come here just to spank me?" He winced as he realized the question might come across as sarcastic or mocking. He didn't really mean the question in a bad way; he truly was confused about it. He closed his eyes and let out a tiny gasp as the sting grew and, to his embarrassment, couldn't stop himself from throwing a hand back in an effort to slow, if not block, the swats.
Odin paused, long enough to move Mack's hand out of the way before he continued swatting. "No. I would come here to assure myself you were safe and unhurt. Then I would punish you."
"You..." Mack stopped as it suddenly occurred to him what Odin was saying. His father was telling him that he would travel across dimensions to make certain he was ok...was safe. Odin really did care about...no...love him. The realization just drained any resistance out of him. He no longer cared if he seemed weak or childish. The most important thing now was that his father realize that he understood. Going limp, he choked out, "I'm sorry, daddy..." before letting his tears finally become vocal (even if they were still on the quiet side; Mack wasn't a terribly vocal man, even when he wanted to be).
Odin stopped the spanking and brought his son up and into his arms, hugging Mack close and tight, pressing a kiss to the top of his head. "I don't want to lose any of you." His voice was soft... but still sincere. He was aware of how short Mack's lifespan was compared to his brothers' and that knowledge did hurt... but didn't change how Odin felt. Nothing could.
"I know, daddy..." Mack whispered. "I'm sorry I took a chance that made that a possibility when I didn't need to..." he admitted softly, pressing closer to his father for comfort.
Odin tightened his embrace around Mack, gently stroking his son's back. "Losing you would be an unbearable blow I couldn't recover from. I need you to stay safe. Your brothers, too."
"I'll try, daddy...if I forget, it isn't because I don't know better or think you don't care..." Mack sniffled once more, hugging Odin tightly, before slowly standing and fixing his clothing.
Standing as well, Odin brought Mack in for another tight hug before he stepped over to the corner to gently guide Loki out.
Loki had been listening to his father and he'd caught the underlying sadness in Odin's tone when he mentioned not wanting to lose Mack. He had a feeling he knew why there was sadness and found himself feeling sad about his brother's shorter lifespan. When Odin drew him out of the corner, he couldn't help but throw his arms around both his father and brother and hold them tightly.
Mack blinked at the tight hug Loki was including him in, but wrapped his arms around his family and hugged back.
Odin responded by wrapping his arms as tight around his sons, hugging them tightly. He knew they were safe... but he still couldn't quite let go of the fear he'd experienced when he'd found out what had happened.
They stood huddled together in a tight hug for several moments before Loki finally sighed and, kissing his father on the cheek, stepped back. "I think perhaps I owe Thor an apology as well..." he said softly, his voice chagrined.
"Yeah, me too..." Mack agreed.
Odin nodded. "Your brother was as worried as I was. We will return downstairs and talk... and then eat," he added, aware of the fact that his sons were probably all hungry.
Loki paused, looking at the floor, before glancing up at his father. "Thank you...I do love you and I am sorry..." He gave his father a slightly sad, crooked smile before turning to head back downstairs.
Mack watched Loki, worry in his eyes, before he looked at his father also. "I'm worried about him, dad... He's been... I don't know... thinking about something a lot lately and whenever he does, he gets that look in his eyes. Whenever anyone brings it up, though, he says he's fine. I thought at first maybe he just missed you...but you're here now and he still has that look in his eye." He sighed, giving Odin his own crooked grin that was noticeably more happy, even if a little worried. Turning, he headed downstairs to join his brothers.
Odin nodded to Mack, to show he'd heard and understood, before a worried look came over his face. He followed his sons downstairs, joining them and his oldest in the dining room, where Thor had brought the now-heated-up pizza.
Loki had moved to Thor's side immediately upon reaching his brother and wrapped his arms around him in a tight hug. "I am sorry, Thor. I was wrong to do what I did, but was not intending to worry or scare you or father. I will try to think before acting in the future..."
Mack walked in behind Loki, giving Thor a sheepish smile. "I'm sorry too, bro...believe me. I will definitely think and then think again before doing something like that in the future..."
Thor smiled and hugged Loki as tight in return, before smiling and reaching out to hug his other brother. "I am merely happy to see both of you safe. I would not wish for anything to happen to either of my brothers."
"I know..." Mack easily acknowledged. "I would hate for anything to happen to any of my family as well, so I understand."
Loki's smile was a bit more happy as he finally allowed himself to just focus on the moment and the fact that he had his entire family with him. "Let us eat. I find myself famished of a sudden..."
Mack couldn't help but laugh softly, but he didn't argue. Instead, he went and grabbed plates and drinks for everyone, so they could enjoy their meal together.
Trip swallowed as he followed his brother and father into their apartment, his baby sister curled up in their father's arms because she didn't want to let go of the older man. "Bruce said that none of the deeper scans showed any problems and that she should be ok, right? I mean...other than needing to wake her up every two hours for the next twelve hours to make certain...?"
Fury nodded as he half-carried his daughter into his bedroom, deciding that she would probably feel better to be in his bed. He carefully lay her down and then focused on his sons. "Maybe we should eat in here." He didn't say to keep an eye on Kara... even though that was what he meant.
"Sure thing, dad..." Brock easily agreed. "I'll go get plates and drinks..." He put the pizzas that he was carrying down on the dresser.
Trip put the pizza he was carrying on the dresser as well. "Do you want to set up a schedule for each of us to wake Kara? Or do you want to handle it yourself?" His voice was hesitant. He wanted to do whatever he could to help his sister; but he also knew when she was sick or feeling badly, no one but daddy was able to cheer her up.
"I appreciate that you want to help, but I'm good to take care of her," Fury answered, as aware that Kara felt better if he stayed close to her when she was sick as Trip was. "But if you want to stay in here as well... both of you... that wouldn't be a problem," he said honestly.
"I...I think I will, if it won't make it difficult for her..." Trip said quietly. The guilt he felt for causing his family worry was eclipsed by the guilt he felt that his baby sister had been hurt attempting to rescue him. If anyone should have been hurt, it was him.
Brock had come in with the plates and drinks by that point. "I'd like to stay, too..." His voice was low and filled with worry. He plated up some food for his father and brought it over, making sure Fury could reach it. "I...I thought if she felt up to eating, it might be better to give her something bland and easy to swallow...so I've got some oatmeal warming..."
Kara stirred slightly, blinking blearily and glancing around slowly, not able to move quickly without feeling dizzy. "Are we home?" she asked quietly.
Fury nodded in acknowledgement to his sons, but then looked at his daughter as she woke. Reaching out, he ran a hand gently through her hair. "We are," he agreed, his voice soft. "If you feel up to eating, Brock has some oatmeal warming up for you."
Kara moaned softly then glanced toward Brock. "Thanks, bro...I...I'll try and eat. Not sure how much I can keep down, but I'll try..." Her voice was soft and woozy.
Brock nodded quickly. "I'll go get a small bowl for you now..." he said gently. "And if dad says it's ok, I'll bring you some pain-killers..." he added, not sure if she'd been given anything by Bruce when she was checked over.
Trip nodded. "I can get the medicine while Brock gets the food..." He glanced at his father to see what he wanted them to do.
"I think that sounds good," Fury agreed. He rested his hand on Kara's shoulder and squeezed gently. "Don't force yourself to eat. Even if you can only manage a few mouthfuls, it's fine."
"Ok, daddy." Kara's smile was grateful when Brock brought her a small bowl of oatmeal. "Thank you." She carefully ate a small spoonful, letting it settle before eating another. "It's good..." she finally said, continuing to eat once she was sure she could keep it down.
Trip relaxed at the sign of appetite and, after placing a bottle of medicine and a glass of water near where his father could reach it for her, was actually able to begin eating his own food.
"You're welcome." Brock smiled gently.
Fury smiled at his children, watching to make sure they were all eating without trouble before he began eating his own food, making sure to watch Kara so he could get the water for her when she needed it.
As soon as they were all finished eating, both Trip and Brock busied themselves with cleaning up. It didn't take long, though and soon both were back and sitting on the bed.
"Would you like a shower first, Kare-bear?" Trip asked solicitously.
"I would like one if I'm allowed..." Kara glanced at her father, not sure if Bruce had forbidden it or not.
"I think maybe a bath would be better," Fury said. "Just to be on the safe side." He didn't say that he thought at least one of them should be in the bathroom with her... but his tone implied that.
"Ok, daddy..." Kara smiled, happy that she could at least get clean. She carefully stood up then glanced at her brothers bashfully. "You both could take showers in the other bath..."
Trip, realizing she wanted some privacy, grasped Brock's upper arm and led his brother out of the room.
"Yeah...we'll just get cleaned up and come back in thirty minutes or so..." Brock nodded, following after Trip.
Fury looked at his daughter after his sons left the room. "Can you walk? Or would you feel better if I carried you?" he asked.
"I think I can walk, daddy. I'm just a little dizzy now; not as bad as I was before," Kara admitted quietly. She slowly walked into the bath and sat on the edge. "Well, maybe a bit more unsteady than I thought..." she admitted, with a crooked smile.
Fury collected a towel from the cupboard and some toiletries. "You don't need to feel embarrassed about needing help." He moved over to run the bath, making sure the temperature wasn't too hot or too cold.
"Not embarrassed so much as...I dunno...frustrated? Like I shouldn't be having problems...none of the scans showed anything wrong. Nat got hit on the head, too and she was able to help fight. I've been useless all afternoon and can't even bathe myself even after a nap..." Kara sighed and began to undress herself, huffing when some things were difficult due to her equilibrium being off kilter.
Fury checked to make sure the water was at the right level and comfortable enough, then moved to help his daughter with getting undressed. "Everyone gets hurt at times. Even Nat. And you shouldn't be frustrated with yourself for getting injured."
"I keep telling myself that...but if all the scans are right, I shouldn't be having these problems, should I?" Kara sighed, as she removed the last bit of clothing and carefully stepped into the water, sinking down till it reached her shoulders.
"You have a concussion," Fury said. "That isn't a problem... it's an injury you need to recover from." He settled on the edge of the bath, but didn't plan to step in further unless his daughter thought he needed to.
Kara methodically and perfunctorily began to clean herself. When she'd washed everywhere she could reach, she handed her father the bath-scrubber and leaned forward, obviously meaning for him to get her back for her. "I...I guess I know that..." she said in a tiny voice. "It's still frustrating...do you think it's a good idea to wash my hair, or should I wait for that?" She glanced back at her father with an uncertain look.
Fury began washing his daughter's back without any hesitation. "I would suggest waiting to wash your hair," he replied. "I know it's frustrating to have to wait... but I'd rather play it safe."
"Ok, daddy," Kara said agreeably. "Thank you, for taking care of me..." she said softly. As soon as he was done with her back, she let the water out of the tub, holding her arms out so that her father could help her stand and dry off. It didn't even occur to her to be embarrassed about him caring for her like she was a child.
"Always." Fury made sure the mat was on the floor and then carefully helped his daughter to stand and wrapped the towel around her, drying off her body before he helped her out of the tub.
Kara pulled the towel more tightly around herself before pressing closer to her father. "I forgot to bring in something clean to wear..." She grimaced, wondering if it'd be too weird to wear a pair of one of her father's t-shirts and shorts to sleep in (or if they'd even fit).
"One of us can go to your room and get your pajamas," Fury offered. "Or there's probably some old clothes of mine, if you'd prefer."
"Can I wear yours, daddy?" Kara asked, somewhat bashfully. It was a bit silly, considering she was going to be staying with him, but wearing something of his made it seem like he was even closer somehow.
"Of course." Fury picked up the dressing gown he'd taken out and helped Kara into it, then guided her into his bedroom, so he could find some clothes for her to sleep in.
Kara couldn't help herself. She wrapped the gown tightly around herself, but then brought it up so that it covered her mouth and nose, leaving just her eyes visible. She then took a deep breath, closing her eyes, focusing on her father's scent. Matt had been talking about being able to use all your senses; although she didn't think he had meant memorizing your parent's smell so that you could feel safe just by thinking about it. She smiled at the thought, her eyes crinkling up in amusement.
Settling his daughter on the bed, Fury smiled at the way she'd 'huddled in'. He sat down next to her, resting his hand on her shoulder. "Would you like anything?" he asked her softly.
"No, thank you, daddy..." She lowered the gown just enough to talk clearly. "I'm getting sleepy again, though..." she admitted with a sigh.
"If you're sleepy, then you should let your body rest," Fury said. "I'll continue to wake you every two hours."
"Ok..." Kara didn't argue. She was fighting off yawning as it was; it would be a bit childish to argue sleeping when she obviously needed to. Taking the clothes that her father had found for her to sleep in, Kara slipped out of the gown and tugged on the oversize shirt and pair of sweats. Luckily, the sweats had a drawstring, as she needed to tighten it considerably to keep them from falling off. The shirt dwarfed her. Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she couldn't help but laugh. "I look like a toddler playing dress-up!"
Fury smiled and pressed a kiss to his daughter's forehead. "I think you look beautiful," he said simply.
Kara gave her father an embarrassed but pleased smile. "Thanks, daddy." Impulsively, she threw her arms around him in a tight hug; then, stepping back, she crawled up onto the bed and under the covers. A timid knock on the door caught her attention.
"Is it safe to come in?" Trip called in quietly.
"It is," Fury called back, taking a seat on the bed next to his daughter... though he waited for his sons to come in and settle down before he did.
Trip smiled at his father before getting on one side of the bed, leaning over and kissing his sister on the cheek.
Brock stood at the foot of the bed. "Do you want the other side, or do you want in the middle with Kara?" he asked his father quietly. He figured he'd either be next to his father or between his sister and brother.
"Why don't you go on the other side of me?" Fury suggested to his youngest son.
"Ok," Brock easily agreed, sitting on the side of the bed and waiting for his father to be ready before climbing all the way in.
Fury had got undressed at the same time as his daughter and he slipped into the bed, stretching his arms out so he could be in contact with all three of his children.
Brock had got into the bed as soon as his father was in, snuggling down into the bed, his arm touching his father. It was enough contact to ease his guilt and worry; at least enough to sleep. If he was with his family, everything would be okay. "Night..." he mumbled, falling asleep almost immediately.
Kara turned toward her father, snuggling close enough that there was very little of her that wasn't making contact. Placing her head on his chest, she closed her eyes with a tired sigh. "Night...love you all..."
"We love you too, Kare-bear..." Trip responded gently. "Good night," he whispered to his family...managing to stay awake until both Kara and Brock were asleep.
"Good night. I love you all." Fury's normally gruff voice was soft. He stayed awake until all three of his children were asleep... then finally let himself slip into sleep.
It was mid-morning the next day and everyone had been up for several hours, either having trained and then eaten breakfast... or just lazing around, in Kara's case, since her father wanted her to take things easy until Bruce had cleared her. She was anxious to get a clean bill of health. As much as she liked being 'babied' by her father, even if she couldn't bring herself to admit it, the fact was, she'd felt fine when she woke up. She'd had a good appetite, eating enough to rival the male members of the family (to the amusement of everyone else, even if she knew her father was happy to see her eat). And she wanted to get back to training. To that end, she'd grabbed her father's hand and tugged and pulled at him to get him to go the medical floor so Bruce could do one final check-up. "C'mon, daaaaddy! Why're you walking so sloooow?" She shot her father a suspicious look, wondering if he was teasing her.
Fury smiled to see Kara so active... even though he still couldn't quite hide his worry about her. At his daughter's prompting, he walked a bit faster, wrapping his arm around her waist. "You don't need to be so impatient," he said, teasing her. "Bruce isn't going anywhere."
"I know..." Kara blushed slightly. "But...I...I was kinda hoping that maybe you and I could go down and spar a little bit, if he says I'm all better and it's ok. Or at least I can find out when it will be ok for me to spar, since I feel good now, but since I had a concussion..." She wrinkled her nose, suddenly worried that she'd be told she still had to take it easy.
Fury tightened his embrace around her. "If Bruce says it's all right, we can spar... but even if it's not all right today, it will be another day," he promised, walking into the elevator with his daughter and setting it to go to the medical floor.
Kara didn't say anything, choosing instead to lean against her father. When the elevator stopped on the medical floor, she stepped off and then followed her father, looking for Bruce. She couldn't help but glance curiously into the rooms where Raina and Bakshi were being held and treated.
Fury glanced over, noticing that Bakshi was staring blankly at the far wall. He wondered if the man had been brainwashed... and if it was wearing off. But he knew Bruce knew what he was doing, so he sought out the doctor.
Bruce walked over with his scanner, noticing where Nick and Kara were looking. He began to run the scanner over Kara, knowing she was anxious to get a clean bill of health. "The scanner is giving you the all clear," he finally said. "I recommend taking it easy for at least a week longer and if you start feeling oddly, let one of us know immediately...but you should be able to return to normal activity."
"What about some mild sparring?" Fury asked, knowing his daughter wanted to try some... but unwilling to do anything close to a session that wasn't controlled, at least a little bit.
"It should be very mild," Bruce remarked, "with no actions that could lead to jarring the body; and therefore her head."
Fury nodded. "I understand." He looked at Kara. "What do you think?" He didn't push her into a response, not wanting her to feel like he didn't trust her to know her own body.
Kara bit her lip then sighed. "I guess sparring should prolly wait. Knowing me, chances are I'd find a way to slam into the floor at least once..."
"Why don't we watch a movie with your brothers?" Fury suggested. "Or we could see about going out somewhere, if you'd prefer."
"A movie sounds good..." Kara smiled, her disappointment quickly evaporating with the idea of spending time with her father. "Trip and Brock were acting weird this morning, though, so not sure they'll want to."
"We can always ask." Fury had a fairly good idea he knew why his sons were acting 'weird'... but he chose not to mention that to Kara.
"Can we do it now?" Kara started acting slightly more excited. "I...I want to spend time with you all..."
Fury smiled. "Of course." He held his arm out to his daughter.
Bruce watched his uncle and cousin disappear, a tiny smile on his face. Once they were out of sight, he walked back into Raina's room. "I've taken several blood samples from the moment we brought you in. You definitely injected yourself with the same virus that you injected Grant with...but it is reacting differently. The improved serum you gave yourself. What was its designation?" he asked calmly, hoping that the notes on the serum and the virus were among the information taken from the lab.
Raina just stared at Bruce. "Where is Coulson?" she finally asked, a lilt in her voice.
Bruce sighed, running a hand through his hair. "He's taking care of things. He said he'd come here in another twenty minutes or so, though. Will you answer him?"
Raina stared a moment longer, before nodding faintly, then turning her face to the wall.
Bruce shook his head in agitation and left, going into Bakshi's room. Considering the man hadn't spoken since being brought in and only moved when told to do so, Bruce didn't attempt a conversation. He set about cleaning and redressing the man's wounds.
Bakshi sat quietly, though he didn't watch the wall this time... instead, he watched Bruce work. The wounds pained him, but he kept his reactions to a minimum.
Bruce was as gentle as possible, but even so, some of the wounds were bad enough they would have hurt no matter what he did.
"I'm almost done..." he said in a gentle tone. "I ran tests on your blood as well. Nothing was given to you recently...but I did find some markers in your blood that might indicate something...well...maybe I should let one of the others explain..."
Bakshi focused on Bruce's face as the other man talked. "What would that mean?" His voice didn't really reveal anything... his face was blank.
"It might mean that something was done to you at some point in time...but I'm not really qualified to determine that..." Bruce said apologetically. "What I can do is arrange for someone, who is qualified to determine it, to come talk to you."
Bakshi gave a slight, almost nod. "I understand," he replied.
Bruce nodded. "I think you should rest done more. Your internal injuries, while not life threatening, do need time to heal..." He handed Bakshi two antibiotic tablets, a painkiller and a glass of water.
Bakshi took the water and the tablets, swallowing the pills and then leaning back on the bed. He didn't really feel sleepy... but didn't protest the suggestion to rest.
Bruce smiled again, before setting another glass of water on the table by Bakshi. "I'm going to go contact one of those people I told you about. If you need anything, Veronica can contact me or one of my family to help you." With one last look at Bakshi, Bruce headed out with the intention of finding Bucky and seeing if he had a suggestion of people that might be able to determine if Bakshi was a victim of brainwashing.
Trip was sitting I the family room, a book open on his lap. It was obvious he wasn't reading though. He was staring at the page and hadn't turned the page in the five minutes Kara had come into the room and begun watching him.
Brock wasn't even trying to pretend, just staring at his hands.
Kara bit her lip and glanced at her father.
Fury stepped over to his children and placed a hand each on his sons' shoulders. "I think maybe we should talk," he said, his voice serious, but affectionate still.
Trip visibly swallowed, but immediately stood up, the book falling forgotten onto the couch. "Yes, sir," he answered somberly.
Brock also stood up quickly. He didn't say anything, instead staring at the floor and waiting for their father to lead them.
Kara bit her lip and picked up Trip's book, carefully marking his spot. "I'll see what movies we have available and pick one out. Make some popcorn." Her voice was soft and she acted as if she didn't know what was about to happen, not wanting to embarrass her brothers.
Fury nodded in acknowledgement of Kara's comment and wrapped an arm each around his sons, guiding them from the family room and going up the stairs so he could lead them into the bedroom.
"I'm sorry, dad. I know exactly what I did wrong and...the fact that Kara was hurt because of it, I just...I don't think anything is gonna make me feel like I've paid enough for that..." Trip said lowly, his voice catching.
The look on Brock's face indicated he felt the same way, even if he still hadn't attempted to talk.
Fury spoke once he'd closed the door and situated the three of them on the bed. "I understand you were feeling frustrated," he began. "The fact that some of the other family members got hurt wasn't your fault. No op is truly safe... but the fact remains you shouldn't have gone. Not without backup. Not without letting more than just two of your cousins know what you were doing."
"It feels like it was our fault." Brock finally spoke, sounding lost. "The only reason they were on an op where things could go wrong was because we went off on an unsanctioned op."
"It was foolish and...a bit sneaky to try and convince ourselves that we weren't breaking family rules because we told two of our cousins and went in a group of four. If we'd just told you, or Steve, or Phil...well, we didn't, because we knew, deep down, you'd insist we wait." Trip slumped, wiping at his eyes.
Fury kept his arms around his sons' shoulders. "I know you both feel guilty. We are going to deal with what happened... and then it'll be over. We got you and the others back and although there were injuries, it doesn't look like there was anything long-lasting. Having all of you back safe is the most important thing."
"Will it be over, sir? I...I hope you're right and we haven't caused permanent problems..." Trip slumped further, sighing.
"Bruce is confident that Kara is fine... she just needs to take it easy for the next week," Fury said. "As far as I'm aware, none of the tests he's performed have come back indicating there's a problem with any of you."
"No problem except for doing things that we know full well we shouldn't be doing?" Brock winced then cleared his throat.
Fury nodded. "But we will deal with that."
"What do you want us to do?" Trip asked quietly.
"I'll let you decide who's going to go first," Fury said, his voice firm, though not unkind.
"Brock can go first..." Trip quickly answered, knowing that waiting was hard and wanting to make things easier on his brother. He might not be older chronologically, but he'd taken on the role of older brother the moment Brock came into their lives, due to the brainwashing making him more vulnerable.
Fury nodded and gave both his sons a tight squeeze, before he stood up. Guiding Trip over to the corner, he squeezed his son's shoulder as he gently placed him inside. "Stay here."
"Yes, sir..." Trip whispered, turning to face the corner and closing his eyes, already feeling like a child just from the position.
Brock watched with wide eyes as Trip was led to the corner. He bit his lip. "It was my idea..." he finally said softly, as his father returned to him. "I'm sorry..."
"It doesn't matter whose idea it was. No one else had to agree to go." Fury's voice was firm. When he reached the bed, he took a seat and grasped Brock's wrist, drawing his son across his lap and securing him with an arm wrapped around his waist.
Brock closed his eyes tightly and blindly reached down to grasp his father's ankle. He didn't argue about fault...but he still felt responsible to some degree. "Sorry..." he whispered, before whimpering slightly at the position, feeling vulnerable and childish.
Fury didn't respond to that. He knew his son was sorry... and he knew both of them felt guilt that wasn't going to be alleviated through words. He rubbed Brock's back gently a moment or two before baring him.
Brock shivered slightly and gripped his father's ankle more tightly. He couldn't help the tiny whimper that escaped with the last layer of his 'defense'.
Fury rubbed his son's back another moment or two and then lifted his hand, bringing it down in the first sharp swat before he repeated it.
Brock gasped at the first snack, but managed to regain control over himself by the second...at least as far as vocalizing. His eyes were already filling with tears, to his embarrassment.
Fury continued the swats down to Brock's thighs. As he started over from the top, he began to speak. "No matter how frustrated you are and how much you want do something, going on an unsanctioned op is not the answer. Any one of you could have been hurt... killed. We were very lucky."
Fury wasn't saying anything that Brock didn't already know and he wasn't inclined to argue with his father. He didn't say anything, because he knew if he did, it would be obvious that he was crying, hard. He kept his eyes closed, because he couldn't see through the tears when they were open anyway.
Completing the second circuit, Fury began focusing more swats to his son's sit spots and thighs, increasing the force a bit. "I don't want anything to happen to you. Putting yourself in that kind of danger is unacceptable."
Brock quivered from the effort not to begin crying loudly, but as his father began focusing the harder swats and admonishing him, he couldn't keep quiet any longer. "Yes, sir! I know...I'm so sorry..." he sobbed out, throwing his hand back and going limp at the same time.
Fury moved Brock's hand out of the way, holding it against his back, and finished with a final two swats. He then drew his son up and into his arms, hugging Brock tight.
Brock had felt so guilty that, once the sobbing had started, he couldn't stop. He finally gave up trying and just sat boneless in his father's arms, trusting that his father had him and would protect him while he cried out his guilt, shame and fear with shuddering, gulping breaths.
Fury hugged Brock tightly to himself, not trying to force his son to speak, as he allowed time for the storm to abate. He stroked his son's hair and back gently and soothingly, giving him all the time he needed.
Eventually, Brock had cried himself out and was just lying against his father, gripping him just as tightly as Fury was gripping him. "I love you, daddy..." he said, in a tiny, apologetic voice, finally regaining control over his emotions and ability to speak.
Trip stood in the corner through everything that was happening, unable not to hear every smack, cry and his brother's eventual surrender and breakdown. He swallowed hard and blinked eyes filled with tears.
"I love you too." Fury's voice was filled with sincerity. He'd done a good job of hiding how scared he'd been for his sons. Having them close to him like this made him feel a lot better.
Brock snuggled a bit more before leaning up and kissing his father on the cheek. Then, he carefully got up and fixed his clothing with a hiss, before wiping his eyes. Taking a deep breath, he suddenly realized that the guilt wasn't as crippling as it had been...it was still there, but only a tiny jiggle in the back of his mind, instead of being front and center and tormenting him. "Thanks, daddy..." he whispered, with a crooked smile.
Fury stood and wrapped his arm around Brock's shoulders, pressing a kiss to his forehead. "I love you," he said.
"I know..." Brock whispered. "I love you, too..." He gave a sheepish look to his father. "I feel a lot better now..." he said, as he reached back and rubbed his backside. He glanced toward where Trip still stood with his nose in the corner. The hunched stance his brother stood in indicated that Trip felt worse. Brock glanced back at his father. "Do you want me in the corner now?" he asked softly.
Fury nodded, placing a hand on Brock's shoulder and guiding him over towards the corner. Drawing Trip out, he placed his youngest son in the corner and then wrapped his arm around Trip's shoulders, guiding him towards the bed.
Trip didn't say anything. He already knew how and why he had been wrong to do what he'd done. He was filled with guilt and knew this was the only way he'd be able to let even a little of the guilt go. Even so, hearing his brother punished and knowing that he'd disappointed his father- on top of everything else- was too much and he couldn't talk. All he could do was quietly cry.
Fury hugged Trip close before he took a seat on the bed, drawing his son across his lap and wrapping an arm around his waist. He rubbed Trip's back a moment or two before baring him.
Trip took a long, slow breath, letting himself become accustomed to the position he found himself in before reaching down and tightly grasping his father's ankle. "I'm sorry..." he said, in a whisper so low and filled with remorse, that it was almost unable to be heard.
"I know." Fury rubbed his son's back a moment or two longer and then brought his hand down in the first sharp swat, before repeating it.
Where Brock had attempted to keep quiet and not cry loudly in the beginning, Trip wasn't attempting to stop himself. By the time his father had begun to spank him, he was so distraught and guilt filled that he began crying, hard, with the first swat. He was crying so hard that he was choking on the tears, which prevented sound from escaping. Only the deep quaking of his body betrayed that he was sobbing.
It was hard to force himself to keep going... not that Fury had ever found it easy to punish his children; even before they had officially become his, he'd found it hard. He continued the swats, but as he began a second circuit, he didn't scold as he had Brock... Trip didn't need that push to encourage him to surrender. Instead, he began speaking with a gentle tone to his voice. "I know you feel guilty, son. You shouldn't have gone on the op... not just because other members of the family were hurt, but because you could have been. You are too important to risk losing."
Unable to speak, Trip just squeezed his father's ankle more firmly and hoped the older man understood that to mean that he was listening and acknowledging the truth in the words.
Fury increased the force behind the swats a fraction. "I can't explain to you how relieved I was to get you back safe. You can't disregard your own safety like that again. You can't risk yourself... certainly not when it's unnecessary." He would have preferred Trip never risk himself... but he knew that sometimes it was necessary.
Trip hadn't thought it was possible to cry any harder, but his father's words somehow pushed him that one step further and not only was he crying harder, but his voice finally managed to escape him in a low keening wail, the words 'sorry' not coherent, but the meaning clear.
Fury finished off with a final few swats to his son's sit spots and thighs and then stopped, quickly drawing Trip into his arms and hugging him tightly.
Trip had been feeling unsettled from the moment he'd realized his family had been hurt rescuing him. It would be the truth to say that going over his father's knee always made him feel childish and vulnerable to the older man. This time, he felt more than childish and vulnerable. He felt wrecked. He didn't often do things that required his father to take action- he was responsible for the most part; the fact that his actions had hurt someone he cared about sent him into an emotional tailspin that left him questioning himself and everything he did. When Fury pulled him up to hold him, Trip grabbed hold tightly, pressed close and hid his face against his father's shoulder.
Fury tightened his embrace around his son, hugging Trip tightly and rubbing his back gently. He spoke soft, soothing words to his son, understanding the emotional upheaval Trip was going through.
Trip wasn't sure how long he cowered against his father, seeking comfort. When he finally felt calm enough to pull away, stand and fix his clothing, his throat felt raw, his eyes were burning and he had lost his voice. His stomach also hurt and he felt weak as a limp noodle. He hadn't cried like that since his granddaddy had died. He wanted to say something to let his father know he was finally calm and relatively ok, though, so he signed the words.
Nodding his understanding, Fury wrapped his arm around Trip's shoulders and squeezed him close. "I love you." He kissed Trip's forehead and then guided him over so he could take Brock out of the corner.
Trip leaned against his father, feeling extremely needy.
Brock looked at his brother, clearly worried. "Are we grounded, dad?" he asked quietly, thinking that even if they weren't, he wanted to stick close to his father anyway...and it was obvious Trip needed to.
"I think you are for a while." Fury had been wavering about it... but he could see that Trip was feeling emotionally needy and vulnerable and he knew that it was likely Brock felt the same. Besides, he needed to keep his sons close.
Trip's only response to that was to sniff once, swallow and press closer to his father. He didn't feel good. Yes, the guilt and anxiety he'd been feeling since everything had occurred had been taken care of, but it had affected him more strongly than he'd ever been prepared for and he felt queasy, achy and dehydrated.
"Kare-bear wants to watch movies, right? Do you think she'd object to watching them in bed?" Brock asked quietly again, glancing at his brother. "I'm a little tired..." he added, in an attempt to not make Trip feel like it was because of him (even if it was), or that he was messing plans up.
Fury drew his sons in closer to himself and shook his head. "I think she'd be perfectly fine with that," he agreed. "Why don't we settle in here with some drinks and snacks?" he suggested.
"That'd be great, dad...I'll run down and get Kara and we can bring drinks and snacks up..." He smiled brightly, giving his father and brother a quick grin before quickly disappearing.
Trip blinked and swallowed again. "That wasn't obvious at all..." he finally croaked out with a wince. "...I know I sound bad, but do I look that bad?" He glanced at his father, an embarrassed look on his face.
Fury hugged Trip tight to himself. "You don't normally get into trouble and I think that shows," he said. "But we've dealt with it... and I'll keep you and your brother close." At least until they started chafing... which would indicate both were feeling better.
Trip let his head drop onto his father's shoulder. "Yeah...I guess. I don't like disappointing you...or endangering my family and friends...seems like when I do get into trouble, that's exactly what I've done..."
Fury rubbed his back gently. "Everyone's been on edge about HYDRA. We've found out that they've been brainwashing SHIELD agents... more than that, they've been taking children and manufacturing childhoods to turn them to HYDRA. I know how tempting it is to want to do something, but HYDRA is going to want to capture anyone here. There isn't really a faster way to affect us."
"Oh, believe me, dad...I know..." Trip winced again. "What I don't know is how I managed to convince myself that this time it would be a good idea to ignore everything I know. Normally, Mack and I would be the ones trying to talk other people out of going... this time. we were leading the charge."
"Probably because, no matter how responsible both of you are, you're suffering from frustration and being angry at HYDRA, the same way everyone else is," Fury said. "And sometimes that frustration reaches breaking point."
"Yeah...frustration sounds about right..." Trip muttered, leaning on his father a bit more.
At that moment, Kara bounced into the room, carrying a huge bowl of popcorn and the movie she wanted to watch. "Daaaaddyyyyy..." She grinned. "Brock is bringing soda and bottled water... Hey, bro..." She leaned over carefully and kissed Trip and Fury on the cheek, barely managing to keep from tipping the bowl of popcorn onto the floor.
Brock walked in with a tray filled with various drink options and a bottle of headache medicine. "Brought this, just in case..." He nodded at the bottle. He suspected Trip needed it; and Kara would be needing it as soon as the dosage of medication she'd taken earlier wore off.
Fury smiled at his daughter and his other son as they came back into the room. "Do any of you want to get changed into something more comfortable before we start watching?" he asked them.
Kara looked down at the sweat pants and oversized t-shirt that she'd 'borrowed' from her father and gave him a cheeky grin. "I'm good, thanks..."
Brock had already put the tray of drinks down and was heading out the door quickly, calling back, "I'll do that...be back in a few minutes!"
Trip couldn't help but chuckle at his siblings. "Yeah, I think I'll change too. Thanks, daddy..." he said in a whisper that only Fury could hear, the term of endearment letting his father know that he was still feeling unsettled.
Fury kissed Trip's forehead, nodding to acknowledge their words. "I'll get the film set up." He smiled and began doing that.
Kara put the bowl of popcorn down on the bedside table then sat on the bed, bouncing up and down slightly. "Will Trip be alright, daddy?" she asked cautiously. While it was a given that the only time a punishment was discussed was if the one who had been punished brought it up, she really wasn't asking about the punishment; still...his current mood was tied to the punishment, or at least the events leading to it, so she wasn't sure if she should be asking.
"He's feeling a bit guilty. I think all three of you are going to stay close to me for the next little while." Fury set up the film and then joined his daughter on the bed.
"That's good..." Kara scooted closer to her father and snuggled up, grinning at her brothers when they both returned, wearing their own sweatpants and t-shirts.
Brock made a point of taking the side, making Trip crawl over him into the middle. His aim was accomplished, though; his brother was next to their father. If he shifted closer to Trip, making the other man shift even closer to their father, he wasn't going to own up to it, no matter how many suspicious looks Trip sent his direction.
"So, I know I saw some popcorn and drinks somewhere around here..." Trip said, glancing first toward Brock, then toward Kara.
"Right here!" Kara chirped up, taking the huge bowl of popcorn off the bedside table and bringing it around so it was sat on Trip and Fury's laps, where they all could reach it.
Brock reached beside him and began to hand out the cans of soda; he knew everyone's favorites, so didn't ask, figuring if they wanted something different, they would speak up.
Fury settled in close to his children, making sure he was in contact with each of them, as the film started.
Raina sat on the bed she'd been provided and looked around. She'd only got up once to test the door, discovering it locked with no visible method of unlocking it. She suspected it was controlled by the voice that she kept hearing every so often. She wasn't certain she wanted to stay here, although they had treated her much better than she'd expected, considering the things she'd done in the past to Coulson's son. She wrinkled her nose in slight offense. They probably thought she was crazy...but she truly felt that people were meant to evolve and she was destined to a higher purpose than what she currently had. Everything she did was in preparation for that. If no one else could understand it, there wasn't much to be done.
Coulson had taken care of his remaining paperwork and spoken to Natasha, who'd decided to spend some time with her two younger siblings, knowing that neither were feeling that great. He'd now come to check in with Raina.
Even though the door was locked, Coulson still knocked to announce his presence before he unbolted the door, opened it and stepped inside.
Raina glanced up at the knocking, slanting her head in curiosity when Coulson walked in. "Agent..." she said coolly, although there was a tiny hint of nervousness in her tone.
Coulson walked over to take a seat next to the bed. "How are you feeling?" he asked, his voice gentle.
"I..." She stopped, giving Coulson a speculative look, before seeming to decide on something. "...I don't feel very good. My stomach is upset. But I'm not running a fever and I am capable of moving around and walking without pain. The virus I injected into myself was not able to overcome the improved serum I made." She seemed proud of the fact, although most people would not recommend using yourself as a human guinea-pig.
"Why did you choose to inject yourself?" Coulson's voice was still gentle, but the worried look on his face hadn't gone away. He remembered what she'd said about having failed and he wondered if there was more to what was going on than what they knew already.
Raina frowned. "I needed to know if the serum would work the way it was supposed to... it was meant to be tested on someone else so that I could observe...but I was too slow. I failed and almost lost my chance at finding what I was meant to learn... Since you had not taken the serum from me yet, I took the last and only opportunity I had left to find my answers."
"What can you tell me about the serum?" Coulson asked, knowing that was information Bruce needed to have... and also wanting to make sure they were prepared for any possible side effects.
"I can't tell you anything..." Raina looked him straight in the eye when she refused to talk. At one point in time, she may have given him a patronizing smile, but not this time. This time, she actually looked apologetic; as if she wanted to tell him, but something was keeping her from doing so. "If I tell you, then you'll work to stop it and I'll have failed again..."
"I want to help you, Raina." Coulson reached out and lightly touched Raina's hand. "I want to know if the serum will make you worse... I don't want to leave you alone and I want to make sure you're as comfortable as possible."
"Why?" Raina's tone was honest confusion. "Why would you care, let alone want to help me? After everything I did?"
"Because I don't believe you're a bad person," Coulson replied. "I think you're misguided... and no one bothered to teach you the difference between right and wrong. But I believe there's more to you than what you've allowed me to see so far." He'd experienced the same with Natasha and Grant... able to see past the shields around them, to the vulnerable, almost scared children they kept hidden.
"That's...rather naïve don't you think? You don't really know me at all to make an assessment like that... And it really won't help you find the information you want, anyway. I was telling the truth. I can't tell you what you want to know..." Raina couldn't help the apologetic smile that she gave him. She found herself wishing that she could tell him...something...but anything beyond basic information that he could easily discern for himself got caught in her throat and wouldn't be said. It was almost as if there was some type of spell preventing her from talking; if she believed in that sort of thing, anyway.
"Maybe I don't know everything about you," Coulson allowed. "But I can read people extremely well. For instance... I can guess that whoever raised you made no attempt to see you for who you were... that they expected perfection; had their own ideas for who and what you were meant to be and expected you to fall in line with those." He paused to guage her response.
Raina's smile was crooked. "You're assuming I was raised by someone..." Sighing softly, she glanced away for a moment before glancing back. "I grew up on the streets...until a man, a doctor, found me and took me in. He did expect perfection, but not only from me. He expected it of himself and everyone else as well. And it is he who told me of my potential; that I would be something greater than..." Her face fell and she looked sad. "I failed. He'd be very disappointed in me..."
"Everyone has potential, but they don't need to inject themselves with a serum to reach it," Coulson said. "You don't need to change yourself. Not like that. We might have been on different sides, but I can still see that you don't need to do that." He'd noticed her apparent inability to explain the serum and wondered if it might be worth utilising a different way of gaining the information.
"He said I could be...would be...better than I ever was without evolving. The serum...was a way to evolve. To become stronger...better..." She slanted her head. "He would not think much of me now, with my failure..." She sounded sad and resigned. "If I don't change, then I am worthless to him..."
Coulson still had his hand on Raina's and he squeezed it gently. "You aren't worthless. Strength doesn't rely on being able to evolve. There are many different types of strength." His voice was honest... his entire attention was focused on her.
Raina just stared at Coulson with wide, curious eyes. "I cannot decide if you are the kindest, most forgiving man I've ever met; the sneakiest, most conniving; or if you are a fool..." she finally said softly, before blinking and looking down where his hand held hers. "I want to believe you...it is hard not to believe you want something from me that has you saying all the things that I want to hear at the moment..." She sighed.
"I want to make sure the serum you've taken isn't going to harm you," Coulson stated, simply and honestly. "When Grant was injected, there was a lot he suffered through. If I can prevent you from going through that, I would."
Raina looked up quickly at that, her eyes shaded with guilt and regret. "I didn't mean for him to suffer! You took him away before I knew exactly what was going to happen, but I had plans to give him a stronger serum if what I gave didn't work..." Her tone sounded more like a child trying to convince a parent that they hadn't done anything wrong than a woman defending her actions. She bit her lip and glanced away again. "If he suffered, then I should as well...it's my serum, my experiment...one must suffer to achieve greatness..." Her voice was a bit less confident than it had been in the beginning. It was hard to feel confident when you were tired, were beginning to feel achy and had just found out that the serum you'd injected into yourself hadn't done anything to prevent pain and misery. Even if it had barely managed to prevent death; although she wasn't entirely sure that it was the serum that had prevented that, since she hadn't been there to watch the results. It could have been something those caring for Grant had done...
"I don't believe you should suffer," Coulson said. Just like with Grant, even though he hadn't officially adopted the younger man at that point, it wasn't acceptable to him to abandon Raina... to leave her alone to deal with this, even if it was caused by her own actions. He squeezed her hand gently again. "Testing out the serum, whether on yourself or on others, is not something that's acceptable... but that doesn't mean I think you should suffer for it. Or that I think you're a bad person."
Raina blinked again, her eyes widening slightly. "You're not real...you can't possibly be real..." she whispered, as she looked into his face, then down at their joined hands. She sunk back into the pillows. "Let's pretend for a moment that you aren't a figment of my imagination..." She didn't see how Coulson could possibly be so nice to her and care about her to the extent he was showing, after everything she had done. What she was hearing now was obviously a delusion brought on by the virus that she could feel getting stronger in her body, moment by moment. "...Let's pretend that everything you are saying is true. What would you have happen? After everything I've done to you and your family, if I'm not to suffer, what do you think should happen?" She blinked her eyes once more and then finally just closed them, because the light was starting to hurt her head.
What would he have happen? Coulson wasn't actually sure he wouldn't scare her off if he told her he wanted her as part of his family. At the same time, he didn't lie to his children... to members of his family... even potential members of his family. "I want you to recover," he said honestly. "I can promise you that I'm real. You know that I give second chances. You must be aware that I accepted Grant into my family long before finding out he was my son biologically."
"Huh...I'll have to make note of that..." Raina whispered. "I'm not sure if it is the virus or the serum fighting the virus...but delusions are a side affect I didn't count on, especially not ones that are nice and promise things that I never told anyone else about, ever..." She coughed, then glanced down at her hand, tensing up in the first show of fear that she'd allowed herself. "So...uh...Mr. Delusion... was coughing up blood one of the symptoms when Grant was ill?" She looked back up at Phil, her eyes terrified. As a biological scientist, she knew what she was facing.
Coulson's eyes narrowed in worry. "Veronica?" He addressed the AI, trying to stay calm so that he didn't distress Raina even more. "Can you ask Bruce to come in here, please?" He kept his attention focused fully on Raina. "You've indicated that you can't tell me what was in the serum... can you sign it to me? Or write it down?"
Raina gave him a crooked smile that quickly turned to a wince of pain. "You are as intelligent as I thought...I...I can write..." she admitted, coughing again, giving her elbow (where she'd been coughing) a look of disgust; it was covered in bright red. She waited until Coulson had quickly handed her a pad of paper and a pencil and wrote down a name, a number and something that looked like gibberish. "This...this should be among the files that your team downloaded from the lab. The name is a folder; in that folder are thousands of files named by number. Your people would not have time to have gone through all of them yet. The nonsense is the password..." She winced, tensing up and curling up slightly as the pain began to increase, blood beginning to seep from her eyes, nose, mouth and even a little trickle from her ears. The illness was progressing at a much more rapid pace now that it had begun.
Coulson might not be a doctor, but as part of his SHIELD training, he'd had courses in medical. While he waited for Bruce, he made quick use of the medical supplies in the room, using them to take the samples he knew his nephew would need before he began making Raina as comfortable as possible.
Bruce had come as quickly as possible, the AI sensing the urgency of the matter, even if Coulson was trying to keep his request as low-key and calm as possible. "What are the symptoms...?" he started out as he walked into the room, carrying his supplies. "...Beyond the obvious," he finished with a grimace. "You've got samples already? Great... could you get those to Jemma as soon as possible? Tell her to treat it as infectious. Meanwhile, I want you to go through decon; and the next time you visit, make sure you're in a bio-suit. She may have given herself the same thing as Grant, but we don't know what, if any, changes were made to the virus any more than we know what changes were made in the serum. The fact she combined the two before injecting them into herself means it could react in a totally different manner..."
"No...no changes in virus...other than combining..." Raina whispered, before she began to spasm.
"Veronica... stats now..." Bruce demanded, as he quickly moved to prevent Raina from harming herself against anything nearby.
"The spasms are due to her extremely high temperature, doctor. My scans indicate her temperature to be at 105f and rising. If you do not cool her immediately, she will fall into a coma and likely die within the next few minutes."
If Bruce was slightly green at the news, no one could blame him. "Damn it... I need help, Veronica; from someone who isn't likely to catch the illness from her. And I need a tub filled with ice. Until I can get her on ice, the temperature in this room needs to be dropped to below freezing. Hopefully, that will cool her enough to prevent brain-damage..." He muttered the last to himself, even as he could feel the room's temperature rapidly drop and could hear Veronica making an announcement over the tower's intercoms. He began removing Raina's clothing in an attempt to let the heat escape her body instead of being trapped in the material.
Even though it was hard to force himself to leave Raina's side (as hard as it had been to leave Grant's that time), Coulson knew that the samples needed to be tested as fast as possible. He took them to Jemma, passing on the information then went through decontamination, before sending a quick message to his other children, letting them know he'd be a little while, even if he didn't go into all of the details.
Steve came, responding to Veronica's announcement automatically. He stepped into the room and took in the scene at a glance. "What do you need me to do?" he asked his son.
Coulson returned only a moment later, dressed in a biohazard suit, unwilling to stay away from the woman he was rapidly growing to care about.
"I need to get her into a tub filled with ice water..." Bruce said to his father. "Luckily, we put her in a room where the bath has a tub and not a shower..." he mumbled to himself, as he stepped back so his father could carry Raina to the bath. "Veronica, I need the water to be as cold as possible. Are you able to make it cold, or do I need to get ice to put into the tub?"
"I am able to control the water's temperature, doctor. No one else in the building will want to take a shower while I am doing so, however, as I have to affect the water tank itself..." the AI answered.
Bruce chuckled slightly. "That's fine... please make the water as cold as possible..." He walked into the bath and began to run the water, letting it run over his hand and not putting the plug in until the water was cold enough to make him shiver slightly. He stepped back so Steve could put the woman into the water.
"Uncle Phil." Bruce wasn't sure what caused him to use the familial term, some instinct making him think it was better at the moment. "If you'll stay in here with dad and make sure she stays in the water, change it for fresh when necessary... I'm going to change the bedding and make sure I have all the medications that we might need." He grimaced at the pink tinge in the water. "Veronica, I know Tony set the sewage pipes for the medical and science floors separate from everywhere else; it's supposed to go to a holding tank, where we can decontaminate and make sure any water borne pathogens can be removed...I'd like you to make certain that the filter is working at top capacity and that it goes through at least two purifications. Until I know for sure if this is contagious and how...I don't want to risk it escaping into the general population."
Steve carried Raina through to the bath as quickly and carefully as possible, placing her into the water. He shifted to the side to allow Coulson to join him by the side, aware that his brother was desperate to take care of the woman Steve was fairly sure would be joining the family.
Just as he had done with Grant all that time ago, Coulson wet a cloth and began carefully washing the blood from Raina's face. Leaving her side wasn't an option. Even though she'd done this to herself, he couldn't just abandon her.
Bruce had removed all the linen from the hospital bed and crammed it into a biohazard bag, before heading out to get the medications he knew had worked for Grant before. "Are the viruses the same?" he asked Jemma, as he was gathering the items.
Jemma swallowed. "The virus is exactly the same; the problem is that the serum isn't the same...and that one different element she added...well, it's helping to fight the virus more quickly than the serum she gave Grant. The problem is, the way it is fighting it more quickly is by speeding up the virus's life cycle. If she survives the symptoms, she should be well in a few hours; but the symptoms are going to be a lot worse because of how escalated everything is..." She pushed the microscope over so her father could see for himself what she was saying.
"There's got to be more to it than that..." Bruce muttered. "We can't afford to miss anything..." Shaking his head, he glanced at Jemma, happy to see her wearing her bio-suit. "Please remake her bed. We'll need to return her to it once the fever breaks..."
"Yes, daddy..." Jemma said, quickly heading to do so.
"Veronica, please have Tony begin to look through those files we downloaded from the lab..." Bruce began to speak as he quickly walked back into the bath where his uncle and father were tending the patient. "...Uncle Phil, did she give you any idea of what we should look for in those files?" he asked, as he began to measure out medication.
Coulson looked at his nephew, but didn't move away from Raina's side in the bath. "The details are written down on the pad." He explained what Raina had told him, adding, "I don't know if it was the virus or something else, but she couldn't tell me through speech about it."
Steve frowned. "Did you check the samples of her blood for the element Tony found in many people who have been brainwashed?" he asked.
Jemma had been listening through the door and, at Steve's question, piped in, "I did see that element in her blood. Since I needed to focus on the virus and serum, I didn't focus on it, but it was there..."
Bruce nodded. "Grant didn't have that element in his blood and it is possible that it is causing part of this extreme reaction as well. Jemma...as soon as you're finished, go back and focus on the element. See if it is reacting in any way with the serum or viral elements..."
"Yes, daddy..." Jemma finished dressing the bed and then ran out to do as bid.
Bruce, secure in the knowledge that his daughter was doing everything he asked, picked up the pad of paper with Raina's scrawls on it and sent out a few more commands to Tony via Veronica. "Have Tony look in this folder for this file number. The password to get into the file is this last bit." He held the paper up so that Veronica could scan it and send the information to Tony. As soon as the AI confirmed having sent the information, he filled a syringe with a fever reducer, carefully injecting it into Raina's arm. "Veronica, what is her temperature now?"
"It's dropped to 104 degrees, doctor. It is slowly lowering, though, so I think the immediate danger is decreasing," the AI responded.
"Good...let's empty the tub and add more cold water, then..." Bruce proceeded to do just that.
Raina had been weakly thrashing from the moment they put her into the ice-cold water. If it hadn't been for Steve holding her in place, she might have done damage to herself. When Bruce emptied the water, she'd relaxed fractionally; until more frigid water began to pour in around her. "Nooo..." she cried through the shivering. "...Coold..."
"I know." Coulson's voice was gentle. Careful not to get in Steve's way and prevent his brother from holding Raina in place, he gently stroked her hair. "I know it's uncomfortable, but this is to help you get better. As soon as your temperature is down, you can get warm and dry," he promised.
By this point, Raina wasn't lucid enough to realize what she was doing...she just responded naturally to the gentleness in Coulson's voice and in his touch, turning her face toward him instinctively. She continued to shiver and, every so often, would attempt to get out of the water; but mostly, she was just a shivering mass floating in the water.
"Hopefully, the fever medication will begin to do its job and we will be able to get her out soon..." Bruce said softly, as he continued to monitor her condition while readying everything else she would need.
Coulson continued to gently stroke Raina's hair, doing his best to help comfort her, even if she wasn't truly aware of him. He nodded to acknowledge Bruce's words... but apart from that, his entire being was focused on Raina.
They had emptied and refilled the tub two more times before Veronica announced, "Her temperature has dropped to 100 degrees, sirs, and appears to still be falling. I believe the fever has broken."
"Let's get her out, then..." Bruce's voice was relieved. He pulled the plug, then handed Steve a huge towel so that he could pick her up without soaking himself and handed Phil another one so that his uncle could dry her. He then went to gather another hospital gown so that they had something to dress her in once she was dry.
Steve placed the towel over himself so that he could lift Raina out, then immediately let his brother start drying her off, able to see just how worried Coulson was about her.
Coulson wrapped the towel around Raina and began rubbing her, gently but still briskly, holding her close to himself without fully realising it... even through the suit.
Raina, seeking warmth after the frigid bath, instinctively shifted; first closer to Steve, but then closer to Coulson as he pulled her to him. She was still shivering, but not quite as badly. She very obviously wasn't awake...or at least she wasn't coherent.
Bruce returned with the hospital gown and quickly dressed his patient, before motioning toward the bed. "Please put her there...I need to hook her up to the monitors and IVs." He still sounded worried, even if it wasn't as palpable as before.
Coulson kept his arms around Raina as he guided her towards the bed. He only moved enough to allow Bruce to get her settled and hooked up... and then he was at her side once more, unable to hide his worry and concern.
"Thanks, dad..." Bruce nodded toward Steve to let him know that the part he needed help with was over with and he didn't have to stay if he needed to be elsewhere. He injected the IV with two more drugs then glanced at Coulson. "Now it's up to her. I've given her fever reducers to try and make sure the fever doesn't return. I've also injected her with something for pain and something that will hopefully prevent her from becoming ill from more common viruses while her body fights this mega-virus. I've got blood in storage; if she continues to bleed like she currently is..." He glanced at her eyes, which were red from broken veins as well as rimmed in blood, and the nose bleed that had started up again, "...I'll do a transfusion. We needed to do one with Grant, so I have no doubt we'll need one with her shortly. Veronica is monitoring her to let me know the optimum time for that..."
Raina could hear voices, but was too unfocused to be able to understand what they were saying. She tried to see who was still in the room with her; she assumed the doctor, but beyond that wasn't certain- her eyesight was a red haze. She wondered briefly if Coulson was still there, but couldn't imagine why he would be. Wearily, she closed her eyes. She doubted she'd survive this; it would be justice for everything she'd done to everyone else. Still...she didn't want to die. Whimpering slightly, she shifted minutely.
Coulson nodded to Bruce, taking Raina's hand in his. He couldn't touch her skin to skin, but he tried to offer what comfort he could. "If you need to, you can test my blood type... see if it's a match... if the stored blood doesn't work." He guessed Bruce had already found out Raina's blood type; but he wanted to be able to do something for her... something more than just staying close enough to hope that she was aware of his presence; that she wasn't alone.
"Call me if you need me," Steve said quietly, to his son and his brother, before quietly leaving the room.
"I'm comparing her blood type to what I have on record for the whole family now...I'll let you know if you are compatible and if I need more than what I have stored..." Bruce said softly, nodding at his uncle before following his father out of the room.
When Coulson took her hand, Raina wasn't certain who it was, but the person was being gentle with her and caring and it calmed her down more than she thought it might. Weakly, she turned her hand so that she could grasp their hand back...even if it was very weak. She finally fell asleep.
Coulson stayed by Raina's side, even after she fell asleep, unwilling to leave her alone. He planned to be right there the moment anything happened.
As Bakshi stared at the wall, he wondered if he should really be bored. There was so much going around inside his mind, though... even the outward pain couldn't touch the mixed emotions swirling around inside. He wasn't speaking to anyone because he was lost inside his own head and couldn't bring himself out.
Bucky had followed Steve to the medical floor, in case more help was needed than his brother could provide. He didn't go into Raina's room, however, once he realized that Steve was able to handle things on his own. Instead, he walked over to Bakshi's room, glancing in at the other man. "Do you need more pain medication?" he finally asked, noting the stiff way Bakshi lay in the bed and the tiny grimaces that flitted across his face every so often. The other man may not be in danger any longer, but he had a long road ahead of him for healing- Bobbi and Grant had really worked him over- and while Bucky didn't blame his niece or nephew in the least for getting the information needed in the only way they felt was available, it didn't stop him from feeling sympathy for Bakshi.
Bakshi blinked once and focused on Bucky as the other man spoke. His face betrayed his confusion, along with the pain from his injuries. "No." Although he meant the response to sound sure, there was a more uncertain tone to his voice. He wasn't used to being asked anything... only told what to do; and it had been so long since he'd had any mind of his own to speak of... not that he'd realised at the time, that he could only react within certain parameters. It seemed so obvious now.
Bucky nodded, picking up the chart hanging at the foot of Bakshi's bed and glancing at it. "Says you had your last dose about four hours ago, so you're actually due for another..." He gave Bakshi a crooked smile. "I can go ahead and get it for you, if you're willing to take it..." He could tell Bakshi was in pain, but he could also tell the other man was confused and uncertain and he didn't want to push his own will on Bakshi. He'd been pushed enough, as far as Bucky could tell. He looked at the results of the bloodwork that had been done, trying to see if they'd tested for the element Tony had found...suspecting that maybe Bakshi was one of the unlucky inscripted and brainwashed members of HYDRA.
Bakshi was focusing, feeling himself drawing up and out of the murky depths that held him. "I know you..." The memories were confused, half-formed images through his mind... but he was fairly certain the man talking to him now was the same one HYDRA had designated the Winter Soldier.
Bucky slanted his head. "That wouldn't surprise me...do you remember where you know me from?" His voice was calm.
Bakshi frowned, trying not only to focus... but also remember how to actually talk to someone else. He couldn't remember ever having a conversation that wasn't giving or receiving orders... even though logic told him he should. "HYDRA... designated you... the Winter Soldier." He didn't sound so certain, though.
Bucky's smile was sad. "That would be me..." he admitted quietly, handing Bakshi the medicine and a cup of water. "I don't go by that any longer. Hydra no longer controls me."
Bakshi peered at the medicine, almost a bit suspiciously, but swallowed it down with the water. "...How did they stop?" He wasn't sure if that was what he was asking... or if he was worried he wasn't free... he didn't even really know his own mind right now.
Bucky narrowed his eyes, trying to determine what exactly Bakshi was asking and why. After all, just because the element Tony had discovered was in the other man's blood didn't necessarily mean he was brainwashed. Just that it was highly likely. If he wasn't brainwashed, would Bakshi try and use the information given him against Bucky and the rest of his family? The man seemed confused, though. More confused than even torture should have left him. It was almost a given that he had been brainwashed, too. Bucky decided to take a chance and answer him. "How did HYDRA stop controlling me?" he asked for confirmation. "They didn't really have a choice...I met Steve again...the connection we'd had from pretty much when we were children was stronger than the brainwashing...seeing him jarred some memories loose and once I started remembering, they lost the iron grip they had on me, although they tried their hardest to make it so that I wouldn't remember. Steve wouldn't give up, though; and because of that, I was able to escape their clutches and eventually remembered enough that I could search Steve out and get the help I needed to pull free of them the rest of the way..."
Bakshi nodded... as if the answer didn't really surprise him. He finished the rest of the water and then stared at the empty cup in his hand. "They didn't try to... get you back?" He wasn't sure how he felt about the possibility of being abandoned. After all... he didn't want to be controlled again. At the same time, he didn't have someone in the same way that Bucky had had Steve. Not that he remembered, anyway. He felt lost... adrift... without any kind of anchor.
Bucky snorted. "Of course they tried to get me back...they still do if they see me and think they have a shot at it; HYDRA doesn't like to give up their 'assets' easily, even if the assets are unwilling and fighting the whole way..." He gave Bakshi a considering look. "Do you remember anything at all about your life before HYDRA?" The answer to that would pretty much tell him if Bakshi was in the same position as Kara, Brock and himself had been.
Bakshi shook his head. "No. I mean... I must have had a life before, but... everything's confused. I don't know if I had family... or even any friends..." His voice trailed off.
Bucky just nodded. "Well, I'll ask my niece Skye to do some digging around. Maybe she can pull something up that will jog your memory. Until then...I think you should get a bit more rest. Finish healing..."
"Okay..." Bakshi still looked confused, but although he was in pain still, the meds were beginning to kick in and he was starting to feel sleepy.
Bucky waited long enough to be certain that Bakshi was resting before he went in search of Steve, wanting to ask his opinion on how to proceed. Unlike Brock or Kara, Bakshi hadn't been a SHIELD agent before HYDRA. There were no records from before that they could use for guidance in reclaiming his memories. There wasn't much chance of him being recognized or known by other members of SHIELD who could help him out like Fury had with both Brock and Kara, or like Steve had done for him. There were a lot more obstacles in Bakshi's path to regaining his sense of self. "Veronica?" he asked, as he stepped onto the elevator. "Take me to whichever floor Steve is on, please?"
"Of course, Sargeant." The AI set the elevator to go to Steve's apartment, where he'd gone to spend time with his children and grandchildren after making sure he wasn't still needed to help his brother out with Raina.
Bucky got off the elevator and knocked on the door to the apartment. He could have easily walked in- Steve wouldn't have minded- but he preferred to keep his manners, even with family. He waited a few moments to see if Steve heard the knocking.
Steve was just finishing a conversation with Tony when he heard the knock on the door. Excusing himself for a second, he headed over to open the door. "Bucky? Is everything all right?" he asked, concerned.
"I don't know..." Bucky said with a sigh. "I hope it will be, but right now, I just don't know how to proceed..." It was hard to admit that he didn't know what to do.
Steve reached out and placed a hand on his brother's shoulder, squeezing gently. "Do you want to come inside? Or talk more privately?"
"Maybe Tony might have some ideas, too...the element he discovered is in Bakshi's blood; and the way he acts, I'm fairly certain he's another case of Hydra brainwashing..." Bucky said quietly, as he walked into the apartment.
Steve stood back from the door to allow his brother to enter, then closed it again. "I would assume that he didn't start out as SHIELD... Phil and Nick didn't recognise him. In which case, I think it would be fairly likely that he doesn't have any family left... no one who would miss him." As he spoke, he was walking towards Tony, his steps slow so that he could walk next to Bucky.
"And therein lies the problem." Bucky nodded at his nephew. "Part of what helped me regain my memories...what helped Brock and Kara...was the fact we had people who had known us from before, who cared about us and could help jog our memories and remind us of things. Even if every single person in the tower cared about Bakshi, no one knows his past and so we can't remind him of it or help him remember it. I just don't know how we can help him; how I can help..."
"So...basically, he has a blank slate where he can become whoever he wants without one of the hang ups from his past?" Tony asked curiously, trying to find a bright spot to the situation.
"Only if he chooses to look at it like that..." Bucky gave a crooked but still worried smile.
"I think maybe the important thing for him will be having someone who will help him to grow and develop," Steve said, having listened to both his brother and his son. "Even though no one here has been through exactly the same thing, there have been family members who have changed completely from who they first appeared to be. Grant had his father's help to grow into his own person, for instance."
"Well, I can only do my best to make sure he has a stable support system now, but it won't be easy. It was hard enough figuring things out with some idea of who I'd been and where I'd come from. I can't imagine having my past be completely empty..." Bucky sighed.
Steve nodded. "Even if we can't remind him of his past, it might still be worth seeing if there are any traces left of him... places he might have visited, for instance. But having a support system, even if it won't be easy, will really be the best thing."
Tony cleared his throat. "It seems to me that Hydra only kidnapped and brainwashed those who it felt would be most useful to its cause- either because of who they knew before, like Brock, Kara, and you..." he looked at Bucky. "...or because of what abilities they might have that are useful. If they didn't take Bakshi because of an attachment to SHIELD or someone at SHIELD, then it was probably because of an ability or asset he had that they wanted to exploit. If that's the case, I'd think he'd be known by a few people who would miss him- how else would Hydra know about him?"
Bucky nodded. "You're right. Veronica, can you look through all the databases of missing people for the last four years to see if someone matching Bakshi's description shows up? If you don't find anything, expand your search by one year each time until you either do find something or you've reached the year he was born?"
"As you wish Sargent," the AI answered.
At that moment, Pepper walked into the room carrying a suitcase. "I've been called out of town for an unexpected meeting. I just wanted to say goodbye before I left..." She sighed.
Steve looked at Pepper and then stepped over to wrap his arms around his daughter in a tight hug. "Where is it you're going?" he asked softly, wanting to be aware of where she was going to be, so he could be certain that she would be as safe as possible away from the tower.
"Where else? Tokyo. I'm not certain what's up with our factory there, but we always seem to have issues..." Pepper gave her father a tired smile (she'd been dealing with this particular problem for weeks, it felt like, and it had all come to a head that morning). "Veronica? Could you ask Harry to come here? I want to say goodbye to him, too..." Pepper said, before turning in her father's arms and holding onto him just as tightly as he held her.
Tony sighed as he watched his fiance, wondering for the hundredth time how fair it had been of him to dump the company onto her shoulders. Sure, she had been doing the work before and making her CEO just gave her the power and acknowledgement to go with the work, but he still felt guilty when he noticed how hard she was working to keep everything afloat. "Would it help if I went with you? Or...cause more problems?" he asked softly, a sheepish look on his face. He knew that while he was more than capable of taking care of things, he had a tendency to cause three problems for every problem he fixed, just because of his personality alone.
Bucky reached over and patted his nephew on the shoulder, giving his brother a crooked smile. "Have a safe trip, Pepper. If you need anything..." He left the rest unsaid, knowing she'd understand, before he gave a tiny wave and left the apartment to go find Lance.
"If you want any of us to go with you, you only have to ask," Steve said softly, wanting his daughter to be as comfortable as possible... and knowing how much he and Tony (and every other member of the family, especially Harry) would miss her.
Harry had been accosted by Peter and dragged into the lab to look at the new experiment his cousin was conducting, which had caused the two of them to lose track of time. When he walked into the apartment, it was with a slightly sheepish look on his face.
Pepper smiled gratefully at her father for the offer, but didn't say anything as her attention was drawn to Harry. "Harry, I'm glad I was able to see you...I've been called to Tokyo on business and will be leaving in a few moments, but I wanted to say goodbye first..." She disentangled herself from her father and walked to her son, wrapping him in a tight hug. "Help your grandpa make sure your dad takes time off to eat and sleep..." she whispered in his ear, before kissing him on the cheek. "I'll be home as soon as I can. I'm going to miss you so much...I'll see if I can find you a souvenir or two," she said more loudly, while continuing to hold him tightly.
Harry responded by wrapping his arms around his mother, hugging on tight. "How long are you going to be gone for?" he asked, aware that she had responsibilities, so he wouldn't ask her to stay... no matter how much he wanted her to.
"I hope not long...I don't want to be gone away from you all that long..." Pepper admitted softly. "I'll call you as soon as I get there, though..."
Tony walked over to his fiance and son, wrapping his arms around both of them at the same time. "When you get there, you should be able to get a better idea of how long you'll need to be there. Maybe we can fly over and join you..."
Harry darted a startled look at his parents. "That wouldn't be a problem...?" He was used to being left to fend for himself... had expected that both might fly out and he'd be left in the tower. Though at least he wouldn't be alone if that did happen...
Tony chuckled, giving Pepper a kiss, before stepping back and drawing Harry with him. "Call as soon as you get there..." he said softly.
"I will." Pepper nodded, picking her suitcase up again. "I love you all..." She sighed, then turned to go. "Happy is waiting for me in the garage...goodbye."
"Goodbye," Harry said softly.
"Have a safe journey," Steve said, deciding that he'd talk to his son and grandson about flying out to stay with Pepper... She did have to spend a lot of time away from the family, after all.
Pepper gave one last sad little wave, then left the apartment.
Tony swallowed then wrapped his arms protectively around himself. "I wish I could figure out some way to help make her work load easier without having everyone on the outside assume it was because I didn't trust in her abilities. She runs the company so much better than I ever did or could, but...I just feel so guilty having put it all on her..."
Steve wrapped an arm around his son's shoulders, giving him a tight hug. "The best thing is to be there as a support," he said softly. "That's why I was wondering if the three of us should fly out there anyway... and maybe on other occasions, too. Maybe not to do things physically, but I think the emotional support would help."
Harry hesitantly reached out to touch his father's arm... but he hadn't quite got to the stage of being able to voice when he wanted to do something. The look on his face, however, suggested that he liked his grandfather's idea.
Tony glanced at his father and son. "Yeah. Let's. I think that would be a good thing to do..."
Steve smiled. "We can look into the flights... surprise Pepper and hopefully make her feel a bit less stressed. Maybe we can see if Bruce and the rest of my grandchildren would like to join us." He wasn't sure if Bruce would feel able to... but he was unwilling not to include the rest of his family.
"Even if Bruce doesn't think he can go, I'm fairly certain he won't object to the kids going..." Tony said.
Steve nodded. "We'll talk to him. In the meantime, is there anything either of you would like to do?"
Harry shrugged, not quite brave enough to suggest a game or a movie.
"I have some projects I promised Pepper that I need to take care of, but give me a couple more hours and we can have dinner and maybe play cards or something..." Tony said with a smile. "I'll just head to my lab now, so I can finish quickly." He clasped his father and son on the shoulder briefly, before turning to head out and finish his tasks.
Lance had gone to the common floor kitchen to grab a snack and a beer, settling on the couch next to Skye, who was on her laptop... but doing so in the living area on the common floor, so she could claim she hadn't been holed up in the apartment for several hours.
Bobbi had been attempting to find ways to distract herself from thinking about what she'd helped Grant do to Bakshi. The further away from the situation she got- the longer she had to think about it- the more guilty she felt. She knew her brother felt guilty as well. He'd holed himself up in his room with a book she suspected he had no real intention of reading. Her method of trying to forget was to go to the common floor and see if anyone else was there who could distract her. She found herself sitting next to Skye and staring over her cousin's shoulder.
Bucky walked into the room and nodded at everyone, going to sit next to his son. He was obviously worried about something, though.
Skye glanced sideways as Bobbi came and sat next to her. "I thought I'd try to hack some of those files," she said.
Lance was instantly aware of his father and turned to look at Bucky as he sat next to him. "Dad?" His voice was worried, as he knew his father was worried about something.
"That's good...are we hoping for anything in particular, or just fishing for information we don't know?" Bobbi asked.
Bucky smiled crookedly. "See if you can find any information on our resident patients. It's appearing more and more likely that Bakshi at least was brainwashed and since I know he wasn't in SHIELD before and he doesn't know any of us... finding out who he used to be is going to be a lot more difficult..." He sighed, reaching over and patting Lance on the shoulder.
"I've got the search expanded to flag everything suspicious... though I'm hoping for information about the kids HYDRA's taken and anyone else they've brainwashed," Skye said, nodding to indicate to Bucky that she'd heard what he said.
Lance leaned lightly against his father, looking like he wanted to say something... but was reluctant to mention too much, considering he could tell Bobbi was likely feeling guilty and he didn't want to make her feel worse.
Bobbi swallowed, the realization that she and Grant had caused pain to a brainwashed man (she couldn't let herself call it torture) causing a deep guilt that she couldn't admit to. She forced herself not to think about it. "Is there anything in particular I can do?"
"Only if you want to help me read through all of this information," Skye said.
"Yeah. I'll help you do that..." Bobbi quickly agreed.
Skye looked at her cousin. "Do you want me to get some of this printed out? That way, we can take half each and look for key words."
Lance leaned in close to his father... from the outside, just appearing to be a son seeking affection. In reality (as well as wanting to be close to his father), he was talking in a really quiet voice, keeping his volume at a level where his father would be able to hear him easily... but Skye and Bobbi wouldn't. "Uncle Phil looks like he's taken responsibility for Raina... What about Bakshi, if we can't find any family?"
"Yes...let's do that..." Bobbi agreed. "It will let other people help, too..."
Bucky wrapped an arm around Lance's shoulders. "How would you feel about becoming a brother?" he whispered back.
Skye nodded and set the information to start printing, figuring she might as well print all of it off. "Any particular files you'd like to look through?"
"I am one of the few without any siblings..." Lance commented. "It would be nice not to be an only child." Although he was joking a little, his words were seriously meant.
Bucky couldn't help but chuckle at the 'non-joke'. "We will need to rectify the situation, then..." he said softly.
"Did you mention anything to him?" Lance asked curiously.
"Not yet." Bucky chuckled. "He needs time to process and I'd like to give him time to get to know us a bit more before pushing such a decision on him."
Lance grinned. "Yeah, that's probably wise... especially with how big the family is already," he joked. "But maybe there'll be two adoptions at the same time."
"It wouldn't be the first time..." Bucky smiled back, before taking some of the pages Skye had printed out and beginning to research them.
Grant was sitting at the kitchen table in the family apartment, appearing to be reading a report on the lab they had destroyed. In fact, his mind was on anything but the report, as he remembered over and over what he and Bobbi had done to Bakshi. At the time, he'd seen little choice; he needed to find his family. Now, however...realizing Bakshi was apparently as much a victim as everyone else...he couldn't help but feel remorse for the pain he'd caused the other man and he couldn't help but feel guilt for his actions.
Natasha wandered into the kitchen, finding her younger brother sitting at the table. She walked over to put the kettle on, taking out one of the herbal tea bags their father made sure he kept for her. "Would you like a drink?" she asked Grant, aware of what was probably bothering him.
Grant glanced up and gave his sister a brief smile. "No thank you...I'm ok... Just a bit anxious to find out if we've found anything new out." He hadn't really been thinking that, but it was the first thing to pop into his head as a deflection.
"Nice deflection." Natasha made her cup of tea and sat down next to her brother. "Would you like to tell me what's really bothering you?"
"Not really..." Grant chuckled. "No offense, but I don't even want to think about it, let alone talk about it."
Natasha nodded. "Fair enough." She sipped her tea. "So what do you think about getting another sister?"
Grant blinked and gave his sister a rather blank look, making it impossible to tell how he really felt. "Do you think that will happen?" His question was noncommittal, the tone making it as impossible to tell his feelings as his look had been. If he was a bit upset at the fact his father was thinking of adopting the woman who had experimented on him, he kept it to himself, feeling like he didn't have a right to protest, given his own background; the thought still hurt, though. He just kept it to himself.
Grant might be good at hiding his true emotions, but Natasha knew him well enough that she thought she had a good idea of how he might be feeling. "I think that Dad's seen something in her. Like he did with you... me... Clint... Bobbi. I had a bit of time to think about it. I can't say I liked the idea at first... but I think I would have had a similar opinion about you. I know that, if Dad sees something worthwhile in her, it's there."
Grant couldn't help but give his sister an irritated look. As nice as it was to know his family knew him well enough to figure out what he was feeling, even if he was hiding it really well, it was still a pain in the ass when he didn't really want them to figure him out that quickly. Especially not when it involved feelings that he felt guilty for even having and they were pointing out something that he already knew. "I know, Tash..." he finally said calmly, somehow managing to keep the guilt out of his tone. He didn't look at her, though, not entirely certain she wouldn't be able to see it in his eyes. He didn't want anyone to figure out he felt guilty, because then they'd want to know why and they'd either try and make him feel better- which he didn't want- or they'd agree with him that he should feel guilty (which he didn't want either, to be honest). "Dad doesn't do things without very good reason that often involves things the rest of us mere mortals can never hope to figure out..." His tone was teasing. "If he's thinking of bringing her into the family...then he sees something and I'll just have to trust him. No biggie...I trust him with everything else..." Well...normally, he did, anyway. Except when he was feeling guilty; he tended to try and keep guilt to himself, but that was more a case of not trusting himself than not trusting his father.
Natasha looked at her brother. "Dad's trustworthy... and I don't think I need to tell you that he'll be there for you, too. I know something's bothering you. You'll feel better to share it. Take it from someone who knows and has had experience trying to hide things from Dad before."
Grant managed to put a smile on his face and finally looked up at his sister. "I know that too, Tash. But I'm not really hiding anything...I'll be fine. Thanks." He deliberately went back to looking at the report, hoping that Natasha would let it go and not keep trying to get him to talk. He really didn't want to talk...between the deep guilt about what he'd done to Bakshi (who apparently had been a victim; Grant had tortured a victim) and the confused feelings he had regarding Raina (she was a victim too, sorta, although more a victim like Grant had been than what Kara or Brock had gone through). What she had done to him personally wasn't any more horrible than what he himself had done to hurt people before his dad had got hold of him; he felt he should be willing to give her the same chance he had been given, but part of him just didn't want to. The really annoying part was he knew deep down his lack of wanting to give her a chance was less about his willingness to give her a chance and more to do with the fact that he was jealous of how quickly his father had taken to her and decided to help her. He hadn't felt that way about Bobbi, so he couldn't figure out why he would feel that way about Raina. He deliberately turned the page of the report so that Natasha wouldn't catch on to the fact he hadn't read one word in front of him. He could feel her watching him.
Outside of the family, Natasha wasn't a very tactile person, outside of any missions where she had to play a role. Even within the family, she didn't often initiate physical contact... though she reciprocated when one of the others did. Reaching out, she placed a hand on Grant's. "I understand not wanting to talk about what's bothering you, but you know that trying to tell me you're not hiding something isn't going to work."
Grant closed his eyes and couldn't help let out a little exasperated, huffing laugh. Natasha was like a dog with a bone when she decided something; and apparently, she'd decided he needed to talk (even though he really, really wanted to just avoid talking). "Yeah...I'm beginning to realize that..." He sighed before finally opening his eyes. "Alright. I'm hiding something. But I'm not ready to talk about it. I don't want to talk about it. I'm not going to talk about it. And please don't go tell dad you're worried or something because... just because..." He grimaced, thinking about the fact that if she told their father she was worried, Coulson would begin watching him more closely and asking questions and Grant just wasn't sure what he'd do in that case.
Natasha nodded. "I won't tell Dad anything you don't want me to, but if it starts getting too much, I want you to promise me you will go to him. He might be with Raina right now... that doesn't mean he cares about you, or any of us, any less." She didn't point out that Raina didn't have anyone, whereas Grant was now part of a big family... she didn't think she needed to.
Grant barely refrained from rolling his eyes, just giving his sister a 'really?' type of look. "Nat...if it gets to be too much, chances are dad will figure it out without my having to go to him. He's as observant as you are, after all..." he responded, not making a promise (he didn't like making promises he wasn't sure he could keep), but not refusing to say anything, either. Not exactly, anyway.
Natasha nodded. "But no matter how observant Dad is, all of us have got into trouble at one point or another." She didn't say that she was trying to head off any trouble Grant got into before it became an issue... She also didn't say that she suspected Grant might end up going looking for trouble.
That brought Grant up short and he couldn't help but give Nat a searching look, wondering if she suspected him of having done something. Why else would she mention getting into trouble? "Yeee...ees..." he finally drawled out. "But I haven't done anything so..." His voice was questioning, trying to figure out exactly where she was going with that comment.
"I know you haven't done anything at the moment," Natasha replied, fairly certain that Grant wouldn't be able to hide his guilt if he had done. "But feeling bad about something inevitably leads to acting out... and I know this from personal experience." She smiled. "I don't get into trouble very much now, but I can't say the same at the time Dad first adopted me."
Grant couldn't help but grin at her. "It's really hard for me to envision you getting into trouble a lot..." he admitted, ignoring her warning about feeling bad leading to acting out. He knew she was likely right about that; he still had no intention of talking about what was bothering him. He just didn't know how to put it into spoken words at the moment and didn't want to think on it any more than he already was.
"Dad had a lot to do with how well-adjusted I am now," Natasha said. "It took a long time for me to be able to trust him... but now I can't imagine doing anything else."
"Dad's a miracle worker, alright..." Grant smiled again, a little crookedly, closing the file that he had been pretending to read, wondering if maybe Tasha didn't have something on her mind, given the fact that she hadn't given up on talking to him despite his reticence about sharing anything.
Natasha watched her brother for a second or two before speaking. "Do you want to train a bit?" She hoped that would help him feel at least a bit better.
Grant slanted his head, his smile a little less crooked and a little more happy. "Yeah. That'd be nice..." He stood up, making certain to pick up the documents to put in a safer spot that wasn't the kitchen table then nodded at Natasha. "Just let me go change into my training gear... Meet you in the training room in ten minutes?"
Natasha nodded. "I'll meet you there." She stood up and walked over to rinse her mug out, then left the kitchen so that she could go and get changed.
Grant quickly head to his room to change as well, making certain that everything was neat before he left the kitchen.
Bobbi had gone through all the papers that Skye had printed out and flagged those names that she thought needed to be researched further; either because she suspected they might have been brainwashed and needed rescue, or because she suspected they had been in charge of brainwashing and interrogating them might give them much needed information on how to break the conditioning. Sighing softly, she carefully straightened the stack of papers and stood, walking them back over to Skye, glancing at the computer screen as she did so.
"Wait a second...what's that?" She blinked at a folder hidden among hundreds of files. She couldn't help but wonder what kind of sub-folder would be in a main folder entitled 'Subjects'. She could have waited to find out; Skye was obviously taking each file in the order it came and the file was at least ten files below where her cursor was currently highlighting. Something about it made her nervous, though and she didn't want to wait.
Skye glanced at the folder in the list and wondered if it was something they needed the 'adults' of the family around for. But then, she decided that they could easily ask Veronica to call the others if they needed to. "I'm not sure. I'll find out." She clicked on the file and glanced down the list of subfolders, realising that Bakshi's name was included.
Almost without realizing it, Bobbi took control of the mouse and clicked on the folder with Bakshi's name on it. "They're videos..." She couldn't keep the nervousness out of her voice. Without stopping to reconsider, she clicked on the first video in the file, watching with horror as it played out.
Skye stared at the screen. "I... think we'd better tell our parents... maybe Bruce, too..." she said in a small voice. She wanted to close down the video... the images it was showing were too horrible to contemplate.
Bobbi didn't argue Skye's remark. She didn't say anything, finding herself unable to voice the horror she was feeling as she watched.
Bucky had noticed when the computer went from silent to having audio playing. At first, he hadn't paid much attention to it, continuing to read the papers Skye had handed him, but it hadn't taken long at all for the sounds reaching him to penetrate and he knew immediately what he was listening to. Quickly setting the papers aside, he stood and walked over to the computer, taking the mouse out of Bobbi's grip and stopping the video; then, gently putting a hand on Skye's and Bobbi's shoulders, he drew them away from the computer and toward the couch where Lance was sitting. "Ok, sweethearts...why don't you just wait here with Lance? I'll get the others here..." he said softly, as if talking to a skittish animal.
Bobbi swallowed hard again and found herself leaning against Lance, withdrawing into herself.
Sighing softly, Bucky stepped away. "Veronica...please have Melinda, Phil, Nick and Steve come here. If they think the others should be informed after I show them, then they can do so..."
Lance responded by wrapping his arm around Bobbi, gathering her in close, before doing the same to Skye.
It didn't take long for Steve and Fury to arrive on the floor. Coulson took a little bit longer, having to make sure that Raina wasn't left alone.
Bobbi had managed to get herself under control, acting for all the world like it was just another mission and she regularly saw such horror...which, if she was honest, she saw more of it than she would have liked. Even so, she had taken Lance's hand in her own and was gripping it tightly, even if she was acting as if she wasn't bothered by what she'd seen.
Bucky had noted the change in his niece but didn't comment on it. If Phil didn't realize immediately something was up (not likely, given how involved Phil was with his children), then Lance certainly would have noticed and would probably say something. Instead, Bucky motioned his brothers over to the computer and began the video again so that they could see what they were up against. He only let the video play long enough for them to figure out what was happening before he stopped it, then pointing out, "...There are at least five more videos in the file with Bakshi's name. From what I can tell, there are at least twenty other folders, possibly more, with other people's names. It's highly likely we'd find the same type of...action on those videos."
Lance gripped Bobbi's hand just as tight, keeping her close to him.
Coulson cast a worried glance at his youngest daughter and after the video had played, he moved back so that he could take his daughter's other hand. "I think we need to track down the people we can from those files."
Fury nodded. "It would help to know why HYDRA's targeting them in particular..."
"Does the bloodwork give any clues?" Bobbi asked quietly.
Bucky glanced at his niece, then around at the rest of those gathered. "Other than finding the same element in Bakshi's blood that was found in Brock's, Kara's and mine, I'm not sure what other tests were done on it. Has Bruce mentioned anything to any of you?" he asked curiously.
"I've been with Raina, so Bruce hasn't mentioned anything to me." Coulson glanced at his brothers.
"I know that both Raina and Bakshi have the element in their blood," Steve said.
"So do Kara and Brock, if I'm not mistaken..." Bucky glanced at Fury for confirmation.
"Maybe someone should get Bruce..." Bobbi said, so quietly it could be debated if she would be heard or not.
Fury nodded. "It's hard to say if the element is a cause of the brainwashing, or is something that already existed in their blood."
Coulson wrapped his arm around Bobbi's shoulders, his worry and concern for his daughter obvious.
"Veronica? Can you ask Bruce to come and meet us?" Steve requested.
"She already did..." Bruce said, almost cheekily, as he walked off the elevator and into the common room. "Veronica... Can you bring up the scans of the blood from my computer for everyone in the tower and put them on the wide screen? I want to show them the comparisons between everyone...show them how the element looks for those who have it verses those who don't..." Bruce waited patiently until all the tower residents' blood scans were on the television.
"If you look here, you see Bakshi, Raina, Brock, Kara and Bucky's blood; this element here is the one Tony found that is a possible indicator, though not a definitive indicator, of having been, or at least having been prepped to be, brainwashed." He pointed the element out.
"I don't think the element is the only thing affecting Raina," Coulson said. "From the sounds of it, I think her upbringing has played a big part in what she's like now." He didn't say like Grant... even though that was implied.
Bobbi blinked at that information. "So now we can confirm that not everyone who has the element was brainwashed? Or at least they weren't necessarily brainwashed using the machine?" She asked quietly.
"That would make sense...if they were able to get to someone at a young enough age- when their personality was still moldable- especially if the person didn't have an easy life- they wouldn't have to engage the machine. They could just indoctrinate and condition..." Bruce remarked. "The element might have been administered in case they weren't able to employ the more long term- harder to overcome version of brainwashing..."
Bucky was still staring at the blood. "I vaguely recall someone saying that Skye's blood was compatible to Raina's... is it compatible because of this tiny 'whatever' here?" he pointed toward the area in question.
"What about my blood?" Skye asked, standing up and walking slowly over... relieved to have something else to focus on.
Coulson didn't move from Bobbi's side, figuring they'd call him over if they needed him... and he wanted to be with his daughter. He wrapped his other arm around her in a tight hug, trying to help her feel better.
"It might be possible there are still double agents in place," Steve said. "Should we look into the childhoods of other SHIELD agents, in case they weren't all triggered when HYDRA made its move originally?"
Bruce also walked over to look at what Bucky was pointing out. "Huh..." He began to look at all the others, using his tablet to move different samples until he was looking at Skye, Raina, Bakshi and a couple of others. "I hadn't noticed that protein...it's not in anyone else's blood; and in fact, I have never seen it in any other blood samples I've observed before, until Hulk..."
Bucky blinked. "They have a protein in common with Hulk?"
"Yeah. I never figured out exactly what it was for...why it was there...but after Hulk came into being, both he and I have that protein in our blood..." He pointed out one of the samples.
Bobbi wanted to stay firm and in control, but being next to her father and him offering comfort was too hard to resist. She slumped against him, letting her head fall onto his shoulder.
"Are there any other similarities between your blood and theirs?" Steve asked.
Coulson settled on the other side of Bobbi, hugging her tight to himself.
"Not really. My blood has more in common with yours and Bucky's than anyone else's...but that one element you two didn't have and I didn't have until Hulk. And now we have at least four other people in the building that have it...Grant being one of them..." Bruce glanced at Coulson, since the older man hadn't come to look like Bucky and Steve had. "...But like I said. I was never able to figure out exactly why it was there, or what it was there for..."
Bobbi blinked at that before looking at her father. "Grant didn't have the element Tony found...so it can't be connected to that..."
"I don't have the element Tony found, either..." Bruce gave his niece a tiny smile. "...So I think we can safely say this is a completely new puzzle that needs solving."
Coulson looked over and nodded at Bruce, his expression worried... even though he still didn't let go of his daughter. "It could be a mutation," he suggested. "We should talk to everyone who does have it... find out how they want to proceed."
"I'm pretty sure mine is a mutation brought about from what I went through becoming Hulk...or, at least, I was. I'd never actually looked for this particular protein before I became Hulk. If I had it, I never noticed. If I did have it before...maybe that is what caused me to become Hulk, instead of dying..." Bruce was thinking out loud.
Bucky looked at Coulson. "The only other person with the element in his blood not in the medical wing is Grant. Veronica, could you ask him to join us?"
Five minutes later, Grant came in, skin glistening from his workout with Natasha. He was dragging his older sister with him.
Natasha came into the room with her brother, her hair pulled back from her face in a rough ponytail.
Coulson smiled at his other two children, though he didn't leave Bobbi's side until he was sure she'd be comfortable with him doing so. He trusted Natasha to support Grant if he needed it.
"What's up? Veronica said you needed to see me right away..." Grant looked around at the assembled group, his eyebrows going up in surprise.
Bruce glanced at Coulson, to see if he wanted to be the one to tell his son.
Squeezing Bobbi's hand gently, Coulson stood up and walked over to Grant, placing a hand on his son's shoulder and squeezing gently. "Do you remember the element Tony found in some of the people who have been brainwashed?" he asked. "Bruce has been looking at the bloodwork and discovered a protein that's shared by you, him, Skye, Raina and Bakshi. We aren't sure what it is, but it indicates a difference in your blood."
Natasha stepped over to sit down next to Bobbi, taking her father's place without any conscious thought.
Grant gave his father a confused look before looking at Bruce. "No one else has this protein? It isn't just a normal thing found in some people's blood that indicates a chance for catching some specific disease or something?"
"No. I'm not certain what it means, exactly, but I had never noticed it until I turned into the Hulk and it suddenly made its presence known in my blood..." Bruce said quietly. "...Even if I had it prior to that moment, I didn't see it. I think my change brought it forward. I'm not certain what it means that the rest of you have it, but...I'll begin researching it. See what I can find out."
Coulson stayed close to his son. "I would think it isn't anything dangerous, since it hasn't had any obvious effect on you or Skye," he said, his voice soft. "I don't have it, but that doesn't mean it couldn't be genetic."
"There's no way to know if mom had it..." Grant said softly. "...But ok. When you find out anything, you'll let us know and I'll try not to think about it..." Grant gave Bruce, then his father, a crooked smile.
"I will. As soon as I find out anything," Bruce promised. He turned toward Phil and Bucky. "You two seem to have formed a connection with our patients. Will you come with me to tell them?"
"I'm going to go take a shower," Grant told Nat quietly, before slipping out of the common room and heading to their apartment.
Bobbi leaned over and whispered to Lance, "I can't watch anymore of those videos. Not right now. I'm going to go grab a snack and read a book. A really funny book..." She gave him a tiny smile and a hug, before following her brother out.
Bucky watched the two younger members leave, not trying to disguise his worry. "I think Bobbi is right. No more videos today..." He glanced at Lance and Sky. "Why don't you two find something fun to do?"
May had remained her normal, quiet self throughout the reveals and, at Bucky's words, quickly put an arm around Skye and pulled her further away from the computer. "Let's go take a break and play cards," she said to her daughter. Once they were alone, Skye would be able to talk as much as she wanted. She glanced at Lance. "You want to come join us until your dad is free?"
Coulson watched worriedly as his youngest son and daughter left the room, but Natasha gave him a smile and a quick hug before she headed out after her siblings.
Lance looked like he might want to go after Bobbi, but when May spoke to him, he nodded. "Yeah..."
Skye nodded, leaning back into her mother. The fact she didn't even try to argue was probably very telling.
"Good..." May smiled, holding out a hand toward Lance so he would come with them. "When you all are finished, have Veronica let us know and I'll order in subs for everyone..." May told Coulson, as she led the last of the younger team members out.
Soon, only Bucky, Phil, Nick, Steve and Bruce were standing around the computer. "Those videos...they were disturbing," Bucky said quietly. "Some of it, I expected; you don't brainwash people without breaking them first. But...HYDRA used family and friends against them... I...I think Bakshi is an orphan now. If I understood what I watched correctly, I suspect the written files will confirm my suspicions. And there were at least twenty other videos for other people, that I saw in the glance I took. Maybe not everyone in HYDRA was brainwashed. But a larger portion than I originally suspected..." He sighed. "C'mon, Bruce. Let's go tell Bakshi and Raina what we discovered about their blood. Maybe one of them has an idea what that protein is..." Bucky said abruptly, not wanting to think about all the suffering HYDRA had caused.
Bruce glanced at Steve and Fury. "I'm pretty certain none of the rest of the family has that protein in their blood; it hasn't shown up in anyone else that I could see, at least. But maybe you'll want to tell the rest of the family at some point and we'll make sure to check for it whenever we do our regular check-ups. That way, if it is something that develops due to circumstances, we can catch it and maybe figure out what circumstance caused it..." He was grasping at straws, since he really had no clue why the protein was there and if it was the result of something happening, or was there to cause something to happen.
Coulson nodded to Bruce. "Maybe we could call a family meeting about it," he suggested. "In the meantime... I do want to check in on Raina anyway." He was worried about her and hadn't wanted to leave her side... even though his worry was divided equally among his other children.
"Let's go, then..." Bruce nodded at Phil and at Bucky, since they would be going to talk with Raina and Bakshi. "Dad...Uncle Nick..." He nodded at the Captain and at Fury, before leading Phil and Bucky out of the common area so they could go back to the medical floor.
Raina was still asleep by the time they returned to medical. Bruce went in to check her over and then looked at Phil. "We've waited as long as we should...it's time to do a transfusion..." He nodded at Dr. Cho and Bryce, both of whom were working with him to try and keep Raina alive, as well as helping him try to figure out exactly what she had done.
Jemma brought over the equipment needed, as well as several liters of blood. "She hasn't moved or moaned or made any indication she knows what is happening since you all left. I tried to clean her up... but she's obviously still experiencing hemorrhaging." Her voice was tired and a little sad, as she glanced at the blood seeping from Raina's ears, eyes, nose and mouth.
Coulson had paused just long enough to get changed into the suit before he was at Raina's side, still careful not to get in any of their way. "Do you still have the blood from Skye?" he asked Bruce, knowing it was more likely that Skye was a match... and that taking more of Bakshi's blood would probably weaken him even more.
"I do..." Bruce said. "I also have blood from Matt. Turns out he is a universal donor...so even if he isn't as close a match as Skye, due to the protein, his blood won't harm her. And given his enhanced regenerative capabilities due to what happened to him as a child...he'll be able to donate again a lot sooner than Skye would."
Coulson nodded. "Is there anything you need me to do?" His eyes remained fixed on Raina, as he felt unable to leave her side.
Bruce gave his uncle a sympathetic look. "Nothing more can be done. The virus has to work itself out of her body. The best we can do now is make sure she stays hydrated, that's why we have the IV in her, and that, when necessary, we give her blood." He managed an optimistic smile. "The good news is that because the virus seems to be more accelerated than what Grant went through, if she survives the next four hours, she should begin to heal by tonight. Just stay with her and let me know if an emergency occurs. Otherwise, try to make sure you get enough rest yourself so that you don't get sick."
Even though Coulson desperately wanted to stay awake and keep watch over Raina for as long as he could, he knew Bruce was right... no matter how hard it was. "I'll take hour or so long naps here and there."
"Ok. Well, I'll just leave you to keep watch then." Bruce smiled again then went to the next room to check on Bakshi. He came in on the tail-end of Bucky telling the younger man about the protein found in his blood.
Bucky reached over and ran a hand through Bakshi's hair, not even thinking about the paternal gesture. "It looks like you are healing nicely, but I'd still feel better if you got a bit more sleep," the ex-soldier admitted.
Surprised, Bakshi eyed Bucky, though he didn't actually pull away... almost seeming to lean a bit towards the other man. "I've been sleeping a lot..." He wasn't actually refusing; it was more that he was struggling with sleeping, knowing that he would be having bad dreams... knowing that he was among people who didn't know him and who probably still considered him an enemy.
"The circles under your eyes say differently..." Bucky smiled faintly. "...Or, at least, they suggest that you aren't sleeping well, even if you are sleeping." He leaned back in the chair that was beside the bed, giving Bakshi a considering look. "I'll stay here and watch your back. I know how hard it is to relax in a place where you don't know anyone and aren't sure they wouldn't rather you be dead. I can tell you that you don't need to worry about these people- they just want to help you- but that's something you'll have to learn through experience..."
Bakshi frowned, staying silent for a few moments as if he was trying to figure out what he wanted to say. "I'm still... confused... but I remember enough to know I should probably be locked up..." The look on his face was haunted.
"If you should be locked up, then I probably should be executed. I've looked through your files, son; and what you did paled in comparison to my sins." Bucky leaned forward, elbows on his knees. "The fact is, you weren't in control of your actions...now that you are, you're being given a chance to show who you are and how you behave under your own control. We don't hold what you did while brainwashed against you."
"I don't... understand..." Bakshi's voice was a low, tortured whisper. It wasn't clear if he was referring to his own actions... or if he was referring to them not blaming him.
Bucky sighed softly, not sure how to answer him. Finally, he settled with, "You don't need to understand right now. You just need to know you are safe. I'll watch out for you. And you need to let yourself get better. We'll talk more when your body has recuperated and you can use more of your energy for thinking..." He smiled briefly, reaching over and gently patting Bakshi on the arm.
Bakshi looked like he might want to protest... to argue a bit more. Instead, he nodded and allowed his eyes to close. Although he was still wary and uneasy, he chose to follow Bucky's directions.
Bucky settled back into the chair, watching over the other man.
Bobbi didn't know what had possessed her to think it was a good idea to go see Bakshi. Watching the videos had made her feel horrible. Not only had she tortured a man for information (no matter how necessary it was to get that information, she still felt dirty having done it); not only had they discovered that man had been brainwashed (which meant she'd tortured an innocent); but it turned out the man's family had been killed in front of him as part of the torture HYDRA had used to brainwash him. She felt sick inside. Unclean. The only thing she could think to do was to go to Bakshi and apologize and...well, that's where her plan fell apart. She had no clue what to do after apologizing; and apologizing really wasn't enough.
After she'd taken her shower, she'd run into Grant. The look on her face must have been worrying to him, as he'd pulled her into his room, shutting the door quietly then had turned to her. "What's wrong? Finding another element in our blood really wouldn't have warranted pulling all those in charge into the room before calling me in. And it wouldn't have had you, Skye and Lance looking so sick to your stomach." Bobbi had swallowed hard and reluctantly told him what she'd seen in the video. It had hit him just as hard as it had hit her, which probably explained why he easily agreed to her wanting to go to see Bakshi and apologize.
They had both stopped far enough away from the room that Bakshi wouldn't see them, but they could easily see him, Bucky sitting next to him. Turning their heads, they could also see Raina, their father sitting next to her. "This wasn't a good idea..." Grant finally whispered, gently taking Bobbi's arm and backing away from the rooms until they were able to get onto the elevator again without disturbing the patients or their 'guards'. "He isn't going to want to see us. Not after what we did. Not even for us to apologize..." Grant finally said, once they were on the elevator.
Bobbi couldn't take it anymore, punching the button for the garage. "I can't...I just can't...after what we did to that poor man...and knowing what I do now..." She shook, tears forming in her eyes. "I can't face him. I've got to get out of here..." she whispered.
Grant gave her a sharp look. "You're leaving?" She expected him to argue with her, or have Veronica tell someone so that she would be stopped. What she didn't expect was for him to nod his head once and take her by the arm. "Yeah. I don't think I can stay here and face anyone after what we did either..." he said in a lost voice. "It was bad enough when we did it thinking he was a loyal HYDRA agent. Now... to find out everything that's been done to him and we just added more..." He shuddered. "I need to get away too..." he admitted.
By this time, they were in the garage and Grant was grabbing a set of keys from the locked box where they were stored and then leading her to a car. Helping her into the passenger seat, he quickly moved around to the driver's side and they were soon pulling out, leaving the tower behind.
All of this had occurred in the short amount of time it took Natasha to take her shower. By the time she had realized they weren't in the apartment any longer and went to look for them, Grant and Bobbi were speeding away from their home as fast as Lola could take them.
When she couldn't find any trace of her younger brother and sister, Natasha's first instinct was to get their father... and then she realised how that would pile the stress onto him; and she wanted to have a clear idea of where Grant and Bobbi were before she told him, since she knew how worried he'd be to realise they'd taken off.
"Veronica?" Natasha addressed the AI calmly, keeping her true feelings hidden. "Is there a vehicle missing from the garage? Can you track it? And can you ask Clint to come and meet me?" she added, figuring that, when they told their father, one or both of them could stay with Raina so that he knew she was in good hands.
"Yes, Agent Romanov...There is a vehicle missing. Currently, it is heading toward the interstate at a rather alarming rate of speed... It appears to be Agent Coulson's car, the one he refers to as Lola. If I recall correctly, it has some type of cloaking on it, which would explain why the car has not been pulled over by the local authorities. Shall I keep track of where it is heading for you?" The AI sounded concerned.
"Yes, please," Natasha replied, her eyes narrowing in worry. She doubted it was coincidence that her siblings had taken their father's car. She didn't think either of them were thinking clearly and she hesitated, torn between heading straight to the garage to catch up with them, or going straight to her father.
"It will be done, Agent Romanov. Shall I contact any of the other family members?" the AI continued.
At that moment, Clint walked into the room, a worried frown on his face. "What's up, Nat? Veronica said you needed me; and indicated that it was an emergency..."
Natasha took a deep breath. "I'll talk to my father and then we can call a family meeting," she said to the AI, before looking at her brother. "Grant and Bobbi took Lola... I know Grant's been feeling off. I was trying to keep him occupied, but something must have happened between us training and now. They're currently moving at top speed."
Clint cursed under his breath, before running a hand through his hair. "Bobbi seemed off, too...I'm sure you noticed. Ever since the rescue operation. What they did to get information, it affected them more than they wanted to admit. I'd hoped that they would find one of us and talk about it, though..."
"Grant wasn't open to talking... I tried." The signs of stress Natasha was under would only be obvious to the members of her family who knew her well. "I know Dad's going to want to know... I thought one of us should stay with Raina, so he can concentrate on them."
Clint nodded. "Do you prefer to stay behind with Raina, or would you rather go after the kids?" He glanced at his sister, reaching over and rubbing her arm gently. "To be honest, I'm so irritated that they would do this to dad again...especially after everything that has happened the last few days and knowing he's already stressed and worried about Raina..." he growled softly, shoving a hand through his hair again.
Natasha relaxed a fraction. "I'll stay with Raina," she said. "I think we should talk to Dad first, before telling everyone else. Veronica's keeping an eye on them through the tracking system, even though the cloaking means they won't be stopped by any authorities."
Clint nodded brusquely. "Let's go tell dad, then..." he said with a sigh, turning and heading for the elevator, knowing that Natasha would be right beside him.
It didn't take long to reach the medical floor and soon, he and Natasha were stood outside Raina's room. Clint suddenly felt like a nervous teenager again, about to tell his dad that he'd got caught smoking by the school principal and had been suspended. It was an unsettling feeling, considering he hadn't done anything wrong. "Uh... dad? We need to tell you something..." he broke in, wincing as his voice disturbed the quiet in the room. He glanced at Natasha, deciding to let her break the news, since his inclination was to just blurt it out.
Natasha stepped into the room, tugging her brother behind her. "Grant and Bobbi haven't been feeling great since what happened with Bakshi," she said, her voice soft.
Coulson stood up immediately, eyes narrowing in worry. "Has something happened to them?"
"Not yet." The response was quiet enough that Clint would likely be the only one who could hear. "They left the tower... took one of the cars and are now speeding, but the cloak's up, so no one's stopped them."
Clint cleared his throat. "I'm ready to go out after them. Nat is planning to stay here with Raina so that you can go with me..."
Coulson closed his eyes, for a second or two looking tired and stressed... before he forced it away and nodded to his older children. "There hasn't been any change in Raina's condition, Nat. If anything does change, please inform Bruce. Veronica, will you let the others know where Clint and I are going?"
"Of course, Director," the AI replied.
Coulson stepped over to Clint as Natasha took up his position next to Raina, giving her father a quick hug as she passed him... one that Coulson returned, scared and worried about his two youngest now, along with Raina.
"Clint, we'll take one of the other cars to go after them." Coulson forced a calm note into his voice.
Natasha glanced at her brother, wondering if it might make their father feel worse if they told him their siblings had taken Lola.
Clint gave his sister a serious and resigned look as he cleared his throat again. He had no clue why his younger siblings had chosen to take their father's beloved car when they decided to leave...unless it was some deep need to keep some part of their dad with them once gone...but he knew Lola's absence would be noticed as soon as they reached the garage and it would be better to warn Phil. "Dad...they took Lola..."
Coulson paused, but took a deep breath, keeping his calm. "Thank you for telling me." He wasn't sure why Bobbi and Grant would have taken the car... but although Lola was important to him, his children were his first and main concern. He'd worry about getting them back first.
"Sir..." Veronica broke in. "...Your children have reached the interstate and have increased their velocity. At their rate of speed, even if they are not pulled over, they are at risk..."
Clint cleared his throat again, gently taking his father's arm so they could go to the garage and get a car.
Coulson immediately went along with his oldest son, heading to the elevator. As soon as they were inside, he pressed the button for the garage and stood, not moving until the doors opened... and then he grabbed the keys for the closest car. Even as he was heading towards the car to get into the driver's seat, he spoke to Veronica. "Can you ask Bruce to be on standby, just in case something does happen?" He was worried that, at the speed his children were going, there'd be a crash before he could get to them.
"Of course, sir, but I must let you know that they seem to be slowing down on their own..." the AI agreed.
"Think they finally decided to listen to their common sense?" Clint asked, semi-sarcastically.
Lola was pulled off onto the shoulder of the interstate.
Grant sat looking at Lola's dash, face pale, his hands grasping the steering wheel in a death grip. "That...are you alright?" he asked his sister, with a shaky breath.
"I...I think so," Bobbi's voice was even shakier. "Did the tire debris hit any other cars?" She looked toward the road worriedly, but traffic was moving steadily and there didn't appear to be anyone else pulled over with damage.
"We're lucky we didn't crash or cause an accident." Grant's voice was subdued. "I was going 115 when the tire blew."
"Daddy's gonna kill us..." Bobbi said with a wince, as she thought about the damage likely done to the car from having to drive on a rim while speeding.
Coulson frowned, his eyes narrowed with worry and concern. "More than likely, it was an outside force that made them slow down. I hope neither of them are hurt." Getting in the car in double quick time, he waited just long enough for Clint to join him and put his seatbelt on before he was driving out of the garage, heading in the same direction as his youngest children as fast as he could possibly go and still obey the speed limits.
Clint could only hope his siblings stayed where they were and didn't try to keep running.
Grant and Bobbi had sat in the car, trying to calm down, for what had to have been at least twenty minutes before Grant pulled out his phone and turned it back on. "I'll call for towing..." he said softly. "…Hopefully, it won't take too long..."
"Do you think I should call Daddy?" Bobbi asked uncertainly.
Grant sighed. "We probably should. I don't want to worry him, though..."
While he was driving, Coulson had been trying to call his children... leaving messages on their answerphones... using his hands free kit.
In record time, even keeping close enough to the speed limit to not be dangerous or reckless, Coulson reached the area where the tracker had stopped. He stopped the car as soon as it was safe to do so and was then undoing his seatbelt and getting out... his worry over his children taking precedent over everything. The damage to Lola didn't even register in his mind right away.
Bobbi had turned her phone back on to call their father and discovered all the messages and missed calls from having her phone off. "He's been calling us..." she said faintly.
"I know." Grant sighed, having noted all his messages and missed calls. Closing his eyes tightly, he called for the tow truck.
Bobbi swallowed and waited for Grant to finish telling the dispatcher where they were, trying to work up the nerve to call her father back, when the car pulled up behind them. Glancing over her shoulder to see who had stopped behind them, Bobbi let out a tiny, distressed sound; not of fear or worry, but like a little girl who knew she'd done something bad and was about to get in trouble for it.
Grant glanced at her in confusion, hanging up his phone and glancing back himself before making his own 'distressed' sound.
Coulson got out of the car and swiftly headed over to Lola. The open top allowed him to reassure himself that his children appeared fine, even though he looked them both over to make sure he wasn't missing any signs of internal injuries.
Clint had got out of the car at a more slow pace, looking around to make certain the area was safe. (Who knew why the tire had blown out? Assuming it was the extremely high rate of speed and hitting something sharp was a logical assumption, but not necessarily the truth. HYDRA could have had something to do with it.) Once assured that there were no assassins waiting to attack, he looked at the car, noting the complete lack of rubber on the rim. The blow out had been bad and he could only be thankful his kid brother and baby sister hadn't actually crashed or careened into traffic, as the end result would likely have been their deaths and possibly the deaths of many innocents. He walked up behind his father, not even trying to hide his irritation at his siblings, even if he also let them see his relief.
Grant swallowed hard. "I just called a tow-truck..." He blushed when he realized his tone sounded as if he was warning them, as if to keep them from doing anything to him for his actions because there might be company soon.
Bobbi bit her lip and stared at her hands in her lap, not sure what to say. It wasn't like this was the first time she'd ever run off without warning or word when she was upset.
Clint shook his head. "Good. You can get out of the car and go home with dad and I'll wait for the tow-truck to arrive, then." His tone brooked no argument. He reached over and squeezed his father's shoulder gently. "They don't appear to be hurt at all," he said lowly to his father; not really caring if Grant or Bobbi heard, but trying to show support and deference to the older man. "I know you want to be certain of that, though, so go and get them checked out...I'll take care of Lola. Would serve them right if you made them get a complete physical, just to make sure nothing's wrong..." He muttered the last to himself, smirking when he saw the twin aghast looks Grant and Bobbi sent his way.
Coulson took a deep breath and then turned to his two youngest, reaching out and wrapping an arm each around their shoulders. "We're going to have a long talk about this when we get back to the tower," he said, his voice serious and more than a little stern... along with the obvious worry in the glances he kept giving them. "I am going to insist that Bruce or Jemma look over both of you. I'm not going to take the chance that there are injuries neither me or Clint can see."
Bobbi swallowed again, the serious and stern tone in her father's voice letting her know how badly she'd messed up. She withdrew into herself, looking at the ground, but not arguing and moving closer to her father, as if to make certain that even if he was furious at her actions, he still wanted her around. She didn't think on the fact that she'd just done a runner on him because she thought she'd wanted to be alone.
Grant sighed, looking at the ground himself, but managed to force out a, "Yes, sir..." He didn't move closer to his father, but he didn't fight the arm that was wrapped around him. His guilt wouldn't let him move closer for comfort, but he couldn't bring himself to pull away, either. "I know you want us to be checked out, but we weren't really in an accident..." he felt the need to say; not necessarily to attempt to get out of a check-up, even if he didn't want one, but mainly because he hoped it would help his father be less worried. "I know we could have been..." he glanced at the tire rim, "...but I managed to keep control of the car and pull to the shoulder so we weren't..."
By this time, they had reached the other car and Bobbi was looking toward it, then back at her father, wondering where he wanted them in terms of seating.
"I'll still feel better for you both to get checked out." Coulson's voice was firm and didn't allow much room for argument. "I know how fast you were going. Veronica was able to keep track of you. I need to reassure myself that you're both unharmed." He paused as he reached the car, hesitating. While he wanted to keep both of his children close to himself, he was going to need to drive them back to the tower... which meant he could only have one of them in the front with him.
Coulson held back a sigh and pressed a kiss to each of their heads, reassuring even through how worried and scared he'd been about their safety. "I took the first vehicle there was, so one of you will need to sit in the back... unless you'd both prefer to."
Grant didn't argue any further. At this point, he wouldn't argue about anything; he'd made an attempt to run away and think because the guilt was so strong and instead of getting away, he'd heaped more worry and stress onto his father's shoulders. Something else to feel guilty about. The worst was...if he had a way to do it, he'd likely run again...knew he would, the way he was thinking. He didn't want to hurt his father, but he didn't deserve to be around good people, either. Didn't even deserve to be around Bobbi, even though he had originally decided to go because she was and he didn't want her alone. At Coulson's not-quite-a-question, he glanced up for the first time, into his father's and sister's face. Despite looking like she still wanted to run and would, given the chance to, Bobbi also looked like she didn't want their father to let go of her. Giving her a quick smile, he opened the back door. "Bobbi can have the front, sir," he said softly, before getting in and shutting the door so his sister couldn't argue.
Bobbi didn't say anything, but gave Grant a sad but grateful look. If the look in her eyes was anything to go by, she'd be running again, too, if she got the chance. Reluctantly, she pulled away from her father long enough to go get into the passenger side of the car.
Coulson got in the driver's side, closing the door and putting on his seatbelt before reaching over and squeezing Bobbi's knee and trying to catch his son's eye in the mirror. When he spoke, his voice held only sincerity. "I love you both. Very much. I know you've been feeling guilty and out of sorts, but running away is never the answer."
"Right now, it feels like the only answer..." Grant admitted softly. He glanced at his wrist, where he had worn the bracelet for so long, and wished that it was still on him...maybe the knowledge that he'd be found immediately would have kept the urge to take off away. But he wasn't wearing the bracelet any longer and the urge to run was very strong. He swallowed and looked out the window.
"I'm gonna go again..." Bobbi admitted, just as softly. "Don't know when, but I feel it...I'm gonna take off, because the urge to run is going to overcome my desire not to hurt you..."
Coulson took a second or two to respond, figuring out how to word his suggestion that wasn't really one. "I know we talked about putting a bracelet on you, Bobbi. While I plan to keep both of you close, the bracelet would mean that if it does get to be too much, I can find you easily."
Grant glanced up sharply at that, not having known that Bobbi and his father had talked about such a thing. He glanced at his sister and could tell she felt some relief at the suggestion. "That's a good idea, sis..." he finally said softly. Swallowing very hard, he continued reluctantly, as it really felt like a step backward, "I think I need mine back, too..."
Bobbi look back at Grant, then looked at her father with a grateful look. "Yes, daddy...I...I think it would help. I...I'm afraid if I run again you won't find me..." she admitted with a sniffle.
Coulson freed one hand from the steering wheel so that he could squeeze Bobbi's knee again, catching Grant's eye in the mirror. "I know it feels like a step back, son, but I think it will help. It's like having an extra person to watch your back..." he said to both of them.
Bobbi nodded, just the knowledge that her father would be able to find her, no matter what, bolstering her confidence, even if she still felt guilty.
"Yes, sir." Grant's voice was subdued. As relieved as he was that he couldn't just disappear (even if he felt like he deserved to), it didn't ease the deep ache he felt from what he'd done.
Coulson wasn't driving as fast as he had been when going to get his children, but he still got to the tower quite quickly. He parked in the garage and then got out of the car, waiting for his children to join him so he could wrap an arm each around their shoulders and guide them to the elevator. "Veronica? Can you ask Bruce or Jemma to meet me on the medical floor?" he requested.
"Dr. Banner is on his way, sir..." the AI intoned.
Bobbi couldn't help herself. For all the fact that she'd just attempted to run away from home and hide away from everyone, as soon as her father's arm was around her, she was snuggling close, as if afraid he'd stop.
Grant didn't snuggle like his sister, but he notably didn't pull away and found himself relaxing against his father despite himself.
Coulson held his children close as he stepped onto the elevator with them, pressing a kiss to both of their heads. "I love you both," he reiterated. "After you get checked over, we'll go and talk."
"Yes, daddy..." Bobbi's voice was subdued.
Grant didn't say anything, the fact that he shifted closer to his father indicating that he was accepting his father's decisions.
When the elevator reached the medical floor, Bruce was waiting for them. "You needed me, sir?" he asked Phil quietly.
Coulson nodded, guiding his two youngest over to his nephew. "Bobbi and Grant took one of the cars from the garage and one of the tires blew out. Although they appear to be unhurt, I'd feel better if they were checked over."
Bruce raised an eyebrow, but just nodded. "Do you want a hands-on examination, or shall I just have Veronica do a scan?" he asked calmly.
"I think a scan would be sufficient." Although Coulson had no problems ordering a hands-on examination when he felt it was necessary, he didn't feel it was and trusted a scan would be sufficient to let him know if they needed treatment or not.
"Alright, then...if both of you would follow me..." Bruce smiled, walking toward an empty room, stopping long enough to pick up the scanner that he would use. Both Bobbi and Grant followed meekly behind, standing where he told them to and not moving when he said to hold still. In no time at all, the scans had been taken. "Veronica, is there any cause to worry?" he asked.
"No, Dr. Banner. There are no injuries that were not there from the fight the other day..." the AI reported, "...although it appears that Agent Morris's blood sugar is low."
Bruce frowned. "Did you eat today?" Bruce asked sternly, knowing of Bobbi's tendency to skip meals.
"...I ate whenever I was with daddy..." Bobbi said nervously...not really remembering when that last was.
Coulson looked at his daughter with a worried frown. "I think the first thing is for you to eat something," he said. "We'll have our discussion after that." He was relieved that neither of them were injured... but still couldn't help worrying over the fact that he was fairly sure Bobbi hadn't eaten for most of the day.
"Ok..." Bobbi said in a small voice, upset that she'd managed to somehow worry her father even more than he already was.
"I think there was some left-over Chinese in the fridge..." Grant offered, also worried about his sister.
Coulson nodded. "We'll head back to the apartment and reheat it. Thank you, Bruce." He wrapped an arm each around his children's shoulders and guided them towards the elevator, needing to keep them both close.
Bobbi meekly followed her father, giving him apologetic looks. "I'm sorry, daddy. I didn't mean not to eat..." she finally said, as they got onto the elevator.
Grant didn't say anything, but slumped slightly, the high emotion starting to catch up with him.
"I know, but this is something that needs to stop as well," Coulson said. "From now on, I think we'll be eating all of our meals together." So he could make sure she actually did eat. He continued to hold them tight to himself. "I love you. Both of you. No matter what, that's never going to change."
"Yes, sir..." Bobbi didn't argue. She truly hadn't meant to skip meals...she'd just been feeling so guilty and horrible about everything and her father had been busy taking care of Raina; and without him there, she hadn't even thought about eating.
Grant didn't really feel like he had the same problem as his sister did; he had eaten lunch, after all, and even had a snack...but he'd caused his father enough grief, as far as he was concerned, so he didn't argue either. "Yes, sir..."
As the elevator reached their apartment, Coulson guided them off and headed into the kitchen. He seated both at the table and then moved to reheat some of the Chinese for his daughter. "You've eaten, Grant?" he asked, to clarify. "Would you like something small? Or something to drink?"
"I ate lunch and I had a snack about two hours ago, sir..." Grant answered softly. "...I would like a drink though, please..."
Bobbi swallowed, slumping further. "...I just lost track of time and didn't think about it..." she said in a whisper. "...I wasn't hungry, so..." She sighed, dejected.
Coulson made all three of them drinks and set them out, before taking the reheated food and placing it in front of Bobbi, sitting between the two of them. "Even when you don't feel hungry, you need to make sure you eat meals," he said to Bobbi.
"I know...I've been trying so hard to not skip, because I know you expect me not to...I don't know why I didn't realize..." She sniffled, trying her hardest not to cry, as she took a bite of the food.
Grant looked at the table and took a sip of his drink, not wanting to make his sister feel worse and knowing his father needed to take care of the situation.
Coulson wrapped his arm around his daughter, pressing a kiss to her cheek. "I know you've been trying," he said gently. "I also know you've been feeling guilty and out of sorts. I suspect it went out of your head because you've been hurting so much."
"We've both been feeling guilty..." Grant admitted quietly in response, since Bobbi was dutifully eating and had her mouth full. "I know we...I should have talked to someone about it; Natasha tried to get me to, but I...I didn't feel like I deserved to feel better, so refused to cooperate."
Bobbi gave her brother a sad look, nodding in agreement with what he was saying.
"Speeding was dangerous," Coulson said. "You should have talked to someone... you know I would always listen to either of you. Natasha or Clint could have stayed with Raina while we talked. But taking off like you did... I know neither of you were thinking, but you worried and scared not only me, but Natasha and Clint as well."
"I...I know it could have been dangerous, but we've sped before..." Grant hedged...arguing more because he didn't want to talk about why he'd run in the first place and wanted to distract his father with something else than because he didn't think speeding was a bad idea.
Bobbi winced and swallowed the last bite of her food. "We just wanted to get away ... even though we didn't really want to get away..." She glanced at her brother, to make certain she wasn't speaking out of turn for him and gave a weak smile at his nod of agreement to her words.
"Speeding in an emergency is different to speeding like you both did," Coulson said. "Both of you have been in the position where you've needed to make hard decisions. Neither of you knew Bakshi had been brainwashed. You were on a mission where communications had gone dark and the two of you were the only ones left in the base." He paused. "While you could have come outside and touched base with the rest of us, there was no way to know how much time you had. It is difficult to make a tough decision like that... but it doesn't mean either of you are bad."
"I'm not good..." Grant couldn't help but argue, reluctant to give up the guilt he felt. After what he'd done to Bakshi, he thought he deserved to suffer.
Bobbi pushed the empty plate away, a stubborn frown on her face. "This is the second time - that I know of - where my actions have led to someone who didn't deserve it, being hurt. Kara...and now Bakshi...I just...I'm obviously incapable of making good decisions when faced with limited time..." she didn't even feel her words were an exaggeration. Wrapping her arms tightly around herself, she refused to look at her father.
Coulson wrapped an arm each around their shoulders. "I know the guilt is weighing down on you both. I know what it's like to make decisions where someone else ultimately ends up hurt." After all, one of the reasons why his wife had been killed and his baby son had been taken was because he hadn't given up the case he was working on. "We are going to deal with both of you running and endangering yourselves," he added, a stern note slipping into his voice. "While I don't like you in danger on ops, I know sometimes there's nothing we can do about it. And we do everything we can to make sure the danger is lessened as much as possible. Taking the car and speeding... leaving without a word... is not acceptable."
Grant couldn't help but shrink in on himself at the stern tone in his father's voice, beginning to feel a lot younger than he was, the paternal disappointment and scolding affecting him as it always did, leaving him with a need to submit and regain his father's approval. "Yes, sir..." he said in a whisper.
"Yes, daddy." Bobbi's voice was small and contrite, her father's displeasure affecting her in much the same way as her brother was affected, her need to be a responsible adult and be held accountable for her actions falling below her need to have her father not be upset or disappointed any longer.
"This is an issue we have had to deal with several times before," Coulson said. "Both the running and endangering yourselves." He paused, to steel himself for what he had to say next. "My response is going to need to be different this time."
Grant swallowed hard, uncertainty and a hint of nervousness in his voice. "How?" His voice was choked sounding. Only the belief that his father would never give up on him or send him away kept him from being outright afraid.
The look on Bobbi's face was pure misery. "What will you do?" she whispered.
Coulson tightened his embrace around his children. "I'm going to use an implement this time... and I need to tell you both exactly what to expect." It wasn't to hurt them... Coulson knew forcing himself to be severe would be hard enough; he needed to make it clear to them how things were going to be. "They'll be different implements... because, Grant, we have dealt with this dangerous behaviour more times, I'm going to use my belt."
Grant closed his eyes tightly. "Yes, sir..." The shakiness in his voice made it obvious how affected he was by the knowledge that his father planned to use his belt. The only time his father had used his belt, Grant had been under the control of HYDRA and Coulson had needed to break their hold on him. The fact that he had repeated the same offense so many times, his father felt the only recourse was to use the belt was withering. Especially since Grant knew how much his father had hated needing to use it before and that it was going to hurt his father to use it. For Coulson to resort to it now, Grant knew he had pushed his father to the limits and left him with little options. He shook slightly, but didn't pull away or argue.
Coulson's arms tightened around both of them, unable to break contact with either of his children. He kissed each of their foreheads and then spoke softly to his daughter. "Bobbi, I used the ruler on Grant once before and that's what I'm going to use this time." He didn't say how hard it had been... and how hard he knew it was going to be. He knew he was going to also need to tell them how many he planned to give with the implements, to ensure he would stick with his decision, but he was reluctant to put voice to it.
Under normal circumstances, Bobbi might have objected to being treated differently than her brother. In this case, she couldn't help but feel grateful at the fact, even if the idea of Coulson using anything other than his hand was scary. "Ok, Daddy..." she agreed with a quivery voice, blinking her eyes to keep tears from falling. It didn't work. She quickly wiped the moisture from her cheeks.
Coulson pressed another kiss to each of their cheeks. "I don't think putting this off any longer will help either of you." His voice was loving and tender. "On this occasion... I'll let you decide whether you want to be in the same room while I'm dealing with one of you, or if you'd prefer to wait outside." He wanted to keep them close... but wanted to avoid any embarrassment on their parts.
"I...I'd rather wait outside. I don't want to hear when Bobbi is punished..." Grant admitted quietly. It was bad enough he hadn't stopped her from going...instead going with her and making the situation worse. Hearing the results would make the guilt unbearable.
"Me too," Bobbi agreed.
Coulson nodded. "We'll take care of this in my bedroom. Are you both finished your drinks?" he asked, still holding them close.
"Yes...yes...sir...daddy," Grant and Bobbi answered together. Neither of them moved, though, waiting their father to tell them to go.
Coulson stood up, gently guiding his children to stand, and led them to his bedroom. He stopped at his office on the way to pick up the ruler, ducking inside just long enough to grab it, before returning to his children and leading them the rest of the way to his bedroom. "Grant, I'd like you to wait out here first," he said, standing outside the door.
"Yes, sir," Grant said in a subdued tone, stepping to the side and leaning against the wall, wrapping his arms around himself in a self-hug.
Bobbi bit her lip and let her gaze fall to the floor as she couldn't help but shift closer to her father, nervousness, guilt and shame vying each other for control.
Coulson reached out to gently stroke Grant's hair, pressing a kiss to his forehead, before he stepped reluctantly away from his son (not being in contact with either of them was hard) and gently guided Bobbi through to the bedroom. Holding onto his daughter, he led her over to bed. He took a seat and drew his daughter towards him, gently touching her chin to encourage her to meet his gaze. "I'm going to start off with a hand spanking and then I'm going to give twelve strokes with the ruler," he said, his voice loving and affectionate... but still serious and unbending.
Bobbi forced herself to look up and into her father's eyes; her own were already filled with tears that were slowly falling down her face. Biting her lip hard, she nodded. "Ok, Daddy..." Her voice was trembling. Swallowing hard, she shifted so that she was standing next to her father's knee, but that was the extent of her bravery. She couldn't force herself to bend over his lap.
Coulson grasped his daughter's hand and drew her gently across his knees, settling her with an arm wrapped around her waist before he proceeded to bare her. "I love you, Bobbi. No matter what, that will never cease to be true," he said, before lifting his hand and bringing it down in the first sharp swat that he then repeated.
"I know, Daddy..." Bobbi whimpered softly, reaching down and grasping her father's ankle tightly. Her emotions were all over the place; relief that he had her and she was safe at home with him warred with the guilt and feeling that she didn't deserve to be happy and at home with him. On top of that, the anticipation of the new element to him disciplining her was causing her nerves to be tense and her stomach was tying itself up in knots. She wished she hadn't eaten before being punished, but it was too late now to worry about it. Swallowing hard, she took a shivery breath. "I love you too, Daddy..." she said, wincing at how scared and tense she sounded.
Coulson rubbed Bobbi's back gently a moment or two before he settled into a pattern of swats, going from the crest of her backside down to her thighs. Although he wasn't using his full strength, the swats were a bit harder than the ones he normally gave out.
"Oh..." Bobbi gasped in a breath then held it. She could tell immediately that this spanking was harder than normal, even if she knew it wasn't as hard as it could be. She tried to stay still and not make any noise, not wanting to make it harder on her father than she knew it already was.
Partway through the second circuit, Coulson began speaking quietly, though his hand didn't slow. "I know you were hurting, but risking taking yourself away from the family is not the answer and is in no way acceptable."
Whimpering, Bobbi just listened to her father. She'd known it was wrong, but the thought of facing everyone when she felt so guilty had seemed impossible and so she'd ignored what she knew. By this time, her bottom felt hot and the sting lasted even when her father's hand had moved to a different location. She couldn't help but begin to squirm.
Coulson tightened his arm around Bobbi's waist as he began a third circuit, swatting a bit faster, though he didn't increase the force. "If something had happened to you, it would have been devastating. I can't lose you." He began focusing more of the swats to her sit spots and thighs, delivering a final flurry before he paused to pick up the ruler.
Bobbi had been managing to keep quiet, even if she couldn't hold still, up until her father's last words. She'd begun crying vocally at that point. Even so, it wasn't until he paused that she lost control of herself, the knowledge that he was about to use something other than his hand causing her to not keep control over herself any longer. "No, daddy...please..." She let out a hiccuping sob and threw her hand back in an attempt to stop what she knew was coming (and what she really knew she deserved). As painful as a hand spanking was, there was still some comfort in feeling the contact and knowing it was her father. A ruler was more detached, less personal...and seemed all the more horrible for it.
It wasn't easy. It never was easy to punish any of them, but Coulson hated the fact that he had to be more severe... even though he knew that he couldn't back out. He took Bobbi's hand and moved it against her back, lacing his fingers between hers so he could squeeze her hand. "I love you. I hope you remember this, because the thought of losing you is more painful than I could ever put into words." Steeling himself, he snapped the ruler down... not anywhere near as hard as he could have done; not much harder than the hand spanking he'd delivered so far.
Bobbi grasped her father's hand tightly, tensing up and holding her breath. Her father's words only helped to ease her fear that she had messed up her relationship with her father...she was too worked up to think about anything else and when the ruler finally landed on her already very sore backside, she let out a wail, then went limp, sobbing out her guilt and contrition. Very few of the words she said made much sense, except for the words, "I'm sorry" and, "I love you, Daddy".
Coulson had to force himself to deliver the full twelve, even though they weren't as hard as the first one had been. He quickly stopped and gathered his daughter into a tight embrace, hugging Bobbi close and kissing her head.
As soon as her father had pulled her into his arms, Bobbi was holding onto him tightly, hiding her face against his chest and crying brokenly, still repeating how sorry she was and begging for forgiveness. She didn't know how to tell him, felt ashamed that it bothered her so much, but the ruler had scared her. The impersonal nature of it had somehow made her feel separated from him...and then she'd thought about how that separation could have been real- and possibly permanent- if she'd succeeded in running and the knowledge that she'd come so close to ruining her life by taking herself away from her family terrified her.
Coulson tightened his embrace around his daughter, pressing another kiss to the top of her head, reiterating how much he loved her and that he forgave her... he would always forgive her. The tight embrace showed something of his desperate need to have his daughter with him... how badly today's events had frightened him, although he did his best not to show that.
Bobbi was slowly able to calm down as she became aware of how tightly Coulson held her. The knowledge that he needed to keep her close and had been so frightened by her actions helped ease her own fear that she could have taken herself away without hope of ever returning. "You won't ever let me go..." It was less a question and more a statement of fact, but her voice, hoarse from tears and breathless from gasping, sounded hesitant, as if she needed confirmation of what she already knew. She pressed even more closely, snuggling and nuzzling against him like a small child.
"Never." Coulson kissed her head. "I love you. You are more important to me than I could ever put into words. I love you. So much."
"I love you too, Daddy...so much..." Bobbi held on just a little more tightly, before reluctantly pulling away and standing. Fixing her clothing with a tiny hiss of pain, she gave her father a sad but peaceful smile. "When will you put the bracelet on me?"
"I'll speak with Leo about making one. Since he's made one for Grant, I'd expect it won't take long for him to utilise a similar design." Coulson stood up, wrapping an arm around Bobbi's shoulders and kissing her cheek.
Bobbi just nodded and twisted so she could wrap her arms around her father and snuggle close again. "I still feel guilty about Bakshi..." she admitted softly.
"I know." Coulson kissed her forehead. "But you can make up for it by helping him. Maybe he'll never get his memories back, but with help and support, he can become his own person."
Bobbi nodded, snuggling for a bit longer before reluctantly pulling away. "Do you want me to wait outside the door while you and Grant talk?" she asked hesitantly, reaching up and rubbing her eyes with one hand while rubbing her bottom with the other hand. Her shoulders were slumped and she looked worn out- worn out and very young; she wasn't emotionally ready to face everything that still needed to be faced and after having submitted so completely to her father, part of her just wanted to let him take control for the rest of the day too.
Coulson nodded. "Once your brother and I have talked, I'll send a message to Leo about the bracelet and then the three of us will spend the rest of the day together."
"You don't need to get back to Raina?" Bobbi bit her lip, ashamed and quite honestly surprised at the shot of jealousy that spurred through her, and the fact that it betrayed itself so clearly in her voice. She blushed darkly, looking down again. "I'm sorry...I didn't mean to say that..." she swallowed and backed toward the door. "I'll just let Grant know you're ready for him..." her voice was soft and embarrassed.
Coulson stepped over to Bobbi and wrapped his arms around her. "You know that there's nothing that can change how I feel about you, don't you? I feel drawn to Raina in the same way as I did with you and your siblings. I didn't get a chance to tell her that I'd like her to be a part of our family, but it doesn't mean I love you any less. Or that I want to spend time with you any less. Or that I won't be around for you when you need me."
"I know, Daddy...I do...really..." Bobbi hugged her father tightly before stepping back far enough to give him a tiny smile. "I don't know where that came from...I guess...just feeling emotional still or something..." Her smile turned rueful. "I'll get Grant..." she whispered, leaning forward and kissing her father on the cheek before finally backing away and leaving the bedroom.
She glanced at the wall where her brother was slumped, leaning back with his head as low as it could go and his arms crossed protectively in front of him. "Daddy's ready for you..." she said softly, once she was certain he was aware of her presence. She smiled at him when he straightened up and gave her a sad smile, moving into his spot against the wall as he began to head into the bedroom.
Grant reached over and squeezed his sister's arm gently and gave her a tiny nod before he walked into the bedroom to face their father. "You're ready for me, sir?" he asked, his voice gravelly.
Coulson stepped over to his son and wrapped his arms around him in a tight hug, pressing a kiss to his head. "I love you, Grant." He wanted to make that clear, before anything else, as he guided his son over to the bed. "I'm going to start off with a hand spanking... and then it'll be twelve strokes from the belt." His voice was loving, but there was no evidence he'd bend on his decision... no matter how much it hurt him to be this severe with them.
"Yes, sir..." Grant followed obediently. He'd been able to hear what was occurring through the door, even though he tried not to focus on it and give Bobbi privacy. He knew the upcoming punishment wasn't going to be easy, on him or his father, and he didn't want to make things even more difficult by trying to argue his way out of what he knew he deserved. "...And I love you too, Daddy..." The last was whispered with a sense of shame and hesitancy, because he knew how much he'd hurt and scared his father and his actions hadn't shown that he loved the older man.
Coulson kept in contact with his son as he reached the bed and gently encouraged Grant to bend over his lap with one hand grasping his wrist and the other placed against the small of his back. Once he had Grant secure, he wrapped an arm around his son's waist, drawing him in tight against his stomach, before he bared him.
Grant couldn't help but slump over his father's lap, not even trying to tense up or prepare himself. He'd been feeling guilty ever since they'd needed to get the information from Bakshi. That guilt had grown when he realized that Bakshi was an innocent in everything; that HYDRA had harmed him just as much as it had harmed any of his family. On top of that, he was feeling guilty that he had not only not stopped his baby sister from running off, but had joined her in her endeavor and aided her in running- and then put her life in danger by being unnecessarily reckless with his speed. And he felt guilty for hurting his father for what felt the thousandth time since Coulson had rescued him. It was just too much guilt and he didn't want to argue or fight the punishment. He wanted to accept it. So he slumped over his father's lap and didn't fight.
Of course, being in the childish and vulnerable position, with his emotions being the way they were, it took mere seconds for him to feel childish and vulnerable. Reaching down and grasping his father's ankle, he took a shuddery breath. "I'm sorry, daddy..."
Coulson rubbed Grant's back gently. "I know, son." He brought his hand down in the first sharp swat at the crest of Grant's backside, before repeating it and then two more just below the first.
The spanking wasn't as hard as it could have been, Grant knew this, but it was still hard enough to bring tears to his eyes shortly after beginning. He forced himself not to move and to stay still to accept the discipline, but his legs began to twitch in anticipation despite his efforts.
Coulson continued the hard swats down to Grant's thighs before he started over from the top. "I know you've been feeling guilty, son, but you shouldn't have left with Bobbi. And you definitely shouldn't have been speeding. It could have been a whole lot worse..." he said softly.
"I...I know..." Grant swallowed hard in his attempt to keep his tears in check. "...It was wrong and...I just...just made things worse by running. I...I wasn't thinking clearly..." He winced at the words, a sarcastic 'obviously' popping into his head, but luckily not escaping his mouth. As a smack landed on a particularly sensitive area of skin, Grant couldn't help but inhale in a quick gasp, his legs kicking out slightly as he began to lose his battle not to squirm.
Coulson began another circuit of swats, speeding up in the same way he had done with Bobbi, though not increasing the force. "I know you weren't. You need to remember that it doesn't matter what happens. Nothing will change how much I love you."
Grant let out a tiny whimper, in response to his father's words as much as to the sting that had built up to a slow burn on his backside. His at-first-feeble attempts to move out of the way soon became more active as his body decided that it was going to get out of the line of fire, despite what Grant may have planned to do. He was soon squirming enough to threaten falling on the floor. Tears had filled his eyes to the point where all it took was one blink and his cheeks were wet.
Coulson tightened his hold on his son, drawing Grant in tighter against his stomach. He landed a final flurry of swats to Grant's sit spots and thighs and then paused to remove his belt.
Grant, realizing what was coming, tensed up tightly, a low moan rumbling in his chest before it escaped his mouth. His grip on his father's ankle tightened and he closed his eyes firmly, clenching his teeth. But he didn't fight or try and talk his father out of it. He knew he deserved everything his father gave him.
Coulson had to force himself to take that step and double the belt in his hand. When he brought it down, it wasn't anything like as hard as he could have made it... although he knew it would hurt more than his hand.
When the first stripe landed, Grant's breath escaped him with a sob. It hurt. Of course it did. While no where near as hard as his father had needed to make it when trying to rescue him from HYDRA's mind control, it still hurt so much more than his father's hand did. If his father hadn't pulled him in so close and tight and kept a firm grip on him, Gran would have thrown himself off his father's lap. As it was he began to thrash around in an attempt to ease the pain.
If he'd thought that the belt would be more impersonal and that might make it easier to bear- he was wrong. While an implement might be impersonal- Coulson using his own belt was very personal. Especially since the only other time he'd ever used the item on Grant was to save his son's life. It made Grant feel like Coulson was trying to save him again...although at the moment he couldn't concentrate enough to figure out what from. He was too focused on how much the whipping hurt.
Coulson forced himself to continue, his arm hugging his son tight. Each strike actually felt like it was hurting him too... even though he'd never try to claim it hurt him more than his son. The only way he could steel himself for the promised twelve strikes was with the knowledge that he had to make this severe enough so that Grant would remember... so that his son wouldn't take himself away; wouldn't risk his own life.
Grant had continued thrashing through up to the fourth strike. By the fifth strike, he'd begun sobbing like a baby, unable to stop himself despite his desire not to make it worse on his father than it already was. On the tenth strike, his body apparently gave up fighting, because he went limp over his father's lap, only his hands (he'd wrapped his other hand around his father's ankle at some point to keep himself from throwing it back over his bottom) tightly clutching his father's ankle in a death grip giving any indication that he hadn't zoned out and was still with his father body and mind.
The last two strikes were comparably lighter, since Coulson couldn't force himself to use the same kind of strength. He stopped, dropping the belt to one side and quickly tugging his son up and into his arms, hugging Grant tightly and kissing the top of his head.
Grant's sobbing increased fractionally when his father moved him, finding it painful to sit...but he didn't want to be anywhere other than his father's arms and choked back any other sobs he might have loosed, wrapping his arms around his father tightly and cuddling as close as he could get, his body shaking minutely from the effort to keep his tears inside. "I'm sorry, daddy...so sorry..." he whispered brokenly, the knowledge that he'd hurt his father badly and done things that not only could have gotten him hurt or killed, but got his sister hurt or killed as well, more painful to him than the actual punishment had been; and his backside was in considerable pain.
Coulson's arms were tight around his son. Just like with Bobbi, he couldn't hold back the way his embrace showed the desperate fear he'd felt. He pressed another kiss to Grant's head. "I love you, son, so much. I want you to stay safe..." At least as safe as he could be.
"I...I know..." Grant admitted, his voice beginning to go hoarse from the crying he'd been doing. "I was wrong...I know I was..." he continued softly, still holding onto his father as tightly as he could. "I felt so guilty about what I'd done to Bakshi that I just wanted to get away and I didn't care that I was doing it in a really dangerous way. But I should have cared. I didn't want to hurt you..."
Coulson gently threaded his fingers through Grant's hair. "Coming to find me instead of taking off needs to become instinctual. When you feel bad, you don't think clearly. I can't lose you, son. Any of you. It would destroy me."
"Do you think I'll ever get it right? Where I come to you immediately? I thought I'd finally learned when you took the bracelet back off me, but...I obviously still need you to watch over me..." His tone was resigned, embarrassed and a little bit frustrated. But he wasn't crying any longer, Coulson's gentle handling of him helping to comfort and calm him down, even if he was still shifting every so often because it hurt to sit.
"I think that, for every step forward, there's half a step back," Coulson replied, still gently stroking Grant's hair. "I told you before... you have a lifetime of bad teaching to get past. I know you were treated as if you weren't worth anything. That isn't true here. You are worth everything to me. And it doesn't matter how long it takes, because there will never be one single moment I regret taking you in... making you my son before we found out before you were mine through blood. Because I love you and you are mine. You will always be mine."
Sniffling and cuddling closer, Grant whispered, "I'm yours...belonging like that...I never thought I'd need something so much, but if I wasn't yours, I don't think I'd make it..." By this point, he'd finally stopped shaking. "I love you, daddy..." he said softly, looking up long enough to kiss Coulson on the cheek. "What now?" he asked quietly, finally finding the ability to stand and fix his clothing, although he couldn't stop the whimper when he pulled his pants into place.
Coulson stood up, wrapping his arm around Grant's shoulders and kissing his cheek. "I'm going to send a message to Leo about the bracelet for Bobbi and then the three of us are going to be staying together for the rest of the day," he answered.
Grant nodded, wiping at his eyes one more time. "I...I think I need some water...m'head hurts..." he admitted with a blush. He'd have asked for some pain reliever for his head, but wasn't sure how fair that'd be, since he was meant to feel the effects of his punishment.
Coulson pressed a kiss to his forehead. "We can get you a couple of painkillers, too," he said gently. "Are you ready to go and join Bobbi?"
"Yessir..." Grant nodded, still pressed as close as he could get without making it difficult to walk. He let his father lead him to the door and open it. Once they were in the hall, he gave his sister a crooked smile. "I'm sorry, Bobbi...I should have tried to convince you not to go instead of encouraging and joining you..." he muttered.
"I'm sorry, too..." She glanced at her father, before moving into position under his other arm. "It was a big mistake all around and I made my own decision to do it; we messed up together..." She gave her own crooked smile back before putting her head on her father's shoulder. "If my eyes look as red and swollen as yours do, we must be a sight..." she said, with a tiny, embarrassed laugh.
Coulson wrapped his other arm around Bobbi's shoulders. "We can stop off at the bathroom, so you can both wash your faces," he suggested, kissing each of them on the cheek.
"Thank you, daddy," Bobbi responded, as their father led them to the bath.
Grant just nodded in agreement.
It didn't take them long to wash their faces and soon they were on their way downstairs to the kitchen, moving slowly because both Bobbi and Grant were sore. They stuck as close to their father as they could get away with, Clint noted when he saw them coming and stood at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for them. "Do you want me to go take Nat's place next to Raina for a bit? So that she can come see for herself that both rug-rats are alright?" he asked seriously.
Coulson nodded in thanks to Clint. "Please do," he replied. He held his two youngest close and guided them over to the fridge so that he could get them both a bottle of water.
"Ok. You want me to let anyone else know that you'll be in the apartment the rest of the afternoon and should only be interrupted in case of emergency?" Clint smiled slightly. "I can get Wanda and Pietro and take them to a movie, so you have the space to yourself..."
Bobbi blushed at the offer, knowing that pretty much everyone would know that she and Grant had been punished...then again, chances were good they already knew if the news of them doing a runner had reached anyone else's ears. It wasn't a secret how misbehavior was handled, after all.
"Thank you," Coulson replied. "I'm sure we could take dinner later together... What do you two think?" He looked at Bobbi and Grant. "We could eat all together." He wasn't sure how they'd figure it out with Raina still on the medical floor, but if his children wanted that, he'd figure it out.
"I'd like that..." Grant admitted. He slanted his head. "But maybe we could wait till Raina is doing better and you won't be so worried...or we could, you know...have sandwiches and soup and eat in the medical wing, so you'll be close by if she needs you..." He bit his lip, hoping the uncertainty he still felt about Raina didn't come through in his tone. He was really trying to put her actions in the past so he could give her a chance, because his father wanted to give her a chance.
"That doesn't sound too bad...soup and sandwiches, I mean..." Bobbi agreed with her brother.
Clint nodded. "Sounds good to me. I'll go let Nat know what's up and give her a chance to come check in... have Veronica let Wanda and Pietro know what we're doing... maybe order the food from that Bistro Nat likes so much, so that no one has to worry about cooking."
Coulson nodded his own agreement. "I'd like to have the food from the Bistro in the medical wing." He gently squeezed Grant's shoulder. "I know there's a lot of bad things Raina has done, but I don't think she's beyond redemption."
"I'll take care of the food, then and send Nat your way!" He headed out of the apartment and to the elevator, talking to Veronica as he went, presumably asking for Wanda and Pietro to come find him and putting in an order for food to be delivered at supper time.
Bobbi quietly sipped the bottle of water her father had handed her, eyeing the kitchen chair distrustfully. She understood Grant's reluctance about Raina; given her own jealous insecurities, she couldn't fault him. She didn't say anything, though- Raina hadn't done anything to her personally and she knew Grant had to come to terms with things without her unfair influence.
Grant swallowed his own water. "I know, daddy..." he said quietly, the childish term letting his father and sister know just how unsettled he was by Raina's potential inclusion into the family. "That's one of the things I appreciate about you is your ability to see good in people and believe they can change..." He sighed softly. "I'm trying...I really am..."
Coulson freed his arms from his children just long enough to retrieve a couple of cushions from the living room, which he placed on two of the chairs... in case his son and daughter wanted to try sitting down. "I know," he said gently to Grant. "From the conversation we had before she got worse, I believe she was indoctrinated by a guardian in a similar way you were."
Grant looked up sharply at that. "Do we know who?" He was surprised at how learning that one similarity between them was enough to spawn an urge to help and protect her, overcoming his inclination to distrust her.
Bobbi gave her father a grateful look and carefully sat on the cushion he'd provided.
Coulson rested a hand on Bobbi's shoulder and wrapped his other around Grant's shoulders. "I don't know who it was by name, but he was a scientist who expected perfection from her and caused her to believe she wasn't good enough the way she was."
"That's messed up..." Bobbi muttered, reaching up and putting her hand over her father's, giving it a gentle squeeze.
Grant nodded. "It's hard to break through something like that...if she really believes what she was told..."
"I want to show her there's another way," Coulson said. "I want to show her that she can have a family who won't judge her... won't force her to be something she's not. She responded well to me before the virus took true hold."
"I hope you can, dad..." Grant said, truly meaning it. Whatever hang ups he had didn't include wishing bad things to occur to the other woman.
"Me too..." Bobbi said.
Coulson smiled and pressed a kiss to both of their heads. "I'll send that message to Leo now," he said, tapping out a message on his comm and sending it to his nephew.
"How long do you think it will take?" Bobbi asked curiously.
Grant kept quiet, waiting for his father to tell him when he'd be putting his own bracelet on.
Coulson checked the reply sent back before he responded, "Leo said it should be finished by the end of today." He looked at Grant. "I'd like to put yours on by then."
"Yes, sir." Grant nodded in easy agreement.
Bobbi smiled in relief. "Good..." She let out a tiny sigh and slumped slightly, rubbing at her eyes. The day had caught up with her, all the high emotion and physical anxiety making her tired. She could tell she wasn't the only one; Grant was trying to hide a yawn behind his bottle of water. Glancing at Coulson, she blushed faintly, but asked anyway, "Can...can we take a nap, Daddy? I...I'm tired but I don't want to leave your side..." She whispered the last.
Coulson smiled affectionately and lovingly at them. "Of course. Why don't we go back up to my bedroom?" He still had his arms around them and he gently guided his children to their feet and towards the stairs.
It was telling that Grant didn't say anything to argue against it, moving closer to his father. He hadn't slept well the night before, all the guilt from harming Bakshi plaguing him. So he'd pretty much been going for over forty-eight hours on little to no sleep, high-stress and crippling guilt. He really had been lucky he hadn't crashed Lola, the condition he was in. "S'hard to believe we just found them yesterday...it feels like so much has happened and that it's been so much longer..." he admitted. As soon as they were upstairs, he separated only long enough to go into his room and change into sleeping clothes. He rushed, not wanting to be away from his father longer than necessary.
Bobbi had done the same, returning to Coulson's side at nearly the same time as her brother and wrapping her arm around her father's waist and dropping her head onto his shoulder. "Love you, daddy..." she said quietly.
Coulson had changed at much the same time as his children, so they didn't have to wait for him to get ready. He wrapped an arm around their shoulders and pressed a kiss to each of their heads. "I love you both... so much," he said with quiet sincerity.
Bobbi gave her father a tiny, almost bashful grin and snuggled closer before crawling up onto the bed, lying down on her stomach.
"I love you too, dad..." Grant said softly, waiting until his father had got in before crawling up next to his family.
Coulson settled down and wrapped an arm each around his son and daughter, pressing a loving, affectionate kiss to each of their heads.
Laying down on his own stomach, Grant curled into his father and put his head on Coulson's chest, noting that his sister was doing the same. "Feels safe..." he murmured, unable to keep his eyes open now that he was laying down and being held.
"Feels like love..." Bobbi murmured back in a mild correction, before she was out like a light.
Grant smiled faintly at his sister's words, not disagreeing. Soon, he was asleep as well.
Clint had sent messages to his children via Veronica that they would be eating on the medical floor with the rest of the family and gave them the time to arrive. He'd also arranged for Veronica to order the soup and sandwiches from the Bistro and have them delivered a few minutes before everyone else was supposed to meet. He'd finished all this while in the elevator as he headed back to Raina's hospital room to inform Natasha about what was planned and to let her know that everything was in hand and everyone was safe. When he stepped into the room, he quickly took note of the fact that Raina was still sleeping, then walked over to Natasha. "Any change in her?" he asked softly, by way of greeting.
Natasha shook her head, standing up and stretching out limbs that were nearly falling asleep. "She's been like this the whole time," she whispered back. "But she hasn't got worse. How are the kids?"
"Properly repentant and in dad's loving iron grip...they won't be doing any solo trips for a while, I think..." Clint's voice was fondly exasperated. Now that the 'kids' were back home and safe, he wasn't afraid and could allow himself to be amused by the younger members of his family. "We're eating dinner down here, by the way. Dad was willing to let you and I be his representative here and just be with the youngsters...but both Bobbi and Grant managed to look past their own insecure jealousy and told him they didn't want to pull him away from Raina's side for too long. It was their idea to eat here..." he glanced around the room and then out into the outer lobby. "We can eat out there in the lobby and if something happens we're close enough he can get here right away..." He glanced at Natasha again. "You doing ok?"
Natasha nodded. "I haven't had all that much interaction with her... but I trust Dad. If he believes there's something in her that's worth saving, I'm going to stand by his side. But I know Grant was feeling insecure... the kids haven't figured out how to see it rationally yet, I think."
Clint shrugged. "I think they understand it mentally... it's their emotions getting in the way. Which, considering how tightly Grant kept a grip on his emotions before dad got him, to the point where he was given the nickname of robot, I find the fact that he feels jealousy, and is willing to show that, a big improvement." He picked up the chart at the foot of Raina's bed, scanning over it. "From the looks of it, she's doing a lot better than she was even a few hours ago. The virus is moving more quickly in her than it did Grant..."
"That's 'cuz I tweaked the serum I took before giving myself the virus and it reacted in an unexpected way..." Raina's tired voice carried to the two agents. "As soon as I am able to stand without being dizzy, I will help Dr. Banner formulate a cure. I believe I was told that he had been working on one for the virus given to Grant..." Her voice was breathy and there was a lot more that she wanted to say, but her throat was dry and she was still tired, despite having just woke up.
Natasha looked at her brother and then stepped over to Raina's side. "You're welcome to try, but I think Dad will insist you rest." She walked to the water filter, filling a cup and bringing it over so that Raina could drink some, placing a straw in the cup to make it easier.
Raina gratefully drank some of the water. "Thank you..." She leaned back into the pillows. "I have been doing nothing but...and I want to help find a cure. You destroyed the lab, but that wasn't the only place where my notes were kept, unfortunately. HYDRA's latest 'head' insisted on having his own copies of my work...in case 'something happened'." She coughed slightly into her hand. It was a sign that she was getting better when no blood was left behind on her hand. Her face was also clear of signs of bleeding.
Natasha nodded. "Everyone's aware of that being a possibility, but I know Dad will insist you rest. Since he's not here right now to make sure of it, I will for him," she stated simply.
Raina gave Natasha a curious, if somewhat disgruntled look. "I will not try and claim that you can't stop me, since I am a prisoner and am just as likely to be put in a cell as anything. But I would think that only the directors or Dr. Banner would be able to make that decision..." She wasn't challenging Natasha. Her voice was slightly confused, as if she couldn't figure out why Natasha was making a decision about what Raina would be doing; and making the decision that was best for Raina.
"And I know the decision my father will make," Natasha replied. "Of course, I can ask Bruce to come here and what he thinks... but I believe you'll find he'll say the same thing I am." Her voice was firm, though not cruel or unkind.
Raina looked at Natasha almost suspiciously, before a tiny pout formed on her lips and she rolled her eyes, sinking back into the bed with a tiny huff. "Fine. I'll stay in bed and sleep..." she said, with all the grace of a teenager that had just been told she couldn't borrow the family car.
Clint blinked at Raina's response, then gave Natasha an amused look, his eyebrow going up. "Want me to go find Bruce and let him know his patient is awake and trying to get up?" His voice was amused.
"No need. Veronica told me as soon as Raina woke up. I'm here. And can I ask why you are already trying to get up, when for the last several hours, it was all we could do to keep you from bleeding to death? Hmm?" Bruce's voice was stern and not in the least amused.
Raina sunk even further into the bed and looked almost apologetic. "I wanted to help you find a cure for the mess I made..." she said in a whisper. "...And I wasn't actually trying to get up yet. I just was saying I wanted to help and...well...I'm still in the bed!" she defended herself with a little bit of a stronger voice, but not much stronger.
Natasha didn't say I told you so... In fact, there was a hint of sympathy on her face when she glanced at Raina. "Dad's with Bobbi and Grant right now... but we're going to be taking dinner here on the medical floor. I know he's going to want to see you."
Raina glanced at Natasha and nodded, looking slightly nervous. "Are they ok?" She didn't say it, but she knew that Grant didn't trust her- and she doubted Bobbi did. It still surprised her that Coulson was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe his two youngest had decided it was time to talk some sense into him and were convincing him to lock her up as soon as she was well again. She wouldn't blame them in the least if that's what was occurring. Although, she didn't think Natasha would be sitting beside her trying to keep her from overdoing it if their plans were to just put her in a cell.
"They haven't been feeling so good," Natasha replied. "Clint and I are here because Dad can't be right now... but he still didn't want you to be alone. That's why we're going to be eating on this floor. So he can be close by."
Raina looked alarmed at Natasha's words. "They've been ill?" she asked sharply, glancing at Bruce and Clint. "They weren't part of the group that went to the lab though...what could they have been exposed to..." She muttered the last to herself as if trying to work out a puzzle.
Bruce blinked at her assumption, looking at Natasha and Clint to confirm what he already believed he knew. "As far as I'm aware, they aren't ill... There has been a lot of upheaval and stress the last few days though and their father needed to be with them. I don't believe there is any reason for you to worry..." he attempted to soothe.
"They aren't ill," Natasha replied. "They're probably resting. Dad will come and see you before the food's due to arrive. I know he's been worried about you... He hadn't left you since you lost consciousness. He only went because Bobbi and Grant needed him... and because he knew I'd let him know if you needed him, or if anything changed."
"Oh...ok..." Raina relaxed then looked intrigued at Natasha's words. "He stayed by me for that long? Even when I wasn't awake to give him information or try and run?" She slanted her head. "...He really does care..." she finally muttered.
Clint nodded. "Yeah. He does. I'd get used to it if I were you..."
"Well, everything checks out. All the scans say that you are well on your way to recovery. You just need a bit more rest. Whatever you did to the serum that caused the virus to speed up...also sped up your healing processes. At least I'm assuming that's what helped. Given the unique element in your blood that we've discovered, I can't be certain until more tests are run." Bruce smiled and patted Raina on the knee. "If you all will excuse me, I'm going to go spend some time with my father and brother before they decide to join Pepper in Tokyo..."
"He's seen something in you that's worth saving," Natasha said, nodding to acknowledge Bruce's words. "When Dad chooses to care about someone, he doesn't usually waver or second-guess himself. He'll talk to you about it more, I'd imagine." She chose not to talk about adoption... even though she assumed Raina had to know that happened within the tower.
"I didn't even realize I needed saving till I was captured," Raina admitted. "I have a lot to make up for."
The very faintest of smiles touched Natasha's lips, but she was all seriousness when she spoke. "That's a similar position that many of us have been in or are in. Dad will help you."
Raina gave the faintest of smiles back. "I believe that..."
Clint chuckled. "We have another hour before supper. You want to play cards?" He glanced at Raina and Nat.
"I think that would be acceptable..." Raina's smile broadened.
Natasha nodded to her brother. "Do you have a deck? Or would you like me to go and get one?"
"Got a deck in my pocket," Clint pulled it out and began to shuffle. "I'm assuming you all know how to play Spades?"
Bruce had gathered Leo, Jemma, and Peter to him. "I believe your grandfather, uncle, and cousin are planning to go to Tokyo to be with your Aunt Pepper," Bruce said as they walked to their family room where he believed Steve (and possibly Tony and Harry) to be. "I can't go because I don't want to leave Bakshi or Raina till we know for certain they are healthy again- but I don't want to stand in any of your way if you want to go. If you do want to go, we need to let your grandfather and uncle know..."
"I'd like to go!" Jemma quickly inserted looking at her siblings in excitement. "I've never been to Tokyo..." She looked toward Leo and Peter wondering if they would also go.
"Me neither," Peter agreed. "I'd like to go."
"You won't need any help?" Leo was just as eager as his siblings, but he didn't want to abandon their father if they were needed.
Steve looked up from where he was playing a board game with Harry and smiled at his other son and grandchildren. "Discussing the trip to Tokyo?"
"Yes." Bruce smiled at his father. "Leo, Jemma and Peter would all like to go...Unfortunately, until I know for certain Bakshi and Raina are back to full health and there aren't any other surprises waiting for me, I don't feel comfortable leaving, but I figured the three of them would be safe with their uncle and grandfather..." Bruce said teasingly. All three of his children (for the most part) were very responsible and two of them were adults, so it wasn't like they couldn't handle a trip without 'dad' being with them.
Jemma rolled her eyes good naturedly and responded accordingly, "Daaaaad!"
Peter grinned. "I'm sure we could find some trouble to get into..." he teased.
Steve smiled at his grandchildren, then looked at Bruce. "We can always have a family holiday on another occasion... one that you can join us on."
"I'd like that, dad...really. The trip to the island was heaven..." Bruce chuckled, mussing up Peter's hair. "And I was counting on you to make sure your grandfather didn't get into any trouble!" he said to Peter, teasing his dad with a wink.
"I'm sure we'll do our best..." Peter continued to tease, before heading over to his cousin and grandfather. "Can anyone play?"
Steve smiled. "We've only just started, so if you would all like to join in, you're more than welcome."
"Oh! I'll play!" Jemma grinned and moved to sit next to her grandfather.
Bruce sat down in a chair nearby, not planning to play but watching. "Is Tony getting things ready for your trip?" he asked curiously.
"Me too." Leo sat down on the other side of Jemma.
"He's finishing up some work," Steve replied. "I'm waiting until the end of this game and then I'm going to go bring him out of the lab."
Bruce nodded. "Coulson and his brood are going to be eating dinner in the medical lab... I was wondering if you all wanted to do dinner in the apartment as just our immediate family...since you'll be leaving for Tokyo soon?"
Steve smiled. "I think that would be a very good idea," he agreed. "While we're away, we can also arrange to call on Skype... you can keep us updated." He left unspoken that he could then encourage his son to make sure he ate and slept.
"Of course!" Bruce easily agreed, though he gave his father a knowing look. It didn't bother him that the other man would be 'checking up' on him, though. It would give him a chance to 'check up' on his own kids.
At that moment, Tony waltzed into the room, having finished the work he needed to complete before leaving...and not needing to be reminded to take a break for once. "Oh hey, family mine! What'cha playing?" He glanced at the board game curiously, as he flopped down on a chair nearby.
Steve looked at Tony with a smile and a proud look on his face... happy that Tony had come out of his own accord. "We're playing a board game. You're welcome to join in." He noticed the way Harry glanced up and the hopeful look his grandson got on his face, before he seemed to lower his expectations and look away again.
"Did we figure out who's starting yet?" Peter asked, bumping shoulders affectionately with his cousin.
"Is there room for one more? You already have four..." Tony said curiously, even as he moved closer to the board and looked into the box to see if there were any more pieces available.
Jemma glanced at Peter and Harry. "I don't think that's been figured out, least not that I've been told... Shall we roll the dice and highest number goes first?"
Bruce chuckled. "Looks like up to six are able to play; you have just that amount of people now. I will be the banker and arbiter of rules if there are any disagreements..." he added, moving close enough that he could watch the action.
Leo smiled. "I don't think there's anything in the rules about who can go first, so I think rolling a dice and the highest number is a good way... then maybe we could round go clockwise?" he suggested.
Steve shifted so that there was enough room for Bruce, smiling at his other son.
"Works for me!" Tony grinned impishly. "...Aaaand...I rolled a one. Damn."
Bruce laughed and shook his head, watching as everyone rolled the dice and Harry ended going first. This was just what he needed to take his mind off of the puzzle that was Raina's serum and virus... among all the other puzzles that had formed over the last year. He gave his father a happy smile, shifting closer to his father, and began to pass out the money.
"Boy...it's quiet..." Kara remarked, with a note of curiosity in her voice.
"I think everyone's spending time with the immediate family," Fury commented. He looked at his sons and daughter. "Is there anything the three of you would like to do? Maybe we could order in some food... or go see a film."
"We could order in food and watch a movie here at home... Then I can be lazy and wear my pajamas!" Kara gave an impish grin to her father, glancing at her brothers to see what they thought.
Trip chuckled. "I'm good with that."
"Me too." Brock nodded.
Fury smiled at his children. "That sounds like a good plan," he agreed. "Where would you like to order food in from?"
Brock shrugged. "I'm kinda in the mood for Indian..."
"Curry would be nice," Kara agreed.
"Let me just order everyone's favorites, then, while you all pick out a movie..." Trip smiled.
Fury nodded. "Any preferences on the movie?" he asked his two youngest. He knew what movies Trip liked and would make sure he vetoed anything he knew his oldest didn't enjoy.
"Alien!" Brock recommended immediately.
Kara blinked. "I don't think I've seen that one. Is it scary?" she asked curiously.
Fury nodded. "It's an older horror film," he answered. "It's one of your brothers' favourites." He smiled at his youngest son.
"Hmmm...Okay?" Kara didn't sound quite as certain about the choice as Brock, but she didn't sound like she was against it, either. "If I can't handle a scary movie, I'm in sad shape...and will probably end up sleeping in your room tonight!" she chirped impishly.
Fury smiled at his daughter. "It isn't a problem if you'd like to watch something else." Of course, it wouldn't be a problem for her to sleep in his room in any case... tonight or any other.
"No...Brock wants to watch Alien and it is one of Trip's favorite movies, so I can watch it!" Kara protested with a grin.
"If you don't like it, we can always turn it off," Fury promised.
"Ok!" Kara easily agreed, then glanced at Trip when he walked back in. "We're watching Alien!"
Trip grinned. "Good choice! Food should be here in twenty minutes."
"Enough time to get changed and sort out drinks, then," Fury commented.
It didn't take Kara long to disappear, running upstairs to her room and throwing on one of her dad's old t-shirts and a pair of sleep shorts before grabbing her pillow and running back down. Even so, by the time she'd returned, both her brothers were also back, dressed in their sleep clothes and carrying pillows.
"The delivery person is here. I have diverted him to the common floor, if one of you would like to meet him..." Veronica announced.
"I'll go, if you three want to take care of setting up the movie and pouring drinks." Fury headed to the elevator and took it to the common floor, retrieving the food before returning to his children.
By the time Fury returned, Kara had gone into the kitchen and put together a tray with cups of ice and cans of soda.
Brock was sitting in the armchair to the left of the couch.
Trip was in the armchair to the right.
Kara carefully put the tray of drinks onto the coffee table and then sat on the couch, leaving a spot for her father.
After making sure the food was shard out, Fury brought the tray of food over to his children, before taking a seat on the couch next to Kara.
They'd decided to eat before watching the movie. Afterwards, after the movie had been on for at least half an hour, Kara decided that had been a wise decision, as she realized that she probably wouldn't have eaten if they'd attempted to eat during the movie. She was too tense and focused on the screen. She held her pillow tightly clutched in her arms and had been shifting minutely closer and closer to her father the further into the show they'd got, until she was all but sitting on his lap.
Fury wasn't so engrossed in the film that he failed to notice his daughter and he reached out to wrap an arm around her waist, drawing her in close to him as he checked to see if she needed them to turn the film off.
Kara gave her father a wide eyed glance then grinned brightly. "This movie is scary. I like it!" She laughed nervously.
"Are you sure?" There was obvious concern in Fury's voice, as he wasn't sure if she was saying that just so her brothers didn't have to miss out on watching.
"Uh huh..." Kara was busy watching the screen, though, so was a bit distracted with her answer...until the alien burst out of the chest of one of the crew. At that point, she shrieked and covered her face with her pillow, before peering around it and blushing with a laugh.
Fury pulled his daughter a bit closer, deciding he would pay attention to her reactions and judge if she needed the movie switched off.
The rest of the movie was much the same, Kara making little noises and jumping at the most scary parts, then laughing at herself. Eventually, the credits were rolling though.
"Well, I think I'm gonna head to bed." Trip stood and hugged each of his family, before taking his pillow and heading upstairs.
Brock stood and hugged Kara and Fury as well, before taking his own pillow and heading for the stairs. "Night!" he called, before disappearing.
Kara gave her father an impish look and tossed her pillow onto the couch on the other side of him, then draped herself over his lap so he couldn't get up. "I can't sleep yet...I'm wide awake. Can we watch something else?" she cajoled. "Or talk?"
"It's probably a bit late to watch something, but we can always talk." Fury ran his fingers through his daughter's hair, rubbing her back gently. "Anything in particular on your mind?" he asked.
"Tonight was fun..." Kara said. "There are a lot of things running through my head right now...I just can't seem to get them all to slow down enough to focus on just one." She sighed happily, almost purring, before folding her arms around her pillow, then putting her chin on it in such a way that she could sorta look at her dad without having to move from her position of blanketing his legs. "I sometimes wonder how I was ever one of SHIELD's 'better' agents, considering my attention span now..." Her words were serious, but there was still a grin on her face. She really was in a happy, good place emotionally at that moment.
"You've been through a lot," Fury pointed out. "It takes time to heal... and you're doing a really good job." He continued the gentle stroking of her hair and back, more comfortable with this than he had been before becoming an official part of the family.
"Only because of you and the rest of the family...mostly you, though..." She got an introspective look on her face, every so often pressing into his hand with her head or arching her back to get a little more 'pressure' behind the gentle petting; a little like her kitten did when it wanted her undivided attention. "I sometimes wonder if there is anyone out there that misses me...it makes me feel guilty that I don't try harder to find out...but it kinda scares me- if I find out, would I have to leave you?"
Fury noticed the parallels between his daughter and her kitten, but he didn't comment on it, instead responding when his daughter indicated she wanted (or needed) more of the attention. He had, after all, told her he would provide whatever she needed at that time. "I would never make you leave," he said. "You're my daughter. Even if you did want to find family you had in the past, it wouldn't change anything in our relationship."
"What if they tried to make me leave?" Her voice was soft and worried. "Could they do that?" She clutched her pillow more tightly and squirmed a little, feeling antsy. She arched into her father's hand again. She recognized her need for more affection, but she wasn't in a cuddly mood; it was confusing.
"The Tower's protected. No one can make you leave if you don't want to... when we don't want you to." Fury continued to stroke her hair and back. His voice was sincere and made it clear that he wanted her... wanted her to stay... no matter what.
"Promise?" Kara asked in a whisper. It wasn't that she didn't believe her father, but sometimes things happened that couldn't be controlled and she felt safe with him. Loved and cared about. It was more upsetting than she wanted to admit, thinking that she might be taken away and lose that. The idea was more upsetting than it should be, considering it wasn't happening and probably never would. She sighed softly, feeling needy. Having her hair and back rubbed was nice, but it didn't feel... enough. But the thought of crawling into her father's arms for a tight snuggle felt like too much. She huffed out a soft breath, beginning to get frustrated with herself. She was being silly. There was nothing going to take her away from her family. Her father was spending time with her. She wasn't sure what her problem was, but she wished it would stop. A fleeting thought ran through her mind, but she ignored it as being silly as well.
"I promise." Fury didn't fail to notice that his daughter was feeling restless, though he wasn't sure what was going through her mind. "What are you thinking?" he asked her, his voice gentle.
"I...I like when you rub my hair and back..." she said hesitantly, "...and I like when you cuddle me..." There was an obvious 'but' in her voice, as she tried to figure out her own thoughts so she could voice them.
Fury waited, but when Kara didn't continue straight away, he prompted, "But...?"
Kara sighed again softly. "...But I dunno. I'm being silly. Worrying about something that prolly will never happen. I feel all antsy and anxious for no reason, but I'm not so upset that I need to be coddled and cuddled. Just..." She shrugged slightly. "I want..." She sighed again and hid her face in her pillow. "...Never mind. It's stupid and you'll think I'm being weird..." Her voice was muffled through the material.
"I won't think you're being weird," Fury promised. "Tell me what you want... what you need. I won't think any less of you." He stroked her hair.
"I just...I don't need to be cuddled, but I...I want something more..." she said, glancing over her shoulder, before biting her lip. "...and it just occurred to me that you could...maybe...I mean, when you do, you always do it cuz you love me, so it's sorta affectionate...maybe...and...I just thought..." She huffed out a tiny little frustrated groan and turned bright red, before hiding her face in the pillow again.
"Are you talking about spanking?" Fury asked, trying to decipher what his daughter meant. He wasn't that surprised... because he knew it had helped to settle his daughter in the past, so he didn't see anything wrong with her wanting something that had comforted her before.
Still bright red, Kara turned her face just enough so that she could be heard without the pillow blocking her voice. "...Yes, sir..." she said hesitantly, still not sure that he wouldn't think it an odd request.
"I don't think it's strange," Fury reassured her. "Would you prefer to stay here? Or move to my bedroom?" He wasn't sure where she'd be more comfortable.
"We can stay here..." Kara smiled impishly, wiggling just enough that her bottom was over his knee. She bit her lip and gave him an almost bashful look. "...Thanks, daddy..."
Fury gave her a reassuring smile and a few more gentle rubs to her back, before he brought his hand down in a light swat... a fraction or so lighter than the 'settling/reminder' spankings he'd given her before.
Kara clutched her pillow tighter and lowered her eyes, not closing them, but allowing herself to just relax and feel. It didn't hurt (she didn't want it to hurt), but it was strong enough that it couldn't be thought of as a 'background' to anything. It was exactly what she wanted, needed, and the fact her father didn't think her odd for requesting a spanking and was willing to give one to her somehow made her feel better about herself. She hadn't even realized she'd been feeling bad about herself. "I love you, daddy..." she finally whispered, shifting a little more so she wasn't 'protected' in any way and focussed on what was happening; and how safe and loved she felt with her father.
"I love you too, Kara." Fury's voice was soft and filled with sincerity as he continued the gentle swats... more love taps than with any force behind them.
Slowly, the antsy feeling disappeared and all the tension eased out of her, until she was laying over her father's lap in a dozy fugue. Letting out a tiny mewling sound, Kara stretched gently. The 'spanking' had finally built up enough that she could feel a stingy, tingly sensation even when there wasn't a smack landing. It felt good, but she had received enough for the moment. "I wanna cuddle now, daddy..." she said softly, but didn't move. She may have asked for it, literally, but her father was still in charge of when a punishment would begin and when it would end...even if it wasn't a punishment.
Fury stopped the spanking and gently tugged his daughter into his arms, hugging her tightly and kissing the top of her head.
Kara just clung to her father as tightly as she could, as if trying to put all her love into that one action. Snuggling as much as possible, she was reluctant to stop, but soon, she couldn't hide how tired she was. Stifling a yawn, she grinned up at Fury. "I'm tired, daddy..." She snuggled a little more then reluctantly stood. Sometimes, she would be so clingy she would want him to carry her; but at that moment, she was feeling safe, secure, loved...and, more importantly, in control of herself. Of course, that didn't mean she wanted to sleep in her own room, but she would at least walk to her father's room.
Fury held Kara until she stood up and then he stood as well, reaching out to wrap an arm around her shoulders. "We'll go to bed now." He steered her towards the stairs, hugging her close against his side.
Kara stayed as close as possible to her father and, once they were upstairs, followed him to his room. Since she was already dressed for bed, all she needed was to brush her teeth and wash her face. It wasn't long before she was crawling into the bed and waiting for her father, not wanting to sleep until he had hold of her again.
Fury had changed for bed before watching the movie, so it didn't take him long to get ready for bed and then he was climbing in next to his daughter, reaching out to wrap his arms around her and draw her in close.
Kara snuggled into her father's arms, putting her head on his chest. "G'night, daddy...I love you so much..." she whispered, before closing her eyes. Soon, she was sound asleep
Sam sat down next to Matt, noticing his son was just finishing off some paperwork for his latest case. "What do you want to do about food?" he asked. "We could order in something... or cook, maybe."
Matt laughed softly. "You want to risk food poisoning with my cooking?" He grinned in his father's direction.
Sam wrapped an arm around Matt's shoulders and squeezed gently. "I meant cook together," he teased.
"That sounds like a great idea..." Matt agreed. "I'm almost finished my paperwork now!"
Sam smiled. "I noticed." He gave his son a side-hug. "Want me to see what we've got while you finish?"
"Yes, please..." Matt nodded, before concentrating on the file in front of him again. It didn't take him long to finish and he was shortly cleaning up his work and going to find Sam in the kitchen.
Sam smiled as his son came into the kitchen. "I thought we could have pasta... are you in the mood for tomato, cheese, or white wine sauce?"
"I think cheese..." Matt answered, moving closer to his father. "What do you want me to do?"
"I thought we'd have chicken and bacon with the pasta, so do you want to put some water on to boil and grate some cheese while I cut up the meat?" Sam suggested.
"Yes sir," Matt answered and quickly moved to do as requested. Soon water was on the stove and he was carefully grating cheese. "Foggy and Karen send their love by the way. Wondered if you'd be coming by the offices sometime in the near future. I think they want to do lunch."
"I'm free any time, if you want to arrange something with them," Sam answered, chopping up the meat and putting it in a pan so that he could cook it.
"Great! I'll let them know..." Matt smiled happily, relaxing as he spent time with his father. "It's been quiet in Hell's Kitchen lately... Makes me wonder if something is being planned somewhere..."
Sam nudged shoulders with his son. "I'm sure there are plans being made... all we can do is make sure we stay on our guard," he said.
Matt grinned. "Always do..." he teased lightly. "Cheese is grated and I can hear the water boiling. What next?"
"Do you want to mix the flour and butter?" Sam asked. "And are there any vegetables you want us to add?"
"Sure thing..." Matt agreed, reaching for one of the pans Sam had already got out. "How much flour and butter?" Matt asked cautiously. He figured he might be able to measure the items, as long as Sam let him know if he had the right measuring cups or spoons. "I like pretty much anything; maybe we could add spinach or some type of green? Garlic and onions are good, if you don't mind those..."
"I'd think maybe a couple of cup fulls of flour and two spoons of butter." Sam dug out the measuring cups and spoons, passing them to his son. "We won't need much with just the two of us. I'll chop some spinach and garlic and onions to go in."
Matt very carefully measured out the flour and butter, going slowly so that he wouldn't make a mess or over-measure. "I'm still surprised you're letting me help with this. Last time Foggy let me cook, I somehow managed to use the tablespoon instead of the teaspoon measurement and over-salted the meal..."
Sam would have bumped shoulders with his son, but he didn't want to cause Matt to spill anything. The warm affection was obvious in his voice as he spoke. "Don't worry. I'm watching to make sure you don't use the wrong measurements," he teased. "And I enjoy doing things with you."
Matt paused, smiling brightly. "I like doing things with you, too..." he said quietly. "I never thought I'd be able to have this again...a family..." He swallowed. "I'm really lucky," he concluded.
"I'm lucky to have you," Sam said sincerely. "I love you."
Matt's smile went crooked and bashful. "I love you too, dad..." he said softly. He'd have hugged Sam if he didn't have his hands covered in flour and butter. Clearing his throat self-consciously, he finally asked, "What next?"
Sam gently nudged Matt, before he checked on the meat. "I think we can get the pasta and the sauce started cooking," he said. "Why don't you add some milk and then we can add in the cheese?" he suggested.
"Just enough till it is the right thickness, or a specific amount?" Matt asked curiously.
"Enough to the right thickness should work," Sam answered, putting the pasta in the pan before chopping the vegetables.
Matt added milk until the mixture was the right consistency, then began to slowly add in the cheese. The smell of the food was making his appetite grow and his stomach rumbled loudly.
Sam smiled as he heard his son's stomach rumble. "It sounds like you're as hungry as I am." It didn't take long for the food to finish cooking and he shared it out onto two plates. "What would you like to drink?"
"Water is good, dad. Thanks..." Matt carefully picked up the two plates and carried them to their table, placing them down gently before going back for cutlery. "Is everyone else doing alright? After everything that went down? I haven't really gotten to talk with anyone since then..."
"Everyone seems fine," Sam answered, pouring them some water each and placing them on the table. "I think they're more or less staying in their apartments for the time being." He didn't say he suspected that those involved were sticking close to their parent... even though he thought that was probably the case.
"Good...it...it was hard. Not being able to do anything to help. I'm so used to taking care of things that realizing I'd only be in the way hurt," Matt admitted quietly.
"You did a lot to help," Sam said. "It was very helpful to have you on the comms when they lost contact... and you were able to get in touch with the rest of us and have us there, as well as people like Doctor Cho on standby. You couldn't physically fight... that doesn't mean you weren't able to do anything."
Matt thought about his father's words for a moment before nodding. "I guess I'm just used to helping out in a more physical way...but I'm glad I was able to do something..." He carefully ate the pasta before remarking, "This is actually good... Foggy will never believe I helped with it..." He chuckled and gave an impish grin.
"Next time, we'll be sure to get video evidence," Sam teased, before adding, "You did a good job. Not just with this, but with how you handled things here. I know it must have been scary, but you did everything right."
"Thanks, dad. It...it took everything in me not to go join you. The only thing stopping me was knowing I could make it worse...that and knowing you wouldn't be happy if I showed up..." Matt's voice was chagrined.
"I'm proud of you for making the right choice," Sam said sincerely.
Matt blushed faintly, surprised at how good his father's praise felt. "I'm happy I made the right choice too..." he admitted softly. "It feels a lot better having you be proud than disappointed and needing to discipline me..."
Sam wrapped his arm around his son's shoulders and kissed his cheek. "When I discipline you, it's to keep you safe... but the times I'm proud of you far outweigh those times."
Matt leaned into his father. "Love you, dad..." He smiled at Sam. "I've caught up with nearly all of my work, so I could take a day off tomorrow; if you can take off too, maybe we can do something..."
Sam smiled and tightened his arm around his son's shoulders. "I can take tomorrow off. Did you have something in mind to do?"
"Maybe we could go boating or something..." Matt suggested quietly.
"Whatever you want to do," Sam promised. "I love you. I enjoy spending time with you. And I really like the idea of spending tomorrow together."
Matt grinned brightly. "I like spending time with you, too...don't do it often enough, really..."
"We'll make sure to change that," Sam said. "How about setting some time aside each week just to spend together, the two of us?"
"We can do that?" Matt tried not to sound too hopeful, although it was clear in his voice he really wanted to do it.
"I want to," Sam said honestly. "I don't see any reason why we can't do that."
"I want to, too!" Matt quickly interjected, his smile growing. "I'd like to do something tonight too, though...maybe cards?"
Sam smiled. "We can do that. As soon as clean-up's finished, I'll grab that deck." Shortly after adopting his son, he'd had a deck of cards specially made that were marked... enabling Matt to join in with card games generally.
Matt didn't say anything, but he continued to grin and was soon quickly cleaning up. As soon as the cleanup was finished, he sat back down at the table so he and his father could start their game. He was looking forward to spending the rest of the evening with his dad.
May had decided that rather than order in or make pasta, she would make home-made Szechuan. She'd called in Skye to help cut vegetables. "When we're done eating, I thought maybe we could go out; maybe catch a play, if you're interested..." She smiled at her daughter as she stirred the chicken.
Skye smiled in return at her mother, placing the cut-up vegetables in a pan. "I'd like that. It'll be nice to have a chance to relax and think about something else." Something other than how harrowing it had been to have HYDRA capture so many of their family members... not to mention what she'd seen of the torture Bakshi had gone through that still played in her mind.
"I'm glad you agree...I already called the theater and there were still tickets available to see their show, so I'll just call them back and purchase two..." She pulled her phone out and did just that. By the time she hung up, the chicken was ready for the vegetables to be added. "I was thinking of maybe inviting your grandmother to come visit...what do you think of that?"
Skye smiled, looking up from where she'd been adding the vegetables to the chicken. "That would be nice," she agreed. While she was a big part of the tower's family... it was good to be able to see her grandmother.
"I'm glad you agree. Your grandmother has been hinting she is just going to drop by, but inviting her will ensure that she comes at a good time," May laughed softly.
Skye nodded. "I think you're right." Especially since right now really wasn't a good time.
May nodded, plating up their food carefully. "If you'd like to get drinks together, I'll carry this to the table..."
Skye nodded and poured them both out a drink each, knowing what sort of drink her mother preferred, and placed the cups on the table along with the cutlery.
It hadn't taken long before they were both at the table eating. May kept the topics of conversation to light chit-chat...things had been so hectic and intense lately that she figured they both needed a break from anything heavier. Soon, they were finished eating and were cleaning up. May glanced at Skye. "As soon as we're done here, we can change into something a little dressier and ask if we can either borrow a car or have Happy drive us..." She smiled. "The show will be in about an hour, so that gives us time to get there and maybe look around a bit before heading into the theater."
Skye nodded. "That sounds good to me," she agreed. Really, just being able to focus on something else for a while was good... but she especially wanted to spend some time with her mother.
May smiled at her daughter. She had to admit, time off where it was just the two of them was welcome- she was really looking forward to it. As soon as they had cleaned up, she headed upstairs and changed into a nice dress, then asked Veronica to arrange for a car for them- and to ask if Happy would be able to drive.
Skye changed quite quickly, dressing in fancier clothes than she normally did, and went to wait by the entrance of their apartment, excited to spend the rest of the evening with her mother.
May smiled as she came down and saw her daughter. Walking over, she took Skye's arm and led her out of the apartment. "Happy is meeting us downstairs..."
Soon, they were on their way to the show.
Mack sat around the table, looking at his family, a sense of contentment overtaking him. If anyone had told him, even a year before, that he'd be living in a family situation with two brothers and a father, none of them from Earth, he would have called them crazy. "I feel truly blessed..." he said softly, a smile growing on his face.
Loki smiled back. "As do I..." he replied, putting his cards face-up on the table. "Full house..."
Thor smiled widely at his brothers. "I am happy to have all of you here," he said sincerely.
"I am as well," Odin agreed, angling his head to see Loki's cards. "And I believe mine wins over yours." He placed his own cards on the table.
Loki blinked, staring at his father's cards, then laughed. "They do at that. Congratulations..." He smiled, pushing the pile of candy they'd been using for 'betting' toward his father. "...And here I thought I had a good hand!" He was smiling, though, so it was obvious he wasn't upset about his 'loss'.
Mack chuckled. "I'm glad I folded when I did. I'm also glad you seem to be happier than you were earlier..." he said in an off-handed manner to Loki. "...You seemed a million miles away in thought; and it didn't appear to be pleasant."
Loki swallowed, nodding hesitantly. "My thoughts were not pleasant. But being with you all has helped."
"Do you wish to speak about what was on your mind?" Odin asked, having been worrying about Loki... but hoping that spending time all together would help to ease whatever was troubling his son.
Loki paused, wanting nothing more than to confide in his father his distress that his mortal family's lifespan was so short and that he would lose them in what felt an entirely too short amount of time...but he didn't want to distress everyone else with such a morbid topic. "I find myself reluctant to disturb the happiness here at this moment and do not wish to think on it anymore myself...perhaps I will speak on it later?" Loki smiled at his father.
Odin nodded. "But if you do find yourself dwelling on it... at any time of day or night... you can come and talk to me." His concern over his son was obvious. He wanted to help Loki feel better... in any way possible.
"Of course, Father..." Loki easily agreed. He doubted the need would arise, so he didn't feel it was difficult to agree. Pausing a moment, he asked, "Whose deal is it."
"I believe it is mine." Thor reached for the cards, while eyeing his brother worriedly.
Loki smiled at his brothers and father to reassure them. "Tonight has been good. We should do this more often..."
"I agree with that..." Mack put in, trying in his own way to ease Thor and Odin's worry, even if he was worried himself.
Thor nodded. "As do I. It has been good to spend this time relaxing and enjoying your company." He began dealing.
"We will continue to do so," Odin said, even as his eye continued to linger on Loki.
Loki smiled, ignoring the way his father and brothers stared at him. He would have to talk eventually...he knew that...but he had been telling the truth when he said he didn't want to think on his dark thoughts for the rest of the night or speak on them. It was easier to pretend that his family was not worried, at least for the moment. Holding his cards close to his chest, he slanted his head then tossed in a miniature candy bar. "I'll bet one Snickers..."
"I'll match that Snickers and raise you one Almond Joy..." Mack smirked as the game progressed.
Bucky had gone back to the medical floor after eating, but this time, he'd dragged Lance with him. He'd made up in his mind that even if the formerly brainwashed HYDRA operative didn't want to be adopted by him, the man would be living with him and Lance as close to family as he was willing to allow. No one should be alone after what he'd gone through. And he'd need someone if he started remembering everything, especially if he remembered any of what had been recorded on those files. Walking into the small room, his son in tow, Bucky smiled at both men. "I thought we'd play some Go Fish...Unless either of you have something else you'd like to do?" His grin was impish.
Bakshi had been shifting around a bit, trying to get into a more comfortable position, but he stopped when Bucky came into the room with Lance. "Go Fish?" His face showed his confusion. Not about the card game... but about why Bucky and Lance were in the room with him.
"Yeah. Playing cards... any games, really... has become something for members of the Tower to do together." Lance stepped over to pick up the small cup of pills next to the bed. "Isn't it time for another dose?" His voice was friendly... but also suggested he had a good idea that Bakshi was neglecting the pain pills wherever possible.
Bucky poured a small cup of water and handed it to Bakshi, nodding at the pills. "I believe it is past time. I'll let the nurse know you're a bit behind schedule, so they don't overdose you accidentally." His voice was firm and it was obvious he fully expected Bakshi to take the medicine...even if he might be sympathetic to the younger man's desire not to.
Bakshi hesitated but nodded, taking the pills and the water and hesitantly swallowing both down.
Lance sat on the chair next to the bed and looked at his father. "Want me to deal?" he suggested.
"Thank you." Bucky smiled at Bakshi. "You'll rest much easier if you're not hurting and you'll heal better if you sleep well." He didn't elaborate any further. Bakshi was missing memories, not his intelligence. He glanced at Lance and nodded. "Yeah...go ahead and deal, son." He smiled brightly at Lance.
Lance began dealing, addressing Bakshi as he did so. "We ordered in some food... it should arrive fairly soon, but we can probably fit in at least one game beforehand." He didn't say that they'd made sure to order food that would be light on Bakshi's stomach... even though they had.
Bakshi looked a little confused, as if he'd expected only to get basic food, but he nodded anyway.
Bucky didn't talk a lot or push Bakshi to talk. He figured the man would eventually feel comfortable enough to ask questions, but until then Bucky would just relax with him and show him through action that he cared and would be there for him. "You got any Kings?" He asked Bakshi with a grin.
Bakshi began to relax a bit more as the game progressed and he was able to think about something other than the pain he was in... both physically and emotionally.
When Veronica informed them that the food had arrived, Lance excused himself to go and collect it, leaving his father with Bakshi.
Watching as the other man left the room, Bakshi finally asked Bucky the question that had been playing on his mind. "Why are you doing this?"
Bucky didn't hesitate in his answer. "I've been where you've been. I was brainwashed and controlled for decades by HYDRA and HYDRA operatives hiding in other agencies. When I finally broke free of their control...the gaps in my memory were so huge that...well, there really wasn't that much at all I remembered. I was in a bad place. And then Steve found me. My best friend and brother in all but blood. It's because of him and the rest of this unconventional family that I pulled through and began to regather myself..." Bucky smiled crookedly. "The moment we found you and realized what had been done, I knew you'd need someone to help you through the transition from puppet back into who you were before; or at least back into a person who has control over themselves. I think I can be that person, if you allow me to be." Bucky chuckled. "I also have to admit something about you got under my skin and I have this urge to protect you, the same way I protect my son."
Bakshi listened without interruption, though his face showed some surprise, and perhaps a bit of confusion, by the end. "How... do you have a son?" he asked hesitantly. The age wasn't right for Lance to be Bucky's biological son, after all.
Bucky's smile was fond as he thought about Lance and he didn't try to hide the fact he loved the younger man. "I adopted him. When a member of the family finds someone that they want to take care of, protect and love...it doesn't take much for them to want to make it legal." He slanted his head. "I'll be upfront with you about the fact that if you feel comfortable with my family and with my playing a part in your life, I'll want to make it legal with you as well. That can wait for you to feel more comfortable and make a decision about it, but I do consider it an option...adopting you."
Bakshi got a totally lost and confused look on his face... as if he was half-expecting to be told this was some kind of joke. "You want to adopt me? But... you don't even know me..." He wasn't sure he even knew himself.
"I care about what happens to you and want to help you...protect you..." Bucky shrugged. "I figure no one really knows their own blood kids until after they are born; they get to know about them as they grow. So I might not know you well, but I know enough about you to feel how similar we are. I know enough to feel a connection between us. I know enough to want to be there for you." Bucky looked at Bakshi closely. "As far as I'm concerned, that's enough to want to adopt you and keep you close to the family."
"Oh," Bakshi said quietly. "I think I... would like that," he admitted, his voice quiet, but no less sincere for that.
"Good..." Bucky smiled gently. "Once you've been cleared to leave medical, we can move you into the apartment. Talk to Matt about drawing up the legal papers. Let you get used to your home."
Bakshi nodded. "Okay," he said softly.
Returning with the food, Lance knocked lightly on the doorframe and then entered the room with a smile. "The food's here," he announced.
"Just in time. I feel like I could eat a Bilgesnipe..." Bucky grinned as he stood up to help Lance potion out the food- making sure Bakshi got a healthy serving. "Try to eat that and if you discover you're still hungry after we have plenty left..." he remarked.
"Still haven't had a chance to see what one of those is actually like," Lance commented, grinning at his father and at Bakshi.
Bakshi picked a bit at his food, but as soon as he took a mouthful, he realised how hungry he was and began eating with appetite.
Bucky waited long enough to see that both his sons were eating- Bakshi was his now...he'd agreed- before beginning to eat also. Things were going to be alright.
Raina wasn't sure what to make of the duo of siblings that sat by her bedside while Coulson was gone. Any person with any history with HYDRA knew who the Widow and the Hawkeye were, even if only by reputation. Any normal HYDRA agent would be nervous around them; considering what she had done, she might have been...but then again, she'd never been 'normal'. "Surely your father has better things to occupy your time than sitting nursemaid guard over me? It isn't like I would be able to sneak out of the building with the electronic nanny watching my every move..." She rolled her eyes up toward the ceiling. There was an undercurrent of uncertainty, though it was well hidden. She still wasn't sure what to make of Coulson taking such a personal interest in her and the fact his whole family had become involved in his interest was a bit unsettling.
Natasha shrugged. "Dad didn't want you to wake up alone. He couldn't be here himself and he's worried about you... so we're here." Judging by the time, she didn't think it would be long before their father came to the medical floor... and probably not much longer before her niece and nephew put in an appearance.
Raina frowned at that. "It must have been very important to drag him away; he hasn't left my side since I arrived here. Is everything alright?" She attempted a flippant tone, but the underlying concern was genuine and obvious.
"There was just a little trouble with our younger siblings." While Natasha didn't plan to go into details, she saw no reason to lie about it.
Raina narrowed her eyes slightly. "Grant and Bobbi?" she guessed, uncertain if she had the family dynamics correct or not. She was curious about what had happened, but wouldn't ask. It was obviously something they didn't want her to know, or they would have given more detail.
"Yeah, Grant and Bobbi..." Clint agreed easily, but also didn't say anything else. If Grant and Bobbi wanted to clue anyone else in, they could do so.
Natasha nodded. "Everyone here in the tower has split up into smaller family groups." She left unsaid that her father wanted Raina to join theirs... even though both she and Clint knew that he did.
By that point, his two youngest had woken up and Coulson had supervised them getting ready before heading to the medical floor. He knocked once on Raina's slightly open door to announce his presence and then walked inside... keeping his two youngest close, as he'd told them he would for the forseeable future.
Raina's eyes quickly darted to the door when Coulson knocked. She took in the appearance of both Grant and Bobbi. It was obvious something had happened; both the agents were standing close to Coulson, as if afraid to lose sight of him. It was also obvious they had been crying at some point, even if they had done a good job of cleaning up. "Everything good?" she asked Couldon, while unabashedly looking at Grant and Bobbi.
Coulson nodded as he guided his two youngest into the room. "Pietro and Wanda are just outside," he said to Clint, though his eyes remained on Raina. "How are you feeling?" he asked her gently.
"I feel...normal. A bit tired, but nothing hurts and I haven't noticed any blood the last hour...and breathing is easier. The virus should have run its course..." she answered factually, seeing no reason to lie. She still felt a bit odd having him care so much about her health, especially when what happened to her was her own doing.
Coulson moved towards the side of the bed, having released Bobbi and Grant... even though he made sure they didn't stray far from him. "Do you feel up to trying to eat something?" he asked.
Raina smirked. "Do I have a choice?" she asked rhetorically; she realized that she needed to eat something...even if it was just crackers.
"You certainly have a choice in what you eat," Coulson replied. His voice was mild... gentle, even... but just as his children always knew when he wasn't going to bend on something, he hoped Raina would understand the same.
Raina couldn't help the soft snort that escaped, but she gave a crooked grin anyway. "In that case...is toast and tea acceptable?" She couldn't help but glance toward Bobbi and Grant again, having noticed the slight wincing anytime either of them had to move for any reason.
Grant forced himself to smile; although it wasn't as forced as he had expected it to be, to his surprise. "I could easily arrange that. Would you like jam or peanut butter for it?"
"Marmalade, if there is any available..." Raina answered, glancing at Coulson again, to make certain her choice was going to pass his approval.
"I'd like you to eat something more substantial later, but for right now, that's fine," Coulson answered. He glanced at Clint and Natasha, knowing that he didn't have to ask one or both of them to go with Grant to get the toast and tea... not because he didn't trust any of his children, but because the grounding had to stay consistent.
"I'll help you..." Clint said to his brother, placing a hand on Grant's shoulder and giving a squeeze. "Our food should be here soon as well, so I can bring it down with me. And I'll send Pietro and Wanda in to introduce themselves..." he added in an aside, as he glanced at Raina to make certain she didn't have any other requests before they left.
"Wanda and Pietro are your grandchildren?" Raina slanted her head, letting her curiosity show.
Realizing that Raina didn't want anything else, Grant turned to head out with his brother to get the toast with marmalade, tea and the rest of the food.
Coulson nodded, stepping over to take the seat next to the bed as Natasha stood to allow him to. She walked over to join Bobbi, standing close enough to her sister that she might as well be touching her. "Wanda and Pietro are Clint's children," he said, angling his chair so that he could see all three women now in the room.
Raina just nodded, noting the way that Natasha moved closer to Bobbi, almost protectively, while the younger woman gave her sister an apologetic look, leaned toward her and winced again. "Are you certain everything is good? You seem to be in pain..." She frowned slightly, her eyes getting worried. "You aren't feeling achy or feverish?" Her question was a bit more fervent. While her original plan for the virus may have been to see if it would spread despite the serum fighting it, she had meant for that to happen in a controlled setting, not somewhere that the virus could be unleashed out into the world. The idea that she might have created something deadly and let it loose without hope of stopping it didn't fill her with elation, but she wasn't expecting the sudden guilt she felt at what she had possibly done.
Bobbi blinked, looking at Raina in surprise, but then noted the worry and guilt deep in the woman's eyes. "No...I haven't caught your virus..." she quickly corrected. "I...daddy had to correct me for a rather bad lapse in judgment. But I'm not sick..." she added weakly; not entirely certain she wanted Raina to know what had been done, but also knowing if her father adopted the woman like it appeared he was going to, she'd find out how the family dealt with things sooner rather than later. Perhaps it would be better for her to find out now. She wasn't sure. Glancing at her father, she gave him a slightly conflicted questioning glance, asking for his help in deciding how to handle the other woman's questions. It was obvious Raina was too observant for Bobbi's own peace of mind.
The smile Coulson directed at Bobbi was reassuring and gentle. He wasn't going to reveal anything she wasn't comfortable with... and he didn't want her forced to reveal something she didn't want to. He reached out to touch Raina's hand, hopefully drawing her attention back to him. "Even though HYDRA has wanted to release your virus, we've managed, so far, to stop them at every turn."
Raina nodded. "I...I'm glad about that..." she admitted, before continuing, with a hint of shame, "At first, I wanted it to get out. Every evolution has led to the death of something else, after all...but...I think I see now...what I was doing wasn't evolution." She sighed and slumped. "Everyone seems to think you want to bring me into your family..." she said, without any segue into the new topic.
"I do." Coulson answered without any hesitation or preamble. "From the moment we brought you here... even before then... I've felt a connection to you that's similar to the same kind of connection I felt with my other children, when I first knew I wanted them in my family."
"If I was yours...if I had been yours before I attempted my 'grand design'..." She wrinkled her nose and let her gaze drop for a second before raising her eyes to meet his again. "...Would you have corrected me for a 'bad lapse in judgment'?" She deliberately used the same words as Bobbi had, trying indirectly to find out exactly what she could expect from the man who was willing to give her a second chance and take a chance on her. She wasn't certain she wanted to know how he corrected his children, especially if he decided to make her one of them and hold her to the same standards, but she figured she should know what she was getting into. At the same time, it was obvious Bobbi didn't feel comfortable sharing what had been done to her and Grant, even if it was fairly obvious it had been painful. Raina didn't want to push or pry into something that wasn't her business.
"I would have done," Coulson replied. "And I will do. But when correction is needed, it is a private affair and remains between the one doing the correcting and the person needing correction. While I will talk to you about exactly what to expect, it's a conversation better had in private."
Raina nodded slowly at the words. It wasn't as if she'd expected them to suddenly tell her what had been done and why...and it would probably be better if he explained things in private anyway. If she disagreed with whatever he said, it likely wouldn't go over very well for her to argue against it in front of his daughters, who obviously accepted his decisions and corrections. She glanced at the door as Grant came in carrying a small tray with the toast, marmalade and tea for her.
Clint came behind, carrying containers of food for the rest of them, while shooing Pietro and Wanda in ahead of him. "Why'd you two stay out in the hall? No one's going to bite!" he teased lightly.
Coulson smiled at the rest of his family as they came into the room. "I'm sure we can get some more chairs in. It might be a bit cosy, but I think we can make it work."
"I'll go and get some chairs." Natasha disappeared from the room.
Wanda and Pietro came in and Pietro shrugged. "Didn't want to take up too much room, Pops."
Raina sat her bed up a bit further then scooted back so that there was room at her feet. "May as well use the bed, too..." she said softly, as Grant put the tray with her food on her lap. "Thanks..." She glanced at the younger man thoughtfully. It was still hard to believe that these people were trying to help her after everything she'd done. She kept expecting the other shoe to drop...kept expecting the 'attached strings' to be made known. But so far, nothing had been said to indicate she was expected to do anything more than accept the help being offered. She wasn't sure she felt comfortable with the situation, but wasn't in a position to argue.
Coulson stood up to help Natasha with the chairs and then settled on the bed, leaving the other chair for one of them to sit on. He looked at Raina as the food was handed out. "What's on your mind?" he asked softly.
"No offense...I'm just waiting to find out what you want from me; you're being so nice. After what I did, I can't believe you've forgiven me, so you must need something from me..." she admitted with a shrug. It was the way the world worked, after all. No sense in trying to pretend otherwise; and the sooner she found out what was expected, the sooner she'd be able to either deliver and get out of here (if they let her go), or the sooner she'd be able to disappoint and get the repercussions of her failure without having to have it hanging over her head indefinitely.
"I want you to recover... and I want you as part of my family," Coulson said simply. "Everyone here has made mistakes. No one has been perfect. And I wouldn't lie to you," he promised.
"That's really all you want?" If Raina sounded skeptical, it was because she had a hard time believing that was all there was to it. "To be in your family? You want to be a parent to me?" She tried to wrap her mind around the idea that a man she'd caused a large amount of difficulty for wanted to be a father to her. She might have been able to understand it if she'd been a child...or even in her teens...when he could teach her and somehow direct her growth into a productive adult. But she already was an adult. She'd pretty much learned everything she was going to learn...hadn't she? Her confusion was obvious on her face.
"You shouldn't be so surprised," Coulson said. "I'm sure you know many of the families formed here have been past the ages that a child would normally be adopted at. I feel drawn to you and I've learned to pay attention to those feelings."
"Knowing and understanding are two different things..." she muttered softly. She didn't say anything else, though. She wasn't entirely sure her confusion didn't stem from the fact that she actually wanted him to make her his daughter. She'd prided herself on being independent and not needing anyone else; evolved people were able to stand on their own, after all...or so she'd always thought. He had put ideas into her head...and those ideas were causing feelings to emerge that she hadn't been aware of having until faced with the question of if she'd join his family. It was scary. It was intriguing. It was...confusing. And she knew she didn't deserve it anyway; not after what she'd done to this family. It was easier to look for reasons not to believe his words at face value and try to find a hidden agenda than to think about the fact that she didn't know how to accept the offer.
Coulson squeezed her shoulder gently. "You don't have to worry about anything right now. Later, we'll talk about it... just the two of us. So you know what's expected. But I'm not hiding anything. I'm not lying to you," he promised.
"Yes, sir..." she finally answered quietly, falling into a deferential mode as a way to shield herself against exposing her uncertainty. Politeness and good manners was a valid way to protect oneself from uncomfortable situations. Honey and flies and all that. Although sometimes it didn't work out the way planned, she'd normally had more positive results when she'd behaved in a non-aggressive or argumentative manner. Swallowing, she took a bite of the toast. "It's good..." She gave Grant a tiny smile as she delicately nibbled at the food. She wasn't eating fast or a lot, but she was eating.
Grant nodded at Raina, giving his own brief smile before he began to help Clint pass out food to the rest of the family.
Natasha had surreptitiously placed cushions on two of the chairs for Grand and Bobbi and once the food had been given out, she settled on the floor against the wall.
Wanda waited for her father to sit down and then moved to take a seat next to him.
Bobbi shot Natasha a grateful smile as she carefully sat down on the chair provided. "Thank you..." she said quietly to Clint, as he handed her a plate.
Grant passed out drinks to everyone, then carefully sat on his own cushioned chair, doing his best not to do anything to draw attention to the fact that it hurt to sit.
Clint drew his own children's attention away from their aunt and uncle long enough for his baby sister and brother to sit down. He pulled three of the chairs close together, sitting in the middle after everyone had their own food and drink. "If you are feeling up to leaving the medical wing...maybe Bruce will be able to catch a flight out to Tokyo to join the rest of his family. We could have him come by after we eat and check over you...see where you are at in healing. If you're able to leave the medical wing, I think there is an extra bedroom on Dad's floor that could become yours." He glanced at his father for confirmation.
Coulson nodded. "You can move into the bedroom as soon as Bruce gives the go-ahead," he told Raina. "After you're settled, we can get anything you need... clothes and toiletries; things to amuse yourself with..."
Raina just stared around at the family members, her eyes going wide and her mouth dropping open slightly. "I...I had thought you'd at least lock me up for a little while for what I'd done!" she blurted.
"I don't think locking you up is necessary," Coulson answered gently. He placed his hand on Raina's, squeezing gently, before settling into eating and drinking, looking around at his children with loving, affectionate glances.
Once they'd all eaten, Coulson addressed the AI. "Veronica? Could you ask Bruce to come here when he's free?" he requested.
"I have let him know and he is on his way now..." the AI responded fairly quickly.
Grant gingerly stood up. "In that case, let me take all the trash and get out of the way so that Bruce can do his check-up..." he said and gave his future sister (he had no doubt his father would convince her) a smile.
Bobbi stood as well and began to help her brother.
Clint wrapped an arm around each of his children and began to lead them from the room. "We'll just head upstairs and make certain everything is ready for a new occupant..." He winked at Raina, before nodding at his father and led Pietro and Wanda out. "Coming, Nat?" he asked, as they walked through the door.
Natasha stood up, collecting her own rubbish to take with her. "I will see you both later," she said to her father and Raina, before following Clint and her niece and nephew out of the room.
Coulson smiled at his two youngest, but didn't stray from Raina's side, wanting to be there for her while Bruce did his check-up.
"We'll go straight upstairs to the apartment. We can have Veronica let you know when we get there, if you'd like?" Grant said softly to his father, knowing that part of their punishment was to have their location either be with their father at all times, or with Nat or Clint.
"Do you want us in our rooms, or can we wait for you in the family room, daddy?" Bobbi added.
Bruce chose that moment to walk in, but didn't comment on either Grant's or Bobbi's questions, instead getting the equipment he would need for the examination ready.
Coulson nodded. "You can both wait in the family room. I'm sure you could do something with the others until I get there. And please do have Veronica inform me as soon as you're both settled," he added.
Grant nodded at his father briskly, quickly carrying the trash out.
Bobbi followed quickly on his heels, after stopping long enough to lean over and kiss her father on the cheek. Five minutes after they'd left, just as Bruce had got the scanner into position and turned on, Veronica announced, "Your son and daughter are in your family room...it appears they are planning to take naps, as they are both lying on their stomachs on the couches."
Bruce barely managed to keep his snort to himself, especially when he saw Raina's wide-eyed look.
"Are you certain they are not ill? I had thought they'd taken a nap before coming down to eat..." she remarked to Coulson, as Bruce began running the scanner over her.
"It's been a long day for them," Coulson replied, his voice mild, as he shifted out of the way long enough for Bruce to run the scanner over Raina... but still stayed as close to her as he possibly could, even if he did try not to crowd her.
Bruce was thorough if quick. Between the scans he ran, the questions he asked and looking at her physically, he was shortly able to turn to his uncle and say, without any reservation, "The virus has worked its way out of her system. I still recommend that she not do anything physically strenuous and she needs to be certain to eat healthy meals... but I see no reason she can't leave this room and go where it is comfortable." He smiled at Coulson, then glanced at Raina. "No more doing experiments on yourself," he ordered sternly. "It's nothing but bad news..." he added under his breath. Putting his equipment away, he decided to go check on Bakshi, since he was on the floor anyway.
Raina glanced at Coulson, suddenly feeling nervous. "What now?" she finally asked, in a very quiet voice.
Coulson stood up and offered his hand to Raina to help her up. "We'll go to our apartment and I'll show you your room," he said. "And then we'll talk about what we need to."
Raina took Coulson's hand and gracefully got out of the hospital bed, then grimaced, as she was wearing pajamas that were a couple of sizes too large for her. "Is it too much to hope that my dress survived my illness unscathed?" she asked wryly, a hint of amusement in her tone. She'd need to go shopping soon, unless they'd located her apartment where all her clothing and belongings were kept. She didn't say anything more, wrapping her arm around Coulson's arm and holding on as if he was escorting her to a fancy event instead of to what he wanted to become her new home.
"I'm afraid not," Coulson replied, leading her carefully from the hospital room and towards the elevator. "But if you have belongings kept somewhere, we can retrieve those. Or take you shopping in the next couple of days." He stepped into the elevator with Raina and set it to go to his apartment.
Raina thought about it for a moment. She could tell them where her apartment was- of course that would pretty much eliminate it as a place she could escape to when she decided to make a break for it. Then again- she wasn't certain she wanted to make a break for it. As unbelievable as she felt she should find Coulson's claims to want to bring her into his family...she still believed him. Swallowing, she decided to take a chance. "I have things in an apartment...it was approximately thirty minutes drive south from the facility you caught me at..." She swallowed harder. "I...had notes and computer files on all the experiments I'd done for HYDRA- plus a few that they were doing that they didn't know I had found out about..." She kept her eyes forward on the elevator door. When the elevator stopped and the doors opened, she stood still, waiting for Coulson's next move.
Coulson nodded. "I'll either go with you, or one of the others will, to collect your belongings." He guided Raina off the elevator, taking the stairs to the floor with the spare bedroom. "Any information you have that you can give us would be helpful," he commented, leading her inside.
"No need to wait then," she looked around for some paper and a pencil to write down the address. "If any of your team are able to go, you can send them to pick up whatever is of value to you. The only thing of value to me- beyond the research which you'll want- are my clothes." Handing him the paper with the address written on it, she glanced around what would be her room. "I'm to stay here?"
Coulson nodded. "If you'd like to decorate the room, or add anything to it... that's fine." He picked up a pad of paper and a pencil that he then gave to Raina. "Someone will pick up your research and clothes," he promised.
Raina nodded, quickly writing the information down and giving it back to him. "Unfortunately, I lost my key at the facility, but that shouldn't prove a problem." She glanced around the room again. "I suppose I'll have to think about it...I never stayed in one place long enough to worry about decorating before..." She hesitantly sat down on the bed, then looked up at him. "You want me to be in you family..." It wasn't really a question, but it was obvious she was looking for answers.
Coulson moved over and sat down on the bed next to Raina. "I'd like to adopt you as my daughter," he stated simply. "Being by your side while you were recovering from the virus... it made me see that I care about you, even though we have been on opposing sides until now."
"I don't understand how you can care about me, since we have been on opposing sides until now..." Raina admitted. "And I don't understand why you would want to adopt me. Even if you do forgive my actions and behaviors of the past, that doesn't necessarily translate into making me your child..." She wasn't trying to be difficult, but she truly didn't understand him wanting her as family. Wouldn't just having her work for him be enough?
"It wouldn't be the first time," Coulson said wryly. "Grant was a double agent for HYDRA, after all. But it's like I said to you... I feel drawn to you. I feel the same as I did with my other children." He looked into her eyes. "How do you feel?" he asked gently.
"Like...like I should accept your offer and join your family..." she finally admitted softly. "...I've never felt like that before. I've always been independent and rely on no one. That my feelings have so unexpectedly made me want to rely on you...it makes me nervous." Truthfully, it frightened her, the fact that she had so quickly wanted what he was offering; but she didn't want to say she was frightened. It was hard enough to admit being nervous.
Coulson wrapped his arm around Raina's shoulders... but gently, not wanting to spook her more. "Being nervous is normal. So is being scared. But being a part of a family doesn't make you weak. It gives you a support system... people to take care of you; to have your back... even if there are certain expectations."
Raina gave Coulson a wry smile. "I knew there had to be a catch...What expectations would there be?" she asked, fully expecting to be given a list of demands or activities that she would be required to fulfill for SHIELD or the Avengers. "Are there experiments SHIELD would like me to run? People I'm meant to set up? What am I required to do?"
"Nothing like that." Coulson gave her a gentle squeeze. "I'm talking about the expectations of being a part of my family."
Raina blinked, glancing up into his face. She could tell he was being honest. "What are the expectations?" she finally asked in a whisper, hoping that she'd be able to meet them, but not sure if she could.
"Not doing something dangerous is probably the main one," Coulson said. "No one in the tower is expected or even allowed to take off on missions on their own. There are plenty of people who can act as backup. The same is true for any kind of dangerous experiments... though for the time being, any experiment you would like to conduct is to be run by both myself and Bruce and will not be undertaken without supervision." While his voice wasn't cruel, it was firm.
Raina didn't respond to the remarks of doing something dangerous, or going on solo missions. She'd never been one to go on missions without having someone there, except for one time; and there hadn't been anyone there to take that one time. The mention of not doing experiments without permission, though? She looked decidedly unhappy about that. "Sometimes I get ideas that need acting on immediately! Surely you can't expect me to wait until you, Bruce, or one of the others are available? It might be too late!" she protested...although it sounded more like a token protest to find out how serious he was than an actual disagreement to her own ears. She hoped he'd take it as an actual disagreement, or the argument was over before it started.
"If you feel something is urgent enough and can't wait, then you have permission to request that Veronica interrupt what we're doing to inform us," Coulson said. "But for the time being, there will be no solo experiments."
"And if I don't?" This time, she sounded like a petulant teenager daring the adult to actually step in and set boundaries. She couldn't help but wince at her own tone and wondered when exactly she had regressed from competent, independent adult woman who answered to no one to a woman who was actively pushing for someone else to answer to.
"In this family environment, endangering yourself or breaking the rules will get you punished," Coulson answered calmly. "More specifically, spanking is normally used... although grounding does come into it at times as well."
If Raina could have seen the way her eyes widened and her mouth dropped open in astonishment, she might have laughed...or been embarrassed, as she prided herself on remaining calm and poised in nearly every situation. She didn't see herself, though and she was too busy being astonished at Coulson's words to even worry about it. "Sp...Spanking?" she stuttered out in disbelief. Suddenly, Bobbi and Grant's winces and hesitant movement made sense and she choked on the sudden breath she took. "That's why...they really weren't sick...you spanked them!" she accused, her eyes flashing; and she couldn't help but wrap her arms around herself and pull back slightly, giving him a worried look. She'd done far worse than either Bobbi and Grant, she was certain. What if he planned to spank her now?
Coulson gave her a reassuring smile and placed a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently. "It sounds worse than it is. Here, spanking is used as a family punishment, in place of more official or severe punishments. Once the punishment is over with, whatever's been done isn't brought up again and the punishments remain private. And it's never just sprung upon someone," he added. "There's always discussion first." Though, of course, sometimes that discussion was very short... particularly for a repeated offence.
Raina only relaxed slightly at that information. Just what was she getting herself into that disobeying a rule got you punished in such a manner? Did she really want to put herself into such a position? Just because she'd had the impulse to 'join the family', as soon as she was asked, didn't necessarily mean it was a good idea, after all. Swallowing, she looked toward the floor, thinking. She didn't normally have such impulses...when she did, it was usually a good idea to go along with them, even when they didn't make any sense.
Could she put herself in such a position, though? She was an adult! She was fully capable of making her own decisions on when and what to research! She was fully capable of doing things without permission. She was certainly capable of making said decisions without needing to worry about being punished for breaking some rule that was set for her by the man who said he wanted to be her father. She had no doubt, after seeing how Bobbi and Grant moved, that he would follow up if she dared to disobey the simple rules he'd given.
Then again, the rules were simple. And there really wasn't anything that she did while researching that she considered dangerous. The requirement that she let Bruce or Coulson know what she was planning to do while experimenting and having supervision had sounded as if it wasn't a permanent thing; just until he was able to trust her not to experiment on herself again, she suspected. So it wasn't really unexpected or difficult. He didn't say she couldn't experiment at all, after all.
Sighing, she hugged herself more tightly, unable to make the decision that would let her take that final step over the line of solitude into being part of something bigger. "I don't know if I can do those expectations..." she admitted quietly.
Coulson wrapped his arms around Raina, so that he could hug her and hold her close. "I know the thought of that is scary," he said quietly. "But even if something goes wrong... it won't be the end of the world. I don't expect perfection. But I'd like you as part of my family. You aren't a bad person... You don't deserve to be locked up. And if you make the decision to be a part of my family, you won't ever have to be alone again."
Raina found herself leaning into Coulson, despite her misgivings. Something about him exuded comfort, protection and security...and she'd been without any of those for such a long time, the desire to have them was strong. "Ok..." she whispered finally, letting herself glance up into his eyes. "I accept you as my father and...and your rules..." she added more firmly, if still softly spoken.
Coulson smiled and tightened his embrace around her. "As soon as you feel up to it, we can get the paperwork drawn up and signed," he said gently, threading his fingers through her hair.
"Ok..." She leaned her head on his shoulder, letting her eyes roam around the room. "Do you think Natasha and Bobbi would like to go shopping for decorations? I really don't have anything of that nature back at the apartment I kept. It never seemed all that important, because I was always moving around..."
"I'm sure they'll be open to it," Coulson replied, still with his arm wrapped around Raina and still gently stroking her hair. He didn't say that Bobbi would have to make sure to stay within eyeshot of Natasha. His daughters wouldn't need reminding.
"What else do I need to do? Other than accept your rules...I mean...there wasn't a really long list of rules and they were fairly easy, even if I'm not sure I'll be able to follow the one about experiments... is that really all you expect? And don't you want to wait a while before making it permanent? Just in case you change your mind?" She sat up and looked at him hesitantly. Now that she'd made the choice to accept his offer, she kind of wanted to get things legal as soon as possible. She didn't know how to say that, though and wasn't sure it was a good idea to rush, no matter how much she might want to.
"I don't need to wait," Coulson said honestly. "I know I'm not going to change my mind. I want you as my daughter. Eating and sleeping healthily are two of the other main things... but those are also things I can remind you of."
"So...the only thing you expect is for me to...to take care of myself? And you'll help? You really don't expect anything more?" Raina blinked. "I want to do it as soon as possible!" she blurted. She'd already made the decision. No sense in putting it off for no reason. And she found herself wanting to be somewhere where they didn't expect anything from you in order to care about you. That would be a new experience.
Coulson smiled. "I'll arrange a meeting with Tony's lawyers tomorrow and we can get the paperwork drawn up and signed. For tonight, would you like to come to the family room and spend a bit of time with the others?"
Raina nodded quickly, a smile blooming on her face. "I'd like that..." she said softly, standing up and letting Coulson lead her back out to the family room.