A Gilded Age?
Title: A Gilded Age?
Disclaimer: We don't own anything belonging to MARVEL and we're not making any money from this fic
Summary: 48th in the Redeeming Grant series. Things are finally moving in the right direction
Authors: Hope1iz and BlackFox12
Warning(s): Potential triggering material and MAJOR Civil War spoilers. Spanking; spoilers for various MARVEL movies and television programs.
Author's Note: Quite a number of people have been requesting a family tree to keep track of who's related to who. The link is here and is mostly accurate... with one or two areas that aren't quite right. Just get rid of the spaces: www. familyecho ?p=GTLNA&c=r3ujdu2y81&f=866327168465815848
Tony had actually returned to his own apartment after playing games with his Uncle Nick and cousins. He might have gone back to the guest apartment with Hank, but he'd known Hope and Scott were there and needed their dad. On top of that, Pepper and Harry clearly needed him. So he'd forced down his anxiety regarding his own father and returned to his apartment and own bedroom. Harry had joined him and Pepper, but after the scare he'd had earlier that day, he was more than happy to have his son within easy reach.
He'd woken up early, slipping out of bed and dressing in workout clothing; planning to join Grant, Clint and Nat for their usual morning spar session. As he tiptoed down the hallway, Steve's bedroom door had opened and he'd frozen in place, not sure if he was ready to face his father yet, or not. It ended up being a moot worry, though.
Jessica slipped out of the room as quietly as she was able, hoping to go back to her guest room and shower, change and maybe sneak out. She couldn't help but jump when she turned around and found Tony not more than three feet from her, staring oddly. She fidgeted. "Nothing happened..." she said quickly.
Tony's odd stare turned to disgust. "I know. He looks on you like a daughter. That would just be gross..."
Jessica blinked. "Ok then. Uh...I'll see you later." She quickly left to the room she'd been given.
Tony watched her leave, trying to push down the sudden jealousy he felt.
Steve had woken up when Jessica slipped out, but he hadn't alerted her to the fact he was awake. His enhanced hearing allowed him to overhear the conversation just outside his door... which meant he was reluctant to head out. As much as he wanted... needed to talk to his son... he had to let Tony make the first move.
Shaking his head and looking longingly at his father's door, but uncertain how to approach him after avoiding him for so long, Tony sighed and continued on his way to the gym. He arrived at the same time as all the rest, giving each a challenging look. "I've been practicing...I think I can take at least one of you...maybe not Natasha..." He gave his cousin a sideways look.
Natasha gave her cousin a sweet, innocent smile. "You never know until you try." She noticed, but didn't comment, that Tony was looking somewhat better... the fact he was showing up for training also helped to indicate that, of course.
"True..." Tony grinned and motioned his cousin forward, getting into a stance to begin sparring with Natasha.
Jessica had left the apartment at the same time as Tony, but had quickly made her way to the stairs. Steve was still in his room; it was her best opportunity to get out.
Coulson hadn't joined his children and the rest of the family for sparring, instead thinking about going to meet Steve. Reaching his brother's floor, he noticed the newest addition to Steve's family heading for the stairwell and quickly moved to head her off. "Do you need to go somewhere?"
Jessica blinked in surprised frustration. "Fu...udge..." she started to exclaim vehemently, but ended on a slightly embarrassed and guilty tone. "You guys are like roaches..." she said by way of trying to get his attention off of her language and attempt to sneak out again. What was it about this family of heroes that made her feel like she needed to watch her P's and Q's? She normally cussed enough to feel at home with dock workers.
Coulson gave a slight smile, before saying, "There are enough of us around that you're more likely to run into a member of the family than not." While he didn't make an outright comment to her obvious attempt to leave... the meaning behind his words was probably clear.
"How...nice...for you all," she finally said, with a tiny smile. Her eyes were frustrated, though. "So...what were you planning to do?"
"I was going to speak to Steve, actually," Coulson said. "Though it isn't urgent." Not in the way it would have been.
"I'm sure he'll be up soon..." Jessica looked longingly at the door, wondering if Coulson would let her go. It wasn't like he knew she was trying to leave again, so he had no real reason to stop her. "I'm surprised he wasn't up before me, to be honest," she continued. "Are things always this tense around here?"
"Not always," Coulson answered. "It looks bad right now because things have been very tense between Tony, Steve and Bucky. I'm sure you must have seen how Tony's been reacting. He might not be handling things very well... but it was because he was deeply hurt."
"So he doesn't normally avoid everyone else...good to know. As long as it isn't my fault..." She smiled crookedly. "I really need to head downstairs now..." She attempted to edge around him. "I have several jobs and if I don't deliver, I won't get paid." It wasn't a lie...even if that wasn't the only or even the largest reason she wanted to leave.
"You're likely more aware than any of us how dangerous Kilgrave is," Coulson said, not budging. "It's not safe to go out on your own. If you need to get things done you really can't take care of here, you should take one of the others with you. Like my son Clint... or Thor or Loki... even Bucky. They stand a good chance of not being able to be controlled."
Jessica sighed. "I'm probably the safest to go out alone; he can't control me anymore and I'm too strong for him to hurt me other ways..." Jessica found herself arguing, despite her first intentions. The longer she stood here, the more likely it was that Steve would come out and stop her.
"My brother's right." Steve had left his room by that point, approaching Jessica from the side. "Leaving alone is too dangerous. And there are plenty of ways you can be hurt, even being physically strong." There was the trace of a haunted look on his face. While his own guilt had been taken care of... his distance from his son still hurt.
Jessica slumped, temporarily thwarted again. "Yes, sir," she found herself answering, even though she wanted to argue and force the issue. She remembered the smack he'd delivered downstairs and didn't want to tempt a repeat, especially not in front of someone. She was beginning to think the only way she'd get out was to cozy up to Tony Stark; since Steve was allowing him space and everyone else seemed to take any absences as him hiding from his father. It might be her best shot. Until then, though, she'd cooperate.
Steve rested a hand gently on her shoulder. "Would you like to have breakfast with me? Or I know some of the other family members are training at this time... if you'd like to get some practice in."
"Yeah...ok. Breakfast would be nice," Jessica smiled more happily this time. Despite her frustration, she did like Steve and enjoyed the time she spent with him.
"Great." Steve smiled, clearly happy to have her spend the time with him, and then looked at his brother. "Would you like to join us?"
"Thank you, but I'll go and see if my children want to eat when they've finished sparring," Coulson replied. "I'll see you both later." He smiled warmly at his brother and soon to be niece, then began heading to the elevator.
Jessica watched as Phil walked away, before turning to follow Steve back to the kitchen. "So what you planning to eat? I have to admit I usually only have coffee for breakfast..." She didn't add that she tended to add any available alcohol to said coffee.
"I thought we could have pancakes... perhaps eggs and bacon with them," Steve said mildly, not commenting on her eating habits. "If you want to put a pot of coffee on, I can start cooking."
"Hope you like it strong...I've been told my coffee is thick enough to be toxic..." she warned with a laugh. She didn't take long to get a pot brewing and despite her warning, it seemed to be decently done.
Steve smiled. "I think I can survive strong coffee," he teased gently, beginning to plate up the food.
Jessica smiled and poured Steve a cup of coffee, placing it on the table. Soon, they were eating, carrying on minor chit chat and getting to know each other. Jessica temporarily put her plans to sneak out on hold.
Scott had slept well, despite the sting in his hindquarters, the knowledge that Hank loved him like a son and the fact he would soon see Cassie again overcoming any negative emotions. He'd got up early to make breakfast for Hope and Hank.
Hope had got up not long after Scott had, but had taken a few minutes to take care of some last-minute e-mails. That done, she headed through to the kitchen to join Scott. "That looks good," she commented, seeing what he was cooking.
"I hope it is...I kinda winged it..." he admitted sheepishly. He knew she wouldn't be surprised at his words; he tended to 'wing' everything he did. It was one of the things that made him so good at his job- and also the one thing that got him into trouble so many times. Although if Hank had his way, Scott had a feeling his 'wings' might be clipped a little...at least enough to keep him out of jail. He eyed Hope. "You think your dad will want some?" He tried not to appear too hopeful, lest she realize he'd made the breakfast as a sort of way to get closer to her dad. He was fairly certain Hope cared about and maybe even loved him. Until they'd arrived and Hank had blistered his backside, he'd assumed the older man had hated him. Now that he knew that wasn't the truth, he was still having difficulty wrapping his head around the fact that the man viewed him as a son.
"He'll want some. You're making it." Hope spoke with a trace of amusement. It had become obvious to her that her father cared a great deal about Scott and now that her relationship with him was better, she didn't see a problem with Hank taking a paternal interest in her boyfriend.
"Really?" Scott would have been embarrassed if he could have seen how his eyes lit up like a happy toddler being given a present. He bit his lip and slanted his head. "I know we've only been here a few days, but...it seems that we've been offered a place to live as long as we are here and...would you object to staying? Or to me staying? I...I don't like leaving Cassie, but I don't want to leave you either..." He sighed, not sure how this problem would work itself out.
"I've been thinking about it since Tony made the offer," Hope replied. "I might have to do some travelling for meetings, but there isn't much I can't do from here. And I know how important it is for you to be close to Cassie."
"Thanks...I was really hoping you'd say something like that..." Scott's relief was visible as he moved closer and gave Hope a rather chaste kiss; nervous that Hank would walk in on them, as he had a tendency to do.
Hope kissed him, but didn't make any attempt to deepen the kiss... though she didn't pull away when Hank appeared in the doorway, either. After all, she wasn't ashamed or doing anything she shouldn't be.
Scott smiled against her lips before turning and smiling at Hank. He'd had a feeling the old man would arrive in the middle of a kiss... he had a knack. "Morning, sir," he said, as he slowly stepped away from Hope.
"Good morning," Hank replied mildly. "Breakfast smells good," he added.
Scott grinned even wider. "Thanks! I made it..." He glanced at his 'father'.
"You did a good job," Hank said honestly. He looked at them both. "How did you sleep?"
"I slept well," Hope said with a shrug. She hadn't noticed any trouble sleeping from Scott... but she glanced at him for confirmation anyway.
"Really good, sir..." He didn't say that Hank reaffirming Scott's position in the family had calmed some stress and worries Scott hadn't even known he had.
Hank nodded. "Good. I'm glad to hear it." He reached out to squeeze their shoulders gently, before moving to put the last things on the table.
"I thought I'd take Cassie out to see Lady Liberty today..." Scott said quietly, a slight question at the end; as if he wanted to ask them to come, but was afraid of being turned down.
"Would you like company?" Hank asked. "I'm free today."
"It's been a while since I've seen the sights here... so we could make it a group outing," Hope suggested.
"That'd be great!" Scott was excited at the thought of being able to spend time with all his favorite people. He also wanted Cassie to meet the one who was, in all ways that mattered, her grandfather.
"What sort of time were you thinking?" Hank asked.
"In about an hour? I already arranged to pick Cassie up at her place after ten, so that gives us time to get there and not be in the middle of rush hour traffic." Scott couldn't help but grin.
"We're all dressed," Hope said. "All that's left to do is finish breakfast and clean up... plenty of time." She smiled.
Skye hadn't really held out much hope of getting any hits. HYDRA had been wising up to SHIELD's tactics... and they already knew about the various skills utilized by most of the family members.
And then she opened an e-mail from one of her contacts.
It was a custom Trojan that had been built... one specifically designed to burrow into systems and seek out keywords.
"What are you doing?" Hope had wandered into the kitchen by this point, getting a glass of milk and starting to make porridge... both of which were easier on her still-healing throat.
"Hacking." Skye didn't mean to be so short. Well... not so much, at least. But it was quickly becoming apparent to her that her mother and Hope had formed a bond; and while there was a part of Skye that trusted she wouldn't be discarded like old rubbish... the rest of her was scared that she would be replaced.
May had followed Hope in and heard the short tone, but didn't want to step in unless it became obvious the two girls weren't working things through. Having watched what Phil went through with Grant, Bobbi and Raina, she could only hope her two didn't take so long to form a friendship.
Hope paused and then took a seat at the table opposite Skye. "To try and hack into HYDRA's system?" She knew the tower's residents (and it was still hard to think that included her) had that to deal with too. "Are you going to send a virus?"
"A Trojan... and I would be... if I was close enough." Skye's shortness this time was more to do with the fact she was too far away to get into any of the systems.
"Let Phil know what you need to do and maybe he can get a team together to get you closer," was all May said. She felt it might be a good idea to remind her daughter that she couldn't go off to do the job on her own, even if that wasn't how she phrased her words.
Skye sighed and nodded... not surprised by her mother's words, but frustrated nevertheless. Even if the frustration wasn't entirely to do with not being able to get close enough.
"I'm making porridge..." Hope said. "I can make something for both of you, if you'd like."
"That sounds good, thank you." May smiled at her youngest. She'd talked to Matt earlier to request making Hope legally hers and he'd promised to have Foggy bring the paperwork. He'd also told Foggy to bring a bag, figuring their friend was in as much danger from Kilgrave as any of them.
"Sure... thanks." Skye closed her laptop with a sigh then stood to get cups, drinks and utensils for the three of them.
May watched her two daughters unobtrusively, noting Skye's frustration. She wasn't certain how Hope was doing; the girl hadn't yet come out of her shell, it seemed.
It didn't take long before Hope had finished plating up the food and then she and Skye took seats at the table once more... though Skye's mind was clearly elsewhere, even while they ate.
May kept an eye on both girls, making small chit chat. There was nothing she could do for Skye unless her daughter told her what she was thinking or feeling, though. "I would like you to join me in about an hour or so when Foggy gets here," she said quietly. "He's going to help us make you joining the family legal," she added, for Hope's benefit. "I thought it would be nice if all three of us were present, though..." She glanced at Skye.
Forcing away the worry and fear she knew (or hoped) were unfounded, Skye nodded to her mother.
Hope glanced between them. "Are you... sure?" she asked. It was clear she wanted this... but that she also felt she didn't deserve it.
"Of course..." May smiled at Hope gently. "I don't say things I don't mean, unless I'm on an undercover assignment...and even then, if it's possible to tell the truth, I do. Life is too short to pretend things you don't really mean."
Skye smiled, determined not to let her own feelings get in the way. "It'll be nice to have a sister. I have plenty of cousins... but I was starting to feel the odd one out."
Hope smiled, relaxing visibly. "Okay. That's good..." she said softly.
Soon, they were done eating and cleaning up. May motioned toward the front door of their apartment. "After you, ladies...I believe Foggy should be here by now."
Skye waited, allowing her soon-to-be-official sister to leave first, before following.
It wasn't long before Veronica had announced Foggy's arrival and May was leading the two younger women down to the common offices. She wasn't surprised to run into Bucky and Patsy there.
Patsy smiled at Hope. "Are you getting adopted as well?"
Hope nodded, though she looked a little nervous still.
Foggy grinned at the two. "Here is the paperwork you need to sign, Melinda...Hope. And here is yours, Patsy and Bucky. You two have slightly different forms, on account of Patsy's birth mother still being alive..." Foggy handed out paperwork and pens.
It didn't take long before everyone was signing the paperwork. Skye tried to put aside her frustrations and act happy... no matter how hard it was.
Odin was becoming increasingly concerned with Loki's attitude. It wasn't that his son was rude or bad-tempered... or acting in any way that wasn't correct behavior. It was more that Loki was quiet... and not the quiet that came from his planning something; the kind of quiet that came from something troubling him.
Standing outside Loki's room, Odin knocked, deciding he was going to get to the bottom of this.
Loki looked up from where he sat on his bed when he heard the knocking. Attempting to straighten and look as if he wasn't struggling, he then called out, "Come in."
Odin opened the door and stepped into the room. "Are you free to talk?"
Loki stood as a sign of deference. "Yes, father..."
Surprised, Odin paused. "As your father, Loki," he said gently.
Loki blinked and while he appeared to relax his stance a bit, a sad, haunted look flickered through his eyes before he forced a smile. "Of course, daddy...what do you wish to speak to me about?" His voice was quiet.
Odin stepped closer, reaching out to gently squeeze his son's shoulder. "I know you're troubled. The conflicts here have affected you in a different way than the others." His voice was low and filled with compassion and concern.
Loki looked down and swallowed, but he didn't pull away and he didn't argue against what Odin said. "It has been hard watching the estrangement...It reminds me of when I was separated from you..."
Odin wrapped his other arm around his son, so he could pull Loki into a tight hug. "I understand. It troubles me as well... but we are no longer estranged."
"Only because you forgave me...pulled me back to you..." Loki admitted. "And we had time even if I was stubborn...they do not have the time we do. It worries me as well as saddens me..."
Odin nodded. "I understand your worry, but it seems Tony is beginning to accept that it's all too easy for a parent to make mistakes... choose to do the wrong thing, even with the right intentions. They both want to reconcile, but neither seems to know how."
Loki nodded, trying to feel encouraged by his father's words, but still obviously upset. Swallowing hard, he suddenly wrapped his own arms around Odin to return the hug and held on tightly, with no indications he was going to let go any time soon.
Odin hugged his son tightly. "The problems between us no longer exist," he whispered in Loki's ear. "We are reconciled... and nothing will ever drive a wedge between us again, because I will not allow it."
Loki just nodded and held on even more tightly. Finally, he found his voice. "I...I know, daddy..." he couldn't help but continue with the more childish term of address, he was so distraught. "...I know. It is still hard not to be fearful..." It was hard to admit, but he forced himself to be honest about his feelings.
"I understand," Odin said. "But we have weathered the worst. And our relationship is stronger. And even though there are conflicts, you still have the rest of your family here." He tightened his embrace around his son.
Loki swallowed then nodded, sinking into his father's arms. "...Love you, daddy..." he whispered.
"I love you, Loki. That could never change," Odin promised, kissing his son's forehead.
Bobbi sat on the couch, staring at the TV...which was off. She was gnawing at her lip, her hand hovered over her stomach and she had a worried look on her face.
Natasha walked into the family room and sat down next to her sister, sitting quietly for a moment or two before commenting, "You don't look so good. I know you're upset about Uncle Steve and Tony..." She paused, waiting for Bobbi to respond.
"Yeah...it's really hard to watch them like that..." Bobbi said quietly, not offering any other information; although that was more because she was thinking and not really concentrating on the conversation, than any deliberate avoidance.
Natasha paused and then leaned her arm against Bobbi's. "I think they're healing, even though it might be kind of slow progress."
"They did seem a little happier with themselves, even if they were still avoiding each other," Bobbi agreed, before wincing and licking the blood off her lower lip where she'd bit too hard.
Natasha nudged her sister's shoulder. "But you shouldn't be hurting yourself." Her voice was soft, but laced with worry.
"I didn't mean to!" Bobbi sounded guiltier than she would have liked.
"I don't just mean outwardly. I know you're hurting inside as well," Natasha said. "You should spend time with Dad." If anyone could figure out what exactly was going through her sister's mind... their father could.
Bobbi looked down. She knew her sister was right; especially since she hadn't been able to eat the way she knew he expected. Oh...she'd been eating at all family meals and eating enough to satisfy her father...but then she'd have to find a secluded restroom because, not long after, she'd be throwing everything up again. Not good and a sign that her ulcer had returned. She didn't want to worry him, though. "I don't want to bother him..." she finally said quietly, not able to face her sister, because she was positive Natasha would be looking at her like she was an idiot.
"You're not going to bother him," Natasha said. "He wants you to talk to him. He wants all of us to feel able to talk to him when something's wrong. Clint and Grant would tell you the same." She considered. "I'm not sure Raina's figured it out yet."
"Raina has figured it out just fine, thank you..." Raina walked in from where she'd been standing in the doorway, observing her two sisters. She gave Bobbi a sympathetic look. "You know he's going to find out one way or another. Isn't it better if you just go to him now and get it out of the way?" She slanted her head, her gaze piercing.
Bobbi paled at the thought of her father finding out from other means than herself. "Yeah...you're right..." she finally whispered. "Both of you are..." She sighed. "Veronica? Do you know where my father is?"
"Of course, Miss Morse… Director Coulson has just finished some paperwork in his office and is now walking towards your family room," the AI replied.
Bobbi squeaked, "He's coming here?" jumping to her feet and looking like a nervous mouse, forgetting that she actually wanted to talk to him.
Coulson appeared in the doorway, just in time to see Bobbi jump with a nervous look on her face. He looked at each of his daughters in turn. "Is something wrong?"
Natasha smiled at their father then looked at Raina. "Do you want to come to my room for a bit?" she asked, not-so subtly giving their father and other sister some space.
Raina smiled serenely at her father and both sisters, before hooking her arm through Natasha's. "I do want to." She walked out with Natasha, leaving Bobbi to fidget in front of her father uncertainly.
She knew she needed to tell him. She also knew she should have told him a week ago, when she first noticed symptoms. Now, she wasn't sure how to broach the subject. Sighing and biting her lip again, she shrugged. She kept glancing toward the door as if afraid someone would walk in on the conversation.
Coulson acknowledged Natasha and Raina leaving then stepped closer to Bobbi, wrapping an arm gently around her shoulders and drawing her in close. "Talk to me, sweetie."
"I...I think I need to tell you something I should have told you days ago," Bobbi admitted hesitantly. "I just don't know how to say it so you won't worry."
Coulson drew her in close, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "I'm your father. Worrying about you is part of my job," he said softly.
Bobbi couldn't help but huff gently at that. "…Doesn't mean I need to constantly provide things to worry about." She smiled crookedly. Biting her lip again, she tried to come up with a good way to tell him. "I...I think the ulcer is back." She finally just blurted it out, since she couldn't think of a way to bring it up gradually. "I've been throwing up nearly everything I eat and my stomach burns and...I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner..."
Wrapping his other arm around her in a tight hug, Coulson kissed her cheek. "I'm going to ask Bruce to meet us, so he can take a look and confirm. You should have told me sooner... but I'm proud you finally did."
Bobbi snuggled close and didn't argue. "Ok, daddy..." She put her head on his shoulder. "I didn't want to bother you...with everything else...I guess I just needed a reminder of..." She shrugged again, ready to go wherever her father led.
"It could never be a bother," Coulson whispered to her, before addressing the AI. "Veronica? Can you please ask Bruce to meet me on the medical floor? Let him know Bobbi has a suspected ulcer," he added.
"He will meet you there in five minutes, sir," Veronica answered, shortly after the request.
"Because I'm yours...?" Bobbi whispered, as she let her father take her to the elevator. She blushed at the scared, almost needy tone in her voice. Steve and Tony's fight had got to her more than she'd admitted even to herself.
"Always. You will always be mine," Coulson promised, still holding his daughter as they stepped into the elevator and set it to go to the medical floor.
Bobbi sniffled and pressed closer to her father, relaxing visibly at his words. "Dunno why I let myself worry that I wouldn't be..." she said, in a sheepish tone.
Coulson kissed the side of her head. "This has been a rough time. It's natural it would have an effect on you." When the elevator stopped, he gently guided his daughter from it.
"You don't know how close I came to doing something you wouldn't want...just to make sure we were normal..." Her voice was softer than a whisper.
"If you had done, we would have dealt with it. Like we deal with everything," Coulson promised, looking around for Bruce, even as he held his daughter tight.
"I know...I was able to stop myself because I remembered the other times you've come after me and not let me run or do things I shouldn't because of how much you love me..." she admitted softly. "Even so, I came really close...It was a toss-up between my sneaking off and getting into trouble, or going to you and asking you to help me not get into trouble..." Her tone was sheepish. "Instead, I fessed up about the ulcer, so end result is almost the same, I guess..." She sighed, putting her head on her father's shoulder, even as she noticed her cousin coming with the scanning equipment.
Coulson only released Bobbi long enough for Bruce to do what he needed... and even then, he grasped and held his daughter's hand tight.
"Well, the ulcer is definitely back..." Bruce announced after the checkup. "I'm going to give you some medicine that you will need to take. Also, you should fast for the next 24 hours until the medicine has been given a chance to start working...since you've been throwing up. When you do begin eating again, you should eat small but frequent meals; and they should be bland meals for one week. You can slowly begin eating like normal after that week is over." He kept his instructions brief and to the point.
Coulson wrapped his arm around Bobbi's shoulders, squeezing gently. "We'll deal with it," he promised, pressing a kiss to the side of her head.
"Thanks, Bruce." Bobbi smiled crookedly at him before standing up so she and her dad could return to their apartment.
When they were on the elevator heading up, Bobbi looked at her father. "Sorry to have made things difficult...I should have told you as soon as I suspected..."
Coulson nodded, looking a bit serious. "You should have told me," he said. "I understand you were worried, but I'm always going to want to know what's going on with you. It doesn't matter how silly or little you think it is. It could never be that to me."
Bobbi couldn't say anything in her defense, really. She'd known deep down she was wrong to hide things...even if she just wanted to ignore it. "I'm sorry..." she finally said. "...I just wanted to...I don't know...pretend nothing was happening to me. It was stupid." She sighed and looked at her feet.
"It wasn't stupid," Coulson said gently. "But it needs to be instinctual, coming to me." He reached out to draw her close, kissing her forehead. "I love you."
Bobbi looked up and gave her father a chagrined little smile. "It kinda is now. My first impulse was to come to you immediately. But then I waited just long enough for my...well, I guess the only word is insecurities...they kicked in. I've been arguing with myself the better part of a week and probably still would be, if Nat hadn't cornered me and reinforced what my instinct was. That and you walked in at just the right time and I couldn't lie to you."
Coulson smiled. "I'm glad of that, but we need to make sure you follow through on your instincts." His voice was loving enough to take any sting out of his words.
Bobbi sighed softly and snuggled close to her father, not arguing. "Kinda figured..." she said quietly.
When the elevator stopped on their floor, Coulson guided his daughter from it, walking with her to his room.
Bobbi followed along meekly, the fact that this situation was so familiar and her father was acting so much like her father settling nerves and insecurities she hadn't wanted to face. "I love you, daddy..." she blurted, before throwing her arms around him tightly.
Coulson hugged her tightly in return, pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "I love you... so much..." he said, his voice quiet, but filled with so much warmth and sincerity, he might as well have been shouting.
"Can I stay with you tonight?" Her voice was tiny and almost childlike in her hesitance.
"Of course," Coulson replied, without any hesitation.
Bobbi's smile was brilliant as she hugged her father again, before stepping reluctantly away. "I...I'm...well, ready is the wrong term really, but..." She shrugged sheepishly and waited for her father's directions.
Coulson gently took his daughter's hand and led her over to the bed. While he didn't intend to be severe with her... intended this to be a reminder more than anything else... he was serious about her health and wellbeing. Taking a seat, he gently pulled her across his lap.
Bobbi didn't struggle or fight the position, actually relaxing at the familiarity with a sense of relief. Reaching down, she gently held onto her father's pants leg.
Coulson rubbed his daughter's back gently a moment or two before he bared her, wrapping an arm around her waist to keep her close.
Bobbi wasn't dreading what was about to occur; she was ashamed. "I'm sorry I made you need to spank me, daddy...especially for such a foolish reason. I knew you'd find out, so trying to not tell you so you'd not worry was...pointless." She sighed and blushed.
"I know it's been difficult for you," Coulson said, his voice gentle. "But no matter what, I am never going to stop loving you. And I will always step in, each and every time it becomes necessary." Lifting his hand, he brought it down in a swat that was more stinging than truly hard.
Bobbi sniffled at the words...and there was no way or reason to think it was for any reason but the words. While the swat stung, it certainly didn't hurt; not yet, anyway. "I love you too, daddy..." she choked out.
Coulson settled into a pattern of swats, keeping them all at the same level, working his way down to his daughter's thighs before starting over from the top.
Bobbi whimpered softly and held more tightly to her father's pant leg, the repetition causing her to focus on her position fully. As always, when bared over her father's knee, she felt vulnerable and fully dependent on him. She was reminded of her position in his life and he in hers and felt the need to acknowledge that she remembered in the only way she could; accepting his decision and submitting to his will. Even so, just because she mentally had submitted, didn't necessarily mean her body would cooperate. When he began the second circuit, she found herself beginning to squirm as the sting built and lingered...beginning to be painful.
Beginning the third circuit, Coulson began to speak. "Hiding things to do with your health from me is never acceptable," he said seriously. "I need to know about these things, so I can take care of you."
"Y...yes, sir..." Bobbi cried quietly. "I...I knew that...I did..." She squirmed even more, before throwing one hand back to block what had finally become painful swats, the sting having built up to the point she couldn't ignore it, even if she'd been trying.
Coulson paused long enough to move Bobbi's hand out of the way, holding it against her back, and began swatting a bit harder... though still only used a fraction of his strength. "I love you," he reiterated. "You are so important to me..."
Bobbi whined before letting herself go limp over her father's lap. "I love you too, daddy...so, so much..." she cried, quietly but loudly enough to be heard.
Coulson brought the spanking to a stop and gathered his daughter into a close, tight embrace, gently stroking her hair and back.
Bobbi quickly snuggled as close as physically possible and held onto her father tightly, hiding her face against his chest. She let out a tiny sigh of relief that the spanking, as unusually light as it was, was over and let out a contented mewling, sounding very much like her cat.
Coulson pressed a kiss to the top of her head. "I love you."
"I love you, daddy..." Bobbi snuggled more, nuzzling against his shoulder. "Thank you for taking care of me..." she whispered.
"I will always take care of you." Coulson tightened his embrace.
Sighing softly, she stood for a brief moment to fix her clothes, before sitting on her father's lap again and cuddling. "Even when I hide things?" she asked cautiously.
Coulson let her get up and then wrapped his arms around her once more. "There is nothing that could ever change that. If you hide something from me, that just means we have to work on it."
Bobbi hummed happily in her father's arms. "Even if I'm a naughty brat?" Her voice was properly quizzical, but if he looked in her eyes, he'd see an impish gleam. She'd understood and believed him the first time. Now she was just fishing for ways to hear him tell her he loved her and she was important.
Coulson laughed softly. "I suspect you wouldn't be being a naughty brat for the sake of it," he teased gently, "but yes. Even then. I am never going to stop loving you. I'm never going to stop being here for you."
"I love you, daddy..." Bobbi reiterated, putting her head on his shoulder and fighting a yawn.
Coulson gently stroked her hair. "You haven't been sleeping well?" he guessed. "Why don't we have a nap?"
"It's barely past breakfast..." Bobbi put up a token protest, but snuggled closer and yawned again.
"I think you'll feel better to have a bit of sleep," Coulson said softly, continuing the gentle, comforting touch.
"Can't argue against that," she mumbled, her eyes closing despite herself.
Kissing the top of her head, Coulson just held Bobbi close, hoping she felt comfortable enough to fall asleep.
Bobbi just continued to snuggle, the feeling of safety and love aiding in helping her relax. Not long after, she was sleeping.
Coulson moved so that they were more comfortable, stretching out on the bed with his daughter in his arms, but he didn't so much as loosen his hold on her.
Tony had gone to his lab to work. While he'd enjoyed his time with Pepper and Harry, Pepper had needed to go to the office and had taken Harry with her, so he could see what she did all day long. He could have gone to the common floor, but didn't want to risk running into his father and his new 'pet project'. Later, he'd be able to see how that thought was unfair and recognize his own jealousy...but that time wasn't now.
After the paperwork had been signed, Skye had excused herself to go and check her contacts... but really, she was hoping that, the closer to the bottom of the tower she got, the more chance she might have of getting within the signal. She didn't yet have any intentions of leaving, as she stood in the elevator with her laptop open and worked.
Tony sighed. He'd planned to work...had every intention of doing so...and now he couldn't concentrate. It was frustrating. Maybe a walk through the offices of Stark Industries would do him good. Going to the elevator, he waited for the car to arrive.
Skye was a bit surprised when the elevator opened and she glanced up from her laptop to see her cousin there. "Hey..." she said slowly, not sure if she should ask what he was doing... since she wasn't sure what she was doing would make much sense.
Tony blinked, but only took a second's hesitation before joining her on the lift. "Hi..." he responded. He only waited a few seconds before asking, "What are you doing?"
"I'm not allowed to leave the tower," Skye said, sounding markedly like a child who had been told no by her parent. "I want to get this Trojan onto a HYDRA server... but I'm not close enough to get through the firewalls."
"Huh..." Tony said, an odd look on his face, like he was facing a particularly annoying problem. "Have you tried one of my boosters? We just invented it two weeks ago, so you might not know of it yet...we can go to the second floor and get one and see if it helps your problem..."
Surprised, Skye quickly nodded. "That might help," she admitted. "I've only got one shot at this. I don't want to mess it up."
"Great! You can be my excuse for skiving off!" Tony beamed, as he directed Veronica to take them to the second floor.
"What's the range on them?" Skye asked, closing her laptop for the moment.
"Well, it's supposed to be about 20 kilometers, give or take. Like I said, I just invented them two weeks ago. Haven't really had a chance to test them out, given what's been going on..." Tony winced.
"I can help test them," Skye suggested quickly, wanting to take her cousin's mind off the conflicts between him and his father.
"You'd be perfect to test them. You think outside the box and would find things that my scientists wouldn't even think to test for." Tony grinned brightly at her.
Skye smiled, glad to find some way of being useful. "You know, technology is kind of my thing, same as you... if you ever need someone to test something, you can just ask."
"I will keep that in mind, mini-me!" Tony chuckled. "This is going to be awesome..." He grinned as he led her out to the courtyard.
Smiling, Skye followed her cousin, happy to be able to spend some time with him, even along with trying out the potential range on the booster.
Tony had to admit he was having fun with Skye. "We should hang out and do techie stuff more often," he commented.
Skye eagerly nodded. "Especially when we're stuck inside for our own safety..."
"Yeah. Sorry about a necessary bad being made worse due to tension..." Tony apologized, not so caught up in his own emotions that he wasn't aware what was happening to everyone else.
"I'm used to tension running high," Skye said, remembering her experiences with the foster families.
"Still..." Tony looked like he was about to say something else, but he was interrupted by Veronica.
"Sir...there appears to be a flying craft landing on top of the tower..." The AI sounded hesitant. "I am not able to identify what type of craft, or who might be inside."
Tony blinked. "I think that is my cue to go check things out..." Tony sighed. "...Will you be ok out here alone?" He glanced around, but the courtyard was surrounded by a high, gated wall and had numerous cameras. As far as he could tell, Skye was just as safe there as she would be in the building.
Skye nodded. "I'll just play around with the booster a bit. See how far I can get the range on it."
"Great. Hopefully, this won't take too long and I can come back..." Tony grinned, before heading back inside and to the elevator. "Up to the roof please, Veronica..."
"Of course, sir." The AI quickly started the elevator on its trip up.
The jarring stop had indicated they'd likely landed on something solid. Drax couldn't feel the craft teetering, so they'd likely landed somewhere flat... but it was fortunate he'd been strapped in, as otherwise, he might have done a lot of damage to himself. It was fortunate, too, that Peter had been strapped in... though Drax turned an irritated glance on the human. "I believe I warned you against performing that maneuver."
"And I told you I knew what I was doing and that it would work...and it did! You don't see any more of those Blurzz, do you?!" Peter protested, in defense of what really was a very reckless maneuver, if he ever decided to be honest with himself...which why would he do that? Where was the fun in being honest about your flying abilities?
"I see that you have landed us somewhere unfamiliar," Drax stated. "And you did act against my directions." Peter might have been the captain technically... but there was a big part of Drax that felt very protective of him.
"Aw...loosen up! Get the stick outta your backside! We landed in one piece and finding out where we landed can be an adventure!" Peter exhorted, undoing the restraints and immediately headed to open the ships hatch.
"I do not have any stick inserted in any part of my body." Drax unstrapped himself, grabbing his swords, prepared for anything. "And danger is not to be considered an adventure."
"Don't tell me you don't find this even a little exciting! I've seen you fight before..." Peter retorted, barely waiting for the hatch to fully open before he was sauntering out to stand by the ship. Of course, he stopped when he noted the large contingent of people surrounding the ship and holding weapons. "Uh...WE COME IN PEACE...TAKE US TO YOUR LEADER!" He made pantomiming motions to go along with his extremely loud request.
"Why is he yelling? We're not deaf..." could be heard muttered somewhere in the back of the line.
Drax immediately followed the human... though he paused at the sight of all the people and then looked at Peter. "We are outnumbered if it comes to a fight."
Peter blinked as he suddenly became aware that nearly all the beings surrounding them looked humanoid; and, beyond that, looked like him. Taking a chance, he pulled his face mask off so that they could see he was humanoid as well and smiled the biggest, shit-eating grin he could muster. "So...which one of you is in charge?" he asked boisterously. Inside, he might be quaking like the little kid Yondu had kidnapped years and years ago; but they didn't need to see his nerves. He ignored Drax's observation. The other man was right, after all; if the group surrounding them chose to fight, they were severely outnumbered; he didn't think telling Drax they could still take them would win any favors with the aliens listening in and Drax wouldn't appreciate it anyway.
Coulson was the one to step forward, Steve quickly moving to be at his brother's side... though really, there was no obvious danger, even from the one who didn't really look human. "I am Director Phil Coulson of SHIELD," he said. "This is Captain Steve Rogers. Are there any wounded on your ship?" He felt that offering medical aid was the most important thing to start with.
"There are no others on our ship," Drax stated. "We crashed because of an out of control pilot. We are not here to fight... though we will defend ourselves if it is necessary."
Peter blinked then turned an affronted pout onto Drax, hands on his hips. "Out of control? OUT Of CONTROL?! I have you know I was in control 99.9 percent of that landing...the point one percent being because I don't exactly know where we are... But still! We're alive!"
He huffed and turned toward Coulson, putting on his biggest grin. "Hello, Director...Captain...you wouldn't be able to tell us which planet we've landed on...I thought I knew all the planets in the Andromeda Galaxy, but I'm drawing a complete blank on yours..."
By this point, Tony had joined the others and moved up closer to the front of the group. It was Grant, to everyone's surprise, who answered, however. "Uh...You're not in the Andromeda Galaxy. You're in the Milky Way Galaxy."
"On Earth!" Kara piped up helpfully.
Peter's eyes widened and then rolled back in his head. He'd deny what happened after, to his dying day...but the loud thump as he hit the ground was impossible to miss.
Drax looked down at his partner... friend... he wasn't sure what to call Peter; but he knew it wasn't as simple as a comrade. Putting his swords away (it didn't look as if they were under any threat... and even if the humans intended to attack, he wouldn't be able to take out many alone), he crouched down next to Peter. "Do you have anything to drink? Anything strong?" he asked the group as a whole.
"Of course." This time, Bruce stepped forward. "If you will carry him to our medical floor, I will make sure he did not hurt himself and we will also give you both food and water..."
"Thank you." Drax lifted Peter into his arms, glancing at Coulson and Steve. "We will answer any questions once I am assured of my companion's safety."
"Of course," Coulson said.
Tony watched as everyone trooped back to the elevator and, seeing how crowded it was, decided to wait. "I'll meet you all on the common floor once the kid is sorted out. Talking will be more comfortable there and I won't get in Brucie's way."
Jessica stood next to Tony. "Yeah. I'll wait too..."
Steve lingered a moment or two, desperately wanting to talk to his son, but still not sure it would be welcomed. Sighing, he didn't protest, instead joining the others.
"He really wants you, you know..." Tony said in an aside to Jessica, as soon as everyone else had disappeared into the elevator. He couldn't hide the hint of jealousy.
"Not as much as he wants you back..." Jessica retorted, a hint of wistfulness in her own.
Drax followed the humans, still carrying Peter's unconscious body. He was uneasy around so many people, but it wasn't obvious... and his full concern was for his comrade.
Bruce had quickly led them to the med floor. "Veronica, please scan the young man and then show me the scan where his friend can see it. Surprise alone should not have caused him to collapse like this..." He turned toward Drax. "Has he been having any other health issues that might cause him to react like this?"
Drax frowned. "He has not eaten as much as he has done in the past, but I have not seen anything else." Underneath the markings on his skin, his worry and concern were quite obvious.
Veronica piped up. "I have performed a full scan, sir. His physiology is that of a normal human male. He also has a rather significant fever. Also, there seems to be an unusual viral infection in his system. I would need to scan his blood to be certain."
Bruce glanced toward Drax, as if getting permission to draw the blood.
"If you hurt him in any way... I will take my revenge." There was no real heat behind the threat and it was obvious Drax wouldn't stop them while he thought they could help Peter.
"I will do everything to help him possible." Bruce was calm in the face of the threat and made a point to be the one drawing the blood, not wanting to expose his children to the aliens potential wrath.
Drax stood as close as he could get, watching Bruce and Peter's reactions, to make sure his younger friend wasn't harmed in any way.
"What can you tell me about Peter's physiology?" Bruce asked the worried man.
"I only know what I have seen," Drax stated. "He does not get ill often. He is strong mentally as well as physically, though he often does not show it."
"I'm afraid we don't know too much about alien physiologies; Thor, Loki and Odin not withstanding..." Bruce admitted. "His physiology does appear to be like our own..."
"He is at least half human," Drax stated, that much with certainty. "This is the planet he was born on." But he knew it was likely the other man's long time in space had changed him.
"Veronica, perhaps you could ask Odin, Thor and Loki to come and meet us here?" Coulson asked the AI, wondering if one of the Asgardians could shed some light on how to help, not harm the stranger.
Grant glanced at his father and uncles, wondering when any one of them was going to ask the million-dollar question. How had a man born on earth ended up in a galaxy far, far away from his birthplace? And not even known he was born on the planet he had crash-landed on? Or even known which planet it was when he landed? "Uh...he was born on Earth?" He couldn't keep quiet.
Bruce was quickly running scans on the blood he had drawn. "I don't recognize this virus; but given that he was born on Earth and has at least enough in common with us that you wouldn't be able to tell he was half-alien without deep DNA scanning...We'll need to put all of us into quarantine until we are certain we haven't been exposed. Are there any family members who didn't go to see what crashed on our roof? And get into a tiny enclosed space with the infected?" He glanced around.
Veronica answered. "Skye was in the courtyard testing out some of Master Tony's equipment. Miss Pepper is in the offices taking care of Stark Industries business. Master Tony and Miss Jessica did not get onto the elevator with all of you and I made certain to decontaminate the elevator as soon as you exited, so unless it is an extremely virulent virus and was able to spread through the air at a very quick rate, they should not have been exposed to anything. If it is an extremely virulent strain that travels through air and they were exposed despite being outside... then more than just the family is in danger."
Drax listened intently to the voice, looking up as if he thought he might be able to see the speaker. "He has lived in space since he was a child," he responded to Grant... though it was clear he was restless; and only the belief that these aliens... who were at least similar to Peter... could help his young friend kept him calm and level-headed.
Loki chose that moment to walk in and moved toward Bruce. "Might I see your results?" he asked quizzically. He knew Thor and Odin were right behind him, so if he didn't recognize what the scans and blood work had shown from his times working with his mother in the healing halls...then maybe Odin would.
Bruce shifted so Loki could take a look. "Be my guest..."
Odin stepped forward close enough so that he could look with his son... though he was careful to make sure he didn't crowd Loki. "I believe I recognize this virus." He glanced towards his son, to check Loki agreed with the recognition.
"I believe I do as well...are you thinking what I am thinking, father?" Loki asked Odin curiously.
Odin nodded and glanced at Bruce, explaining, "It is a virus similar to many found on Midgard... it is quite often passed on through bodily fluids... kissing or blood contact... but doesn't carry through the air or passed through skin to skin contact."
Clint couldn't help it, he had to ask. "So...he caught an alien STD?"
Loki shook his head, giving his cousin a semi-amused but not really amused look. "No...Well...I suppose, in a way, since the easiest way to catch it is through sexual contact or intercourse. But that isn't the only way it can be caught. It has been known to be passed from individual to individual in certain ceremonies where drink and food are shared along with sharing of utensils. Not as often, but it has occurred. It really is just a normal virus. And, luckily, one he will develop anti-bodies for so that he won't catch it again once he has healed. All we can really do for him is to make sure he stays hydrated, fed and rested; and keep his temperature down." He glanced at his father for either his agreement or disagreement of Loki's prognosis.
Odin nodded. "I would agree with everything you said, Loki. But no one in the tower would be in danger of catching the virus as it stands," he added.
"I will stay with him," Drax declared.
Bruce nodded at Drax's declaration. "There is a bed over to the side there where you can sleep so that you do not need to leave his side. With your permission, I will attach IV's to him that will help hydrate him, as well as administer a small dose of medication to help reduce the fever and keep it down. If he has had this fever for several days and has not been eating or drinking enough, it is no wonder he collapsed. Chances are he will awaken within the next hour, possibly two. Unless Uncle Odin or Loki have anything else to recommend?" He glanced back at Odin again.
Odin shook his head to Bruce's question. "Everything you have said is the best thing for him. And I am sure I do not need to make it clear he should not be allowed to leave... no matter how much he protests."
"He will not." Drax spoke with complete confidence.
Bruce eyed Drax, then smiled and nodded. "I believe you. I don't think there is any pressing need to get information from the two of you until Peter is well, so if the rest of you could clear out so I can take care of my patient and his guardian can rest..." It wasn't a request, no matter how nicely it was said.
While everyone else was crowding the extraterrestrial visitors, Tony had decided to go check on Skye's progress in the courtyard. He gave Jessica a tiny smile as she came with him. "You avoiding dad too?"
Jessica sighed. "Not for the same reason you are..." Her tone indicated she didn't think that highly of his reason.
Tony wasn't offended. "Wouldn't expect you to be." He shrugged. Waking off the elevator and toward the courtyard, he didn't say anything as Jessica trailed him. He stopped and let out an unhappy curse when he noted the courtyard was empty.
"Veronica, did Skye go back upstairs or leave? And was she in danger?" he asked, worry clear in his voice.
"Skye left the courtyard, but changed her mind after starting to go up in the elevator, sir," the AI answered. "She left the tower. I am tracking her phone and I can send you or any of the others the trace."
Tony sighed. "Please inform everyone that she has left and keep them informed of her whereabouts by the tracker, please..." He turned as he noticed Jessica climbing over the wall that had been providing security. "Where are you going?!"
"This might be my only chance to get away and stop Kilgrave. I'm taking it," the young woman answered.
Tony huffed and went to the gate, keying in his code to open it, meeting her on the other side on her way down. "I'm going with you. If you refuse or try to ditch me, I'll lead dad straight to you."
"Fine!" Jessica agreed unhappily, knowing that Tony would be able to do exactly that if she balked.
Tony smiled. "Don't tell anyone we left, Veronica..." he ordered.
"Sir..." The AI sounded unhappy, but didn't argue.
Soon, the two were on their way.
Steve hadn't gone too far from the medical floor before Veronica contacted everyone in the tower. "Which direction is she going?" he asked the AI, after requesting Veronica direct May to meet him and Phil in the parking garage.
May wasn't surprised her daughter had taken off. Worried, disappointed to be right and a bit surprised it wasn't one of the others to act first, but not surprised her daughter had taken off. She was stepping off of the elevator into the garage fairly quickly, waiting for Veronica to update on Skye's whereabouts, as well as for Steve and Phil to decide who was going and who was staying.
Steve and Coulson very quickly joined May in the garage and Coulson began speaking immediately. "Even if Skye isn't going towards Kilgrave, there's still a chance she might become a target. I've requested that Veronica ask Loki, Clint and Bucky to join us."
"They're the least likely to fall sway to the brainwashing, right?" May curiously asked.
Coulson nodded. "As far as we can tell." Though they hadn't had a chance to test that out yet.
"What about Kara and Brock? They staying back for some reason?" May asked. "I mean, if we're choosing team members according to those who have been brainwashed or mind-controlled previously..."
"While that's true, I'm reluctant to send all of the team members who might not be able to be brainwashed in one group," Coulson said. "In case something goes wrong, I'd prefer to keep them on standby."
"Point..." May said with a wry look. "I'm going to try and call Skye and see if she'll admit to what she's doing." With that declaration, she pulled out her phone and hit the number to speed dial her daughter.
After a few rings, nearly enough for the phone to shift to the answer phone, Skye answered. "Hi Mom..."
"Hello, Sweetie. I can't seem to find you. Where are you at?" May kept her voice calm and non-confrontational. Skye knew Veronica was more than capable of tracking her and telling everyone where she was, so this was May's way of giving her a chance to come clean and come home before she got into more trouble.
Skye hesitated. "I just need to... Mom... I need to get this range..." She hated that she sounded like a whiny kid, but she didn't try to hide what she was doing.
"Skye May! We talked about this. Getting this range isn't worth the chance that that homicidal mind-controlling mad-man might get hold of you and use you...hurt you...in an attempt to get to us. I want you to come back home now." Her voice was firm and it was clear she expected obedience.
"I'm not that far from it..." Skye protested.
Coulson stepped closer to May. "If you tell her to stay put, we can go and pick her up in one of the cars... take Bucky with us, maybe... minimize the risk."
"Skye. Stay where you are and don't go any closer to wherever it is you think you aren't far from. I know you want to help, but putting yourself into potential danger isn't helping." May's tone had gone from firm to stern and worried.
"Veronica. Can you ask Bucky to join us?" Steve asked the AI.
"Okay..." Skye's response was very quiet.
"Thank you..." May's response was both to her daughter listening and also for Steve requesting Bucky's help. "We'll be there soon, sweetie..." she finished more quietly to Skye. Hanging up, she turned to face Phil. "I can't drive. I'm likely to break every speed limit on record." She gave him a crooked smile.
Coulson's smile was reassuring. "I don't think you'd be alone in that, but I'm willing to drive." He began heading to the closest vehicle even while he was speaking.
By the time May had got into the passenger side of the car, Bucky had arrived to the garage and was already moving to the back seat of the vehicle, giving Steve a nod. "Clint and Loki are waiting in the common room in case they are needed after all," he said to the car at large, as he buckled his seatbelt.
"Thank you." Coulson waited just barely long enough for all of them to be ready and then he began driving, quickly heading in the direction Veronica was tracking Skye's phone.
Meanwhile, Jessica and Tony were quietly standing against the gated wall on the other side of the courtyard, arguing with their eyes and hand motions. Passers-by would just give them confused and amused looks as the two 'discussed' exactly where they should be going to next.
Patsy had been sat, talking to her brothers, but then wandered down to the common floor kitchen to get a drink, running into Blake who happened to be there. "Hi."
"Hey." Blake smiled at his cousin. "Going stir-crazy yet?" he teased his cousin.
"I'm not... but I'm fairly certain Jessica is." Patsy frowned with concern. "I haven't seen her since we were all on the roof..."
Raina had been shooed off the medical floor (her presence made Drax nervous) and when her father had suddenly left to go find Skye, she'd decided to go to the common floor to see who else was around. She smiled when she saw Patsy and Blake and walked over to them, just in time to hear Patsy's comment. "I believe she was with Tony. Prior to the spaceship landing on our roof, Tony was with Skye. Maybe both of them went to help retrieve Skye?" She sounded uncertain of that, though.
Patsy's eyes narrowed in worry, but all she said was, "I've got to go and check something out. See you later," before hurrying from the room.
Blake blinked, glancing after her and then at Raina. "I... think I'm going to make sure no one's doing anything stupid..."
"Yeah...you do that..." Raina's voice was droll. Sighing, she went and sat on the couch. Five minutes later, she asked, "Veronica? Where are Patsy and Blake?"
"Miss Walker and Master Blake have left the tower," the AI informed Raina.
"And Jessica and Tony have as well, I suppose?" Raina continued.
"You suppose correctly," the AI agreed.
"In that case, Veronica...please let Uncle Steve, Uncle Bucky and Uncle Ben know that they have all four left the building...and, if possible, give them some idea of where they are heading?" Raina requested with a smile, before returning her attention back to the magazine she had been perusing. If she was needed, she knew someone would let her know.
In the car, Steve heard Veronica through his comm. With a quiet sigh, he looked at Bucky. "We should pick up Skye... make sure she's safe... then head to where the others are. I'll request that Clint and Loki join us... preferably in a separate vehicle."
Coulson was driving carefully, but he was also driving fast... and it didn't take long for Skye to come into view, stood on the side of the road.
Bucky just nodded. "Surprised, but not, that Patsy's one of the miscreants..."
May immediately jumped out of the vehicle as soon as it was stopped and moved to her daughter, quickly checking for hidden wounds; even though Skye hadn't mentioned any problems, she wanted to be sure. Then, giving her daughter a stern look that matched her voice from earlier, she said, "We need to go stop some other runaways...in the car quick; they're more likely to run into Kilgrave, since Jessica is leading them."
By that time, Steve had made contact with Loki and Clint back at the tower, updating them and asking them to bring Ben and meet them where Veronica was tracking them.
Skye didn't protest her mother checking her over. With a sigh and a very quiet apology, she climbed into the car as directed.
Clint, Loki and Ben quickly got into a car and were following Veronica's directions to meet up with the others.
Coulson drove as fast as he dared, heading towards where Veronica was directing them. He had only to look at Steve and Bucky to know how worried his brothers were... and he hoped Kilgrave wasn't about to tear their family apart.
"So here's my plan...he wants me. I pretend my immunity to him has worn off and go to him. When I'm close enough, I kill him. He's killed too many innocents and won't stop because he finds it fun..." She defended her plan before anyone else could argue against it, but then she waited for the arguments.
"There are too many ways that could go wrong," Blake said. "What if he orders you to hurt someone else? Or yourself? If you don't go through with it, he'll know he doesn't have control over you." And if she did... Blake knew she wouldn't be able to live with herself.
"You can't do it alone," Patsy said. "If we could do something to drown out his voice..."
"We'll just need to make certain we get him to a secluded area where there are less people for him to control; and most of his controls are very simple...it's possible to obey them to the letter if not the intent. Hopefully, it won't come to that, since I expect all of you to wear headphones to cancel out any commands he may give. Or in your case, Tony, have Veronica in your ear so that he can't control you..." Jessica looked around at the four. "Here's what I want to do..." She went on to explain her plan in detail.
While it was a dangerous idea (and one Blake was certain their respective parents would be very unhappy to hear about), none of them were able to come up with a better idea... and it didn't take long for everyone to be in place.
Bucky fidgeted nervously. "Veronica? Do you have any further information on where they are and what's going on?" They'd got stuck in traffic; not uncommon in the city, but normally, they would be able to find side streets to get around it. This time, everything was thoroughly blocked and unless they just gave up and had Loki pick them up and teleport them directly to their 'kids', he was afraid they wouldn't make it in time and something horrible would happen.
"They are all together. I have been locating security feeds and it does appear they are in the vicinity of Kilgrave," the AI stated.
Steve cast a worried look at Loki. "Can you lock in on any of them? See through their eyes what's going on?" he asked his nephew.
"I can attempt to... Perhaps through Tony would be best. He's familiar with my doing something of that sort enough not to let it distract him much; and if it does distract him at an inconvenient moment, Veronica can help him adjust more quickly," the Asgardian replied, before making his attempt.
Steve nodded and then went silent... even though it was hard... to allow Loki to concentrate. He held his body tense, though, prepared to rush if it became necessary.
"It is hard for me to understand exactly what I am seeing... it appears to be a brawl on the docks, but the people fighting have... it is like they aren't themselves, but I can't explain it. Tony appears to be fighting as well, but he is obviously pulling his punches, so I think he is in control of himself still and faking. Blake is next to him, doing the same. I can see Jessica moving forward toward Kilgrave... who..." Loki's eyes widened and he lost his connection as he turned startled and worried eyes toward the other men. "Kilgrave had Patsy in his arms..."
"What did Jessica look like?" Steve asked quickly. "Did it seem as if she was being controlled?" There was a sense of urgency in his voice and he had to fight not to demand Loki teleport them there straight away. "Are any of them hurt?"
Coulson's hands were white-knuckled, as he knew how much danger the family members were in. "We can't ask you to teleport in, Loki... if they've got some kind of plan, a sudden appearance could distract them badly."
Loki shook his head. "Jessica appeared to be pretending...But I lost my connection before I could see what she was doing. So far, none of them are hurt." Loki glanced at Coulson. "I will attempt to get another view through Tony's eyes and...when it appears safe to teleport in, we can do so. Or I could teleport us to an area just around the corner from where they are. I saw a sign that I recognized and I think I can teleport us to that area which seems close enough that we can sneak in the rest of the way unseen."
"If you can teleport us round the corner, that would be best," Coulson said. "That way, we can all see what's happening and when it's safe to intervene."
"Then it's best if we pull the cars over and park somewhere safe. I will teleport those who are going with me to retrieve the other four...and those who are not going with me can drive the cars to the final location, so that we can pick everyone up again. I don't think teleporting more than four people at a time is wise and it will be at least seven people otherwise..." Loki said quietly.
Soon, both cars had pulled to the side of the road, so those going with Loki could get out. Bucky glanced at the ones who were remaining behind to drive the cars. "Let us know when you finally reach the dock area and which way we'll need to walk to get to the cars..."
Taking hold of Loki's arm and waiting for everyone else who was accompanying them to also take Loki's arm, Bucky braced himself for the slight disorientation that always came with teleporting.
Steve reached for Loki's arm, watching as Clint and Ben did the same, the decision having been made for the parents whose children were involved and the two potentially immune to Kilgrave to be going.
May watched as suddenly the group disappeared. She then glanced at her daughter before looking at Coulson. "I'll follow behind you. We can find a safe spot to park the cars and wait for them to contact us and let us know they're ready for pick-up."
Soon, both cars were making their way to the docks again, the traffic slow as molasses.
Bucky blinked as one moment, they were on the side of the street and the next they were next to a dingy building, the smell of water and boat diesel wafting to them from the left. "I guess we go this direction..." he said, but waited for Steve to make the final decision. He noted that Clint, Loki and Ben were also looking to Steve for direction.
Steve nodded, though he couldn't hear the sounds of any fighting... which he wasn't sure was a good or bad thing. "Bucky. You and I will take the lead. Clint... Loki... will you take the rear guard?"
"Of course, Uncle..." Loki quickly agreed, moving to the back of the group so that Ben was in front of him. He noted that Clint moved to his side, so that they could guard the men in front of them from potential attack on their flank.
Ben moved to the center of the four men, quickly realizing that he was the least able to fight if necessary and not wanting to get in their way if a fight was needed.
Bucky moved forward to Steve's side, watching carefully to make certain they weren't moving into a trap. "Ready when you are, brother."
The group was large enough that they couldn't really be sneaky, but they did try to be as quiet as possible while they edged round the corner, careful not to make any sudden movements.
Whatever had been happening... it was over now. Steve could see there were people wandering around, looking confused and disorientated. He could see both of his children... even if Jessica hadn't accepted him yet officially, she was still his... and he could see his niece and nephew.
There was one body on the ground... a body Steve recognized from Jessica's descriptions of Kilgrave. He only paused long enough to ensure Kilgrave really was dead and not playing possum... and then he was quickly moving so he could assure himself of Tony and Jessica's safety, all thoughts of giving his son space flying out of his head with how scared he'd been.
Tony had moved to stand next to Jessica as soon as it had become apparent that the civilians had been released from whatever control they'd been under and Kilgrave was dead. He was worried about Jessica; killing someone else was never an easy thing to stomach. Especially when done with your own two hands (instead of using a bomb or something else where you didn't have to see their face). He knew this from first-hand experience and wanted to be there for her, if she would let him. He also kept an eye on Patsy, who had been in the grip of the sociopath for a lot longer than any of them had been truly happy or comfortable with. He glanced at Blake, to see how the ex-policeman was taking the fact that a man had been killed in front of him.
Jessica swallowed hard as she looked down on Kilgrave's body. It was finally over. He wouldn't hurt any more innocent people to get to her. As relieved as she was, she didn't feel good about the situation. She hated that it had needed to end like this. She felt unclean. She was a murderer, twice now. It didn't matter if the first time she hadn't been in control of herself, or that the second time had been necessary to protect innocents. She'd killed with her own two hands, twice. She swallowed again hard, trying not to be sick, and found herself leaning towards Tony, even as she looked toward Patsy to make certain the other woman was unharmed.
If either Tony or Jessica heard or saw the approach of Steve, neither one reacted. The moment was too draining and sobering for them to react; all they could do was wait.
Blake remained aware enough of his surroundings to know their parents were there. He crouched down next to Kilgrave's body, carefully reaching out to place two fingers against the man's neck... checking for a pulse. He wasn't willing to trust Kilgrave was dead without checking for himself.
Steve could see that his son and daughter were both affected by this and he moved in front of them, blocking their view of Kilgrave's body, and wrapped an arm each around their shoulders. He couldn't do anything else.
Swallowing, Patsy stepped nearer the family members... looking like she might be sick.
Bucky immediately moved to Patsy's side, wrapping his arms around her tightly and pulling her close so that she couldn't see the body unless she pulled away from him. "Are you ok, sweetheart?" he whispered in her ear, squeezing her and rocking gently.
Ben moved to Blake's side and put a hand on the younger man's shoulder, waiting until his son felt certain that there was no threat to anyone any longer. He didn't say anything, just squeezing Blake's shoulder to let him know he was there and would continue to be there as soon as Blake was ready.
Tony couldn't help but jerk slightly as Steve wrapped an arm around him, surprised that Steve was touching him after so long of them both avoiding each other. He tore his gaze away from Kilgrave's body and looked at his father. "...Dad..." he said faintly, wanting to move even closer and be held, but certain that he didn't deserve to be.
Jessica swallowed again and had no such qualms; quickly, she turned and hid her face against Steve's shoulder, pressing closer to his side and shivering, the anxiety and fear of the last few weeks finally catching up to her.
Steve couldn't do anything else. He tightened his arms around both of them, deciding he didn't care if Tony didn't want him touching him. This was his son... and being separated from Tony had hurt far too much. Tony wasn't pulling away... and Steve wasn't prepared to take a step back any longer.
Patsy immediately turned, latching onto Bucky and burying her face in his shoulder. "I couldn't stop myself..." she whispered.
Blake slowly stood up, focusing on his father. "I should call this in..." he said quietly. But he was unsure, knowing it would be hard... if not impossible... to explain this.
Jessica just held on tighter, only moving one of her hands far enough to grip onto Tony's shirt, lest he try and pull away and leave the tiny little 'family' huddle they had going on. She'd watched how the two men had been tearing themselves up because neither one of them was willing to voice the fact that they'd missed each other. To her relief, Tony didn't pull away.
Tony let out a tiny whimper as Steve tightened his grip and found himself wrapping his arms around his father- and new sister- holding onto both of them tightly. He was a mirror of Jessica's pose, hiding his face against Steve's other shoulder. He didn't say anything, not certain what he could say.
"I know...it's ok, sweetie. I've got you..." Bucky crooned to his daughter, rocking her gently and holding tightly. They could address the fact she'd left the tower and put herself in a position where she was made to do things where she 'couldn't stop herself' later. Right now, all he wanted was to comfort her and make certain she wasn't hurt. He was carefully looking over her and observing her behavior, even as he held her, trying to determine if she needed medical attention.
Ben squeezed Blake's shoulder again, before pulling him in for a tight hug. "I know which precinct you can call. Kilgrave visited it a few days ago and left it in upheaval and confusion; I don't think they'll look too deeply on what happened, due to the fact he whammied them and they'll understand all too well why this had to be done. But just in case, let me call Matt and Foggy and have them ready to handle any legal issues that might crop up..." He smiled and kissed the side of his son's head.
Loki stood to the side, happy to see all his family safe and sound, but not entirely sure what to do with himself. Closing his eyes, he 'looked' to see where Coulson and May were parked, then teleported over to where they were at with the cars, letting them know what was going on so they could bring the cars around closer.
Steve hugged both of them as tight as he could without hurting them by using his full strength. At the same time, he was subtly checking each for any wounds or hurts apart from the emotional strain they were both under. He had no intention of scolding either of them... and for all that they would have a discussion when they returned home, for right now, he needed to hold them.
Patsy's breath shuddered out of her and she tightened her hold on her father. While not physically hurt, she was badly shaken and she needed the comfort.
Blake hugged his father tight and nodded. "Yeah... that would be... best I think..." He hadn't felt so helpless in a long time... having to trust Jessica to rescue Patsy, when every instinct screamed at him to stop the threat.
May motioned Loki to get into her car then slowly drove forward until they were within sight of the others. "Let's help with the civilians, then..." she said to Skye and Loki. She had every expectation that Phil would be calling for medical personnel to help those who had been beating on each other not more than thirty minutes before.
Ben continued to hold Blake. "Want me to call them?" he finally asked softly, willing to take the burden from his son if needed, but sensing that Blake needed to do it, so that he could feel like he'd helped in some way.
Jessica couldn't help it. The stress of having Kilgrave target her by hurting innocents and the fact that she'd killed a man were just too much. She began crying; softly at first...but it didn't take long before she was silently sobbing in Steve's and Tony's arms.
Tony wasn't ashamed to admit he was silently crying as well. He might not be sobbing like his sister, but the fact she was so emotionally distraught, on top of the fact that, for the first time in over a week, he felt like he might have a chance to feel whole again, contributed to his own tears.
Bucky just held onto Patsy tightly. "I love you, kid..." he whispered against the top of her head.
Coulson wasted no time in calling in for medical personnel to come. He left his brothers to comfort their children as he quickly began organizing the rest of them to check on the worst wounded and take the details of those able to speak.
"I can do it," Blake said, his voice soft. "But... after everyone here is safe and getting the medical treatment they need."
Steve held them both close, gently stroking their hair and pressing a kiss to each of their heads. "I love you both." His voice was a whisper just loud enough for them to hear... but for all the emotion contained within his voice, he might as well have shouted.
Patsy whimpered and leaned towards Bucky. "I love you too..." she whispered, hugging on tight.
Bucky hugged Patsy tightly for a little longer before pulling back just enough to wrap his arm around her shoulders and lead her to one of the ambulances that had pulled up. "I want you to get checked out to make sure there is nothing wrong that we haven't noticed. We can have a deeper scan done by Bruce back at the tower, but I don't want you leaving until I'm certain it's safe to move you..." His voice was loving, but it was obviously an order.
Ben nodded at Blake's words. "Well, it looks like that's being taken care of now. Do you want to call the police before or after I have you get checked out?" He smiled slightly, but was giving Blake no options not to be checked.
May looked at Skye and Loki, then back at the two cars. "It's going to be a bit crowded. Do you feel up to taking Skye and I back to the tower? And Clint? Ben can drive the car I was driving and Phil can drive the other one; that leaves space for the remaining six people."
"I feel up to it..." Loki agreed to her idea. "I'll let Uncle Phil and Clint know, if you want to let Uncle Ben know..."
May quickly moved to give Ben the car keys and to let him know he was driving the car back, while Loki went to retrieve Clint and let Phil know that May, Skye, Clint and he would be teleporting back to the tower.
Jessica finally got hold of her emotions and calmed down, stepping back reluctantly. "Do you want me to get checked out as well?" She glanced toward one of the numerous ambulances that had arrived.
Tony also reluctantly stepped back; as if afraid that if he did, the chasm between him and Steve would appear again. He waited for Steve's response.
Patsy nodded and slowly walked with her father towards the ambulance. While she didn't feel hurt anywhere... she understood his worry; and was still somewhat in shock with the evening's events.
"I'll do it after," Blake replied, knowing his father was worried and wanting to put his mind at rest as quickly as possible.
Steve rested a hand each on his son and daughter's shoulders. "Yes. I do. Even if you don't think there are any obvious injuries... I don't want to take the chance there might be something I can't see." He smiled to reassure them both as he guided them towards one of the ambulances.
In no time at all, the four had been checked out and had been given the all clear to head back with their respective guardian. Blake had called the police and they'd arrived to take statements from the four of them, but to their way of thinking, it was pretty clear that what had occurred had been self-defense. Soon, the victims who were able to walk out on their own power had left and the ones who weren't had been taken to the nearest hospital. The police coroner was taking control over Kilgrave's body. May, Skye, Clint and Loki had left as soon as they'd given their very brief (since they hadn't really seen anything) statements.
Ben began to gently direct Blake to the car, jangling the keys May had given him. "Get in, kid. Let's go home. You want to ride with us, Buck?" He glanced toward Bucky.
"Yes, I do..." Bucky quickly answered and began leading Patsy to the back seat of the car, making sure she was safely buckled inside before going around to get into the car beside her.
Jessica and Tony both stood next to Steve, like bookends, waiting for instructions. Jessica had lost any desire she had to try and sneak past his 'rules' and 'orders' and Tony only wanted to stick close to his father, the thought of being separated from him again causing him to feel anxious and scared.
Coulson stepped over to Steve with a smile, having noticed his brother's reluctance to be parted from his children. "Why don't you three ride back with me?" he suggested. "You can all sit in the back."
Steve nodded, his arms wrapped around Tony and Jessica once more. "Thank you," he said softly, before guiding them to the car.
Tony let Jessica get in first then waited for Steve to scoot in next to her before he got in. It was a tight fit; there wasn't one inch of shoulder, arm, hip, or thigh that wasn't pressed against the person next to them, but Tony was ok with that. The closeness helped him feel more secure with his father than he'd been for entirely too long.
Once they were all crammed into the backseat, Jessica shifted just enough to be able to wrap both her arms around Steve's arm and press her head to his shoulder. She'd been uncertain about being his before, despite all his words and actions to encourage her to accept it. Now, the idea that she was his was the only thing keeping her from completely losing it. She wasn't alone and she had someone strong enough to help her deal with what had occurred, so that she didn't have to stay strong. It was more of a relief than she'd thought it would be.
Even though it was a tight squeeze, Steve had no problems with it, only shifting enough to draw both of them in closer. Holding them calmed the hurt that had been lingering, even after his own father had stepped in. He wouldn't have wanted to stay separate from either of them even if it had been an option.
Loki had teleported his small group directly to the common room, popping the four of them into view of Peter Quil and Drax. "I find myself weary..." he admitted quietly. "Please excuse me, while I go find something to eat and drink and rest a bit..." he said, glancing at his father and brothers with a tiny smile, before heading in to the common kitchen.
Clint chuckled. "Yeah. Take care of yourself, Loke's..." He walked over to where Wanda and Pietro were sitting with their aunts and uncle. He sat himself down in between the two of them and wrapped his arms around their shoulders. "Have I told the two of you how much I love you?" He smiled and kissed each of them on the side of the head.
May watched as Loki and Clint separated from them then looked down at Skye. Her arm was still wrapped around the younger girl. Glancing toward her other daughter, she smiled. "Hope, sweetie...Your sister and I will be right back as soon as we've had a little talk. Okay?" She pulled Skye in closer and prepared to head to the elevator so they could go to their floor, but waited long enough for Hope to respond. She didn't want to leave if Hope needed her.
Wanda snuggled immediately into her father's arm, always happy for any affection he gave her. "I love you too, Papa."
Pietro wasn't quite as easy with his words as his sister, but he leaned into his father. "What brought this on, Pops?" he teased.
Hope nodded, glancing sympathetically at Skye. "I'll be all right here," she replied.
"Just realizing for the thousandth time how lucky I am..." was all Clint said, even as he tightened his embrace and kissed each of them one more time.
"Thanks, sweetie," May said to Hope, before leading Skye to the elevator.
Peter watched as May and Skye disappeared, a confused look on his face. He glanced around at the assembled people, hoping that someone could explain what was going on. His gaze fell onto Nick.
Peter hadn't had much if any time to acclimate to the situation he and Drax found themselves in. He'd still been unconscious when apparently a large contingent of the family had gone off to do something that was apparently frowned on. When he'd woken up, Bruce had done further scans and decided that the illness he'd picked up wasn't contagious (or at least wouldn't be to the family, since he didn't expect anyone to hook up with Peter immediately, if ever) and Peter had already been whining about being stuck in a hospital bed not more than five seconds after waking up, so the scientist had given him clearance to leave the medical wing and move into a guest apartment under the condition that he stay off his feet as much as possible. Drax had pretty much carried him out of the medical floor and to the floor where everyone else had gone to await the return of their family...the hope being that they might pick up some information or some clue as to where they were. So far, the only information Peter had picked up had confused him.
Although he was clearly uneasy being around so many strangers, Drax hadn't left Peter's side... though he'd kept his blades sheathed, even if he had ignored the suggestions that it was safe to leave them in his room.
Fury, assuming that the family members would tell them if there had been any problems, moved a bit closer to his children, thankful they hadn't been needed and that it seemed none of their family members had been hurt. He noticed Peter glancing at him, but didn't immediately speak, figuring the other man would ask any questions if he was curious.
"She acted like she was in trouble..." Peter finally said, still confused as to why Skye had behaved toward May (and May toward Skye) the way she had. "Is the older woman her boss?"
"That's her mother," Fury replied. "And she did something she wasn't supposed to... which is why she acted like she was in trouble. Because she is."
Drax glanced at him and then at Peter. "Do Terran's offspring not look like their parents?"
Peter shrugged at Drax's question. "Sometimes...if they're blood offspring. If they're adopted, not often..." He looked around the room. "We're really on Terra? On Earth?" He sounded a mix of excited, hopeful and fearful all at once.
"Unless there's another planet called Earth we don't know about..." Pietro commented.
"Not that I know of...and I'm pretty familiar with a lot of planets, given how Yondu yanked me all over the galaxy before I won the Milano off of him..." Peter gave a tiny shrug, relaxing back into the cushions of his chair. "Can't believe I'm back here after 28 years..." he muttered, in a near awed voice.
"Why did you leave?" Pietro asked curiously, ignoring the slight glare his twin was directing at him.
Peter blinked and directed his attention to Pietro. "No choice, really..." he said with a shrug. "Yondu grabbed me, the Ravagers took off and they made a point to avoid this galaxy ever afterwards. I had no real reason to return. By the time I won the Milano off of Yondu and actually had a ship that I could possibly fly back on, it'd been over twenty years. Mom died the night I was taken. I didn't know Grandpa's name, so had no clue how to look him up if I returned; I mean, I only knew him as Grandpa. Plus...I didn't want to start a world-wide panic with people realizing that there were aliens. I know how scared I was when I found out and I was a very adaptable kid." He nodded sagely, letting his body slide further down into the comfort of the overstuffed chair.
"Since your disappearance, it's become a more common thing to have people not of this world on Earth," Fury commented. "Is there anyone you need to try and get in contact with?" he asked, figuring he could discuss trying to do that with Odin once the Asgardian's middle son was recovered.
"Only family I remember is Grandpa...and like I said. Don't remember his name. I just know it was different than mine..." Peter sighed, a sad look on his face. "He was old...or at least seemed so to me. Not even sure if he's still alive."
Drax glanced at Peter and a more concerned look came, however briefly, over his face. He wasn't really subtle, even if he tried to be, but he edged close enough that he could be in contact with the other man with just one more movement.
Peter was a more tactile being by nature...having someone move into his personal space didn't bother him in the least and to be honest, he didn't really notice Drax moving closer. At least not consciously. He listed to the side so he was leaning more closely to his friend without thinking about it. "So...what good movies have I missed since 1988? Has Kevin Bacon done any more awesome dance movies? I can't help thinking there are a lot more moves I could learn!" He smiled eagerly.
"If there are movies you want to see, Uncle Tony... he owns the tower... has an extensive movie collection," Pietro commented. "We're still catching up." He indicated himself and his sister, who was pressed as close as possible to their father's side.
Drax responded to Peter's shifting by resting a hand on the other man's shoulder. He himself wasn't as tactile as the human... but he recognized that the contact seemed to help.
"I wouldn't know where to start!" Peter's voice was excited and he was having a hard time keeping still and calm like Odin had instructed.
"You can start by sitting still and staying calm," Drax interjected dryly.
Peter got a sheepish look on his face and ended up sitting on his hands like a toddler. He only managed to be still for two minutes at most before he started squirming again, just too excited and nervous about being back on his birth planet so unexpectedly.
Drax frowned. "If you will not follow instructions to rest, you will have to for longer," he said bluntly.
"But Draaaaax! Big guy! I caaaaan't! I'm too...too...wired!" Peter literally shook and bounced in place.
"I am certain one of the healers here could give you something that would help you rest," Drax stated, his voice clear and not allowing for much in the way of argument.
"But...but..." Peter blinked. "...I don't wanna take medicine..." he whined. "It makes me sleepy! I'll miss something!"
"You will either rest by choice, or you will be given something to help you." Drax moved, as if he planned to seek out said healers.
At that moment, Bruce walked in with a glass of water and a tiny medicine cup containing two tablets. "Veronica told me that our patient is too wound up to rest properly, so I've brought something to help." The scientist glanced at Drax, knowing that he would be the one to convince. "If that is acceptable."
Drax nodded to Bruce, though his attention was on Peter. "You will take the medicine and you will allow your body to rest. Then, when you wake, you will not miss anything."
"I'll still miss everything that happens while I'm asleep," Peter grumbled, but took the medicine and swallowed it down with the full glass of water. He then proceeded to open his mouth as wide as possible and stuck his tongue out so Drax and Bruce could see he'd taken it.
He hadn't been lying. Within fifteen minutes of taking the medicine, Peter was sound asleep, draped and drooling on Drax like a toddler.
Skye was silent during the ride in the elevator. While she had reasons (or excuses) for her actions, she knew her mother wouldn't find them acceptable... hadn't found them acceptable... so she made no attempt to continue making them.
For her part, May kept an arm around her daughter continually, all the way into their apartment and into May's bedroom, where she led Skye. Sitting on the bed and pulling Skye down to sit next to her, May said, in a firm and calm voice, "This isn't the first time you've snuck off to try to 'get within range' to do a hack or get information. And you know sneaking off without word is not acceptable. It's dangerous. Especially when you've been told not to leave the house." She waited to see if Skye responded.
Skye sat next to her mother without voicing a word of protest. "I know. I just..." She swallowed, not able to finish that sentence, and instead said, "I didn't think I'd need to go that far... not with the booster..."
"It didn't matter if you were only walking across the street..." May said quietly. "...You were told not to leave the building because there was a homicidal, mind controlling man on the loose. Not only did you leave, you did it without telling anyone. If it hadn't been for Veronica letting us know...you could have been taken or hurt by any number of people and we wouldn't have known we even needed to be worried. That's not acceptable, Skye. I don't want to lose you because you got bored and did something so patently dangerous." Her voice caught at the end, betraying how upset she truly was at her daughter's actions.
Skye flinched visibly. Her mother was normally so stoic... it was difficult to see the effects of her actions; and she was ashamed that it was really petty jealousy that had likely been the driving force. "I'm sorry..." she whispered.
"I know. What I want for you to be is careful. And responsible enough not to sneak out." May sighed softly, holding Skye close again, wanting to be sure she was alright. "Do you have anything to say before we take care of this?"
Skye shook her head, feeling emotional and close to tears already.
"Ok, then we won't put it off any longer." Waiting a few seconds so that she didn't startle Skye, May carefully tugged the younger woman over her lap, pulling her in close and tight to her stomach and wrapping one arm around her to lock her in place. She then quickly bared the girl, raised her other hand and smacked down firmly. She didn't use full strength, but this wasn't the first time Skye had just snuck off so that she could 'get closer' to something dangerous in order to get information. Because of that, the smack was harder than any May had delivered before.
Skye whimpered, able to feel the difference in force, and wasn't too surprised to find tears filling her eyes already. She reached down and gripped hold of her mother's ankle, trying to hold back the sobs... at least straight away.
May continued to methodically cover her daughter's backside with the firm swats, from crest to mid-thigh, starting over when Skye's skin was a uniform shade of pink. Halfway through the second circuit, she began to speak. "You do not leave without informing someone you are leaving and preferably where you are going under good circumstances. Leaving without word when we have put the tower on lockdown because it is dangerous to be outside of it is beyond reckless. I will never allow you to behave in a reckless, dangerous way that could take you from me...ever! When you deliberately put your life at risk for no good reason, you will end up here. Every time."
Skye wasn't really fighting the punishment, but she couldn't help squirming. Her mother's words just made her feel even worse... and it didn't take much for her tears to become audible.
Tipping Skye forward, May began to focus the swats on her sit spots. "I love you, Skye. I can't lose you. You can't take chances like that. Please don't take chances like that..."
Skye began sobbing, no longer able to so much as squirm, slumping over her mother's lap as she cried.
As soon as she realized Skye had reached the needed point, May stopped the spanking and began rubbing her back gently. Carefully righting her daughter's clothes, she tugged the girl up and into her arms, rocking her slowly back and forth and kissing the top of her head. "I love you, sweetheart. I'm so glad nothing happened to you...I couldn't take losing you..." She hugged more tightly. "It's all right. You've paid for your mistake and it's forgiven. I've got you..."
Skye latched onto her mother, her sobs increasing a bit more in strength before they began to die down and she cuddled in close. "I'm sorry..." she sniffled.
"I know...and you're forgiven. I love you so much..." May hugged more tightly. When it seemed Skye had calmed somewhat, she softly asked, "Why did you really leave? Even to try and get information, you had to know it wasn't the right thing to do..."
Skye squirmed... more because the question made her uncomfortable than from the after-effects of the spanking. "I don't really want to say... It's stupid..."
"I think it has to be a pretty important reason for you to do what you did. You're normally less rebellious..." May smiled crookedly.
Skye hid her face in her mother's shoulder, her reply coming out a mumble. "...Was jealous..."
May tightened her hug. "I hope you know that my love for you won't change or diminish in any way because I found you a sister...?" She was careful to acknowledge Skye's words without belittling them or chiding her for them. She knew one's emotions sometimes weren't based on logic. She also knew that, with the past she'd had, fearing being replaced was something she should have been prepared for Skye to feel.
"I know that... at least... I thought I did..." Skye's voice trailed off and she clutched tighter to her mother. "One of... the foster mothers I had... she sent me back after she found out she was pregnant," she admitted, very quietly.
"Oh, sweetheart..." May didn't say anything else. Instead, she just rocked Skye gently and kissed the top of her head. Several moments went by before she finally asked, "What can I do to help you? I want you to be happy..."
"I am... I don't know why I got jealous," Skye admitted. "I like Hope... I like having a sister... I don't know. I guess I was used to having you to myself... and then I didn't say anything... and it all built up..."
"Sounds like a good reason to talk to me when anything is bothering you. No matter how small..." May said, with a tiny smile and another kiss on the top of the head.
"I know to do that in theory..." Skye sighed and nestled in close to her mother. "I know it's silly to be scared..."
"No...it's understandable...not silly at all. Do you think it would help you...if you took on the big sister role and helped Hope adjust? Would it help ease your worry that you aren't useful enough or that we don't need you?" May kept her tone light and curious, not wanting to pressure or unduly influence Skye on the matter.
"Maybe..." Skye admitted. "I'd like the chance... to be the older sister. Though I'm not sure I'd be that good at it..."
"I think you'd do great. You've already got the most important elements down." May smiled and cuddled her daughter.
"Really?" Skye asked, a hopeful note in her voice.
"Yep. You care about people, are forgiving when they mess up, eager to help when they need it, but most importantly: you want to be a good big sister. I'm sure I don't have to tell you how important it is to know that the people in your life want to be with you. Hope needs that...and I have no doubt in your ability to provide it." May kissed the side of Skye's head. "You think you're ready to go out and be a big sister now?" she asked gently.
Skye nodded. "I think so..." She cuddled in close for a few more seconds and then carefully slipped off her mother's lap.
Wrapping her arm around Skye's shoulders, May led her back out so they could meet up with their newest family member. "I'm proud of you..." she whispered, before heading back to the common floor.
Ben had quickly taken Blake's arm and led him to the elevator as soon as they were back in the tower. He knew the others would understand, so only gave a brief wave to acknowledge them as he and his son were leaving. Soon, they were back in their apartment and heading into the living room.
Blake went with his father without any protest, having had more than enough time to know exactly what he did wrong... and what he should have done instead.
Ben sat down on the couch, pulling Blake down beside him and wrapping an arm around his shoulders again. "Can you explain to me exactly what happened, that led you to go with your cousins instead of finding another in charge family member to get help?"
Blake sat down, automatically leaning into his father. "I didn't think to contact anyone..." he admitted in a quiet voice. "When Veronica said they'd gone... and Patsy went... I just thought that they couldn't be on their own. I know I should have called for backup..."
"Yeah. We need to work on that being instinctive. I know you've called in the past when a situation turned dicey. That instinct needs to happen any time you are in a risky situation." Ben's voice was calm and stern, but not angry. He did sound concerned.
Blake nodded. "I know, Dad. I think... maybe I was reliant on myself for so long, I don't always remember I don't need to do that anymore."
Ben nodded. "I wouldn't be surprised...even more reason to help it become instinctive," he responded. "Is there anything you want to add before we take care of this?"
Blake shook his head, but replied, "I'm sorry I didn't call... and I'm sorry I worried you."
"I know...and I wish I could just let this go based on your apologies and acknowledgement of it being wrong. But I made promises to you when I took you for mine and I won't break those promises. Not willingly." Ben's voice was soft and sympathetic and a bit regretful; he didn't like punishing his son. Giving Blake a few moments to prepare, he gently tugged the younger man over his lap, pulled him in close, tight and secure and then bared him. "I love you, son," he said gently, before raising his hand and letting it fall with a firm smack.
Blake hadn't been expecting to get out of the punishment... was relieved that his father was staying consistent, as it helped him feel like he was paying for making the mistake. He stayed as still as he could while his father positioned him... but couldn't help the slight grunt with the first smack.
Ben didn't say anything more, just continued the smacks from the crest of Blake's backside down to mid-thigh before starting over again.
Even though he was determined not to fight the punishment, Blake couldn't help squirming a little as the second circuit began. Tears sprang to his eyes and he didn't try to stop them falling.
"I love you, son and I never want to lose you...so every time you take unnecessary risks with your life by doing things you've been told not to do? This will happen. Every time," Ben said, after finishing the second circuit and just before starting the third. When he began the third round, he sped up the smacks and increased the force fractionally, making sure to pay extra attention to the sit spots.
Blake began to cry quietly... not just from the pain of the spanking, but also from his father's words. Reaching down, he gripped onto his father's ankle to stop himself from reaching back.
Sighing to himself- he really hated punishing his son and had hoped Blake would reach the point needed sooner- Ben continued to swat...this time focusing only on the sit spots. "From now on, when you plan to do something that has potential to be dangerous, if it isn't a sanctioned mission and I or one of your uncles isn't already aware, I want you to call me. Even if you are positive it won't be dangerous or you have many cousins with you...if there is potential to be...you call me. I want you to promise."
Blake let out a quiet sob... and with that first sob, more followed, until all of his resistance... even if it was just the slight resistance of squirming... was gone. "Yes... I promise, Daddy..." he sobbed out.
"Good boy," Ben breathed out softly, relieved that he didn't have to keep punishing and could now comfort his son. Pulling Blake up into his arms, he rocked him gently. "Despite everything, I am proud of you..." he said.
Blake latched onto his father, trying to calm his tears... but he clung on tightly. "You are?" he whispered, sniffling a bit.
"Yes. You have good instincts and are loyal and protective...I know that's why you went with your cousins. To protect them. You just need to be protective of yourself too. You'll learn..." Ben continued to snuggle his son.
"I'm sorry I keep worrying you," Blake murmured.
"I'll worry. That's what fathers do." Ben smiled. "C'mon, kid. Let's go join the others so we can make sure everyone else is ok and assure them the threat is gone now."
Blake nodded, taking one last hug from his father before he, a bit reluctantly, pulled back and fixed his clothes. "Can I..." He hesitated. "If you don't... need to be with Mom... can I stay with you tonight?" he asked hesitantly.
"I don't need to stay in her room tonight...so I insist you do stay in mine." Ben carefully stood, wrapping an arm around Blake's shoulders. "Let's go check on the others..."
Bucky had immediately taken Patsy back to their floor. He hadn't let go of her once since they'd got out of the car and onto the elevator and despite knowing she was safe and well, he still couldn't help being nervous and anxious about her. "If you start feeling oddly...even a little bit...I want you to tell someone..." he found himself saying, for the third time, as they got off the elevator and walked into the apartment. He led her to his room.
Patsy nodded, not commenting on the fact this was the third time her father was saying this to her. She understood his worry... more than understood it. "I will," she promised, going with Bucky without voicing any kind of argument.
Sitting on the bed, Bucky pulled Patsy down next to him before asking, "Can you please explain to me how you came to decide following Jessica was the best course of action...instead of letting the rest of us know what was going on, or somehow convincing her not to, or any number of different options that didn't involve disobeying a direct order and putting yourself into harm's way...literally in the grip of a madman?" Bucky was proud, if a bit surprised, that his voice remained calm.
Patsy sat down slowly, biting her lip. "I... didn't really think to do any of those things," she admitted. "I know how stubborn Jessica is... the only thing I could think of right then was somehow mitigating the damage."
"By letting yourself be used as bait..." Bucky's voice was still calm, but his disapproval and the fear he'd felt when he realized the truth were obvious.
Patsy looked down. "Jessica was the only person we could be sure was immune to him..." While she didn't necessarily agree with the route Jessica had taken, she'd felt it would be a betrayal if she refused to go along with it... or tried to contact any of the parents.
"So if he'd decided to get control of you and have you kill her, or yourself, you wouldn't have been able to stop yourself from listening. And she likely would have blamed herself for whatever bad thing happened to you," Bucky said quietly.
Patsy flinched visibly. "I... I know it was the wrong way to handle the situation," she said, her voice soft.
"I'm glad you realize that at least. Now we just need to get you to realize that coming to your family for help isn't a betrayal of Jessica, or whoever you're fighting at the time." Bucky gave his daughter a tiny smile. "I am very relieved and happy you made it out without injury. But I can't let this go unanswered. Do you understand?"
Patsy nodded. "...What do you want me to do...?" She wasn't scared he would be like her mother. Even from the start... there'd never been that kind of sense from him; from any of them.
"I'm going to put you over my lap, so if you don't struggle when I'm getting you into position, it would be best..." Bucky smiled, but his eyes were serious. There wasn't a strong chance of him dropping her, but if she struggled and happened to zig when he was zagging, the possibility was still there. He had no intention of harming his daughter.
"Okay..." Patsy said quietly. "I'll... try not to struggle."
"Good girl," was all Bucky said, before tugging Patsy over his lap and securing her tightly to his middle. He'd lowered her pants and underwear more quickly than she was probably expecting, but he wanted to get the punishment done and out of the way as soon as possible so that he could actually do something enjoyable with his family. True to her word, she didn't struggle. Raising his hand up and letting it fall in the first firm smack, Bucky was soon methodically covering her backside with the swats.
Patsy whimpered, trying to hold still... but although she'd been hurt before, there was something very different about this punishment. Her emotions were too close to the surface and only a few swats in, she found herself throwing her hand back.
Bucky didn't scold her for trying to block him; he knew that the position was unsettling and could provoke a need to 'protect' one's self, even if you wanted to cooperate. Gently, he took her hand and moved it to the small of her back, holding it in place with his own hand. He then continued to swat her upturned backside, making certain to cover from the crest to where thigh began. When her skin was a pale, rosy color, he began again from the top; only this time, he spoke. "You may not have been in my life long, kiddo...but you've been in it long enough for the thought of you not being in it to physically hurt. You were told to stay in the building and not go after Kilgrave for a reason; the main one being you could have been seriously injured or worse killed. I don't want to lose you...especially not in a situation that you shouldn't have even been in." Bucky tried to keep his voice calm and stern; but just thinking of the fact that Patsy could have been killed was making staying calm very difficult. As a result, his voice was rough and obviously distraught.
Patsy felt the tears begin to fill her eyes... more from the words and the tone in her father's voice than anything else. "I'm sorry...!" she sobbed; not knowing how to handle how much she'd obviously hurt him... the guilt overwhelming, in a way it had never been when her mother was involved.
"I know..." Bucky responded gently, wanting her to know he understood, even if he had to punish her for her actions. "...I know. And after you've been spanked, all is forgiven and forgotten; it won't be brought up again..." He began a third circuit, increasing the pace of the spanking, even though the force was the same.
Patsy didn't really understand how her father could claim that so easily, but although the swats weren't any harder, they felt more intense. She began to sob, muffling her tears in her free arm as she slumped over her father's lap. The differences between him and her birth mother were glaring right now... and her tears carried a hint of relief; that she finally had a parent who wasn't looking for what he could get out of her.
As soon as Patsy slumped, Bucky was righting her clothing and pulling her up into his arms, almost in the same movement. It was never easy to punish his children, but the first time was always the hardest, because he always was worried that they would think he didn't really want them or care about them if they didn't understand why he'd handled them in the manner he had. Hugging her close, he kissed the top of her head and rocked her back and forth. "I love ya, sweetie. And I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe, including spanking you any time you take unnecessary risks. Any time it happens," he whispered then kissed her on the cheek.
There was no hesitation as Patsy wrapped her arms around her father, pressing in close and hiding her face against his shoulder. "I love you, Daddy," she said, trying out the name and finding she was comfortable with it. "I know you just want me to stay safe," she added quietly.
Bucky's arms tightened around his daughter and he let out a relieved sigh that she understood. "I always want you safe..." he said quietly. "And I'll do whatever I need to, to help ensure that..."
Patsy nodded. "I know..." She leaned up to kiss his cheek and then nestled in close for a few more moments, taking advantage of the comfort she'd so often been denied.
"We probably need to go to the common floor in a bit just to make certain there isn't anything happening we need to know about, but after we've checked in with everyone, I think I'd like to spend a nice quiet evening with you and the boys...just getting to know each other. Is that alright with you?" Bucky snuggled her some more. "And I'd like you to stay in my room tonight, if that doesn't feel uncomfortable for you."
"I'd like to do both of those," Patsy said softly, still cuddled in close to her father. "I'm still... feeling quite unsettled," she admitted.
"I know. It's been a very stressful day..." Bucky commiserated. "Stick close to me and if we need to, we can leave the family gathering early."
Patsy nodded. "Okay." She hugged close to her father one last time and then reluctantly slipped off his lap.
Bucky stood and wrapped his arm around Patsy to head her back to the common floor.
Tony and Jessica had sat in the back seat, silent all the way home. As soon as the car was parked, however, Tony was out of the car and running up the stairs, not waiting for his father or Jessica. Jessica watched him disappear with wide, surprised eyes before turning toward Steve nervously. "So...um...the threat's gone now!" She gave what was supposed to be a confident smile, but was actually a nervous, nauseated looking, grimace.
Steve sighed, glancing after Tony, and then looked seriously at Jessica. "I believe I warned you not to go after Kilgrave alone."
Jessica's grin turned more mulish, though she still looked nauseated...and very guilty. "I was the only one who could stop him and I was tired of him ruining people's lives..." was what she said.
"It wasn't something you needed to handle on your own," Steve said gently. "If you'd trusted me, I could have helped you... and then you wouldn't have to feel this guilt that I can tell is weighing you down."
"I..." She faltered. How did she tell a man, who was the embodiment of trustworthiness, that she had a hard time trusting anyone? Even the people who she was closest to and who she loved (like Patsy) were looked at skeptically sometimes. She'd just seen so much that was negative and wrong and untrustworthy in her life that she couldn't help but be skeptical. How did she say that to someone who hadn't done anything to deserve distrust? "I wasn't sure I could count on that..." she finally admitted weakly. She didn't say 'you haven't proven you'll do what you say'.
Steve reached out a hand and placed it on Jessica's shoulder, squeezing gently. "I know you're used to being on your own." His voice was low and filled with compassion. "I know how it can feel... like you're the one who has to be strong all the time. You don't have to be right now. You don't have to stand alone." He leaned in and kissed her forehead. "And I'm going to prove that to you." Wrapping his arm around Jessica's shoulders, he guided her to the elevator.
Jessica tensed up when he wrapped her close to him and began to lead her; part of her felt like she should protest that she didn't need him to stand beside her...that she was doing just fine on her own, thank you very much, but she didn't pull away and instead let him lead her, staying quiet. She was curious as to how he planned to prove that she didn't need to be strong all the time or stand alone. She'd taken care of the one major thorn in her side; granted, she'd had a bit of help with taking care of it in the form of Patsy, Tony and Blake; but that was more to do with the fact that they would have come with her no matter what she said and if they were going to be there, it was better if they were part of the plan than someone Kilgrave could use against her. Still... "H...how do you plan to prove that?" she finally asked, hating that her voice sounded so uncertain and nervous.
"For a start... do you remember what I told you would happen if you took off?" Steve didn't let go of his daughter, even as he stepped into the elevator, and in fact tightened his arms around her in a hug that said a lot to his sense of relief that he still had her.
Jessica's eyes widened fractionally. Surely he hadn't meant...? "Yee...es...but I figured you didn't mean it!" she blurted.
"Every promise I make to you, I will keep," Steve reiterated, as the elevator came to a stop on his floor and he guided his daughter from it.
"But...but..." Jessica found herself planting her feet on the floor so that Steve would either have to push, drag, or carry her wherever they were going. "I didn't believe you!" She winced at the high pitched, almost whiney tone in her voice. Really. Shouldn't she be happy that he was honest and kept his promises? Except if she'd believed him, she might have run like Tony before he was able to get hold of her. Now if she wanted to avoid what he'd promised, she was either going to have to fight him (and she was really tired of fighting; not to mention, she couldn't help but feel like maybe she deserved it for not believing him) or accept it. And she didn't think she could accept it gracefully. No. If it happened, she had a feeling it was going to be loud, emotionally charged and most likely humiliating; and not because of the action itself, but because of the reaction she would likely have to it.
"I know," Steve replied calmly. "But that doesn't change anything. I told you what would happen if you disobeyed me and put yourself in danger. You did both of those things. I could have lost you..." His voice took on a quieter, more haunted tone. "I couldn't handle that. Do you understand?"
Jessica heard the tone. "But...why?" Her question was less dismayed that he was keeping his promise and more confused that he would feel that strongly about her already. "I really don't understand..." she admitted faintly, having a difficult time fathoming that a man she'd only met a week before at most cared about her so much, that the thought of her being hurt even a little would distress him so much.
"Because I care about you," Steve replied, with open, frank honesty. "I love you. I want you to be my daughter. I want you to be a part of my family. And no matter what, that isn't going to change."
"I...I still...I don't understand how you could want me..." Jessica's voice was quiet and hesitant, not exactly disbelieving, but still obviously confused. "...But you did warn me. A...and promise what you would do..." She swallowed hard. "...And I did disobey and put myself in danger..." This time, she was whispering. She didn't say anything else, but the slump of her shoulders and the fact she couldn't look him in the eye was evidence that she wasn't going to argue about it anymore or fight him.
Steve tightened his arm around Jessica, kissing the top of her head, and then led her to his bedroom, keeping her close.
Jessica couldn't help but be nervous. While she knew what to expect, it wasn't like she'd experienced what was about to occur before. Well...not as an actual punishment with someone who actually had some authority over her. She doubted this was going to be fun or arousing in any way shape or form. "I don't want to be spanked..." she muttered quietly, wincing when her voice sounded more young and whiney than she would have liked.
"I know it's a scary thought," Steve said gently. "But it's a family punishment. It doesn't do any lasting damage... and once it's over with, you're forgiven and it won't be brought up again."
"Promise?" Jessica glanced up at Steve. "What I did won't be used against me every time I mess up in the future?" She bit her lip, not certain she could believe that; but if Steve promised, then she probably could. He was proving he kept his promises now, after all.
"I promise." Steve could say that without any hesitation. He had no intention of hurting his daughter... even if she wasn't at the stage to accept that yet. He gently guided her over to the bed.
Jessica followed, almost meekly, then stood in place, fidgeting, as she waited for him to tell her what to do.
"I'm going to take you over my lap, bare you and then begin the spanking." Steve spoke gently, giving her enough time to realise she didn't have to do anything other than cooperate, and then put action to words.
Jessica closed her eyes tightly, embarrassed more than she'd thought she would be to find herself over the Captain's lap, bare as the day she was born. It was unsettling and she didn't know what to do with her hands...or her legs, for that matter. She wasn't sure if she should try and touch the floor with her toes, which would hitch her bottom up higher and also possibly unbalance her, or if she should bend her legs at the knee and just let herself 'drape' over her disciplinarian's lap. As for her hands, did she brace herself on the floor? Hold onto his leg? "Ow!" she yelped, as the spanking began before she'd fully prepared herself or got used to the position. Her hands flew back behind her, covering her bottom.
Steve had wrapped his arm around Jessica's waist, keeping her secure so she didn't fall, but it was a small matter to move her hands out of the way, pinning them against her back under his restraining arm, and then resume swatting. While he didn't use anything like his full strength, he was careful to make sure this couldn't be seen as a token punishment. His daughter needed to understand that he was serious about her safety; that he would keep his promises to her, no matter what happened or what she did.
Jessica whimpered as her arms were immobilized and couldn't help but squirm as the spanking continued. It hurt. A lot more than she'd been expecting, to be honest. She'd always figured spanking was a children's punishment (that her parents had never used, but still...). This? This didn't feel like a children's punishment. Whimpering again, she kicked her legs out helplessly, trying to ease the sting that was building. It didn't help.
Tightening his hold, Steve began again from the top... and it was during the second circuit he began to speak. "I know it's easy to assume that, having been on your own for so long, you'll continue to be left alone. I know it's hard to trust and believe in what I say. But it doesn't matter what you do. If you put yourself in danger again, this is what will happen. If you do anything that'll risk you being taken away from me... this will happen."
Jessica's eyes widened at the words and she began to squirm harder. "Bu...but I'll always be over your knee if that's the criteria!" she protested, her voice high-pitched and nervous at the realization...it was obvious she believed him about what he'd do in response to her actions, at least. She closed her eyes tightly, embarrassed to find that they were getting very watery. She wasn't going to cry because her backside was being smacked. Even if the sting had grown to a point that it was a burning hurt now, she wasn't going to cry about it. She could take her punishment like an adult and not a baby.
Steve gentled his tone... though he kept the swats at the same force and level, as he began a third circuit. "Endangering yourself isn't acceptable. I know the idea of being held accountable is scary, but whether you believe me right now or not... I want you. That isn't going to change. I already think of you as my daughter... and no matter what happens, I always will."
Jessica didn't know what to say to that. She believed that he would hold her accountable; and he was right. It was scary. What was scarier was his assertions that he viewed her as his daughter. She didn't know if she could handle being a daughter again. Not after what had happened to her family. She'd always felt responsible for what had happened to them. Between her confused feelings about family; her guilty conscience about what she'd had to resort to in order to stop Kilgrave; and her uncertainty about no longer being in charge of herself- because she had no doubt Steve would spank her each and every time she broke his rules about safety and she was just as certain that she didn't like being spanked- it was hard not to react. Very hard. She choked back a tiny sob, not wanting to be a baby, but tears were already streaming down her face. The kicking and wriggling wasn't helping. She choked back a second sob, but the third one escaped in a strangled breath. And then she couldn't stop; she tensed up for a few seconds before going limp over Steve's lap and sobbing out her uncertainty, fear, shame, embarrassment and guilt.
Steve stopped immediately and wasted no time in gathering Jessica into his arms, hugging her tightly to himself. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head and just held on... hoping she wouldn't pull away.
Jessica stiffened up as Steve pulled her close and held tightly. Her first instinct was to pull away and put some distance between them; but then she realized that underneath her first fearful instinct, which was always to put distance between herself and actually caring about someone else, she wanted to be held. No. She needed to be held. Hesitantly, she reached up, tangling her fingers in Steve's shirt, gripping tightly, and pressing closer. Putting her head against his chest, she took deep breaths and tried to get control over her crying.
Steve tightened his arms around Jessica, relieved she was letting him hold her, and kissed her head again. "It's over," he said softly, stroking her hair. "We're not going to bring it up again... but we're going to focus on helping you heal from what you were forced to do."
"I...I'm sorry..." Jessica finally spoke, still crying- hard- and gripping Steve's shirt as if she was afraid if she let go he would disappear. It wasn't clear if she was apologizing for crying or for what had led to Steve punishing her or if it was because she'd killed a man (no matter how evil the man was). She wasn't entirely certain herself what she was apologizing for, really. She just knew that she was sorry.
Steve didn't ask what she was sorry for, even though it wasn't clear. Instead, he kissed her head again and whispered, "I love you. Even if that might be hard for you to believe right now."
Steve's words of love only served to cause Jessica to cry harder. But she also let go of his shirt so that she could wrap her arms around him and hug onto him tightly. She believed him. And the fact terrified her; it meant that he'd already begun breaking down barriers that she hadn't wanted to lower. She felt vulnerable and out of control.
Steve didn't so much as loosen his hold on her, continuing the gentle, comforting touch as he stroked her hair and back... not trying to rush her, as he knew how fragile she was right now.
Slowly, Jessica regained control over her emotions- at least outwardly. Sniffling softly, she finally sat up and rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. "I'm sorry..." she whispered hoarsely. This time, it was clear her apology was for crying. She couldn't look Steve in the eye, keeping her face turned down. She was ashamed at how she'd reacted to the punishment.
Steve shook his head and kissed her cheek. "Don't apologize for how you react," he said softly. "You have nothing to be ashamed of."
"I got your shirt all soggy and smeared with mascara..." she protested faintly, "and acted like a huge baby..."
Steve brushed some hair out of her face. "I don't care. You are my priority."
"You really mean that..." Jessica whispered, slanting her head into his hand in a half-nuzzle, half-snuggling move that she didn't even realize she was doing. She was reacting to the physical affection despite herself, a subconscious need taking over where, if she'd thought about it, she would have pulled back.
"I mean everything I say to you," Steve promised, gently stroking her cheek. There was nothing but sincerity and affection in his voice.
Jessica closed her eyes and let out a tiny sigh, nodding hesitantly; partly because she found it hard to believe, even if she did believe him, and partly because she didn't want to dislodge his hand (even if she'd never admit it to herself). "Ok..." she whispered. Taking a slow breath, she finally looked up into his eyes. She knew she must look a fright: red rimmed, glassy eyes with streaks of black mascara running down her face. Her nose was probably red and swollen too and she was certain she needed a tissue. Nothing like appearing like a snot-nosed toddler while sitting on your potential father's (she knew he had already accepted her as such, but she couldn't bring herself to think of it as a reality yet) lap. Sitting bare on his lap. Face turning scarlet, she tugged her clothing back into place, while not actually moving from her position. "...What now?" She swallowed and waited to hear his answer.
"When you're ready, I'd like to look into the paperwork to make you my daughter legally," Steve replied. "Before then... when you're ready, I need to talk to your brother; but after that, I'd like to spend the evening with you... and any of the others who'd like to join us." But it was primarily about spending the time with her, so she could believe in him.
Jessica stiffened for only a second, the wide-eyed, frightened look she darted toward Steve making it clear to him that she wasn't quite ready for that step, even if she believed everything he was saying to her. The worst thing was, she could easily see herself being happy in his family. That was what was so frightening, though. If she let herself be happy...what would she do when it inevitably all crashed around her? She wasn't meant for happiness. Anytime she let herself be happy, something horrible happened. Like her birth family dying...or Kilgrave taking control of her and causing her to do all those things that she never would have done otherwise. She didn't say anything, though.
She swallowed hard and nodded, answering his second remark. "Ok...we can spend the evening together..." she said softly. She didn't ask if he intended for her to stay in his room or not. If she didn't ask, she could sneak back to the guest room she'd been given without having to argue or disobey. She didn't think she had the energy to win an argument at the moment.
"And I'd also like you to spend the night in here," Steve added. "I don't think you need to be alone tonight." He wasn't sure if Tony would want to do that too... there was a big part of Steve that needed to keep both of them close, but he'd wait and see how things went with his son... now that he was determined to talk to him.
Slumping slightly and giving Steve a slightly suspicious look- was he able to read minds or something?- Jessica gave a tiny nod. "Yessir..." she said softly, not even attempting to argue. She was that drained from everything that had occurred. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad, sleeping in the same room as another person. Maybe she wouldn't dream if she was with Steve. "Where should I go until you're done talking with Tony?" she asked hesitantly.
"Why don't you go and sit with Bruce and his children for a bit?" Steve suggested, guessing his other son and grandchildren were probably doing something together... and wanting to encourage Jessica to be close to all the family, as he hoped that would help her believe in him more.
"Ok..." Jessica gave him a tiny smile. "I'll just...wash my face first and then go find them." She motioned hesitantly at her face, before impulsively hugging him one last time. Giving another tiny smile, she quickly went to the restroom to wash her face and was soon leaving the apartment to locate Bruce and the kids.
Tony hadn't been sure where he should go after leaving the car. He knew his father would be going to the apartment, likely with Jessica, and if the look in his father's eyes when he'd got the two of them into the car was any indication, she was about to get introduced to family correction. He didn't want to be present for that, not even for long enough to be asked to go to another floor or room while it was handled. The feelings of jealousy he felt about the fact that Steve had so quickly latched onto another kid were hard to handle; and he didn't even want to acknowledge them. So if he didn't go to the apartment, where could he go? Hank's apartment was out. Hope and Scott were there now and he didn't want to interrupt...besides which, if Hank found out what he'd done, he'd likely be getting another dose of tough love from his uncle and after four spankings in as many days, a fifth wasn't something he wanted to risk. It was for that reason that he also had to avoid Uncle Nick's apartment, Uncle Phil's apartment, Uncle Bucky's apartment... He groaned softly to himself. There wasn't one apartment in the dang building he could go hide out in where he didn't have to worry about an uncle taking exception to his actions and possibly showing him the error of his ways. Even if he was pretty certain Steve would let it go- his father had been avoiding him for almost a week now after all (he conveniently forgot the fact that he'd been doing his own share of avoiding and for far longer)- none of the others would.
Lacking any other safe place to hide out in, Tony went to the guest apartment that he'd given to the two newest visitors to the tower. Drax and Peter Quil. He wasn't certain if Peter was out of the medical wing yet or not, but there was a small chance that even if he was still there, Drax might have taken a break and gone to the apartment. He knocked on the door.
Drax had carried his unconscious companion back to their apartment, settling Peter on the bed before taking advantage of the quiet to study what the Terrans did on this planet... or at least in the place he was currently staying in.
At the sound of the knock, Drax walked over and opened the door, having just been in the process of looking at the strange things people on this planet ate. He was holding a box of Twinkies in one hand, where he'd been studying it curiously.
Tony opened his mouth to say hello, then noticed the Twinkies and slanted his head. "You know. As good as those taste, I'm not sure you should risk eating one until your digestive system has a chance to adjust to earth cuisine. The ingredients might tear your gut up..." he said helpfully. "Can I come in?" he asked, unable to mask the hopeful tone in his voice; or the nervous, slightly guilty way he was fidgeting (especially when he glanced over his shoulder to make sure no one else was watching him).
Drax grunted. "Terrans eat strange food." He stepped back from the doorway, adding, "This is your home. Even if I wished to deny you entry, your invisible companion would not allow it."
"Ah!" Tony held up a hand, even as he entered the apartment. "Not necessarily true. If Veronica felt keeping one of us out would cause danger to you or Peter, or to the person asking entry, she would override your wishes. Otherwise, she'd remind me- or whomever- that it is rude, if not criminal, to enter someone else's dwelling without their expressed permission and would keep me out if possible. Or whomever wanted in." Tony only walked a few feet into the apartment, waiting for Drax to close the door. And waiting to see if the alien invited him into the living room.
Drax closed the door. "There is no reason to deny you entry right now," he stated, stepping through to the living room. "Peter is sleeping... are you planning to ask questions now?"
Tony blinked. "Actually, I was just trying to find someplace to lay low for a bit. I kinda did something that my father and all my uncles disapprove of and figured I'd give them time to cool down before making an appearance. If you have questions, though, I'll be happy to answer."
Drax frowned at Tony's words. "Do you fear the repercussions of your actions?" he asked, unsure why being disciplined would cause the human to want to hide.
Tony's eyes widened. "What? No! No, I don't fear repercussions! No...Of course I don't..." Tony waved his hands and made noises as if that was a ridiculous assumption, but his eyes told a completely different story.
Drax frowned. "Then why do you act as if you fear your family?"
"I don't fear my family..." Tony winced and looked away, rubbing his hand through his hair. "Ok...maybe I'm hesitant about repercussions. They aren't pleasant. But chances are good I won't have any anyway, so..." And despite his efforts to say it calmly, Tony's voice sounded a mixture of sad resignation and jealousy.
"If you do not fear your family or the repercussions, then perhaps they are not effective." Eyeing Tony, Drax added, "And you do not seem to be relieved to be considering escaping discipline."
Tony slumped. "Yeah...I'm not..." he said morosely. "Never thought I'd say this, but I don't want to get away with it. Not really. I just...I don't know. I don't want to be punished again...my butt's already sore from the last four times...but I don't think he wants me anymore," he whispered the last sentence, thoughtlessly rubbing his backside with one hand and his eyes with the other, as he said it.
Drax might not have been good at subtlety, but the clues Tony was giving out were hardly subtle. "Perhaps you would know for certain if you were not hiding from him," he suggested.
Tony wrinkled his nose. Motioning toward the living room and the couch, he mumbled, "Mind if we sit down?" before walking in and dropping into the couch wearily. He glanced up at Drax. "You're probably right. I just...we've been arguing, mostly my fault, and we've been avoiding each other. Again, mostly my fault, if I'm honest. I don't know how to fix things and I'm...I'm afraid to try. Because what if everything I'm worried about ends up being true? You know? I don't know if I could handle it if I found out with no doubt that I'd destroyed everything..." His voice was small and, to Tony's own ears, he sounded pathetic.
Drax took a seat. "I don't know anything about your relationship with your father... but I was a father," he said frankly. "It wouldn't have taken anything to change that..."
Tony noticed the past tense in Drax's comment. If there was one thing he'd managed to learn, it was that you should tread carefully when asking for personal information...sometimes you would be walking into a land mine otherwise. "I...I know you're right. I'd never stop being Harry's father, no matter what. And I know Steve feels the same way. It's just hard to convince the rest of me..." His tone and face were sheepish. "I mean, it's obvious that you still care about Peter, even though he crashed both of you onto what could have been an alien planet. I need to trust Steve still cares about me..." His voice wavered slightly at the end.
"A fact you are unlikely to know if you remain hiding out here," Drax replied, his voice frank and blunt.
"I don't want him to tan my hide!" Tony blurted then blushed darkly.
Drax blinked once. "While that is one of the more unconventional methods of discipline I have come across... if you disobeyed your father, knowing the consequences of your actions, then the only way you will avoid those consequences is by continuing to hide. And that does not appear to be working for you."
"Unconventional?" This time, Tony blinked. "I guess so...I forget how unique our family tends to be...and hiding will work just fine if I could stop feeling guilty about hiding..." Tony muttered the last. "How did you meet Peter, anyway? I get the idea there aren't too many, if any, earthlings where you all came from."
"There aren't," Drax replied. "But he is not an ordinary citizen of Terran... and there were some rather extraordinary circumstances surrounding our meeting... though I have never been much of a storyteller."
"Still...would be good to know if you want to tell. Course, I'm sure everyone else wants to know as well, so maybe later..." Tony hummed to himself.
Drax started to speak, but was cut off by a knock on the door. He stood and walked out of the living room to open it.
Tony's eyes widened and he motioned frantically, and ineffectively, for Drax not to answer the door.
If Drax saw Tony's frantic gesturing, he gave no sign of it, disappearing from view as he opened the door and apparently invited Steve in... if the fact that the man was following him was any indication.
Steve didn't waste any time. His entire focus was on his son and he moved swiftly to Tony's side, wrapping his arms around his son in a tight hug.
Tony opened his mouth to make some excuse or argue or anything, really, that might let him get away from what he knew he deserved (even if he wasn't certain Steve would be the one giving it to him), but Steve's hug effectively shut him up. Yeah...Steve had held onto him right after they'd taken care of Kilgrave...but Tony hadn't been convinced that wasn't just because the situation hadn't been all kinds of nerve-wracking and messed up and Steve wasn't a cruel man. To he held so tightly now?
"You want me?" Tony winced when his thoughts came out on their own volition. To make it worse, he sounded like a scared, needy toddler. His face turned bright red when he found himself adding, "I don't want a spanking..." his voice still sounding like a scared- and guilty- toddler. His arms had wound their way around his father's waist, though and he'd hidden his face against Steve's shoulder, so he was pretty certain that he was broadcasting what he needed was exactly what he was saying he didn't want. He didn't care if Drax heard. He'd already said more to the alien than he probably should have.
Steve hugged his son tightly. "I always want you, Tony," he whispered, kissing the top of Tony's head. "I'm sorry things were so difficult between us... but no matter what, I would have never stopped wanting to be your father. Because that's what I am." He didn't say anything to the spanking part... but that was something they would discuss.
Tony closed his eyes and pressed more tightly to his father, shaking slightly from the emotions coursing through him. "I'm sorry, daddy...so sorry...it's my fault things were difficult and messed up...it's my fault and I'm sorry..." His voice was tight and he hated that he was so close to crying. Hearing his father reaffirm their relationship and that it would never change helped ease one of his biggest fears, though and now that it was addressed, every other emotion he had was going wild and making it difficult to control himself. He knew if they didn't go back to their own apartment soon, Drax and possibly other members of the family would see him fall apart.
Steve hugged Tony tightly to himself for a few more moments and then began to stand... though he didn't let go of his son, gently encouraging Tony to stand with him. "I love you," he whispered in Tony's ear, not so much as loosening his hold on his son.
Tony stood as well, not moving away from his father except to be able to walk. He was completely focused on his father by this point, ignoring Drax; not to be rude, but because his attention was so focused.
Steve exchanged a brief word with Drax and then gently led his son from the apartment and towards the elevator, still not letting go of Tony. He clearly wasn't inclined to release his son any time soon.
Tony was perfectly fine not being released. After so long avoiding or ignoring his father and then watching as Steve formed a relationship with a new sibling, Tony was unsettled and jealous enough to want to be confined to his father's arms. As they got on the elevator, he kept quiet so that Steve could decide where they went.
Steve set the elevator to go to his floor, knowing Jessica would be with Bruce and his children. As the elevator moved, he not only held his son, but gently stroked Tony's hair and back... second nature to try and provide the comfort after what had been a difficult time. Once the elevator came to a stop, he was guiding his son from it and into his room.
It was when they entered the room that Tony balked. After everything, he knew Steve would want an explanation. He didn't want to admit he'd been jealous. He also didn't want a spanking; his backside was still very sore from the last four he'd had- and still pink in a few areas.
Steve gently tugged Tony over to the bed... but although he sat down, he pulled his son down to sit on his lap, rather than pulling him over it immediately. "I think we have a lot we need to talk about, son," he said gently. "But I have to start with this. I'm sorry I hurt you. I'm sorry I hid the truth about your parents from you. I should have told you when I first found out. I can't take that back... but I promise you I won't ever hide something you need to know again."
Tony swallowed hard. "I...I understand why you did..." he admitted quietly. "I understood almost immediately why, after I calmed down. It was just easier being mad at you for hiding it than being mad at myself..."
Steve kissed the top of his head. "I understand why you were angry with me..." No matter how much it had hurt, Steve had understood; which had made the whole situation that much worse. "And while I was giving you space... do you understand that nothing changed how I feel about you?" he asked softly. "This has been a difficult time... but I've never stopped loving you even a little." Even though it hurt that his son had turned to other members of the family for comfort.
"I...I think I knew. Deep down. I still couldn't help being scared that maybe I knew wrongly..." he admitted in a whisper.
"It hasn't changed," Steve said firmly. After a brief pause, he added, "And the addition of a new sibling doesn't change how strongly I feel about you, either." He was fairly certain that at least part of Tony's response recently had been driven by jealousy.
Tony didn't want to admit to being jealous. He didn't feel like he should have been and admitting it was just too difficult. Tensing up, he didn't look at his father. Despite himself, he found himself saying, "Maybe it should..."
Steve pressed a kiss to the back of his son's head. "The only reason I was able to give you the space you needed from me was because I could see you were responding to Hank and he was there for you," he said frankly. "I feel drawn to Jessica in the same way I have been to you, Pepper and Bruce. But giving you the space you needed from me wasn't about loving you any less... even if I needed my father to get me into the right headspace so I could deal with my own feelings of guilt and failing you."
"I...I avoided Uncle Hank for a really long time and shouldn't have..." He didn't say that he shouldn't have been avoiding his father, either; even though he knew that now. He swallowed hard. "Prolly woulda still avoided him if I hadn't been running from you. Wasn't able to run from both of you..." He shrugged his shoulders slightly and blushed, a sheepish look on his face.
He didn't comment on Logan's part in helping his father. It just reminded him of his own guilt and how he wasn't really dealing with it. He didn't want to think about it. "I like Jessica..." he said, to let his father know he was ok with gaining a new sister; even if he was jealous (not that he was going to admit it.)
"I'm fairly certain she seems to like you, too... and trusts you," Steve added. A more serious note slipped into his voice as he continued, "But you shouldn't have gone with her to try and stop Kilgrave... no matter how emotionally torn you were feeling."
"Didn't want her going alone..." was all Tony said, refusing to admit his jealousy of the fact she and Steve were communicating had him wanting to gain his father's attention again. Even though he hadn't realized that's what he'd been doing until talking to Drax.
"So you should have said something," Steve replied calmly. "If not to me, to one of the other family members. I know you didn't accept it when Harry sneaked out."
"No. I didn't. Of course, I managed to get into trouble with Uncle Nick by disobeying a direct order...but I didn't accept Harry running off..." Tony fidgeted.
"I know you don't want to be spanked." And to be honest, while Steve never wanted to punish his son, he particularly didn't want to right now. But he knew that not following through with this would lead to bigger problems in the long run. Their relationship was in so much upheaval, letting this go would probably make things even worse. Steve pressed another kiss to Tony's head and then gently moved his son across his lap.
It said something to the level of guilt Tony felt and the fact he wanted things to be right again that he didn't fight his father. He did whimper...unabashedly and loudly...but he didn't fight.
Steve gently rubbed Tony's back before baring him and then wrapped his arm around his son's waist, drawing him tight against his stomach. He could see the after-effects of the spankings his son had already received... so when he lifted his hand, the swat he delivered was much lighter compared to the ones he could normally dish out.
As light as the swat was, it felt so much harder to Tony's already sensitive bottom that he couldn't hold back the gasp or pained whine he let out, no matter how hard he tried. His eyes began watering immediately.
Steve winced, but forced himself to deliver another swat at the same light force, knowing he needed to be consistent... no matter how much doing that hurt. He delivered one circuit of those and then paused to speak. "No matter what you're feeling inside... no matter what kind of conflicts there might be between us... putting yourself in that kind of danger will never be acceptable. I could have lost you today..." No matter how hard he tried... he couldn't stop his voice from breaking at that.
Tony had planned to be strong and accept what he had coming without theatrics or any type of vocal or physical response. It ended up being impossible, though. It already hurt beyond what he had expected; and he had expected it to hurt badly. Hearing his pain reflected back at him in his father's voice was too much. Choking back a sob, Tony began to frantically thrash in an attempt to get away...to hide from what he knew he needed, if he ever wanted to feel right again...if he wanted to mend and be able to rely on his father again. This wasn't the normal squirming and attempting to 'hide' his backside. It was a fight to break free and hide completely; and he couldn't seem to stop himself, even though he knew deep down he didn't want to be free of his father. He couldn't vocalize words, only whimpers, whines and moans.
Even though there wasn't very much need for Steve to exert his true strength when dealing with members of his family, it was little effort to tighten his hold on his son… to draw Tony back so he was safe against Steve, even despite his struggling and attempts to get away. "We're finished with you running from me, Tony. We're not going to avoid each other any longer. It's been far too long as it is." He rested his hand on his son's lower back, keeping Tony still while trying to avoid the need to keep spanking him for much longer.
It was what Tony needed to hear. Unfortunately, some perverse part of him couldn't just let it go at that. He wasn't angry at Bucky anymore; he didn't blame him for what the soldier had done. He wasn't even angry at Steve anymore; he understood why his father had done what he'd done. He was angry at himself and no amount of telling himself that he hadn't known and it wasn't his fault and he'd just been a kid helped him forgive himself. He'd blamed Howard for what had happened, unfairly, and because of that, had deliberately done things that would have horrified his parents if they'd lived to see it. He was angry at himself and ashamed and on top of that, he was jealous of Jessica. He didn't know what to do with any of those emotions...so he continued to fight, despite the futility.
Steve wasn't really surprised. Those emotions were going to come out eventually and although Tony's fighting was desperately worrying to see... Steve knew he could stop his son from hurting himself. He let his hand rest on Tony's backside; not swatting, but to try and centre his son. "I know you're upset, son. I know you're feeling all sorts of things that are tearing you up inside." He was more than familiar with Tony's feelings of self-loathing... and no matter how much it hurt to see his son in this state, he wasn't going to ignore or abandon him to this pain. "What happened was terrible and awful. It shouldn't have happened. But you aren't to blame. I know you've been hurting for a long time, son... but you don't have to deal with it alone. I'm never going to leave you alone again," he promised.
At first, Steve's words weren't making any impact; Tony was too distraught to listen. The feel of his father's hand on his backside caused another flurried attempt to escape...Tony thought a second round of swats was about to begin and he couldn't handle it...but when it finally became clear that Steve wasn't swatting, was instead gently holding him in place, the flurried movement stopped. Tony took deep, shuddering breaths, quaking in place.
He wanted to believe Steve. He wanted to believe that he wouldn't be left alone. He was ashamed at how comforting he found Steve's hand being on him. It was possessive in a way and some part of Tony thought he should feel offended that Steve would act like Tony belonged to him...but then, didn't he? He was Steve's son...or, at least, he hoped he still was. He focused on the hand gently holding him in place- a hand that could easily cause more pain if it lifted and swatted down even once more- and tried to calm down.
He couldn't do it. Whimpering again, he tried to regain control over his confused emotions.
"Talk to me, son." Steve's voice was soft... but there was so much emotion in it, he might as well have been shouting. He deliberately kept reiterating their relationship through the use of the name. "There's no use in trying to get away. I'm not going to let you go," he promised.
Tony whimpered again softly, his shame growing. It wasn't like the spanking had truly been that unbearably painful. Yes, it hurt- especially after having been spanked four times before- but his uncles had been very careful not to harm him and Steve was being careful not to harm him and wouldn't harm him (Tony knew this, even if they had been estranged). He'd been in more pain from Ten Rings' abduction of him. But...he just couldn't handle it.
"It hurts too much, Daddy...in my heart..." he whispered, not really meaning to say it out loud and not really noticing that he had. He closed his eyes more tightly to try and regain control over himself, trying to stay focused on the hand Steve kept on his backside and trying to listen to the words Steve was saying, instead of withdrawing into his own head and emotional upheaval. It wasn't easy.
"I know." Steve's voice was gentle... filled with compassion and love. "But I'm here for you, son. I'm here for you to lean on... to help you heal. I know this has been hard on you emotionally and I'm sorry for that. But no matter what... nothing has changed how I feel about you."
"But you have Jessica now..." Tony winced at how childish the words sounded. He knew he wasn't being replaced and was actually going to gain as much as his father from the situation; it would be nice to have a sister. It was easier to focus on the jealousy than on what was really hurting him, though and he latched onto it quickly.
"I have Jessica and you," Steve replied. "You're still my son. You never stopped being my son. Bruce didn't replace you. Pepper didn't replace you. No one could replace you."
"I'm not..." Tony began to squirm minutely again; not so much to get away, as to make sure his father still had him. "I'm not good..." he choked out. "I blamed him for everything...hated him...and it wasn't his fault...that's not what a good son does..."
"You were hurting," Steve replied, his voice still gentle. "It doesn't make you a bad person that you were hurt and upset and lashed out because you had no one who was able to draw you back. But that isn't the case now. You have me. And I promise that you are a good son... and I love you. And I'm never going to let you go," he promised. "No matter what."
"Even though I attacked you...?" Tony's voice was tiny and scared and uncertain.
"I know how much you were hurting," Steve replied gently. "I already forgave you for attacking me."
Tony took a deep breath, shivering slightly. Closing his eyes more tightly, he hesitantly grasped Steve's pant leg, tangling his fingers in it before gripping tightly. "I don't know if I can forgive myself..." he whispered, all the turmoil, confusion and pain carrying easily in his voice, despite the softness of it.
Steve stroked Tony's back, unable to help but react to how much his son was hurting. "I love you. And no matter what, nothing is going to change that. I made mistakes, too. Mistakes I hope you can forgive me for. But I've seen the cost of our distance from each other... and it's something I'm not going to accept. You're my son... and no matter what happens, I'm not going to allow you to pull away from me again."
Tony seemingly had never done well with being told 'NO'...had always seemed to balk at the idea that someone would or wouldn't 'ALLOW' him to do something. But in truth, with those who'd cared enough about him to actually give him directions and follow through if he didn't follow them, he'd thrived and actually done much better. Steve had always said that nothing Tony did could separate them; but for over a week, Tony had pulled away and done everything possible to keep Steve at arm's length and Steve had seemed to just let it go. Tony had been afraid that maybe Steve didn't care enough about him to stop him. That he didn't care enough to step in and stop Tony's withdrawal. Going with Jessica had been just as much, if not more, about forcing Steve to prove all the times he'd said nothing would come between them were the truth, as it was about helping his new 'sister'. The relief that Steve was finally stepping in and proving it hadn't been a lie was so great that Tony just slumped, tears streaming down his face.
"You won't allow me...?" he finally asked in a shaky breath; not so much because he didn't believe Steve- the fact he was over his father's knee was proof Steve meant what he said. It was more a question of how much Steve intended to step back into his life. Would he get his father back completely, with Steve being involved in every aspect of his life, stepping in whenever Steve felt necessary, guiding and correcting? Or would Steve be more like Rhodey; caring and helping whenever Tony asked or if Tony's life depended on it, but otherwise letting him sink or swim on his own decisions? Tony really, really wanted his father back.
Steve leaned down, wrapping his arms around his son in a tight hug... though he didn't bring Tony up immediately, as he wasn't sure if his son had reached the point he needed to be yet. "There's not going to be a distance between us anymore, son," he promised. "I'm not going to let you pull away again. We've been separated for far too long... and I can't be separated from you any longer," he admitted, emotion making his voice shaky. And if he sounded close to tears himself? It wasn't any different to how emotionally affected he'd been since what had happened... since seeing how much Tony was hurting and knowing his son needed the distance from him.
Tony swallowed hard at the hug and the tone in Steve's voice. "I'm sorry..." he said, shame coating his tone. His voice cut off before he could finish the sentence with 'daddy'...he felt too guilty about how he'd behaved and blamed everyone but himself to allow himself that comfort.
Steve tightened his embrace... no matter how awkward it was, he couldn't stop touching his son. "I love you so much," he whispered in Tony's ear. "I can't give you that space any longer... because I know how miserable we've both been."
"I'm sorry..." Tony whimpered, not wanting to break down crying, but very close. It was his own fault his father had pulled away; he knew that. Steve had indicated he wanted to mend things and Tony had run and hidden...it hadn't been a surprise when Steve had kept his distance once Tony had stopped hiding; his father had been dealing with his own emotional fall-out from everything and Tony knew he never would have put up with Tony's antics if he'd been more emotionally secure. Tony supposed he owed his grandpa Logan some thanks for helping his dad get back on firmer emotional ground so he could deal with Tony's idiocy. In any case, Tony knew it was his fault and he felt so badly about what he'd done to his father, on top of everything else he still felt guilty for. He didn't know what to say or do to make anything better, though.
Steve couldn't hold back any more and he quickly righted Tony so he could bring him into a tight, easier embrace, pressing a kiss to Tony's head. "I don't want you to be sorry," he said softly. "I just want you back."
Tony pressed as close to Steve as he was able, tears leaking out of tightly closed eyes. He tried not to cry, though...he didn't deserve to cry; his father hadn't even punished him as harshly as Tony knew he normally would have for such behavior. And Tony felt like he'd deserved so much worse. Still...being held so closely was a relief. Even if he didn't deserve it, his father loved and wanted him. "...Daddy..." he whimpered again softly, not able to find words to explain how he felt or what he was thinking, but needing to somehow let Steve know that he wanted to belong again.
Steve held Tony as tight as he could without hurting him. "I love you," he reiterated, kissing Tony's head and stroking his hair. "And I want you. Nothing is going to change that. I promise."
Tony couldn't hold it in anymore...he attempted to bite back one sob, which escaped with a choking gurgle; but when he failed at keeping it inside, he just stopped trying and soon was sobbing in his father's arms. He didn't even attempt to talk, just holding on as tightly as he was able. There'd be time to talk and confess after.
Steve just held his son tight, stroking Tony's hair and pressing kisses to the top of his head. He murmured soft, soothing words of love and comfort as his son cried.
Tony didn't know how long he cried, but eventually, he'd cried himself dry. His eyes were hot and sticky, he felt slightly warm as if he had a fever and he was thirsty. He whimpered softly, continuing to hold onto his father tightly and shivering slightly. "I...I know you don't want me to be...but I am sorry, daddy..." His voice came out hoarse and cracked at the end. He coughed quietly and took a slow breath. "You didn't even punish me as hard as you normally would...I shouldn't have lost control like I did. I...I'm ready, though. I think I am able to handle if you want to finish correcting me..." he whispered, his voice only slightly as confident as his words.
Steve pressed another kiss to his son's head. "I'm not going to continue spanking you, son," he said seriously. "But you are going to be grounded... which means you're going to be staying with me and we'll discuss any time you want to or need to leave the tower, or my floor, without me."
Tony wasn't really surprised his father wasn't going to continue the spanking; the fact his father had gone so lightly on him while he was spanking him indicated that Steve hadn't really wanted to punish him in that manner and was only doing so for consistency. He wasn't sure how he felt about that. Part of him was relieved- he truly was already very sore; the other part of him felt like he hadn't been punished enough to pay for what he'd done to his family, especially his father.
He wasn't surprised to be grounded, either; Steve normally did want to keep him close when he'd got into trouble for endangering his life. He was a bit surprised at the added caveat- normally Steve just said he'd be staying close. He didn't specify that he had to discuss going anywhere, including other floors of the tower, without his father. Biting his lip, he hesitantly asked for clarification. "I...I'm to stay next to you at all times? Even if I'm in the tower? So...I'm sleeping in your room and eating all meals with you and can't work in my lab unless you are there, or...anything else? What about showers or bathroom breaks? Am...am I losing any privileges? Like phone, computer, or TV?" Tony swallowed and gave his father a sideways look, wondering if he was correct in thinking that this grounding actually would be more of a punishment than the groundings normally were. And if it was, how he felt about it.
Steve nodded, a serious look on his face. "For the next couple of weeks... and that's an estimation; it will likely be longer... the only time we will be separated is for bathroom and shower breaks. When it comes to technology, anything you need to do will be run by me... but it's not going to be an escape; a way to get out of the grounding," he said honestly.
Tony swallowed hard then nodded, his eyes wide and serious. "Yes, sir..." he said, as firmly as he was able, considering his voice was still a bit hoarse and this was an entirely new form of discipline that he was uncertain about. And then he realized, as uncertain as he felt about the new 'method' Steve was using, he actually felt relief and at least a little of the guilt he felt was being eased by the knowledge that he wasn't 'getting away' with anything. He slowly smiled at his father before wrapping his arms around the other man once again and snuggling close. "Thank you, daddy..." he whispered.
Steve kissed his head. "I love you so much, son," he whispered, his voice filled with relief that he finally had his son back with him.
"I love you too...so much," Tony said softly, face pressed against Steve's chest. "Please don't ever let me run away again..." He whispered the last sentence. He knew it had been his own fault for running and he knew Steve had only done what he felt like Tony needed him to do at the time; but knowing how the estrangement had hurt both of them so much and knowing how confused he'd been and knowing he didn't tend to make the best decisions when he was confused, he figured maybe he needed to make certain Steve knew that, even if Tony thought he needed space, he didn't want it. Not really.
"I won't let anything like this happen again," Steve promised, stroking his son's hair. "I know how much it's hurt both of us... I will never do anything to put you through that kind of pain again."
Tony snuggled closer. "I don't want to hurt you either..." he said softly, tightening his grip. "...I just have a hard time controlling myself when my emotions take over." He admitted this with a hint of self-recrimination.
"I know," Steve replied gently. "It's why I'm not going to allow it to happen again."
"Thank you..." Tony whispered again, snuggling just that tiny bit more.
Steve didn't so much as loosen his hold, feeling like a part of himself that he'd lost was back in place. "When you're ready... I want you to meet your grandfather properly," he said.
Tony nodded, reluctant to leave his father's arms, but wanting to meet the man who had enabled his father to finally come after him. Slowly, he withdrew from Steve's embrace and carefully stood up, fixing his clothing as carefully as he could. As careful as he was being, his bottom still ached when the material brushed against it and he couldn't help but whimper pathetically. He blushed darkly at having made the sound and gave his father an abashed look. "I'm ready, daddy..."
Steve stood and immediately wrapped his arm around Tony's shoulders, kissing his cheek. "I love you," he whispered, unable to force himself to let go.
Tony relaxed against his father, more than ready to make up for lost time when it came to affection. "I missed you more than I even knew at the time..." he admitted, wrapping his own arms around Steve's waist and hugging, before loosening his grip just enough that they could walk.
Steve kept his son close as he walked with Tony from his room, checking with Veronica where his father was and guiding Tony there.
Drax had finally contented himself with pouring out one of the strange-looking drinks. He wasn't really that hungry and figured he'd check with Peter what was safe to eat... at least after they had the conversation they needed to have.
Peter walked out of the bedroom, rubbing his eyes and yawning. His hair was sticking up at odd angles and he looked very innocent and child-like...something that anyone who knew him well would argue was not a true representation of his personality...the innocent part, anyway. Peter did tend to behave a bit childishly on his best days; one of the hazards of losing his mother and having no real responsible parental figures in his life after the age of eight. He glanced at Drax. "Whatcha drinking?"
"It is something called Mountain Dew," Drax replied, a perplexed look on his face. "There is food... at least what seems to pass as food here." He focused on his younger friend. "How are you feeling?"
"I...I actually feel really good, considering everything. And a Mountain Dew sounds like just the thing!" Peter grinned, walking the rest of the way into the room. "All that caffeine and sugar should do the trick to finish waking me up!"
"If I might, sir...Dr. Banner suggested avoiding highly caffeinated or sugared beverages until he has had a chance to examine you and be certain that the virus has run its course..." Veronica interjected, to Peter's dismay. "He recommended water; or, if you must have something flavored, milk, juice or hot tea."
"I am inclined to trust the word of the doctor," Drax stated. "You will take one of the recommended drinks." Said drink made his teeth ache and he set it aside, resolving to stick to water for the time being.
Peter's face fell. "But Draaaax... it was only a suggestion...not an order!" Peter whined, his hand inching toward Drax's discarded beverage.
Drax moved the drink out of Peter's way. "Refusing to listen to others is what has got you into many scrapes. This virus is just one more way your actions have affected your health."
Peter blinked at Drax's words, withdrawing his hand slowly as he actually looked at the other man closely. "Shit...you're really worried about me..." he breathed out in a surprised whisper. "...Hey, man. I'm really ok. That nap did wonders for me and I've been sick before and bounced back...I'm alright..."
Drax frowned. "While it is true you seem to bounce around when you are at full health, you should not disregard what has happened just because you recover fast."
"Not bounce around..." Peter began, before stopping and slanting his head, as if considering the comment. "...Well, ok. Maybe I do bounce around a bit..." He blinked then shook his head. "I'm not disregarding what happened. I'm just not dwelling on it. It's over. I'm better. No need to worry. No need to not drink or eat what I want..." He said the last bit more hesitantly and in a more cajoling tone of voice, in the hopes it would convince his friend, who actually was able to prevent him if Drax chose to do so. He attempted to sneak to where he thought the other cans of Mountain Dew might be stashed.
Drax moved to block Peter's route to the drinks. "There are plenty of reasons to listen to a healer. If you are not prepared to, that will be another thing we will need to discuss."
"Aw, Drax!" Peter began to whine, before Drax's words caught up with him. "Wait...another thing we need to discuss? Uh...what are we discussing?" He gave his friend a confused look.
"The reckless behaviour in crashing us here on this planet... something I warned you about. Over-confidence is dangerous and you could have hurt both of us," Drax stated. "And this virus has only shown just how reckless your behaviour is."
"I wasn't reckless! We landed in one piece and I've landed like that plenty of times to know that we'd make it through ok!" Peter defended himself hotly. Unfortunately, his voice wasn't as assured as his words would have given anyone to believe, let alone Drax; and the fact he couldn't look the other man in the eye when he said it, instead fidgeting from foot to foot and looking anywhere but at Drax, gave his true feelings on the matter. He knew he'd screwed up and screwed up badly. And he'd put his friend's life on the line with his own, which was not something he was comfortable doing.
"You have done it at safer times, when we have not been in the middle of a firefight," Drax stated. "And you are well aware of it." He sighed. "Under other circumstances... before we came here... I would have spoken to you like this and nothing would have come from it. But I have learned some things about the culture here that I believe I can respond in a way to help you understand."
Peter blinked. "Uh...what exactly have you learned from this culture in the barely-a-day that we have been here? And why would you think something from this culture would be helpful to me understanding? I already understand. You worry too much!" Peter huffed nervously.
"I had a conversation with one of this planet's residents while you were resting," Drax answered. "He was concerned about how his father would punish him for acting in a dangerous manner."
Peter blinked. "And that taught you something?" His confusion was obvious. "Uh. Help me out, big guy. I'm failing to see the connection to me..."
"You acted in a dangerous, reckless manner that could have killed both of us," Drax replied. "Perhaps you do not think of me as a part of your family. But I care about your safety and stopping you from endangering yourself. And those around you."
Peter looked at Drax, a stricken look on his face. "But...I do care about you, Drax...you are my family..." His voice was soft, hesitant and slightly scared that Drax wouldn't believe him. "I didn't mean to be dangerous or reckless..." he whispered, finally admitting that he had been dangerous and reckless.
Drax softened his own voice in response to how stricken Peter looked... even though his tone was still serious. "This is not the first time you have acted without thinking. If I do not step in, I worry it will keep occurring... and something will happen neither of us will recover from."
Peter swallowed hard and looked at his feet. "What are you gonna do?" His voice was still soft and hesitant; a bit nervous, but also curious. The last time anyone had cared about him being reckless or dangerous had been his mom before she died. He'd been taken right after her death and the Ravagers had encouraged all forms of questionable behavior. He had no clue what Drax could have learned in the short time they'd been here.
"I am going to spank you." Drax's voice was calm, stern and serious. He'd seen Peter's reaction and hoped it meant he wouldn't fight him on this... and would accept Drax's caring, which he was realizing ran far deeper than just comrades.
Peter couldn't help it. He threw his hands behind him to protect his backside, even as he turned wide, surprised eyes to Drax. "You know what spanking is?" He blushed as the question came out in a high pitched squeak.
He hadn't been spanked since he was four years old and had run out in front of a car because he had ignored his grandfather's orders to stop and wait and hadn't looked both ways before stepping into the street. That had been the hardest spanking he'd ever got in his young life; and the last. He'd made certain to always obey grandpa after that point. Also memorable was the tight hug he'd got both before the spanking (once grandpa had been assured of his continued good health) and after (when he'd been bawling and his grandpa was crying almost as hard, saying, 'thank God you're alright' over and over).
Peter had a hard time believing Drax would actually spank him. Then again, he'd greatly worried his friend, much like he'd worried his grandfather. If Drax did know what spanking was, chances were he would use it as a means to correct Peter. And Peter found he couldn't argue against it. He'd hurt his friend once already, giving him the impression he didn't matter to Peter. He wouldn't do that again. Drax did matter and his feelings mattered...maybe more than Peter had even been aware of himself, if the guilt he was feeling was any indication.
"It is an unconventional punishment... but one I have seen and had experience with." There was a very faint hint of the remembered pain that came from the children Drax had lost... but his focus was quickly back on Peter. "It appears to be used here among family members. And as a response to reckless behaviour from those who are cared about." Drax took a step nearer to Peter. "I care about you."
"I...I care about you too..." Peter admitted quietly, before looking at his feet. "I...if you think a spanking is what I deserve, I won't fight you." His voice had fallen to a whisper and he couldn't look his friend in the eye. He knew after this point, everything would change. If he accepted Drax's decision in this now, any time in the future that Drax felt he'd stepped over the line into dangerous and reckless behavior, Peter would find himself being spanked. Because Peter knew Drax; and if the man believed something worked, he'd continue using it; and Peter knew himself- spanking would work, even if temporarily.
It made him sad that everything was going to change. There wouldn't be the easy comradery of before. Even if Drax didn't change, Peter knew himself enough to know he would. Drax would become an authority figure; and Peter's relationship with authority was always anything but easygoing. At worst, he'd defy Drax at every turn and the man would end up hating him. At best, he'd end up relating to Drax like he had his grandfather...and Peter thought that might be worse. He hadn't had any type of true parent in so long the thought of having one now scared the crap out of him.
But the only other option was refusing and Drax thinking he didn't care. And that was no real option at all. "What do you want me to do?" His whisper held a hint of the fear he felt.
Drax heard the hint of fear, but there was little he could do to provide reassurance... even though he tried, stepping that much closer to Peter and resting a hand on his younger friend's shoulder. "There is nothing you need to do apart from cooperate." He'd already decided he was going to punish Peter as he'd claimed him... as family.
With his hand still on Peter's shoulder, Drax began to guide him towards the couch.
Peter couldn't help but shiver slightly from nerves. He didn't really have much, if any experience to go by to help calm him. His memory of his last spanking was tied into all sorts of other events and emotions that it probably wouldn't have been, had Peter had a normal upbringing and life. But Peter hadn't had normal anything after his mother died...and so all the memories and emotions of 'family before Ravagers' were tied together and it made the memory of the spanking so much bigger. (Bigger than it probably deserved to be, he was able to admit to himself. It didn't help calm him down any, knowing that.) He found himself scooting closer to Drax, the nearness of his friend providing a little comfort; even if Drax was the one about to punish him. He vaguely recalled that being a normal reaction as well- all he'd wanted before and after his grandfather had punished him was to be held tightly and told everything would be ok and he was still loved. All Peter wanted at the moment was for Drax to forgive him and tell him everything would be ok and that he was still wanted. All too soon, they were at the couch.
Drax kept in contact with Peter as he reached the couch, sitting down and gently pulling the younger man across his lap. Once he had Peter settled, he placed a hand on his back, rubbing gently, and then used his other hand to bare him.
Peter couldn't help but whimper as he lost the last barrier between Drax's hand and his backside. He closed his eyes tightly, mortified that everything had come to this. He was ashamed that he'd left his friend with no choice because of his actions; if he'd only listened, then maybe... But he hadn't listened and it had come to this and Peter's life was about to change irrevocably, even if he was the only one to realize it. He whimpered again, not trying to hide how ashamed and afraid he was.
Drax tugged Peter tight against his stomach and then lifted his hand, bringing it down hard. The second time his hand landed, it was nearly on top of the first.
Peter gasped as the first swat landed, unable to stop the yelp that escaped with the second. "Ow, ow, ow, ow..." He whimpered as he realized that he wasn't going to be given a 'token' punishment. This was going to hurt and he'd likely be sobbing like a baby before it was all said and done.
Drax continued bringing his hand down, going to Peter's thighs before he started over from the top... and that was when he began speaking. "You are not invincible. Neither are the people with you. This reckless behaviour is going to end."
Peter couldn't help but squirm as the spanking progressed, the wiggling becoming ever more frantic the longer it went on. When Drax began over, he whined loudly and threw his hands back to cover his bottom while protesting, "If I don't take chances, I won't make a very good hero!"
"Taking chances doesn't make you a hero." Drax paused to move Peter's hands out of the way, holding them against his back. "Risking your life scares and worries the people who care about you."
"But no one ever cared before!" Peter cried helplessly, as his hands were held immobile. "If I didn't take chances, I didn't get the loot and if I didn't get the loot, I was worthless..." His voice trailed off, as he realized exactly what he had just admitted.
"You are not worthless," Drax stated. "And there is someone who cares now." He continued to land the hard swats, increasing the force and speed a bit as he began the third circuit.
Peter squirmed more frantically at the faster swats, before he couldn't take anymore. He knew Drax cared about him; the older man had made it clear in every possible way. Hearing it stated while Drax corrected his behavior was impossible to ignore. He meant to call out his friend's name. Drax. He was too distraught, though and what came out was closer to the truth than he'd ever admit under normal circumstances. "D...daaaad...please!" he cried out, finally just crying in deep, heaving sobs before going limp over Drax's knee. "I'm sorry..." he added, more softly, as if thinking it wouldn't matter.
Drax was slightly taken aback... not by the name, but by Peter's quick use of it. Hearing Peter break down and lose control affected him more than he was expecting and Drax quickly drew the spanking to a close. He didn't hesitate in shifting the younger man... his son... into his arms.
Peter latched onto Drax, burying his head against the older man's chest, seeking comfort. "I'm sorry," he whispered again.
Drax hugged him close. "I do not want to lose you," he stated, more emotion filling his voice than he'd ever shown before. "I cannot lose more of my family."
"I don't want to be lost..." Peter admitted in a tiny whisper. "I don't want to lose you, either; please don't leave me or give up on me..."
Drax tightened his embrace. "I will not leave you. I will not give up on you," he promised. "Your place in my life is secure."
Peter took a slow breath and let it out slowly, his relief at the promise obvious and telling. "Thanks," he whispered, as he snuggled a bit more...reluctant to pull away.
Drax was just as reluctant to let go of him, holding him close and rubbing his back gently. "I am pleased you were not harmed..."
"I can't believe you spanked me..." Peter whined slightly, feeling a bit more secure and beginning to act like himself. "...Know I deserved it, though," he admitted, with a blush. He snuggled some more.
"You did deserve it," Drax agreed. "Your safety is far more important than you consider it to be."
Peter sniffled a little more. "Will you really spank me again if I'm not careful?" He bit his lip, obviously not sure if he wanted to be upset or comforted by the idea.
"Yes." Drax answered without any hesitation. "I take your safety very seriously."
"Ok. I'll just have to be careful then...I guess." Or not get caught,he thought, as he gave Drax what could only be described as a shifty look.
"No guessing," Drax replied firmly. "I expect you to help me keep you safe. If not... this will happen again. As many times as it needs to. As many times as it takes to convince you."
"Yes, sir," Peter mumbled quietly, looking down before snuggling one more time. Finally, he stood and fixed his clothing, hissing as the material brushed over sensitive skin. "What now?"
Drax stood, placing a hand on Peter's shoulder. "We should have something to eat... and then perhaps we could find something to do. Together."
"Ok...are the others expecting to interrogate us?" He shifted to follow Drax wherever he led.
Drax frowned. "No one has indicated as such," he answered. "I believe they have questions... but those seem to stem more from curiosity."
"So they'll prolly leave us alone till tomorrow, at least?" He looked down as his stomach rumbled. "That'd be good. I'm hungry. And still tired..." he admitted.
"You still need to recover." Drax guided him into the kitchen, adding, "I am unfamiliar with most of the food items on this planet."
Peter stopped in front of the pantry, looking at all the cans and boxes. "I'm assuming you want healthy..." His voice trailed off. It had been a very long time since he'd had food from his home world. What he wanted to eat and what he probably should eat were likely very different. Plus, he hadn't had any health classes to help him choose. He knew vegetables were good; but beyond that, he didn't have a clue.
"Perhaps the invisible resident would be able to help...?" Drax glanced up at the ceiling.
"Of course, sirs. Might I recommend one of the pastas, along with one of the green vegetables, one of the other vegetables and one of the jars of sauce? Tomorrow, you can speak with Ms. Pepper for recommendations of fresh items that are not canned or frozen and I will place an order for a grocery delivery," Veronica answered, quickly and clearly.
"Thank you." Drax moved to collect the suggested food items. It took him a few minutes, but he figured out how to use the cooker and open the cans.
Peter quietly began to help.
Jessica glanced around the huge family dining table at all the uncles, aunts, siblings and cousins. Only two people appeared to be missing, other than the two visitors who had crashed on the roof. She bit her lip and looked at the nearest uncle. "Will they come? Or are they still avoiding?" she whispered, not wanting to upset anyone with the question.
Coulson gave his niece a reassuring smile. "Even if they don't come, it won't be because they're avoiding each other," he said, having seen that Steve wasn't going to let Tony get away with pulling away any longer.
By that time, Steve guided Tony from the elevator onto the common floor, unable to help but stay in physical contact with his son.
Tony, for his part, couldn't help but shift closer to his father. He knew he must look a sight; his eyes had to be red and evidence of tears was probably still visible, if the grittiness was any indication. Normally, he would have asked to wash his face, but with all the upheaval the last several weeks, his need to see all his family over-rode his need to not be obvious about the fact he'd just been punished. Besides...if everyone could see that Steve had him again, it would probably help more than one uneasy relative.
Steve smiled as he stepped into the dining area and saw all of the rest of the family members around the table. Squeezing Tony gently, he headed over to the two spare seats; between Jessica and Harry.
Tony hesitated briefly before taking his seat, but took a deep breath and forced himself to sit. He couldn't hide the wince, but he did manage not to make a sound. As soon as he was situated, he reached over and put an arm around Harry, giving him a hug. "Hey, everyone..." His voice was hesitant, as if he wasn't certain what type of welcome he'd get after hiding for so long.
Coulson smiled warmly at his brother and nephew. "I'm glad to see you, Tony," he said, his sincerity obvious.
Harry immediately leaned into his father, a feeling of tension leaving him.
Steve clearly looked better emotionally and he glanced around at each of his family members, noticing that they all seemed to be much more relaxed and happy to see him and Tony had managed to heal.
"I guess all the family do handle things the same way," Jessica snorted as she noted all the kids around the table who were shifting in their seats.
Tony laughed. "Yeah...pretty much, sis..." His grin was teasing and he glanced toward his father, wanting to ask if it was official yet or not.
Steve rested a hand gently on Tony's shoulder, a slightly sad look on his face indicating, probably more than any words could, that he knew he had a long way to go with Jessica... even though he wanted her and was sure she wanted to be part of the family.
Tony swallowed hard. He didn't like seeing his father sad and he knew he'd caused the look more than a few times lately. Even though he'd been punished for it, he still felt guilty about everything that had gone wrong and his part in it. Leaning over, he kissed his father on the cheek, allowing himself to press even closer and to stay there, despite all the other family watching. He'd never been shy about public displays of affection before...it was time to start acting more like himself, for everyone's sake.
Jessica had heard the 'sis' on Tony's original statement and she'd seen the sad look in Steve's eyes. She just didn't understand why Steve would look sad about Tony calling her that. Had she convinced him she was too much trouble after all? She was surprised that the thought Steve might have given up on her made her so sad; and anxious. She ended up pressing closer, too; as a way to apologize to him, but also because it eased a little of her anxiety.
Bucky had noticed both 'problem children' shifting closer to their father and the various emotions crossing their faces, despite the ineffective attempts to not show their true feelings. He smiled crookedly at Coulson and Fury, before stuffing a bite of food in his mouth to keep from chuckling. If any parent could or would understand what Steve was going through, it would be those two, considering what they'd both gone through with their youngest children.
Steve responded immediately, wrapping an arm each around Tony and Jessica, relieved that at least his daughter was responding to him... and that Tony was responding to him again. He leaned in to press a kiss to the side of each of their heads... deciding he wasn't going to worry about embarrassing Jessica or not. He planned to treat her like the others... including giving affection to show how he felt about her.
"It's about freakin time." Kara let out a relieved sigh, before looking at Tony. "I missed you!" She glanced at Jessica, not yet familiar enough with the other woman to know how she'd react to her own personality, but wanting her to feel welcome. "You're one of us now. Glad you joined us..." She nodded enigmatically.
"What do you mean?" Jessica glanced around, confused. As far as she knew, things hadn't been made official yet.
Tony smiled gently at Kara. "I missed you too, Kar-bear." He turned toward Jessica. "She means you've joined a rather proud and large group of individuals who have been corrected by their parent. So you're just like every other one of us in the family." He chuckled.
"He's not wrong..." Logan smiled at his grandson and newest granddaughter.
"Boy, is he ever not wrong..." Bobbi smiled.
"It's like the worst-kept secret." Lance smirked and nudged Bobbi in the ribs, where he was sitting next to her.
Steve smiled at his father... then addressed his child who had yet to meet Logan. "I can finally introduce you to your grandfather, son."
Bobbi grinned at Lance and nudged back just a small bit harder.
Tony bit his lip and shifted closer still to Steve. After the way he'd treated his father the last several weeks, he figured his grandfather wouldn't be impressed by him and it made him nervous to meet him.
Logan noticed Tony's nervousness and smiled at him gently, waiting for introductions.
Steve also noticed his son's nerves and tightened his arm around Tony a bit. "Dad... this is my son, Tony." A happy, proud note slipped into his voice. He'd never been ashamed of showing how much he loved his son... all his children... and now was no exception. And he was really happy to have his son back.
Tony blinked at hearing the pride in Steve's voice. He couldn't help but blush in pleased bashfulness and relaxed.
Logan nodded a proud look in his own eye. "I'm very happy to finally meet you, kid..."
Steve smiled around at his family, finally happy and able to relax... at least for the moment, as he knew it would take his newest daughter a while to adjust. Still, for right now, his family was all together... the rift between him and Tony was on its way to being mended... and he had his own father back in his life. He finally felt like he could breathe.