Disclaimer: We don't own anything that belongs to MARVEL and we're not making any money from this fic
Summary: 43rd in the Redeeming Grant series. Someone is keeping secrets. Two people are hurting.
Authors: Hope1iz and BlackFox12
Warning(s): Spanking; spoilers for Agents of SHIELD; Avengers movies to date; DareDevil; and Spider-man; some violence; threatening behaviour.
Matt Murdock leaned back in his lounge chair and pulled the blanket he had covering his legs up a little further. It had been an interesting evening. He'd gone out to Hell's Kitchen again that night, as he had been for the last several months, and stopped a few muggings and gathered a bit more information on what was going down in the city. Tonight, he had gone out with Bobbi and Kara; Mockingbird wanting a bit of a chance to get out and 'stretch her wings' and "Masque' wanting to practice her ability to change her appearance. It had been nice having his two female cousins joining him. In fact, the last several months had been nice.
When Uncle Steve and the rest of his family had returned from Tokyo, everyone had almost expected that everything would go back to its usual tumultuous existence, with little time in between crises. But that hadn't happened. In fact, things had been rather calm the last several months for the tower residents. Hell's Kitchen, perhaps not so calm, but that's why Matt had been going out and trying to take care of problems as he found them. The fact that he did so with his father and uncles' knowledge and permission, and had help every time he went, made it all the more easy. Usually.
Tonight, Bobbi, Kara and he had stopped a kidnapping. Unfortunately, in the process, Matt had been thrown into the harbor. Since it was the middle of winter and the water was icy cold, as soon as the kidnapping victim was safe and the perpetrators subdued enough that the police could easily take them into custody, his cousins hurried him home and into his father's blanket holding, waiting arms. One supervised hot shower later and he was now wearing the warmest pair of pajamas Sam could find, sitting under a thick woolen blanket and sipping hot cocoa. It would have made him uncomfortable, if it didn't make him feel so loved and appreciated. Taking another sip of cocoa, he listened to the news, glancing at his father.
Sam had spent most of the mission worrying over his son, even knowing that Matt was as safe as possible. Now that they were settled in, he had his arm wrapped around his son's shoulders, idly rubbing his shoulder. "I know you're unlikely to actually get physically sick, but I'd like you to tell me if you do start feeling off in anyway." His voice was mild, even though his tone was utterly serious.
Matt gave a crooked little grin to his father. "You can't be comfortable sitting on the arm of the chair like that, dad...why don't we move to the couch? You can check me over however many times you need..." He chuckled softly. It wasn't like Sam hadn't already checked him over thoroughly as he got him out of his icy wet clothing and into the shower. If it hadn't been for the fact he knew the man was genuinely concerned about him being wounded or getting sick, he might have been a bit more offended at the assumption that he couldn't undress himself. "...Besides...you're generating heat like a furnace and it actually feels good," he admitted sheepishly. The blanket he had was helping a little, but he was still cold, even after the hottest shower he could stand and heavy pajamas. He began untangling the blanket from around his legs and put the recliner back into upright position, waiting for Sam to move to the couch so he could sit next to him... or waiting for Sam to lead him to the couch, since his father seemed reluctant to let go of him any time soon...
"I don't mind the discomfort." But Sam stood anyway, his arm settling back around Matt's shoulders to give his son a gentle squeeze before guiding him over to the couch. He didn't settle until he'd made sure Matt was settled comfortably once more and then he wrapped his arms around Matt, hugging him tightly to himself. "I'm just relieved you didn't go through anything worse..."
"Well...yeah. I guess things can always be worse. But that's why I had Bobbi and Kara with me... and Veronica was on comms with us as well, so she could call in more backup if needed... Never thought I'd say this, but you were right about not going in solo." Matt gave his father a chagrined look. "At least this time, it ended up being a very good thing I wasn't, since Bobbi was able to pull me out of the drink as soon as she saw me. As cold I as was and the fact it was dark, I was having difficulty finding my direction..." It was hard to admit the fact that he'd not been able to focus enough to use his abilities. That didn't often happen to him, so the fact it had was upsetting to him. He snuggled closer to his father, pulling the blanket up over them both, using his father's body heat to try and warm up. "Still cold..." He sighed.
Sam cuddled Matt in tighter, trying to use his body heat to warm his son. "I can ask Veronica to turn up the heat some more," he suggested, willing to go with the discomfort if it would help his son.
"I don't want you to get too hot...that's just as bad as being too cold...and I'm not as bad as I was...just chilled..." Matt protested slightly.
"You fell into ice-cold water," Sam pointed out. "I can deal with the heat if it helps you to feel better. You are my priority." It didn't matter how many times Sam said it... it was still true.
"Yeah..." Matt blushed. "...Ok. I...it's hard to get used to that, really. I mean I had people care before, but I've not been anyone's priority in...well, since I was a kid and my father died..." Matt put his head on Sam's shoulder. "I guess...if you think I need it, I won't argue with you..." It was as close as Matt felt comfortable with admitting he was ready and willing to let Sam take care of him.
Sam pressed a kiss to Matt's head and spoke softly. "Veronica? Can you turn up the heat, please?" He didn't let go of his son with the AI's acknowledgement, just hugged Matt tighter to himself. No matter the reasons, being close with his son like this felt good.
Matt sighed softly, relaxing against his father and smiling bashfully again. "This is going to sound weird...but this is one of those times I kinda wish I was a kid again...just so I could, you know...see what it'd be like to really 'be your kid'."
"I don't think it sounds weird." Sam stroked Matt's hair. "You'll always be my kid, though. No matter what age you are. Nothing will change how I feel about you."
Matt hummed in agreement. "Love you, dad..."
"I love you, son." Sam's voice was soft, but carried no less sincerity for it, his tone warm and filled with affection.
"Can I stay with you tonight?" Matt asked. Even though he already knew the answer would be yes, he still didn't like to assume.
"Of course." Sam's answer was given immediately, without any hint of hesitation. He felt the need to keep his son close anyway... but he would never turn Matt away.
Matt snuggled closer, relaxing in his father's arms and listening to the news. Just then, something caught his attention. "Veronica, please turn up the sound?" he asked quickly, a frown on his face. He listened closely as the announcer started talking about Wilson Fisk's lawyer and friend being found shot to death in an abandoned warehouse. "How did they get to him...?" he said softly, his voice confused.
Sam hadn't really been paying attention to the television, so it wasn't until Matt asked Veronica to turn up the volume that he registered what his son had heard. "Do you think it might have been a gang hit?" he asked, worried.
"I don't know. But Fisk is bound to be angrier than a hornet and ten times as dangerous... We probably need to keep an eye on things to make certain a war doesn't break out in Hell's Kitchen..." he muttered, his own voice worried.
Sam nodded. "Maybe we could ask Tony and Skye about setting up extra surveillance cameras," he suggested. "And there are enough of us that we can set up watches in the hot spots."
"Yeah. That'd be good. Thanks, dad..." Matt smiled. He may live in the tower now, but Hell's Kitchen was his home turf...he truly cared about the people there. The thought that there might be a war brewing was very worrisome.
"It's probably a bit too late tonight... but we can talk to the others tomorrow," Sam said. "I know how important this is to you." Though he knew all of them cared about what happened in Hell's Kitchen, Sam was aware of how personal it was for his son.
Matt nodded. Part of him wanted to get a group together immediately...but it was late and it wasn't like anything would change in a few hours time. He had a tiny debate over going alone, himself, but sitting next to his father, having just discussed how much better it had been to have backup, it was a very fleeting thought. The desire to sneak out and go solo fled when Sam hugged him tight. At least for that moment.
"Tuck me in?" he teased his father, the earlier admittance of wishing he was a kid sometimes affecting his mood.
Smiling and chuckling softly, Sam kissed Matt's forehead. "Now?" Although he was responding in kind, he was still checking to see if his son needed to rest now... or wanted to stay up a few minutes longer.
Matt paused, thinking about it then nodded. "Yeah...I'm feeling a bit weary...probably a side effect of my dunking. If you aren't ready to sleep yet, I can just nap here next to you..." Matt couldn't help but blush. "I just thought if I fell asleep, you'll have to wake me up to get to the bed and I know you. You wouldn't want to wake me up. Didn't want you stuck carrying me to bed..." His voice was shy.
Sam hugged him close. "I never mind carrying you to bed," he replied. "But I'm fine with sleeping now." He switched the television off. "As soon as we get up in the morning, we can arrange the meeting." He stood, helping Matt to his feet.
"I know you don't mind..." Matt admitted. "I kinda like knowing you will if I need you to...just...kinda feel like I shouldn't expect it is all." Matt smiled hesitantly. He'd already admitted to so much in regards to what he wanted or needed from Sam that made him feel childish.
He didn't understand it really. Anyone else and it was like pulling teeth to get him to give up even a little bit of the control he kept over his own life. Since the first time Sam had spanked him and made it clear he wouldn't put up with Matt's stubborn insistence on self-reliance, Matt had found himself fighting the urge to go in the opposite direction and let Sam be in control over everything- like most parents were for their young children. Since Matt was far from a young child, it was troublesome to him.
Sam kissed his cheek. "I love you. You never have to worry about anything when I'm here," he promised. "Even if something does make you feel like a child... it doesn't matter to me." He squeezed his son tightly and then headed through to the bedroom with him.
"I know..." Matt's smile was grateful. He followed Sam quietly. Since he'd pretty much done everything needed to get ready for bed when he'd gotten home, it didn't take him long to finish up and soon he was crawling up into the bed, waiting for Sam to come join him. "I hope I don't get sick..." he sighed softly, knowing that if he did, his activities would be curtailed until Bruce...but more importantly his father...deemed him well enough to start them up again.
"If you do, we can deal with it," Sam promised, climbing into bed with his son and wrapping his arms around Matt, drawing him in close. "I love you," he reiterated, stroking Matt's hair and back gently and soothingly.
"I love you too, dad..." Matt whispered, before snuggling as close as he was able and putting his head on Sam's chest. In no time at all, he was asleep; he was always able to sleep quickly when with his father, the knowledge that Sam had his back and would protect him from anything enabling him to let go of the constant vigilance he normally held onto.
Sam kissed Matt's head, cuddling his son close and tight to himself. He closed his own eyes, but didn't fall asleep straight away. Just being with his son was more than enough.
The next morning, Matt woke up feeling refreshed and healthy, with little to no after effects of his chilly dunking. Most of that had to do with his father. With Sam beside him, he didn't wake up through the night once, able to get the rest he needed for his body to repair itself and fight off any infection that might have snuck through otherwise. Not that he didn't still look to his father for permission before getting ready to leave the apartment for the day.
"I told Foggy and Karen I'd be in the office today, if that's alright?" he asked hesitantly, blushing when he realized that he was acting like a teenager still under dad's 'rule' than the responsible adult he was. He still waited for Sam's answer, recognizing that there might be a reason for his behavior he hadn't keyed in on consciously. Besides...it never hurt to let family know your plans.
"How are you feeling?" Sam watched his son with concern, checking in case he could see any signs that Matt might be coming down sick. He'd cooked breakfast for them and had noticed that his son's appetite was healthy... but still, he couldn't help worrying.
"I'm feeling great..." Matt admitted with a smile. "Last night helped a lot." This was admitted more shyly.
"Good... but if you do start feeling sick, or anything else is wrong, I want you to call me," Sam said. "Don't worry about interrupting me... I'll always want you to call me."
"I will, daddy..." Matt blinked as the childish term of address slipped out without his thinking of it. He blushed again. "Sorry..." His voice was uncertain. It didn't matter how many times Sam said it was okay, he still thought sometimes he was coming across as very childish.
"Don't apologise." Sam leaned forward and kissed Matt's forehead. "I love you." His voice was soft... gentle... reassuring.
Matt wrapped his arms around his father tightly. "I love you too..." he responded sincerely.
Sam hugged him tight. "I could bring some lunch for all of you later," he suggested.
"That would be great! Foggy and Karen were asking about you the other day!" Matt grinned.
Sam smiled in return. "I'd like that... Is there anything in particular you'd like me to bring?" he asked.
"Burgers is good..." Matt smiled. "So I'll see you at noon?" He asked happily.
"Definitely," Sam promised. "But make sure you call me if you do need anything beforehand." He wanted to be sure Matt knew he was there for him.
"If I need you, I will definitely call," Matt promised. Giving his father one last hug and a kiss on the cheek, he headed out the door. "I'll see you at lunch, then... Veronica, could you please see if Happy is available to drive me to my office? If not, could you call me a cab?" he asked the AI, as he headed toward the elevator.
"Of course, Mr. Murdock," Veronica answered.
Soon, Matt was gone, heading in to work.
The officer hooked up to the life support machines had no idea what was going on around him... or anything other than his own tormented dreams. If he'd been awake, the sense of failure would have been nearly crippling... the knowledge that him being taken out of action would cause someone depending on him to suffer.
But Blake had no idea of the danger he himself was in, wounded and helpless... unconscious and hooked up to life support.
A little while before noon, Sam left the tower, swinging by one of the fast food restaurants to pick up burgers and fries for him and the others. He drove to Matt and Foggy's offices and parked, getting out and retrieving the food before he locked up and then strode inside, in search of his son and his other two friends.
Matt appeared to be reading his files, but truth be told, he'd been on the same page for the better part of twenty minutes. He was too busy listening to Karen; the woman seemed very on edge and nervous. That was the fifth time since they'd arrived that morning that she'd dropped her pencil or pen... and the jittery way she was moving was too intense to be attributed to the coffee, even if she was on her fourth cup. He also was listening to the news in the background; the press was all over the murder of Fisk's lawyer, but mentions of a police officer who was in a coma in the hospital had also been made. Matt wasn't a big believer in coincidences and had a feeling that police officer was connected in some way to what was going on with Fisk. He just didn't know how. It might be a discussion with the policeman's partner was in order. Before he could pick up the phone to set up an appointment...or fake his way into finding out where the other man was, so that he could show up as 'the Devil'... Sam was knocking on the office door. And Karen was dropping her pen for the sixth time.
"Oh! Sam! I'd forgotten Matt said you were coming with lunch!" Karen's smile was entirely too bright and her voice too chipper.
Matt frowned briefly, but quickly covered his worry for his friend with a smile. "I lost track of time as well. It smells good, though!" He carefully stood and walked over to his father to help with the bags.
Sam raised his eyebrows, noticing that something seemed to be up with Karen. He allowed his son to help him with the bags, nudging shoulders affectionately with Matt, but turned a worried gaze on Karen. "Is everything all right?" He kept his tone calm, not wanting to spook the woman any more than she clearly was already.
"What?" Karen blinked owlishly and looked very furtive and guilty, before laughing nervously. "No. I mean. Yes. Everything is fine. I just...it's all such bad news all the time, you know?" She grasped at a reason why she'd be acting weird. "The food does smell wonderful. I haven't eaten since lunch yesterday! Thanks so much for bringing this!" She quickly changed the subject, not noticing how Matt's face turned from concerned to downright worried at her admittance.
Sam began setting the food out, but was instantly alert at Karen's words. "Why haven't you eaten since yesterday at lunch time?" His voice was concerned, but also serious; he expected an answer.
Karen blinked at Sam's tone, not expecting to be questioned about her eating habits. "Oh...no good reason. I lost track of time and by the time I realized I hadn't eaten, it was very late and I didn't want to go to sleep after eating. Then this morning, I woke up late and rushed out of my apartment thinking I'd grab a bagel or something, only it never happened..." she hedged, not wanting to admit her nerves had killed her appetite.
Sam didn't believe Karen. She was acting too nervous for it to be as simple as that. He figured something had happened, but he wasn't sure how to find out what. He took a gentle hold of Karen's arm and let her over to take a seat by the food, intending to make sure she ate along with Matt. "We'll talk after you've eaten," he said.
Karen blinked at the protective way Sam was acting, but figured it was just a result of him being a nice guy and didn't give it much thought beyond that. "Thanks again, Sam..." she said, taking her food from him. She waited long enough for Foggy, Matt and Sam to get their food before starting to eat herself.
Sam ate, keeping a careful eye on the others (Foggy included, even though the other man didn't need a parental figure) to make sure they ate well. He was worried about the way Karen was acting, but didn't want to press her until he was sure she'd eaten enough.
By the time they were finished, Karen had eaten not only her own meal, but Matt had slipped her his french fries...he'd eaten a good breakfast, after all and didn't figure he needed them as much as she might. She was so hungry, she didn't argue with him, just reaching over and squeezing his arm in thanks. Her mouth was full, so she didn't want to talk.
Foggy kept up a running commentary on what was going on in the neighborhood, so that Matt wouldn't feel too disconnected. He figured if he let his friend know there were good things going on as well, he wouldn't worry about all the bad quite as much and might not go out and do something foolish. That was his idea, anyway.
Matt listened to his friends talk, asking questions where appropriate and actually held up his end of the conversation. He was still thinking about the murder and the comatose policeman, though. He needed to check that out…maybe on his way home from the office.
Sam joined in the conversation, but he still made sure they ate. He knew Matt had eaten enough breakfast, so didn't say anything when his son sneaked his fries onto Karen's plate.
By the time they'd finished eating, Sam was even more concerned. He watched Karen carefully, wonderiing if she'd slept enough... or if he should not-so-subtly suggest she take the rest of the day off.
It was then that news about the murder came on again. "Police have still been unable to determine who shot and killed lawyer, John Wesley, as there was very little evidence left behind to go over. However, a small clue has led them to ask the public to come to them if they saw a woman leaving the warehouse district between the hours of one and two a.m on the morning o..."
Matt's attention was broken as he heard a large crash and a choked, near tearful curse word exclaimed by Karen. Foggy was already moving to help her clean up the mess made when she dropped the nearly full coffee-pot...the smell of hot coffee permeating the office.
"Did any land on you?" Foggy was asking his girlfriend worriedly, the coffee hot enough to burn, even if it wouldn't scald.
Matt listened closely as his friend's heartbeat skyrocketed at the concerned question.
"No...no, it didn't land on me...I'm okay. Just can't seem to stop being a klutz..." Karen smiled and tried to act sheepish, but Matt could hear the strain in her voice and knew she was lying or hiding something. He just didn't know what.
"Hey...why don't we pack up our work that we need to do today and go back to the tower to finish it? You can let Bruce check you over and make sure you weren't hit by burning hot liquid. Burns can get infected, after all..." he suggested, wondering if maybe a change of scenery would help her nerves. At the least, she'd have several super spies able to watch her and maybe get some clue as to what was going on. She had Matt very worried.
Sam nodded. "I think that would be best," he agreed. "I brought a car here... there's plenty of space to take the three of you and the work you need to do." His own voice was filled with concern and worry. Whatever was bothering Karen... it looked like it had something to do with the news report.
"Sounds good to me," Foggy agreed, not giving Karen a choice. She'd been acting sufficiently odd for him to worry and if being out of Hell's Kitchen and surrounded by Earth's mightiest might help her, he was all for it.
Karen reluctantly nodded. "I suppose...I need a change of clothes, though," she admitted, pointing to where hot coffee had drenched the stomach of her shirt. She'd obviously lied when claiming it hadn't hit her.
Foggy frowned unhappily as he realized she'd hidden what could possibly be at least a second degree burn. "Karen!" he scolded, even as he carefully began to pull her blouse off, despite her protests. "We need to get ice on this until Bruce can take care of it," he declared.
Matt was already wetting a clean towel with frigid cold water to cover the burn.
Sam looked at Karen, his worry obvious. "I'll call ahead to the tower and let Bruce know to expect us... then, once you're at the tower, I'll pick you up a change of clothes." He took his phone out while he was speaking, dialing Bruce's number and putting the phone to his ear as he spoke the last word.
Karen was unable, even if she'd truly wanted, to override the concerns of all three men, so she went along with their concern and fussing. Soon, they were bundled into Sam's car and on their way to the tower.
Even though he was careful to keep to the speed limit, Sam reached the tower in record time. He parked in the garage and then got out, moving to help Karen out and into the elevator, trusting Matt and Foggy would join him.
By the time they got up to the medical floor, Karen was glad they'd insisted she come and get treatment; the burn hurt badly, despite the cold wet cloths she pressed against it,
Bruce immediately took over, asking questions about what had happened, how long ago it had happened and making sure she was taken care of. She couldn't help but notice Foggy and Matt pacing just outside the room where Bruce was treating her. She also couldn't help but notice Sam had stayed in the room with her. She bit her lip and gave an embarrassed smile. "Matt told me you'd adopted him...that you make sure he stays healthy and takes care of himself...that all the family takes care of each other..." she said hesitantly. "...Thanks for helping me. Even though I'm not family..."
"You are so!" Matt protested, coming to the door. "You're my sister. Even if it isn't legal, it's how I see you. You and Foggy are family."
Sam smiled reassuringly and placed a hand on Karen's shoulder, careful to avoid the burn, and squeezed gently. "I might have only officially adopted Matt... that doesn't mean I don't care about either you or Foggy." Pausing, he added, "Or that I don't want you to tell me what's bothering you."
Karen blinked at that. "So lying about being burned wasn't my best idea..." She changed the subject to something obvious, so that he wouldn't press about what was truly bothering her.
"If I lied about being hurt, my butt would soon be sore..." Matt muttered.
Foggy snorted as he saw Karen's confused look, but didn't elaborate on Matt's comment.
Karen glanced at Sam, a questioning look on her face.
Sam glanced at Matt, a little surprised that his son had raised the family punishment... even though everyone in the room, apart from Karen, was aware of it. "Generally speaking, lying to members of the family is a bad idea." He didn't go into details, not wanting to share anything his son was uncomfortable with... though he did consider talking to Karen in private, especially knowing that, like Matt, he considered her a part of his family.
Matt blushed faintly. He hadn't meant to speak that loudly; hadn't really planned on saying what he'd said out loud, if he were honest with himself. But he could tell Karen was hiding something that was causing her problems...and the fact she'd attempted to hide what had ended up a serious injury...he was worried. "Keeping secrets isn't usually a good idea, either," he finally said, in an attempt to get Karen to open up and share what was bothering her.
"Especially not when those secrets end up hurting you," Sam agreed. He looked at Karen, making eye contact with her. "We can all see that something's going on... something that's caused you to have no appetite; probably not sleep well... become clumsy to the point of hurting yourself. Talk to us." His voice was low... compassionate... filled with concern and the worried affection obvious on his face.
Karen looked with wide eyes at Sam. She knew Foggy cared about her...that Matt cared about her. But she'd had no clue Sam cared as well...not to the degree he'd demonstrated. She glanced toward both Foggy and Matt. They were giving her encouraging and hopeful looks, hoping that she'd tell them what the problem was. But she couldn't. How did you confess to your best friends in the whole world, your family, that you'd killed a man and then left his body abandoned to be found by chance? Even though she hadn't planned to kill James Wesley... even though it was self-defense as far as she believed...the fact was, she'd still killed a man. And the man had dangerous friends that would not hesitate to hurt her friends and family if he found out she was responsible for his death. She had to keep quiet about it- if not for herself then to protect the others. Swallowing hard, she looked back at Sam. "Nothing's going on...just...normal stress. Nightmares about what happened to me months ago...nothing anyone can do anything about..." She bit her lip, the outright lie not sitting well with her, but not knowing what else she could do or say to divert Sam and the others from the truth.
Matt frowned. He could tell by her heartbeat and the tone in her voice Karen was lying again. Calling her on it wouldn't do any good, though. He sighed softly, his shoulders slumping.
"That's not the truth..." Foggy did call her on it, but didn't say anything else. His tone was sad. "...I hope you are able to trust us soon, so that you can tell us the truth."
Karen's nervous look turned stricken at the thought that they believed she didn't trust them. "I do trust you! I just...there's nothing I can tell you..." she finally said. That was the closest to the truth that she was able to get. That she couldn't tell them.
It didn't take any thought at all for Sam to slide his arm around Karen's shoulders. Though careful of the burn, he still hugged her close. "Are you in any kind of danger?" he pressed... hoping to get some idea of the truth from her reaction, even if she did continue to lie.
"No more than anyone else..." Karen whispered. It was the truth, although not the truth he was looking for. It was all she felt able to give. Despite her reluctance to let her barriers down, in case they figured something out that would cause them to get hurt, she let her head drop onto Sam's shoulder and accept his affection. It helped a little.
Sam sighed, but he tightened his arm around Karen's shoulders. "Matt and Foggy can complete the paperwork they need to here... after Bruce is finished, I'd like you to try and get some sleep." His voice was serious, not leaving much room for argument.
"But..." It was obvious Karen wanted to argue with him.
"Dad's right. You need sleep. You aren't going to be much help to us if you misfile something because you're too tired to read the files right..." Matt's voice was gentle and teasing, but it was obvious he was worried and wanted her to listen.
"Please, Karen?" was all Foggy would say.
Swallowing, Karen looked up into Sam's face, then sighed and nodded. "Ok. I'll get some sleep, sir..." She blushed at the deferential way she automatically answered him. She had to be tired to have resorted to reacting to him like Matt did.
Bruce chuckled. "Well, if that is the plan, then I can tell you I'm all done. She's cleaned, ointment has been put on the burn, she's been bandaged... and I will give you some pain killers and antibiotics for her to take along with her next meal," he said to Sam, figuring that Matt's dad would be the one most likely to ensure Karen did what she was supposed to. He turned toward the younger woman. "I suggest you stay the night here, possibly the rest of the week, so that I can help you change the bandages and keep an eye out for infection... at least until the new skin begins to form."
"Thank you, Bruce," Sam said, his voice relieved. He addressed Foggy. "You're more than welcome to stay as well." He knew Foggy would be worried... and hoped that, if all three of them were there, Karen might be more amenable to telling them what was wrong. He thought about talking to Tony about Veronica checking video feed around the area Fisk's right-hand man had been shot. Since Karen's main reaction had come from that, he thought there might be something connected to the shooting.
"I will; thanks, Sam..." Foggy quickly agreed, knowing that if he was there as well, Karen's reasons for refusing would hopefully be lessened.
Karen swallowed again, then reluctantly nodded. "Ok...I'll stay, at least until my injury is healing satisfactorily..." she agreed.
"Do either of you need anything before I take Karen to my apartment?" Sam asked his son and friend. "You can always ask Veronica to send me a message if you need me at all," he added.
"No, sir," Matt answered quickly, wanting Sam to be able to take care of Karen as soon as possible. "Foggy and I will stay on the common floor and work, if you need to find us..."
"Get some sleep, sweetheart..." Foggy said to Karen softly, giving her a tiny smile to let her know he was happy with her decision.
Karen smiled back then leaned against Sam. Now that she knew she was expected to sleep, she realized she was very tired.
"Don't worry about calling if you need me," Sam said softly, including Foggy in the usual reassurance he gave his son. Squeezing Karen gently, he helped her to her feet and guided her from the room and towards the elevator to take it to his apartment.
Matt nodded, taking Foggy by the arm and heading to the common floor where they had left their paperwork. Once out of Karen's hearing, he looked at his friend. "It was the news of that lawyer that spooked her...did you notice?"
"Yeah, I did. But the police weren't able to find any evidence, other than to figure out that there was a woman there." Foggy gave his friend a searching look. "You have an idea?"
"I think we have Tony and Veronica look into it..." Matt said. "If there is any video footage to be found, Tony will find it."
Karen willingly followed Sam, staying quiet until she stood in his apartment. "Sorry to be such a bother," she finally said, as she stood in the lobby of his apartment.
"You aren't a bother," Sam replied. "I care about you and Foggy as much as I do about Matt. I'd like you to tell me what's upset you so much... but until you're ready to do that, I just want to take care of you."
Karen smiled crookedly. "You're a good friend, Sam..." she said softly, not certain how to take his words that he cared as much for her as he did Matt. Matt was his son...surely he didn't care about her as much? But she didn't argue. She also didn't tell him why she was upset. "I...I think I should be able to sleep just fine here...if you want to join Matt and Foggy..." she finally said, as she began to head for the couch in the living room.
"I'm going to stay with you." Sam grasped her arm, squeezing gently. "And we have guest bedrooms... you can sleep in one of those. It would be more comfortable."
Karen blinked. She shouldn't have been surprised at Sam's decision to stay with her, although it did derail her plans to sneak out when he was occupied with the others. She'd thought the only way to keep her family safe was to go and turn herself in; put the bulls-eye firmly on her own back. The sooner the better. She'd have to wait until Sam wasn't watching her, though. "Ok..." she said in a tiny voice, waiting for him to show her to a room.
Sam still had a gentle hold of Karen's arm and he guided her into one of the guest bedrooms. "When you've woken up, we can arrange for someone to swing by your apartment and collect what you need," he said mildly.
"Yes, sir..." Karen agreed. There would be her chance. She'd insist on going herself to get her things and would turn herself in then...either to the police or to Fisk, she wasn't sure yet. Although given the fact that Fisk apparently had police on his payroll, it was probably the same thing. She walked over to the bed and sat down on it, kicking her shoes off, then gingerly lay back, careful of the burns tugging on her abdomen.
Sam settled on the chair next to the bed, having retrieved some paperwork that he needed to work on, so that he could stay close to Karen and make sure she not only slept, but had someone to keep her company too.
It didn't take long for Karen to fall asleep.
Meanwhile, Matt had enlisted Tony's help to find out what had happened the night Wesley was killed.
Sam had stayed by Karen's bed, working quietly on the paperwork and then sending messages to his contacts. He worked steadily and patiently, not trying to wake Karen up earlier than she needed to.
It had been several hours and Veronica hadn't found out anything regarding the murder. Matt was sure that had something to do with Karen's odd behavior, though. He'd come to the conclusion that maybe the wounded police officer in the hospital might know something. He was still comatose, but there might be information in his personal effects. Matt decided to go look.
"I'm following up a lead," he told Foggy, before heading to the elevator without another word.
"Wait...what? Where are you going?" Foggy blurted in consternation. Matt had already left, though.
"Damnit! Veronica...please get Sam here, please..." Foggy asked the AI.
As Veronica passed Sam the message, he stood up, leaving a note for Karen so she'd know where he was, before he quickly left the apartment and took the elevator to the common floor as fast as possible, made aware of the urgency.
Matt didn't know what possessed him to put on his suit to go investigate an unconscious cop...but he was glad he had when, in the middle of his investigation, the man's partner arrived. Matt had pulled himself into the shadows to hide. The man was visibly upset and once he began talking, a lot of things became more clear...it became really clear when the man went to pull the life support from his partner. Matt was moving before he stopped to think...stopping the man.
He didn't see Ben walking towards the room...then stopping and making a phone call.
It felt like his entire body was covered in boiling acid.
Consciousness wasn't a welcome respite for Blake. When he opened his eyes, it was to see the Devil from Hell's Kitchen. He blinked several times, a harsh sound escaping his lips as he tried to speak... to say what, he didn't know. He assumed his own life was forfeit, but he had to make sure Fisk didn't take his failure out on his brother.
Karen had left her phone with Foggy while she was being bandaged and then forgotten to get it back after, so when her phone rang...Foggy took it out of his pocket and glanced at the screen. "Hi, Ben...Karen's asleep. Can I help you?"
"Yeah...you can tell her the Devil is at the hospital where that cop is and apparently fighting with the man's partner. Not sure why...I didn't stick around for them to notice me. But it may be something to look into on our project." Ben kept details on what that project was, not sure how much Karen had told her boyfriend.
"I'll let her know, thanks..." Foggy was already relaying the information to Veronica to pass on to Sam.
Sam changed direction at the information, requesting Veronica to let Foggy know he was heading to the hospital. He took the elevator down to the garage and then exited, taking his car. Within moments, he was on his way.
Matt wasn't surprised when Blake's partner quickly gave up his murder attempt and tried to flee once he realized 'the Devil' was protecting the man. Not wanting to lose his chance at information from a living and talking source, Matt took off in pursuit; still not noticing Ben, who had quickly got a nurse to come in and check on Blake as soon as the two fighting men were out of the room.
Blake's partner had disappeared down an alleyway, which Matt quickly followed. It ended up being a mistake, though; the man had somehow called in backup and Matt quickly found himself surrounded by masked men- he had no way to tell if they were regular thugs, or members of one of the many gangs that was trying to set themselves up to run the city from the shadows. Swallowing hard, he warily positioned himself to fight. This was going to hurt.
Ben couldn't say what possessed him to stay in the room with Blake, but he'd noticed the man was awake and looking frightened. He'd evidently woken up to 'the Devil' and his partner fighting, but he likely didn't know exactly what had gone down. Ben moved closer and put a hand on Blake's shoulder, careful to avoid any noticeable wounds. "It's ok. For whatever reason, 'the Devil' has decided you need to live...prevented your partner from ending you. You're safe for the moment and if I have anything to say about it, you'll stay safe." He gave Blake a crooked smile that didn't quite reach his eyes; finding out Blake was crooked had been hard to accept. He shouldn't have been surprised- the man took bribes from him, after all... and even if the only thing Ben was after was information on what was happening in the city, if he was willing to talk for money when he wasn't supposed to, then doing other things for money wasn't entirely out of the question.
Blake involuntarily relaxed at the hand on his shoulder, closing his eyes and almost leaning towards the contact. "Deacon..." The word... the name... came out in a bare whisper. "I have to... Fisk will..." His voice began to rise as his panic climbed. How long had he been unconscious for? If his partner had been sent to kill him, likely operating under orders, how long did his brother have? Blake forced his eyes open, groping around... searching for a phone. Something. Anything.
Sam nearly broke every speed limit in the city, driving to the hospital. He reached it in time to see Matt, dressed as the Devil, disappear down an alleyway... obviously in pursuit of someone. Sam barely allowed the car to stop before he got out and was tearing after his son. He'd called some of the tower's residents on the way.
Ben frowned. He'd done research on Blake when he'd first started paying the man for information; it was always a good idea to know who you were dealing with when it came to things like that and he knew Deacon was Blake's younger brother. Was it possible that the sole reason Blake was a bad cop was because he had been threatened with his brother's life if he didn't cooperate? Squeezing Blake's shoulder gently, Ben tried to calm him down. "I have friends...I'll have them check on him. Make sure he is alright..." he promised, even as he pulled his phone out and dialed Karen's number again. She might not be able to do anything, but he was fairly certain she knew of at least one person who would be able to do something. He wasn't surprised when Foggy answered again.
"I need a favor from you..." he began, without preamble.
Blake breathed deeply, trying to focus through the pain. He was confused... lost. Confused because there was a big part of him that was relieved that someone else was there to take charge. Ben was someone Blake respected... even though he'd never been able to show or demonstrate that. Lost because... he didn't have any control. He'd thought he had more time to get Deacon someplace safe and then turn his information on Fisk over to the people who could help.
"I need to... call... warn him..." Blake was fighting the pain to stay conscious. If he slipped out again, he couldn't place himself in front of Deacon as a shield.
Ben gently pressed against Blake's shoulder to make certain he stayed in place and didn't attempt to get up, as well as providing some reassurance that he wasn't alone, although it was obvious Blake was fast fading out again. "I've got someone on it. We'll find Deacon and get him to a safe place..." Ben said softly. "You just rest and get better..."
Trying to keep his eyes open was a battle Blake knew he couldn't win, so he let them close... and let his head almost droop towards Ben. He trusted the other man... enough that he stopped trying to move. "I... there's a computer chip... safety deposit box... round my neck." His hand half-lifted, trying to reach the chain around his neck. "It has... the information... I g-gathered..." His voice was dropping to a whisper.
Ben, realizing that Blake was in so much pain he didn't realize that the chain wasn't around his neck any longer (likely removed by the doctors when they were trying to repair damage), reached over and gently stilled the other man's hand. "I'll get it..." he soothed, waiting until Blake had fallen back into sleep before he looked into the hospital cabinet for Blake's personal items and began to look through them for a chain. It wasn't hard to find the chain, or the tiny key that was attached to it. He put the item into his shirt pocket after looking at the key to see if there were any identifying marks on it so he'd know where to go to get the computer chip Blake had mentioned. He then dialed Karen's phone one last time.
Foggy blinked as Ben began to explain what he believed was going on and asked for his help. When the older man finally stopped speaking long enough for Foggy to reply, he answered. "I'm not sure there is much I can do; but luckily, I'm someplace where there are a bunch of people who likely can do something. I'll go talk to the one in charge right now and see if we can't get a few people to go check on him and make certain he is safe. And if he isn't safe, get him someplace where he will be..." Foggy promised, before hanging up.
Sam had gone to retrieve Matt. He didn't really know any of the other tower residents all that well, but he knew they'd be willing to help. He just had to find one of them that was available to do so. "Veronica? Is someone in charge in the building currently? I need to get some help..." he finally addressed the AI.
"Captain Rogers is on his way to the common floor," Veronica announced.
True to the AI's words, the elevator dinged moments later and Steve walked swiftly to where Foggy was. "Something else has happened? Veronica indicated it might be urgent..."
"I just got another call from Ben Urich... he was the one that warned us of the attack in the hospital room that Sam has gone to help Matt with. Apparently, the guy that Matt prevented being killed has a brother that Fisk has been holding over his head... a case of you do what I say or your brother dies... Blake was terrified that if Fisk has decided that he's expendable now, that means his brother is in danger and needs to be warned..." Foggy gave the information as quickly as he could.
Steve nodded. "Veronica, can you track a young man called Deacon Blake?" It wasn't a common name, so he figured there wouldn't be many people with that same name. "He has an older brother on the police force," he added.
"There is one Deacon Blake who fits that criteria, Captain," Veronica replied. "He's attending a university lecture right now."
"Thank you." Steve paused... and decided that, even if Blake had warned his brother, seeing two of the well-known residents of the tower would probably convince Deacon that they could be trusted. "Can you ask Tony to come and meet me in the garage?"
"Certainly, Captain." Veronica relayed the message to Tony.
Foggy blinked as Karen's phone began to ring for a third time. "Yeah, Ben?" he answered quickly, worried that with everything occurring, perhaps the older man was in danger.
"Yeah. I was wondering...do you think anyone in that big tower you're currently at might have someone able to come and guard a man who can't protect himself at the moment? I'd do it, but he wants me to go retrieve something for him..." Ben said quietly, so his voice wouldn't carry to outside the hospital room.
Loki grasped hold of both of his brothers and his father, waiting just long enough to 'see' through Sam's eyes before teleporting his family straight to where Sam was. When Sam had called back to the tower, it had been determined that Loki and his family would go ahead of anyone else, since he could get there quicker than anyone. If more help was needed, Mack would let everyone else know through Veronica so that they could be on the way and get there shortly after. Loki saw Sam disappearing down an alleyway and began running in that direction. "This way..." His announcement was likely unneeded, as his father and brothers were already running that direction themselves.
Matt had begun to fight nearly immediately after being surrounded; he knew it was a fight for his life. Fisk wanted 'the Devil' dead... and Matt had walked into an ambush. He'd be lucky if he got out of this alive, let alone without wounds. He was concentrating hard on keeping track of where his opponents were. That didn't mean he didn't realize the moment his father came into the alleyway, though...or when his cousins followed seconds later. He wasn't ashamed to admit how relieved he felt. "He was going to kill his partner...likely to keep him from talking..." he announced to the newer arrivals, hoping that one of them would take those words to mean that they should stop Blake's partner from escaping.
He ducked a knife that was slashing towards his neck, but couldn't avoid the kick to the stomach that sent him flying back into the brick wall.
Sam's priority was Matt and he went after the gang members who were targeting his son. Even though he heard Matt's words, he wasn't going to ignore his son's safety... and there were three Asgardians and one highly trained agent along with him.
Thor heard Matt's words and instantly went for the corrupt police officer. He caught the man a glancing blow with his hammer, knocking him out, before he went to take out other members of the gang.
Odin fought alongside his sons. The Asgardian might be older, but he was still skilled in battle... as demonstrated with the gang members he took out.
It didn't take long, with Sam and his other family members helping, for the men who had attacked Matt to be rendered unconscious. Once he was no longer in danger of losing his life, Matt was able to focus on what his body was telling him. "Ow..." he finally whimpered out. "Why do they always go for my ribs?" He winced as he gingerly felt his side and chest area to make sure the pain his ribs were causing wasn't because they were broken. He didn't say anything else, though. He knew he'd be explaining himself soon enough and figured it would be better to wait until everyone who needed to hear the explanations was present so that it didn't have to be repeated. Plus, what he thought was important and what his father felt was important might not necessarily be the same thing. He'd let Sam dictate the direction their conversation took. He hoped it wouldn't end up with him over his father's knee... since he'd had no clue when he went to the hospital room that he'd be interrupting an attempted murder... but he suspected that he would end up there, if only because he took off without telling anyone where he was going. It was so hard to remember that just leaving without word wasn't okay.
Loki snorted at his cousin's words. "Probably because your hands and feet are moving too quickly for attackers to target them... and you do too good a job protecting your head..." He answered what he knew was a rhetorical question, just for the hell of it. He couldn't stop the grin from forming when Matt gave him a disgruntled glare.
Mack rolled his eyes. "Well, we have a bunch of thugs that were likely just following orders from the crooked cop that Thor stopped. Do we let the police handle them and assume that there aren't more crooked police in this area of town, or do we take them with us and have SHIELD handle them? Or do we leave the generic thugs here for the police and take crooked cop with us to find out information?" He looked toward Sam for his opinion, since he'd have a better idea of what Steve, Coulson, or Fury would want done.
"I think we should have SHIELD take the thugs into custody," Sam said. "I don't want to risk them being released if there are any more corrupt police officers."
"I will stay with them until other SHIELD agents arrive to retrieve them," Thor offered.
Sam nodded and looked at Matt. "I'll take you back to the tower and we can have Bruce look over you..."
Matt grimaced, but didn't argue. He likely did need to have Bruce check him over, as much as he hated having to go to the medical wing again. "Yessir..." he mumbled.
Loki glanced at Thor then looked between his father and Sam. "Do you wish me to stay here with Thor, or teleport you back to the tower?" he finally asked. "I know you drove, but if you wish to get home more quickly, I am sure Mack could drive your vehicle for you..."
"Of course I can!" Mack quickly agreed.
"I can stay with your brothers," Odin offered.
Sam nodded. "That would be a help, thank you," he replied. He squeezed Matt's shoulder gently, careful not to aggravate any wounds he'd received.
Loki smiled and nodded at his father, moving closer to Sam and Matt so that he could gently grasp them both by the arm.
"Do you have keys to the car, or should I hotwire it?" Mack asked with a hint of amusement, realizing that Sam was so focused on Matt, he might not realize that he hadn't given Mack the keys.
"Oh... yes. Sorry." Sam handed the keys over to Mack, keeping his other arm tight around his son.
Mack smiled, taking the keys. "No problem. I'll wait here with Thor and dad till the SHIELD vans arrive. Then we can drive back in your car."
Loki nodded at his brother's words, then, making sure Sam and Matt were ready, teleported directly into the medical wing of the tower.
Bruce was waiting, a scanner in hand. "This is becoming entirely too frequent..." he groused gently, as he began to check Matt over for serious injury.
Sam stayed close to Matt, needing to keep in contact with his son. The look on his face was as worried as it had been when Karen had been hurt... and he carefully took one of Matt's hands, still being careful not to hurt him.
Bruce did a thorough job in the examination, but even so, he was finished fairly quickly. "You're lucky- there are no broken ribs; although one of them is cracked, so you'll need to take it easy until it heals to avoid having it actually break. The rest is just bruising which should heal up in a day or two." He looked at Sam. "Since he doesn't like taking pain medication, I'll leave the bottle with you to hand to him. He should take it at least for a day or two, even if he doesn't want it, so that he can get restful sleep."
Matt groaned at that. "Bruuuuuce..." he whined; it couldn't be termed anything else.
"I don't want you trying to argue." Sam's voice was calm... if still stern and serious. "If you hadn't rushed off to the hospital, without letting anyone know where you were going, you wouldn't have got hurt. And I'm going to make sure you heal." The worried note in his voice wasn't as strong now that Bruce had examined Matt... but it was still there.
Matt opened his mouth to argue anyway, but then sighed and looked down at his feet. "Yes, sir..." he said instead, his voice nearly a whisper. "I'm in trouble again, aren't I?" he couldn't stop himself from asking.
Bruce had tuned out their conversation at this point, secure in the knowledge that Sam had everything in control, and moved into the other room to listen to Veronica's message. "Let Tony and Steve know I'm getting the room ready," he told Veronica. "Also, inform Coulson that they want to bring the patient here; as soon as it has been cleared with the hospital, I'll come in the van to help with the transfer."
Sam squeezed Matt's shoulder gently. "For now, I just want you to worry about resting up and recovering. We'll talk about what happened once you're healed." His voice was gentle and he pressed a kiss to his son's head.
Matt nodded forlornly. It was hard, waiting to find out if he was going to be punished; especially when he knew, deep down, he likely deserved to be. The feeling that he'd disappointed his father and things weren't right between them was always difficult for him to deal with and he almost always ended up feeling like a needy baby by the time things were finally resolved... Vulnerable and out of control in a way only Sam could help him with. He supposed the fact he felt that way only proved that he'd done something wrong, though. If he hadn't, he'd not be worried.
"I think we should go to our apartment now," Sam said, helping his son to stand. "You can rest... I'll be there with you," he promised.
"I know you will..." Matt whispered. If it was one thing he'd learned since becoming Sam's son, it didn't matter how much he screwed up, his father would stick by him. He gave a crooked, if unhappy smile, hesitantly moving closer to his father. He could easily use his senses to get around, like he normally would, but knowing he'd messed up and it was hanging between him and his father had him wanting to feel the connection he had with the other man...just to confirm in his heart what he knew in his head; that Sam was there and hadn't withdrawn. Being dependent on Sam to help him get around? ...Had a way of easing his worries that he'd be left alone to fend for himself again.
Sam wrapped his arm around Matt's waist and kissed his son's cheek. "I love you, kid." Just like the first time he'd said it, his voice carried warmth and sincerity. Mindful of Matt's ribs, he guided his boy to the elevator, the bottle of pills tucked securely in his pocket.
Tony had been surprised to get his father's request, but immediately stopped what he was doing. "Of course, Veronica, please save my progress to this point and let him know I'm on my way..." he said to the AI, before heading out the door of his lab and to the elevator to meet his father.
"Of course, sir. I have saved your progress and let the Captain know you are heading to meet him," the AI responded.
The elevator stopped to allow Tony on and Steve quickly explained the situation. "I can't imagine Blake wouldn't have warned his brother about something... I figured Deacon is more likely to trust the two of us over most other people."
"That's true." Tony nodded as the elevator stopped in the garage and he led his father to one of his more subdued but quick cars. "I don't know anyone who wouldn't trust Captain America. Least not anyone who isn't hiding nefarious deeds..." He got in and waited for his father to get into the other side. "We could probably fly there in the Iron Man suit, but I don't think even Fisk is brazen enough to hit the kid when he is in the middle of a crowded lecture. And if we bring him back to the tower with us for protection..."
"I think that will be best... if one attempt has already been made on Blake's life, we might want to move him here," Steve added, after getting into the car. He put it in gear and began driving. "I know he has someone with him, but he'll be better protected here."
"That is true. Luckily, we have plenty of guest rooms. We may want to consider having Blake moved into the medical wing of our tower also, if an attempt has already been made on him..." Tony added, sitting back in his seat. His father was one of the few people he could handle driving instead of him...usually, he needed to be the one in control of the car.
Steve nodded his agreement. "He's in the hospital and presumably out of action enough for Fisk to order a hit on him." He grimaced. "I wonder how many others he's put in the same position..." He hadn't met either Deacon or Blake, but not wanting to risk anyone else hurt, Steve drove as fast as it was safe to do so.
"Yeah...Beginning to see why Matt wants to take him down so badly..." Tony muttered. "Hey, Veronica? Could you make arrangements with Bruce and the hospital to transfer Detective Blake into our custody and care?"
The AI quickly responded. "I have relayed your desires to Dr. Banner and he will begin readying a hospital bed for the detective. Director Coulson and two of his children are going to stand guard over the detective as we speak, so when the room is ready, I will have them accompany the detective back to the tower."
"Thank you." By now, Steve had reached the car park for the university. He parked in the visitor's space and then got out, waiting just long enough for Tony to join him before he quickly headed inside the building.
Tony quickly followed his father. It didn't take them long to find the lecture hall where Deacon was at. Tony looked through the packed hall. "You don't happen to have a picture, do you?" he asked curiously. "Scratch that... Veronica, can you send us a picture of Deacon Blake to my phone?" he asked the AI, pulling his phone out.
Steve looked over his son's shoulder as the AI sent the picture to Tony's phone. Looking up, he spotted a young man of maybe nineteen, wearing glasses, but with the more muscular build of an athlete. "I think that's him." He quickly scanned the rest of the students... looking for anyone who seemed out of place; anyone who might be a plant.
"I think you're right," Tony agreed. "And we're just in time. The lecture is over..." He began walking toward the young man in question. Tony was more focused on the boy than on other people who seemed out of place, not wanting the kid to slip away and trusting that his father was watching their backs.
Soon, he was close enough to talk without shouting. "Deacon Blake? My father and I need to talk to you..." Tony said calmly.
The kid turned, his eyes widening. "You're Tony Stark! And Captain Steve Rogers!" His voice was awed, once the initial fear wore off.
Steve smiled warmly at Deacon, even though he continually kept scanning around for any kind of threat. "That's right. We're here on behalf of your brother."
Tony relaxed slightly when the kid nodded and moved closer. He moved to the other side of him, so that he and Steve were bracketing him and hopefully warning off any potential threat.
"I was warned to be careful...did he send you to take me somewhere safe?" the kid asked quietly.
"It's possible you might be in danger, so we're taking you to Avengers' Tower." Steve dropped his voice low enough to be sure only Deacon and Tony could hear him. "Your brother will be joining us there... but I'm afraid he'll be in medical for a while. He was wounded."
Tony noted the expression on the kid's face went from curious to worried in the space of seconds as soon as he'd heard about his brother. "Of course... Does he need me? What do I need to do?" The questions came fast and furious as Deacon followed them out of the lecture hall and to the car. Tony noted the kid didn't ask about picking up any belongings or arranging to miss classes, his worry about his older brother taking over all thought.
"Doctor Bruce Banner is taking care of the arrangements to move him and some of our family members are with him," Steve replied. "As soon as he's moved, you can see him. In the meantime, we'll go by your apartment to pick up anything you need... and once you're safely at the tower, we'll work out arrangements with your lecturers."
The kid just nodded, seemingly in shock at how quickly everything was moving but willingly going along. His brother had prepared him for this possibility, although his brother hadn't said anything about two of the Avengers coming to help him out.
Tony began moving the kid out of the lecture hall, his eyes darting all around to make certain no one snuck up on them. Soon they were at the car and he made sure Deacon was safely in the backseat before getting into the car himself.
As he drove, Steve found out the location of Deacon's apartment... and then attempted to engage the teenager in conversation, asking him about what he was studying, to keep the youngster from getting lost in his own head.
Tony kept up as much of the conversation as he was able to... the kid was very quiet, but it was hard to tell if it was his natural personality, or if it was worry for his brother.
"He wanted me to transfer to another school..." Deacon finally said softly. "Said if I wasn't close by, if it took a lot of effort to get to me... that they wouldn't be as likely to try and use me against him..." The kid sighed. "...I didn't want to leave where he was, though. He's all the family I have. Maybe I should listen to him, though. Go to another school on the other side of the country. At least until whatever he's worried about goes away..."
"It sounds as if there wasn't anyone he could turn to for help at that point," Steve said. "You might want to sit and talk to him about the best path to take... but no one's going to be able to break into the tower and target either of you there. You'll both be safe... and we're going to take care of the bigger problem."
Deacon nodded. "Thank you...for helping him...for helping us..."
"We're used to people being used by the bad guys," Steve said. "We wouldn't do anything else." He parked outside the apartment. "Tony... do you want to go in with Deacon? Or be on lookout?"
"I'll be on lookout, dad." Tony smiled.
Deacon waited until Steve was out of the car and next to the passenger door before getting out of the car and leading the other man up to his apartment. He quickly began throwing clothes and all his important belongings into a bag. He wasn't sure how long he'd be gone for, after all.
"Do you need help carrying anything?" Steve scanned the apartment quickly, in case Deacon had missed something that he might need or want later.
"I think I have everything..." Deacon answered, giving one last look around the apartment before going back to stand next to Steve. "I'm ready to go..."
Steve nodded. "If you think of anything you do need, one of us can come back here... or buy whatever it is." He moved to exit the apartment, staying just a little in front of the teenager.
Tony glanced in his father and the teenager's direction as they exited the apartment. "No one came by...Also, Mack called and said they were bringing pizza home for everyone. Bruce is heading to the hospital with Loki to pick up the kid's brother. Everyone should be home safe in the tower soon..." he reported to his father, as he put Deacon's possessions in the trunk of the car while the boy got into the back seat.
Steve nodded. "Once everyone's safe at the tower, we can talk about what to do to make it safe for you to return to university without your brother needing to worry about you," he said to Deacon as he got in the car.
Foggy had promised Ben he'd try and find someone else to go guard Blake while Ben went to retrieve the item. Sam was out; he was dealing with Matt. So were Loki, Thor, Mack and Odin, as they were helping Sam. Steve was out, as was Tony, since they were going to retrieve Blake's brother. That left Coulson and one of his brood, Fury and one of his, or May, or Bucky and his kids... "Veronica? I need you to see who else is available in the tower who is willing to go guard someone?"
"I will find someone and have them come talk to you shortly, sir," the AI responded again.
When Veronica sent the message, Coulson was dealing with some cold shoulders between Grant and Raina. There was actually a part of him that was relieved to have something else to focus on... and he drew Clint to one side. "I thought I'd take Grant with me to guard whoever it is, if you and Natasha can stay with Raina," he said... a bit torn about whether or not he should take Bobbi as well.
Clint nodded. "Of course, dad. Maybe you should take Bobbi as well... she's been hiding in her room all day and I'm not certain if it is because she's trying to avoid being around Grant and Raina's version of the North Pole... or if it is because she's trying to avoid contributing to it..." His words were soft, so only his father could hear.
Coulson nodded his agreement. "I will." He gave Clint a quick hug and kiss to the forehead, then did the same to Natasha as he quietly let her know what he was doing. Repeating the action and words to Raina (without telling her why he was taking Grant and Bobbi), he then stepped over to his youngest son. "Veronica just contacted me about someone needing to be guarded. I thought I'd take you and Bobbi... get the details from Foggy and then head there."
Grant blinked at his father then nodded. "Yes sir. Do you want me to get Bobbi, while you get the details from Foggy?" he asked curiously.
"That would help," Coulson agreed. "I'll meet you both at the garage." He gave a quick but affectionate goodbye to his other children and then took the elevator to the common floor, to check with Foggy about anything he needed to know.
Grant nodded and quickly went to retrieve Bobbi. It didn't take long at all for them to be waiting in the garage.
Coulson checked in with Foggy and then quickly took the elevator down to the garage. He walked over to join his son and daughter at one of the vehicles. "We're headed to the hospital," he explained. "There's an injured police officer who's been targeted by Fisk. Foggy told me that the man with him, Ben, is going to retrieve something... since that could make him a target as well, I think it would be good for two of us to stay with Blake and the third one to accompany Ben." Even as he was explaining, he got into the vehicle, waiting for Grant and Bobbi to join him before he started driving.
Bobbi and Grant quickly scrambled into the vehicle.
"I'll go with Ben..." Bobbi quickly said. "...If that's alright...
Grant looked at his father to see if he agreed or if he wanted to keep Bobbi close. She'd been hiding in her room all day; and with her history of running...well, he didn't think she'd run in the middle of a job of protecting someone...but as soon as Ben had retrieved his item, gone to pick up his things from wherever he lived and then returned to the tower with her? It'd be easy to slip out in the shuffle, not that she couldn't be quickly found. He glanced at the bracelet firmly locked around his wrist, then at the matching bracelet on his sister's wrist.
"It might be better to take in what the situation is like first before making that kind of decision," Coulson said mildly as he drove. "The guard duty with Blake will only be temporary... Bruce is making arrangements to move him into the tower."
"Oh... ok," Bobbi agreed easily.
Grant just grunted in acknowledgement, looking out the window, slowly relaxing. "Thanks for bringing me, dad..." he finally said softly, grateful that his father wanted to do things with him, despite the bad attitude he'd been showing all day. He knew he'd been a right brat as far as Raina was concerned. Of course, she hadn't helped matters any...seeming to know exactly what to say to push all his buttons... but still. He'd been the one to let her get under her skin and had reacted like a petulant child. He was lucky his father hadn't pulled him by the ear to make him stand in the corner.
"I like spending time with all of you," Coulson said softly. "I love you. There is nothing that can change that." He pulled into a parking space at the hospital.
"We like spending time with you too, daddy..." Bobbi smiled when it became obvious Grant was too embarrassed, for some reason, to answer him. They quickly got out of the car and made to follow their father to the hospital room.
Coulson reached the hospital room in record time, with Bobbi and Grant following him. Noticing the older man there, he stepped forward with his hand outstretched. "You must be Ben Urich... I'm Phil Coulson; these are two of my children, Grant and Bobbi. I understand you need to pick up some information that might be sensitive, so one of them will accompany you." His voice was low, ensuring no one outside would hear him.
Ben gave Coulson a searching look, his gaze also falling on the two younger people Coulson had introduced as his children. Satisfied that Coulson was an ally and not one of Fisk's goons, he nodded. "Thank you for coming...Foggy mentioned that there were plans to move Blake to a safer location?" He was reluctant to leave the policeman's side until he knew for sure Blake would be taken somewhere safe; and that he would be able to go to that location himself to make certain Blake was all right.
Bobbi glanced at her father, a question in her eyes. Did he want her to stay with him and have Grant accompany Ben, or did he want her to accompany the older man?
Coulson nodded. "Doctor Banner is going to come and move Blake to the tower... Grant, if you could accompany Ben to pick up what he needs and then bring him home?" he asked his son... aware that Bobbi had been withdrawing emotionally and not wanting to give her any more reasons. He waited for his son's acknowledgement before he was patching a call through to Bruce, letting him know Blake's condition.
Bobbi's nose wrinkled in a slight pout; she'd offered to go with Ben in the car, after all and for her father to do the opposite meant he either was worried about her, or wanted to talk to her about something...and she couldn't see either of those being a good thing at the moment. She didn't say anything, though.
"Yes, sir..." Grant quickly answered. "...I assume you have a car, Mr. Urich?" At Ben's nod of agreement, he continued, "I'll go with you to your place and then we can go back to the tower. By the time we have your items, Bruce should have your friend in the van and ready to go."
Ben nodded. "Thank you...You...you don't think that they'd target me, do you? Because I was worried about him and got him help?" He seemed nervous, but not for himself. It was as if he were thinking of someone else.
"Do you have someone else you need to protect?" Coulson had hung up the phone after checking in with Bruce. "Grant can accompany you to pick up whoever it is and bring them to the tower as well... there's plenty of room and I know everyone else would agree with me."
Ben swallowed hard and nodded. "My wife. But she's in a medical facility as well...long term care. She's not at my apartment..." He glanced toward Grant before looking back at Coulson. "If there's some way to get her moved to your tower...I'd feel a lot better about her safety..." he admitted.
Coulson nodded. "It won't be a problem. Grant, if you can take Ben to pick up his wife and then retrieve the item... we'll meet you back at the tower once Bruce is able to move Blake."
Grant nodded. "Yes, sir."
Ben gave one last worried glance toward Blake, then nodded at Coulson before leading Grant out of the hospital room to gather his wife and the information Blake had mentioned.
Kara had woken up by this point and wandered out into the apartment. "Where is everyone?" she muttered to herself in confusion.
Fury had remained on standby, in case he was needed, but was still in the apartment. He looked over at his daughter as she came into the main room and extended an arm to her. "There have been a few things happening."
Kara blinked in confusion, moving into her father's arms willingly. "Are we needed for anything?" She smiled up at him, snuggling close and kissing him on the cheek. She was having one of her good days...feeling settled and confident and able to function without supervision...that only made snuggling more important, though; she wanted to, as opposed to needing to.
Fury settled her on his lap, his arm around her waist. "Not right now... although it sounds like the tower will be getting a bit more crowded."
Kara laughed softly. "That doesn't surprise me." She leaned into her father, putting her head on his shoulder. "I love you, daddy..." she whispered.
Fury wrapped both his arms around his daughter and kissed her head. "I love you too. While things are settled, why don't we play a game with your brothers?" he suggested.
"Sounds good to me!" Kara beamed at him, before asking Veronica to have her brothers come join them in the living room and to bring a deck of cards. "I'm gonna be lazy and just sit and cuddle with you till they get here..." She smirked, her eyes teasing.
Fury smiled and tightened his embrace around his daughter. "I have no problems with that."
Kara's smirk turned into a bashful smile and she did just that, snuggling close with her head on her father's shoulder. "Love you, daddy..." she repeated in a whisper, just before her brothers came waltzing into the room, carrying the cards and laughing.
Trip smiled at his father and baby sister. "So...Go Fish?" he teased his family.
Fury smiled as his sons joined them, but didn't attempt to move Kara away while she still seemed comfortable with him. "Sounds good," he agreed. "Does one of you want to deal?"
Brock nodded. "I'll deal..." Soon, they were playing a lively game of cards.
Karen sighed and finally asked Veronica where everyone had disappeared to.
"Masters Sam and Matt are on their way back up from the hospital wing, miss... And master Foggy is on the common room floor, acting as a contact between the residents of the tower and a Mr. Urich, who seems to need some type of help," the AI answered.
Karen blanched. The only reason she could think of for Ben to need help was if he was on Fisk's radar...and the only reason he'd be there would be because of her. She had to find a way to take care of her mistake before her friends died because of it.
Karen needed to go to the hospital...needed to make sure with her own eyes that Ben was alright and hadn't been hurt because of her actions. She glanced down at herself. Sam had loaned her one of his t-shirts to take the place of her ruined blouse after Bruce had bandaged her up. All she really needed to do was change into a pair of jeans and change shoes and she'd be able to fight, or run if something happened and she needed to fight or run. She quickly began rummaging in the bag that someone had thoughtfully retrieved for her and pulled out the items she needed.
"I love you too, dad..." Matt leaned into his father and found himself relaxing, even if he was a bit sore. It didn't take them long to arrive back at their apartment and Sam to lead him in.
It was at that moment that Karen came barreling out of the guest room, obviously in a hurry. Matt blinked. "Are you going somewhere?" he asked in confusion.
Sam frowned, also noticing that Karen was dressed and preparing to leave. "Did something happen?" His worry, calmed a bit now that his son was safe, immediately skyrocketed and he reached a hand out to touch Karen's shoulder.
Karen blinked, rounding on Matt. "What did you do? Why were you in the hospital wing?!" She sounded panicked and her face was still very pale, but she avoided Sam's and Matt's question. If she mentioned Ben, then they'd think she was going to wherever he was and would either try to stop her... or would be upset when they found out that wasn't where she was going at all. Better to not say anything than have it look like she was lying.
"Matt managed to get injured after he went to the hospital to follow up on a lead." Sam was very aware that Karen didn't know about Matt's identity as Daredevil... and for as long as his son didn't want her aware of it, Sam wasn't going to say anything either.
"A lead? Did you see Ben? Was he alright?" Karen's eyes darted to Matt, taking in the wrapped ribs and the bruises littering the various areas of skin she was able to see. "How did you get injured at the hospital?!" Her thoughts were darting every which way, her weariness and fear for her friends making it impossible for her to focus on one thing at a time. "Oh my God... you were attacked! Who would attack a blind man at the hospital?!" Her voice went up several octaves and she was close to crying. The only reason for Matt to have been attacked, that she could see, was her.
Sam wrapped his other arm tight around Karen, drawing her in for a tight hug. "Phil Coulson has gone to the hospital with two of his children... everyone else is on standby. There's an injured police officer who was a target... Matt managed to interrupt when he was about to be taken out. Everyone's as safe as they can be and I think the others are being brought here."
"Police officer...the one that was in a coma?" Karen's voice was lost and more than a bit confused. "Others? I don't understand...why would you be visiting the unconscious police officer?" She glanced at Matt. "You interrupted them killing him and almost got k..k...killed yourself! Didn't you?" Her voice wobbled. This was all her fault. No other way around it. She needed to go to Fisk and confess and let the chips fall where they would. Hopefully, he would leave her friends and family alone once he had her...
Matt's face was a picture of helpless horror. "Karen...I didn't almost get killed! Dad got there in time to help me! And..." He sighed slightly. "...And I'm not exactly completely helpless. But you aren't in any frame of mind to hear the whole story right now. Did you sleep at all?"
"I slept..." Karen protested. She was too busy trying to think of how she could sneak out of the tower to go to Fisk to take notice of what Matt had actually said to her...what he had implied.
Sam gave a worried frown. "Matt needs to sleep as well. Both of you need to rest. We can eat later... but I'll ask Veronica to send Foggy here. He can keep you company, that way," he added to Karen... actually wanting to stay with both Matt and Karen, but unsure how well that would work.
"I'm not tired anymore..." Karen protested weakly, not confident that Sam would believe her at all. "Foggy has more important things to do than to watch me sleep, anyway..."
Matt chuckled. "I'm sure if you asked Foggy, he'd say watching you sleep is one of his favorite things to do, important or not..." he teased gently.
Karen blushed, but didn't retort.
"I don't think he'll see a problem with it. Veronica, could you ask Foggy to come here?" Sam asked the AI.
Karen became noticeably more anxious and upset when she realized she wasn't going to be able to easily slip out of the tower, not if her boyfriend was going to join them. She made one last attempt. "I'm really not sleepy, but I can go join Foggy if you're worried about me being by myself..."
Matt frowned. He could tell Karen was hiding something and the way her heart rate sped up when she said she'd go join Foggy told him she had no intention of doing so. But he couldn't accuse her of lying. She'd figure out something was up with him and it didn't feel like the best time to confess that he was 'the Devil' of Hell's Kitchen...even if he knew he needed to tell her.
"I'd rather have Foggy here with you, where I can be here for both you and Matt if you need me." Sam's voice was honest... and also worried. "I want you to try and get some sleep..." He didn't mention his suspicions about Karen trying to sneak out... even though he thought she might.
Karen opened her mouth to argue, but at that moment, Foggy came into the apartment. "You shouldn't be up yet!" He frowned at his girlfriend. "You're on pain medication and haven't been sleeping...and you only had a short nap. I'll stay with you..." he added, with a crooked smile to try and make what was essentially an order sound more palatable to her. Karen was not a shrinking violet and he had no doubt she'd let him have it with both barrels if she felt he was attempting to control her.
Swallowing hard, Karen glanced between Sam and Foggy then sighed. She wasn't going to get out of the apartment without severely disappointing both men; and more than likely cluing them in to the fact she was up to something. She'd have to listen to them and wait until they weren't so worried about her. "Yeah...ok," she finally said, in a soft voice.
Sam gave Karen a relieved smile. "If you need anything... all you have to do is ask Veronica to contact me. But please try to get some rest. I don't want anything to happen to you either."
Karen nodded, resigned to the fact that she wasn't going to sneak away- at least not that night. "I guess...I'll go lay down again then..." she said softly, hesitantly.
"I'll just come with you...I could use a nap after playing message boy..." Foggy's tone was teasing as he wrapped his arm around Karen's shoulders and led her back to the guest room.
Sam smiled warmly at Foggy and Karen then led Matt into his room without conscious thought. "I'll help you get changed... so you don't put too much strain on your wound," he said mildly. "Veronica mentioned the police officer you saved is being brought here... so you don't have to worry about whether or not he's going to still be a target."
Matt relaxed at the news, then gave his father a sheepish look. "Didn't realize I was so worried about that until just now..." he admitted. "Thanks for taking care of it..." He sat on the bed, before looking up at his father. "I...I know you want me to be healed and all before you address my actions, but...not knowing for sure, even when I'm pretty sure I know, it's. I..." He sighed and looked down at his knees.
Sam opened the drawer his son kept clothes in for when he stayed in his room and took out a pair of pajamas. Placing them on the bed, he moved over to help Matt undress. "If you need to know for peace of mind, I think I can safely say that, when you're healed, you will be getting a spanking." His voice was firm, although he didn't raise it... just in case the sound carried. "We've talked about you going off on your own before. Just tossing out a quick comment that you're chasing a lead isn't the way we do things. I do appreciate that you didn't know Blake's life would be in danger when you got to the hospital... but you took off after the would-be murderer without any thought to what kind of backup he might have had."
Wrapping his arm around Matt's shoulders, Sam pressed a kiss to his forehead. "I don't want to lose you, son. It doesn't matter how many times we have to work on this... we'll continue doing so until calling for backup becomes instinctual."
Matt swallowed hard as he listened to his father's words, not arguing or fighting as Sam literally got him ready for bed. "Ok, daddy..." he whispered, knowing that he was only going to get what he deserved. Everything Sam had said, he knew better than to do. Part of him wished that Sam would just turn him over his knee now, get everything taken care of and out of the way, but then his ribs would twinge and he knew his father was right to wait. That was just part of the punishment, he figured. Knowing what was coming and having to wait for it.
Sam settled his son in bed and then stretched out next to him, gently tugging Matt into his arms, mindful of his injuries. "I love you," he reiterated, gently stroking Matt's hair.
Matt put his head on his father's chest, relaxing as the stress of the day finally caught up with him. "I love you too, daddy..." he said softly. Within moments, he was asleep.
Mack smiled at Thor and Odin as the SHIELD van finally arrived and took all the gang members (and Blake's partner) off their hands and to the secure facility where they'd be questioned. Turning toward his family, he shrugged. "Well, I guess now we go retrieve Sam's car and head back home. Want to pick up take-out on the way?"
Thor smiled. "I believe that would be a good idea. Perhaps we can pick up food for the rest of the family, too," he suggested, knowing many members wouldn't have had time to sort out food.
Mack nodded in agreement. "Yeah. I have a feeling a lot of them won't be thinking of food. Good idea."
Thor grinned at his brother and headed over to the car. "Perhaps, Dad, you could sit up at the front with Mack," he suggested.
Odin nodded. "Where are we going to pick up the food from?" he asked, getting into the car.
Mack shrugged. "Someplace that can feed a lot of people easily?" He slanted his head. "Which...probably pizza..."
"I'll call an order ahead." Thor pulled out his phone, that the other Avengers had given him, to do just that.
Mack nodded. "Sounds good."
Soon, the order had been placed and the three men were on their way to pick up pizza for the entire family.
Loki had stayed on the medical floor after dropping Sam and Matt off, helping Bruce get the room ready. "Do you think it would cause harm to the policeman if I were to teleport him here? Or will he need to remain attached to the wires and other items?"
"As soon as I hear from the hospital what his condition is and what we need to do to prepare, I will know if he can be teleported or if he should be brought here in the van." Bruce answered softly.
Bruce glanced at Loki. "I just got word on the patient's condition and we'll need to take the van. But if you want to ride along with me to pick him up, having someone with abilities along to guard things would make me feel more comfortable. If something happened, I'd be less likely to Hulk out if Uncle Phil and Grant had someone to help them protect Blake."
"Of course, cousin..." Loki easily agreed, following Bruce out of the medical lab and down to the garage to retrieve the van.
Soon, they were on their way. They'd be at the hospital fairly quickly.
The other two men had been gone for about ten minutes when Bobbi finally cleared her throat and looked up at her father. "You didn't want me going off by myself..." she said softly. It wasn't exactly a question, but she was looking for confirmation.
"You've been closing yourself off emotionally," Coulson replied. "I think being alone is the last thing you need to be right now." His voice was filled with loving worry and concern.
Bobbi could hear the worry and she winced. "I'm sorry, daddy...I didn't realize it was so...obvious..." she apologized, not denying what he said. It wouldn't have done her any good to deny it, since she knew he was right; and denying it would be a lie.
"I'm not concerned about it being obvious." Coulson placed his hand on Bobbi's shoulder and squeezed gently. "I'm concerned about you. I love you."
"I love you too, daddy..." Bobbi hesitated. "...I was being childish. A brat, really." She sighed. "I withdrew because what I really wanted to do as pick a fight with Raina and you're already so stressed out, I didn't want to add to your worries," she admitted with a blush. "I know you love me and I know that isn't going to change...it's just...hard to adjust." She shrugged slightly. "Part of me wanted to go out and get into trouble, just so I could have all your attention and not have to share...which is very childish and very foolish...but that's why I was...you know...withdrawing."
Coulson drew Bobbi in close and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I know it's hard, but adopting Raina doesn't mean I'll spend any less time with you... though I suspect you're also fueled by how Grant is feeling," he added. "I know you're trying... but I don't want you to pull away. However you're feeling, we'll deal with it."
"If I didn't pull away, daddy, I was going to do something I shouldn't do..." Bobbi admitted with a frown. "Seriously. I figured going to my room and trying to think things through would be better..."
"That is one of the reasons for the bracelet... but even if you need to sit in your room and think, you don't have to do that alone," Coulson said gently.
"I didn't want to take you away from Raina..." Bobbi admitted softly, her eyes guilty. "...I know she's still adjusting and since there's no reason for me to feel so... jealous... I didn't want to bother you with it. And Grant's feeling the exact same way and the last time we both felt the same way, we both encouraged each other to be idiots instead of helping calm each other down, so I was afraid the same thing would happen...and I know Nat and Clint would listen; anyone would, really...but I just felt so childish and stupid for feeling that way that I didn't want to tell anyone."
"It isn't childish or stupid to have trouble adjusting," Coulson replied. "It is a change... and I want you to come and talk to me when you're feeling like this. Just because you don't think there's a reason for you to feel a certain way, that doesn't mean what you're feeling isn't valid or important." His voice was filled with compassion and love. "I know you're close to Lance and Kara... if you feel a certain way, but don't feel able to talk to me or your siblings, I'd like you to talk to one of them... because they care about you and will help you feel better."
Bobbi bit her lip then nodded. "Ok, daddy...I'm sorry if I worried you..." she said softly, wrapping her arms around her father's waist and putting her head on his shoulder.
"I worry about you because of how much I love you." Coulson stroked her hair. "You are so important to me."
Bobbi didn't say anything to that...although it did make her feel a bit more guilty about having hidden away when there was no real need to. "I'm sorry, daddy..." she finally said in a tiny voice. She hadn't really done anything against the rules, so she didn't understand the guilt stabbing at her now, other than the fact that she didn't like worrying or hurting her family. She knew she'd worried her father; and suspected her withdrawal from him had hurt him as well. It made her wish that she had done something wrong so that he would punish her, because he never punished her for hurting him...hurting herself by some stupid action, yes... but never him.
At that moment, Bruce and Loki arrived, Bruce signing all kinds of paperwork, while a hospital aid pushed a portable bed into the room. Signing the last part that required his signature, Bruce began to help the nurse unhook the wires and tubes from Blake, gently transferring him to the bed and re-hooking him back up to Bruce's own equipment. "The van's parked in front of the hospital..." he said to Coulson and Bobbi. "I'm assuming both of you are riding back with Loki and I, to provide protection?"
Coulson nodded, releasing Bobbi with one arm, though he kept the other wrapped around her shoulders. "I don't think we can rule out the possibility of there being another attempt on his life. Grant and Ben are going to meet us at the tower... Ben's wife will be with them, though my understanding is that she's going to need full time care."
Bruce nodded at that. "Well, I've thought of asking Tony to hire at least four full time nurses to work various shifts through the day...and to help out in the science labs when no one needs them in medical. If we have a full time patient, then I'll make a strong suggestion instead of a request."
Bobbi snorted at that, grinning crookedly at her cousin. "You do realize you're likely going to end up with at least six full time nurses...right?" She pressed closer to her father, ostensibly to get out of the way of those moving Blake to the van, but mostly because she had withdrawn from her family for the last couple of days and had missed him.
Bruce thanked the orderlies once Blake was loaded, then turned to make certain everything was in place and secure. Meanwhile, Loki kept watch over everyone. Soon, it was time to head to the tower.
Grant and Ben hadn't taken long to go obtain the computer information. They'd done that first because Grant didn't want to leave a helpless woman in the car while Ben retrieved the item and there was no way he was letting the older man out of his sight when people might be trying to kill him. As soon as the info had been retrieved, Ben had arranged for his wife to be discharged into his care, they bundled her into the car and headed back to the tower.
They arrived shortly before the van carrying Blake. Pepper was waiting for them in the garage, a wheelchair waiting.
Coulson kept close to Bobbi, even though he remained on his guard, prepared for any kind of attack. When they reached the tower without incident, he got out after giving his daughter a tight squeeze... but still didn't relax his guard, checking around for any threats.
A moment or two after that, Steve pulled into the garage and got out of the car, moving round to the trunk to retrieve Deacon's belongings.
"Mr. Urich and Master Grant are already on their way to the medical floor with Mrs. Urich," Veronica announced. "I have taken the liberty of showing them to Mrs. Urich's room."
Tony nodded, smiling at Deacon's confused look when the voice out of nowhere just started talking. "Thank you, Veronica. Could you arrange to start having interviews with nursing staff regarding full time positions for Stark tower?"
"I would, sir, but Ms. Potts already began lining up interviews yesterday, when Mr. Murdock fell into the harbor. The first interview is arranged for tomorrow morning at ten, if you and Dr. Banner would like to be present." The AI sounded smugly amused.
Bruce chuckled. "Thank you, Veronica. I would like to be there. I believe Mr. Urich would also like to be there, as his wife will be a full time patient of whoever is hired. If you could let him know."
"Of course, doctor. I am informing him now," was the answer.
Meanwhile, Deacon had seen his brother and moved closer to the gurney as Loki and Bruce pushed it into the elevator. "Thank you..." He looked up at the surrounding group. "Thank you for helping him...I...I know what he did. Most people would think he only got what he deserved..." His voice trailed off. "Thank you for not being like that..." He reached out a hand to help push the gurney.
Bobbi swallowed hard. "Everybody should get a second chance if they're willing to try to be better..." She gave her father an apologetic look, before being unable to face him, thinking of Raina. Despite Bobbi's feelings, the woman was trying. The second chance given her wasn't going to waste.
Coulson wrapped an arm securely around his daughter's waist and smiled warmly at Deacon. "Many of us here know what it's like to get or give a second chance. Someone might make mistakes, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve one."
It was a testament to the tower residents' adaptability, as well as Pepper's ability to arrange things on a moment's notice, that it didn't take very long at all to get both patients situated into rooms... Blake's room next to the permanent one that had been set up for Mrs. Urich, so that Ben would be able to easily go back and forth between the two. Deacon had positioned himself next to his brother, not even bothering to take his belongings to the room he had been given. Luckily, Pepper had accounted for Deacon and Ben not wanting to leave the sides of their family and had Leo and Jemma ready to gather the baggage and take it to the guest apartment where Ben and Deacon would be staying.
She'd also brought them two boxes of the pizza that Odin and his family had returned with so they would be able to eat. Tony and the rest had gone to the common floor to give them some space and time alone with their loved ones.
Matt woke up feeling a bit more normal, the rest having given his healing factor time to kick in and work. Sitting up slowly, he had to give his father a sheepish look. "Right again, as always," he muttered in embarrassment, not intending Sam to hear the comment, but not really trying to hide it, either. It was hard to admit that your father knew better than you what your body needed.
Sam wrapped an arm around Matt's shoulders and kissed his son's cheek. "How are you feeling?" he asked gently. He was still concerned about his son... but seeing that Matt was able to sit up without much difficulty went a long way towards soothing that worry.
"Considering I have cracked ribs and could barely move earlier tonight without it hurting... and most of the pain is gone now, I'm just a little stiff... I feel good." Matt smiled crookedly at his father. "Sleeping helped me heal faster...I wouldn't be surprised if I took a scan tomorrow and Bruce said I was all healed." He looked at his father from under lowered lashes. "But then, I guess you suspected that would happen and that's why you insisted I take a nap..."
Sam smiled and held his son tighter. "It's my job to know how your body works," he commented. "There was some pizza brought up, if you're hungry... we'll likely have to heat it up, but at least we won't have to wait long."
Matt's grumbling stomach answered the question for him. Even so, he held onto his father a moment longer, his head on Sam's shoulder. "Dad? I think I need to tell Karen who I really am...so she won't be so afraid for me; or at least so she'll know I'm not completely helpless. I...I think I also need to let her know how you take care of me...so she isn't shocked or worried when she inevitably figures it out on her own. Which I think she would eventually..." Matt's voice was hesitant; it was obvious he wasn't entirely sure if he was right in what he was saying and needed a second opinion.
Sam stroked Matt's hair gently. "Are you comfortable revealing both those things?" he asked. "I trust Karen, but I don't want you to put yourself in a worse position. But you know I'll support you, no matter what," he added.
"I don't know that I'm comfortable with her knowing my identity at all..." Matt admitted. "But everyone in the family knows. And Foggy knows. And if she found out on her own and realized she's the only one I didn't tell...it wouldn't be good. As for the...the fact you spank me... I'd rather her know you have me in hand than for her to think I'm off the rails with no controls at all. She'd worry more if she thought that...And when she worries; well, you see how she's been... I'd rather her know everything than be part of the reason she falls apart..." He sighed softly, clutching Sam more tightly. "I just don't know how to do it..."
Sam kissed the top of his head. "You don't have to do it straight away. Take today and tomorrow to figure out the best way of telling her. When you're ready, we can see if she and Foggy are awake and want to join us for pizza."
Matt snuggled a bit more, taking comfort from his father, then sighed. "Yeah...No rush... I...I'm ready to eat now. Foggy is probably awake and he'll want Karen to eat. Let's go get them..."
Sam nodded and stood up, wrapping an arm around Matt's shoulders to help him up. "Do you want to get dressed first? Or stay in your pajamas?" He didn't mind either way... just wanted his son to be comfortable.
"Will I be going to bed early tonight?" Matt's voice was hesitant. Sam hadn't said anything would happen beyond receiving a spanking, but given the fact he'd cracked ribs not more than a day after taking a freezing bath in the harbor, he wouldn't be surprised if his father made him go to bed early as part of his punishment...especially if he believed it would help him heal faster and not get sick.
"I think that would probably be a good idea... particularly given the dunking in ice cold water you had earlier," Sam said. "Not as a punishment, though... to help you heal faster. And hopefully make sure you don't get sick."
Matt nodded, relaxing at his father's words that it wasn't meant to be a punishment. For some reason, it was easier to take and not get upset or feel guilty when the reason was his father wanting him to be healthy. "In that case, I'll just stay in my pajamas...I'm assuming we're eating in the apartment and not going to the common floor... but even if we go to the common floor, the entire family has seen me in my pajamas...so..." He shrugged slightly then gave his father a cheeky grin.
Laughing, Sam kissed the top of his head. "We're all family here, so I'm sure no one will have a problem with you wearing your pajamas if we do decide to leave for whatever reason." Squeezing his son gently, he led Matt from the bedroom.
Matt grinned, reaching over and rapping gently on the guest room door. "Hey, sleepy-heads! We're going to break out the pizza if you're ready to eat..." he called into the room, loudly enough to be heard if they were awake, but not so loudly he'd disturb them if they were still sleeping.
Foggy opened the door wide a few seconds later. "Yeah. Pizza sounds great. And maybe we can go check on Ben."
Karen could be seen sitting on the bed and rubbing at her eyes blearily; she obviously hadn't gotten any sleep, but at least she looked somewhat calmer. "He said the 'Devil' was at that police officer's bedside...did you see him, Matt? When you were attacked?"
Matt got a deer in the headlights look on his face. "Um...uh...sorta?" he finally stammered out, causing Foggy to give him a highly amused 'what are you going to do now?' look and Karen to give him a highly suspicious one, before she blinked and blushed darkly.
"I'm so sorry, Matt! I...you just never let it get in the way of doing things and I sometimes forget...I didn't mean anything by it!" She sounded very embarrassed and almost ashamed of herself.
Which confused Matt. Until he realized why she was suddenly so upset with herself. "Wh...Oh! No. Hey! It's alright! It makes me feel good that you tend to forget I can't see, actually...it means I'm no different than anyone else..." he finished lamely, giving Sam a helpless look. "Besides...I..." His stomach chose that moment to growl very loudly, causing Karen to snort in surprise in a very unladylike way.
"I think it's about time we all had something to eat," Sam said firmly. "I know Ben's on the medical floor with his wife... if it'll make you feel better, we can take the elevator there after we've had pizza," Sam said to Karen. "But I'll just warm up the food... would either of you like something specific to drink?" He knew what Matt tended to prefer and also knew his son would let him know if he wanted something different.
"I'd like that..." Karen said gratefully. "And water is fine..."
"I'll have whatever Matt's having..." Foggy said, gently leading Karen into the kitchen to sit at the table. He'd had dinner with Matt and Sam several times since Matt's adoption, so it was second nature to begin helping Sam by gathering plates together while the other man warmed up the food.
Matt stayed quiet as he tried to think of a way to confess to his friend that he was the Devil of Hell's Kitchen; and that he wasn't nearly as helpless as she was worried about. He was afraid it would upset her. Given that she hadn't been eating well, he figured it would be best to wait till she'd at least attempted to eat before springing it on her. There was no need to make it even more difficult for her to eat. "Now that the police officer and his brother are here... and Ben and his wife have been moved in... I think we can relax a bit. Everyone should be safe..." he said, in an attempt to cheer Karen up. She'd been so worried.
"Yeah..." Karen said faintly. "...For how long, though? I don't think Fisk is going to let up till he finds whoever killed his friend..." she whispered.
Foggy frowned. "Well...we'll just have to do whatever we can to make sure he can't hurt anyone in the process...that's all."
"This whole building's filled with people who are good at stopping the bad guys," Sam said. "If Blake's willing to turn on Fisk... and from the sounds of it, he wasn't working for him willingly... then getting him arrested will be a possibility. Of course, it will mean having to find officers who aren't corrupt," he added, as he began pouring out drinks for the four of them while the pizza heated.
"Until then, though...Fisk is dangerous to everyone..." Karen's protest was weak, but she was obviously scared. "And he went after Matt!" She put her pizza down, unable to eat from worry and getting worked up again.
Matt sighed softly. He didn't think he could put it off any longer. Karen wasn't eating, so his reason for waiting had failed. She needed to know the truth. "He didn't attack a blind man, Karen. He attacked the Devil..." His words were clear, if soft.
Karen looked at him in confusion for a few moments, but she wasn't stupid and pretty soon, her eyes widened. "You...you're..." she spluttered.
"Yeah..." Matt said sheepishly.
"You can see?!" Her voice was mixture of hurt and offended irritation.
Matt shrunk back. "What? No! I mean...not in the normal way..."
"He's kind of a mix between a sonar and a heat seeking missile," Foggy said, not so helpfully.
"Foggy!" Matt protested.
"You knew?!" Karen turned on her boyfriend. "You knew and let me go on worrying and I didn't need to?!" She thwapped him upside the head.
"Hey! It wasn't my secret to tell!" Foggy threw his arms up to protect himself. "Coward!" he accused Matt, who had moved to hide behind his father.
Sam patted Matt's shoulder gently and addressed Karen. "The more people who know Matt's identity, the more dangerous it is for him. It had to be his choice to tell you... and he hasn't wanted to risk putting you in any more danger." A slightly wry note slipped into Sam's voice. He'd continually had to deal with his son not wanting to put the people he cared about in danger.
"I guess I can understand that... But what about the danger he puts himself in? Surely you aren't okay with that?" Karen gave Sam a skeptical look.
"Of course not," Sam replied. "But I have ways to deal with that." He didn't plan on going into detail... though it was of course Matt's choice if he wanted to share.
"I hope he kicks your butt from here to Sunday when you put yourself in danger!" Karen declared, before nodding emphatically and taking a bite of pizza. She didn't notice Matt's dark blush and Foggy's frantic coughing only caused her to pat him on the back and hand him his glass of water.
Sam quickly took a drink of water, so that he could hide his expression... not that he expected Karen to notice. And Matt had succeeded in getting her to eat. He squeezed his son's arm gently.
Matt sighed and smiled weakly. "More like smacks it...but I suppose the result is the same." He'd deliberately waited till she was taking a sip of water to confess the last bit, smiling a bit more strongly when she had to cover her mouth to keep from spraying Sam with her drink. He hadn't decided to tell her until just that moment, but had decided it was better if she knew. That way, he wouldn't have to pretend his butt wasn't sore whenever she was around after he'd been spanked.
Sam gently nudged his son, smiling a bit at Karen's reaction... though his voice was mild when he spoke. "It's not uncommon here." He didn't go into details... but Karen was intelligent enough that she'd likely figure out the signs; Sam wanted to head off any embarrassment.
"Not uncommon?" Karen wrinkled her nose. "That's just with family, though...right?"
"Family covers a big range of people," Sam said. "Everyone here in the tower is family in one way or another."
Karen slanted her head slightly thoughtfully, but didn't say anything, even though it was obvious she was thinking about it. She wasn't sure she wanted to know if he was speaking of everyone currently in the tower at that moment (which would include her), or if he was just speaking of residents (which wouldn't include her, since she had her own apartment). "So...Ben is safe?" She quickly changed the subject.
Sam nodded. "My understanding is that he's with his wife on the medical floor," he answered. "Anyone who might be in any danger is safe right now... but if you're worried, then after we've eaten, we can go and check in with him."
"I'd like to do that..." Karen said gratefully. "Thank you..."
Matt, having confessed the biggest secrets he'd been keeping from one of his closest friends, put another slice of pizza on her plate. "Your stomach's still grumbling..." he said nonchalantly, feeling inordinately relieved that he no longer had to hide his abilities from her.
Karen just sighed and forced herself to eat another slice. She felt a lot better about things, but she was still worried...still convinced the only way her friends- no...her family- would be safe was if she turned herself in to Fisk and admitted she'd been the one to kill Wesley. That she hadn't planned to and had just been so scared. She doubted it would save her, but it might keep him from targeting the others. She doubted, even with Blake's information, that they'd get him arrested.
Sam returned his attention to his food, even though he also kept checking to make sure the other three ate enough. Once they were finished (and certain Karen had actually eaten her fill), he began to take care of cleanup, getting it out of the way so they didn't have it to come back to after returning from checking on Ben.
Foggy immediately began helping Sam. "Why don't you two sit still until we go see Ben? I know you have faster healing than most, but you still cracked your ribs. You don't need to be stretching putting stuff away..." he said to Matt, managing to hide his smirk at Karen's gasp.
"You cracked your ribs? Matt! You were acting like you were perfectly fine! Why do you do that!?" Karen began fussing at Matt, asking to make sure he'd taken his medicine, if he was sure he didn't need to lie down more...and various other statements that showed just what she thought of his 'tough guy' routine.
Foggy gave Sam a sheepish smile as he began to wash glasses. "I guess that was kinda mean of me..." he said softly to his friend.
Sam gave Foggy a slightly amused smile in turn. "I think it does him good to know how much other people worry... that way, he's as likely to think about them as himself next time." He continued to clean up, getting it done faster with Foggy's help.
At that moment, Matt sidled up to Sam, looking a mix between uncomfortable embarrassment and pleased confusion. "Um...dad. Karen asked when the last time I took a pain pill was and when I told her, she seems to think it's time for another one and made me come ask you if it's time for another one..." Matt rolled his eyes slightly then cringed as Karen came up behind him.
"That is NOT how the conversation went, mister...stop trying to hide things from dad..." Karen frowned, not even noticing she forgot to add a pronoun into her sentence. "I said I saw you cringing and asked when the last time you had a pain pill was, because you cringed, and when you told me, I said maybe it was time for you to ask for another one. If it's too soon, then at least Sam will know it's starting to wear off. The way you said it makes me sound like an unreasonable worry-wart!" she huffed in offense.
Foggy chuckled, holding his hands up defensively as Matt gave him a dirty look. "Don't look at me, hot-shot. You're the one that decided to go one-on-one with a group of hired killers instead of calling for back-up. You deserve having her fuss over you!" He finished washing the last dish, then dried his hands and put his arm around Karen's shoulder.
Sam checked the time and nodded. "Karen's right. It's just about time for you to take another painkiller." He poured out a cup of water and handed it to his son, then took one of the pills out and gave that to Matt, too. "Karen's worried about you because she cares," he pointed out gently.
"I know..." Matt sighed, taking the water and the pill. "...Sorry, Karen...everyone...I'm not a terribly good patient." He frowned slightly, then threw the pill into his mouth and swallowed it down with several gulps of water. He drained the glass. "Thanks..." he said, as Foggy took the cup and washed it too.
Karen, having seen for herself that Sam actually did have some bit of sway over Matt and he had things in control, smiled brightly. "Great! Now let's go see Ben!"
Sam wrapped his arm around Matt's shoulders, squeezing gently, before he guided his son out of the apartment, keeping his steps slow so that Foggy and Karen could walk with them. He knew Matt didn't need to be guided... but it made Sam feel better to have his son close.
Karen walked behind Sam and Matt, Foggy's arm still around her shoulders and holding her close. She watched the two men in front, observing everything possible. "He really is Matt's dad..." she finally whispered to Foggy, her voice wistful.
Foggy nodded. "Yeah. He is. In every way that matters." He frowned as he noticed the almost sad look on his girlfriend's face. "You ok?" he asked worriedly.
Karen forced a smile onto her face. "Yeah… Just thinking Matt deserved to find family...be happy..." She didn't elaborate. Not even Foggy knew about the fact that she had no family of her own anymore, her parents having died a few years before she came to the city.
As they stepped onto the elevator, Sam smiled warmly at Karen and Foggy then addressed Veronica after setting the elevator to go to the medical floor. "Veronica? Could you please let Ben Urich know we're just coming up to see him?"
"I have done so, Sargeant..." the AI answered.
Soon, they were on the medical floor. Ben was waiting outside the elevator for them. "Thank you all for what you did to help...I don't know what I would have done if..." He swallowed as he glanced toward the rooms where his wife and the man he'd thought of as a friend slept. "Come with me...Doris wants to meet you all..." he said, with a little bit more cheerfulness.
Sam smiled warmly at Ben. "We're all just happy that you're safe here." He waited for Ben to lead the way into the room.
"Well, I thank you all the same...especially for arranging to have Doris brought here as well. I'd like to thank the rest of your team too...maybe later I'll be able to find them all..." Ben was distracted though- he glanced into the room Blake was sleeping in, noting Deacon and nodding at the boy. "Make sure you eat your pizza. It won't do for you to get sick..." he continued on to his wife's room. "Doris- I'd like to introduce you to some people." His smile was wide and bright as he stepped into the room, moving to his wife's side and waving Sam and the other three in. "That is Foggy and Karen..." he pointed to the two in question. "That's Sargeant Sam Wilson," he motioned toward Sam. "And that crazy youngster over there is Matt Murdock..." the look he gave Matt was too knowing for Matt's comfort- but he didn't say anything else and he was still smiling, so Matt let it go.
Sam gave Doris a warm smile as he stepped over to her bedside. "Hello. I'm sure I can speak for us all when I say we're happy to have you here."
Doris smiled, but she seemed a bit uncertain, this being so much out of her usual routine. Her glance landed on Karen and her smile turned a bit warmer. "Ben's told me so much about you..." On the good days, she could remember everything her husband told her... she wasn't as settled now, but it still wasn't a good day.
Karen moved forward, smiling at the older woman and holding out a hand so that Doris could hold it if she wanted. "Ben has told me a lot about you as well. I'm so happy to finally meet you..." Her smile grew as Doris took her hand and squeezed it.
Sam moved back out of the way, to allow Karen to speak to the woman, and wrapped his arm around his son's waist, squeezing Matt gently to himself.
There was less pain now. Blake wasn't sure where he was as he regained consciousness, though. His eyes opened slowly and he blinked several times, trying to clear his vision and figure out what was going on.
Deacon had been sitting by Blake's bedside, trying not to nod off; it had been a stressful night and on top of that, he was a bit bored, so it was hard to stay awake. Even so, he noticed immediately when Blake opened his eyes. "Blake! You're awake!" He moved closer to his brother's side, so that Blake could see him without having to strain himself.
Blake blinked several times more until Deacon's face came into focus and he was able to see that his brother was unhurt. "Hey, kiddo." His voice came out a weak rasp. His eyes still scanned his little brother's face anxiously... searching for any signs Deacon was hurt or under duress.
"I'm alright...I'm not sure how you did it, but Captain America and Iron Man came and picked me up! I'm staying at Avengers' Tower with you and Mr. Urich..." Deacon grinned.
Ben was sitting with his wife, listening to her and Karen chat, when he heard the voices from Blake's room. Standing up carefully, he leaned over and kissed his wife on the forehead. "I've got to go check on someone, sweetheart. Don't you be telling Karen all my secrets now!" he teased gently, smiling when she just shooed him away.
Nodding at Sam and Matt, he left his wife's room and walked into Blake's. "Good to see you awake, son..." he said gruffly.
Blake focused on Ben and tried to moisten his lips so he could speak... not that it was that easy. The sense of shame didn't help matters any. "I thought maybe I'd hallucinated... don't really know what was a dream and what was real..." he whispered. "Thank you..."
Ben slanted his head. "What do you remember?" he asked gently, wondering how much he would need to relay to the other man.
Blake dropped his gaze... partly to think; partly because he was too ashamed to look at anyone... even his brother, even if he did reach to cover Deacon's hand with one of his own. "I think... the Devil of Hell's Kitchen was there... fighting my partner... ex-partner," he corrected himself with a grimace. His hand went to his neck... and then his eyes widened when he realised the chain and key were no longer there. "Did... I...?" His voice was slightly panicky.
"I saw the Devil myself." Ben nodded. "And don't worry about your key. You told me about it and I retrieved the item in question. It's locked up in Stark's personal safe..."
A relieved look came over Blake's face. "Okay... good." He hesitated. "I need to... talk to whoever's in charge. I don't want to go to jail until I'm sure Deacon is safe." He squeezed his brother's hand... or tried to, anyway. He didn't have much strength in his fingers right now. He then paused, looking up with a confused expression as voices began to broadcast into the room. "Umm..."
Ben blinked at the voices carrying over the intercoms. "Well, that's unusual..." he muttered. "And I don't think you'll be going to jail..." He glanced back at Blake.
Blake's face showed obvious confusion, as he was wondering if this was a normal occurrence here. He answered Ben without much conscious thought. "I've known this was going to end one of two ways right from the start." He sounded sad... resigned. In a way, though, it would be a relief to actually start facing consequences for what he'd done.
Bobbi sat at the kitchen table, staring at her hands. Grant and Raina were at it again...first ignoring each other, but then saying biting sentences that, on the surface, seemed innocent enough; but anyone that knew either of them knew how cutting the words could be. She was doing her best not to contribute to the stress- Raina hadn't really done anything to her personally for her to dislike the woman. It was entirely jealousy on her part...unfounded jealousy at that. Bobbi wanted nothing more than to sneak out of the apartment, grab one of the cars and just start driving. Not necessarily running away, but just to get away and hide for a bit. Till she could figure her own head out and push the jealousy away.
Coulson had finally decided that enough was enough... he could see that three of his children were having difficulty and decided that it likely wasn't going to sort itself out on his own. He placed a hand on Bobbi's shoulder, squeezing gently, and then moved to place a hand each on Raina's and Grant's shoulders. "Come on... let's try and leave the rivalry outside for now?"
Grant had been about to say something really nasty when he felt his father's hand on his shoulder. Immediately, he shut his mouth, his need to please his father overriding the irritation he'd been feeling toward his newest sister. At least, it got rid his irritation until he saw the smug little smile on Raina's face, as if she was mocking him for his quick capitulation.
Raina, for her part, knew that Grant and Bobbi didn't really want her around. Intellectually, she could understand why; unfortunately, her emotions were getting in the way and despite her desire to not rock the boat, there was also a desire to make them as miserable as they were making her with their reticence in at least tolerating her. "Did John teach you how to obey that quickly?" she muttered under her breath, so that only Grant could hear...or at least she thought only Grant could hear.
"Obviously, you didn't have anyone to teach you..." Grant retorted back snidely.
Bobbi winced. She'd caught the quick second of hurt that had flashed across Raina's face before the woman's placid expression was back in place. She glanced at Grant. If the look in his eye was any indication, he'd seen the hurt too and felt bad about it... but he was putting on his own impenetrable mask. She sighed silently. Maybe a few days ago, she would have participated in the jabs and rejoinders. Right now, she just felt off kilter and guilty for not being able to accept her new sister as readily as her father wanted. "I'm tired...I'm gonna go to bed..." she said listlessly, standing and walking out of the room before anyone could stop her.
Natasha had been standing quietly just inside the kitchen, so when Bobbi stood and left, she made eye contact with her father. No words were needed before she went trailing after Bobbi.
Coulson sighed, able to see that both Grant and Raina were hurting... themselves and other members of their family. When he spoke, his voice was soft. "I know both of you know the exact ways of pushing each other's buttons. I know this isn't as easy as any of us would like... but bringing up things in the past only serves to open up old wounds. You both aren't as different to each other as you'd like to pretend... and both of you have been given second chances. I know it's not easy, but not much worth having is. And you two and the rest of this family are worth everything."
Grant swallowed hard. He wanted to make his father happy. And truth be told, he really wasn't all that angry or upset with Raina anymore. He just couldn't seem to get past this anxious feeling he had that...he wasn't sure what. He could recognize jealousy when he felt it; he just couldn't figure out why he was jealous. It made it damn difficult to stop being an arse and act his age. "You're right, dad...this family is worth everything..." he finally said, turning away from Raina and shoving a hand through his hair. "I think I'm going to go to bed, too..." He hesitated, just in case his father wanted to say anything else, but it was obvious he didn't want to talk anymore. He was afraid he'd say something else he'd regret.
Coulson sighed. "I don't really think withdrawing is going to help anything." His voice was gentle, rather than accusing. "I don't want any of you to be feeling this bad..." His worry and concern were obvious, as was his love and affection for them.
Grant blinked then looked at his father apologetically and sympathetically. "Dad...I've been too much a royal pain in your neck for you to think I'm trying to withdraw..." he pointed out. "I am tired...and I think I need to reflect on some things...but I'm not withdrawing. I'm just trying to...get a little bit of perspective by getting a little bit of space. But if you really don't want me in my own room tonight, I won't argue."
Coulson nodded. "I'd feel better if you were in my room tonight... you and Bobbi both," he added seriously. He was looking at Grant... but almost unconsciously, he'd reached out to place his hand over Raina's. It was second nature to make sure he paid attention to all of them wherever possible.
Grant sighed. After the grief he'd been giving his father, he could cooperate at least that much. "Ok, dad. After I get changed for bed, I'll head to your room.
Raina gave Coulson a hesitant look. "You don't want me there too..." She sounded uncertain.
Coulson gave Grant a grateful smile, but then focused on Raina. "The bed's big enough and I like being close to all of you... but I don't want you to do something you're uncomfortable with." He would have continued speaking, but then paused, head tilted, as he listened to the conversation that had started to broadcast.
Raina blinked and looked up at the ceiling. "Perhaps another night...when Bobbi doesn't so obviously need you..." She actually sounded worried, which caused Grant to give her a genuine smile for the first time in days.
Clint sighed, looking at Wanda and Pietro. "C'mon, kids. Bedtime. Lemme know if you need help staging a rescue, dad." Wrapping his arms around both his kids he led them upstairs.
Coulson squeezed Raina's hand gently, even while he was clearly listening to what was going on. "That doesn't mean you can't come into my room if you need or want to," he said to Raina, not able to do anything but make that clear to his daughter.
Wanda hesitated, wavering between obeying her father and wanting to help her grandfather and aunt. "I can help her not fall so hard..." she said to her father, even though she didn't fight being led upstairs.
Bobbi had quickly grabbed her pajamas and then locked herself in the bathroom to take a shower. She knew Nat had followed her and really didn't want to talk to her sister at the moment. She didn't understand her feelings; they were bouncing around like a renegade rubber ball. So she stood under the hot streams of water and tried to relax, hoping that when she left, Nat would have gone to bed or gone back downstairs with the rest of the family.
Natasha took up residence outside the bathroom, deciding she could just as easily wait her sister out. As stubborn as the rest of the family were... Nat had been on so many ops, she was used to waiting people out.
Bobbi could sense Natasha outside the bathroom door. As silent as her sister was, she just felt like she was there. Because of that, she left the shower running even after she'd got out and dried herself, putting on her pajamas. Everyone in her family was so against her being alone...it just made her all the more determined to find a way to be alone.
Natasha rolled her eyes and tapped lightly on the door. "Hey, sis, remember I'm a super-spy? I can hear you moving around out of the shower," she called, pitching her voice loud enough to be heard above the water.
Bobbi looked at the door in disgruntlement. "Veronica...is Kar-bear still up?" she whispered, even as she climbed up onto the toilet and then onto the sink, carefully unlatching the cover for the air vent and hoisting herself up.
"Yes, Miss Coulson. I believe Miss Fury is still awake and up..." the AI stated loudly.
Bobbi was too busy trying to hush the AI to notice what names Veronica had graced her and Kara with. "Shhhhh! Not so loud!" she whispered frantically, as she crawled into the vent before replacing the cover, then slowly crawling her way through the vents over everyone's heads.
"Of course, Miss. Shall I whisper like this as you crawl through the vents?" Veronica did indeed whisper.
Bobbi relaxed slightly as the tone went lower. "Yes...thank you." She wouldn't have relaxed at all, had she known Veronica had begun broadcasting their conversation to the entire family on every floor, pretty much from the moment Bobbi had crawled into the vent.
Kara, who had gone into her room to change for bed, looked up at the ceiling with wide eyes.
Even if Natasha hadn't heard Bobbi moving around inside the bathroom, the conversation between her sister and the AI would have clued her in. As it was, she didn't need to break in and stop Bobbi from leaving the tower... as long as Veronica kept broadcasting what her sister was doing.
Bobbi had come to the end of her particular vent. "This one goes down to Kara's room, right?" She was still whispering, unaware that everyone could hear.
"Yes, miss, but I strongly suggest you not do so...if you slip, there are at least five floors you would fall before hitting a landing area...and if you hit hard enough and it broke, you'd plummet another ten floors..." The AI's voice was almost scolding and was definitely worried.
Bobbi's huff carried throughout the family floors. "Is there a vent that isn't quite so long that would get me to her floor, at least?"
"Turn left at the branch..." Veronica's long suffering voice replied.
Kara bit her lip and walked over to her vent, uncertain if she should wait for her cousin there...or climb up to go meet her.
Kara glanced toward her bedroom door, almost expecting her father to come in at any minute, since it was obvious her cousin's destination was her; and she had a feeling he wouldn't want her trying to meet Bobbi halfway. Biting her lip, she did begin to shove her bed over so that it would be under the vent...just in case.
By this time, Fury had moved to his daughter's room... even though he didn't want to just barge in and act like he didn't trust Kara. Still, he didn't want her getting it in her head to try climb into the vents and he knocked lightly on her door.
"Come in!" Kara called out, as she finally pushed the bed into position with a thump.
Fury pushed open the door and stepped into his daughter's room, taking in the moved bed with raised eyebrows. "Were you planning on climbing into the vent to meet her? Or just trying to give her somewhere to land?" he asked mildly.
Tony looked up at the ceiling, despite knowing Veronica wasn't housed there (you picked up strange habits from your family sometimes). "Veronica...block access to the vents that go straight up and down the entire building...just in case she decides not to listen to you and attempts a 'shortcut'."
"I've already done so, sir..." the AI answered, the conversation carrying through the whole family area, except for where Bobbi was.
Ben sighed, moving closer to Blake. "We know Fisk was using your brother against you to get your cooperation. You won't be going to jail and we aren't going to let you die. We'll figure something else out."
"Yeah..." Deacon nodded. "I'm sure a tower of superheroes would have one idea how to punish someone without killing or jailing them...if they even think you need to be..." He looked uncertainly at Ben, who nodded his head in agreement.
Blake squeezed his eyes shut, feeling broken in a way he hadn't allowed himself to before now. "No one's ever going to trust me again..."
"Never is a long time, son. You can earn trust back. I'm willing to give you another chance and I'm sure I'm not the only one..." Ben said calmly, reaching over and rubbing Blake's shoulder gently.
"I trust you..." Deacon said softly.
Blake relaxed when Ben rubbed his shoulder... even though he really didn't think he deserved any kind of comfort. He opened his eyes and managed a faint smile for his brother. "I know you do..." He wasn't sure he deserved it even from Deacon, but he didn't want to upset his brother even more.
"Oh, Bobbi..." Matt sighed, worry vying with amusement at his cousin's actions. Bobbi did have some rather strange ways of trying to get her father's undivided attention...even if she would swear that wasn't what she was trying to do.
Sam frowned and spoke to his son in a quieter voice. "Veronica's broadcasting the conversation here... means that Ben's likely to overhear anything. Do you think we should head into the other room and try to stave off any confusion?" Not that there could have been much... Bobbi's comments were quite clear.
Matt's eyes widened. "Oh, man...you're right..." He sighed resignedly. Telling Karen had been hard enough...and that had been planned. He'd not actually planned to tell anyone else. But they couldn't leave Ben in confusion. It wasn't fair. "Let's go talk with him..."
Sam squeezed Matt's waist gently and then steered his son out of the medical room after a quick exchange with the three remaining. "You only have to say what you feel comfortable with," he said softly to his son, guiding Matt into the medical room next door.
Grant bit his lip. "Listen...dad...I'm ok and...maybe you could let me stay in my own room tonight after all...or maybe Raina, Nat and I could have a 'sleepover' in Nat's room. That way, Nat could be referee and Raina and I could talk a bit or something. Would that make you feel better?" He ignored Raina's wide eyed stare. "Like Raina said. It's obvious Bobbi needs you...even if she won't admit it, silly girl..." The last was muttered.
Most of Coulson's attention was on the conversation Veronica was having with his daughter. Even though he was desperately worried about her, it made him feel better that the AI had turned off access to the other vents... still, she was his daughter.
Natasha had returned to the main area of the apartment by then. "I think that sounds like a wonderful idea," she said, having caught Grant's comment. "As soon as Bobbi's settled, we can arrange that."
Grant nodded at his sister. "Great." He glanced at Raina. "I guess I should have asked if you were ok with the idea..." His smile was sheepish.
"I would like to have a sleepover." Raina smiled back. "Once dad has retrieved Bobbi..."
Coulson frowned in worry, though he nodded to his three children. "That would be a good idea," he agreed. "Perhaps tomorrow, depending on how things go, we can all go and see a movie or do something similar." Only the slightest hint of distraction in his voice suggested his full attention wasn't on their conversation.
"This vent seems a lot narrower than the other one, Ronnie!" Bobbi complained. "I don't see why I had to use this one to go down, when the other one was right there and was the perfect size."
The AI's voice was chiding. "My job is to protect the family, Miss, which includes you! The other vent goes from garage to roof with only thin platforms every five floors or so. If you slipped, it could be to your death!" The AI paused for that thought to penetrate before continuing. "The vent you are currently descending is smaller, yes...but it only goes from the second floor of your apartment to the second floor of the apartment below you...which happens to be Thor's family. Miss Fury's room is the apartment next to that, so...once there, you will just follow my directions to your cousin. No more possibly dangerous descents. Your father would not want you endangering your life on the more easy route, would he?" The AI's tone was leading and knowing.
Bobbi sighed. "My father likely wouldn't want me up here in the first place...even without such a fall possible with this vent, it isn't exactly safe..." She sounded like she was starting to feel a little guilty. "Which is why I told you not to be so loud. You can't tell him what I'm doing...I'd rather not end up over his knee getting a sore backside..." She sighed again.
"Of course, Miss. I have been whispering this entire time and have only said anything to you regarding the vents." The AI was placid.
Mack chuckled faintly as he looked at his family. "That AI is sneaky..."
Thor frowned. "Perhaps someone should bring her out of the vents." He looked at Loki, half-tempted to suggest his brother teleport... though he had no desires to step on Coulson's toes.
"It sounds like she's almost to her destination..." Loki glanced at the ceiling. "...At least if the thumps overhead are any indication."
Despite the narrowness of the vent, Bobbi had been able to slide fairly quickly down two floors until she could reach the vents in Thor's apartment. "Ok, Ronnie. I made it down with minimal damage. Just a scratch. I assume I need to follow the left branch of venting to get to Kara?" She was still whispering.
"Yes, Miss. Moving at your current rate of speed, you will reach your cousin in five minutes," the AI whispered back, still keeping up the pretense that only Bobbi was listening to her. "If I may...where is the scratch located and may I determine if it is bad? You have a tendency to underestimate your wounds," the AI said wryly.
"I just scraped against a slightly loose piece of venting while shimmying down. It's not bad! If it were bad, it would be bleeding enough for you to have noticed where the scratch was..." Bobbi griped.
Sighing, Bruce grabbed antibiotic cream and bandages. "I'll be back..." he promised his family, as he headed out of his own apartment and went on the elevator to head down to Fury's apartment.
Kara gave a shy smile. "To give her a place to land...I thought about going up to meet her halfway...but...wasn't sure you'd like that." She blushed at the fact that she'd actually even thought of doing something so ridiculous. Although if she'd been in one of her more childlike moods, she probably would be up there right that second...
Fury smiled at his daughter. "I'm glad you made the right decision... and proud of you for not trying to go up there." He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and kissed her cheek... then stood there, waiting, trusting that Bruce was on his way up to help treat Bobbi... and that his brother would be there in moments.
Kara snuggled against her father, looking at the vent. "Wonder why she went up there anyway..." She shook her head.
Deacon smiled back then turned toward the floor when Sam and Matt came in. "Has this place always got something odd happening?" He motioned at the ceiling, where events had been unfolding.
Ben's question was more direct. "I can assume that children, of any age, aren't expected to crawl around in air vents and that the young lady's remarks of being turned over her father's knee isn't a metaphor for something else..." He eyed Matt and Sam. "Is that really a thing here?"
Matt swallowed hard. "Yeah. It is..." He looked at Sam, hoping for some help in explaining.
Sam nodded. "Everyone here is family in one way or another. Spanking might not be a conventional punishment... but it is personal and effective." He didn't mention himself and Matt specifically, even though he guessed that would be a logical leap for those in the room to make.
Blake had stayed quiet while they'd been talking. He was still in pain... otherwise he might not have put voice to what was going through his mind. "The only family I have is Deacon."
Ben looked at Blake, considering him silently. "My guess is that the families forged here weren't always family. They chose each other." He glanced at Sam and Matt, looking for confirmation.
"That's right," Matt agreed. "Sam adopted me...but before he became my dad, we were friends. He just...he cared about me more deeply than a friend...and eventually we realized the way we cared about each other was like family; more specifically...he cared about me the same way a father would his kid and I cared about him like a kid does a parent. So he adopted me...along with everything that entails..." His voice got quieter toward the end.
Deacon blinked. "Entails...meaning he punishes you when you mess up..." he said hesitantly.
"When it's necessary," Sam replied. "Many of the 'kids' here don't have parents... didn't have much in the way of family before they came here. With only a couple of exceptions, most of the families here are chosen family... to the point that it's become official. And when something happens, it's dealt with and then moved on from." Once again, he didn't go into detail about himself and Matt, leaving anything about his identity up to his son.
Blake closed his eyes for a second, though he wasn't asleep... still listening to the conversation. He looked pained... and not just from his wounds. Unlike Deacon, he'd been old enough to remember their parents... old enough to know how lonely it was once he no longer had them in his life. And although he'd done his best with Deacon... he still felt like a failure.
Ben reached over, gently running his hand over Blake's face, pushing his hair off of his eyes. "And I'm guessing none of you were children, when adopted."
"No, sir," Matt answered. "Sam just adopted me a few months back, actually..."
"Age isn't a factor when choosing to accept someone into your family." Sam's tone was a little wry, thinking of Steve and Tony... Steve, who for all that he was Tony's father, looked so much younger than his sons... both of his sons.
Some of the tension seeped out of Blake at the touch and his eyes slipped closed once more.
Ben chuckled softly, continuing the gentle petting. "Well, that explains some of the family dynamics..." He grinned, thinking of Steve and pretty much all of his children.
"The most important thing is how people feel... and Tony's lawyers took care of the rest. And Matt and Foggy after my son joined," Sam added.
Ben nodded, glancing at Deacon. He wanted to tell the younger man to get some sleep- he looked like hell- but he also knew sleeping when a loved one was in hospital was difficult. Instead, he moved to pull out a fold-away cot that was in the corner, making it up then motioning at it. "Get some sleep, kid. Come get me if your brother needs me for anything..." he said softly, pleased when Deacon immediately obeyed. As soon as the kid was asleep, he motioned for Sam and Matt to follow him out into the hallway, where they wouldn't wake either of the men up and could talk in private.
"How did you hurt your ribs?" he asked Matt, his tone curious, but his gaze sharp and observant.
"I...I uh... was in a fight..." Matt gave Ben, then Sam, a nervous look.
Ben raised an eyebrow. "This fight wouldn't have happened to include a certain ex-partner of our friend in the other room, would it?" he asked casually.
"How did you...?" Matt blinked, stopping himself before continuing, but he could sense he had already said too much.
"I didn't." Ben smiled crookedly. "...I suspected; the fact that Avengers seemed so willing to step in on what amounts to a gang war, when normally they leave those types of crimes for the police, made me wonder who was in danger if they didn't step in. You're the only one that was apparently hurt at some point, beyond Blake, that is, so I wondered if somehow you got mixed up in it. I was fishing for my answer, kid...and you delivered hook, line and sinker. Can't say I'm not surprised at finding out exactly who you are, though..."
Sam rested his hand gently on Matt's shoulder, listening to the exchange. When he commented, his voice was mild. "Letting my kid take off on his own isn't normal, Mr. Urich. At the same time... it's quite obvious your friend and probably his brother would have lost their lives today. For the most part, Matt is working with the Avengers and SHIELD... so can I trust you won't reveal his identity even to the policemen you're certain are straight?" he asked seriously, all of his focus on protecting his son.
Ben glanced at Sam. "I should hope allowing him to take off on his own without help isn't normal..." He eyed the two men. "I'm going to guess he did so this time without your permission. As for revealing his identity? No one will hear it from me. Even if I didn't like your kid and want to keep his secret- which I do- I owe him." Ben smiled gently.
Sam relaxed and smiled warmly at Ben. "We appreciate it." He waited a beat before saying, "The questions you were asking in there... the way you were with Blake... would you like Matt to start looking into paperwork?" He didn't say what for, figuring Ben would read between the lines.
"I would." Ben didn't even try to pretend he didn't know what Sam was talking about. "When Blake wakes up, I'll have a discussion with him, but I don't think he'll refuse."
Sam nodded. "Only if he thinks he doesn't deserve to be part of a family." He knew many of those in the tower had wrestled with that.
"I'll convince him, if necessary..." Ben nodded. "If you'll excuse me, I'm going to go join my wife." Ben smiled, reaching over and patting Matt on the shoulder gently before heading back to sit with Doris.
Matt watched him go before turning to his father. "I am apparently a horrible secret keeper..." He sounded bemused. "I used to be so much better at it..."
Sam wrapped his arm around Matt's shoulders and squeezed gently. "I doubt you'll have any problems keeping the secret from the bad guys... just from the family members and potential family members," he said.
Matt thought about it for a minute then smiled crookedly. "Even the ones I didn't know would be family? Maybe my subconscious can tell things I can't..." He shifted closer to his father and snuggled. "I'm kinda tired again, dad..." he said softly, with a blush.
"We can go back to our apartment... let's just let Foggy and Karen know; maybe try and encourage Karen to come as well and try to get some more sleep," Sam said, unable to hide his worry about her.
"If she balks, I'm sure Foggy will throw his two cents in...I doubt she'll balk, though. She seems to have decided you're worth listening to, for at least a little while." Matt grinned.
Sam laughed and went to put his head round the door of the other room. "Karen? Foggy? We're going back to the apartment... it's getting quite late. Would you like to come? I figured you can both stay the night, saves you heading back so late."
Foggy nodded. "Sounds like a good idea to me." He put his arms around Karen as if to lead her out.
Karen would have argued. This was the perfect opportunity to sneak out and take care of what she knew she had to do...but Foggy's quick reply and embrace left her wrong footed and she found herself agreeing despite herself. "Ok..."
Matt's grin grew brighter as they all turned to follow Sam like good little sheep.
Sam smiled and wrapped his arm around Matt's shoulders, guiding his son to the elevator... though he kept his steps slow, so that Foggy and Karen could walk with them.
It didn't take the group long to reach Sam and Matt's apartment. Foggy immediately drew Karen to the guest room. "Night, Sam...Matt...see you in the morning."
Matt watched his friends disappear into the guest room then glanced at his father. "I'm still with you tonight?" he asked hesitantly.
Sam nodded. "I think that's for the best. Even without everything that's happened... I'd like to keep you close," he said honestly.
Matt nodded himself, walking into his father's room. "Least I'm still dressed for bed..." he joked quietly. He bit his lip. "How much longer till...till I can make things right?" His voice sounded uncertain.
"I want Bruce to check you over... maybe tomorrow, depending on what he says." Sam began getting changed.
"Ok..." Matt felt a mixture of relief that things could be made right...and anxiety that it would need to wait another day. And then he felt confusion that he was even worried about it. By rights, shouldn't he want to avoid going over Sam's knee? He sighed softly, crawling up into the bed and waiting for his father.
Sam washed his face and brushed his teeth, then got into bed, wrapping his arms around his son and drawing him in close. "I love you."
Matt snuggled closer, putting his head on his father's chest. "I love you too, dad..." he said softly. It didn't take long for him to fall asleep.
Grant sighed, gently putting his hand on his father's shoulder and directing him to the elevator. "Go wait for her. Sounds like you'll get to Kara's room about the same time she does, if you go now."
"I really must insist you let me see the scratch, miss..." Veronica's voice was firm.
"Oh, fine!" Bobbi stopped moving long enough to shift her pajamas out of the way so the AI could scan the scratch.
"Thank you. It doesn't appear that you cut yourself, but the scratch is deep enough that you should wash it thoroughly and put ointment on it. And speak to Dr. Banner about a Tetanus shot." The AI was firm in that remark as well.
"Pretty sure I had one of those recently..." Bobbi snarked, fixing her clothing and beginning to crawl forward again.
Bruce smiled crookedly as the elevator stopped to let Coulson on. "I've got antibiotic cream in my bag...as well as a needle and serum for the shot. I can give the items to you, if you'd rather handle it yourself..." he said to his uncle.
Coulson had stopped long enough to give his three remaining children a quick hug before he joined Bruce in the elevator. "I'd feel better to have you take a look... since you are one of our trained doctors," he said, not wanting to take any risks with his daughter's health.
"Of course, sir..." Bruce easily agreed. As soon as the elevator stopped on Fury's floor, he was following his uncle to the door. They didn't even have to knock before Trip opened the door to the apartment and motioned them in.
"Dad and Kara are waiting in Kara's bedroom," he said calmly, before leading them up the stairs. He knocked on the door frame to announce their presence before stepping back to let his uncle and cousin in to join his father and sister.
"I put the bed there to catch her..." Kara said hesitantly, moving closer to her father. "If you want to wait for her without me here, I can go to daddy's room..." she offered softly.
Fury wrapped his arm around his daughter's waist and squeezed her gently. "I don't think it's a problem for you to be here as well."
"Bobbi will probably feel better to have you here, since you're who she's looking for," Coulson said.
"Ok," Kara answered with a tiny smile.
Just then, the cover of the vent was pushed off and a pair of feet poked through. Then a pajama clad bottom slid out, hanging there for a few seconds before the rest of the pajama clad body finally slid out and dropped onto the bed. "I'm not sure when you moved your bed or why, but it was convenie..." Bobbi turned around at that moment and saw her uncle, two cousins and father standing there looking at her.
"Veronica! You told!" Bobbi's voice was thick with betrayal.
"Actually, Miss...you told. You said to not be so loud, so I began to whisper. You never said that no one other than you should be able to hear us. And I did not talk of what you were doing with anyone else. I only talked to you about it." The AI's voice was calm. "However...as I mentioned while you were in the vents...my primary purpose is to protect the members of this family. If your life depended on my telling despite you not wishing me to...then I would tell. That goes for anyone listening..." Veronica added, for the benefit of those still listening to the exchange. "Now that your father has you, I believe I will be quiet for a bit now..."
Bobbi swallowed hard, glancing at her family. Kara's face was sympathetic, if confused. "I guess you know about the scratch, then," she finally said to Bruce.
"I do. If you could show it to me, I'll take care of it quickly," the doctor said firmly.
"I'd rather take care of it myself..." Bobbi hedged.
Coulson stepped towards his daughter, placing a hand on her shoulder and squeezing gently. "Even if the scratch isn't that bad to you, I'd still prefer it if you let Bruce take a look. I don't want to take any chances with your health."
"If you'd prefer privacy, we can wait outside." Fury indicated himself and his children.
"Why don't we go to bed, daddy? I'll stay with you tonight," Kara said, snuggling up to her father again...even as both Trip and Brock quickly disappeared into their own rooms at their father's words. "She didn't really want to talk to me, anyway." Her voice was knowing.
Bobbi shot a startled glance at her cousin, but before she could protest, Kara continued, "If you'd wanted to talk to me, you would have just told your family you wanted to talk to me and would have come down on the elevator. This wasn't about you wanting to talk to me. This was about you wanting your daddy to take control, you giving up control and not having to be responsible for anything but obeying him...you just haven't figured out yet that it's better to just ask him to do that, instead of acting out." She glanced around at the rest of the family. "Just saying...I kinda recognize the need..." She gave her uncle and cousins a quirky grin, took her father's arm and tugged him out of the room.
"Will you tell me a story, daddy?" could be heard coming down the hall, before the click of a door could be heard.
Bobbi was standing, staring at the door with a vulnerable and confused look on her face. Kara's words had obviously got to her. Bruce noted she wasn't protesting them...not that she could, since her cousin had sashayed out of the room before anyone could properly reply. Still. He cleared his throat. "Please, Bobbi?"
Bobbi swallowed and nodded. "Where do you want me?"
Bruce smiled, glancing at his uncle. "Well, since I'm not sure where the scratch is yet, I'll just tell you that I need you to either sit or to lay on the bed so I can examine it."
Bobbi blushed slightly, but went over to the bed and lay on her stomach, raising her shirt up to mid back, then pushing her pants and underwear down far enough to expose the scratch that was on her lower back, along with a few inches of unscratched skin, so that Bruce could see exactly how bad it was.
Coulson moved over immediately so that he could be close to his daughter, sitting next to her head and gently running his fingers through her hair. "I love you," he told her, his voice soft... though still containing more than a hint of the worry that had brought him here.
"I know you do, daddy...I've never doubted that..." Bobbi's voice was small and contrite. She had no clue why she'd done what she just did; although if Kara was right... She sighed. "That wasn't one of my most intelligent or sensible things to do..." she admitted.
Coulson continued gently stroking his daughter's hair, making sure he wasn't in the way of Bruce's examination. "It wasn't... but I have a pretty good idea of why you did this instead of coming to me for the attention you needed."
"Do you think Kara was right?" Bobbi asked hesitantly, uncertainly. She wasn't sure how to feel about her cousin's observation.
"The scratch is all taken care of," Bruce interrupted gently. "Just need to give you a Tetanus booster. Do you want it in your arm or your hip?"
Bobbi gave her father a questioning, hopeful look. It was obvious she was hoping he'd side with her and say she didn't need to have one. But she didn't say anything, realizing that wasn't a likely scenario.
Coulson gently stroked her cheek. "I think you and Kara are very alike," he said, before answering her unspoken plea. "I know tetanus shots aren't pleasant... but I'd rather stave off any possible infection."
Bobbi hit her lip, not arguing about her or Kara's similarities. She knew she'd likely earned herself a spanking with her latest stunt...but if the shot was in her hip, maybe her father would let it go? She ignored the fact that she had a tendency to feel guilty enough to want a spanking before things were usually said and done. And usually, the guilt was enough to make her utterly miserable till her father took care of matters. "In my hip, I guess..." she said to Bruce, although it came out sounding very much like a question.
Bruce raised an eyebrow at her uncertainty and looked toward his uncle for confirmation...feeling like something was going on with his cousin that he hadn't been privy to and he'd rather not make a mistake by listening to her if her choice was going to cause problems later.
Coulson leaned in to press a kiss to his daughter's head. "I think maybe the arm would be better," he said mildly, aware that Bobbi's actions meant he was going to have to spank her... and not wanting to make things worse for his daughter.
"Arm it is..." Bruce smiled gently at Bobbi, helping her fix her clothes before patting her shoulder to encourage her to sit up. As soon as she had situated herself, he quickly and efficiently swabbed her arm and gave her the shot.
"Everything is taken care of, so if there is nothing else, I will return to my own floor." Bruce ruffled Bobbi's hair, then gathered his stuff and left the room.
Bobbi watched her cousin leave before turning to face her father. "Should we head back to our own apartment, or do you want to take care of things right now?" Her voice was soft and subdued.
Coulson gently threaded his fingers through her hair. "Where would you feel more comfortable?" he asked. "I suspect Nat will have convinced Grant and Raina to go to bed and they were going to be in her room, so we'll have privacy no matter where we are."
"I'd feel more comfortable in your room..." Bobbi admitted softly, unable to look him in the eye. The more she thought about it, the more she wondered if her cousin was right; and it made her feel even guiltier than she already did. She hadn't had near the traumas of other family members and didn't see how she could possibly expect her father to take on such a responsibility the way Kara was suggesting.
Coulson nodded and reached out to help his daughter to her feet, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and kissing her forehead, before he began leading her out of the room.
It didn't take long for Bobbi and her father to leave Fury's apartment and arrive back at their own. Her father had been right. Everyone was either in Clint's room (he'd kept his kids close tonight, she noticed), or in Nat's room. Soon, she was sitting on her father's bed, still not able to look him in the eye, as much as she wanted to act normal instead of like a guilty child.
"About what Kara said..." she began hesitantly, but found she had no idea how to finish her thought. She wasn't sure if her cousin was right or not after all...so apologizing for trying to force her father to make (allow her to be?) her more dependent on him instead of being more responsible might not be the apology she really owed. Plus, it acknowledged what Kara said as a real possibility. And Bobbi shouldn't need that. Kara deserved and needed that kind of help; she'd been through a lot of horrid stuff (some a direct result of Bobbi's actions). Bobbi hadn't. She couldn't ask her father to take on even more responsibility for her. If Kara was right, that was.
Coulson took a seat on the bed next to Bobbi, wrapping his arm around her shoulders and pulling her in close. "I think Kara brought up a good point," he said seriously. "I love you... and it doesn't matter if you need me in a different way than the others do. The important thing is that you do need me."
"It feels like I shouldn't need you that way. I didn't have things as rough as Kara...so..." She pulled into herself slightly, feeling more ashamed as she thought about what she'd been doing the last few days. Pushing her family away repeatedly, then deliberately doing something she knew would force her father's hand.
"That doesn't matter." Coulson kissed her cheek. "You don't have to have things as rough as someone else to need me. And I don't mind you needing me. I love you. I'd rather you talk to me than do something dangerous because you need my attention."
"How? How do I talk when I don't even know what it is I'm feeling?" Bobbi swallowed. "Until Kara said what she did...I didn't even think that I... But now, I can't stop thinking about it and think maybe she was right...but how do I tell you that?" She swiped at her eyes in frustration.
"You don't have to talk... or tell me anything," Coulson replied softly. "If you need to... you can come and sit with me. Stay close. You don't need to explain."
"I know that...I felt all day that I needed to get away from everyone and I tried to...but it didn't help. I don't know what I need, daddy...I don't know what to do..." Her voice quivered.
Coulson hugged his daughter tight. "We can figure out what you need. But for the time being, I think you should stay close to me. Withdrawing clearly hasn't helped you feel better." His voice was firm. He wasn't budging.
Bobbi bit her lip. "It isn't a choice?" she asked in a small voice, her whole body tense as she waited for his answer.
"No," Coulson replied. "You don't have a choice in this." He kissed her forehead to take any sting out of his words.
Bobbi swallowed, expecting to feel upset or offended at that news. Instead, she felt herself noticeably relaxing and feeling relief. She didn't know how to feel at the realization that her cousin had been completely right about everything. "Ok, daddy..." Her words were soft and it was obvious she was having a hard time keeping from crying. "I'm sorry I was so stupid..." She swallowed again, brushing at her eyes with the palm of her hand.
"You aren't stupid." Coulson tugged his daughter onto his lap, holding her close and tight. "I love you. And if you need me in a different way to your siblings, that isn't a problem. Because I would do anything for you."
"I shouldn't, though... I don't know what's wrong with me...I never needed you differently before and now..." She couldn't help but burrow closer to him, hiding her face against his chest...unable to face him with what she felt was a big defect in her character.
Coulson stroked her hair and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "Whatever reason there is... you do need me in this way. And there's nothing wrong with it."
Bobbi choked on a tiny sob, but it still escaped and soon she was clinging to her father as tightly as possible, tears streaming down her face. "I'm sorry, daddy...so sorry...I just got so jealous of Raina and I don't even know why. And everything just got so confusing and I'm so confused and I don't know how to handle it and I'm so sorry!"
Coulson rocked Bobbi, making soothing sounds as he continued to stroke her hair. "I know it's a difficult adjustment to make. You never have to apologise for how you feel."
Soon, her father's gentle rocking helped calm her enough that she was just sniffling pathetically...but her grip on Coulson hadn't lessened and she was still snuggled as close as she could get. "I...I should have come talked to you..." she admitted in a quivery voice. "Even if I didn't know what to say or how to say it...I should have talked to you..."
"Sometimes it's easier to see what you should have done after the fact," Coulson said gently. "But I want you to keep in mind that you can always come and talk to me. I'll never be too busy. I'll always make time for you."
"I know you will daddy...I know..." Bobbi whimpered. "That's why what I did was do awfully wrong...cuz I know and I still refused to go to you..."
Coulson threaded his fingers through his daughter's hair. "We'll deal with what happened and then move on. You'll be staying in here with me tonight... and you'll be staying close to me for the forseeable future." His voice was firm, but still loving.
Bobbi sniffled, nodding stiffly before letting out another tiny cry before finally sitting straight so her father could see her face. Her shame and regret was broadcast plainly for him to see. So was the relief she felt at his decision. Wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand this time, she whispered, "Ok, daddy..."
Coulson pressed a kiss to her forehead. "I love you," he reiterated, stroking her hair a moment or two before he gently moved her across his lap.
Bobbi sniffled again. "Love you too, daddy..." she whimpered, as he maneuvered her into position. It never even crossed her mind to fight the position or argue against it; for the first time in days, she was beginning to feel settled and not confused.
Coulson wrapped his arm around his daughter's waist, securing her against his stomach before he tugged her pajama pants down. He rubbed her back gently a moment or two before lifting his hand and bringing it down in the first firm swat that he then repeated.
Bobbi had already been crying; and feeling as vulnerable and out of sorts as she had been, it didn't take more than two swats for her to begin crying again. She felt so guilty for all the worry she'd caused her father. Worry that was pointless and ridiculous when she thought about the reason she had done what she did. "I'm sorry, daddy!" she cried out pitifully, needing to say it one more time- even if her father already knew, she just didn't have any clue how to make things right.
"I know. And after this is over, we'll move on... and concentrate on how you feel." Coulson's voice was gentle as he settled quickly into a rhythm of swats, going down to his daughter's thighs before starting over from the top.
"I don't wanna think about it...it's too stupid...I was too stupid..." she forced out between her crying. Reaching down, she held onto her father's ankle as tightly as she could and tried not to move as the sting from the spanking began to linger even after Coulson had moved on to swat a different spot. It was too difficult, though and soon she was squirming, stamping her foot and shifting in an attempt to somehow ease the pain somewhat.
Coulson tightened his hold on his daughter. "You weren't and aren't stupid. How you feel is important. I'm here for you, sweetie. I love you." He continued to swat, though the smacks weren't as hard as he could give out.
"I love you too, daddy..." Bobbi finally wailed, going limp and just letting herself feel the swats, knowing that she deserved every one. She continued to cry, but now that she'd finally given in and accepted that she was over her father's knee being spanked, she wasn't crying as hard...somehow, the pain and embarrassment more bearable once she'd acknowledged she had it coming.
After one final swat, Coulson quickly tugged his daughter back into his arms, hugging Bobbi tight against his chest and kissing the top of her head.
"I do love you, daddy..." Bobbi sniffled as she cuddled as close as possible. "I didn't try and avoid you because I didn't..." It was hard for her to admit she'd avoided him because she wanted him to bring her back. Wanted him to step in. She didn't understand herself sometimes.
Coulson stroked her hair, pressing another kiss to her head. "It doesn't matter how many times something like this might happen. I'm not going to stop taking care of you... or stop responding," he promised.
Bobbi swallowed hard. "Even when I'm being a brat?" she asked softly, snuggling into him some more.
"Even then. It will never change," Coulson promised, tightening his embrace around her.
"Even if...even if Kara was right?" she asked so hesitantly, her voice barely carried.
"It doesn't matter if she was right or not," Coulson replied. "It's not going to change anything. I'm not going to stop loving you. Or wanting to take care of you."
"Ok, daddy..." Bobbi pressed her ear against his chest and sighed softly. "...That makes me feel a lot better...cuz I...I'm afraid she may have been right..." she admitted in a tiny voice.
"It's possible, but all that does is mean you need me in a different way. That's not a bad thing, I promise," Coulson said.
Bobbi sniffled again, deciding to just trust her father on that. She certainly couldn't make heads or tails of her own feelings, needs, or emotions at the moment. All she did know was that she wanted her daddy...and since he had her now, she was able to calm down and realize how tired she was.
"I think it's time to go to bed," Coulson said gently. "Do you need to brush your teeth? Or have you done all that already?"
"I did everything when I took my shower, daddy..." Bobbi said in a sleepy voice. She figured she probably should stand up, fix her pajamas...crawl into bed on her own. But she was comfortable and loathe to step away from her father for even a moment. Even though he had provided a lot of reassurance as to her place in his life, she still felt needy and uncertain...although that was mainly due to her own confusion due to her own feelings.
Coulson had changed for bed earlier, before Bobbi had taken off. He gently moved her pajama pants back into place and then moved to settle both of them comfortably on the bed.
It didn't take much at all for Bobbi to plaster herself to her father's side, putting her head on his chest, wrapping her arms around his waist and snuggling as close as humanly possible. "Love you so much, daddy..." she whispered.
Coulson held her tight, stroking her hair gently and soothingly. "I love you, Bobbi," he said softly in return. "More than I could ever put into words."
It didn't take long for Bobbi to fall asleep, feeling safe and secure for the first time in days.
It wasn't quite as easy for Karen to fall asleep. Foggy being with her didn't leave her with many options. She'd wanted to leave the tower and do what she was sure she needed to do to protect her loved ones. However, having been made aware of Matt's alter-identity; after being made aware of how the people in the tower viewed each other as family; after being told how the family handled people that put their life in danger... well, she didn't think she counted as a member of the family, but she also figured she was important enough that they might not be happy at what she had planned and might try and stop her. Which meant getting out when no one was aware of what she was doing. Which meant she'd have to wait for a night when Foggy wasn't with her and when she wasn't in the tower. She only hoped the delay wouldn't cause more people she cared about to be killed.
Blake's sleep had been fairly restless. The pain had subsided quite a bit... the dreams were what kept bothering him and causing him to wake up. By the time it was morning, he'd been awake and staring at the wall for the past couple of hours or so. He didn't know what to do with himself... how he could make things right.
Ben had spent the night by Doris' side, the first night in a very long time where he had been able to do that. But he had gone in and checked on Blake periodically through the night and knew he hadn't slept well. When morning finally came, he went into the detective's room and sat down by his side. Motioning to Deacon, he told the younger man, "Go to the common floor. Get some breakfast. Talk with Captain Rogers about your classes and how you can still attend them even if you aren't there in person; I'm sure Stark can work something out for you. Stretch your legs. I need to talk to your brother." He gave the younger man a smile.
Deacon, needing a change of scenery, quickly nodded. "I'll be back around lunch, bro- but if you need me earlier, just have Veronica call me..." Blake's younger brother then took off.
Ben looked at Black for several minutes before finally asking, "What's going on with you, son? You obviously haven't slept. I know you aren't afraid, or you shouldn't be now. We've got you and your brother in the safest place in the city. So what's dragging you down?" Ben suspected he knew, but he needed to hear it from Blake's own lips before he could do anything for the other man.
Blake had stayed quiet during Ben addressing his brother, though he'd nodded and given a quick smile to Deacon in acknowledgement of his brother's words.
When Ben addressed him, Blake became a little tense... though he forced himself to relax. "It doesn't sit right," he said finally. "I shouldn't be here... I should be locked up at best."
"Maybe. Maybe not... Seems to me that the reason you were working for Fisk was he was threatening your family. Seems to me you were a victim in all this, too." Ben slanted his head, considering the younger man. "Am I wrong?"
Blake swallowed. "Knowing that... doesn't help," he admitted, his voice barely a whisper. "I still feel..." His voice trailed off. Bad? Guilty? He didn't really know how to describe it.
"You think you need to pay for the things you've done, even if your reasons for doing them were understandable and forgivable..." Ben said quietly. "So what would make you feel better about the situation? I don't think being put in jail for the rest of your life would really help anyone. You'd do more good dedicating yourself to helping the people that you hurt through your actions...and if they knew why you'd done what you did, chances are they'd be happier with you helping them than with you sitting in jail accomplishing nothing."
Blake sighed and nodded... but even though he could see Ben's point, it was still hard. "I know you're right. I just don't know if there'll ever be a time I can forgive myself," he admitted. By this point, he'd almost hunched in on himself. With the constant stress of looking over his shoulder gone, he felt drained rather than relieved.
"I can't answer that for you, son. But I might be able to help you, at least a little bit, to feel like you've paid in a small amount for what you think is an un-payable debt," Ben said, a thoughtful gleam in his eye. He'd been paying close attention to the residents of the tower; listening to what was said and what wasn't said; watching the way the various family members interacted with each other. "Granted," he continued, "what I have in mind requires you to have complete trust in me and a willingness to listen to what I have to say...but if you do trust me that much and are willing to listen, I think I can help."
Surprised, Blake darted a glance at Ben's face and swallowed. "You arranged for my brother to be brought here to safety... you listened when I couldn't do anything but ramble, even though you had no reason to believe I was anything but a dirty officer. I don't think I could trust you anymore than I do already."
Ben nodded. "That's because I believe in you, son. I believe you can get your life back on track and be what you were meant to be; a protector of the weak, helpless...innocent. I want to help you get back to that point." He smiled crookedly, ran a gentle hand over Blake's cheek, then leaned back. "You've been asleep for a lot of the last day...but I know you heard at least some of what was being said by this building's AI and at least one of the residents. And I believe you heard at least a little bit of the conversations between Sam, Matt, and myself..." He slanted his head, giving Blake a moment to agree or disagree with his statement.
Blake's nod was slow, not entirely sure what Ben was getting at. "It was hard not to listen," he admitted, "though I'm not sure why the conversation was being broadcast here... and half of what I heard seems..." He hesitated, not sure how to finish that sentence. "I'd like to say strange, but actually... it explains a lot."
Ben chuckled softly. "To be honest, I'm not sure why the conversation was broadcast here either. Veronica is an AI that is developing her own personality and her reasons for doing so might not become apparent until much further down the road. Or perhaps her reason for doing so was to enable us to have this conversation..." Ben's smile was wry. "...Because I doubt I would have even considered what I'm considering now if I hadn't heard the conversation and then had my suspicions confirmed by two people I trust. It made me think that maybe it was something that would help you...and I do want to help you, Blake." He cleared his throat. "You're right that it does explain a lot. But most of all, it explains how a tower full of such opinionated, headstrong people has managed to form such a cohesive group for good. They're family. They're each other's support. And they're accountable to each other. I think maybe...you and I both would benefit from the same arrangement."
"Arrangement?" Blake echoed. "I know you were talking to them about their family..." Of course, it wasn't a secret that those living in the tower had formed a family unit, to the point of many of them being adopted. What he wasn't sure of was where Ben was going with this... or, rather, he had his suspicions; but he didn't want to put voice to them. Just in case he was wrong. Just in case he shouldn't be feeling the faint sliver of hope.
"Ideally...I would like to adopt you. Make you my son. I've always liked you, Blake...it's one of the reasons that you were the one I went to for my behind the scenes information. When I realized that you were in Fisk's back pocket, I won't lie. It hurt. I don't think I've ever felt so betrayed...and considering I had been paying you to give me information I wasn't supposed to have, it surprised me. But then I learned about Deacon. And I learned why you'd gone to Fisk. And...I didn't feel betrayed anymore. I just felt sad that you'd had no one to help you and felt you had no other options. And...I realized I wanted to help you, because I cared about you. Not as a friend, but in a deeper way. That surprised me. I was not expecting to feel that way." Ben sighed, looking away for a moment as he tried to gather his thoughts.
"I don't have any children, Blake. Doris and I...her health wouldn't allow for it and I'm not the type to step out on his lady...so we have no children. But I couldn't help but think if I had a child...and he'd been coerced- forced- into working for someone like Fisk... I'd want him to come to me for help. I'd want to help him. Just like I want to help you. And I know what that help would entail. So...I want to adopt you...if you are willing. But even if you don't want to officially be my child, I still want to help you. And that help will take a decidedly personal and painful direction, I won't lie, but in the end, I think it will enable you to feel better about yourself and move on." Ben swallowed and waited to hear Blake's reaction.
Blake's first thought was that... he didn't deserve it. Didn't deserve Ben wanting him... wanting to adopt him; to make him part of his family. But he wanted it. "I always..." He stopped, trying to figure out what he wanted to say. "I think... I've always considered you a friend. I didn't feel like I could tell anyone what was going on... I didn't want to risk anyone else being put in danger." He swallowed. "My parents... when they died, it wasn't until I met you that I realised..." His voice trailed off and he ran a hand through his hair. "I want to be your son... even though I don't think I deserve it. Even though I think the smart thing for you to do would be to turn your back on me," he admitted in a much quieter voice.
Ben found himself relaxing at Blake's words. "Not a chance of that, kid..." he said softly. "You've agreed. You're stuck with me now..." He smiled gently. "I'll have Matt draw up the paperwork. You can sign it. And once you are healed sufficiently, you can go up to the apartment that I've been given, pick out your room and help me decorate. They made certain to keep it close to the medical floor so I can see Doris easily...There's also a room for Deacon when he wants to visit his big brother." Ben's face turned a slight bit stern. "And when you're finally settled into the apartment and I know that you are one-hundred percent on the way to recovery...we'll deal with that guilt that you're carrying around. So you can put it behind you and move on with your life." His tone was firm and unyielding on that; he fully intended that Blake not be hindered by lingering guilt...and would do whatever was necessary to help alleviate it for his son.
Blake wondered if he should feel nervous rather than relieved... but it felt good to have someone step in and take control; someone who wanted to be there for him... to actually have a father. "The way of dealing with it... is that the same thing you all were talking about last night?" he asked softly.
Ben nodded slowly. "Yes. It is. Can you accept that?" It wasn't something that Ben would force the issue on if Blake was truly against it. He knew it would only work if the other man was in agreement with it and accepted it as necessary.
"It's nowhere near the worst that could happen," Blake said. "I don't... really want to be carrying this guilt around if there's a way to lighten it." And a big part of him felt like he should be held accountable... he just wasn't sure how to ask if this was going to be a one-time thing, or if it would be likely to happen again.
Ben nodded. "I agree...I don't want you carrying that guilt around either. And hopefully, the experience will also serve as a deterrent to you doing anything that would make you feel so guilty again in the future..." He left it unsaid that he would do it as often as needed, the idea of it being a deterrent implying that he would do it again if necessary.
Blake took a deep breath and nodded. "I can't... promise there won't be times I might slip up in the future. But I'll do my best to make sure you don't regret this... any of it."
"I imagine there will be slip-ups occasionally. You can't go through life without making any mistakes at all, no one can. But when necessary, I will step in and guide you back the right direction. I take your trust in me to be a father seriously and I will do my best not to let you down." Ben's tone was a promise.
"Thank you..." Blake's voice was soft, sincere. "Thank you... for deciding to take a chance on me." He hesitated, but tried out the name with a slight blush. "...Dad."
Ben's smile could have lit up the room. He hadn't expected Blake to feel comfortable calling him that so soon, if ever, but the fact the man had, had confirmed the fact that his decision to adopt him was the right one. The fact that he had never expected to have anyone call him that, ever...just made it all the more sweet to his ears. "Thank you for giving me a chance to..." His voice was gruff as he attempted to reign in his emotions. "...It means the world."
Blake smiled and shifted so that he was closer to Ben... as much as the wires would allow him to be. Though even without them, he might not have felt quite brave enough to initiate the contact he desperately wanted.
Ben reacted to the shifting by placing his hand on Blake's arm, keeping it there in a gentle form of contact. "Get some rest, son. It will help you heal better," he said gruffly.
Blake nodded, not attempting to argue with his... father (the thought brought an inner smile). With a quiet sigh, he settled back down and closed his eyes.
For his part, Ben sat back, making sure to keep his hand on Blake's arm until the other man was asleep. He then pulled out an article he was working on and began to proofread it. Maybe when Blake woke up again, he'd see about getting Doris in a wheelchair so she could come meet their son.
Sam woke up fairly early, but didn't shift away from his son. He kept his arms around Matt, idly stroking his hair... and waited for Matt to wake up in his own time.
Matt slowly came to, groggily taking in his surroundings and the fact that he was being pet like a puppy. "Mmmph..." He nuzzled into his father's chest, snuggling lazily, before blearily opening his eyes. "...Musta been more tired than I thought..." he finally whispered, his face going pink.
"Healing probably took quite a lot out of you," Sam replied mildly. "How are you feeling?" He continued gently stroking Matt's hair.
Matt gave the question serious thought then sighed. "I don't hurt anywhere...I'm hungry, which I guess is a good sign...and I feel really, really guilty about what I did now that I've thought about it and knowing how worried you were and...and knowing things could have been so much worse." Biting his lip, he snuggled closer, not wanting to look his father in the eye. "I'm sorry, dad..."
"I know." Sam's voice was gentle... not accusing in the least. "We'll eat breakfast and then ask Bruce to check you over. If he says you're recovered, we can deal with what happened and move past it." He pressed a kiss to the top of his son's head.
"Yessir..." Matt mumbled against his father, hiding his face. Finally, reluctantly, he pulled away and sat up. "I dunno why...I just feel all kinds of out of sorts this morning...vulnerable...anxious...needy...Can't figure out why...if my senses are trying to tell me something, or if it's just the guilt causing it..." he admitted, with a slight hint of worry.
"Karen's clearly still bothered about something." Sam's frown was worried. "I think we should make sure to keep an eye on her when Foggy isn't with her." He sat up as well, resting his hand gently on Matt's shoulder.
Matt eyed his father. "You think she'll do something?" He swallowed, not liking the idea of his 'sister' getting herself into a potentially deadly situation.
"I think she's feeling guilty and upset about something... so I suspect it's possible," Sam replied.
"Dunno what she'd have to feel guilty about..." Matt muttered. "...I'm the one constantly running off and fighting with gangs and worrying my family. She...she was really affected by that lawyer's death, though. Maybe she knew him or something and just never said anything before..." Matt glanced over at his father. "I'll go get dressed...do you want me to get checked out first or eat first?" he asked, so that he'd know where to head next.
"Eat first, I think. Then we can ask Veronica to send Bruce a message to meet us." Sam stood up. "I'll start getting some breakfast cooked."
"Yessir..." Matt's quiet, subdued voice followed him out of his father's room as he headed to his own room to change. It was obvious he was feeling a great deal of guilt this morning, the extra night giving him more time to think than he had really wanted. He passed Foggy coming out of the guest room as he was going to his own room.
"Hey, Matt...you finish those documents for the court case today? I've got to be there in an hour and a half. Figure I have just enough time to eat breakfast...but if you aren't finished them..." Foggy spoke quickly before Matt could disappear.
Matt turned to face his friend, backing into his room. "I did finish them...they're on the desk in the office downstairs. Give me time to change and I'll retrieve them for you..."
"Sure thing!" Foggy grinned and went down to the kitchen, beginning to help Sam without any direction at all.
That was how Karen found them five minutes later when she came downstairs and walked into the kitchen. "Smells good. Can I help?" she asked quietly, smiling at Matt when he came into the room and placed a stack of files on the table where Foggy would see them.
Sam smiled at Karen. "I think we're all sorted. Why don't you have a seat?" he suggested, beginning to put filled plates on the table. He let Foggy take care of the drinks as he finished plating up the food and then sat down next to Matt, wrapping an arm around his son's shoulders and giving a tight squeeze.
Karen watched Sam with Matt and couldn't help but smile at the easy affection between the two. She smiled, unaware how wistful she looked, and remarked, "Looks like your ribs feel a lot better. So...is fast healing one of those abilities you were mentioning the other day?"
Matt blushed. "Yeah...it's one of them."
"Thanks, Sam," Foggy said, before digging in to his food. "Sorry to be eating and running, but I have court in an hour and I prefer to show up earlier rather than right on time; gives me time to prep the client..." he said, in between mouthfuls.
Karen nodded. "I've got some work I need to take care of back at the office..." she began. "...Can I share a cab with you? Court is on the way, isn't it? Or at least it's close by so it won't be too much of an extra trip..."
Foggy shrugged, "S'ok with me..."
Sam leaned his shoulder gently against Matt's as he spoke. "Why don't we meet up on your lunch break?" he suggested. "We could go via a cafe... get some food there." He didn't say Matt was going to be staying close to him, not wanting to embarrass his son.
Karen blinked at the suggestion. "You aren't tired of me yet?" she teased lightly, although her tone sounded happy that he'd thought of doing something with her. She looked down at her breakfast. She hated to say she would when she knew she had no intention of actually meeting up, might not be able to meet up, since she was going to go speak with Fisk as soon as she was able. But she didn't want any of them to worry either and refusing would cause them to worry. Forcing a smile on her face, she looked back up again. "I'd like that."
Matt slanted his head. She wasn't lying; but then again, her words weren't exactly something she'd lie about either. She probably would like to meet up for lunch. The question was if she intended to. The problem was, he didn't know how to ask her that without it looking like he was giving her the third degree, or didn't trust her. "I'd like it too...Mind if we make it a threesome? Or even a foursome, if Foggy gets out of court soon enough?" He knew his father intended him to be there, but maybe if he asked, Karen would give a little bit more information and he'd be able to pinpoint what about her answer worried him.
"I'd like that, too..." Karen smiled again, although her eyes looked a bit haunted.
Sam smiled, making eye contact with Karen... though he was observant enough to realise that there was something wrong. "I think that would be a very good idea," he agreed mildly, deciding that he and Matt would be leaving the tower a bit earlier... just in case Karen was up to something she shouldn't be.
At that moment, Veronica interrupted. "Sargeant...as soon as you are finished with Mr. Murdock's check-up with Dr. Banner, Mr. Stark has found some information that you might find useful..."
Matt blinked at that. It sounded important and he wondered just what Tony had found out. He knew they'd asked for the man to look through all the video feed he could find of the docks where Wesley was found. Had he found something to do with that? Since it was his father that the AI had addressed though, he kept quiet.
Surprised, Sam looked up at the ceiling (it was really hard to break that habit) to address the AI. "Thank you for letting me know... tell Tony I'll be there as soon as possible after the checkup."
"Well, I hate to eat and run...but court beckons. You coming with me, Karen?" He smiled at his girlfriend as he quickly washed his plate and silverware, taking hers and doing the same when she stood up with him.
Karen nodded. "Yeah. I really have things I need to get finished in the next couple of hours..." She didn't elaborate that she needed to finish them because after she went to see Fisk, she didn't think she'd be able to finish them.
Soon, Foggy and Karen were gone and it was just Sam and Matt. Matt sighed before standing and taking his empty plate to the sink so he could wash his own dishes. "Do you want to see what Tony found before or after you hand me my backside?" He tried for a teasing tone, but his guilt was loud and clear and made it sound more awkward than anything.
"It could be urgent... maybe we should get Tony to meet us while Bruce is checking you over," Sam said. "We will deal with it, son. It's not going to stay between us." He squeezed Matt's shoulder, even as he addressed the AI. "Veronica? Could you ask Tony to come join us in Bruce's apartment, please?"
"I'm hoping it isn't urgent. I'm hoping my senses are just acting up because I was an idiot the other day and need to be punished and not because something is actually wrong..." Matt admitted with a wince. He finished washing up his dishes then waited for Sam to be ready to go, letting his father take lead.
"I have done so, sir. He said walking from his apartment office to the living room of his family's apartment, where Bruce is currently sitting, is no problem at all..." The AI even managed to inject the sense of teasing that would have accompanied Tony's remark.
"Thank you." Sam might have joked a bit in return, but he was very worried about how Matt was feeling and gently squeezed his son's shoulder. "If something is wrong... we'll deal with it," he promised, wrapping his arm around Matt and guiding him to the elevator.
"I know, dad..." Matt said softly, following Sam's lead meekly. "I just have a really bad feeling all of a sudden and I don't think it's because I know you're going to spank me... I... I feel like we should have kept Karen here with us instead of letting her go to the office. I don't know why..."
Soon, they were standing in front of Bruce's apartment, knocking on the door. Tony was the one who answered. "Come in, Uncle Sam... that never gets old..." Tony chuckled impishly as he waved his uncle and cousin into the living room where Bruce waited with a scanner, as well as the more typical doctor's equipment.
"Tony..." Bruce rolled his eyes. "...Why don't you get your stuff set up while I check out my patient? It shouldn't take long, as he was healing nicely the last time I checked." He began to run the scanner over Matt. When everything showed as normal, he began to poke and prod using his hands, asking if certain amounts of pressure hurt or caused discomfort.
"No...that doesn't...Aaaugh..." Matt suddenly jerked away, as Bruce somehow found the one ticklish spot on his body. "...Doesn't hurt...but don't poke there again!" Matt's face was scarlet.
Bruce's eyes widened, his eyebrows shooting up, before he looked at Sam with a tiny grin. "I'll just make a note of that in your file...very ticklish under your left arm on the third rib up..."
Tony snorted. "If you all are ready... I was able to locate footage of that warehouse where that lawyer was killed. I've made it so that no one else can get the footage on account of... well... I'll just let you watch it and you'll understand."
Sam's expression was one of amusement as Bruce found his son's ticklish spot... but when Tony spoke, he turned serious and nodded to his nephew. "I think we're ready to view it." He'd taken into account Matt's worry about Karen... and since she had reacted badly to the news story, his worry had only been growing.
Tony nodded, his eyes worried. "Begin playing the recording, Veronica..." he said somberly.
The AI obeyed and soon footage of the warehouse where Wesley's body was found began to run.
Sam could tell this was serious from the look on his nephew's face. As the footage began playing, he talked through it... describing what was happening for his son's benefit. His voice faltered when he saw the lawyer and Karen enter the warehouse. There might not have been sound... but it was obvious Fisk's right-hand man had frightened her.
It didn't come as a surprise when Karen left the warehouse, looking scared and darting away like a spooked animal. Sam was quiet for a second or two and then spoke softly. "Given how Karen's been acting... I think I have a fairly good idea of what happened in there."
"Dad?" Matt's voice was worried. Sam had done a good job describing everything in the video to him...he had a pretty good idea of what had happened, too, but he didn't want to believe it. Not because it would change his opinion of Karen, of his sister, but because it meant she was in a lot of danger and hadn't trusted them enough to share the information with them so they could help protect her.
Tony gave Sam a sympathetic look. "I've had Veronica digging around, finding as much as she can to hold over Fisk's head so that he'll back off and not come after her...but we haven't had a chance to meet with him and give him the ultimatum and if she does something before we can..."
"We'll take the car... go straight to the firm. She said she had some things to take care of, so I hope she'll still be there," Sam said. "Just in case... Tony, can you have Veronica hack into any security feeds and get a lock on Karen, please?" While he was speaking, he was moving... gently grasping his son's shoulder and heading to the elevator with Matt in tow.
"I'll do you one better...I'll have Veronica get a lock on Karen and I'll also put the rest of the family on alert, in case you need us..." Tony answered, already moving to do just that.
"I'll get the doctors and nurses on stand-by... and hope we won't need their services." Bruce sighed.
Matt followed Sam quickly. "I've got my suit in the front hall of the apartment. I should probably grab it just in case. I can change in the car if needed..."
"Thank you," Sam said quickly. He squeezed Matt's shoulder to indicate he'd heard his son and then stepped into the elevator with Matt, taking it to their floor. He only paused long enough for Matt to grab the suit before he was heading back into the elevator with him, taking it to the parking garage.
Karen had dropped Foggy off at the courthouse with a kiss then continued on to the office. She wasn't there for long before her worry about her friends... her family... became too much. She knew she couldn't keep on the way she was and now was the first chance she'd had available to get away from watching eyes. She'd go to Fisk and confess now... and hope he was merciful.
Sam got in the car in double-quick time, just pausing long enough for Matt to get in and close the door before he started driving... going as close to the speed limit as he could without running the risk of getting pulled over.
Grabbing a pad of paper and pen, Karen wrote a letter to her boyfriend and 'brother', explaining what she had done and why she had felt the need to protect them by going to Fisk. She asked their forgiveness and begged them to take care of themselves and not get on Fisk's bad side because of her. She hadn't realized she was crying until she noted the smudged ink and tearstains on the paper. Swallowing thickly, she grabbed her purse and left the office to go catch a cab to meet Fisk.
Sam got to the offices in record time... fast enough that he saw Karen just stepping out of the street. "She's here." He parked the car directly on the street in front of her and then quickly got out, stepping over to stand next to Karen... and also block her way. "I don't think I have to ask what you're about to do, but I'm not letting you hand yourself over to Fisk," he stated.
Karen blinked in shock that he'd figured her out before quickly schooling her face into a confused smile. "Hand myself over to Fisk? I wasn't going to do anything of the sort...why would you think that?" She even managed to sound offended. "I was just going to get a coffee..."
"No need to spend money on that when we have a coffee maker in the office," Matt piped in. "...I'll make it. You like my coffee, right?"
Karen hesitated. "I...do like your coffee...but I wanted one of the fancy ones...with caramel and whipped cream..." she hedged. "...But I guess all that sugar isn't good for me anyway..." She finally sighed, realizing that Sam wasn't going to let her out of his sight. The only thing she could do was try to do damage control and convince him that she wasn't going to Fisk and never had planned to go to Fisk; so that he'd leave her alone long enough that she could go to Fisk. "Why are you both here anyway? I didn't think we were meeting until lunch time..." She let Matt go ahead of her and would have let Sam go ahead, but he seemed determined to stay right beside her.
As they walked back into the office, Karen remembered the note; and the fact that it was laying where it would be seen first thing as soon as Foggy came into the office. She quickly tried to walk over so she could shove it under something where it wouldn't be seen by Sam.
Sam stuck close by Karen, almost right in her personal space... so when she abruptly changed directions, he saw immediately and adjusted his own position as he saw the piece of paper she'd started walking to. "You left a note for someone?" His voice was mild... but there was a serious note to it.
"Oh! No! Just something I need to file..." Karen snatched the paper up and held it to her chest like a shield. "It's a good thing you came by...I can't believe I accidentally left this out where anyone could read it!" She laughed faintly.
Matt could hear Karen's heartbeat accelerating and the tension in her voice. "Just stop! Stop lying about what you're going to do and be honest...please!" he finally said, unashamed at the begging tone in his own voice.
Karen turned stricken eyes toward Matt, the letter she'd written loosened in her grasp and floating to the floor at Sam's feet.
Sam leaned down and picked the letter up, reading it. He then looked up to meet Karen's eyes. "We were on our way here because Tony was able to uncover the video feed from the warehouse where Fisk's lawyer was killed," he said quietly. "What you were about to do is wrong. You should have trusted us to help you."
Karen's stricken look turned devastated at Sam's words. "Wrong? I was trying to make things right again!" she defended herself weakly. "I was trying to keep you all safe from my mistake..." Tears pooled in her eyes and she had to fight to keep them from falling.
Sam stepped over and placed his hand on Karen's shoulder. "Keeping us safe at the expense of your own safety is not acceptable."
"But..." Karen swallowed hard and lost her battle with her tears. "...It was my fault you were in danger in the first place!" Her voice cracked and the tears became vocal.
Matt moved closer. "No, Karen...it's Fisk's fault we're in danger...because of the way he handles his anger. Maybe it's mine a little bit; I'm the one that got you looking into him in the first place...but whatever happens to us or anyone else is not your fault...!"
Sam responded by wrapping both of his arms around Karen and hugging her tight. "You aren't responsible for what Fisk does." He paused. "But you shouldn't have lied. And you definitely shouldn't have considered handing yourself over."
Karen didn't know what to say or do. They knew her plan now and she knew there was no way she'd be able to pull it off now. Neither of them were likely to let her out of their sight again or believe anything she said to convince them to. It was all messed up and it was her fault for being so weak. "But it is my fault!" she sobbed out. "I was snooping around and got...got James Wesley's attention...and then I was so scared when...when he confronted me..." Her words stuck in her throat, making it impossible to confess...but that's what she had to do if she had any hope of convincing them to let her go.
"The gun was his...wasn't it? Meant to scare and subdue you into answering him and doing whatever he said..." Matt's voice was thinly veiled anger.
The anger was at what Wesley had done, not his sister, but Karen was too distraught to realize that and just started sobbing and begging them semi-incoherently to let her go and 'pay for her sins'.
Sam didn't let go of Karen, gently stroking her hair. "You acted in self-defence. You should have told us earlier... so you didn't have to deal with this pain alone. But we're here now... and we're never going to let you handle this alone; or any other pain you have to deal with," he promised.
"I have to...I ca...can't let anyone else be hurt cuz of me!" Karen began to try and pull away, positive that if they helped her, they would be hurt and she couldn't live with that. "I...I killed someone!" She cried harder. "I don't deserve help..."
Matt winced at hearing thoughts he'd had so often come from the lips of the woman he considered a sister. "You can't stop us from helping," he finally said quietly. "Let's go home...please?"
Sam tightened his arms around Karen and pressed a kiss to her head. "I don't want to lose you," he said quietly. "Tony's had Veronica digging up things to use on Fisk. I promise no one else is going to get hurt."
Realizing she wasn't going to get away; and not really wanting to, now that the closest thing to a family she had had got hold of her, Karen went limp in Sam's arms, just crying brokenly...the guilt over taking another life, the worry over the people she loved being hurt because of her and the stress from having kept her secret for so long finally catching up with her. It was impossible for her to do anything but cry.
At that moment, Foggy returned from court. He walked into the office, looking ready to attack someone, until he realized who was with Karen. "What happened?" he asked, his worry skyrocketing.
"I'll explain on the way back to the tower...do you mind driving? So Sam can keep hold of Karen?" Matt said low to his friend so that no one outside the office could hear.
Foggy nodded. "Yeah...Ok. Let's grab our stuff and go then..." He watched his girlfriend, face full of worry.
Sam held Karen tight, gently stroking her hair. He let Matt and Foggy grab what was needed, not wanting to take any of his attention from Karen. Almost his entire attention was taken by the woman he'd quickly realised he cared about as more than just a friend.
As soon as everything had been gathered, Foggy retrieved the car keys from Sam then motioned Sam to go ahead of him with Karen. As soon as they were out of the office, Matt following, Foggy closed and locked the door, then quickly moved forward and out to the car, unlocking it and opening the back seat for Sam to get in with Karen. He had a feeling, whatever was wrong, Sam wasn't going to let go of her...Foggy was perfectly all right with that. He'd sensed for a while that Karen had somehow worked herself into Matt's new family and since he felt Matt would do well with a 'kid sister' and that Karen would do well with an actual family (she never talked about where she came from or her blood family, despite many questions. He didn't even know if they were still alive or not), he was relieved that Sam was taking care of her. It didn't take long for everyone to be loaded into the car and Foggy got into the driver's seat. He drove back to the tower, careful not to speed or do anything reckless.
While Foggy drove, Matt quietly told him what they'd discovered, what Karen had been about to do and how they'd come to stop her from doing it. By the end of Matt's explanation, Foggy was more grateful than ever to Sam. "Will you want to talk to her in private?" He glanced over into the back seat at Sam, his voice serious.
Sam hadn't let go of Karen for even a second. Even putting the seatbelt on, he'd done so one-handed... and all through the drive, he'd held Karen tight to himself, stroking her hair. "Yes, I will do." He answered Foggy's question without looking away from the woman. He was going to have to deal with Matt as well... but he thought it would be better to take care of Karen first.
"I'll...uh...I'll let Tony know that we stopped her and that she's safe at home..." Matt said softly. "Afterwards, where do you want me to go?" He knew his father needed to take care of Karen. He also knew that the form of care she needed, she might not want anyone else around to witness. At the same time, he knew he owed his own penance of a sort for his actions from before and didn't want to just disappear on his father. It would be better to just get directions on what Sam expected.
Foggy sighed. "I still have a lot of work to do...Do you think Tony and the others would mind my borrowing the common floor office? I don't really want to leave with everyone I care about in such stress and upset... but I'm not even going to pretend anyone is going to want me to witness it, either..." His voice was resigned.
"I doubt very much it'll matter if you use one of the offices to take care of your paperwork, Foggy," Sam said. "Matt... why don't you check in with Ben and see if he wants you to draw up that paperwork to adopt Blake?" He was fairly certain that Ben was going to be adopting Blake... but didn't want to voice that assumption out loud.
"Thanks, Sam," Foggy said, right on the heels of Matt's, "Okay, dad..."
Foggy finally pulled into the garage of the tower, parking the car and grabbing his briefcase. "Veronica...let Tony know we're back and I'm borrowing the group office?" Foggy said, before heading to the elevator.
Matt grabbed everything else and then waited for his father to get out with Karen before walking to the elevator as well.
Sam helped Karen out of the car, after unclasping both of their seatbelts, and kept his arms around her as he headed to the elevator. He didn't so much as loosen his hold on Karen, needing to keep her close.
Karen had finally stopped crying; a listless, hopeless look was in her eyes, though. She didn't expect to be forgiven what she'd done...didn't think she deserved forgiveness. She didn't think she deserved the help she was being offered either and the thought of those she viewed as family being hurt because of her actions was a deep torment. Even so, she didn't fight Sam any longer. It was obvious she'd given up.
Sam stroked her hair gently. "Everything's going to be all right," he said softly to her, as the elevator stopped on each floor. "Matt, I'll ask Veronica to let you know when you're able to come to our apartment."
"Yes, sir..." Matt swallowed hard as he looked at his sister, worry about her overriding all the anxiety he'd been feeling about his own actions.
"Stop with me before going to see Ben...I think I've got copies of the paperwork he might want and if he is interested, you can begin it immediately..." Foggy said, nudging his friend and hoping to jar him out of the funk he could tell Matt was going to fall into. He was worried about Karen as well; but he also knew she was in good hands and until he was able to do something (be it providing comfort later, or just being there), he would stay out of Sam's way, because right now, it was obvious what she needed was something that Foggy couldn't give her. Not yet. She wasn't in the right frame of mind to let him help yet.
The elevator stopped at the common floor first and both Matt and Foggy got off.
Karen stayed in Sam's arms, not even acknowledging the other two as they got off. A haunted, guilt-filled look was on her very pale face.
Sam tightened his embrace around Karen as the elevator continued to his apartment. "I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we don't want to risk losing you," he said softly. "You shouldn't have even thought about handing yourself over to Fisk. Your first instinct should have been to talk to one of us."
Karen stirred faintly at his words, before looking up at him with tormented eyes. "I didn't want you to be hurt because of me..." she said in a tiny voice, some part of her finally recognizing that she'd been wrong to try and protect them by hiding things from them.
"I know, but we're more than capable of defending ourselves... and this place is probably the most defensible in New York," Sam said seriously. "It isn't your job to decide what we can and can't handle. This has been playing on your mind for the past couple of days... and you wouldn't be hurting nearly as much if you'd trusted us."
Karen burst into tears again at his words. She knew he was right...even if she didn't want to admit it. She could admit one thing, though. "All I can see is...is..." She shuddered at the thought of Wesley as the life left his eyes. She'd done that. She'd killed another human being; and it didn't matter how many times she told herself...how many times anyone else told her...that it was self-defense. She couldn't ever forget that.
"I know." The elevator came to a stop and Sam gently led her off, through to the living area where he sat down on the couch and tugged her down to sit with him. "It gets easier to bear over time... more so when you let your friends... your family... help and support you."
"I'm sorry..." Karen wailed as she turned and hid her face against Sam, finally allowing herself to reach for any form of comfort he was willing to offer. She grasped onto him as if he was all that was keeping her together.
Sam hugged Karen tight to himself. "I know. I care about you a great deal, Karen. I can see how much this has hurt you emotionally," he said gently. "Even before knowing what it was... that much was obvious."
"I don't know how to make it better..." she whispered. "...I don't know what to do..." She felt so guilty; not only for what she'd done, but for the fact her friends, her family...were going to suffer because of her actions. Although she knew they could protect themselves...Sam was right, this was one of the most secure buildings in the city...it didn't erase the fact that she'd made it necessary for them to have to protect themselves. It definitely didn't remove the guilt from her actions.
Sam touched her cheek, encouraging her to look at him. "At the moment, you don't have to do anything apart from listen to me and trust me," he said gently. "I can help you deal with the guilt... in the same way I plan to handle you lying to me and endangering yourself."
Karen reluctantly looked up at him, her eyes red-rimmed and tears still running down her face. Sniffling softly, her lower lip quivered. "You'll help me?" she finally asked hesitantly...hopefully. She swallowed hard, thinking about what she'd learned recently about how he dealt with things in his family. Her voice dropped to a whisper as she asked, "Are you going to spank me?"
Sam nodded. "I am. Because you're a part of my family. Because I care about your physical and mental well-being. And I don't want to lose you. And I'm not the only one who feels that way," he added.
Karen wasn't sure what to think of that. While she cared a great deal about Matt and Foggy and had begun to care a great deal about Sam from the moment he became a permanent feature in Matt's life, she had a hard time believing that they would care enough about her to want to pull her into the family with them. But Sam was saying that she already was a part of his family. Which...made her actions all the worse. Not only had she put her family in danger, but she hadn't trusted them with the truth and had made everything worse. She couldn't help it. She started crying again. "...Msorry..." she said miserably. "...I lied and hid things and wasn't good at all... I'm sorry and...and... why do you even care about me?!" Her eyes dropped again as shame from her behavior collided with the guilt she already felt.
Sam dropped a kiss to the top of her head without conscious thought. "Because you are a good person. And I feel the same way about you as I do about Matt. Even if you don't feel the same, it's not going to change anything."
Karen gasped at the thought that he might believe she didn't feel the same way and threw her arms around him tightly. "...But I do. I...I care about you as much as I do Matt and Foggy and...and I didn't want you to be hurt and I..." She swallowed and sniffled again. He'd told her back at the office that what she'd planned to do was wrong. Now...realizing how much she was cared about...she could see that it would have been wrong. "...I almost did the wrong thing..." she admitted sadly. "I did do the wrong thing...lying and hiding things...and I'm so sorry! I didn't want to hurt any of you!" She continued to hold onto him tightly, afraid that, after all the lies she'd told, he wouldn't believe her.
Sam didn't so much as loosen his hold on Karen, gently stroking her hair. "I know," he said, his voice soft. "I know you didn't want to hurt any of us. I know you thought you were doing the right thing, but you weren't. Endangering yourself isn't the right thing... is never acceptable. Losing you would have been something I couldn't recover from... and I know Matt and Foggy wouldn't."
Karen slowly relaxed at his words, sniffling again at the gentle affection he continued to provide. "I ... you said all I had to do was listen to you and trust you..." she began hesitantly. "...I do trust you...and I...I want to listen to you. C..can you help me not be so guilty anymore?" she asked in a tiny voice. She tried to think of the right way to ask him to help her not make the same mistakes she'd just made, but couldn't think of anything more than, "...Can you help me be better?"
Sam looked into her eyes. "I can and I will," he said seriously. "A spanking is personal and will hurt... but it will also give you consequences and something to hopefully deter you from doing something similar in the future. At the same time... if something happens again... it won't be the end of the world. It won't change how I feel about you."
Karen bit her lip and nodded. She believed him. She trusted that, no matter what happened, he wasn't going to abandon her or give up on her. "What do you want me to do?" she finally asked hesitantly, face turning red as she accepted his decision and realized she had just agreed to him being in charge of her along with everything that entailed.
"You don't have to do anything other than cooperate," Sam said gently. "I'm going to take you over my lap... and then I will bare you and the spanking will begin. It will hurt... and it will be personal... but once it's over, it won't be brought up again and we can focus on the more pleasant side of being a family."
"O...ok...d...daddy..." Karen couldn't quite meet his eyes, afraid that he wouldn't like her calling him that, since he hadn't actually adopted her or anything. But still...it felt right for the moment. She couldn't imagine accepting punishment of that sort from anyone who wasn't a father to her.
Sam smiled and kissed her forehead. "If you want to make that official... and I want that... then once we're done here, we can talk to Matt and Foggy about drawing up the paperwork." He hugged her a bit tighter for a second or two before gently moving her across his lap.
Karen's smile at his acceptance of her, and his declaration that he wanted to adopt her, was brilliant. It only disappeared when he put her over his knee...but even then, the warm feeling of acceptance and love stayed with her. It made the shame at even needing to be in the position she was in easier to accept. Taking a quivery breath, she reached down with both hands and gripped Sam's ankle, trying to prepare herself; though she was fairly certain there was no real way to prepare to be punished in this manner.
Sam gently rubbed Karen's back a moment or two before he bared her. He allowed a second or two for her to adjust to the position before he lifted his hand, bringing it down in the first sharp swat that he then repeated.
It wasn't until Karen felt cool air ghosting over her bottom that she realized...it was really happening. She was over Sam's knee and he was about to... "Ow!" She couldn't help but yelp as the first swat landed. She'd been completely unprepared for how being so vulnerable would make her feel. Completely unprepared for how much it would hurt, despite all Sam's warnings that it would. And really, beyond the lying about her intentions the last few days and trying to hide what had occurred... Karen didn't really have a duplicitous bone in her body. She couldn't hide her reactions from Sam, even if she'd wanted to.
Sam didn't waste much time in covering Karen's entire backside, down to her thighs, in the stinging swats. He kept his free arm wrapped around her waist, pulling her tight against his stomach, as he completed the first circuit and began a second. "Your actions could have taken you away from your family and that is not acceptable. You are important and valued... no matter what."
Karen was squirming uncontrollably; but not getting very far in her efforts to shift the target away from Sam's hand, she noticed ruefully. Sam's grip was too strong. His aim too sure. It didn't take long for the tears to start streaming down her face again, especially when Sam began talking about her importance and value and how her actions were wrong. She let out a tiny, whimpering whine in answer to his comment.
Sam began swatting a bit harder and faster, tightening his hold on her. "If it's necessary, this will happen again. Each and every time. Because I will not lose you."
"Oh!" Karen choked on a sob as the pain became a bit stronger and Sam's... her father's...words sunk in. "It won't be necessary! It won't! I promise! I'll be good...I will!" If Karen had held any clue what she'd begun babbling at Sam's promise, she likely would have been mortified. All she could think of was that she didn't want to be in this position ever again- it hurt! Not just the swatting, but inside her heart...the feelings she was feeling...they hurt. She didn't want to scare her family, or worry them, or make them think they were going to lose her any more than she wanted to think she was going to lose them. "Please, daddy!" She let out a tiny sob and couldn't stop herself from throwing her hand back over her bottom.
Sam paused just long enough to move Karen's hand out of the way, holding it against her back, before he began directing more swats to her thighs and sit spots.
Squirming a few more moments, Karen finally gave up, slumping over Sam's lap and just crying brokenly. "I'msorryI'msorryI'msorry..." If she also slipped in a few 'I'll be goods' and other pleas to her 'daddy' (for what wasn't exactly clear), she wasn't aware of it. She really wasn't aware of much by that point other than the fact her bottom hurt, she had hurt her father and was repentant for it and she just wanted to be held and cuddled and told everything would be alright; that she hadn't messed everything up irreparably.
Sam brought the spanking to a stop and then quickly tugged his daughter up and into his arms, hugging her tightly and pressing a kiss to the top of her head as he held her in an almost protective manner.
"I didn't mean to be bad...I'm sorry...I didn't mean to..." Karen continued to cry, even as she gripped onto Sam as tightly as possible and burrowed against him, afraid that he'd change his mind and decide she wasn't worth the worry and headache; as she continued to cry from the remorse she felt over taking a life, even if in protection of her own; as she continued to cry out the fear and stress and worry she'd been under for the last several days.
"You aren't bad," Sam replied reassuringly. "We've dealt with what you've done and that's it... now my primary concern is helping you heal from what you were forced to do."
Karen continued crying, her sobs eventually calming into shivery, hiccoughing sniffles. By the time she was silent, her eyes hurt, her throat hurt, her head hurt. She leaned weakly against her father, putting her head on his shoulder. "I don't know how to heal..." she whispered.
"That's why you have me... and Matt and Foggy... to help you," Sam replied softly. "I know how you feel. I know it doesn't seem like it right now, but it will get better for you to deal with. Just don't shut us out."
"No more secrets..." she agreed softly. Her voice was scratchy and weary sounding.
"Exactly," Sam said. "Lean on me as much as you need to. I'm never going to be anywhere else."
"Does this mean I'm moving into the tower?" she asked hesitantly, snuggling a little more.
"I'd like it if you will," Sam replied, stroking her hair. "I know Foggy only visits... but he's always been welcome to stay for as long as he likes. And we can take care of moving your belongings here in the next day or so."
"I want to..." Karen quickly interjected. Sighing softly, she reluctantly stood and fixed her clothes. "Speaking of Foggy...I guess I should apologize to him and Matt too..."
Sam stood up and placed a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently. "I'm going to need to have a discussion with Matt... afterwards, I'd like you to try and get some sleep. Matt often comes into my room when he feels upset or needs comfort... I'd like you to feel comfortable enough to do the same."
Karen bit her lip and nodded, almost bashfully. "Ok, daddy..." She looked down briefly, before looking back up with a smile. "I'm gonna go apologize to Foggy...and Matt, if he's with Foggy. Do you want me to send him up to you, or are you going to come down with me and get him yourself?"
"I'll come down with you. That way, we can mention the paperwork to both of them." Sam slid his arm around her, squeezing gently, and guided her towards the elevator.
Karen's smile grew bigger at the mention of the paperwork. She cuddled close to Sam as they went down to the common floor.
Foggy and Matt were standing in front of the elevator when they arrived. "Matt gave the papers to Ben and Blake to read...and a certain AI informed me that I should get a second set of papers ready..." Foggy smiled at his girlfriend and her soon to be father. He handed the papers to Sam, teasing, "I guess this means I need to be on my most gentlemanly behavior from now on..."
Karen moved forward and quickly hugged Foggy, then Matt. "I'm sorry...for worrying you both and keeping secrets and...everything, really..." she said softly.
Matt hugged her tightly before pushing her back toward Foggy. "Just don't do it again and we can forget about it...sis." He smiled at his father as he said the last word.
Foggy cleared his throat. "I'm just glad they stopped you in time. I love you..." He glanced toward Sam. "Everything is filled out except the signatures. I figured you'd want the same contingencies and addendum as you had with Matt, so I just replicated his documents and then put Karen's name wherever his was originally. If you both sign now, I'll go to the med floor to see if Blake and Ben have any questions about their paperwork and if they're ready to sign...and then I can take both sets of papers and file them at the court. And then I think I will head home and let you all have some family time to get used to your situation." He smiled again, kissing Karen before handing her a pen.
Karen gave everyone a nervous look and then signed her name wherever directed, with a flourish, before handing the pen to Sam.
Sam smiled and took the pen, signing where he needed to without hesitation and without checking what was written. After all, he trusted Foggy. "Karen, do you want to stay with Foggy until I let you know you're all right to come back up?" he asked, resting his hand gently on his son's shoulder.
Foggy, putting two and two together, put his arm around Karen's waist and drew her closer. "If she doesn't, I'll have my feelings hurt..." he said teasingly, startling a laugh out of her. He smiled. "You can come with me to the medical wing and get those papers from Ben. Let him know your good news."
"Yeah...I'd like to do that," Karen agreed, before giving Sam and Matt both a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "I'll see you later..." She let Foggy lead her to the elevator and soon, they were on their way to Ben.
Matt looked at his father, a sad expression on his face. "I'm sorry...I know this is as difficult for you as it is me...maybe more difficult...but." He swallowed. "...Thank you for being willing to take care of me..."
Sam hugged his son tightly to himself, kissing his forehead. "I love you," he said softly. "And I signed on for everything with you, the bad along with the good. I don't want to lose you any more than I want to lose Karen." He held Matt tight for a second or two longer and then began leading his son to the elevator.
Matt followed his father easily. Now that he was about to face the music for his actions, he found himself feeling a sense of relief. Soon, he could put everything behind him and there would be nothing standing between him and his father any longer. "I don't like feeling like...like there are things between us because of what I did..." he admitted with a whisper.
"I know." Sam squeezed his son gently as he stepped into the elevator with Matt and set it to go to their apartment. "It won't be between us for much longer," he promised.
Matt nodded, shifting ever so slightly more close to his father. He knew what he deserved, knew what was coming; and like always, the knowledge made him feel small, vulnerable, childish...needy. It didn't matter how hard he tried to be mature about the situation, he never felt mature or adult by the time it was over...and the last few times, he'd begun to feel childish before it even began. He let out a tiny sigh. "Dunno why I always feel like a little bratty kid whenever you need to punish me..." he admitted, with a hint of embarrassment.
Sam kissed the side of Matt's head. "It's nothing to be embarrassed about," he commented. "I'd suspect you aren't alone in feeling like that."
Matt's smile was crooked. "Probably not." The elevator arrived onto their floor more quickly than he would have liked; and yet, not quickly enough. Clearing his throat, Matt gave Sam a hesitant glance, letting the other man direct him where to go.
Sam gently led Matt off the elevator and into their apartment, guiding his son into the living room and over to the couch. "I don't think there's anything else we need to discuss about this," he said softly.
"No, sir..." Matt swallowed, suddenly unable to look his father in the eye. "...I know what I did wrong and why it was wrong..."
"I love you." Sam kissed his son's cheek and then sat down on the couch, gently drawing Matt round to his side and tugging him across his lap.
"I know, dad...I love you too..." Matt said softly, not fighting the position in the least, instead reaching forward to brace his hands against the floor.
Sam settled his son in place and then divested him of pants and underwear. He gently rubbed Matt's back a moment or two before he delivered the first sharp swat at the crest of Matt's backside that he then repeated.
Matt managed to avoid whimpering when his father pulled his pants down, but he wasn't able to avoid the grunt when the first swat landed. Or the second. If all the swats were as firm and...stinging...as the first two, he wasn't going to be able to hold out for long before he started squirming.
Sam didn't intend to be too harsh with his son... but he wanted to make it clear to Matt that going off on his own, without informing any of them, wasn't to be tolerated. He kept the swats at the same level, going down to Matt's thighs before he started over. "Endangering yourself is not tolerated. You're part of a team... a family. And I know you know that any one of us here would have your back."
Matt wasn't sure if he was meant to answer his father or not. Of course he knew what Sam was saying. He wasn't completely oblivious; and Sam had made the point with him several times already anyway. He felt like he should acknowledge the words in some way, but he knew if he opened his mouth, the fact that he was already close to tears would be obvious and some small bit of pride, however foolish, didn't want to have that happen.
"You're my son, Matt. I love you more than I could ever put into words... and I never want to risk losing you. This will happen again, each and every time it needs to. But it won't change how I feel. It won't change anything between us," Sam promised, speaking in time with the swats he was still delivering.
Those words were something that Matt couldn't ignore; he had to acknowledge them. "I...I know, d...daddy. I know. I'm sorry..." he finally gasped out, his voice strained with the effort not to begin crying like a baby. His fingers shifted into almost a claw like shape as he 'grasped' at the floor, trying to keep still and not throw his hand behind him to cover his backside.
Sam began putting a bit more force behind the swats, concentrating more to Matt's sit spots and thighs. "I can't explain to you just how scared I was when I found out where you'd gone and what had happened... I was terrified I was going to lose you and I knew I wouldn't recover from that."
Matt would have liked to continue to remain quiet, but hearing his father reiterate how scared he'd been because of his actions caused guilt to spear through him. The pain that was building where he would feel it most the next few times he sat only focused his attention on the words. "I...I'm sorry, daddy...I didn't even think about how you'd feel. I was completely se...selfish. I'm so sorry!" he finally forced out, before a choked sob broke free and he was unable to keep from crying. Not only was he unable to keep from crying, but he was crying loudly...not even attempting to stop it now that he'd started. Letting himself fall limply over his father's knee, he just accepted the punishment he knew he deserved.
Sam finished with two final swats and then quickly lifted Matt into his arms, settling his son on his lap. He hugged Matt tight and kissed his head. "I love you," he reiterated. "You are so important to me..."
While he had been ashamed to be deserving a spanking, again, Matt was far from ashamed to be sitting on his father's lap. As soon as Sam had settled him, he'd wrapped his arms around the other man's waist and held tightly, pressing his cheek against his father's chest. "I'm sorry I was so thoughtless...I love you so much...I don't mean to worry you..."
Sam gently stroked his hair. "I know and we've dealt with it. It's over and you're forgiven," he said reassuringly. "I'm just happy to have you safe with me..."
Matt sniffled a bit, cuddling close. "I'm happy to be with you too...even if my butt hurts..." He grinned cheekily.
Laughing, Sam pressed an affectionate kiss to Matt's head. "Since this is a fairly effective way of getting you to listen to me, I don't think I'll be changing it up any time soon."
Matt's grin turned chagrined. "Yeah...I know. I guess I'm gonna have to get used to thinking a bit more about what you'd feel about me doing something when I'm making my big plans...either that or get used to sitting on pillows..." He snorted and reached back to rub his backside ruefully. Leaning up, he kissed his father on the cheek. "Hopefully, I do the first more than the last...I really don't like upsetting you." Carefully standing, he fixed his clothing. "Should we go retrieve Karen? I know Foggy wanted to get the papers to the courthouse before everything closed, but he won't leave until she's safely back with you."
Sam nodded, standing up as well and wrapping his arm around Matt's shoulders. "I told Karen I'd like her to try and get some sleep after she comes back here... how are you feeling?" He watched his son carefully.
"Now that I've been punished for what I did...I feel like a weight's been lifted. I'm also a lot more tired than I thought I'd be..." Matt admitted. "I told Bryce I'd donate some blood for Blake tomorrow, so if I eat a good dinner and get enough sleep, that shouldn't be a problem..."
"Eating a good dinner was a given anyway." Still with his arm wrapped around Matt, Sam started heading towards the elevator. "Since Blake's probably going to be a permanent resident here with Ben... you might want to think about whether you want to let him know about your identity, since it might be quite difficult to keep it a secret from one person," he commented.
"You're right, of course...although...would you tell him for me?" He gave his father puppy eyes, leaning on Sam as they rode the elevator to the medical floor.
Amused, Sam gently nudged his son. "You don't seem to have any trouble telling people so far," he teased.
"Nearly every person I've told, with the exception of Karen...has been accidental or not exactly the way I'd intended..." He sighed. "I don't get it. I keep it secret from everyone else, but as soon as they become family, I spill..." He cuddled even more, an embarrassed look on his face.
"Maybe that's because you don't feel like you should have secrets from family," Sam suggested, as the elevator came to a stop and he guided Matt onto the medical floor.
Matt slanted his head as he followed his father to Blake's room. Karen and Foggy were still there and Ben was putting his signature on the last page of the document. "You're right, of course," he said softly.
"Who's right about what?" Ben asked curiously, before handing the documents to Blake to sign.
"Dad is right that I don't think it is good to keep secrets from family..." Matt answered.
Karen glanced at her brother. "What secrets are you keeping?"
"None at the moment..." Matt chuckled. "...I just said I didn't understand how I could keep my identity as the Devil of Hell's Kitchen a secret...until I moved into the tower and he adopted me. And suddenly, every person who lives here knows who I am, because I can't keep quiet about it..." He blinked and then groaned, hiding his face in his hand as he realized he'd just blurted it out again in front of Blake.
Sam laughed outright and placed a hand on Matt's shoulder, squeezing gently. "And my point stands..."
Blake, in the process of signing, nearly ended up adding an extra part to his signature he didn't intend. "You're the Devil of Hell's Kitchen?" His eyes darted from Matt to the rest of the people in the room... wondering if this was a joke he wasn't in on.
Matt blushed. "Yes...I know it may seem hard to believe, since I'm legally blind...but I have this sorta sixth sense, I guess... It's been likened to sonar or radar or something like heat-seeking or some such...but it enables me to 'see', for lack of a better word. The chemicals that blinded me when I was a child gave me the ability. They also made it possible for me to heal quickly, though my dad's not too happy with me when I test the limits of that..."
"I should think he wouldn't be!" Ben's voice wasn't scolding, necessarily, but it was obvious what he thought of 'children' risking their health.
"We've had more than one conversation about it," Sam said mildly. He smiled at Matt. "But you are doing better," he added, a note of pride in his voice.
"So..." Blake swallowed, remembering he and Matt hadn't exactly got on in the past... not that Blake had felt able to confide in or become friendly with anyone, for fear of giving Fisk even more ammunition against him. "I owe you. Thank you... for saving my life."
"I was in the right place at the right time; any decent person would try and help..." Matt shrugged. "...But you're welcome. Considering we're cousins now...seems like it worked in my favor too..." He grinned as Foggy took the signed documents.
Foggy chuckled. "Well, I hate to run, but I want to file these documents at the courthouse before it closes. Will I see you both in the office tomorrow?" He glanced between Karen and Matt, before looking at Sam. "Or should I plan to work here tomorrow?"
"I think it would be best to work here tomorrow," Sam answered. "I'm sure things can go back to normal in a few days... but mostly for safety reasons, I'd feel better if I knew exactly where the three of you are."
Foggy got a surprised, yet pleased look on his face that he was included as one of the people Sam would feel better knowing the location of. "Yes sir...I'll see you all tomorrow then." Nodding at Ben and Blake, he carefully stored all the documents in his briefcase before kissing Karen and whispering, "don't get into more trouble."
Rolling her eyes, Karen gave her boyfriend a tiny smile. "Be careful..." and watched till he had disappeared from view. She then yawned so widely her jaw popped.
Sam placed his other hand on Karen's shoulder and squeezed gently. "I think it's time we went back to our apartment," he said mildly. He didn't mention Karen having a nap, even though that was strongly implied in his tone.
Ben, having noticed earlier how careful Karen was in her movements...and that Matt was moving in exactly the same careful way...and that both Karen and Matt looked weary, nodded at Sam's words. "Thank you all for your help in arranging for Blake to become my son. I appreciate it. Maybe once he is well enough to move into our apartment, we can throw a party to welcome both new additions to our families..." He smiled at Sam, reaching over and squeezing Blake's shoulder gently.
By the end of Ben's suggestion, Karen had moved as close to her father as she could get and snuggled up under his arm.
Matt had done the same on his other side, so Sam ended up book-ended by his two children.
Sam smiled, noticing the way Blake relaxed when his father touched him, and squeezed his own children gently. "I think that would be a very good idea," he agreed. He didn't mention that Matt had promised to donate some of his blood to help Blake heal, not certain what the other two men knew at the moment.
Blake slanted a bit towards his father and gave a tired smile... a little frustrated that all he seemed to be doing right now was needing to sleep.
At that moment, Bryce came in to check on his patient. "If you're tired, you should sleep..." he commented to Blake, as he checked all his vital signs and took a little bit of blood to test. "The last test we did on your blood, you came back a bit anemic. If it hasn't improved with this next test, I want to schedule a blood transfusion to give you a boost in the needed red blood cells..." He glanced at Matt to see if he was still willing to donate, but didn't say anything, in case the younger mortal was unable to.
Matt was so tired, that he didn't notice Bryce looking at him, so the healer looked at Sam, a questioning look on his face and a lifted eyebrow, asking without words if Matt was alright.
Blake had closed his eyes while Bryce was talking, though he nodded in acknowledgement of the healer's words.
Sam squeezed Matt gently as he addressed Bryce. "I'm getting him into bed and then we're going to be eating a good dinner later. I'll see how he feels in the morning."
Bryce nodded in acknowledgement of Sam's words. "Make certain he does eat a good dinner. His last scan indicated his ribs were healing nicely, but the speed with which he heals uses a lot of his body's reserves. He needs more nutrients and more sleep to counter-balance the usage."
Matt winced at the healer's mild scolding, knowing that he likely hadn't been eating as much as he should have and he definitely hadn't been sleeping like he should; even staying with his father, his guilty conscience had kept him awake part of the night.
Sam nodded. "I figured it might be something like that... thanks," he answered. "I'll take my kids back to the apartment. We can nap and then I'll cook for us." The glance he directed at his son and daughter was fond.
Bryce nodded again. "In that case, I'm going to chase you out of my patient's room, as he needs his sleep as well. Mr. Urich, if you'd like, I can arrange for a more comfortable bed to be brought into this room or your wife's room, although if both Blake and your wife are sleeping, you could easily rest in your bed in your apartment and I would call you if you are needed..."
Ben glanced at Blake to see if his son needed him to stay with him. He felt torn between staying in Blake's room, staying in Doris's room, or returning to his apartment and making sure Deacon was settling in all right. He hadn't formed the same type of relationship with the young brother of his son, but he felt a duty to take care of him as long as the kid was close enough for him to do so.
Matt pressed closer to his father and waited for Sam to lead him and Karen out of the room.
Sam nodded to the three men and then steered his son and daughter out of the room, keeping them close as he guided them to the elevator.
Blake wasn't quite out of it and he spoke in a soft voice, heavy with sleep. "I'm not going anywhere, Dad. You can go and sit with Mom... or get some sleep..." he suggested.
Ben leaned over and kissed Blake on his forehead. "I'll wait until you are actually asleep...and then I'll go check on your little brother. Let him know what's going on and that he can come down and talk to you when you wake up again."
Blake nodded, giving a wide yawn before he settled down on the bed, his eyes still closed. It didn't take long before his breathing was evening out and deepening, indicating he was asleep.
As soon as he was assured of Blake's resting, Ben went in to talk to his wife Doris for a bit, but it soon became apparent she was in one of her 'fugue' states and didn't even recognize him. Sadly, he sighed then left to take the elevator back to his apartment and check on Deacon.
Karen stayed quiet until they were in the elevator heading up to the apartment. "Are we really going to take a nap?" she asked in slight confusion. It was the middle of the afternoon and for some reason, it felt odd being told that it was nap time...almost like she was a little girl again. Although when she thought about how she'd been over her father's knee and crying like a little girl not more than an hour or so before, she supposed she shouldn't feel it was odd.
"I know neither of you have been sleeping well," Sam replied. "So I think sleeping right now is a good idea. When you wake up, we can talk about what we'd like to do for dinner." He still had his arms around both of them and squeezed them gently against his sides.
As soon as they were off the elevator and in the apartment, Matt had headed toward his room to change into pajamas. While he had no problem sleeping in his jeans, his backside was still tender enough that he wanted something more soft to wear.
Karen bit her lip and looked at Sam. "The guestroom...is that my room permanently now?" she asked softly. She'd noticed that Matt's room was right next to Sam's. There was another room on the other side of Sam's room that was empty...the guestroom was actually a few rooms down the hall from Sam's room. She knew he'd given that room to her and Foggy because he hadn't wanted her to feel uncomfortable. Now she wasn't sure how to admit that she'd rather be as close to him as possible without seeming overly clingy.
"There's a spare room on the other side of mine that I'd like you to take as yours," Sam replied. "But Matt is more than welcome to come and stay in my room any time he wants to... and you're welcome to take advantage of that as well. It's nothing to be ashamed of."
Karen relaxed as Sam told her she'd be able to move closer to him; wanted her to, in fact. Biting her lip, she glanced up into her father's eyes. "Even if Matt's already there? It won't be too crowded?" she asked hesitantly.
"It won't be... everything will be fine," Sam promised. "Do you want to get changed so that you're more comfortable?" He kissed her forehead.
"Yes, sir," Karen whispered, giving Sam a tiny smile, before heading into the guestroom where her bag was. She quickly changed into a nightshirt and pajama shorts before heading back toward Sam's room, assuming that he would have gone in there to wait for her and Matt. She'd move her bag into the room he'd given her when she moved all her other things out of her apartment. Since she had a feeling she'd be staying with her father for the unforeseeable future anyway, she saw no need to move things around.
Matt met her at the door of their father's room. "Hey, sis...welcome to the family..." he said softly, giving her a quick hug, before knocking on the door frame to make certain Sam was ready for them to come in.
"Come in," Sam called, having got changed so that he was more comfortable. He'd sat on the bed, in the middle, leaving space on either side of him so that his children could settle in next to him.
Matt gently pushed Karen in ahead of him until they were far enough in to close the door. Then both of them stood there uncertainly, fidgeting, neither one of them wanting to run to Sam like little kids after a nightmare, but both of them obviously wanting to run to him.
"Come here," Sam said gently, holding his arms out to his son and daughter.
That was all the prompting needed for Karen to rush to her father's left and all but jump into the bed next to him, while Matt did so on his right. The twin gasps as both of his kids remembered that sitting wasn't going to be pleasant and the quick way they both twisted around so they were lying on their stomachs with their heads pillowed on his arms caused Karen to start giggling.
Matt raised an eyebrow at the uncontrolled giggles, though the look on his face was amused. "Love you, dad..." he said, snuggling into Sam. "Love you too, Ren..."
"And I love both of you!" Karen said emphatically, as her giggling slowed and she cuddled against her father.
Sam smiled and cuddled both of them tight to himself, pressing a kiss to their heads. "I love you both. Very much," he said sincerely.
It didn't take Karen long at all to fall asleep. It seemed within seconds of being laid out flat, safely in her father's arms, she was snoring (though she would have been highly embarrassed if she knew that she snored).
Matt smiled again as he listened to his sister. Snuggling some more, he slowly relaxed until he was sound asleep as well.
Sam cuddled his children close and let his own eyes close, falling asleep as soon as he knew his children were... and knew that they were safe with him.
It was a couple of days after Matt had donated blood to help Blake's healing and he was now feeling quite a bit better. Although impatient to get out of the hospital bed, Blake managed to hold still while the last checks were done.
Ben had stayed by his son's side through every procedure and he was as anxious to find out if Blake was sufficiently healed to be allowed out of the hospital bed as Blake was. He managed to keep himself calm, though and put a gentle, calming hand on Blake's shoulder to try and help the other man stay calm.
Bryce finished his exam, then gave both men a smile. "While I do not recommend any heavy exertion, I believe you are well enough to be able to leave this floor and move to your apartment," he said encouragingly. "You should do light to moderate exercise for the next week or so, then you can move on to heavy workouts. Make certain you eat three healthy meals a day and drink plenty of water. Also, try and get at least seven hours of sleep a night."
"He will..." Ben answered, before Blake could say anything. "I'll make certain of it."
Blake had done his best not to let his impatience show... but his relief was obvious and he nodded, eager to get out of the hospital bed. "I understand." He wasn't sure if he would chafe against the restrictions... but he planned to cooperate as much as possible, since he was now allowed to move around.
"Come on, then," Ben said with a smile. "Your mom is sleeping...so I'll introduce you to her later. Let's go show you your new home."
Helping Blake up, Ben gave him a robe to cover up with until he could get to his clothes and change, then led him from the medical floor to their apartment.
Blake went willingly with his father, interested to see what other parts of the tower looked like. "I'll have to check out the rec areas in the next day or so..." he commented out loud, wanting to get himself back into a routine; even if he would have to take it easy for a while.
"I can let Sam know you're interested. I'm sure one of the rest of the family could partner up with you for light exercise. From what I've gathered, they tend to work out in pairs as much as possible," Ben said agreeably.
Blake nodded. "I'd like to try and get back into a routine... though I know I have to take it easy at first." As they reached the apartment, he looked around curiously. "This is bigger than I was expecting..."
"Yeah...it's more like a townhouse than an apartment..." Ben chuckled. "Tony Stark is very generous...especially with those he thinks of as family. He's working on making sure Deacon is safe to go back to school, among other things."
"I appreciate that," Blake said. "I'll feel better once I know for certain he's safe outside here." He sighed, thinking about what he'd had to do to ensure his brother's safety.
"I know they are doing everything possible to ensure he is," Ben reiterated. Glancing at his son, he smiled. "I put your bag in the room right next to mine, but if you prefer one of the others..."
"I'd like to be next to you," Blake replied, immediately and honestly. His smile was a little shy, not sure how to put into words the need he felt to be close to his father.
"Good..." Ben smiled widely. "I prefer that myself. I can check on you more easily..." His voice was fond and protective sounding.
Blake's smile grew a bit, becoming a little less shy. "Which room is Deacon's?"
"He took the room directly across from me, so cross-corner from you..." Ben smiled. "I think he's afraid I'm going to crimp his college freedom..."
"He's generally a good kid," Blake said with a shrug. "But he doesn't remember what it was like without just the two of us."
"He is a good kid. You did a good job with him..." Ben smiled. "He's confident and well adjusted. How long has it just been the two of you?"
"I was fourteen when we lost our parents... Deacon was only just turning two," Blake replied. "I left foster care when I was sixteen... and took on guardianship for him when I turned eighteen."
Ben nodded. "Like I said...you did a good job with him. He doesn't need me to be a father- he has you." His tone was proud.
Blake smiled, happy to have his father proud of him. "Even so, it's good that you care enough to work to keep him safe..."
"Of course. He may not need me the same way he needs you..." He left unspoken the words 'like you need me'. "...But he's still my family. Family looks out for each other." Ben smiled. "You up to eating?"
Blake nodded. "I am hungry," he admitted. "Do you want me to fix something up?"
"We can fix something together..." Ben shook his head. "Come...I'll show you where everything is." Smiling, he led Blake to the kitchen.
Blake followed his father into the kitchen, letting Ben show him where everything was as he made a couple of suggestions for food that he thought his father (and Bryce) would be happier with him eating.
Ben nodded in agreement with Blake's choices. "After we're done here, I can show you the common area and the rec room," he promised. "And introduce you to anyone you haven't met yet."
Blake smiled as he began to help prepare the food. "That would be nice. I get the feeling there's going to be a lot of names to remember, though."
"I think you're right," Ben agreed. "I haven't even met them all myself..." He chuckled. Soon, the food was ready and they were sitting at the table, Deacon having joined them about halfway through preparation.
Blake sat down at the table, but now that he was focused on eating, it gave his mind time to work. It didn't take long before he was pushing the food around his plate... struggling to force himself to eat, even though he knew he should be.
Deacon had kept up a running conversation, not leaving much room for dead air, but eventually, he felt himself subdued by his older brother's morose mood. Finishing his food, he glanced toward Ben. "Tony has said he will show me how to set up so I can attend my classes online, if I may be excused?"
"Of course." Ben nodded. He waited till Deacon was gone to turn toward Blake. "You really need to eat more..." His tone was concerned rather than chiding.
Blake had listened to Deacon's talking, but it had been hard to stay cheerful. When his father spoke to him, he nodded, but sighed. "I know, I just... I guess I don't have much of an appetite," he admitted. Up until now, he'd managed to avoid his feelings of guilt... but it hadn't taken long to crash down on him again.
Ben could tell something was troubling Blake and he had a feeling he knew what, but not wanting to assume, he asked anyway. "What's bothering you, son?"
Picking at his food, Blake answered in a quiet voice. "I'm not sure I... deserve this. A family. Not after... what I did." His voice faltered over his words.
"Everyone deserves someone who loves and cares about them." Ben's voice was firm and certain. "Feeling guilt or being guilty of something doesn't make you undeserving."
"It's... hard to believe that right now," Blake admitted quietly. Knowing how important it was to his father that he eat, he took another couple of mouthfuls... but didn't really taste the food.
Ben sighed softly. He knew Blake wouldn't be able to eat while carrying around the guilt he was. "I'm going to punish you for what you did...and after that, I will forgive you and I want you to try and forgive yourself," he said gently. "Come. We'll talk in my room."
Blake put down his cutlery, actually feeling relieved that his father wasn't going to leave him alone with this crippling guilt. He stood up wordlessly, completely trusting Ben.
Ben led Blake upstairs and into his room, leading him to sit on the bed. "Before we begin, I want to be certain that we are on the same page as to why you are being punished. Do you know why?" he asked calmly.
Blake sat down on the bed, looking at his father. "I... did a lot of bad things when forced to work for Fisk and... I can't let go of the guilt..." There was a slight hesitation in his voice at that last, since a part of him still thought he shouldn't feel better.
Ben nodded. "You didn't think you had a choice. He was threatening Deacon. You did what you thought you needed to do to protect your brother. I'm not saying you shouldn't feel any responsibility...but I'm going to take care of you. You won't need to feel guilty after. And if it helps...I think if you give as much information as possible to the authorities, so they can take down Fisk...that will go a long way to righting some of what you did wrong..."
Blake took a deep breath. "Thank you..." He wasn't sure he could put into words what he was grateful for... he just hoped his father understood that he was; grateful for him stepping in and not leaving him alone to deal with his guilt.
"Any time you need me, any way you need me, kid..." Ben said emphatically. Clearing his throat, he said, more softly, "In a few seconds, I'm going to put you over my lap, bare you and spank you. Is there anything else you need to say or ask before that happens?"
Blake shook his head. "No. I..." He closed his eyes and swallowed. "I'm ready," he said, very quietly.
Nodding, Ben quickly but gently tugged Blake into position. Tugging him in close and tight to his stomach, he placed a hand on his back to hold him in place then gave him a few moments to adjust before efficiently lowering his pants. "Once I've finished, you will have paid for what you did. I forgive you and we can put it behind us..." Ben said quietly, before raising his hand and letting it fall with a decisive slap. He immediately raised his hand again, smacking a bit lower.
It didn't take long for him to fall into a rhythm, going from top to just below the crease where Blake's thighs began. And then he started over.
Blake tried hard not to make a sound, not wanting to make this harder on his father, but he couldn't stop his body from twisting in response to the swats. The tears he'd long denied himself... that he'd forced back for what felt like years... sprang to his eyes faster than he thought they should.
Ben felt no need to focus on what his son had done wrong. Blake knew all too well what he'd done and was more than sorry for it. Instead, a few swats into the second circuit, Ben focused on what he wanted Blake to always remember, no matter what happened. "You aren't alone anymore, son. I'm here and I will help you in whatever way I can, no matter what. I love you and I won't let you go. I will help you to make the best decisions if you will let me. But if you make the wrong decision, if you do something wrong, it isn't the end of the world. I'll put you over my knee, like now, and we'll take care of it together. We'll face it together. Because you aren't alone."
More tears filled Blake's eyes, falling down his cheeks. He found himself desperate to believe his father... to trust in what he was saying. The tears came more from his emotions and what his father was saying than the pain from the spanking. Knowing he wasn't alone... being told his father would be there for him... made him feel better; more so than he had in a long time.
Ben continued spanking at the same tempo...until he sensed that Blake was close to accepting his words. When he could tell Blake was crying, he determined to bring his son to the point he needed to be so they could finish and he could just hold his son. Tipping him forward he began to target his sit spots, the swats falling slightly harder and faster than before.
Blake hadn't been actively fighting the punishment, but with the increased force of the swats on more sensitive skin, even his slight squirming stopped and he slumped forward over his father's lap, his crying becoming a bit more audible (though not loud) as he went limp.
Ben wasted no time in stopping the spanking and pulling Blake up into his arms as soon as the younger man had given up what little resistance he'd had. He pulled Blake close and tight, rocking gently and kissing the top of his head. "I've got you...you've paid for your actions, it's over, you're forgiven, you can start fresh..." he whispered gently.
Blake responded by wrapping his arms around his father and holding on tight, hiding his face against Ben's shoulder as he tried to calm his tears down. It took a little while, though... it was hard to stop the tears once they'd started.
Ben just continued to hold his son tightly. He was in no hurry to let the younger man go and as long as Blake wanted to stay in his arms, he was content to let him stay there.
Blake took a deep breath, but although his tears had died down, he didn't let go of his father, a big part of him needing the comfort after having been in so much emotional turmoil. "It sounds like I'm in good company here," he said wryly.
Ben's answer was just as wry. "If you're referring to the rest of the family in the tower, I believe you would be correct." He chuckled lightly, squeezing Blake tightly again and kissing the side of his face. "It works for this particular group, though."
Blake nodded. "I feel better," he admitted. "Less ashamed... more worthy of being your son." His voice was soft, though still sincere.
Ben shook his head. "You were worthy before. I'm glad you can accept you are now, though..." he said softly.
Blake nuzzled a bit closer. "I'm ready to try eating again whenever..." he said softly.
"Good..." Ben answered with a smile. "Let's go reheat your food, then. If you still want to afterwards, we can go meet the rest of the family..."
"I'd like that." Blake slid off his father's lap and carefully fixed his clothes.
"Good...good..." Ben repeated, but he was smiling. "Let's go, then..." He led Blake out by putting an arm around his shoulders, taking him back downstairs to eat.
Blake leaned against his father, walking downstairs next to him. For the first time in months, he felt better than he had... more relaxed... and he could trust that he and his brother were safe.