Author's Note: Wow. Just wow. You all are amazing. Because I had so many reviews asking for a sequel, I got started immediately. Also shout-out to an anonymous reviewer for an idea incorporated towards the end of this chapter. As always, please let me know what you think.
Disclaimer: I still own nothing, though I'm super excited Joss Whedon signed on for Avengers 2 (Summer 2015).
"Do you understand the level of torture, Barton? Stop laughing at me you asshole," Stark grumbled loudly. He dropped his head repeatedly to the marble counter in front of him. "Dear God, how can three girls spend that much time in a mall? It's actually painful."
"It's your stupid fault," Barton smirked. "You're the dumbass who offered to take them."
"Never again, Robin Hood. Never again."
"You're such a drama queen." He signaled the bartender, who quickly poured more Jack Daniels into his tumbler. "Thanks." The archer murmured his appreciation. "Stop looking at me like I just blew up your new car. Yes, I called you a drama queen. Get over it. You took a thirteen-year-old and two eleven-year-old girls to a mall for an afternoon. You've saved the planet numerous times. You can't honestly tell me that you're tortured by a day spent shopping with your daughters and niece."
"Do you know how many stores there are in that mall? We went in every single damn one of them. There's constant giggling. I nearly burst a gasket when I figured out they were giggling and ranking boys. Boys, Barton. It's already starting! I think Amelia even got a phone number from some pathetic kid, though it looked like she already knew him."
"You let Amelia accept a phone number? What kind of uncle are you? You're supposed to terminate the threat!"
"You're such a drama queen." Stark mocked, throwing Barton's previous words back in his face. "He's a thirteen year old kid, not an international situation." When Stark was met with Barton's quirked eyebrow, he conceded. "Okay, our girls dating anyone might be worse than an international incident. Oh, and then there's the constant debate about how clothing is just too damn short!"
"That I'm definitely familiar with," Barton commiserated. "Definitely familiar. Amelia wanted to buy a bikini the other day, and I swear the scrap of material couldn't be defined as any legitimate piece of clothing."
"The skirts are the worst. Abby wanted this jean skirt. It's about as long as my pinkie finger, which is not okay. Maybe we should become Mormon or Quaker and just wrap them in yards of fabric. No skin showing ever," Stark declared.
"The older Amelia gets, the more and more I like that idea."
"Oh, and then Sophie wanted a completely backless dress. Barton, a hand towel has more fabric than that dress. Absolutely ridiculous," he shook his head. "Can't we rewind to when they were babies and we had complete control over their wardrobe?"
"God, wouldn't that be nice?"
"Someone in this house needs to teach me to drive," Philip shouted as he stomped around the common floor. "I should be able to get my learner's permit, but no, heaven forbid, any of the capable adults in this family teach me to drive."
"You live in the heart of New York City. You don't need to learn how to drive." Banner pointed out to the teenager over his coffee.
"That's not the point. The point is that I'm finally old enough to have a learner's permit and no one will teach me."
"Sorry, son. Your mother would maim me if I taught you to drive without her explicit permission." Rogers informed the teenage boy over his newspaper.
"You're a super soldier. She's human. It's genetically impossible for her to maim you in any lasting way!" Philip crossed his arms over his chest and resisted the urge to stomp his feet like a petulant child.
"Your mother is terrifying. Super soldier serum or not, that woman could find a way to hurt me. She has a penchant for throwing cutlery at my face. I like my face to remain whole without any protruding forks or knives." Rogers folded his newspaper in front of him as he looked at his nephew, who looked remarkably like his father.
"Fine," he grumbled. "Uncle Bruce will you please teach me? Hulk protects you from my mom."
"Ha," the doctor snorted. "I am not protected in any means from your mother's wrath. It's far-reaching and painful."
"But you're indestructible," Philip groaned. "Damnit, someone needs to teach me to drive. I mean… I didn't say that out loud." Rogers lifted his eyebrows at the cussword that slipped from his nephew's lips. "Yeah, I didn't say that out loud. I'm going to the gym."
"Smart move, kid."
"I just don't understand. You all save the world on a regular basis, and no one can teach me how to drive. It doesn't make any sense," he muttered as he stalked to the elevator.
"You live in a family of superheroes and secret agents. Nothing has ever made any sense." Banner called after him with a smirk.
"He makes a good point though." Rogers noted when the elevator doors closed. "What could Romanov do to you? I mean you can Hulk out."
"Trust me, Cap. I never plan to get into any situation that would cause us to find out the answer to that question. It's not healthy to underestimate her powers. I'm sure she could figure out something creative and endlessly painful. I'd rather not."
"Get out of my room," Philip shouted as the twins bounced on his bed. "Go bug Amelia. She's got to be here somewhere. Plus, she has all sorts of girly stuff in her room that you can screw with."
"Oh come on," Abby pouted. "You're no fun."
"True. I'm not. I have homework to do. Get out."
"Why do you have your panties in a twist," Sophie asked.
"I don't have panties. Guys don't wear panties."
"Then what do they wear," Abby wondered.
"I am so not having this conversation with either of you. GET OUT."
"If you can tell us apart, we'll leave."
"That's not a fair game! No one can tell you apart. That's ridiculous. Can't you just leave me alone?" Philip begged as he turned his desk chair to stare at his cousins. "Out!"
"Nope, who's who? Then we'll leave."
"Isn't there someone else, anyone else, you can go annoy?" He scrubbed a hand over his face. They shook their heads in perfect synchronization. "Of course not. Fine, I'm going to go shooting. Looks like you're out of luck since you aren't allowed in the range yet."
"You're not allowed to do anything until your homework is done. Red's rule," Sophie smirked. Philip resisted the urge to scream, opting for a loud, irritated groan instead.
"I think Amelia just got a new Justin Bieber thing. You should go see if you can find it in her room." He said, grasping at straws trying to get them out of his room. Of course, the eleven-year-olds excitedly left to find the latest something related to the overly feminine pop star. Philip immediately clicked the manual lock into place. He leaned against the closed door and let out a sigh of relief.
He smirked when Amelia came and started pounding on his door. "You sent them into my room. What in the world? Why? God, you are so frustrating! Open this stupid door! Philip!"
"Sorry, I'm not in right now. Please leave a message, and I'll get back to you shortly." He called mockingly through the door.
"Not my problem now. Have fun, 'Melia!"
She shouted loudly and kicked the base of his door. "You suck!"
"Maybe, but I still won." He laughed as he heard his sister stomp back down the hallway.
"Mom," Amelia called as she walked through the suite. "Oh hey, Aunt Pepper!"
"Hi, sweetie! Good day?" The tall, strawberry blonde woman asked.
"Yeah, it was fine. Yours?"
"Not too bad. Did you learn anything fun at school?"
"Sort of. Where's Mom?"
"I'm in here," Natasha called from the kitchen.
"Range," Natasha responded. She appeared holding out a wine glass for Pepper. "What's up?"
"There's a dance at school, and I want to go." Amelia informed the two women quickly. She twisted her hands as she looked steadily at the hardwood floor.
"And," Natasha prompted.
"There's a boy, who asked me to the dance. I want to go, but I don't want Dad to, I don't know, accidentally shoot him with an arrow."
"He's not going to shoot anyone," Pepper soothed. She took a large gulp from her glass of wine and grimaced slightly at Natasha, who quelled a smirk.
"Tell me about the boy." Natasha requested, patting the cushion next to her. Amelia sighed softly before dropping down onto the couch.
"Do I have to?"
"Do you want to go to the dance?" Amelia nodded. "Then yes, tell me about the boy."
"I promise, he isn't an international threat or anything. He's just a boy in my class."
"You're right. I doubt a thirteen-year-old boy is an international threat," Natasha agreed.
"Weren't you an international threat at thirteen," Pepper asked.
"Possibly," the ex-agent agreed. "But that's besides the point. Amelia, does the boy have a name?"
"You're going to run a background check on him," the teenage girl accused.
"It's not me you need to worry about."
"Fine. His name is Blake. He's in my science and math classes. He plays baseball and soccer on the school team."
"How were you planning to get to the dance with the boy?"
"I figured I wouldn't have a choice, and Dad would drive us. Blake said his mom could pick me up and drop me off though." Amelia added hopefully.
"When is it?"
"Saturday," she murmured.
"As in two days from today?"
"So was he dragging his feet to ask you or were you dragging your feet to ask me?" Natasha wisely asked as she looked at her daughter. The teenager looked like a miniature version of the agent. Amelia was small and thin. Her bright red curls popped against her pale skins. Her green eyes were striking. Despite the inquisition about her date and dance, she looked relaxed in straight-legged jeans, worn traditional converses, and a t-shirt.
"I didn't want to ask when Dad was around."
"Smart kid," Pepper giggled into her wine.
"So can I go?"
"Ask Blake if he wants to come over for dinner before the dance."
"Umm, with everyone here," Amelia stuttered. "I mean Dad and Uncle Tony and Uncle Steve and Uncle Bruce… all here to meet him? All of them? Against him? Oh, this isn't going to go well."
"Uncle Bruce should be in Cambodia. Uncle Steve is going to Brooklyn for the weekend. Pepper can keep Uncle Tony leashed, and I can handle your father."
"Thor will be in Asgard?" She asked, clearly trying to make sure there was going to be a rogue uncle trying to protect her from a gangly thirteen-year-old boy.
"He's with Jane in Tahiti," Pepper responded.
"Tahiti," Natasha asked with a laugh. "Thor is in Tahiti? A cape doesn't seem like it would blend in well with the swimsuits."
"We sent him with a bottle of sunscreen. According to Jane's last correspondence, he's using it to protect his hammer." Pepper laughed wholeheartedly at the mental image of the demi-god lathering up his beloved weapon. Natasha smirked as well. "So no, to answer your question, he won't be here either. Even if he was," Pepper added. "Your mother can pretty much terrify anyone into submission. She's got a handle on the boys."
"Speaking of the Avengers," Amelia groaned. "I may have told Blake that you're a linguistic specialist and that Dad is an archery instructor." Natasha raised her eyebrows in a clearly unspoken question. "What," Amelia asked. "I can't very well tell him that my parents are superheroes or government agents or assassins or whatever."
"You don't think it's going to be just a little obvious when he pulls up to Avengers Tower." Natasha pointed out with a continued smirk as she sipped her red wine slowly. Amelia slapped a hand to her forehead before dragging it over her face with a moan of frustration.
"I didn't think of that," she admitted.
"This really should be fun. So family dinner on Saturday," Pepper clarified with a mocking smile.
"I suggest you figure out a way to alter your previous statement about our careers in the next 48 hours. I'll talk to your father about not maiming your date."
"Thanks, Mom." Amelia grumbled as she slipped off the sofa to return to her room. "See you later, Aunt Pepper."
"Love you, sweetie." Pepper called after the peevish child. "Is this the first time she's had a date?" Natasha nodded. "Oh, this is going to be too good. Ten bucks says Banner and Rogers casually change their plans."
"Ten bucks says we have to lock down all weaponry in the building before that poor boy steps foot on the doorstep." Natasha countered.
"We'll definitely need to do that. I'll make plans to set the table for eleven."
"Philip might conveniently spend the whole weekend at Murphy's."
"Ah, yes, my dear sulking fifteen-year-old nephew, how is he doing?" Pepper asked as she retrieved the bottle to refill their glasses.
"As sulking and brooding as ever," Natasha grumbled.
"He may look like Clint, but that boy has your personality. Come to think of it. Both of them have your personality with a sprinkle of Clint's sense of humor and charm."
"I do not sulk and brood." Natasha returned as she pretended to look offended.
"You watch quietly, observing and calculating." Pepper corrected as she raised her glass in a silent toast. She smiled as the agent nodded her consent. "But really," she continued. "We really need to remember to put all the weapons on lockdown for Saturday night. Can't you just see Tony 'accidentally' testing out the latest laser add-on for his suit and using Blake as target practice?"
"Sadly, it's something that is likely to happen eventually given the rampant over protectiveness. Just like it's quite plausible that Clint will accidentally loose an arrow with a stun-gun tip at the kid when he shows up."
"We should probably have the lawyers and medics on call just in case our weapons lockdown malfunctions and the kid gets injured." Pepper mused somewhat seriously as she continued to savor her wine. Natasha couldn't help but agree.
"Get in the car. Get in the car. Get in the car. Get in the car." Tony chanted as he stood at the door of the twins' room. "You're late for school. Again," he groaned.
"We're coming. We're coming. Hold on. I'm still putting on make up, and Sophie is trying to decide what to wear!" Abby shouted back from the bathroom.
"Decide what to wear," Tony growled. "You go to a private school. You wear a uniform. You shouldn't have to decide what to wear. There is one skirt, and there is one style of polo shirt. All you have to do is put on the uniform and get in the car. And Abby, for the love of God, what do you mean make up? You're eleven! You don't wear make up! You wear Chap Stick and sunscreen. Get in the car!"
"Jeez, we're coming. Don't get your panties in a twist," Sophie called.
"Who taught you that phrase? Because that person is about to be at the business end of one of my lasers. Can you please get in the car?"
"Abby, should I wear my navy blue knee socks or the white ones?"
"Is this seriously a question? Put on the socks; grab the shoes. Get your Eggo waffles, and get in the car!" Tony bellowed as his face turned a delightful shade of red.
"Okay, okay. Soph, I say white. I'm wearing blue." Abby decided as she grabbed her backpack from the floor by her desk and walked out of the room. "I got your bag," she told her sister. "Waffles," she asked.
"In the toaster," Tony answered as he practically sighed in relief that at least one of his children was ready to go. "Sophie, put your shoes on in the car. Assembly starts in twenty minutes and we're at least twenty five minutes away from school with traffic."
"You could let us walk. It would only take ten to walk," Sophie pointed out as she slid past her father into the hallway. She stood up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. "Morning, Daddy."
"Hi, kiddo. And no, you will not walk to school because you're eleven and you both give me enough anxiety without me having to worry about you walking to school alone."
"Just saying," she pointed out. "Then we wouldn't be late. Abby, want a Sunny D?"
"Yeah," her sister responded. "I got your waffles."
"OK." Sophie skipped into the kitchen as she grabbed two bottles from the refrigerator. She slipped into the backpack Abby held out for her before trading a bottle for her two waffles. "Now we're ready, Daddy."
"Thank God. In the car, in the car." He swooshed behind them, a hand on each of their shoulders, as he steered them towards the elevator and down to the garage. "One of these days, we will be on time."
"When Mommy takes us to school, we're on time." Abigail smirked up at him.
"Ummhmm, well Mommy might as well be superwoman with the amount of stuff she manages to accomplish in 24 hours," he countered. "Eat your waffle. Actually," he paused as he snatched at one of the breakfast pastries in Abigail's hand.
"Hey," she cried. "Leggo my Eggo!"
"Hmm, I make good waffles," Tony laughed as he commended himself and returned her waffle, though it was missing a large bite.
"You just put in the toaster," Sophie countered. "You don't actually cook."
"I can cook," he returned.
"Mhmm," Abby hummed.
"Yeah, you can cook." Sophie conceded with a smile. "You're really good at pushing the numbers on the microwave."
"Yeah, yeah. Get in the car." He grumbled as he guided them out of the elevator and into the waiting vehicle.
"We've got a situation." Fury announced as his hologram flickered to life in the Avengers Tower conference room.
"Okay, where are the Avengers headed this time?"
"Barton, it might not be a job for the Avengers."
"Alright," the archer drawled slowly. "What's the situation?"
"There's a situation at Lincoln." Fury's hologram wavered.
"Lincoln," Barton asked for clarification.
"As in Lincoln Prep?" Natasha questioned.
"Yes," Fury nodded gravely.
"That's where the kids go," Banner noted.
"Yes," Fury confirmed.
"Spit it out. What's the situation," Tony demanded agitatedly.
"It seems that Doom decided to attack the school. There are no reports of deaths and only slight injuries. It seems that Doom took a fairly nonviolent method and filled the school with a gas of some sort that rendered those inside unconscious but uninjured."
"Philip and Amelia," Barton inquired.
"Not in the building."
"Why are we just now hearing about this?" Rogers clenched his fists as Barton resisted the urge to try and strangle the hologram. Natasha rested a steady hand against the archer's thigh.
"Doom placed a demand. He wants the Black Widow to comply some information from a target for him. Once the information is delivered, the children will be returned. According to his voicemail ransom note, he won't hurt them as long as he gets his information in the next three days."
"Who is the target?" Natasha asked. "Where do I deliver the information once I have it?"
"We do not negotiate with international criminals, Agent Romanov."
"They're our children, Director." Barton stated. "I don't care if he wants the goddamn sun. Collecting information is a simple mission that we've successfully completed countless times before. Give us what we need to know, or at least give us Doom's recording."
"It's not that simple. You can't just walk into his lair and hand over whatever information he requested, Agent Barton. It's SHIELD policy not to negotiate with international criminals." Fury reminded them. Barton growled, rhythmically clenching his fists and his jaw to relieve some of the anxiety and tension. "We want to send in a team."
"Fine. We will be on that team, Director." Natasha stated. There wasn't any room for argument in her tone. She was going to get her children back safe and sound one way or another regardless of SHIELD protocol.
"No, Agent Romanov. In this situation, the entire Avengers team is compromised. You cannot just attack Doom guns blazing."
"Like hell, we're compromised. They're our children. You can't stop us from going after them." Barton announced as he slammed his palms onto the table.
"If you don't want Widow to get the information and hand it over to Doom in exchange for Philip and Amelia and you don't want us to go get them, how do you expect us to get them back, Director?" Rogers posed the question in the most respectful way he could, though it was clear from his clipped tone that he was about a minute and a half away from saying fuck it and going to find his niece and nephew with or without a SHIELD-approved order.
"We would rather not cause an international incident," Fury stated.
"Doom kidnapped two teenagers from a private school in the New York area. He's practically begging for an international incident," Banner insisted.
"SHIELD wanted to update you on the status of your children's whereabouts. We will keep you updated as a team is compiled to extract them from Doom's unidentified location." Fury dictated as he ended the conversation and his hologram fizzled out of sight. Barton slammed his fists against the table again.
"Like hell, I'm going to sit here and do nothing. Stark, please tell me you have something," Barton begged.
"Working on it," the genius muttered as he flicked different pieces of information around the holographic screen. "Okay, first of all, DoomBots took them from the school at approximately 10:15 this morning."
"Son of a bitch," Natasha swore. "He waited four hours to tell us about this." She seethed as she contemplated the ways she could poke out the Director's other eye.
Tony continued. "Following the aircraft, it flew northwest. I would say Doom has a hideout somewhere in Canada."
"Ping the phones," Natasha stated.
"School doesn't allow them to carry the phones during the day. They have to remain in the lockers, remember?" Barton reminded her.
"You think Amelia, our technology-addicted thirteen-year-old, is going to relinquish her cell phone because a school official told her to? No that phone is on her person somewhere. I'm betting in the band of her knee socks or the shorts she wears under her skirt. Stark, ping the phone."
"Alright," he paused. His fingers adjusting images on the screen until he located two signals. "Okay, we've got Philip's phone still at the school. Amelia's phone, however, is picking up somewhere near Lake Nipigon in Windigo Bay Provincial Park. Let me pull up satellite images of the coordinates. JARVIS, hack into SHIELD. We need that recording left by Doom dated today in the last four hours."
Tony enlarged the images and sent them to the projector. Rogers tilted his head sideways as he analyzed the area surrounding the hideout. "It seems too simple," he noted. "Doom isn't stupid. It surprises me that he wouldn't check them for GPS. Are we sure it isn't a trap to get the two of you into one location?"
"He wants to use me to get information. I'll walk in the front door," Natasha decided. "If it's a trap, the four of you act as back up. If Doom wants information that badly, I'm going to need to talk to him about the target and the questions he wants answered. I doubt he gave enough information to SHIELD to be helpful. If it turns out he doesn't want information at all, I'm sure I can convince him that I would be of some beneficial use alive as opposed to dead. That should give you enough time to use the heat sensors in your suit to locate Philip and Amelia and get them the hell out of there."
"And then how do we get you out," Rogers asked.
"I'll figure it out," she murmured as she analyzed the layout.
"You'll figure it out," Barton parroted. "You'll figure it out. You're going to walk up to the front door of a crazy man's hideout like you're what? Showing up for tea? And then you're just going to wing it? Fuck that, Natasha. We need a better evacuation plan than that."
"We've succeeded with worse plans before," she reminded him grimly.
"I don't care. This is different."
"It is different," Natasha agreed. "Because that narcissistic asshole has our children. Your job is to get them out. My job is to distract him long enough not to call the DoomBots on them. Got it," she growled. Clearly, given her tone, it wasn't up for discussion. Rogers looked skeptical. Stark was engrossed in identifying all the information he could about the hideout and its layout.
"I don't like this," the archer grumbled. "I really don't like this." Everyone seemed to agree. Natasha slipped silently into her Black Widow façade and left to suit up. The others took her cue.
When she said she was going to walk up to the front door, she hadn't thought it would be an actual door. The comm in her ear buzzed to life as she looked at the doorbell. Natasha was definitely surprised, though her face definitely didn't show it.
"Is that a fucking doorbell," Stark asked, his voice clear through the comm link. "What the hell is his play?"
"I have visual," Barton announced from his perch high in a nearby tree.
Natasha mentally crossed her fingers for luck and rang the doorbell.
"Ah, Natasha Romanov, so glad of you to join me. Your team isn't going to join us?" Doom answered the door, sounding rather smug. He opened the door wide and let her into the odd building. It looked like an old factory had been gutted and turned into something that resembled a bachelor pad. It was a strange environment to say the least. "I've been having a conversation with your children." He continued as he ushered her into a large open space. "They're quite intelligent." She imperceptibly bristled as his comment.
Well that put a dent in the plan, she thought to herself. She didn't expect Doom to be keeping a personal eye on Philip and Amelia. She noted grimly that the far wall was lined with DoomBots and a few burly guards sat in a sparse kitchen. "They are," she agreed.
"Mom!" Philip shouted, clearly relieved to see her. His wrists were duck taped in his lap.
"Mommy!" Amelia called simultaneously. She sat next to Philip in a similar position.
"I'm a little disappointed you're by yourself," Doom noted. "I expected more of a small army. I upgraded the DoomBots for the occasion."
"The occasion," Natasha asked, her tone not giving anything away.
"I was under the impression, from past experience, that SHIELD doesn't negotiate with criminals."
"I'm not here with SHIELD."
"You're freelancing now then?" He asked. "Can I get you some tea?" She shook her head, declining politely. "First, Red Room, then a KGB operative before defecting to become a SHIELD agent." He listed her résumé. "The Black Widow," Doom stated. "My dear, you go through code names like some women go through handbags it seems. Though I've managed to track a few of them throughout your career." He seemed quite proud of himself.
"I have made a name for myself," she agreed. "I was bred to have a certain skill set. I'm sure you're obviously aware, which leads me to my question. Why am I here?"
"I need you to obtain information for me. You bring me the information. Your kids return to their posh little private school in Manhattan completely unharmed."
"Okay," Natasha accepted easily.
"Okay," he asked. He seemed a little stunned that the woman consented so readily. "Just like that? Well that takes the fun out of it. I had a spiel planned."
"And I'm sure it would have been a delightful speech, but really, I have no problem obtaining information for you. Just tell me what questions you need answered and by whom."
"SHIELD is still manufacturing weapons utilizing harnessed energy. I want to know what the status is on the creation of said weapons. I want the plans for their continued production as well as the scientific specifics behind their power."
"You want me to get you state secrets about weapons from Director Fury," Natasha clarified.
Her comm was busy with activity.
"Well this just went from bad to worse," Banner commented dryly.
"I don't have a shot. Repeat, I do not have a shot," Barton called.
"Okay, here's the play." Rogers announced. "Romanov, use the Widow Bite to incapacitate Doom. Get Philip and Amelia to a safe corner. Stark, focus on the DoomBots. I'll deal with the guards. Barton, find a way in; once you do, help with the bots. He said they're upgraded; watch out for whatever that means. Banner, unless it turns ugly, stay here." Everyone hummed their consent.
"That is correct," Doom nodded. "Are you sure I can't offer you a cup of tea?"
"No, thank you. Though if you get me a computer, I can get you the information you need in the next ten minutes."
"You're really as good as they say you are." He seemed impressed.
"The Red Room knows how to create master spies. Actually," she pretended to ponder. "Let me see if I can get you the appropriate information through my phone. My login is still active." She explained as she pretended to reach on her belt for a phone. Rogers called the signal, and she immediately sent a Widow Bite in Doom's direction. He was down for the count in seconds. Just as quickly she pulled a knife from a sheath in her belt and cut the duck tape binding the wrists of her children. "Take this. Only use if you absolutely have to." She pulled a gun from one of the holsters and thrust it into Philip's hand. "Go over there, and stay there." She pushed them in the direction of the door.
When the Widow Bite incapacitated Doom, Rogers burst through the door and immediately started fighting the guards who rushed to help their fallen leader. The DoomBots activated almost as quickly. Stark burst through one of the skylights and landed in such a way that positioned himself between the robots and his niece and nephew. Barton followed Rogers moments later. His bow already notched with an arrow. He picked off bot after bot. Natasha shot steadily at the robots as well.
Rogers corralled the incapacitated guards with Doom in an opposite corner before turning to help with the DoomBots. He watched as a robot that had just been pierced with one of Barton's arrows fell to the ground in a clatter of metal. When its eyes started flashing, Rogers tipped his head in curiosity. It took him all of about three seconds to put it together.
"They're set to blow once you take them down!" Rogers shouted frantically above the noise. "Once it's clear, light them up!" He took a rectangular kitchen table and tipped it on it side, pushing it towards Barton in a smooth move. Stark put his power into his thrusters and lifted out of the building as Rogers grabbed Natasha's upper arm and pulled her into a crouch behind his shield.
As soon as he caught the table, Barton pulled Philip and Amelia down behind it. "Stay down," he instructed. He popped his head up quickly, his fingers typing a quick code to include the exploding arrowhead. He watched as Stark jetted from the building, and the moment Natasha and Rogers were safely crouched behind the indestructible shield, he loosed the arrow towards the clump of DoomBots before ducking back down to cover his children with his body.
The explosion rocked the building. The back wall was on fire, and the DoomBots all seemed to be unresponsive. Barton looked at his children and sighed in relief. "You okay," he asked briefly. Philip and Amelia, both looking a little weary, nodded. "Let's go. Jet's outside."
Rogers uncoiled himself from behind the shield and glanced at the damage. "The Director isn't going to like this," he murmured to himself. Natasha stood up with a slight wince. "What," he asked. His eyes quickly scanned her body for any injuries. "You're bleeding."
"Shrapnel," she responded. "Nothing to worry about, Cap. Nice play. Let's get out of here." Rogers looked worried, but obediently led her out of the building.
"We need to get going. Now," Banner insisted. "SHIELD has agents on the way, and I'm pretty sure the Canadian police are going to beat them here. We just exploded a provincial park." Barton nodded, gave each of his kids a quick look over and a kiss on the forehead, and slid into the pilot seat. Natasha followed suit- making sure Philip and Amelia were physically unharmed before throwing on the harness and headset in the co-pilot's seat.
"Everyone okay," Stark asked as his faceplate retracted. The door to the jet closed behind him, and Barton lifted the jet off the ground before speeding back towards New York.
"Yeah," Philip affirmed as Rogers secured the seatbelt around the teenager's chest. Banner worked quickly next to him, getting Amelia fastened into her own chair. "We're good. Doom's a crazy lunatic." Stark laughed and agreed.
"Are you bleeding," Banner asked as he glanced down at Amelia's shirt.
"No," she responded. "I don't think so. Nothing touched me."
"Romanov," Rogers grumbled.
"Tasha," Barton asked, taking his eyes off the course for a second.
"I'm fine." He looked skeptically at her, but said nothing more. With the new jet, the trip home was quite short, no longer than an hour and a half.
They unloaded quickly. The elevator opened to reveal a very unhappy Director Fury. He glared at them through his one good eye. When his gaze landed on Natasha, his brow furrowed.
"Agent Romanov," he addressed.
"Yes sir." She wavered on her feet slightly. Barton took a second to really look at her. The right side of her suit, just above her hip and wrapping around from her back to front, was shredded. Her pale, bloodied skin peeked out through the material. He grimaced. She was obviously ignoring her wound in order to get her children back home safe and sound.
"Shit, Tasha." He murmured quietly as he stepped up next to her, ready to catch her in case she actually lost her footing.
"You're injured," the Director stated.
"It's nothing, sir." She countered, her voice strong despite her increasing lack of color.
"Agent Romanov, you need medical attention." She clenched her jaw at his statement, but continued to stand her ground.
"Was there something you needed, Director?" Her words were icy. She was still angry that he had kept the whereabouts of her children secret for as long as he had. Her stance was impeccable as she focused on glaring at the authoritative man ominously.
"You broke protocol."
"You didn't give us much of a choice, Director." Banner countered.
"We just rescued Philip and Amelia. Is now the best time to have this conversation?" Rogers asked. "I think it would be polite to give us all some time to process the day's events. Clearly, some of us need medical attention and whatnot. I think it would be more appropriate to debrief tomorrow." The unofficial team leader stepped forward as he professionally ushered the director back towards the elevator and out of the tower.
"Thanks, Cap," Barton said. His attention focused on his wife, who was looking exceptionally more pale than normal. "Tasha, we need to look at your side." She rolled her eyes, but didn't openly object.
"Am I needed," Banner asked as he knelt to look more closely at Natasha's wound.
"I think I got it, but I'll let you know if it's out of my capability, Doc." Barton smiled as he clapped Banner on the shoulder gratefully. "Come on, let's get you all downstairs."
"You're both okay, right?" Rogers checked, walking a few steps behind his niece and nephew. Both teenagers seemed to be exhausted, practically dead on their feet. They nodded and leaned into him as he wrapped a muscled arm around each of their shoulders. "Good. I'm glad you're both home safely. If you need anything, you know where to find me." He smiled softly. Banner and Stark followed behind the group, hugging each teenager in turn before the elevator appeared.
"No more lunatics," Stark called out as the elevator doors started to close.
"Doesn't that generalization include you," Philip retorted with a tired smirk. Stark laughed loudly. "How you doin', Mom?"
"I'm okay," she insisted.
"You don't look so good." Amelia pointed out gently.
"Really, all of you stop fretting. I'm fine. You're both home safely. That's what's important. I'm thinking we all take tomorrow off," she decided.
"I second that. We're all playing hooky," Clint decided.
"Cool, I don't have to do my chemistry homework." Philip smiled, nodding his head.
"Does that mean I get to stay up late," Amelia asked hopefully.
"Sure," Clint agreed. He knew just by looking at his daughter that as soon as she ate something and took a shower, she would be fast asleep. He bargained it would likely be the same case for Philip. "How about some macaroni and cheese?" Both kids smiled tiredly as they shuffled out of the elevator towards the suite door.
As the door closed behind them, Natasha felt her Black Widow façade starting to slip. Her emotions made themselves known and she felt the overwhelming desire to wrap her children in a tight hug and never let go. The pain hit her next. Clenching her jaw and pushing the pain from her mind, she pulled Amelia into a hug, wrapping her arms around the girl's shoulders. Amelia sighed contentedly and tucked her head against Natasha's chest. Her mother stroked her hair softly as she pressed a kiss to her temple.
"Я тебя люблю так много." Natasha whispered; her words muffled by Amelia's curls.
"I love you too, Mommy." The agent ignored the sharp pain as Amelia tightened her arms briefly before letting go. "I'm going to take a shower before food."
Natasha nodded and smiled sadly as Philip shuffled off to the corner. She opened her arms and her son rushed to her. He wrapped his arms tightly around her neck, as he was already taller than she was. She rubbed his back, holding him close. "You were so brave," she murmured in his ear. "You did such a good job."
"I was scared," he admitted softly, tightening his hug.
"It's okay to be scared."
"You're never scared," Philip countered.
"That's not true." She pulled back and held him at arm's length. "That's not true at all. Fury called and told us you and your sister were missing, and I have never been more scared in my life."
"You didn't look scared."
"I've had a lot of practice," she responded sadly. He nodded. "Whether you were scared or not, you were brave, and that's what matters. You're home now, and you're safe." He nodded again. "I love you."
Philip smiled and nodded, yet again. "I love you too." He finally stepped away and walked to his room to take a shower.
When his door closed, Natasha leaned against the closest wall, breathing heavily. With the adrenalin of the mission wearing off, her Black Widow façade placed neatly in storage, and the events of the day washing over her, she distinctly felt the pain radiating in her side. She braced herself against the wall and focused on her breathing. In and out, she repeated silently. Pain is mental. Focus on the task and the pain will subside.
"Tasha," Clint called from the kitchen. When he got no response, he walked back to the foyer and was immediately at her side. "Tasha," he asked worriedly.
"Okay," she conceded. "I may need some help." Clint nodded briskly. He gently lifted her off her feet and carried her back to the master bedroom to remove the imbedded shrapnel and stitch her up before they all sat down as a family and enjoyed some macaroni and cheese.