Chapter 22

Disclaimer: I don't own anything.


December 16th 2016. Avengers Compound.

Early morning.

As she wakes up Natasha is pretty surprised to find that she is alone in bed because even though she and Tony haven't had sex they have been sharing a bed most nights, and he was there when she went to bed.

"FRIDAY, where is he?" Natasha asks as she knows what day it is, and if Tony isn't in bed then she can't help but be worried about where he is and what he is doing.

"Who?" FRIDAY asks.

"Tony." Natasha says, a little annoyed.

"Boss is in his office." FRIDAY answers.

"Thank you." Natasha says, getting out of bed.

A few minutes later Natasha walks into the office where she finds Tony sitting at his desk, just staring at the screen. Walking towards him Natasha is pretty sure that Tony hasn't even noticed that he is no longer alone.

Wanting to see what has gotten him so interested Natasha walks over, and behind Tony and as she looks at the screen she can't help but freeze as she sees that Tony is watching the video of the Winter Solider killing his parents, on repeat.

"No." Natasha says, reaching over and turning off the screen, snapping out of her shock.

"I was watching that." Tony complains and he reaches over to try and turn the screen back on, but Natasha stops him.

"No, you were torturing yourself." Natasha says as she turns the chair around and sits down on Tony's lap, "You cannot keep watching that video."

"I don't know what else to do, not today." Tony admits, "If I'm not in here watching this then I'm going to be out there and I don't want see the kids to see me like this, Peter and Vance especially." Tony admits, "I'm in no state to deal with anyone."

"So once again we're back at the point of you deciding to torture yourself instead." Natasha says with a frown, "Why?" Natasha asks, knowing that there is something that he isn't saying.

"I blamed him." Tony reveals.

"What?" Natasha asks in a kind voice.

"For so long I thought it was Dad's fault, that he caused it, but I was wrong, I was so wrong." Tony says, pain in his voice.

"So you're watching the video because you feel you deserve the guilt." Natasha realises and Tony looking away from her tells her all she needs to know, "Okay. We're getting out of here." Natasha tells Tony.


"You cannot just sit in this room all day re-watching that video. If you don't want to be around people then fine, I have another idea." Natasha reveals, "Meet me in the garage in ten."

"Tash…." Tony starts to say as Natasha stands up.

"Tone, I'm pretty sure that this is exactly what you need today, but if you're not interested then I won't force you." Natasha assures him.

"Ten minutes?" Tony asks.

"Ten minutes." Natasha confirms and once Tony nods she heads out of the room.

After leaving the office Natasha makes her way to Rhodey's bed room and knocks loudly on the door.

"Jim, it's me, Nat." Natasha says as she knocks.

"Come in Nat." Rhodey's voice responds and Natasha isn't surprised as she knows that it would be easier for her to come in than for him to get up. Walking into the room Natasha also isn't surprised to find Hope in bed with Rhodey, both only looking slightly awake.

"What's going on?" Rhodey asks, being pretty sure that this early should make him concerned.

"I'm taking Tony away from the compound for the day so that he doesn't continue to watch the video off what happened to his parents on repeat." Natasha explains.

"It's the anniversary." Hope realises and Natasha nods.

"He says that he is in no state to deal with anyone, which I agree with, so I figure getting away would be for the best." Natasha admits.

"Yeah, it would be." Rhodey confirms, "We'll tell everyone else what is going on." Rhodey promises.

"Thanks. Getting Peter to school might be difficult." Natasha points out.

"We'll figure something out." Hope comments.

"Okay, I'll see you both later." Natasha says before heading out of the room.

"Think she realises that she counts as someone?" Hope asks Rhodey curious.

"I think I'm not going anywhere near that." Rhodey says with an amused look on his face.

Ten minutes later Natasha is waiting in the garage when Tony walks in wearing the kind of clothes that he puts on when he plans to spend a lot of time in the lab, old jeans and an old shirt.

"We're are we going?" Tony asks Natasha.

"You'll see when we get there." Natasha says, heading over to one of Tony's cars and so, not having it in him to object, Tony walks over and gets in the passenger seat, seconds later Natasha is speeding out of the garage.

December 16th 2016. Cemetery.


A while after he and Natasha left the compound Tony still has no idea where they are going, but as he stares out of the window Tony realises that things are starting to become familiar, and he quickly realises why.

"Tasha, no." Tony says, turning to look at her, "I can't…."

"Yes, you can." Natasha tells him not at all surprised that he realised where she was taking him, "If you don't want to you don't have to, but we are going to wait for a while before you make up your mind." Natasha says as she pulls the car into a car park and once she is parked she turns of the engine.

For a while Natasha and Tony just sit in the car in silence, neither saying anything as neither know what they should say.

"I haven't been here since the funeral." Tony says, finally breaking the silence

"I know." Natasha tells him, "That's why I brought you here. After everything that has happened I thought it was time you visited again." She explains.

"Maybe it is." Tony says, looking out of the window.

"I can wait in the car if you'd like." Natasha offers.

"No." Tony answers, turning back around to look at Natasha, "Come with me?"

"Sure." Natasha says with a supportive smile and the two of them get up and head out of the car, once they are out they walk towards the graves belonging to Howard and Maria Stark, graves that Tony hasn't seen for over twenty years.

December 20th 2016. Avengers Compound.


As he's trying to spend more time alone, outside his room, Vance is sitting on the floor in the library, sitting between the shelves.

"Vance." A voice says and Vance looks up to see Natasha holding a bean bag chair.

"Natasha?" Vance asks, sounding surprised.

"Here, I thought this would be more comfortable for you." Natasha says putting the chair on the ground, before sitting down next to him.

"Thanks." Vance responds, looking grateful.

"We haven't talked in a couple of days. How are you doing?" Natasha asks concerned.

"Okay." Vance answers, marking his page and closing his book, "I think I want to go to school." He reveals

"Are you sure?" Natasha asks, there being some level of surprise in her voice.

"Yes, but I want to go with Peter." Vance reveals, being pretty sure that he wouldn't be able to handle going to school without knowing anyone.

"Okay, I organize it." Natasha assures him, "Want to tell me about the books you've been reading lately?" Natasha asks curious, knowing that reading is Vance's favourite thing to do and he tends to remember everything he reads, which has lead Natasha to suspect that he might have a photographic memory, at least when it comes to things he reads.

"Definitely." Vance says with a grin and he starts to tell Natasha all about the books he's been reading lately.

December 25th 2016. Avengers Compound.

Early morning.

As the kids went to bed a few hours earlier Natasha, Tony, Clint, Laura, Rhodey and Hope are in the main living room of the compound setting everything up for the celebration that is going to start in a few hours.

"I don't think I've ever seen this many presents." Clint comments as he looks at all the presents that are being put under the tree.

"There are a lot of us who live here." Natasha points out.

"It's still a lot." Clint says.

"Of course there are, that's just how things are done." Tony informs him, "Today's going to be great." He says with a grin.

"Yeah, it is." Hope says with a smile.

"I think the kids are going to love it." Laura says, looking glad, "It's going to be hard on Peter, and after everything he's been through a great Christmas is exactly what Vance needs."

"Yeah, it is." Natasha says.

"Great Christmas, that's new." Tony says, looking like he never ever considered that a possibility, "Huh." He says and Natasha reaches over and takes his hand.

"So what time is Lila going to wake everyone up?" Rhodey asks, looking at Laura and Clint, wanting to get off the subject of Tony not having the greatest track record when it comes to Christmas.

"Probably about six." Laura answers, realising exactly what Rhodey is doing.

"Seriously?" Hope asks surprised.

"Yeah, but that's pretty normal for kids on Christmas morning. Don't you remember?" Clint asks and as he does he notices Hope and Tony exchange looks, and right away he realises why, "Oh." He comments, "I'm guessing you two didn't have many family Christmases." He realises, knowing that before he had kids he didn't either, but after his first Christmas with Cooper he forgot what it was like not to have family at Christmas.

"That would depend on your definition." Hope admits. "Mel, Tone and I made a few Christmases at boarding school work, and after we've had a few mildly decent ones."

"That usually involve a lot of alcohol and…." Tony starts to say.

"Other things we will not be talking about." Rhodey says before Tony can finish that sentence.

"I second that." Natasha says, looking slightly amused.

"Wait, you've spent Christmas together?" Clint ask surprised, looking between Natasha, Hope, Rhodey and Tony.

"Of course we have." Tony says, sounding like he thinks Clint is stupid for assuming otherwise, "But this year's going to be different, Best Christmas ever." He says, forcing a smile as he really doesn't want to get into the stories of past Christmases.

"Best Christmas ever." The other repeats.

December 25th 2016. Avengers Compound.


Hours later, after what was, without a doubt, a great Christmas, Natasha and Tony are making their way into Natasha's bedroom.

"It was actually a pretty great day." Tony says as Natasha closes the door behind them, "And a lot better than I was expecting." He comments.

"Yeah, it was." Natasha says with a grin, "Though did you really have to start a silly string war? Between that and Peter's webs it's going to be a nightmare to clean up." She comments.

"Maybe, but it was completely worth it." Tony says with a grin, "I saw you talking to Vance before he went to bed, is he okay?" Tony asks concerned.

"Yeah, he said that it was the best Christmas he's ever had." Natasha explains with a small smile.

"That's great." Tony says with a smile.

"Yeah, it is." Natasha confirms as she walks over to Tony and kisses him. Even though it is something that has happened many times before Tony still feels amazed at the feeling of Natasha's lips on his.

As they kiss Natasha puts her hands between her and Tony and uses them to push down Tony's jacket.

"You sure?" Tony asks as they break apart to catch their breaths, both realising what is going to happen.

"I've think we've waited long enough." Natasha responds, before kissing him again, and together the two of them continue to kiss as they remove each other's clothes while making their way to the bed, neither having any intention of stopping any time soon.

December 26th 2016. The Playground.


With everything that has changed over the last year Daisy feels amazed to not only be back at the Playground, back home, but to be sitting with Fitz, Simmons, Bobbi, Hunter and Mack, and the best part is that they are just sitting around talking and having fun, being able to pretend that they are normal people.

As they are sitting in the common area Daisy notices the second that someone walks past in the corridor.

"MAY." Daisy calls and Melinda stops what she is doing and walks to the door, "Join us?" she asks as she feels that she has barely seen May since she got back.

"I can't." Melinda says before walking away.

"Okay. What is her problem? It's like she doesn't even want to be here." Daisy says, looking annoyed.

"Of course she does." Fitz argues.

"Really? Because it doesn't seem like it." Daisy says annoyed, "She should just leave if she doesn't want to stay." She says and as she does she notices Simmons and Bobbi exchange looks, "What?"

"Do you know it was May who managed to get me and Hunter back?" Bobbi asks nervously as she becomes even more sure that Daisy may be out of the loop on several things.

"No, I didn't." Daisy says, looking shocked, "How'd she do that?"

"No idea." Hunter says, taking a drink, "But I think you know Jemma." He comments as he notices Jemma looking around, trying to avoid looking at everyone.

"Jemma?" Fitz asks.

"What do you know Kid?" Mack asks, being able to tell that there is something she's not saying.

"May turned down being an Avenger to stay with us." Simmons says, speaking very quickly, though the others can still understand.

"What?" Daisy asks shocked, "How do you know?"

"Months ago Natasha Romanoff and Tony Stark came here to help with a new Inhuman, and they knew May, like really well, they hugged and talked like they were the best of friends." Simmons reveals, causing everyone to shock, "And after their visit, once he was back, I heard May and Coulson talking. Coulson was asking May if she regretted turning down Mr Stark's offer to be an Avenger." Simmons reveals.

"What did May say to that?" Bobbi asks curious, wanting to know what could have kept May away from being an Avenger, though she has a guess.

"No, because even though Natasha, Tony and Hope are her family this team is too and we need her more." Simmons says, being able to remember what was said perfectly because it meant so much to her to hear.

"Excuse me." Daisy says, getting up and heading out of the room.

A couple of minutes later Daisy walks into the gym where she isn't at all surprised to find Melinda training.

"May, can we talk for a minute?" Daisy asks curious and Melinda stops what she is doing, telling Daisy that the answer is yes, "Thank you, for everything you've done for us, for me, and I'm sorry that I haven't been more appreciative." She admits, looking nervous and as she does Melinda takes several steps forward.

"Come to me next time Daisy, don't run." Melinda tells the young girl who gives a nod, seeing that, and to the surprise of both her and Daisy Melinda walks forward and gently wraps her arms around the young girl, hugging her, making Daisy feel, for the first time in a long time, that everything is going to be okay, "Welcome home." Melinda says before they break apart and Melinda heads out of the room.

December 26th 2016. Avengers Compound.


In his lab Tony has recently printed deigns spread out over a table, something which he is looking over once more as he wants to make sure that they are right.

"You wanted me?" Natasha asks as she walks in.

"I always want you." Tony responds, without a missing a beat, "But right now I want your opinion on something." He admits.

"Okay." Natasha says, walking over to him.

"I've been working on these designs for a while." Tony says as Natasha walks over.

"Is this the compound?" Natasha asks, slightly surprised, as she recognizes the layout.

"Yep." Tony admits, "Avengers only area technically. It's home, I think it should be less like a compound, more like a home."

"Tony, it is a compound." Natasha points out.

"I know, but it doesn't have to stay like that." Tony admits, "I just think things could be better around here." He admits.

"Okay, what are you thinking?" Natasha asks curious and Tony begins to explain all about his designs and what he is thinking.

December 28th 2016. Avengers Compound.


Having been informed that they are needed Natasha, Clint, Rhodey, Hope, Clint and Bruce are walking into the conference room where Tony is standing at the head of the table and there are files on the table.

"What's going on?" Clint asks as they walk in.

"There's something we need to talk about." Tony admits as everyone sits down and opens the files.

"Lana Baumgartner, sixteen years old." Bruce says, having read the first part of the file, "Who is she?"

"A kid, her and her mother went through the same change Vance went through and she developed powers." Tony reveals.

"What kind of powers?" Natasha asks, figuring that it will be in the file somewhere, but it is easier to ask.

"Explosive ones." Tony answers, "She can cause constant streams of energy or create bombs."

"She in trouble or causing trouble?" Rhodey asks, knowing that the answer is going to be one or the other.

"Both." Tony answers, "Her mother, who has similar powers, convinced her to use her powers to go on a crime spree, mainly robbing banks, they were stopped by Mel's girl." Tony explains, "After that Lana was sent to her grandmothers, called a victim of poor parental influence." Tony explains.

"I'm guessing the panel want a couple of us to go talk to her, explain about living with powers, offer to help her, and train her." Hope assumes as that's what it seems like to her.

"That's exactly what is going on." Tony admits with a grin, "I've read everything that the panel know, even talked to Mel's girl and it seems that the girl is teenager with an attitude issue, and desperately needs guidance to make up for her lack of parents." Tony reveals.

"Sounds familiar." Hope mutters, "I'll go with you to talk to her if you want." She offers.

"That would be good. I called her grandmother and I thought we could head to see her this afternoon." Tony reveals, "From everything I know I'm pretty sure that if she doesn't get some kind of allot to handle use her powers then, sooner than we may expect, we may have to deal with her in a very different way." Tony admits, really not liking that, but it seems like that is exactly where things are heading.

"What exactly are you going to offer her?" Bruce asks curious.

"Training her, either just on the weekends or a couple days a week." Tony explains.

"That would be good. We wouldn't want to take her away from her Grandmother unless it's for either of their protection." Natasha realises and Tony nods.

"When are we leaving?" Hope asks Tony.

"An hour." Tony says and Hope nods, "These files are everything we need to know." He reveals and they all start to read, so that they can get to know the person who is going to be a visitor for at least a little while, "Oh, and before I forgot, Clint I've gotten permission for you to join us at The Tower on New Year's Eve because it's technically an Avengers Facility." Tony reveals.

"Thank you." Clint says gratefully as he really wasn't looking forward to spending New Year's Eve alone, as the group drift into silence while they read.

December 28th 2016. Baumgartner House.


Having taken one of the less expensive cars that they have Hope and Tony are getting out of the car and walking up to the door of a pretty Avenger looking house, looking at is as they walk towards the front door you wouldn't be able to tell that that something incredible powerful lies just behind the door.

Getting to the door Tony reaches out and knocks. About a minute later the door opens revealing a woman who looks to be in her sixties with dark hair up in a high bun.

"Mrs Baumgartner." Tony greats.


"I'm Tony Stark, we talked on the phone, and this is my friend and college, Hope Van Dyne." Tony introduces, "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"You too, please come in." Mrs Baumgartner says, letting both Hope and Tony into the room, "May I get you anything? Something to drink? Something to eat?"

"No, but thank you." Hope tells her, "We'd like to talk to Lana first if that's okay."

"Of course, she's just down here." Mrs Baumgartner says leading Hope and Tony down the corridor.

A few seconds later they arrive at a door which Mrs Baumgartner knocks on,

"Come in." A voice responds and Mrs Baumgartner opens the door.

"Lana, there are people here to see you." She says, letting Hope and Tony into the room.

"You've got to be kidding me." The girl who must be Lana, says when she sees Hope and Tony it being more than a little clear that she is surprised.

"Can you give us a minute." Hope requests, looking at Mrs Baumgartner.

"Of course." She says before leaving.

"I'm not going to stop using my powers." Lana says, clearly annoyed by the intruders in her room.

"That's not why we're here." Tony tells her.

"And I'm so not joining your team. I don't work well with others and I'm definitely not the hero type." Lana says, looking at Hope and Tony like they are just annoyances to her.

"That's not why we are here either." Hope tells her, "We're here because we want to offer you a couple days a week where you can come to the Avengers Compound, where you can practice with your powers, get some control."

"I actually have a lot of control, but thanks." Lana says, not looking too interested.

"That might be so, but you could always learn more, learn more about your powers, where they come from, and how to live with them." Tony offers, "You should come to the Compound, just if it's on the weekend for a couple of weeks."

"What's in it for me?" Lana asks, causing Tony and Hope to exchange looks.

"You come to the compound for the weekend for three months and let us see that you know your powers, that you understand what it is like to have them, and that chances of you accidently hurting someone are low." Hope explains, "After that, if you want, you'll never see or hear from us again." She offers.

For a few moments Lana thinks, trying to decide what to do as what she wants most right now is to be left alone, and it seems like there is only one way to do that,


December 31st 2016. Avengers Tower.

Late Night.

Having travelled to the Tower hours earlier by plane Natasha, Tony, T'Challa, Hope, Rhodey, Bruce, Clint, Laura, Lila, Nathaniel, Cooper, Vance and Peter are all in the top floor of Avengers Tower, very much enjoying themselves.

Away from the others Natasha is sitting on one of the chairs with a drink when Tony walks over and sits down next to her.

"You okay?" Tony asks concerned.

"Just thinking." Natasha admits, wanting to see what Tony is drinking and so she steals a drink and takes a mouthful, causing Tony to give her an annoyed look.

"Anything you want to talk about?" Tony asks curious, not commenting on the drink stealing.

"A lot of things have changed since last year." Natasha comments.

"Yeah, they have." Tony responds, "I think it's mostly for the better."

"Me too." Natasha admits as she leans over and kisses Tony, but the kiss doesn't last as long as either of them would like as they hear,



And the two of them break apart to see Peter and Cooper, neither looking too happy with what they just caught their 'parent's' doing.

"The rest of us are heading out to the balcony and if you two don't join you'll miss the fireworks." Peter explains.

"Are you going to be okay with fireworks?" Natasha asks Vance, clearly concerned, "They're going to be loud."

"I think so." Vance says, sounding uncertain, "If not, I'll just come inside." Cooper tells Natasha.

"Okay." Natasha responds and Peter and Vance head outside.

"Guess we should join them." Tony comments.

"Guess so." Natasha confirms and they both get up and head out of the room.

Walking out onto the balcony Natasha and Tony look around and as they do they both exchange smiles, both thinking the same thing, that even after all the bad things that have happened they are okay, and everything them, their lives, the Avengers, are finally in a good place and maybe, just maybe things are going to be okay. Maybe they are going to be able to face whatever is going to come their way, maybe they are going to be able to get through what is to come.


AN2 IMPORTANT PLEASE READ:So there WILL BE a sequel that takes place after a time jump. There is a shortish story that I want to write for another fandom, but once I write that I'll work on the sequel, that I already have plans for. THANK YOU for the support.

I just wanted to say that this changed from my original plan and I hope you like this because of that.