Memories and Mysteries
Title: Memories and Mysteries
Disclaimer: We don't own anything belonging to MARVEL and we're not making any money from this fic
Summary: 52nd in the Redeeming Grant series.
Authors: Hope1iz and Cat2000
Warning(s): Spanking; AU; spoilers for the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; some mentions of violence
Sam looked around at his children, as they were all settled in the van ready for their trip to DC. "Have you all got everything you need?" he asked. "Last chance before we hit the road." He grinned, clearly very happy to be going on holiday with his children.
Luke chuckled and glanced into the very back of the van at all the luggage. "If I forgot something, I have a feeling Karen or Elena will have extra they can share..." he teased gently. "...I've never seen so many bags for just a couple of weeks being gone."
"Hey! You never know. Just because it is closer to summer than winter doesn't mean we might not have a cold night or two. I need clothes for every season!" Yo-Yo sniffed.
Matt chuckled. "I doubt you'll need half of what you brought... but I suppose it is better to be prepared."
"It's not like we don't have plenty of room," Sam commented, as he got settled in and began driving.
Luke settled back and grinned at his father. He was sitting in the front passenger side, as it had more leg-room and he was the tallest of all the kids. "That's true. And since we don't know for certain what we will be doing yet..."
"I want to go to the zoo!" Karen stated emphatically.
Matt nodded. "I want to visit the Supreme Court building..."
"I realize it's at least another three to four hours' south of where we are planning to stay, but maybe we could go see Jamestown?" Yo-Yo added.
Luke glanced at his father. "Where are we staying? You never actually said, but it didn't sound as if you planned for us to be in a regular hotel..."
"We're staying in a chalet," Sam said. "And I'm sure we can find plenty of time to do everything you want to...and some other things, too."
"A chalet?" Yo-Yo blinked. "How ever did you find one that wasn't already booked solid for the next year?!" She couldn't hide the excitement in her voice.
"An owner of one is someone I helped out," Sam answered. "When I called, he offered the use of one." He smiled. "I thought it would be good for us."
"It sounds perfect..." Karen's smile could be heard.
Matt thought for a moment before asking, "You used to live in D.C., didn't you? Or at least near to it?"
"I did," Sam replied. "That's where I met your uncle Steve for the first time."
"How did you meet Uncle Steve...?" Yo-Yo asked curiously. "I don't think anyone has actually said..."
"We were running," Sam answered. "Well...I was running. He was doing something much faster than that."
Luke laughed. "What? Was he sprinting? Galloping?" He grinned at his father teasingly.
"I don't think a word's been invented for that yet," Sam commented, as they drove to their holiday destination.
Luke couldn't stop laughing. "I'm telling Uncle Steve you said that!" He grinned brightly.
"Oh, he already has a pretty good idea what I think," Sam joked back.
"You and Uncle Steve are close, yeah?" Matt asked quietly.
"We've been friends a while," Sam said. "I was on his side when he found out HYDRA was growing inside SHIELD."
"You ever get into trouble with him?" Matt continued curiously, deliberately ignoring the fact that the question could be taken two different ways.
"With him as in together...or with him as in disobeying one of his instructions or directions?" Sam asked.
"I mean with him as in together, but... did you get into trouble for disobeying instructions?!" Matt's eyes widened. Sam was pretty consistent in the fact that he didn't disobey direct orders. If he didn't like something, he brought it up to the one leading the mission before everyone went out. And then followed what the final decision was.
"Shortly before your uncle Bucky returned to the tower, we had located him, and he'd joined us. He, Steve and I went on a mission overseas," Sam commented. "I was still having some...trust issues. And your uncle Bucky was still ironing out some kinks. When he went back into the mindset of the Winter Soldier, even if it was temporary, I assumed he'd been compromised. I didn't stop to find out for sure and took off."
Luke blinked at that, but it was Karen who shifted to lean up and look at her father in surprise. "You just ran off and left Uncle Steve to deal with Uncle Bucky alone?" That didn't sound like her father at all...
"No. Your Uncle Steve was actually checking out another part of the base," Sam replied.
Sam wasn't really sure where he was going. He just knew what he'd seen. That the Winter Soldier had resurfaced, and he was leaving a scene of carnage behind him. And he knew he could never stand against the Soldier on his own.
The Soldier had come out; the HYDRA lackey hadn't realized what he was doing when he read that list of words and, sadly for him, was the first to pay for the lack of foresight with his life. The Soldier didn't want to return to the cold and he was doing everything possible to avoid it. He didn't notice Sam taking off.
Steve had heard the screaming and come running, worry for both his brothers (he'd begun looking at Sam as more than a friend after the other man had put his life on the line to help Steve at the Triskellion) giving him an added boost to his speed. He was fast enough to get there in time to see Bucky dispatching the last HYDRA operative within reach or even sight. Sam was nowhere to be seen. His heart went into this throat. Had the Soldier killed his friend? He couldn't immediately look. He had to try and talk Buck down; get the Soldier to retreat, so that his brother could return.
It wasn't meant to be, though. The Soldier took one look at Steve and took off running. It took no time at all for the assassin to disappear. Steve wasn't going to catch him. Best to begin looking for Sam.
Sam really wasn't sure where he was planning to go, but he was beginning to think that he should find Steve. The Winter Soldier was dangerous. And if Steve didn't already know what had happened, he needed to.
Steve was very worried. He hadn't found Sam yet. Only the fact he hadn't seen his friend's body among the fallen allowed him to remain optimistic and not assume the worse.
Sam, finding himself in a different part of the base, kicked his comm over to a private channel, so he could reach out to his friend. "Steve?"
"Sam! Where the heck are you?!" Steve answered immediately. "The Soldier took over and took off; he's long gone. He left behind a mass of dead HYDRA, but I'm pretty sure these weren't the only ones on sight. I need you to return to me, so we can regroup and make a plan now that Bucky isn't with us..."
"I saw. One of the goons read something to him and it flipped a switch," Sam answered. "The Soldier's a hell of a lot dangerous than the regular HYDRA goons."
"They triggered him? Then you definitely need to get back here. Until I find him again, we need to stick together. When I see him, I think I can jog his memory again..." Steve reiterated his request for Sam to return.
"Yeah, I'm going to..." Sam's voice trailed off. He'd started to retrace his steps, going back to find Steve, but a door with a key code in the wall had caught his attention. He moved over to it and peered in through the narrow slat. "They've got prisoners here, Steve."
"Okay. I'll head your way, then... Stay where you are!" Steve ordered, even as he began to make his way in the direction that Sam had indicated he'd gone.
"Yeah, okay..." Sam paused, head tilting to one side as he heard the sound of footsteps.
The Soldier felt the need to run, to get away, but he needed a vehicle and that had caused him to turn around and come back to this one area. He didn't know why. He stopped, preparing to fight when he realized he was not alone. Sam was across from him on the other side of the hanger. The motorcycle he wanted was in the middle between both of them.
Sam knew what Steve had told him. Knew that he wouldn't stand so much as a chance against the Soldier. But there were people who could be in danger. Innocent people Bucky could wind up hurting without even realising it. He couldn't leave. He couldn't risk innocent people falling under the Soldier's attack.
The soldier eyed Sam up and down. He recognized him; recognized that he wasn't exactly a threat, although he could be. But that was all he recognized and the lack of recognition and the lack of knowing what his orders were, was causing him a great deal of stress. He needed to leave. So, he began walking toward the motorcycle as quickly as he could. Unfortunately, the bike was in the same direction as the man he sort-of recognized, so it appeared as if he was coming for him.
Steve had arrived by this point but was still too far away to do much. "Sam! Move!"
All Sam could think was that he was standing in front of a locked cell. And if Bucky really wanted to get to the prisoners, a lock wouldn't stand in his way. So, he ignored Steve calling to him, standing his ground...prepared for an attack.
Steve couldn't be certain if Bucky would go after Sam or not; it was just as possible he was going for the motorcycle, but since he wasn't looking at the motorcycle, Steve didn't want to depend on that chance. It was obvious Sam was afraid the Soldier was going after the prisoners; and that was a high possibility too. If that had been the soldier's orders at one point before Bucky had regained control. All Steve knew was that he couldn't watch one friend kill another. He wouldn't. "Sam! That's an order. Retreat!" he yelled, even as he continued to run, almost to Bucky.
Bucky paused, glancing at Steve. This one was even more familiar. It made his head hurt to see him. It made his head hurt and his thinking go fuzzy and he didn't like it. They would punish him if he lost clarity. Growling, he picked up the nearest item, which happened to be a tire from one of the larger trucks and hurled it at Steve like it was a toy ball.
Sam wavered, but it wasn't in him to back down when innocent people could be hurt. If the Soldier changed direction and came at the prisoners...someone had to stand in his way. "I can't, Cap," he muttered, aware it was loud enough for his friend to hear.
Steve shot Sam a frustrated and disappointed look; the prisoners wouldn't be protected if Sam got killed before the Soldier went after them... he wasn't accomplishing anything more than to slow the Soldier down. And Steve had his attention, if the fact he was throwing large vehicle parts at him was any indication. Realizing he was wasting his breath, Steve focused on Bucky and trying to bring him back. "Bucky! It's me! Stevie. It's time to come home, Buck... come home to me..." he said, clearly and loudly enough there was no way the Soldier wouldn't hear.
The Soldier put both hands up to his head and tugged on his hair with a growl. Something in his head was trying to break through. A memory. But it wasn't coming, and it hurt, and he just needed to get away from the one causing it. The tall blond who had ducked the tire like it was nothing. Growling again, the Soldier grabbed the motorcycle, started it and peeled out of the hangar, barely avoiding Steve but managing just the same. Soon, he was gone- out of sight- and the only ones left in the building were Steve, Sam and the prisoners.
Shaking his head, Steve stalked over and wrenched open the door to let the prisoners out. He didn't say anything to Sam yet, too frustrated and afraid he'd say something wrong if he didn't calm down first.
Sam could tell that his friend was disappointed and frustrated with him. With a slight wince, he moved out of Steve's way, so the other man could free the prisoners. He planned to apologise, but not here. Not when there were other people around who would hear and while Bucky was still at large.
Steve helped the prisoners get to safety, calling in SHIELD people he could trust to get them out of the location and back to where they should have been in the first place. Soon, it was just him and Sam. "Let's go back to the hotel. If Bucky manages to break through the Soldier again, he'll find a way to contact me. If he doesn't, then I'll just keep looking. We found him once before. We can find him again." He tried to sound confident, but it was obvious that he was dejected.
Sam nodded. "He broke through it once. He can do it again," he said, hoping he was right. After all, he'd come out of it before. Provided no one from HYDRA got to him first. He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry I refused to move," he added quietly.
"We'll talk about it back at the hotel," Steve said quietly. He didn't sound as frustrated; helping the prisoners had given him time to calm down. The disappointment was still there, though, as was a hint of something else that wasn't entirely identifiable.
Sam nodded, accepting the response, and quietly walked with Steve to their vehicle.
Steve drove in silence to the hotel, not speaking until they were parked and had walked into their room. Swallowing, he stared at the wall for a moment, trying to gather his thoughts together. What did he want to say? Sam had disobeyed an order; but it wasn't like he was still in the military and Steve his commanding officer. They were working together to find and retrieve Bucky. They'd almost succeeded, before the HYDRA Lackey had read that list. They worked well together, and Steve genuinely liked; no... genuinely cared about Sam. That's what made it so difficult. If the Soldier had killed Sam...
Steve's silence left Sam a little on edge, but not enough to try and fill it. He'd apologised and was aware that he'd let his friend down. He sat down on his bed and waited for Steve to be ready to speak.
"I... I think it might be better if I continue my mission on my own. Alone," Steve finally said, his tone defeated. "I can't lose another friend, someone I care a great deal about, trying to find my first friend. I just can't." He paused, not turning around yet, but looking down and back toward where he knew Sam sat. "We aren't in the military and I'm not your commanding officer. I have no right to order you to do things. I have no right to control your actions. And because of that, I have no way to control what happens to you so that you stay safe. I'd never forgive myself if the Soldier killed you, Sam..." His voice was low and hoarse. "I'll call Tony. Arrange for him to fly you back home. Your guys could likely use your presence in their support group anyway..." Steve's shoulder's slumped and he ran a hand wearily through his hair.
Taken aback, it took Sam a few moments to find his voice. "Steve, I..." He took a deep breath. "Disobeying you was on me. You might not be my commanding officer, but you are my friend. And you know Bucky better than I do. That...I know I should have listened to you. I don't want you to feel like you have to shut me out and go it alone," he added, in a much quieter voice.
"I can't not go it alone, if having you here puts you in danger. I can't go through losing another brother. I just can't..." Steve's voice broke; he was close to tears, only strength of will keeping them in check.
Sam could hear it and that just made him feel even worse. "I can say I'm sorry again, Steve. I know it's just words, but I know you were right and I was wrong." He paused and then asked, more quietly, "How can I make this right?"
"I shouldn't have expected instant obedience. We never spoke of me being in charge. I assumed...it's just as much my fault as yours..." Steve sighed.
"It wasn't really about that," Sam said quietly. "I know you're better placed to face the Soldier than me. I knew that when he took over. I just couldn't see past the prisoners."
Steve shook his head. "Which is why I should have talked with you about expectations long before now. Again... my failure. Caring about the prisoners wasn't wrong, but you didn't have to put their lives ahead of your own. You wouldn't have been able to help them dead." And Steve was frustrated again. "You didn't just disobey my order... you did so in a way guaranteed to get you killed if the Soldier had truly been after the prisoners. You didn't even think! It's not that I don't understand, either. I've been in your position too many times to claim innocence. But I wouldn't have been allowed to get away with it. I can't do anything to ensure you won't do it again and get killed and I can't watch you die for me, so..."
Sam frowned, picking up on what Steve had said...and quite possibly, what he didn't say. "What do you mean, you wouldn't have been allowed to get away with it?" Steve was from a different, earlier time. It was altogether possible that there was something in his past that would help them now.
Steve's smile was bitter and almost haunted as he looked toward where Bucky, the Soldier, had disappeared from his life again. He'd been so close to having his friend back. So close. "Before I was frozen, before I became like this, even..." He motioned at himself, to refer to him becoming a super soldier. "...I always wanted to help people. And I often tried to do so at risk to my own health or life. Bucky didn't like it and made it very clear I wasn't supposed to do that. Even after I became bigger and stronger and less likely to lose my life if I took a chance, he still insisted I think things through before acting; said I 'couldn't help people if I got blown up by a mine or something' and that I needed to make sure I was taking care of myself while trying to help others. And then he'd give me incentive to do so..." Steve snorted sadly. "Surprisingly enough, it actually worked. I began to take a few seconds before I reacted to things to figure out if my acting would put me in danger of being hurt or killed and, if so, was the risk to my life necessary? Was there something else I could do to achieve my goal without the same risk? There are very few occasions where I'm not able to think of an alternative option to reach my goal that isn't as dangerous."
"Okay," Sam said quietly. At the risk of upsetting Steve even further, he asked, "What kind of incentive? Do you think it might work in this instance? I don't want to leave you alone, Cap. And I don't want you worrying about my safety, either."
Steve turned to face Sam, searching his friend's face to see how serious he was with the question. He relaxed when he realized Sam wasn't just trying to tell him what he wanted to hear so that he could stay. "He spanked me." He said the words clearly and without trying to ease Sam into the idea. "I think it would work, if you are serious about not wanting to leave and are willing to accept that from me. I..." He paused and glanced away, before looking back at Sam. "...I know it's no guarantee that you'll never act without thinking again. It wasn't a guarantee for me either. But it was enough of a deterrent that, 95 percent of the time, I did stop and think before acting; and I'm fairly certain it will work just as well to deter you, if not better."
"Okay," Sam said quietly, actually not that surprised. "You called me your brother. That's how I think of you too. I'd be willing to let my brother spank me, if he thought it would work."
Steve gave a quick, brief nod and swallowed, before giving Sam a small smile. "It means a lot... that you want to stay with me to the point you're willing to accept this..." he said softly. Walking over to Sam, he carefully took his arm and led him to the bed, before sitting and drawing the other man over his lap. Pulling him close to his torso so that he wouldn't fall, he carefully lowered Sam's pants. He rubbed his brother's back for a small bit as he said, "From now on, you treat your safety as just as important as anyone else you are trying to save. And do whatever you can to make sure you come back to me. I don't want you taking risks if there are other options and it isn't necessary," he said quietly, before raising his hand and letting it fall on Sam's backside with a firm smack.
Sam jerked, though it was more from surprise than real pain. He didn't fight or protest, drawing in a quick breath before saying softly, "I know. I'll do better next time."
"I believe you will..." Steve said, just as softly, continuing the smacks till he'd reached mid-thigh. "...But even if you mess up occasionally, I won't threaten to leave you again. You may end up in this same position, but I won't threaten to leave. You've given me a great deal of trust, accepting this. I can't do any less than trust you and not leave you behind..." Steve made his own promise.
Sam couldn't help but begin to shift in response to the swats, but the tears that filled his eyes came more from what Steve was saying than from the spanking. "Thank you," he whispered, his breath hitching slightly.
"Thank you..." Steve said, having to clear his throat because the emotion was getting to him as well. If it weren't for the fact he needed to make this memorable so that Sam would be careful not to needlessly endanger himself again, he would have stopped. As it was, he lightened the swats slightly when he began a second circuit and held onto his brother more tightly, allowing Sam to feel and hear how scared he had been. "I can't lose you too, Sam. I just can't..."
The words were more effective than the spanking. Sam couldn't stop the tears and he slumped over his brother's lap, not even so much as twitching in response to the swats.
Steve couldn't continue after his brother had surrendered so completely. He stopped swatting and gently rubbed Sam's back for a few moments, before carefully fixing his brother's clothing and helping him up to sit beside him on the bed. He then wrapped his arms around the other man and just held onto him tightly, his own tears falling as he thought about the fact he'd lost Bucky again; and he could have lost Sam if the Soldier had been more intent on taking him out. "I can't lose you too..." he repeated in a whisper, tightening his arms to reassure himself that Sam was okay.
Sam quickly wrapped his own arms as tight around Steve in return, breathing in deeply and then whispering, "I'll do everything within my power to make sure you don't. I'll make sure to follow your orders when I know that you know the situation better than me."
Steve nodded in acknowledgement of Sam's words, but didn't let go of him at all, continuing to just hold onto him tightly. "Thank you..." he whispered.
Sam wasn't inclined to let go of his brother. He needed the contact and was fairly sure that Steve needed comforting as well, especially after having come so close to bringing Bucky back.
Steve stayed like that long enough that his arms began to get tired from gripping so tightly. He finally loosened his grip and leaned back. "Why don't we get some food and then come back and rest? Maybe if we start tomorrow when we are rested, I'll have a clearer head and can possibly figure out where Bucky is going. Although, if I've lost the trail, it may be time to return home for a bit..." he admitted, with a hint of sadness.
Sam nodded and gently squeezed his brother's shoulder. "He's remembered before. There's nothing to say he wouldn't again."
"I hope so..." Steve smiled gratefully at Sam, relieved to not have to be facing this alone. "...I really do."
"Wow, Papi..." Yo-Yo breathed in. "Is that where you learned to be so strict with us?" she asked, only semi-teasingly.
Sam chuckled slightly. "It was a learning experience," he answered. "And it was when I knew for sure Steve and I were brothers. But I've been following my instincts with the four of you and so far, they haven't steered me wrong."
"Naw...your instincts are right on, Old Man..." Luke teased.
Karen choked back a laugh. "They have to be, to keep up with some of us..."
"She's looking at me, isn't she?" Matt groused, with a smile.
"I wouldn't change any of you for anything," Sam commented. "No matter what happens." Or even what had happened.
"We love you too, Papi..." Yo-Yo said for all of them. They settled back in their seats, watching the scenery or napping until they reached their destination; a chalet in the countryside of northern Virginia.
Sam parked the car and then was quick to get out, so they could carry their bags inside and get settled in.
Their chalet was in a secluded area, so they wouldn't be disturbed. It didn't take long before Yo-Yo and Karen were walking around a tiny lake, talking girl talk; after Karen had called Foggy to let him know they'd arrived safely.
Luke looked at his father. "I saw a basketball court when we were driving up to our chalet...you two wanna play?" He included his brother in the question.
Sam smiled at that. "Sounds good to me. What do you think, Matt?"
"I can try..." Matt grinned.
Luke's smile widened. "Great! It's this way..." He took his brother's arm and began walking.
Sam walked with his sons, commenting, "Later on, we can have a look at what you all want to do and plan our vacation accordingly."
"That sounds good, dad," Luke said.
Karen and Yo-Yo were sitting on the lakeshore, talking about their boyfriends, when Karen noticed something odd on the other side of the lake. "Huh...would you look at that?" she said to Yo-Yo.
"That's weird..." Yo-Yo shook her head in bemusement. "C'mon. Let's walk around and take a look."
The game was in full swing. Sam was enjoying himself and was fairly certain his sons were as well. And he knew his daughters were safe. He could relax fully and enjoy the time with just him and them.
Matt was enjoying himself too; even if he couldn't see the net, he could hear his family and Luke had attached his watch to the net and set it to beep, so he could hear where the net was too.
The girls hadn't rushed around the lake, but it wasn't very big, so they still got to the other side quickly. Karen's eyes widened. "Is that...?"
"A person..." Yo-Yo finished. "We better get dad..."
Karen took a few shots of the 'person' on her cell-phone... just in case... and then they turned and began jogging back the way they had come, heading toward where they knew their father was.
"They look like they got buried in lava... or ash... or... what could have caused that?" Karen sounded spooked.
"I don't know. Maybe it isn't what we think..." Yo-Yo didn't sound convinced, though.
Soon, they were within sight of Sam and the others.
Sam noticed as soon as his daughters appeared, and he quickly called a halt to the game, heading over to them. "Did something happen?" he asked.
"We...uh...found a body on the other side of the lake," Karen whispered and showed Sam a picture. "It looks like one of those figures from Pompeii."
Sam frowned in worry and quickly called his sons over to join them. "We'll have to continue playing later," he said, showing Luke the picture and describing it to Matt.
"How would a lava covered body end up across the pond?" Matt asked, in confusion.
Yo-Yo cleared her throat. "We don't actually know that it was lava; we didn't touch it. It just looked like lava as opposed to a burnt body..."
They were quickly making their way to the spot, after Yo-Yo retrieved a sample kit from the chalet. The girls looked around in bafflement when they reached the spot.
"This is where it was...right?" Karen finally asked, in confusion.
"Yeah...it...the stuff that was around the body is here on the ground..." Yo-Yo pointed, then began gathering samples of the material. "There isn't enough here for it to be the body, though. Someone took it..."
"In the twenty minutes we were gone?" This time, Karen sounded skeptical.
"Maybe the body walked away?" Matt joked.
"We've seen a lot of strange things," Sam commented. "I think the best thing to do is collect these samples and store them safely, so that the rest of the family can have a look and see what we can learn."
"Yeah..." Yo-Yo said, as she took another sample.
Luke called over from the tree line, "Matt's joke may not be that far from the truth..." He pointed out the footprints.
Sam quickly headed over to Luke and the footprints. "We could follow them. See where they go."
"Sure..." Luke motioned for his father to go first.
Making sure his other children knew what they were doing and giving them the option to go or continue collecting samples, Sam began to follow the footprints.
Yo-Yo finished packing up her samples and started taking pictures, just in case location had any bearing on everything.
Luke followed Sam, but they'd only gone a few yards when the footprints ended. There was no indication of where the person they were following, or the body, went to. "What the...?"
Sam looked around the area where the footprints had disappeared, checking the foliage around. "It's like they just vanished..." he said finally.
"So, we have a possible teleporter? Why would they take a body? Even if it was a statue..." Luke frowned, turning to head back and join his siblings.
Sam walked next to his son, frowning. "We can still pass on the information to Veronica. There might be something special about this area."
"I guess that's all we can do..." Luke agreed.
Yo-Yo held up the sample cases. "I'll have this sent special courier back to SHIELD. It will be waiting for Bruce when he gets home."
Sam nodded and smiled. "We'll get that done. And then we can put it out of our minds for now."
"And enjoy our vacation!" Karen grinned.
"Exactly." Sam's own smile grew bigger. "So, what would you all like to do this evening?"
"Are we going into DC tomorrow? If so, maybe we can just do a low-key family meal tonight? Either at the main lodge or in our tiny little kitchenette..." Karen smiled.
Sam nodded. "That sounds like a very good idea. What do you all think?" he asked his other three children.
"I like that idea..." Matt agreed easily.
Luke nodded. "Me too. I'm still getting to know you all, so..."
"So maybe just a cozy dinner in our chalet this first night," Sam commented.
"...Will be perfect!" Yo-Yo agreed. "And we have just enough time to clean up first."
"Sounds good to me," Sam commented, beginning to head back to their chalet, sticking close to his children.
It was a couple of hours later and they were finally sitting around the tiny table, food on their plates. "What is this you grilled again?" Matt asked skeptically, spearing a stalk of the vegetable.
"Asparagus. I can't believe you've never had it before, all the fancy restaurants you've been to," Karen teased.
"Maybe I have," Matt said uncertainly. "...Just never grilled?"
"It's worth trying," Sam commented, smiling at each of his children and reaching out to touch each of their shoulders.
"So... I want to get to know my new family better." Yo-Yo grinned. "I'd like to hear a story from each of you before you joined the family."
Luke slanted his head. "I had a normal childhood... mostly. You all know I was in jail..."
"Was that where you got your abilities?" Sam asked.
"It was..." Luke nodded. "I was injured... badly. My wife... she knew someone with an experimental procedure that saved my life. But it made me like I am now..."
Sam let his hand rest gently on Luke's shoulder. "If you don't want to talk about it, you don't have to," he said gently. "But you can tell us anything here. I hope you know that."
"I don't mind. It might be good for you all to know." Luke smiled and told the whole story, including the measures Claire had needed to take to save his life the two times someone had actually managed to hurt him.
Sam listened intently, his hand still gently resting on his son's shoulder, giving Luke his full attention.
"I didn't think it was possible to hurt you..." Karen said, with a hint of worry.
Luke shook his head. "The first time, I was shot point blank in the head. The bullet didn't penetrate, but it caused swelling in my head. The second time, they made special bullets that can penetrate."
"Sometimes people can find a way," Sam said soberly. "What happened to those bullets?" he asked, worried that, somewhere out there, was a weapon that still had the potential to hurt one of his children.
"My half-brother was the one that brought them in. I'd like to believe we got all of the existing ones, but I'm pretty sure there are still some in circulation..." Luke said reluctantly.
Sam gently gripped his son's shoulder a fraction tighter. "I'd like you to tell Veronica everything you remember about those bullets when we return home, so she can let us know if any crop up on her radar."
"Yes, dad, I will do that..." Luke quickly agreed.
Karen nodded. "Yes. It's probably a good idea to let the family know of possible people or things that might cause problems in the future."
Yo-Yo slanted her head. "You have anything like that in your past?"
"Everyone already knows about Fisk and he's in jail, so he hopefully won't cause us problems," Matt said.
Karen winced noticeably.
Sam gently grasped Karen's shoulder, looking into her eyes. "What's on your mind?" he asked gently.
"I still hear from Frank Castle..." Karen blurted.
"What?!" Matt squawked. "He's still wanted! Not to mention how violent he is!"
"He was innocent!" Karen protested.
"Doesn't mean he isn't dangerous..." Matt muttered.
Sam frowned, looking between Karen and Matt. "Frank Castle?" he prompted.
"A veteran with a severe case of PTSD. His wife and children were murdered, and he went after the men he believed responsible. Problem is, they had some important people in their pocket; set him up. We managed to prove him innocent of what he was framed for, but we couldn't get him off for the murders he had committed. Even if it was bad guys he was killing..." Matt sighed. "We might have been able to get a reduced sentence due to his state of mind; get him admitted into a facility for therapy...but he took off. But he apparently still contacts Karen!" Matt shot his sister a worried, frustrated look.
"If he's in that bad a shape, maybe he would benefit from being rehabilitated in the compound," Sam commented. He looked at Karen and then at Matt. "Would he be dangerous to anyone there?"
"No!" Karen asserted, at the same time as Matt said, "Maybe..."
Matt sighed. "He generally only goes after bad guys with lethal force, but he's not above hurting friendlies if they get in his way of serving his brand of justice. At least he wasn't when I went up against him as the devil and tried to stop him from killing the crooked cops. He may be able to be reasoned with, now that the ones responsible for his family's deaths are gone," he said reluctantly.
Sam considered that. "He wouldn't be the only dangerous person to have there and he wouldn't be the only one who suffers from PTSD or something similar. I'd have to talk to the other family members, but I think it would be worth reaching out."
Karen looked inordinately happy and grateful, while Matt looked like he'd just stuffed a lemon in his mouth. He didn't argue against what Sam said, though. He was adult enough to admit, at least to himself, that a lot of his issue with Frank was how easily the other man had taken him down and figured out who he was. That and the time he'd dealt with Frank was also when Elektra was killed. It wasn't the ex-soldier's fault Matt thought of his dead ex-lover every time he thought of the man.
"Thank you, daddy!" Karen said, ignoring Matt's sour look.
Sam did notice the look on Matt's face and he reached over to squeeze his son's hand. "Is there something troubling you about that?" he asked gently, not wanting to discount Matt's feelings.
Matt sighed. "My issues with him aren't entirely his fault... and if you think there's a chance he could be helped, then we should obviously do so..." he said quietly.
"But something's still bothering you," Sam pushed gently.
"It's just...every time I think of him... I think of Elektra..." Matt whispered.
Karen's face fell, and she looked sadly at her brother. "Oh, Matty..." she whispered sadly.
It was just him and his four children. Sam couldn't not respond to how his son was feeling and he gently pulled Matt into his lap, so he could cuddle him. "I'm sorry to hear that, son," he murmured. "I know that's difficult for you."
Matt leaned into his father, not caring who saw. "You'd think I'd be over it by now..." he said shakily. "We were on opposite sides as often as we were together..."
Sam wrapped his arms tightly around Matt, drawing him in closer and tighter. "It's not as simple as being over it," he said softly. "She was someone you cared about. Of course, you're still affected."
"It doesn't matter if you were always on the same side or not...it doesn't mean you have to stop caring." Luke smiled sadly. "I found out my wife was mixed up in the mess that made me what I am. She just fell in love with me and did what she could to protect me from it. I never knew until after she'd been dead for several years. I felt betrayed and was angry at what she'd done. Wondered if I'd ever truly known her. But I still loved her."
Sam kept one arm wrapped around Matt's waist, while he reached out to wrap his other arm around Luke's shoulders. "If either of you need to talk...even if it's not now...you can come to me any time. That goes for you both as well," he added, looking at his daughters.
Luke nodded. "Thanks, dad..." he said quietly. "I think I've mostly worked through her death. It helps that she didn't die because of her involvement with the group who experimented on me. She had information on another nutcase, who used an innocent woman to murder her." He sighed, keeping to himself the fact that it was his current girlfriend who'd been used.
Sam used his grip on Luke to pull his other son in closer. While he might not be able to cuddle both his sons on his lap, he could come close to it. "Still, if it affects you, then I want you to come and talk to me. No matter what time of day or night."
"Yeah. Okay, dad. I can do that..." Luke smiled.
Matt nodded. "Me too, dad."
"So..." Yo-Yo smiled and tried to change the subject. "Would you like ice-cream for desert, Papi? We have chocolate and vanilla..."
Sam smiled at her. "I'll have a mixture of both...and while we're eating dessert, why don't you share something with us?" he suggested.
"Not much to tell..." Yo-Yo smiled crookedly. "I was part of a rebel group, trying to fight off the crooked government in my home country when SHIELD found and recruited me. My extended family disowned me because I was helping to fight. My mother and sister like to pretend I'm something I'm not. I don't talk with them that often. Their choice..."
Sam took her hand and squeezed it gently. "Then they're missing out. I couldn't imagine my life without you...without any of you...in it."
Yo-Yo gave Sam a teary smile. "Thank you, Papi...I can't imagine being without you all either. Even if I've not been with you long."
Situating Matt, a little more to one side, Sam held his other arm out to Yo-Yo, to indicate she was welcome to cuddle as well. "I love all of you," he said seriously.
Yo-Yo moved in closely and hugged her father. "We love you too, Papi..." She smiled.