Thirty minutes later the entire team stood on the medical floor of Stark Tower. Tony was lying in the hospital bed, once more hooked up to machines that it was insisted he needed, despite the fact that he was quite adamant he didn't. He might've gotten away with getting out of here, too, if Spencer hadn't been looking up at him with those big, exhausted, pleading eyes. There was no defense for those! Tony dared anyone to defend themselves against them. It didn't work! Especially when you'd known the kid since he was an actual kid and could see so much of that younger boy in that look. It was irritating. Tony's plan had been to get Spencer back here safely. Not to find himself trapped in a bed again.
Sure, he was exhausted, and sore, and sleep sounded awesome. He just wanted to do it in his own bed and not in the medical wing. Seemed like he wasn't going to get his wish, though.
The only good thing that came of being in the medical wing was that they'd managed to get the collar off of Spencer.
While everyone else was gone, leaving just Tony, Bruce, and Spencer together, Tony had told JARVIS to prepare the whole tower for a surge—and hot damn was it good to hear JARVIS again!—and then he'd pulled the collar off.
The way that Spencer slumped after, how he'd curled in on himself and just shook as his powers came back to him, broke Tony's heart. He had to wait for a bit until Spencer was settled, but once he was, he dragged the kid in close and didn't plan on letting go. Spencer didn't protest.
Case in point—at the moment Spencer was squished down into the hospital bed with Tony, pressed right up against his side with arms and legs clinging to him like he was terrified someone was going to take him away. It broke Tony's heart to see it. Bruce, amazing man that he was, had helped Tony draw a blanket over the kid once he'd passed out – which hadn't taken long. Now Spencer was just a blanket lump with only a bit of his hair sticking out the top of the blanket. His face was pressed up against Tony's side and the bed itself, keeping him hidden.
Holding on to him helped Tony calm some of the panic that still sat inside of him. He knew he was going to freak out more later. In some ways, this felt too much like a dream. A ridiculous, insane dream. His world had recently been made up of panic, fear, and pain. It felt surreal to be back in the comfort of his home with Spencer curled up by him like he was a little kid all over again. There was a hint of fear he wasn't quite able to get rid of, that this was maybe just a dream. That he'd wake up and be trapped back there again. Those thoughts made him hold Spencer even closer.
"J?" It felt good to call out to him. To know that JARVIS was there. When he got a warm "Here, Sir" in return, it eased a bit more of the tension. Tony smiled and let his eyes close as he rested his head back against the pillow. Much as he didn't like being here, he could admit that he probably needed it. He felt like he'd been hit by a truck. "It's really good to hear your voice, buddy."
"Might I say it is good to hear yours as well, Sir. I'm very glad you're home."
"Me too, J. Me too." Sighing, Tony turned his head and opened his eyes once more so that he could see the top of Spencer's head. "Looks like I missed a lot while I was gone. Mind catching me up?"
It only took about fifteen minutes for JARVIS to really catch Tony up on the important things. There was more, he knew. Things that he could look at later. Videos that he knew JARVIS would've recorded but wouldn't want to play for him right now. Later, Tony would look at them. He'd see how much his absence had hurt his family and he'd hate it. For now, he had enough info to be caught up on the important things. It only served to piss him off even more.
Nick had no right calling Spencer in. Oh, he knew that Spencer would've been livid if he'd ever found out that Tony had been kidnapped and no one had called him in. But bringing him out here like this? Bringing him to the Tower and tossing him in with the Avengers? That had been a deliberate move on Nick's part. He'd hinted to Tony before about trusting the team with Spencer's existence. Why, Tony didn't know. But he'd hinted at it. Tony had shot him down. If he was going to tell the team, it was going to be on his terms. Nick had taken that out of his hands. He'd tossed Spencer here, after giving his file to Clint and making him the kid's handler—at least if someone had been watching over Spencer, it was someone Tony knew he could trust—and then just leaving him here, instead of taking him to the Helicarrier and letting Spencer work privately and secretly from there. They could've easily done it like that, seeing as how the tech that Spencer had used in the long run to help find Tony had been based through SHIELD. Nick could've done that if he wanted to. But he'd done this instead.
Why? Was it just to blow Spencer's cover? To force Tony to tell the truth? Or—and this made Tony sick—was it a way to try and get control of Spencer? Because Nick had to know there was no way Spencer would've stayed behind once they found Tony. No matter what, he would go with, and that was breaking the rules that SHIELD had set up for him. Tony knew that SHIELD had been trying to get their hooks deeper in the kid for a long time. Half to control him, and half because they knew that controlling Spencer would allow them some leverage in controlling Tony.
It was a lot to think about, on top of the thoughts already in Tony's head, and he tried not to groan as he closed his eyes once more. Too much. It was all too much. Too many things that needed thinking about and he just wasn't up to his usual speed. If anything, he was fighting off the urge to sleep.
So of course that had to be when JARVIS warned him "Sir, you have guests incoming."
Tony sighed. He looked down at the sleeping kid and debated, just for a moment, telling JARVIS to lock them out of the room. Then he decided against it. Better to just get this done with while Spencer was asleep. Less shit he'd have to deal with when he woke up. Plus, as he privately admitted to himself, he wanted to see them. He'd missed his family like hell.
He was waiting for them when they burst in with their usual noise and insanity. Tony had to quickly throw up a hand to quiet them as he felt the kid stir against him. "You mind not waking him up?" Tony asked them, dropping his hand back down. "He needs all the sleep he can get."
That got him more than a few strange looks. Steve stopped at the foot of the bed, Sam at his side, and fixed Tony with a firm look. "He's not the only one that needs rest."
Tony shrugged one shoulder and adjusted his arm around Spencer to better hold him. "I'm resting." He might not be asleep, but he was resting. His brain was still way too wired to actually get some sleep at the moment. There were too many things he knew waited for him in his dreams. He wasn't looking forward to visiting them. Not to mention, he wasn't quite ready to give up his watch on the brat beside him. "Besides, telling me I need rest doesn't seem to work well with the whole noisy party thing you've got going on here."
They at least looked a little sheepish about that. Well, most of them. Clint looked completely unrepentant as he lounged against the wall, and Natasha had that whole 'you're all ridiculous and I only tolerate you' look on her face that secretly meant she was more amused with them than she was letting on. She drifted close to the side of his bed and let her eyes run over him in a quick assessment.
Thor had his arm slung around James as they moved to the foot of the bed, which ended with James almost elbowing Steve out of the way. The friendship between those two was something that amused Tony to see. Though not near as much as the way that James smirked just now, or Steve shot him a small scowl, which told Tony clearly that the 'almost elbowing' had been intentional. Huh. Trouble in paradise? He'd have to poke around about that one later.
"It is great to see you home and well, my friend." Thor's voice was low for him, which was still pretty booming for just about anyone else. Surprisingly, Spencer didn't even stir. His breaths were a low and even puff against Tony's side.
James added his own small smile to Thor's words. "Bout time you got back home."
A real smile stretched over Tony's lips. "Miss me that much, Terminator?"
"Who else is gonna fix my arm if it breaks down?" James shot back.
Chuckling, Tony shook his head. He adjusted his grip a little around Spencer when he felt thin fingers twitch against his shirt. Bringing one hand up, he curled his arm so that he could reach the bit of Spencer's head that was sticking out and scratch at it. It worked just the same as it always had. Within a few breaths, the fingers on Tony's shirt relaxed a little, as did the rest of him.
His movement brought every eye in the room back to Spencer. Tony could see the questions and he tried not to sigh. They were going to want answers. Especially since he'd barely given them anything so far. Now that he was here, safely resting in bed, and he had Spencer with him, he wasn't going to be able to keep putting it all off. Better to just say it before they started asking their questions. It made it easier to control the flow of information that way.
He let his eyes drift over to Bruce, to the one person he'd really wanted to see more than anyone else aside from Spencer, and something in his gaze had the man slipping away from the others to move up to the bed opposite Natasha. After only a brief hesitation—nerves, Tony knew, from the audience watching on—he reached out and took Tony's free hand in his, twining their fingers together. Just that simple touch was enough to have Tony feeling a bit more comfortable. It made it easier to start talking.
"My father had an affair when I was ten," Tony began. The words weren't hard to say, though he couldn't keep himself from giving a small, bitter snort. "It wasn't the first one. Wasn't the last, either. But it wasn't until I was fourteen that Mom and I found out about it. I don't know how she found out. I just, I came home one day and heard them arguing about it. That was how I found out I had a little brother. A three-year-old little brother. Not long after that, Mom took me out to meet him, and the rest is history."
Most everyone was looking down at the lump that was Spencer. "He said he was a family friend." Steve said slowly, a bit unsure. His eyes flicked up towards Tony's face, checking to make sure that he was okay, that this was all right.
Tony smiled at him and nodded. "That's what we told people. Everyone thought that Jarvis and Diana—Spencer's mom—were just good friends. It made it easy for him to come and stay at the house sometimes without arousing suspicion. Spencer's been a part of my life since the moment I found out about him. Dad didn't want people knowing, and when we got older Spencer and I decided it was safer to keep the world from finding out about him. Especially after I became Iron Man. I've got too many enemies out there who'd love to take someone connected to me."
"Seems like he can defend himself." Sam chimed in, lips twitching with amusement.
The scowl that crossed Tony's features was enough to silence them all. "That's not the point, feather head. Sure, he can do it if he has to, but he shouldn't have to. He's got a job he loves—one that won't take kindly to finding out they're employing a mutant. Using his powers publicly isn't safe for him. What he did to get me back, that wasn't safe for him, and he never should've done it." Thinking of the risk that Spencer had run was enough to make Tony's chest ache. But he knew that Spencer would do it again in a heartbeat. Just as he would've done the same in his place.
The sound of someone clearing their throat had the whole team looking over to the archer, who was still leaning so casually against the wall. "You know, I'm less interested in the whole 'secret brother' thing and more interested in the whole 'Tony was kidnapped' thing," Clint pointed out dryly, shrugging one shoulder negligently. "I mean, call me crazy or whatever. Just seems like that would be more important, y'know?"
Tony was both annoyed and grateful for the topic switch. He didn't want to lay here and argue about Spencer with them, but he also didn't want to talk about what happened. He wasn't quite ready for that yet. There was no way he was going to be able to get away with giving them nothing, though. Not only would they not let him, they also deserved to know what was going on. At the very least so they could be prepared in the future. "They wanted me to build them a weapon," he told them, shifting just a little in bed despite the aches that flared to life as he did. "I stalled them as best as I could, but they were… rather persuasive. It was never finished, though."
"Will they be able to finish it on their own?" Sam asked him.
He was saved from having to answer that from a surprising source. The blankets around Spencer shifted a little and a clear "No" came from them. Everyone looked down as the blankets were pulled down enough that Spencer's head became clear. Sleepy eyes lifted towards Tony first, as if unable to help from checking that he was there despite the way their bodies were pressed together. The relief and joy written in those eyes had Tony smiling softly at him. Once he'd checked in, Spencer pushed himself up gently, sliding up against Tony's side until his head was closer to Tony's shoulder, careful to keep away from the arc reactor. He didn't look back towards the others until he settled.
It didn't escape Tony's notice how Spencer's eyes flashed to Clint next, like he had to check that he was here too. Hmm.
Spencer smothered a yawn against the blankets before he spoke again. "When I tapped into their systems I downloaded all the information they had and then burned out their computers as well as anything else electronic in there, including the little bit that they'd built so far of the weapon." Spencer didn't say what the weapon was, though Tony knew he had to have realized it if he'd been in their systems. "I've already given the information to JARVIS and he'll sort through it and keep what's important and delete the rest of it."
Once again, Tony was grateful for his brother's thoughtfulness.
The others didn't seem to understand so much. Well, not all of them, at least. "Is that really a good idea?" Sam asked hesitantly, looking from Spencer to Tony and then briefly flicking his gaze to Steve, who didn't look happy at all. "I mean, there's a lot of information there if you really downloaded everything from their system. We should probably hand it over to SHIELD and let them take a look at things."
A faint sneer touched Spencer's face even as the rest of him gave a small shiver. That shiver had Tony tightening his hold on him. "I trust JARVIS far more than I trust SHIELD."
No one in the room was stupid enough to argue that after everything Spencer had just gone through.
The little bit of energy that Spencer had found, and Tony as well, seemed to be fading away. The two of them were curling into one another a little more without even realizing it. Tony felt his eyes getting a bit heavier and was fighting to keep them open.
Bruce noticed first. He straightened himself up and took charge of the room in a way that he once wouldn't have. It made Tony want to smile to see it. "I think this is enough right now, guys. The last thing that either of them need is an interrogation. What they need is sleep. JARVIS has the information and he'll let us know if there's anything that we need to know, right JARVIS?"
"Absolutely, Dr. Banner. I'll notify you immediately if anything important comes to my attention," JARVIS answered smoothly.
After that, it was easy for Bruce to convince everyone to leave, though not before a few quick hugs were handed out. Thor, thankfully, restrained himself to a rather gentle—for him—pat on the head. Natasha stunned him by placing a soft kiss on his forehead and murmuring low words in Russian before she disappeared. Clint and Bruce were the last two to go, and Tony smiled up at the archer when Clint gave his hair a tug before briefly clapping a hand on his shoulder, a silent 'glad you're back' that meant a lot to the engineer. He also let his hand drop down low in an almost casual touch against Spencer's fingers that had Tony's mind whirring even more than before. Especially when Spencer didn't pull away, but instead lifted a finger just enough to let them tangle together for a split second before they pulled apart.
With Spencer lying against Tony, there was no real way for him to say what he wanted to Bruce. At least, he didn't think there was. Not until Spencer shifted lower again and pressed his face against Tony's shirt as he mumbled, "Just kiss him already so I can go back to sleep."
"Brat," Tony said affectionally. Then he lifted his gaze to Bruce, enjoying the hint of a blush that was touching the other man's cheeks. "You heard the man, Brucie-bear. Give me a kiss so the kid can go to sleep." His eyes twinkled mischievously as he added on "You wouldn't want to interfere with his healing, now would you?"
Bruce got a bit redder. He smiled, though, and was already leaning in. "I don't know why I put up with you."
"I'm just that adorable."
He could feel Bruce's smile against his lips and it was the single best thing he'd felt. This was something that he'd been thinking about the entire time he was gone. The few, hesitant kisses they'd shared so far, the date that Tony had been on his way to. Imagining how Bruce might've looked, how he'd probably dressed up and yet would still have that absentminded professor look to him, how he'd probably blush at all of Tony's over-the-top flirting and yet smile at the same time… those things had helped Tony get through everything.
Their kiss deepened a little, the both of them drawing comfort and enjoyment from it. Right up until a voice chimed up from the vicinity of Tony's stomach and dryly told them "If you get an erection while my face is this near your lap, I am electrocuting the both of you."
Laughter broke their kiss. Tony dropped his head back and laughed out loud. Poor Bruce, his face was on fire as he drew back, though it wasn't enough to erase his smile. "I can't believe I didn't see the resemblance earlier," Bruce said, shaking his head.
Tony was still laughing even as he took another kiss before Bruce left them. When the door was shut, the older Stark smothered his chuckles and told JARVIS "Lock the doors for us, J. Don't let anyone but Brucie in here…" Pausing, he tilted his head to watch Spencer's face and deliberately added on "…or Clint."
It was worth it to see the way that Spencer quickly turned his face in to hide whatever look was there. Oh, man, this was too good. Tony's lips curved up a bit more. Lifting his hand so he could play with Spencer's hair again, he gleefully asked "There something you want to tell me, Pikachu?"
"No." Spencer's voice was a low grumble that was reminiscent of the occasionally pouty little boy he'd once been. It faded though as Spencer nuzzled in against him again and his voice shifted into something else, something still young but more… broken. Aching. "I'm really glad you're home, Tony."
"Me too, kid. Me too."
"I don't…" Whatever Spencer was going to say was lost as his voice cracked a little. He curled in on himself and his hands twitched until could get to Tony's shirt and start to twist the fabric a little. When he spoke again his voice was so much softer. "Don't do that again."
Tony closed his eyes as he lay his head back. "I'll do my best. But even if it does happen, you know I'm always going to do my best to get back home, Spencer. Always. And my best is pretty damn awesome."
He felt Spencer give a little huff. Tony's teasing worked, though. His tone lost the frail edge to it that never failed to break Tony's heart. "I believe that's half the problem. Perhaps you could tone it down ever so slightly? People might be less inclined to try and take you, then."
"Sorry, kiddo." Tony ruffled his hair. "Awesomeness like this doesn't just turn off. Us Stark boys, we're just doomed to a life of awesome. The rest of the world is just going to have to get used to it."
The light laugh that Spencer gave was like music to Tony's ears. It put a smile on his face, one that stayed there even as the two slowly settled down towards sleep. Neither one noticed as JARVIS dimmed the lights or as he started to play some soft rock in the background, the go-to music when either one needed help sleeping. Before a song had even finished, the two were out, wrapped safely up in one another and content for the first time in weeks. Things weren't perfect yet, but they were getting there. So long as they had each other, they'd face whatever came their way.