Emma was sitting on Thor's shoulders as he did squats, laughing at the look on Jane's face. Not only was Emma bearing down on him with her weight, he was holding a barbell, and he was doing biceps curls like there was no tomorrow.
"How-" Jane said, then cut herself off and shoved a knuckle into her mouth, staring Thor up and down. Even Bucky looked a little uncomfortable at the ease with which Thor did both of these things, his laughter booming through the gym with Emma's all the same.
"That's gotta make for some amazing sex," Darcy said frankly, and Jane smacked her arm with the hand that wasn't occupied with getting a finger gnawed off, not taking her eyes off Thor.
"Hey Thor, c'mon, sparr with me!" Emma said, grabbing his cheeks and tilting his head up. His long, flowy hair had been braided into a tight bun with some braids to go along with, a hair-do deemed 'work-out worthy' by Sif, and anything Sif deemed worthy, Emma deemed worthy. Thor found great amusement in this.
"I do not wish to harm you, young one," he said solemnly, despite his face being squished in her hands.
"It's fine, my bones can heal as fast as in two hours!" Emma said cheerfully. Thor dropped the barbell with a loud clanging onto the gym floor, grabbing Emma around the waist and hoisting her onto the floor.
"Just because you have bones to break, does not mean you have to," Thor said equally solemnly, and Emma pouted, turning around to face Bucky.
"Sparr with me!" she demanded, and Bucky snorted.
"You sure you wanna do that?" he asked pointedly, noticing the trembling of her hands. She's been too hyped all morning, in his opinion, and her parents hadn't noticed. They were very perceptive, but Emma was a good liar, and if she was really not in the mood for talking about something, she would disguise it with a happy mood and a smile.
"Yeah, yeah, sure, c'mon!" Emma exclaimed, bouncing on the balls of her feet. Bucky sighed, and shrugged. If what she needed to get some of that nervous energy out through a sparring session, why shouldn't he take the brunt of her blows? He was a nice guy, occassionally. He could do this for her.
Slipping out of his hoodie and his socks, he put them on the edge of the mats just as Emma flipped her way onto them, slipping into a handstand effortlessly, and tipping over into a bridge before standing up.
They stood facing each other, the backs of their hands touching in the air, and Emma gave him a quick grin before she tried to flip him like a pancake.
Their sparring lasted for a full ten minutes before Bucky managed to press Emma into the mats, her arms immobilized. Emma was giggling, a high-pitched, weird little noise that made Bucky flip her over on her stomach to keep her from laughing in his face.
"You gonna tell me what's wrong now?" he asked, sitting on her, and effectively making her stay put.
"Nothing's wrong," Emma argued, wriggling underneath him. Goddamn, but she was strong. He seriously felt himself being rocked a little bit backwards by the wiggling, and he was, what, 220 pounds of muscle and metal?
"Something is obviously wrong," Bucky pointed out before she gave such a ferocious wiggle that she flipped him over and elbowed him sharply in the ribs as she did, quickly righting herself and getting off the floor.
He was on his feet again in a second, loving that sparring with her was such a challenge.
"Just had a weird dream last night, is all," Emma said, dodging his kick and staying out of his range. "I dreamt I was married to Damian, and there were a bunch of kids and it just stressed me the hell out." Bucky couldn't help himself; he laughed a little, and Emma got in a punch on his knee, where she knew he'd been hurt last time they'd been out fighting monsters.
"You're imagining your future," he teased.
"I'm never having kids," Emma declared, and did a beautiful backflip to get away from his punch.
"Hey, Em, you've got a visitor!" Darcy yelled over the gym, and Emma stayed in position just long enough for Bucky to grab her and twist her down on the ground again.
"Using your girlfriend as bait? You sneaky fucker," Emma laughed breathlessly.
"No, you seriously have a visitor," Bucky said, looking over at Darcy and the man in a suit next to her. Jane and Thor must've left during their sparr, understandably enough. Emma turned to look too, and tapped out on the mat. Bucky let her go, and she sprang to her feet, skipping over to Agent Coulson.
"Ouch," Darcy was saying just as Emma approached. "That hurt. You need to get laid, Phil."
"Please, Ms. Lewis," Coulson said mildly, giving Darcy a look that he usually reserved for Tony on his most annoying days. Darcy shrugged shamelessly.
"Just saying," she sing-songed when Emma slowed to a stop in front of the two. "Here's your package."
"Hey, I'm no package," Emma pouted.
"No, but you sure need to unload," Bucky called distantly from the other side of the room, and Darcy burst out laughing.
"This is why I love you. The puns," she grinned, and Bucky looked up from where he was putting his socks back on, eyes a little wide. Darcy winked at him, and walked out of the gym, and Emma pouted up at Coulson.
"Sup, Agent?" she asked.
"We need to have words," Coulson said, and Emma blinked up at him.
"What? What did I do?" she asked incredulously.
"Let's go upstairs," he said instead of answering her question, and shooed her into the elevator with that look of his. He was silent throughout the entire elevator ride, and it was actually making Emma a little anxious by the time they reached the kitchen. "Sit," he demanded, pointing to a chair by the kitchen table, and despite herself, Emma sat down.
Coulson pulled out a chair of his own, and sat down, and now Emma was really nervous. Why was Coulson here? Clint and Natasha weren't on a mission, so it couldn't be about them. Jane and Thor couldn't possibly have gotten into trouble in the last half hour, and they'd just seen Bucky and Darcy. So the question remained: what the hell was going on?
She decided to brave the silent abyss between them, and cleared her throat.
"So, you wanted to talk to me?" Emma asked, looking up into Coulson's eyes.
"I just wanted to see the one who's silently and secretly trying to break the Avengers apart by leaving adoption pamphlets everywhere," Coulson said calmly, and Emma gaped.
"I resent that implication. I'm not ripping anyone apart!"
"You left a pamphlet in Tony's lab. He thought it was Steve who had, and panicked. You left one in Bruce's lab, he thought Dr. Ross had put it there, and nearly hulked out. Thor found one, and called Jane asking how many children they could adopt. And Clint called me last night, in a tizzy about if I'd heard Natasha talk about having another child. They're running in circles and it's making them inefficient and careless and touchy."
"I'm just nudging," Emma said defensively.
Coulson sighed deeply in reply, and leaned back a little in his seat, correcting his tie. It was red, and had tiny birds on it, and Emma had a niggling suspicion Clint had gotten it for him.
"Do you know how long I've known your parents?" he asked patiently. Emma raised an eyebrow at the segue, but shook her head.
"A long time, probably."
"I've known Agent Barton for over thirteen years, Agent Romanov for nearly twelve. I have had dozens and dozens of psych-evals done on them, sat by their hospital beds when they've nearly gotten themselves killed, when they've walked on broken bones just because they can. I know them very very well, and I can tell you with certainty that there is no way you're getting a sibling."
Emma gaped at him.
"People change their minds all the time!" she sputtered. "Just because they didn't want kids when some fancy shrink got their mitts on them-"
"Oh, no. That's not it at all. Barton has an uncanny ability to fall in love with kids and/or animals and bring them home for protection. Even Natasha has some sort of fondness for kids, always distant but wanting to be better, striving, even. No, the reason you're not getting a sibling is because you've set the bar too high."
"What?!" Emma exclaimed. "No way! How could I have set the bar too high?"
"You are an amazing child. Exceptional capacity for learning, adapting, and despite your not entirely sane disposition, you're compatible with everyone on the Avengers team. You see past the hero-worship and you can put them on their knees if needed. You're too special. You've given the supposed new kid impossible standards, and despite themselves, the agents won't be able to deal with a child that won't adapt as fast as you did. You've been in the foster system. Tell me, how many kids there would jump for joy at being forced into another huge family and it's complicated patterns?"
Emma stared down at her feet for a few moments, and then she cracked her toes against the tiled floor.
"I just wanted a sibling," she muttered. To her surprise, Coulson let out a chuckle from his usually tense lips.
"Your family is one of the bigger ones I've seen, and it's going to be expanding soon. Maybe you should look at what you have rather than what you want."
"What do you mean, expanding soon?" Emma asked. Coulson just kind of stared at her, and she let out a gasp. "Is someone pregnant? Did the pamphlets work?"
Coulson stood up, sliding the chair back into it's place, and smiled at her.
"Please stop trying to coax your parents into having another child. The outcome won't be like you want it to be, and the world needs them half-sane and ready to do anything to save the world. If they're distracted by things like these, it could compromise them. Are we clear?"
Emma stared at him thoughtfully for a while, and then she cracked a grin.
"Y'know, you're sorta like my grandpa," she decided. Coulson exhaled heavily through his nose.
"I'm going to take that as a yes. Tell your parents I'll be expecting them at the office tomorrow," he said as a way of goodbye, and took off for the elevator.
"See you at dinner tomorrow, gramps!" Emma called after him with a grin. Coulson didn't even dignify that with an answer, just disappeared. Emma laughed, and there was a burst of wind, and then Pietro was standing next to her. Emma jumped. "Christ, how have we not put a bell on you yet?"
"You forget about stairs, and think that since elevator didn't ding, I'm somewhere else," Pietro said smugly, grabbing a whole box of poptars from the cupboard.
"Hands off that one," Emma said, standing up from the kitchen table and pulling the box out of his hands. She held it up to his face, and Pietro squinted at the box. "Do you see these letters in large red marker?"
"Thor," Pietro read, a tiny frown on his face. "He won't notice."
"Oh, dearest, sweetest, darlingest Pietro. Thor is very serious about his poptarts," Emma said gravelly, and put the box back on the shelf. "Hey, wanna raid Steve and Tony's place for Lucky charms?"
"And crawl in vents?" Pietro asked skeptically. Emma nodded brightly, and then Pietro disappeared in a wind gust. He returned, seconds later, crunching on Lucky charms, and Emma pouted.
"You take all the fun out of cereal hunting," she huffed, but poured them each a bowl. Then she handed the box back to him, and Pietro was gone in a swoosh of air again. Sighing, she sat down by the kitchen island, and began eating her cereal as she scrolled the news outlets.
She didn't get to be all alone in the kitchen for more than a few minutes, when Tony appeared in a greasy tank top and with an equally greasy Peter on his hip.
Peter was a curious toddler nowadays, waddling places he wasn't allowed to waddle, climbing the kid's gate to his room and making his dads crazy with worry. A bundle of energy, the toddler was always thrilled to ride on Pietro's shoulders as he ran, or play with Thor in the air, or climbing the padded walls Tony had added so he wouldn't ruin his knees already. And hell if he wasn't cute enough to get away with all of these things.
"Why not?" Peter was asking his father curiously just as Tony walked out of the elevator, barefoot and a little scruffy. Steve was probably busy doing something heroic and important if he hadn't pulled Tony away from his work long enough to clean him up.
"Because your pop doesn't like it when I bring you down to the workshop, but you love the workshop, don't you, Pete?"
"Yeah! N' Dummy n' You n' Butterfingers," he giggled sweetly, and then Tony looked up and saw her. He froze in his tracks like a deer in headlights, and Peter beamed at her. "Ma!"
"Hi, Pete," Emma said amusedly. "Have fun in mama's workshop?"
"Yeah!" he said happily, stretching his arms out towards her from Tony's arms.
"Ugh, Pete, baby, we need to work on your secrecy skills," he groaned, but when Emma wiggled her fingers in a 'gimme' motion, he set Peter down on the floor so he could run over to his favorite cousin/sister.
"Ooouf, you're getting heavy, Petey-pie. Soon I won't be able to pick you up," Emma groaned theatrically as she settled the toddler on her knee.
"Nuh-uh!" Peter said, sounding as offended as a small child like him had the capability to be. "'Cause you're super strong! You can always pick me up!"
Emma laughed as Tony got himself a cup of coffee and set about making Peter a snack.
"But what if you get, like, taller than Thor! Then I won't be able to pick you up," she pointed out, poking him lovingly on his cute little button nose. Peter gave her a surprised look.
"I can't gets taller than Thor," Peter told her dismissively, and Tony snorted.
"Pete, you can be whatever you want. If you wanna be taller than Thor, then that's exactly what you're gonna be," he said, giving his son's soft brown hair a kiss before picking him up. Tony set Peter down on his own chair by the table with it's little booster seat, and brought him a plastic glass of milk and an apple and a sandwich.
Emma watched Tony dote on his son before he even considered getting himself some food, and smiled to herself. He'd been worried, she knew, that he'd be a horrible dad. Terrified, even. But here he was, doting and loving and cherishing, and she knew it wouldn't always be that way, because Tony was still Tony, still a little messed up and not the greatest at remembering dates and important things, but he would try his hardest to be the best. He would.
When Emma's cereal was done, she put the bowl in the dishwasher, and looked up at the chart to see whose turn it would be to unload it later. The chart proved it was Wanda's turn, and that was always the greatest, because Bruce would be here with a clipboard and Wanda would make flicking motions with her fingers as red light stacked plates and put the utensils in the right place. Like a light show.
Just as Emma thought that, the elevatorbell dinged again, and Wanda and Bucky exited the elevator, giving each other weird looks.
"What's the matter now?" Emma asked suspiciously as Bucky's look snapped away from looking at Wanda disgustedly.
"Wanda's a morbid bastard, is what's the matter," Bucky said, shaking his head, and Emma's eyebrows rose.
"Okay, honestly, Wanda, what has dad said about thought-sharing?" she said, putting her hands on her hips.
"It's not intentional," Wanda snapped, retreating into her burgundy sweater like an angry turtle, teeth flashing in an angry grin at Bucky, who looked as neutral as ever.
"Just... Stop poking at me, alright? I'm old and fragile," Bucky said in a total deadpan before he made his way over to the fridge. That turned the grin into a shocked little smile, and damn it, Emma loved Bucky more than anything in this world.
Wanda backed up until she was pressed against the wall next to the elevator, and sank down on the floor, curling her arms around her knees and giving Emma another small smile.
"You and your feelings," she said, making a sweeping motion with her hand. "Like a shock wave."
"Really?" Emma laughed, walking up behind Bucky, who was getting some eggs out. "Cool. Bucky, hug me."
Without really recognizing her request verbally, Bucky held his elbow up so that she could sneak her arms around his middle and press her face into his pecs. She gave him a squeeze, and felt that overwhelming love again when he gently squeezed back, and Wanda made a noise that was a mix between an 'ugh' and an 'ack'.
"It's alarming," Wanda said. "You're so loud." Emma cackled happily when Bucky lifted her and hoisted her up over his shoulder, making her face swing just above his perky butt.
"She's always been loud," Bucky said, jostling her when he turned to make himself an omelette. "Always, always, always. I don't even think she knows how to whisper."
"I totally do!" Emma squeaked indignantly, proving Bucky's point with her volume.
"See that? Uncontrollable," Bucky tsked as Emma wiggled until she was off his shoulders and standing comfortably in a handstand.
"Mean," she said as she walked away from him on her hands, and Tony laughed, along with Peter.
"How is this my life," Tony asked nobody in particular, and Emma slipped into a bridge and then standing again, beaming at him from behind the kitchen island as the hissing from the omelette hitting the hot pan came from behind her.
"Hey, buddy, you were the guy who was all like, 'hey, Avengers, don't you wanna live with me since I'm so awesome?'" Emma said in a poor imitation of his voice, and Peter laughed through the apple slice he had in his mouth as Tony's face took on a mock-hurt shape.
"How dare you. I pay your bills, young lady!" he said, but didn't get much further, because Wanda had stood up and started making her way over to elevator. "Hey, Wanda, what've you eaten today?"
"Who are you to talk?" she shot back, but then she and Tony locked gazes, and she sighed. "Not much."
"Grab an omelette," he said, his voice all parent-y and firm. Wanda stood still for a moment, contemplating, weighing the chances she had of getting away with not eating, when Bucky flipped the finished omelette onto a plate, grabbed a fork, and shoved the plate into Wanda's hands.
"Eat," he said firmly, and Wanda's eyes were big and brown and emotional for a few seconds, and then she dashed into the living room, omelette and all, fleeing their prying eyes.
"You're so sweet," Emma said lovingly to Bucky, who just pulled out a few more eggs from the fridge, and began making another omelette.
"Her skinny elbows poke me when she sits next to me on the couch, this is me being selfish," Bucky said dismissively, and Emma smiled secretively, leaning against the kitchen island again, happy to be in such good company when Jarvis interrupted their calm.
"Sir, there's a woman downstairs demanding that she gets to see her granddaughter," he announced.
"And this concerns me, why, exactly? I thought I had secretaries to deflect the crazies. I thought Lewis was one of them!" Tony stated as he sipped his coffee.
"The woman says her name is Anne Darkholme," Jarvis said. Emma tensed, eyes snapping up to look at Bucky in panic. "She claims her granddaughter is Ms. Emma, and since Ms. Emma doesn't have the clearance needed grant people access to the living quarters, I thought I should bring the query to you."
"Holy fuck," Emma said quietly, grabbing hold of the countertop and nearly cracking the stone it was made of. Tony turned his brown eyes at her, and raised an eyebrow.
"Whoah. Your real last name is Darkholme? Not nearly as scary as I thought it would be," he decided.
"Jarvis, tell mom and dad to get down here," Emma said, breathing heavily.
A grandma. She had a grandma? That was impossible. Theodore and Beatrice had no family, that was why they could work as independently as they did. There was no way...
Emma's breathing was now more like dry heaving, and Bucky grabbed her face with both of his hands, angled it up to meet his eyes.
"Why now?" Emma asked him, and he thought about it for a moment before understanding crossed his features.
"You did the damn photoshoot," he said, and Emma grabbed hold of his real arm, breathing harshly.
Natasha and Clint came bursting in seconds later, both looking a little sleep rumpled and confused. Clint's hair was sticking up in one spot on his head, and Natasha's hair was still pulled back into the braid Emma had made yesterday, albeit now it was a little messier.
"Where's the fire, sweetheart?" Clint asked worriedly, striding forward with Natasha hot on his heels. "Jarvis said to get down here immediately."
"I have a grandma?" Emma said slowly, questioningly. Natasha brushed a strand of hair from Emma's face and stroked a hand down her shoulder.
"Yes, for your mother to have existed, you'd need a grandma," Clint agreed. "Again, where's the fire?"
"She's here," Emma said, grabbing hold of Bucky's arm again.
There was silence for a moment, as the agents processed that.
"Uh," Clint then said intelligently. "She's here? Right now? As in, here in the tower, here?"
"Jarvis, show me surveillance," Natasha demanded, and a holo-screen appeared in front of all of them.
The screen showed the face of a woman, maybe nearing her sixties, with dark hair cropped close to her shoulders, straight and sharp. Her face was heart-shaped, and her lips were thin, but then there was the nose, and Emma recognized that nose, she'd seen it in the mirror enough to recognize it, and the shape of her eyes was just like her's too, and she was definitely hyperventilating now.
"Okay, wow," Clint breathed as Bucky tugged Emma back against his chest. "That... Could definitely be your grandma."
Natasha's knuckles were resting on the stone surface, looking calm and collected, but the bottom had dropped out of her stomach as she stared at the woman, who looked stern and ready to fight her to get to see her grandchild, and Natasha suddenly remembered Bucky telling her how everything was going to go to shit soon.
That had been a week ago. Natasha had called him paranoid. Oh, how she wished she'd listened to him.