After HYDRA had broken into the tower and hurt innocent civilians that worked there, hurt their friends, it hadn't taken long at all for a decision to be made to move to the new facility that had been discussed only in vague terms before. Pepper had drawn up possible plans for converting the abandoned building into a training and operating location for SHIELD. She'd also included plans for a floor dedicated entirely to her family. Everyone was in such a hurry to move so that their friends and employees wouldn't be at risk anymore, they accepted the rough draft as is. As Tony liked to say...if the floor plan ended up being disagreeable, it wouldn't be beyond scope of possibility to design a new and different floor that met expectations and build it once they were already there.
Within a week of the attack, construction was begun. Within three weeks, enough had been finished that they could all pack up and move into the not yet completed remodel; the work had focused on family area first so that they could move as quickly as possible, though and the few things that hadn't been completed were items that were cosmetic. The family could work on that themselves.
Grant stepped off the elevator and looked around at the bland walls in need of paint, bare concrete floors and functional but not terribly exciting electrical fixtures. "Looks like we've got our work cut out for us..." He snorted, then glanced toward the parents. "Our stuff was moved here ahead of us...do we just go through rooms till we find it, or did someone have room assignments given to them so we can be directed the right way?" He smiled.
"We have a whole floor plan here." Steve checked it and then began directing everyone to where they would be staying.
Once the room assignments had been given out, Coulson and Fury began checking to see what needed to be taken care of that day. Once the family had had a chance to settle in, they could focus on what needed to be done.
May walked up to the two men. "I've checked the kitchen area out. I'm thinking that should be our first priority; there isn't a dining room table or chairs yet and I'd rather not eat standing up. Plus, we need to get groceries so we can cook instead of constantly doing take-out or delivery...."
Coulson nodded. "We should organise a group to go and buy groceries and take care of ordering a dining table and chairs to have delivered here, while the rest of us sort out a chore roster."
Pepper walked over. She'd taken the day off from work so she could move with everyone else. "I'm willing to go with someone to the furniture warehouse to order the dining tables and chairs. If we pay extra we might be able to convince them to do same day delivery...." She glanced around at the utilitarian fixtures. "The floors...we can likely buy some throw rugs to cover the concrete until we make a final decision on if we want carpeting or some type of parquet. Give us time to decide on how we want to decorate...."
May nodded. "I'd suggest you go with Thor. That way he can test the chairs out and make certain they will work for him and the other bigger guys...." She glanced at Coulson. "I'll go for the groceries if you want to assign a few of the kids to go with me...."
"That sounds good," Coulson replied. "I'll figure out a list of necessities... obviously, if there's anything else you can think of, the list can be added to."
"We might want paint as well," Fury added. "Even if we don't take care of it right away, it'll be good to have it ready for when we decide to."
Bucky had arrived by that point. "I did odd jobs on houses before joining the army... I can take care of paint and any other extras we might want to make the floor feel homier...."
Coulson nodded. "Then Bucky, Melinda, Pepper... if you take charge of buying those supplies, the rest of us will figure out how much work we need to do and get in contact if there's anything else we can think of." He began assigning 'kids' to each of the parents heading out.
Soon, the various groups were on their way to complete the assignments. Tony had gone to the other floors to be certain that work was being done correctly on the training and SHIELD office portions.
Later, everyone was sitting round a new dining table, talking good-naturedly and passing each other food items. Lance, who had gone on an excursion with his father and brother for paint, angled his chair towards Bobbi. "What did you all manage to figure out so far?"
"In regards to what?" Bobbi blinked. She had so many things she needed to get information about, she was lost as to which item Lance was asking about.
"Any of it," Lance replied. "Do we have a particular plan for tomorrow? What does your dad and uncle Nick think we should take care of first?"
"Your guess is as good as mine...maybe we should ask them?" Bobbi bit her lip. "Have...have you given any thought to what you want to do about us still being married?" This question was whispered, almost hesitant.
Lance hesitated. "You know, I'm not completely sure I want to dissolve it," he admitted quietly. "I know it didn't work out for us the first time, but things were a lot different back then."
"They were..." Bobbi agreed. "I... I think I've grown a lot in the last year and I know you have. I know a lot of the problems we had were because I felt I had to control everything...." She gave a chagrined smile. "I don't feel that way anymore and...and I don't think I want to dissolve things either...."
Lance grinned and nudged her gently. "It's not like we don't still have feelings for each other. And I know I contributed a lot to our problems too... but that was before I got a dad and a brother and sister. Before we gained a whole family."
"True." Bobbi's smile grew. "Wonder what they think of this..." She softly bumped her shoulder against him.
"I don't think anyone will be surprised," Lance admitted, laughing.
Bobbi laughed softly. "I'd be surprised if they were," she admitted.
Lance grinned at her and stole a bit of food from her plate.
Bucky leaned over as he was walking by. "You two better not be up to anything!" he teased.
"Who, us?" Lance gave his father an innocent look.
Next to him, his brother choked on a laugh.
"I'm a good girl, Uncle Bucky. I couldn't possibly be up to anything..." Bobbi's look was as innocent as she could make it.
Natasha snorted in disbelief. "You're too like the rest of us for anyone to believe that."
Bobbi laughed loudly at that.
Bucky smirked at his son and niece...or should he start looking at her as his daughter? It didn't look like they wanted to end the marriage, if what he'd overheard was any indication. It worried him a little; but not because he didn't like Lance with Bobbi. No. It worried him because he knew if it didn't work this time, both of them would hurt a lot more and the guilt would be stronger because the family would be hurting for them. He glanced toward Coulson. At the risk of being viewed as an interfering parent, he thought maybe he and the other man should talk and plan how to help their children if the two of them decided not to divorce again.
Coulson had also overheard his daughter and nephew speaking. He'd already considered the possibility that they would stay married, though he planned to support them as much as he could. He made eye contact with Bucky, aware of what the other man was probably thinking, and nodded.
Bucky smiled at Coulson before looking towards his own daughter to make certain she was eating enough. "You need a little more than that, sweetie...do you feel alright?"
Patsy nodded and gave a small smile. "I just haven't had much of an appetite recently." She left unsaid it was because she was still worried about what had happened and reached out to obediently put more food on her plate.
"Because of HYDRA?" Bucky asked quietly.
"It's... hard to relax and feel safe," Patsy admitted.
"I know...but we're even more secure now than we were before...they can't use innocent, untrained people to get to us either..." Bucky wrapped an arm around her and hugged.
Tony heard his uncle. "I've installed both Friday and Veronica in the building. Anyone trying to get in would have to take them both down at the same time- not easy to accomplish- because they have the ability to take intruders out and warn us."
Patsy nodded and leaned into her father, sighing quietly.
Steve gently squeezed Tony's shoulder. "We were prepared before, but we're even better prepared now," he said, his voice carrying to everyone round the table at large.
Pepper noticed how everyone visibly relaxed at the news. Even those who really didn't need to worry so much, such as Lorelei.
"I am glad..." Lorelei stated in visible relief. While she knew she could do her part to protect those who had become her family, she also knew that she was trying to turn over a new leaf and it was easier not to use her abilities than to fight herself on the right and wrong time to use them.
Odin smiled at his daughter, able to guess something of what was on her mind, and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "Everyone will be safe here," he stated, a note of relief in his voice. Most of his family were human and, while strong for Midgardians, he knew they were much frailer than he, Lorelei, Loki and Thor. To know everyone was as well protected as possible was a tremendous relief.
Loki nodded, an odd look on his face; not exactly worried, since he knew they'd done everything possible to protect their family while making it safer for those humans who weren't family but were employed by them, but still a little sad...almost haunted. "We are safe and the employees of Stark Industries are safer now that we no longer live above their workplace. It is the best we could hope for...."
"We're unlikely to have anything else happen, but I'm sure there are other safeguards in place," Fury added.
"I'm not scared..." Kara asserted strongly. The fact she snuggled closer to her father was an indication she was a little nervous, though.
Fury wrapped his arm around his daughter. "You don't need to be," he promised, though he had no problem providing the comfort.
"I like it better here," Wanda said. "It's better to be closer together I think."
"Closer together with a lot more space outside to enjoy...I always liked the mansion. The grounds here are just as vast and relaxing...." Grant smiled.
"Plenty of space to run." Pietro grinned.
"It will be different, sharing labs with SHIELD instead of having private labs...but not necessarily bad." Raina's voice was thoughtful.
"It will probably be helpful," Coulson commented.
"I for one think it will be very helpful." Bruce grinned.
Jemma nodded. "Less chance of family members losing track of time and staying locked in a lab for days at a time."
Peter grinned and nudged his brother. "Do you think that's aimed at us in particular?"
"Probably at any one of us who likes conducting experiments." Leo smiled.
Tony was eyeing his niece sideways. "It's been known to happen a few times..." he admitted sheepishly.
Steve smiled at his son. "Now we can make sure it happens less."
Matt wrinkled his nose. "I have to admit...I'm anxious to begin the decorating, if only to make it feel less like a concrete box and more like a home... but it's probably too late to start anything like painting now. And I've still got to memorize the floor plan so I can find everyone and everything...."
"I'll help you," Sam said to his son. "It probably won't take very long. There are considerably less floors to get used to than in the tower."
"I'll help too!" Karen told her brother cheerfully. "And it's not like you take forever to learn things. You'll probably remember better than me come tomorrow night...."
Matt laughed softly. "You aren't that forgetful, but thanks...."
Clint glanced around. "Now that there is just one big common family room instead of individual apartments, if either of you need some one on one parent time..." he looked at Pietro and Wanda, "my room is large enough that it has a tiny sitting area that we can retreat to...." He left unsaid that all the parents had slightly larger rooms with the tiny sitting areas. "Otherwise, I think we all have our own offices on the 'business' floors.
Coulson smiled at his children and grandchildren, but also included the rest of the family in his comment. "It probably goes without saying, but if anyone needs me for anything, even if I'm in my office, don't hesitate to come and disturb me. I'm sure I'd welcome any interruptions." While the words were joking, the tone was serious.
"Well...part of me wants to stay up late with everyone and play games and talk, but I unfortunately have an early morning meeting back at SI tower and since it will take me at least thirty minutes to get there using the nifty suit Tony is loaning me...I probably should go get some sleep now..." Pepper smiled and sighed, reluctantly standing to clean up her plate so she could go get ready for bed. The compound was at least three hours north of the tower, putting it closer to Xavier's school than to where they'd lived before. Using one of the suits would enable her to get to work much quicker than she would be able to by helicopter.
"Remind me to make you your own suit..." Tony said, as he kissed Pepper on the cheek. "Not that I don't want you using mine, but if it's specifically made for you, it will be more comfortable; and I can add in features unique to what you might want or need...."
"Let's get our home finished first...then you can make me transportation..." Pepper grinned impishly before kissing him back. She gave Harry a lingering hug and then hugged her father before waving at the rest of the family. "Night all...."
Steve hugged his daughter. "If you need me... if you need any of us... all you've got to do is call." He kissed her cheek before releasing her.
Drax moved a little closer to his son. "Is there anything you would like to do?" he asked, not sure if Peter would prefer to join the whole family or not. Left up to him, he would prefer it less crowded, but he would do whatever his son wanted.
Peter looked up at Drax and gave a crooked smile. "To be honest, I think I'd like to just get used to the new rooms...maybe plan on how I want to decorate." He didn't say that he was feeling the need for a little solitude; while Peter was normally very gregarious and loved to be in the middle of things... sometimes it was nice to just be alone, or just be with his father, since he often felt out of his depth with the other Terrans. He hadn't been on earth in a very long time, after all, and sometimes relearning how to live on Earth was overwhelming.
Drax nodded. "Perhaps we could decide on decorating the rooms together?" he suggested, a very faint note of relief in his voice that his son was currently preferring to be around less people.
"Make sure they complement each other?" Peter asked curiously. "I'm good with that...do you want to confer in your room or mine?"
"Where would you feel most comfortable?" Drax asked.
"Your room is bigger..." Peter wheedled. He didn't say Drax's bed was also bigger and as much as it pained him to admit it, he thought he'd rather stay with his father until things were more settled. He never had done very well sleeping in new places alone. It was one of the reason's he'd developed the reputation he had (and after catching that virus, he had no doubt he wasn't going to be allowed to deal with his nerves in his typical way).
"Is that where you would prefer?" Drax was fairly certain that was what his son meant, but he wanted to be certain.
Peter looked down at his feet and whispered almost bashfully, like an overgrown child, "Yessir...."
Drax nodded. "Then that is what we will do."
"Great!" Peter began bounding around Drax like an eager puppy, as he waited for the older man to lead the way.
Drax smiled and placed his hand on Peter's shoulder so he could lead his son to his room.
"So...big guy...what do you think about navy blue and stars on the ceiling?" Peter could be heard asking, as they walked away.
Trip huffed in amusement. "I think Peter might be missing space...as much as he is glad to be back on earth and able to learn about his home. Have they had any luck repairing their ship or making communication with their friends?"
"Not to the best of my knowledge," Fury answered. "We're not sure what it is they need for that kind of long-distance communication, though it's hoped their friends will be able to track them here."
"I guess it depends on how they ended up in this galaxy to begin with. The one they were in is not close to here; and from the sounds of it, they were in a battle, which is why they crashed. Since I know there was not a space battle over earth at the time of their crashing, their ship had to have travelled through a portal just before crashing. By the time their friends realized they needed to be tracked, the ability to do so may have been destroyed already..." Loki mused. "Perhaps father would be able to send a message somehow?" He glanced at Odin. "While we do not often deal with that galaxy- tend to avoid it- we do know some people there and are known ourselves...."
Odin nodded. "I will look into whether it is possible or not," he replied, aware of how difficult it was to be separated from family and close friends.
"Well, if it isn't possible to reach their family and friends from Andromeda Galaxy... they're always welcome to stay here. I'll see if I can't use some of my contacts and find out something for Peter about his earth family...." Ben said sagely.
"I'm sure that would be a big help," Coulson said with a smile.
"He only mentioned his grandfather when talking about his family here," Blake commented. "It could be that was the only family member he actually had. Or knew he had here on Earth."
"True. But if we have his mother's name and date of birth and death, maybe I can do some research for a family tree...find out his grandfather's name and other possible relatives." Ben seemed sure he could at least find out if there were any, instead of it remaining a question.
"I can help him remember if he doesn't," Wanda offered.
"Assuming he ever knew the information to remember..." Clint said quietly. "...Not everyone knows their extended family. If he thinks he might have known it at one time, though, I'm sure he would welcome your help in remembering." He reached over and hugged his daughter close.
"I'll ask him." Wanda nestled against her father, snuggling in close.
"Well...I guess the rest of us need to decide if we are going to congregate in the family foyer or retreat to our individual bedrooms...." Bucky glanced around to see what everyone else's preference seemed to be. As long as he was with his kids, or knew where his kids were at any rate, he was happy either way.
Coulson glanced at his children and grandchildren, not sure what they'd prefer to do and waiting for one or more of them to speak up, as he was happy to go either way.
"It's been quite a long day," Fury commented. "For tonight, it might be a good idea to retreat in our smaller family groups. Perhaps spend the evening all together tomorrow."
May nodded. "I agree with Nick. I still have quite a lot of unpacking to do and I know Hope and Skye do as well. I figure we can help each other unpack and then retreat to my room and watch some tv or read or something. Meet up with everyone else tomorrow...."
"We might want to make sure we get up early, too, so we can make a start on some of what needs to be done here," Steve commented.
"That goes without saying..." May gave a tiny grin.
"So...unpacking and then congregating in the 'rents' rooms?" Grant asked, glancing around.
Coulson smiled. "I think that's the plan."
"Let's go, then! There's a show on that I wanna watch in two hours..." Kara grinned impishly, grabbing her father's hand and tugging him in the direction of the main hall that would lead to the hall her family's rooms were in.
Fury smiled and allowed himself to be dragged along by his daughter, glancing at his sons to check if they were joining or not.
"Guess we have our orders..." Brock chuckled. "...See you all tomorrow!" He grinned as Trip waved at the family and then turned with him to follow their father and sibling.
Everyone else began to disperse, heading back to their respective family rooms.
Kara really didn't have much to unpack. Like most SHIELD agents who spent a large part of their life under cover and away from home, she'd never gathered any things. After she'd been taken and brainwashed, she had only what was needed for her to meet whatever objective she'd been given by Whitehall. She'd collected more possessions since Fury had adopted her, but only enough to fill a few small boxes. She'd finished unpacking within thirty minutes of starting and went looking for her father. She knocked on his door before pushing it open and peering around it hesitantly. "Daddy? My room looks like a barracks. Boring!" She frowned. "I don't know what to do to make it better, though."
Fury immediately waved her inside, patting the bed next to him to indicate she should sit down. "Would you like to decorate it in a particular way, perhaps?" he suggested.
"I don't know..." She sounded lost. "In the tower, everything was decorated when I got there and I never thought much about it. I don't even know my favorite color. I wouldn't know where to start," she said with a sigh.
Fury wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "You can take a look at the different paint that was bought and see if any of the colours speak to you. If not, we can go shopping."
Kara looked up at her father and gave a crooked, tiny smile. "Thanks, daddy...."
"You're welcome. I want you to be happy," Fury said seriously.
"So long as I can be near you, I'll be fine..." Kara's smile widened and she wrapped her own arms around her father and held tight. "I know my room's not far from you, but can I stay with you tonight anyway?" she whispered.
"Of course." Fury kissed the top of her head.
Kara snuggled closer, letting out a contented sigh. "Can I help you? I finished unpacking all my stuff already..." She didn't say that she didn't really have that much to unpack. Fury had always told her that if she wanted or needed anything to just let him know; she didn't want him to feel bad or think she'd been ignoring his wishes if he realized how little she actually had. For some reason, in the tower, it hadn't seemed like a little bit; but then once she'd returned all the items she'd borrowed from various people while packing, she realized she really didn't own that much at all.
"If you're sure there's nothing else you'd rather do, I'd welcome the help," Fury replied honestly; though, in actual fact, it was her company he'd welcome, rather than just the help.
"I'll help and then we can do something later!" Kara beamed. All she really wanted was to be with her father. If she could be helpful to him at the same time, that was all the better.
Fury smiled and nodded. "That sounds good to me," he agreed.
When Trip finally finished unpacking his things and putting them away, his room looked much more homey and personal. "All's I really need now is a throw-rug for the floor to keep the chill away..." he muttered to himself, before heading to check on his brother and sister. A quick knock on the door and glance in showed that Kara was not in her room, though it appeared she'd finished unpacking. He frowned at the lack of personal touch, realizing that all the things he'd seen in his sister's room before hadn't belonged to her like he'd assumed. He made a note to keep an eye on her and if she showed any interest in anything, he could get it for her. Next, he went to Brock's room and knocked on the door.
"Come in!" Brock called out.
Poking his head into his brother's room, Trip grinned. "Looks like you need a hand unpacking; you are apparently more of a pack-rat than our sister...." He laughed.
Brock gave his brother a curious look at the comment, but smiled. "Most of this stuff was in my apartment. Dad stored it when I went missing and showed up working for HYDRA. He retrieved it for me once he realized I had been brainwashed and adopted me... I really should pare down some of it....."
"Nah. Unless it's something that has no meaning for you any longer and you don't need it, may as well keep it. Helps the place seem less institutional...." Trip chuckled. "I was gonna go see if Dad needs any help- and I think Kara is already there. Want me to help you first and then we can go together?"
"Sure...I only have two boxes left, really, so it shouldn't take long." Brock smiled.
True to his word, the two brothers finished unpacking Brock's items within twenty minutes and walked over to their dad's room, knocking on the door.
"Come in." Fury had nearly finished his unpacking, with Kara's help, and had allowed his daughter a lot of input into where things could go. He'd also watched her closely, to see if she showed an interest in anything he had that he could then buy for her. Or take her shopping to get.
Brock opened the door and stepped into the room, closely followed by Trip. "Hey, dad. You two almost done? I thought maybe we could all watch a movie...."
Kara grinned at her brother's. "Almost done!" She then turned toward her father. "This is really cool...where'd you get it?" She stopped to stare at a tiny carving of a wolf that she'd unwrapped.
"Oh." Fury seemed almost hesitant, before saying, "I carved it while playing the long game of waiting while on an undercover mission." It had been quite long ago, before he'd lost his eye.
Kara's eyes widened and she perked up noticeably, her smile excited. "You carved it? Can you teach me?"
Fury couldn't help but smile at his daughter's enthusiasm. "I'm sure I can. Tomorrow, we'll go shopping for what we need."
"Thank you!" Kara couldn't help but wiggle in excitement and threw her arms around her father in a tight hug.
Trip chuckled. "I didn't know you were so interested in carving things, Kar-bear...."
"I love wooden carvings..." Kara admitted, then slanted her head. "I just remembered something I like!" She grinned.
"That's a good sign," Fury commented, hugging her tight in return. "If you'd like to, you can keep the carving," he offered.
"Thank you, daddy..." Kara's smile was grateful and wistful at the same time. "I know just where to put it!" She ran out of the room to her own room.
Trip blinked, then snorted quietly. "I know what we're getting for Christmas..." he teased impishly, his look fond as he stared at the door where his baby sister had disappeared.
Fury smiled at his sons, but looked a bit thoughtful. "I'm hoping she'll think of a way she'd like to decorate her room."
"Is it causing problems for her?" Brock asked worriedly.
"I think she's a little troubled about not having things for her," Fury replied. "Maybe we could all go shopping tomorrow and see if there are things either of you would like as well as her."
"It makes sense...she'd want to have a few possessions to feel like her room is really hers." Trip nodded. "I don't mind shopping."
"I don't mind either," Brock said.
"I imagine a lot of the morning is going to be taken up with painting and other jobs, but we could always go after lunch," Fury said.
"I'm good with that," Trip agreed, noting that Brock was nodding his own head in agreement.
Fury smiled. "Good. I can't imagine Kara would have a problem with it either."
By this time Kara was walking back into the room. "Problem with what?" She grinned brightly.
"Shopping tomorrow afternoon." Brock grinned back.
Kara bounced in place. "Yes! I mean...no! I don't have a problem with it."
Fury's own smile widened. "Then we'll go straight after lunch, unless any of you want to do something beforehand."
"I think getting the shopping done before we do anything else is probably better. Between painting, putting down rugs and or carpeting and possibly rearranging furniture...if we wait, we may end up feeling too tired to go out later." Trip laughed.
Fury nodded. "We'll do it that way."
"So...are we ready to watch TV now?" Kara asked curiously. "Should I change for bed first?"
Trip didn't even blink at the question, realizing that being in a new building that wasn't completely finished yet, on top of all the other upheaval of the last few weeks, had probably made his little sister need to be with their father more. "I'll go change...just in case I fall asleep...you probably should too, Kar-bear...."
"Yeah. I'll go get ready too. Be back here in five minutes?" Brock glanced toward his father, looking for confirmation.
Fury nodded. "I can get us some drinks and snacks too," he said.
"Can I have a soda?" Kara bounced some more, causing Trip to wonder if she was in one of her more 'immature' mindsets. Or maybe she'd already had one too many sodas.
Laughing softly, he shook his head and head out the door. "See you in five minutes." Brock had already gone back to his room to change.
Kara was still all frantic nervous energy. It wasn't that she was feeling particularly immature or needy, but until everything was more settled, she didn't know if she'd ever be able to relax. The thought of how close HYDRA had come to hurting her family had upset her more than she'd admitted to anyone, even her father. Although he likely already knew.
Fury wrapped his arm around his daughter's shoulders. "Why don't we stick with juice for now?" he suggested.
Kara slanted her head. "Okay, daddy. I'm gonna go get changed now..." She grinned, stood up on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek and then ran out of the room to go find her night-clothes.
Fury didn't take long to get changed and then he headed to the kitchen to collect drinks and snacks that he then took back to his room.
Bobbi glanced around her room. She'd unpacked everything and put it away. The room still looked rather plain. Not that she'd had much of anything but a plain room for a very long time, but still. She began making a mental checklist of what she'd like to do in the room as she went looking to see where the rest of her family was situated. Bobbi wasn't sure how she felt about the room assignments. Everyone was scattered around the family floor in what seemed a haphazard manner. She kind of liked being right next to her father. Then again, it was nice to have a little space between herself and her parent. She didn't like the conflicting feelings that she had, so decided to focus on something else. Knocking on her father's door, she waited for him to answer.
Coulson hadn't taken too long to unpack, although he did have a lot of personal items. A lot of what he had to put up were family photos and other personal items connected to his children and grandchildren. "Come in," he replied, hearing the knock.
Bobbi poked her head into the room before coming the rest of the way in and closing the door. She looked around at all the pictures and couldn't help but smile at the evidence of how much the family meant to her father. "It looks great, daddy..." she said quietly.
Coulson smiled warmly at his daughter. "I have other pictures, if you want any for your room as well." He wrapped his arm around her.
"I think I would..." She snuggled closer. "I never put pictures up before...but now that I'm actually decorating...I think I'd like to have them up."
Coulson kissed her cheek. "There are a few, in case any of the other family members want some as well."
"I'm sure we could make copies if needed, too..." Bobbi smiled, snuggling closer yet. "Was it your idea to put me next to Lance?" she asked out of nowhere.
Coulson wrapped both arms around her. "Are you not happy with where your room is?"
"I...I'm not sure?" Bobbi bit her lip. "I mean, I like being next to Lance...and across from Kara...I just...I kinda like being near you too...and the rest of the family" she admitted hesitantly. "It's not like I have to be right next to you to spend time with you...it's silly..." She sighed and blushed.
"I like being with you... all of you," Coulson replied seriously. "But we've tried to put everyone where they'll be as comfortable as possible. You and Lance are close. And there's nothing to stop you coming into my room whenever you want."
"I know, daddy....Like I said...I'm just being silly...a baby." Bobbi sighed again with a frown. "I guess...having HYDRA break in like they did...it unsettled us all a lot. Most of the time, I'm fine, but even though I actually like where you put me- am comfortable there- a tiny part of me got nervous when I realized there were five rooms between us." She gave him a chagrined smile. "Thing is, I probably would feel the same way if I was right next to you too, so...I'll just have suck it up. Be the adult I am...." She sounded like she wanted to be anything but adult at the moment.
"Why don't you stay in my room tonight?" Coulson suggested. "I know you're unsettled. I'd like to keep you close."
Bobbi bit her lip again. It was obvious she really wanted to. It was also obvious she felt like she should be able to handle things better than she was. "I...I'll be ok, Daddy.... I was just being a silly little girl..." she mumbled, blushing even more darkly.
Coulson kissed her cheek. "Don't ever force yourself to react any other way than how you need to," he whispered in her ear. "I love you."
"I love you too, daddy..." Bobbi snuggled closer. "...Just...what my heart wants and what my head says I should want are fighting with each other..." she huffed in amusement.
"Do whatever makes you feel better," Coulson said gently, tightening his embrace.
"I...so go with my heart?" she asked hesitantly. She wasn't certain that would make her feel better, to be honest. She'd be feeling like a failure because of giving in to her more childish need instead of acting like the grown-up she was supposed to be. But if she went with what she thought she should do, she knew she wouldn't get any sleep because she wanted to be with her daddy. She wrinkled her nose and fidgeted, beginning to get frustrated with herself.
"What do you want the most?" Coulson asked gently. "What do you need the most? There's nothing wrong with you, sweetie. There's nothing wrong with what you need. Don't force yourself to feel differently."
Bobbi bit her lip again, harder this time. It was so hard sometimes to know if what she wanted was what she needed...or vice-versa. Add in the fact that she wanted to appear like a competent adult agent and she didn't think she could be that if she was constantly running to her daddy...she didn't know what the answer to his question was. She faintly stomped her foot, bouncing slightly in place and let out an irritated little whine. "I dunno!" she finally said, unable to look her father in the eye.
"Come on." Coulson guided his daughter over to the bed and sat down, gently tugging her to sit on his lap so he could wrap his arms around her.
Bobbi wriggled a little before sighing and letting her head fall onto her father's shoulder. "Why do I always have to make things so complicated?" she complained in a whisper.
Coulson kissed her head. "You shouldn't feel ashamed of needing to be close to me."
"I'm..." She paused and thought about it. Was she ashamed at needing to be with her father? She thought she was only ashamed at not being able to handle things like an 'adult', but since the reason she thought she wasn't being adult was because she needed her father...maybe it was the same thing. She didn't want Coulson to think she was ashamed of needing him. Turning, she hid her face against Coulson's neck and sniffled, embarrassed to find herself crying. "I don't think I am..." she said hesitantly because now that he'd said that, she wasn't entirely sure why she was so against it.
"You feel like you shouldn't need it." Coulson stroked her hair gently. "You don't need to worry, sweetie. It doesn't mean you're weak to need your father in the way you do. Kara needs your uncle Nick in a very similar way. Is that bad?"
"No..." Bobbi said in a tiny voice. "...But she's been through a lot more than I have...." And there was her biggest problem. She did need her father, exactly the way Kara needed Fury; but she'd had a fairly stable life. Yeah, maybe she hadn't had parents for most of it, but the foster homes she'd been in had treated her well and she couldn't say she'd been in an abusive environment like so many of her cousins had been. She hadn't been neglected like so many of the others. So why she was so dependent on her own father instead of being able to stand on her own two feet, she didn't know. It was confusing. She shouldn't need him that way. Should she?
"It doesn't matter how much or how little you've been through," Coulson pointed out gently. "You didn't have me for a lot of your life. It's okay to need. I promise you're not the only one."
Bobbi sniffled again, hugging onto her father more tightly. "I do need you daddy..." she admitted softly. "I need to stay with you tonight...."
Coulson kissed her head and tightened his embrace. "Then that's exactly where you'll be," he promised.
"Sorry I'm so confused..." Bobbi whispered.
"You don't need to apologise, sweetie," Coulson said gently. "I'll be right here to help you figure everything out. I promise."
"Thank you, daddy..." Bobbi snuggled closer, going quiet.
Coulson tightened his embrace, stroking her hair gently.
Grant hadn't taken long to unpack. While he'd accumulated more possessions since returning back to his father, habits that had been drilled into him through pain and other means were hard to break. Getting attached to people and things was dangerous when a spy.
Still, he had enough to make his room look like his room. His and Copper's room. The dog had his own bed at the foot of Grant's bed for those rare times he didn't sleep on Grant's bed. He'd already given the animal food and water in the kitchen area.
"C'mon, boy!" He whistled for the animal to follow him and left the room, heading to and knocking on his father's door.
"Come in," Coulson replied, still cuddling Bobbi on his lap and not showing any inclination to let go of her.
Grant walked in slowly, noting Bobbi's position and demeanour. "You want a sleepover tonight, or do you need some one on one, Bobbi-sox?" he asked his sister in a friendly tone. He was feeling more stable than he had in a while and could manage being on his own tonight if Bobbi needed to be alone with their dad. At the same time, he was still getting used to Lorelei's presence in the family and felt safer near his father.
"A sleepover sounds good..." Bobbi said hesitantly, while looking at her father to gage his preference.
Coulson smiled at his son and daughter. "I'm perfectly happy to do a sleepover," he said, knowing his children knew how much he wanted to keep them close.
"Great! I know Clint has Wanda and Pietro with him and Nat's still getting to know Lincoln. Do you think Raina will want to join us?" Grant asked.
"We can ask her. I'm sure she'd like to be invited," Coulson said, leaving unsaid, 'even if she declines'.
"I'll go ask..." Grant smiled, quickly leaving to do that, leaving his baby sister still sitting on their father's lap.
Coulson tightened his arms around his daughter's waist and kissed the back of her head. "I love you."
"I love you too, daddy..." Bobbi whispered and snuggled back against Coulson.
Five minutes later, Grant was sticking his head back into the door. "Raina says she'll join us as soon as she changes into pyjamas. I'm going to go change into mine as well."
Bobbi blinked. "I guess I should too...."
Coulson nodded to acknowledge Grant's words and then addressed Bobbi. "You'll probably feel more comfortable that way."
Bobbi nodded, then reluctantly stood up from her father's lap. "I'll be right back, daddy..." She smiled, before heading back to her room to change.
Coulson took a few moments to change as well and then took out some of the photos he had left, so Bobbi could pick some; and Grant and Raina, if either of them wanted some family pictures.
Raina was the first to arrive back. "Good evening, Baba..." She smiled serenely, one of the few in the family apparently not phased by the events of the last several weeks.
Grant was the next to arrive and he gently pushed his middle sister further into the room, close enough for Coulson to hug if he wanted. He'd noticed Raina had a tendency to remain aloof. She'd accept hugs if the other person initiated them, though, and he had noticed her eyes while being hugged. They'd get a surprised, happy sheen to them.
Coulson smiled and stepped forward to hug his middle daughter tight. He knew Raina tended to hold herself aloof, but he had no intention of holding back with any of them. He wasn't ashamed of his children or how much he loved them.
There was barely a second's pause as Raina wrapped her own arms around Coulson and hugged back. While she may not have been accustomed to hugs when first being taken in, she'd quickly adjusted and, while not brave enough to initiate a hug herself, she loved to receive them. "Love you, Baba..." she whispered in his ear.
Coulson smiled and tightened his embrace, kissing her cheek. "I love you too. I'm glad you came for the sleepover," he whispered back.
"I am too." Raina smiled, before glancing at the door.
Bobbi had finally returned, wearing a pair of comfortable work-out pants and one of Coulson's old t-shirts that she had confiscated at one point. She grinned at her family. "What should we do first?" she asked quietly.
Coulson smiled at his children. "Why don't we play some cards?" he suggested, moving over to hug Grant... the only one of them in the room he hadn't hugged yet.
"That sounds great, dad." Grant smiled and hugged him back.
"I can get us some drinks and snacks," Coulson offered, smiling at each of them in turn.
"Would you like some help with that?" Bobbi asked, a small part of her reluctant to let her father out of her sight again.
"I'll get the cards..." Raina smiled.
Coulson nodded. "I'm sure I could use some help." He looked at Raina in acknowledgement, then headed to the kitchen to get the drinks and snacks, including food for Copper.
Peter linked arms with Harry. "Any ideas on what to do before bed?" he asked the family group as a whole.
Bruce smiled at his son and nephew then turned to look at his other son and his daughter. "I'm good with anything, you have ideas?"
Jemma smiled at her father then turned to look at her uncle, aunts, and grandfather. "Maybe we could meet in grandpa's room for a bit and tell stories. Get Aunt Jess caught up on family things...."
Steve smiled. "I like that idea, if everyone else is in agreement?" He glanced around at the others.
"Me too." Leo was quick to agree with his grandfather.
"Maybe we could get in a couple of rounds of twenty questions, too," Peter suggested. "That's always a fun game and we could change it to involve family events."
Jessica grinned crookedly. "Knowing more about my family sounds good..." she admitted, still surprised at how everyone had rallied around and welcomed her with open arms. "We could always do a kind of hybrid twenty questions. Someone asks a question and if anyone has to answer yes to it, they have to tell their story about it. If everyone answers no, then the next person asks...."
Peter grinned. "That sounds good to me. We can grab some drinks and snacks." He indicated himself and Harry.
"I'll help," Leo offered.
Tony grinned. "Is your room big enough for all this brood, dad? Should we bring sleeping bags in case some of us start to nod off before the nights done?"
Steve smiled. "It might be a bit of a tight fit, but I'm sure we'll manage. But sleeping bags will help."
"I'll go get ours and Harry's..." Pepper smiled.
"I'll go get mine and my brood's..." Bruce said.
"Jess can share the bed with you, unless she wants on the floor with the rest of us..." Tony grinned at his sister.
"No thank you...bed sounds much better than concrete..." Jessica laughed.
Steve headed into his room, collecting some of the spare blankets he had while everyone else was collecting snacks and drinks and their sleeping bags.
It hadn't taken long before all eight of Steve's children and grandchildren had returned with all the items and joined him in his room. They had all changed for bed at this point as well and it didn't take long for everything to be set up, everyone in place and ready for their question and story time.
"You go first, dad...ask a yes or no question and anyone who answers yes has to tell the story associated with that question and answer." Tony grinned.
Steve settled back comfortably, glancing around to make sure everyone else was situated comfortably as he considered his question. "Has anyone had to hide in a large body of water?"
The group looked around curiously. Jemma hesitantly cleared her throat as a majority began shaking their head no. "We weren't hiding, but we were at the bottom of the ocean and hidden. Not sure if that's what you meant, though. We didn't deliberately hide...."
"I did." Tony shrugged. "I hid at the bottom of the ocean when my Malibu house was blow up in the hopes they'd assume I was dead and not look for me. It gave me a little time to hunt them down."
"I remember hearing about that," Peter said, though he didn't add anything about the fact his uncle had outright dared the bad guys to come after him. Even outright giving his address.
"It was horrible..." Pepper shuddered, remembering the way she'd felt when she'd thought she'd lost Tony. They'd been having difficulties in their relationship at the time- she'd even planned to leave, though she hadn't told Tony that- and then he'd dared that terrorist to come get him and the house was blown up; and Tony had rescued her and Maya and she'd thought he'd died. She couldn't help sniffling at the memory, drawing an apologetically sad look from her fiancé.
"I...it was a spur of the moment decision. Like so many of my decisions at that time; didn't really think about what it would do to the people who loved me; only thought about how it would fool the people who had gone after Happy and let me get them.... It wasn't the best decision I've ever made, even if it turned out alright in the end..." Tony admitted quietly.
Steve reached over and gently squeezed Tony's knee. "I'd hope that, if there's a next time, you'd make a better decision." His voice wasn't scolding; only affectionate and loving.
"I'd hope I would as well. Pepper almost died because I just reacted to what happened to Happy without thinking things through...I have even more people I care about that I can lose now...if I did the same thing..." He shuddered.
"It doesn't seem like you would now, though," Leo said. "Not since Grandfather adopted you, I mean." He left unsaid how Steve would react to a repeat of that, even though everyone in the room knew how the family dealt with things.
"I don't think I would. But sometimes, even when I know better and want to do better...when my emotions get too volatile, I tend to react without thinking, unless I have someone with me to calm me down first...I'm a lot better at controlling my emotions than I used to be, though..." Tony's grin was crooked. "Knowing how your granddad would be disappointed if I didn't control myself better helps a lot too...."
Steve smiled at his son. "While that's good to know, it's true that you have come a long way compared to how you were when we first met. Even if there were conflicts at first, I can't imagine my life without you in it now." His eyes lingered on each of them in turn as he added, "Without any of you in it."
Jessica had been listening intently, a tiny frown on her face. "I...I remember watching the news when everyone thought you'd been blown up. I couldn't help thinking how brave, if stupid, you were for daring them to come at you head on, instead of going after the people you cared about. I didn't think about the people you cared about caring about you too and being upset though...." She gave Pepper, then her father, a sheepish smile.
Bruce grunted at that. "There were a lot of people who cared, that my brother likely didn't even realize would care. I lost three days and woke up in the middle of the Amazon after I saw the news report...." he admitted gruffly.
Tony's eyes widened at that. "Brucie...." His voice caught and he winced. "...Yeah. I...I didn't really believe a lot of people really cared that much at the time, even if I should have known.... It was pointed out to me afterwards, but even then...." He sighed.
"It was devastating," Steve commented quietly. "I only got word that you'd been blown up. I might not have officially been your father at that point, but it didn't stop me from caring about you." Of course, the sense of relief when he'd discovered Tony was alive had been overpowering; but not so much so that he hadn't followed through with what had become the family's official way of dealing with things.
"Yeah..." Tony swallowed. "...I remembered how you looked when you first saw me after everything went down and I was able to let everyone know I was still alive...."
Pepper was still in the hospital recuperating from having Extremis injected into her. Tony already had plans on how to improve on the serum, hopefully enabling him to be able to remove the shrapnel in his chest and eliminate the need for his own portable arc-reactor. If what had gone down had convinced him of one thing, it was that he needed to remove any vulnerabilities possible from his person so he was better able to protect those he loved and cared about. That was something to think about in another day or so, though, after he'd rested.
Pepper had sent him home, his cuts and bruises not bad enough to stay in the hospital, but bad enough to make him need antibiotics and other pain relieving drugs that made him tired. She'd been adamant he not stay, to be honest. Said that seeing him sleep in an uncomfortable hospital chair was doing nothing for her own nerves and she couldn't sleep unless she knew he was getting good rest. Luckily, since the last part of their ordeal had taken place on the east coast, Tony had one of his numerous apartments to retreat to... since he no longer had his home in Malibu. It was late at night- he'd stayed with Pepper until the last possible second- and he hadn't really been expecting to see someone sitting on the floor in front of the apartment door. He felt a second's panic before recognition kicked in and he stopped about ten feet away from the man. "Steve?" His voice caught in his throat; a mixture of surprise, gratitude (the man cared enough to come check on him?) and guilt (he'd obviously worried more than just Pepper if Steve was sitting in front of his apartment).
Steve stood as soon as he saw Tony approaching. The expression on his face was mostly relief, with a tiny hint of the anguish that he'd felt on hearing of Tony's 'death' showing through. He took a couple of steps closer to Tony, wanting to hug the other man, but not sure how it would be taken. "How badly are you hurt?" His eyes moved over Tony's body, trying to see for himself.
"I didn't break anything, although the doctor said I have a concussion. Mostly I have bruises, abrasions and cuts...a few burns...." Tony didn't attempt to hide any of his injuries. While he may have been tempted to, the look on the Captain's face had squashed any feelings he might have felt at trying to hide anything. The man deserved better than lies and he'd likely know if Tony didn't tell the truth anyway. As much as he didn't want to add to Steve's obvious worry, he wanted to add to the anguish he saw even less and lying would do that. "They have me on so many drugs, I was falling asleep so Pepper told me to come home and rest...." he said lamely, suddenly unable to face the other man and finding his feet very interesting. He shifted closer, unable to stop himself.
Steve reached out to wrap his arm around Tony's shoulders, drawing him in so he could hug him. He didn't start scolding, knowing Tony needed rest... likely food, too. "When was the last time you ate?" he asked softly.
"I ate a candy bar from the hospital vending machine about three hours ago. I know one of the nurses brought me a lunch about four hours before that..." Tony frowned. "I didn't have much of an appetite and haven't really thought of eating, to be honest...." He snuggled closer to the super-soldier, letting his head fall onto Steve's shoulder. He'd likely be embarrassed about it later, but at this moment? He needed to be held. He needed comfort from someone who hadn't almost died in front of his eyes and who he didn't have to be strong in front of. He blinked when he realized that his entire body was shaking, his frayed nerves finally making themselves known.
Steve tightened his embrace, able to feel the way Tony's body was shaking. It sent his worry rocketing even higher, but he stayed calm and in control as he said, "Okay, Tony. You're going to give me the key and I'm going to take you into the apartment, where you can sleep. And then, when you wake up, you'll eat. And then we'll be having a conversation."
Tony couldn't help the surprised jerk at Steve's last words, but he noticeably didn't pull away and obediently pulled his key out of his pocket and handed it to Steve. "Are you angry?" he couldn't help but ask uncertainly. After allowing everyone to think he was dead for several days, he wouldn't be surprised if everyone was angry at him.
"I'm relieved you're safe. It hurt when I thought you were dead." That was an understatement, but Steve didn't voice that, keeping in contact with Tony as he took the key and unlocked the door, guiding the other man inside.
"I'm sorry..." Tony swallowed. "...I never meant..." He didn't finish the words. Of course he never meant to hurt Steve. He never did mean to hurt anyone. It was just a common side effect of his tendency to act without thinking things through fully. He didn't fight, letting Steve lead him wherever the other man wanted. Even if he was inclined to argue- and he wasn't...Steve's obvious hurt at the situation and his own guilt wouldn't allow it; he was too tired to argue. So he followed obediently, going where Steve indicated he should.
"I know." Steve made sure the door was closed and then guided Tony through to the bedroom. "But we're not going to have this discussion right now. You're going to sleep. I won't leave," he promised. "I'll stay right by your side."
Tony swallowed hard at the firmness in Steve's tone, but nodded obediently. "Yes, sir..." he said, reassured by the Steve's promise to remain by him. Tony didn't even need to be told what to do. He immediately went to where he kept extra clothes and pulled out some pyjamas, beginning to change. He didn't even wait for Steve to leave the room, feeling safer with the man there, even if his presence while Tony changed meant that he'd see all the wounds Tony had received and would likely become even more upset. As soon as he'd changed, he'd turned toward Steve. "I have extra pyjamas if you want them... the shirt might be a bit snug, but the shorts are baggy on me, so they should still be comfortable for you..." he whispered, his eyes looking to the left and at the floor, unable to face the Captain because he was afraid he'd see nothing but disappointment in the man's gaze.
Steve didn't fail to notice the wounds covering Tony's body, but he didn't scold the other man, holding to his promise of not discussing it until Tony felt better. "Thanks, Tony. I appreciate it," he said, moving a bit closer.
"I...uh...the couch is really too short for you, but I've slept on it before and it's comfortable enough...so uh...you can have the bed. Just let me grab my pillow and a blanket..." Tony swallowed again, not really sure what to say.
"I'm not going to kick you out of the bed, Tony," Steve replied, grabbing the indicated pyjamas so he could change. "I'll stay close to you."
"Well...you won't fit on the couch and there isn't one in the bedroom anyway...and I wouldn't feel right for you to sleep on the floor..." Tony argued.
Steve nodded. "We can both use the bed," he suggested. It wasn't awkward or embarrassing for him. Even as an adult, he'd slept close to his brother, to Bucky, when there was a need to. And there was a need right now.
Tony thought he should protest...should insist Steve take the bed and go sleep on the couch after all...but he was too tired to fight. Too tired and filled with guilt and he wanted Steve to be happy. If keeping him close made Steve happy, sharing a bed it would be. "Yeah," he whispered. "Ok."
Steve placed his hand gently on Tony's shoulder to guide him over to the bed, second nature to help the other man to lie down and get comfortable.
For the first time in weeks, Tony fell asleep immediately...and didn't wake up. The feeling of safety he always felt with the captain warded off nightmares and worry that would usually keep him awake. He slept peacefully through the night.
When he woke the next morning, it was later than he'd expected. Steve had already made breakfast and they were able to eat as soon as he was dressed. He looked down at his empty plate with some surprise. "That's more than I've eaten in a long time..." he admitted softly.
"I think you needed it," Steve commented. "Let's go into the living room and talk." A more serious note crept into his voice.
Tony bit his lip, giving Steve a hesitant look. "Just talk, right?" he asked nervously. Steve had looked worried when he finally saw Tony the evening before- more than worried. The last time he'd had that look on his face, he'd stepped in in an unexpected way to take care of Tony and put him on a better path. Better footing. In the end, Tony had to admit he'd needed Steve taking care of him and giving him a new direction, but it hadn't been easy or painless. It definitely hadn't been painless. Tony swallowed hard.
"No, Tony." Steve moved over to wrap his arm around Tony's shoulders, remembering how the other man had run the last time and not wanting a repeat of that. "I'm going to spank you."
Tony wasn't sure what it said about him that he didn't argue. Once Steve's arm was around him, he'd immediately realized he wasn't going to be getting away. He didn't want to fight the captain, though; and some small part of him that he didn't want to acknowledge was telling him he really deserved what Steve was about to do; some large part of him that he didn't want to acknowledge. He swallowed again and looked at his feet, relaxing enough that Steve could guide him where he needed. "Sorry's not enough this time, huh?" he asked in a whisper.
Steve didn't speak until they were in the living room and he'd sat down, settling Tony next to him while still keeping in close physical contact with the other man. "Tony... you put yourself in serious danger. You dared a terrorist group to come after you. Then, when they did, you let everyone believe you were dead." A pained, haunted note slipped into his voice. He knew it was wrong to think of Tony as his; Tony was a full-grown man and hadn't indicated he wanted Steve to take on a parental role, but Steve couldn't help how he felt.
"My being dead was the only way they wouldn't target everyone I cared about..." Tony winced when his voice came out as a whine. He continued, though. "...I'd already put a target on Pepper by daring them like I had. If...If I hadn't been so upset about Happy and had actually stopped to think, she wouldn't have been in danger like that...I had to fix what I messed up..." he said, his voice catching as he looked up at Steve uncertainly. He'd been so sure he was doing the right thing when he was doing it; but after seeing how it had affected Steve and Pepper and pretty much everyone else, he wasn't so sure. It was all he could do to look the captain in the eye, his guilt was so strong by this point.
"You shouldn't have dared them to come after you in the first place," Steve said. "That was the first major wrong decision you made. Choosing to let everyone believe you were dead was the second. I can't fully explain to you how I felt when I thought you were dead, but I hope it's nothing you ever experience."
"I...I'm sorry I did that to you..." Tony said faintly. It still surprised him that there was someone other than Pepper, Happy or Rhodey that actually cared about him. Someone that would be hurt if something happened. "I...I didn't think about how it would affect everyone else. I didn't think at all..." he whispered. "...And I'm sorry...."
"I know," Steve replied. "I know you didn't think and I know you feel guilty now. But I'm afraid you're still due a spanking." He took a deep breath. "And I'm afraid it's going to be more severe this time."
Tony paled, stiffening slightly. It was a sign of how much he trusted Steve that he didn't begin fighting to get loose immediately, instead giving the man a chance to explain before reacting. "Wh..." He paused to swallow and blushed faintly at the fact his voice had come out high-pitched and cracking. Clearing his throat, he tried again. "What are you going to do?" he asked nervously.
Steve held Tony tight; not to try and keep him prisoner, but to try to offer at least some small measure of comfort. "I'm going to use my belt. There can't be a repeat of this. I know there was more than just me, Pepper, Happy, Rhodey affected... there are a lot of people who care deeply about you, even though I know you struggle to see that."
Tony couldn't stop himself from stiffening up further and he didn't even attempt to keep from whimpering at the words. "I...please, Cap...I'll be good! I'll think next time! I won't dare or antagonize terrorists into acting against me! Honest!" Tony was too worried about the punishment he was about to receive to be embarrassed about the fact his voice warbled and he sounded like a scared child.
"You acted without any thought for your own safety," Steve said seriously. "And then you acted without any thought to how much your loss would hurt... how damaged we all would be. I don't ever want to risk losing you, Tony." Try as he might not to make this about his feelings for the other man, Steve couldn't help but voice how important Tony was to him.
Tony couldn't say that he wasn't scared. He just didn't know why he was scared. As he'd mentioned to Steve the first time the captain had stepped in and corrected him, Howard's method of dealing with him had been to either yell or withdraw time spent. He'd not been spanked by anyone until Steve had spanked him for the pool incident. And he knew Steve would never harm him, no matter how much a spanking might hurt. So he didn't know why it frightened him so badly. It just did. He didn't tell Steve that he was frightened, though. Instead, he clamped his teeth together and tried to cooperate without argument. He'd scared the other man with his actions. He'd hurt him with his bad decisions. If Steve felt he deserved to be belted, then he did- plain and simple. Swallowing hard, he just nodded at Steve to show he understood and tried not to resist in any fashion.
Steve was worried and couldn't help wondering if he was doing the right thing. But now that he'd voiced what he was going to do, he didn't think he could go back on it. He held Tony close for a few more moments and then gently moved the other man across his lap.
Tony did his best to hold still and not pull away, letting Steve guide him where he wanted. He couldn't help but swallow again and take a quivery breath once he was facing the floor.
Steve rubbed his back gently and then proceeded to bare him.
This time, Tony knew he was whimpering, but he didn't care. He could only imagine how much worse a belt was going to feel on bare skin.
Steve rubbed Tony's back gently a few more moments, knowing how distressed he was, and then lifted his hand, bringing it down in the first firm swat.
Tony let out a very tiny yelp, but found himself relaxing minutely as he realized that Steve was beginning by using his hand. That wasn't too bad. It wasn't frightening to him at any rate. "I'm sorry..." he whispered again, his voice full of contrition.
"I know." Steve continued swatting as he spoke, going down to Tony's thighs before starting over from the top. "But you need to remember that you're not expendable; that no one wants to lose you."
"I'm trying to remember that...I am!" Tony couldn't help but begin to squirm. Even if Steve was just using his hand at the moment, it still hurt; and it didn't bode well for Tony's ability to hold still when he began to use the belt either.
Steve wrapped his arm around Tony's waist to hold him still and began a third circuit of swats, going a fraction harder and faster.
Tony's whimpers turned into full fledged crying and only Steve's tight grip prevented Tony from squirming right off his lap. By this time, Tony had given up trying to convince Steve he would be good and was just focusing on not completely falling apart and bawling like a baby. Steve was still using his hand, Tony knew he deserved every swat, and he didn't want to make the situation harder than it already was; he could be brave.
Steve stopped and moved his hand to begin gently rubbing Tony's lower back. He wasn't immune to the tears and again, he considered stopping the spanking there. But he'd said what he was going to do and, taking a deep breath, he began to remove his belt.
Tony had relaxed minutely when Steve began rubbing his back, but the minute he felt Steve moving to remove the belt, he was twice as tense as before. "Please..." He winced at the scared tone in his begging. He wasn't entirely sure why even the thought of the belt scared him so badly...he just knew it felt wrong; like Steve withdrawing from him. As much trouble as he gave the man, he wouldn't blame him if he withdrew, but the thought of it happening physically hurt.
Steve couldn't help his own wince at the scared note in Tony's voice. It felt wrong. He hadn't been sure of this, but now he was. Sure that using his belt wasn't the right move. So he didn't. Instead, he let it fall and moved Tony so he could hug the other man.
Tony shivered as he realized Steve had changed his mind, had heard him...and not just his words, but what he wasn't able to say. Letting out a tiny sob, Tony wrapped his arms around Steve as tightly as he was able and hid his face against the other man's chest. "..Sorry...sorry...be good...never do it 'gain..." he repeated over and over, making a promise to himself and his guardian that he would never let his family believe him dead when he wasn't ever again. He didn't promise not to ever take chances or act before thinking ever again; he knew himself well enough to know that would be a promise broken, but he did promise, "...Try to do better...." Through all his promises and apologies, he hugged Steve tightly, not able to shake the fear that there was now a distance between them; though that fear had lessened with the dropping of the belt and Steve pulling him into his arms.
Steve tightened his embrace around Tony, hugging him as close as it was possible to. "I know," he soothed. "I've got you." He stroked Tony's hair and back, not so much as loosening his hold.
"You aren't leaving?" Tony's voice was smaller and needier than he would have liked, but since that had been his greatest fear- being separated...disconnected... from the man who had come to be family to him, Tony didn't try and mask or put on any affectations. It would be obvious to Steve why he'd been scared, but Tony couldn't hide the fact.
Steve tightened his embrace. "I'm not going to leave you, Tony," he promised. "I'm always going to be here. I want to be with you."
"Promise?" Tony pressed closer, his voice needy and shaky. "Even when I'm hard to handle?"
"Even then," Steve promised. "No matter what. I still want you."
Tony shivered a few more moments, pressing close and holding tight, but it was obvious Steve's words and affection were calming him. Soon, he was just quietly sitting on his guardian's lap, snuggling and only wincing and letting out an occasional sniffle when he shifted onto a particularly sore spot on his bottom. He didn't even bother to fix his clothing. Soon, his injuries (minor as they were) and the stress he'd been under caught up with him and he fell asleep in Steve's arms.
Steve held tight to Tony, a feeling of warm affection coming over him. Not only was he relieved Tony was safe... it was good, it felt good, to hold onto the other man. Maybe Tony wouldn't mind that Steve desperately wanted to be the father figure to him he could tell was desperately needed.
"Was that when you first knew you wanted to adopt Uncle Tony?" Jemma asked softly, her eyes wide and still a little shock in them. The family didn't tend to talk about punishments all that often and when they did, it was usually the more tame ones; where they'd got into trouble, but it wasn't really traumatic. The fact Tony had told one of the times where he'd been scared of what Steve was going to do? Was unusual. Of course, it had ended up turning out well, if it helped Uncle Tony realize that Grandpa knew him and knew what he needed without having to be told. Still...it had been a bit of a shock to hear.
Steve smiled. "I'd faced the very real reality without him in it. I knew I didn't want to experience that again, for real. I think that was when I realised just how deep my emotions ran, though."
"That was when I first realized that Dad...he didn't just care about my actions and teaching me to be better. He cared about me...loved me. I hadn't really been able to believe that deep down until I realized he was watching me, listening to me, paying attention...and he'd changed how he'd planned to discipline me because I was scared...." Tony's smile was crooked. "He never even asked me to explain why I was scared. Which...considering what I went through in Afghanistan, a belting seems a bit odd to be afraid of. But he didn't make me explain. He just knew I was scared and he changed his mind, because he cared more about me than he cared about how he would address my behavior."
"I didn't need to know why," Steve said honestly. "It was enough that you were scared and I wasn't going to push you when I could see that."
"I can understand why you would be..." Jessica shrugged faintly and gave a tiny smile.
"Would that ever be an option?" Harry asked quietly, clearly nervous at the prospect.
"I'm not inclined to think you'd ever be as thoughtless as I was to need something more...strict...but even if you did make as poor a decision as I did...I wouldn't do anything that frightened you. I couldn't, especially not after the example your grandpa gave to me...changing his plans when he saw how scared I was." Tony reached over and squeezed his son's shoulder gently.
"Okay." Harry visibly relaxed and slanted a little towards his father.
"Hey, even I've managed to curb my tendency to go off on my own... mostly... and you've never been as bad as me," Peter teased his cousin.
"Let's face it...the only one of us likely to do anything bad enough to deserve a belt would be me..." Jessica's smirk was sheepish. "...Sadly, while it wouldn't scare me..." Her eyes darted suspiciously as she deliberately left unsaid that she'd deliberately sought out people to 'punish' her with belts, whips and other items in her spiral downward after she escaped Kilgrave. "...I doubt it would have the intended effect either. If I'm right, the reason it scared Tony was because of how impersonal it was and it felt like a form of withdrawal or abandonment..." At Tony's nod, she continued, "...The fact a belt would seem impersonal and like a form of withdrawal would enable me to ignore it. Only reason spanking has worked at all is because of the fact it is personal and I can't ignore it. Pain...I actually...I tend to seek it out." She frowned as she realized just how much and what she'd just admitted to her family. If the worried and slightly horrified looks on a few of the more 'innocent' siblings' and cousins' faces were anything to go by, she'd probably be getting a request to start seeing a therapist like Tony and Grant did.
Steve moved closer to Jessica, so their sides were pressed together and he could wrap his arm around her shoulders. "That's actually not an unusual thing for someone to experience," he commented. "People tend to deal with emotional trauma in different ways. After Tony's reaction, though, I made the decision never to use an implement again. So any time one of you has to answer to me, it's not going to be anything less than personal," he promised.
Jemma wasn't as shocked as some of the younger members of the family, at her aunt's admission. She bit her lip and glanced at her grandfather. "I'm glad to hear that..." she said softly. Not that she expected to ever have her grandfather need to punish her, but it was a relief all the same. She knew her father would never use an implement either if only because of his own past. She looked back at Jessica again, "...and I'm glad Grandpa got you. So you don't have to go seeking out people to hurt you. That's just dangerous..." she winced. She hadn't meant to sound so 'naggy', but the thought of any of her family actively seeking out pain so that they could feel like they'd paid for whatever 'crimes' they thought they'd committed- it didn't sit well with her. She wasn't a child. She knew that some people viewed pain as a turn-on. But that hadn't been what Jessica described.
Jessica winced as well. "I know it's dangerous..." she admitted softly. "...That was pointed out to me by a friend not long before Dad got me...." She bit her lip. "...I haven't...you know...since...."
Steve tightened his arm around Jessica's shoulders and looked around at the other members of his family, including each of them in a reassuring gaze. "I know none of you think you need to hear it voiced, but you don't need to ever worry about coming to me, or one of the other parents, if you ever start feeling guilty or any other emotion you need help with. It doesn't matter how ashamed you feel, I can promise no one will judge you or think anything less of you."
"We don't need it voiced...but it's good to be reminded all the same..." Pepper smiled gently at her father before shifting closer to Harry and wrapping an arm around him, leaning over and kissing the top of his head. She cleared her throat. "So...who gets the next question?"
"Judging by the rules, I think it might be Tony's turn." Steve smiled at his son.
Tony smiled back, slanting his head thoughtfully. "Alright, who here has played a prank on someone that was 'in charge' and did you get away with it?"
Peter snorted softly and gave his father a chagrined look. "I didn't exactly get away with it..."
Bruce raised an eyebrow, but was smiling all the same.
Jemma wrinkled her nose. "How can you 'not exactly' get away with it? You either did or didn't..." She giggled.
"It didn't exactly go according to plan..." Peter admitted sheepishly.
Peter checked the mixture for the third time, feeling a mix of apprehension and excitement. He'd made sure the measurements were exact; enough to show the effect he wanted to his father without causing the power to cut, his dad to Hulk out, or anything else out of the hundred and one things that could possibly go wrong.
Bruce had been working in his own lab for most of the afternoon and, glancing at his watch, realized it was almost time for dinner. "Time to clean-up, then..." he said quietly to himself, before he went in search of his children to tell them to get cleaned up for dinner. He'd found Leo and Jemma quickly, sending them up to the apartment to change. It took a little longer to find Peter. When he walked in, Peter was intent on checking something out. He made certain to make enough noise not to startle his son, then said, "Peter? It's almost time for dinner. Find a good spot to stop so you can get cleaned up...."
"Hey, Dad." Peter raised his head from his experiment to wave him over. "Come and have a look at this." His eyes were wide and there was an innocent look on his face.
Bruce slanted his head curiously, but walked over to look at what Peter was doing. "What is it?" he asked, as he got closer.
Every other test he'd done, Peter had carefully measured it out to make sure the 'explosion' was little more than a flare of light. This time, his attention was on his father as he added the drop of blood that ended up being two drops. He realised his mistake half a second too late when the beaker he was using burst and thick liquid was sent flying everywhere.
Bruce's eyes widened and he rushed over to help his son...a green tinge to his skin that wasn't there before. "Peter! Are you all right?!"
Peter winced. "Uh, yeah... that wasn't supposed to happen."
Bruce busied himself making sure Peter wasn't hurt before he finally asked, "What was supposed to happen?"
"It was just supposed to flare up," Peter replied. "Like a light show. Not actually explode." He rubbed the back of his neck sheepishly. "I put in one too many drops."
Bruce eyed Peter skeptically. "You lose concentration? I know you know to pay attention to what you are doing. Lack of focus leads to accidents...."
"Every test run went smoothly," Peter said. "But it's so volatile... obviously, I needed to concentrate more."
Bruce huffed slightly, not making the comment of 'obviously', even if he thought it. His smile was stern. "I don't know if that should make me happy- that at least you were being careful before I arrived- or upset that you were doing something volatile without a partner to help if something went wrong...."
"I knew what I was doing..." Peter protested, even if the protest was somewhat weak, as he knew his father had a point. Still... "Barring just now, I don't normally have a problem with focus."
"I knew what I was doing too, son..." Bruce said softly. While the accident that turned him into the hulk had been because Ross had screwed around with his experiment, part of him wondered if it could have been avoided if they'd had a few more people as back up to prevent accidents.
Peter winced at the reminder. "I'm sorry."
"I know...still...you know better. I don't want this to happen again." Bruce's voice was stern.
"I'll be more careful next time," Peter promised.
"You will be. You will also make sure you have a lab partner that will help make certain if something happens you have help close by... or better yet, is a second set of eyes to make certain nothing does happen." Bruce's voice was calm and conversational, but it was obviously an order.
Peter nodded sheepishly. "Yes sir."
"Good...now explain what this prank was supposed to do...and do you think we could play it on your grandpa?" Bruce's smile was mischievous as he grinned at his son.
"Dad!" Jemma blurted out in surprised amusement.
Steve laughed outright. "At least I now know where the origin of that particular prank came from," he said, with an amused smile at his son and grandson.
"Well color me impressed! I never would have suspected my straight laced brother!" Tony teased.
Bruce shrugged faintly. "It was a good prank.... why don't you ask the next question, Peter?"
"Okay." Peter glanced around, thinking. "Has anyone done the right thing, no matter what, even knowing they'd get in trouble for it?"
Tony wrinkled his nose. "I've gotten in trouble for the wrong thing often enough, but can't say I've ever had to worry about the opposite...."
"Me either." Jessica nodded.
Pepper and Bruce just shook their heads.
"I have," Steve admitted. "It was actually shortly after Bucky and me found a father..."
For a teenager who was normally as honest as it was possible to be, Steve was fairly certain his family wouldn't recognise him as he crossed the street, hiding the loaf of bread he'd taken under his jacket. He'd return with the money for the loaf the next day... but he couldn't do anything about the missing school day.
Logan walked down the street toward where his adopted 'family' was. He had a bag with food in it; he'd somehow convince Steve's mother and Bucky's parents to accept it in exchange for them teaching him to cook or some other item he wasn't terribly adept at. He blinked when he saw Steve coming from the other direction and looked at his watch...the kid was supposed to be in school, something he knew Mrs. Rogers was adamant about. He frowned and slowed down so that they'd arrive at the front stoop together.
Steve hadn't been planning to go home, but he hesitated when he spotted Logan in the opposite direction. Could he turn round and run before his dad noticed? Somehow, he didn't think so.
Logan watched Steve. For a moment, it looked like the kid was going to turn around and bolt. Logan frowned, hoping that wouldn't happen.
Steve's shoulders slumped and his steps slowed, but he didn't turn tail and run.
Logan noted the slump, but didn't do more than smile faintly at the younger man. He'd wait to hear what Steve was doing before getting on him about missing school.
Steve stopped in front of him. "What are you doing here?" he asked, not sure what else he could say.
"Figured I'd make a trade with your mom and Bucky's parents," Logan said, holding up the bag of food.
Steve blinked. "For what?" He adjusted the bread slightly, but was fairly certain it was still obvious.
"Have your mom teach me to cook better...Bucky's mom show me how she mends clothes so well, you'd never know they'd been torn..." Logan's voice was amused. They all knew what his cooking tasted like and he frequently wore obviously mended clothing. His voice was amused, but the look in his eyes was all seriousness. He'd seen the bread and unless Steve had got a job this morning without saying anything, he knew how he'd got it. Even if he had got a job, him skipping school would hurt his mother. She was determined her son would become something more than an illiterate dock worker at the mercy of the whims of the big cats in charge.
Steve swallowed. "I need to be somewhere." His voice was quiet, even though the words were certain, and he couldn't hold eye contact with his father.
"Other than school, just where would you need to be?" Logan asked quietly, but in an unyielding tone of voice.
Steve slowly held up the loaf of bread. "I need to give this to someone. I'm going... I'm going to pay for it. Tomorrow," he faltered.
"How do you plan to come up with money to pay tomorrow when you didn't have any today?" Logan asked reasonably. "Are you planning to skip school again?" He glanced at the bread. "And who do you need to give it to?" There was a hint of worry in his tone.
"I think they'll run away if I take an adult there," Steve admitted. "I... they're two children. Younger than me and Bucky. I'm trying to get them to trust me so I can help them..."
Logan sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose before nodding. "Okay. First thing we're going to do is return to where you got the bread. You'll apologize and promise never to steal again, then you'll get a few more items so they'll have a decent meal. I'll pay." Logan glanced at Steve to make sure he was listening. "After that, you'll deliver the food. Work on gaining their trust. See if you can convince them to give me a chance." He sighed. "After the kids are taken care of, you and I are having a discussion."
Steve took a deep breath and nodded. "Yes, sir," he said in a very quiet voice. He still felt guilty, but there was a sense of relief, too, that he didn't need to continue shouldering that responsibility alone.
Logan nodded, then put a hand on Steve's shoulder and squeezed gently. "Lets go, then..." he said gently.
Steve slanted a bit towards his father, obediently going along with him.
It didn't take long for Steve to lead him back to the shop where he'd got the bread. "Ok. Let's find the owner so you can fess up...then we'll get some more supplies and pay for everything."
Steve didn't hesitate or waste any time in finding the shop owner and apologising for the theft of the bread. The stealing had sat wrong with him since doing it and even though he'd had every intention of returning and paying for the bread the next day (somehow), he was very relieved his father had effectively caught him.
Logan was good to his word. As soon as Steve had gotten a few more items for the children to eat, he paid for everything- thanking the shop owner for his understanding- and then carried the bag while telling Steve to lead the way.
Steve was quick to head to the abandoned house he'd found the children living in. While he walked, he talked to his father, telling Logan about the children, who he thought had been alone for quite a long time. It had taken him several weeks to get the oldest to talk to him.
"I'm proud of you for wanting to help, son...but there are better ways to do it..." Logan said quietly. "I know the system isn't the best...but them living alone in an abandoned house isn't good either...."
"I know," Steve replied. "But I was worried they'd run if I told anyone about them and people came to the house." He pressed a bit closer to his father. "I'm sorry..."
"I know..." Logan sighed and wrapped an arm around Steve's shoulder. "If you can get them to trust you enough to listen to you, maybe you can convince them to get help. The structure of this house isn't very sound...." Logan finally stopped, allowing Steve to move forward, without him, to meet the children.
Steve pressed a bit nearer to his father, almost like he was afraid Logan would disappear, and then took the food, heading into the house with it.
Logan didn't follow, respecting his son's knowledge of the children enough to not want to frighten them. He didn't move from his position, though, waiting and listening for his son.
Steve came out after a few minutes, looking a bit happier. "I told them you're my dad and I don't think they'll run from you..."
"Good. Think they'll talk to me now? Or should we come back tomorrow after school?" he asked pointedly.
Steve flushed, but responded, "Maybe tomorrow would be better. They're quite... wild."
Logan just raised an eyebrow at that comment, then nodded. "Let's go, then. I think I have an idea, if they are willing to trust me. I'll have to run it by the people I'm thinking of, though." Without another word, he wrapped his arm around Steve's shoulder again and began to lead the young man back toward his own home. He suspected Steve wouldn't want his mother to hear the discussion they were about to have, even if Logan would insist on Steve telling her what had occurred. The walls in the tiny apartment were too thin for anyone not to hear and the small house Logan lived in would at least provide a little more privacy.
Even knowing he was in trouble, Steve didn't pull away and instead leaned into his father once more. "I'm sorry," he said, very quietly, his sense of guilt obvious.
"I know, kid. I could tell you felt guilty before you even got to me. How else do you think I realized how you got the bread?" Logan smiled crookedly, rubbing a hand through Steve's hair. "We'll take care of it and everything will be alright."
Steve nodded. "I'm glad you found out, even though I'm in trouble," he admitted quietly.
Logan couldn't help but hug the kid at that. "We'll help those kids, Steve. It'll work out."
"I know," Steve replied, completely trusting his father.
They walked together quietly, talking about small things, Logan trying to make certain that Steve wasn't too nervous about what was coming his way. Eventually, they made it to Logan's house and he had to lead the younger man in. Guiding Steve to the living room, Logan decided it was better to get everything out of the way quickly. He went and sat on the sofa, gently pulling Steve with him, placing the boy over his lap as soon as he was situated. Resting his hand on Steve's lower back, he asked, "Why are you in this position, son?"
Steve let out his breath in a tiny whimper, reaching down to grasp his father's ankle as he answered, "I stole bread...I skipped school..." He wasn't sure if keeping the children from his father counted, so there was a slight questioning note in his voice.
"And why are you in trouble for those two things?" Logan asked, wanting to make sure Steve knew exactly why what he'd done wasn't being accepted when his reasons for doing it were good and he might have not got into trouble under other circumstances.
"Because I kept it all a secret and didn't try to ask for help?" Steve wasn't sure that was the answer his father was looking for, but it was the only thing he could think of that, next time, he would do differently.
"That would be it, kid. I never want you to think rules are so important that you have to let someone suffer or possibly die to keep them. At the same time, when you feel it is necessary to do something that is breaking a rule, or even possibly the law, you need to try and get help first, in case there is an option available that you didn't know of. I'm always willing to help you as much as I'm able. If you'd talked to me right away, you never would have stolen that bread because you'd have known that I could buy it for the kids. You also would never have skipped school, because you'd have known that I'd take care of things for you while you were in school and we could deliver everything after you got out...." Logan kept his voice calm but firm. "Do you have any questions before we continue?" he asked gently.
"No, sir." Steve took a deep breath. "But... I'm sorry."
"I know. We'll take care of it and then it will be over...a fresh start," Logan said quietly, before moving his hand off Steve's back and baring him. "I love you, kid and will help you in whatever way I can...remember that." Not saying anything else, he raised his hand and let it fall in the first hard swat. He continued on with the same strength, quickly falling into a pattern that covered Steve's entire backside.
Steve did his best to stay still, but couldn't stop the tears that began to slip out of his eyes. He held back his sobs, but his vision very quickly became blurred with the tears.
Logan didn't pause once he'd finished one circuit. Instead, he moved quickly into the second, the swats still the same strength and speed as before, although he began to smack random spots instead of in a pattern. He wanted to get Steve to the needed point as soon as possible so he could hold the boy.
Steve wasn't struggling or trying to get away, but he couldn't stop twisting and writhing in reaction to the smacks. His crying very quickly became audible and he had to fight not to throw his hand back.
Logan tightened his grip on the younger man, making certain he didn't fall, and shifted Steve slightly so that he could focus more attention to the crease between thigh and bottom. He continued in the same relentless pace. "From now on, you come to me before you put your own future in jeopardy," was all he said, his tone gruff and full of fondness and love.
Steve had to close his eyes, the tears falling so fast now, they threatened to blind him. "Yes sir..." he managed to gasp out, before he went limp over his father's lap, crying steadily.
Logan immediately pulled Steve up into his arms as soon as the younger man went limp, holding him tight. "It's over now, kid...I've got you. Everything will be okay."
Steve immediately wrapped his arms around his father and clung on tight as he tried to stop crying. "I'm sorry..." he whispered.
"Shhh...I know. You're forgiven. I love you so much, kid..." Logan said gruffly.
"I love you too." Steve's crying had quietened down to soft sniffles, but he still held onto his father.
Logan held him for a bit longer before shifting him enough to fix his clothes. "C'mon, kid. Your mom should be home now and if I'm not wrong, Bucky will be looking for you to find out why you weren't in class. Let's go meet them."
Steve nodded and carefully extricated himself from his father.
Logan smiled. "Lets go..."
"So did you tell Grandma what you had done?" Tony asked curiously.
"I did," Steve replied. "But it had already been addressed, so she moved on fairly quickly to how we could help the children."
"What did Uncle Bucky have to say? I didn't think you two tended to do things like that without each other..." Jessica grinned.
Steve smiled. "He wasn't happy with me for keeping them from him, but I took him to meet them and he got to be a big brother to them too."
"You kept in touch with the kids? The way you described Great Grandpa's reaction, I figured he knew of a home with an adult to take them to. And he didn't mention adopting two other kids when he was here...." Jemma sounded confused, wondering if there were two elderly relatives she hadn't met yet.
"We kept in contact with them right up until the war began," Steve answered, a little sadly because there'd been a lot they'd lost... including when his own father had left. "There was a couple who took them in and adopted them, though."
"Oh..." Jemma sounded sad, since she knew what had happened in the war and knew the likelihood of ever meeting the two kids her grandfather had helped was pretty slim.
Bruce cleared his throat. "Well...as fun as this question and story time has been, we have a very busy day tomorrow, so I'm going to get some sleep. I suggest the rest of you think about doing so as well..." He smiled crookedly, hoping his sudden change of topic wasn't too obvious. He didn't like seeing his father sad because of all he'd lost.
Steve noticed the change in topic, but didn't comment on it, instead saying, "After breakfast, we can figure out how we want to spend the day."
"Maybe we could do some painting?" Leo suggested sleepily through a yawn.
Jessica laughed softly. "I happen to know for a fact a few of the other family will be painting..." she said with a grin, thinking of the buckets of hot pink paint she'd seen being carried to Kara’s room by Uncle Nick and his brood. "Wouldn't hurt for us to personalize our rooms a bit more with color...even if it isn't with paint. Help to get rid of the 'industrial' feel that living underneath a high security spy-training facility brings."
Steve smiled at her. "Are there any particular colours you'd like?" While his voice wasn't loud, it did carry to the other family members, so they could answer as well if they wanted.
"I'm pretty basic when it comes to decorating. I'll stick with white. Although, if you could help me find a colorful throw rug, maybe something Moroccan or Indian, or anything really that has a bunch of colors to brighten things up...?" Jessica grinned. "...Since we're underground and have no windows, the brighter the better...."
Pepper chuckled. "I like that idea. I know Tony's partial to gold and red," she gave her fiancé a long-suffering look, "but I'm thinking bright yellows and light blues or greens for our room...."
"I like the idea of bright...or muted bright if that makes any sense." Jemma nodded.
"I'm thinking red and black." Peter nudged Harry. "What about you?"
Harry shook his head, but answered in an almost wistful tone, "Maybe painted to look like a forest? Or a lake..."
"Nature scenes." Leo smiled. "I like that idea."
"Well...there are wall murals that can be bought and put onto walls if that's what you'd really like..." Pepper said thoughtfully. "...Given how technologically advanced the people in this family are, we could possibly even set up a wall covered entirely by a screen that would enable Veronica...or another AI... to show what is outside the building. Pick your favorite spot on the compound, set up a camera to take continuous feed...and just have it show on your wall?"
"Another AI?" Jessica asked curiously.
Tony had a look of fond exasperation on his face as he answered, "...I wasn't ready to unveil Friday yet, Pep!"
"Oops!" Pepper blushed and gave an embarrassed smile.
Shaking his head, Tony sighed. "...I've spawned another AI to help Veronica out. I figure Veronica will continue to be in charge of security and relaying information between the family when we are on missions and such. Friday...will be the household butler, if you will...taking care of day to day items that aren't security related. Although they will both be able to do the other's job if necessary. They are on two separate servers housed in different parts of the compound. I'm hoping this will prevent intruders from being able to completely disable our protections like they did in the tower when they took Veronica offline that time...."
Harry looked immediately interested in his mother's idea, relaxing as it became clear no one was going to think it was strange for him to want to have something to do with nature in his room.
Peter nudged his cousin. "Maybe we could set it to rolling images, so you can have different scenes at different times?" he suggested.
Steve smiled at Tony. "Maybe, when you're ready, you can introduce Friday properly to the whole family at dinner?" he suggested.
"I'm sure if everyone wants one wall dedicated to a big screen that shows whatever they ask Friday to project, we can arrange for it to be something that can be changed whenever they want a different view..." Tony chuckled. He glanced at Steve. "And yeah. I actually wanted to tell everyone at breakfast tomorrow, since tomorrow will be Friday's official 'birthday'."
Steve nodded. "I'm sure everyone here can avoid saying anything until breakfast tomorrow, at least," he joked.
"Considering the fact we're all going to bed and breakfast tomorrow will be the first chance they have to spill the beans, I should hope so!" Tony huffed in amusement.
"We won't say anything, Uncle Tony," Peter promised, with a wide-eyed innocent look.
"Good...so...let's get to sleep!" Tony clapped his hands and soon, after a bit of scurrying around, everyone was in sleeping bags all over Steve's bedroom floor; kids close to their parents, Jessica in the bed next to her dad.
Peter yawned again for what had to be the twentieth time, giving Drax a sheepish look.
"I believe it is time to sleep," Drax said firmly.
"Okay, dad..." Peter agreed quickly, crawling onto Drax's bed in the spot he normally had when he stayed with Drax. He was too tired to give his usual arguments and things were different enough he'd rather just be held by his father than be his normal ornery self. Since he'd changed for bed the minute they'd got to the room, it was easy.
Drax settled on the bed next to his son, not wasting any time in reaching out and drawing Peter into his arms.
Peter snuggled close- he never was one shy for showing and accepting affection- and was soon sound asleep.
Bucky led his three children to their rooms. "Why don't you all change for bed and then come back to my room? We can discuss decorating ideas a bit before sleeping. I plan to get up early to begin working on the painting, if you all want to help...."
Bakshi smiled. "I'll get up early to join you..." He headed into his own room.
"Sounds like a plan," Lance agreed, before ducking inside his room so he could get changed.
"See you in a minute, Daddy." Patsy went into her room so she could get changed.
Bucky smiled and went to change himself, making certain that there were enough pillows on the bed for his entire brood when they returned.
Lincoln looked around the room he'd been given and wrinkled his nose. "Guess I'll need to figure out what I want it to look like. I've spent so much time the last several years focusing on my medical degree, I haven't really accumulated enough things to make this feel like a home..." he said out loud, not seeing his mother but feeling that she was close by and deciding to talk to her anyway.
Natasha stepped over to him, making enough noise that her appearance wouldn't startle him. "You can start off simple," she suggested. "Maybe have a few pictures to place while you figure out how you want it painted."
"A few pictures would be all I could put out..." He chuckled. "Most of my photographs are all digital...although I suppose I could ask Veronica to print out a few copies for me...."
"Why don't we go shopping tomorrow?" Natasha suggested.
"Uh...." Lincoln bit his lip indecisively. He hated shopping. At the same time, it would give him and Natasha time to get some one-on-one bonding and learn more about each other. There hadn't been a lot of private time where they weren't surrounded by other family members since he'd moved in and he wanted to get to know her better. Taking a deep breath, he decided some time with his mother was worth the headache of shopping. "...Yeah. Ok. That would be good. I have rotations tomorrow evening, but I have the morning and afternoon free; and after tonight, I'll be looking for a residency. Either that, or looking for a building to start my own private practice.... Since I will be one hundred percent finished all my requirements to becoming a doctor...."
Natasha moved a bit closer to him, so she could brush shoulders with him affectionately. "A lot of us here have contacts all over the place, including in the medical profession, if you need help getting your foot in somewhere in particular," she said.
"I actually got offered spots in a few different hospitals..." Lincoln admitted softly. "...But it was before I met all of you and discovered I wanted to stay near here...all of the offers are in different states or are in the city...which is now three hours away." He paused. "Plus...part of me...part of me wants to help people like all the Avengers and I wonder if maybe it wouldn't be better for me to open a practice in a poorer part of town. See people who can't afford to go to doctors normally...." He bit his lip. "If I did that, I could locate anywhere; there are always poor people around that need help no matter where I am...."
Natasha wrapped her arm around his shoulders. "Whatever you want to do, I will support you. And the whole family will support you," she promised.
"I...I did some research about this area and I know a spot that could really use a doctor nearby. Most of the doctors aren't close enough for the people to be able to walk to them- they have to catch a bus- and sometimes that isn't feasible...if I open a practice up there, I'll be within walking distance of those who need help and I'll still be close to home...." Lincoln smiled crookedly, watching Natasha closely to see what her opinion would be.
Natasha smiled. "I'm glad to hear you'd be closer to home, but I'd like to take a look at the spot you've found and make sure it's as secure as possible."
"Of course..." Lincoln quickly agreed. Even if he didn't worry about his own health and safety - he'd been practicing self-defense pretty much from the moment Natasha had taken him in - he'd worry about his patients if it wasn't secure.
Natasha's smile widened. "I can't see it being a problem. Especially not when it'll be close by."
Lincoln smiled back. "I'm glad...it will mean I'm available to help the family too if needed...."
"I'm sure that would be a big help," Natasha said sincerely. "Not to mention that we have other people working here who you might find yourself helping, too."
"That's true..." Lincoln nodded. "So...maybe I can show you the office I was considering tomorrow? You can let me know what you think?" His tone was hopeful.
Natasha smiled. "I'd like that."
"I would too..." Lincoln admitted. "I guess I should finish getting ready for bed. It'll be a busy day tomorrow...." He hesitated.
"Would you like to stay with me tonight?" Natasha offered.
"You don't mind?" Lincoln asked. He obviously wanted to say yes.
Natasha smiled. "I'd like to keep you close," she said honestly.
"I'd like to be close..." he admitted bashfully.
"Then why don't you get changed and come and meet me in my room?" Natasha suggested. "I'll get us some drinks and snacks."
"Ok...mom..." Lincoln smiled and disappeared into his room to change. Five minutes later, he was knocking on his mom's door.
Lorelei looked into the room she'd been assigned and bit her lip. She'd been staying with Odin since her capture and hadn't yet stayed on her own. She wasn't sure she was ready to stay on her own either.
Odin had checked in on each of his children and was now headed to check on Lorelei. He knocked gently on her door to announce his presence.
"Come in..." Lorelei called out quietly. To her chagrin, her nervousness came through clearly in her voice.
Odin opened the door and stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. "How are you feeling?" he asked gently.
Lorelei planned to say fine...she really did. When she opened her mouth, however, what came out was, "Unsettled. I feel very uneasy...unsettled...." She blushed at the almost childish tone of her voice; as if she were asking her daddy to take care of a monster under the bed. Although...she quickly bent over to check under the bed. Who knew what Midgardian creatures could have snuck in when she wasn't looking?
Odin didn't know for sure what Lorelei was looking for, but he took it as further evidence she was unsettled and he stepped closer to her, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. "You're safe here," he promised.
"With you...I know I'm safe...I don't know what is wrong with me." Lorelei sighed.
Odin wrapped his other arm around her so he could hug her fully. "What happened was unsettling," he said gently. "Even for those emotionally secure in their place in the family."
"I've been alone most my life, though...I didn't think I could become so unsettled at...at..." She looked down. "At the thought people could get to my family....I love you all so much, I'm afraid to lose you...." The admittance was quiet and almost shy.
"That is why we are here," Odin said gently. "This is a place where the family can be better protected and kept safe."
"I know...that's why I don't understand why I'm still scared. I don't want to leave you..." Lorelei whispered.
"You won't," Odin promised, tightening his embrace.
"Might I stay with you tonight, Daddy?" Lorelei's voice was small and childlike. She'd taken to referring to Odin the same way a majority of the women in the family referred to their fathers and the more childish term of address affected her response to her father...allowing her to react and be around him the way she needed emotionally; mentally, she balked at needing him so much. Mentally, she thought she should be able to handle herself better.
"Of course," Odin replied, without hesitation, happy she felt able to voice her needs. He kissed her head.
Lorelei couldn't prevent herself from wrapping her arms around Odin and holding on tightly. "Thank you," she said in a subdued voice. "That makes me feel better."
"I'm glad," Odin replied gently. "Why don't we see if any of your siblings would like to join us for a bit before bed?" he suggested.
"Very well." Lorelei smiled. "I believe I saw Darcy teasing Loki mercilessly with threats of painting his room bright orange and decorating it with rainbows and unicorns. Why she thought that would be a threat, I am not certain..." She chuckled.
Odin smiled. "I believe there will be a lot of that kind of teasing. Would you rather get changed for bed and then join me?" he asked, not sure if she would be uncomfortable being on her own even for that small amount of time.
Lorelei was reluctant to leave her father's side, even to change, but she was nervous he'd think her ridiculous if she needed him with her when changing. Even if she didn't care about privacy or modesty...she thought maybe she should. She didn't want her father disappointed in her. But she really didn't want to leave his side either.
Odin gently stroked her hair. "You don't need to worry or feel nervous. Tell me what you'd prefer," he directed.
"I don't want to leave you..." she said in a whisper, unable to look him in the eye.
"Then you don't need to," Odin said seriously.
Snuggling closer, Lorelei smiled. "Thank you, daddy...."
Odin kissed the top of her head. "Do you want to get changed in here or in my room?"
"I can change here..." Lorelei smiled again, then grabbed her night clothes and quickly began to change, checking every so often as if afraid her father would disappear.
Odin didn't move, keeping watch over his daughter.
As soon as she was ready, Lorelei quickly moved back into her father's arms. "I'm ready...."
Odin didn't waste any time wrapping his arms around his daughter and guiding her out of the room and into his own, though he took a few moments to invite each of his other children into the room with them for a while.
Lorelei didn't move from Odin's arms, although she did make room for Darcy when her sister came in. She grinned when Loki got on her other side and snuggled. Mack looked like he wasn't sure who he should get in beside.
Odin moved so he could touch each of the children now nestled on the bed, smiling at his other two sons. "Make yourselves comfortable too," he said.
Thor smiled at Mack, waiting to see where his younger brother would prefer to settle.
Mack grinned, moving to the other side of Darcy, leaving it to Thor if he'd rather be next to him or next to Loki.
Thor moved to settle on the bed next to Mack, grinning. "It is good the room is big enough for the size of this bed," he commented, in what was for him a quiet voice.
"Was it made special?" Lorelei asked curiously.
"I think all the furniture was made special with superheroes and large framed Asgardians in mind," Darcy laughed. "That and large sized families that like to snuggle with each other at night...."
"And that is the most likely reason." Loki's voice was amused.
Odin smiled. "Many of the families seem to prefer to be close to each other. It is better this way." He didn't need to add 'better than before'; he was just relieved that, not only had he gained a son and two daughters, his relationship with Loki in particular was far better than it had been.
"I agree. It is much better this way..." Loki said fondly, snuggling his sister and reaching over to squeeze his father's arm.
Odin smiled, reaching to touch each of his children in turn, clearly relaxed and happy with each of them there.
It was well past midnight and the last family group had gone to bed hours before. Jessica couldn't sleep, though, her confessions sitting on her shoulders like lead weights. She couldn't believe all that she had admitted to her family...some of it unintentionally...and she couldn't help be afraid that it would change things. At the same time, she knew she hadn't confessed nearly enough...at least not to her father. Not if she was going to allow him to care for and take care of her like she'd said she would. Not if she didn't want to feel like she was tricking him into keeping her because he didn't have all the information.
Finally, unable to lay still any longer and not wanting to wake the rest of her family, she slipped out of bed and quietly made her way out of the room and walked toward the kitchen. Maybe water or warm milk...or a fifth of Jack...would help her sleep.
Steve was quite a light sleeper, so he woke up when Jessica got out of the bed. He didn't waste any time in going after her.
Jessica was standing in the kitchen, drinking glass in hand, looking longingly toward the liquor cabinet when Steve walked in. "It's after five..." she said in a hesitantly teasing and slightly hopeful tone. Very slightly hopeful, as she didn't think Steve would agree to her knocking herself out with booze.
"It's also bedtime," Steve pointed out gently, moving closer to her and wrapping his arm around her shoulders. "Can't sleep?"
"No, sir....can't stop...thinking..." Jessica admitted softly.
"About what?" Steve pressed gently, tightening his arm.
"About everything I told you...what I didn't tell you...." Jessica whispered.
Steve kissed her head. "Tell me now," he suggested.
"I...I never told anyone out loud...directly...what I did...when I felt so guilty. That wasn't even the worst of it. You probably think I'm pathetic..." Jessica looked at the floor.
"Not at all," Steve promised. "I think you've had to be too strong for so long. Emotionally as well as physically." He hugged her close. "I love you."
"You love me...but I don't think you were happy to find out what I've done...." Jessica snuggled closer.
"Only because I know there are better ways to deal with your pain and I wish I'd been there earlier to help you," Steve said gently.
"Pain for pain...it evens out. I don't know how to handle it another way..." Jessica sighed and held on more tightly.
Steve kissed her head, tightening his embrace. "You aren't alone anymore," he promised her. "And if you feel like that again... I want you to promise to try to come to me before you do anything."
Jessica bit her lip. She didn't like making promises- that meant she'd need to keep them- but something wouldn't let her refuse her father's request and she found herself nodding. "I promise to tell you if I feel the need to let myself be hurt. I haven't felt that way as much since you adopted me, but I know part of that is because I've been focusing on the future and adjusting to everything instead of thinking about the past. When the guilt gets too strong is when I look for trouble...the more I hurt, the more it feels like I am still here and haven't been completely destroyed. And like, maybe if I am hurting, really bad things will stop happening to everyone else because of me. I don't know...it sounds stupid to say it out loud."
"How you feel isn't stupid," Steve replied reassuringly. "But you have me now. Not just me, but the whole family around you. When you hurt, you don't have to suffer alone." He stroked her hair, his voice filled with nothing but loving concern.
"I'm sorry I'm such a mess." Jessica sighed and snuggled closer.
"I promise you aren't," Steve said, gentle and reassuring.
"I deliberately go out and attempt to get hurt because it's easier than dealing with my guilt...even I can't claim that's normal or productive behavior..." Jessica snorted, even as she snuggled closer.
"But you aren't the only one to handle negative emotions in ways that aren't best," Steve said.
"No...I guess I'm not," Jessica admitted. "Are you sure I can't have a drink?" She looked toward the liquor cabinet again.
"You can have a drink. Just not anything alcoholic," Steve answered.
"Tough love, huh?" Jessica's lips quirked upward. She knew that she was borderline, if not an outright alcoholic, and it didn't surprise her that her father would be firm on the matter. As difficult as it was not to argue- she craved a drink- she didn't really want to argue and managed to refrain...at least as long as Steve was watching, she wouldn't drink anything requiring an ID to purchase. She knew her drinking was another bad way of dealing (or avoiding dealing) with emotional pain and guilt.
She wondered if she shouldn't admit to her father that she was beginning to feel the stirrings of past emotional hurts and guilt returning. The attack and subsequent move had been unsettling enough to cause the negativity to resurface. At the moment, it was faint enough to resist, but she knew if it wasn't dealt with soon, she'd be picking fights, getting drunk and looking for meaningless encounters with men in bars again and she didn't want to disappoint Steve. She was already ashamed at the fact he knew she'd done such things in the past.
Steve ran his fingers through her hair. "You aren't the only family member to turn to alcohol to dull those negative emotions either. In the long run, it doesn't help you and only causes more harm. I'm sure Tony could talk to you about his experiences in that area." His voice wasn't judgemental or angry, only caring, loving and concerned.
"I saw what it did to him on those celebrity news shows often enough...and it isn't like I haven't been affected by it badly myself, even if it wasn't in the public eye..." Jessica sighed, then bit her lip uncertainly. The craving was still there, which meant the unsettled feelings she'd been having since the attack on the tower and the constant battle she had with her own guilt, self-worth and everything else she never dealt with but pushed down deep must be stronger than she'd thought. Was it bad enough that Steve would consider it breaking her promise if she didn't tell him, though?
"Why don't we sit in one of the other rooms and talk about how you're feeling right now that makes you feel the need to drink?" Steve suggested. Of course, the primary reason for making that suggestion was so he could cuddle his daughter on his lap.
"Okay, daddy..." Jessica whispered. The fact that she nearly immediately agreed along with using the more childish term of address would have made it clear she was unsettled, even if Steve hadn't already picked up on that fact.
Steve kept hold of his daughter as he guided her from the kitchen and to one of the smaller rooms he knew would be empty. Inside, he sat on the bed and guided her onto his lap.
Jessica didn't protest being pulled onto her father's lap and settled quickly, letting her head fall onto his shoulder. "I'm embarrassed..." she admitted softly. "...Embarrassed and ashamed that I just blurted out what I'd done in front of the younger kids. I probably scarred them for life...." she muttered unhappily.
"I doubt you've affected them nearly as much as you think," Steve replied gently. "And you shouldn't feel embarrassed or ashamed."
"I admitted to deliberately seeking out pain and ways to be hurt...you saw how horrified they were...." Jessica sniffled softly. "And the worst of it? For a little while, I didn't want it...I thought finding a family where I belonged had got rid of the need... but it's like an itch and I feel like if I don't do it again soon, something will go wrong...."
Steve tightened his embrace and kissed the top of her head. "When you're so used to one way of life, it can be difficult to force yourself to change so drastically straight away. But there are better ways than alcohol or getting yourself hurt. Sparring is something we could do. I go running, too, and often with other members of the family."
"Those things are...different. The things I was doing...weren't safe. They could have been if I went to the right places, but I didn't. I'd never pick anyone safe. I'd either find amateurs who were easily convinced to do what I'd say, or 'professionals' who didn't care...." Jessica grimaced. "The thing was, it never worked for long. The last few months with you has been the longest the itch has been away and I don't understand why all the harshness never worked as well as...as...." She swallowed and looked down, embarrassed. "...Never worked as well as you spanking me. I didn't want the spanking...so why would it work better than the things I sought out? Especially when it was painless compared to what I usually demanded? It confuses me...."
Steve gently stroked her hair. "I care about you. I love you. I suspect that plays a big part in the difference."
"But...you'd never hurt me the way I told those others to hurt me...I don't think I could even ask you to, even though I need to be hurt to make up for everything...it's supposed to hurt a lot worse than you spanking me did! So why did you spanking me work better? I don't understand it...." Jessica fretted, her thoughts skittering around the fact that the spanking bothered her more than searching out pain had also; she'd been honest when she said she hadn't wanted it.
"I suspect because it isn't really pain you need," Steve replied. "That's why it only works for a little while, because it isn't really about pain."
"What would it be about then?" Jessica's question was sincere. She'd thought she was doing the only thing she could to pay for all the pain and problems she'd caused other people, searching out ways to hurt herself. The fact that it never worked for very long only proved to her that she was guilty of too much to ever make up for and would spend her whole life paying for her 'crimes'. And then Steve had come along and taken over...basically told her what she was going to do and spanked her when she disobeyed. She hadn't wanted that. Hadn't wanted to give up her tightly held control over herself. Hadn't wanted to feel vulnerable and childish and out of control. That wouldn't help her make up for her wrongs. But she couldn't deny that she hadn't felt the need to hurt herself for the last several months she'd been with her new family. "It's not fair!" she pouted. "I'm supposed to pay for what I did...I can't do that if I'm not in control of myself...." She muttered the last.
Steve kissed the top of her head. "And maybe that's what it is," he said gently. "Not having that control is for the best. Even when someone else was hurting you, you were still in control because you could make it stop whenever you wanted it to. But that isn't what you need."
"But...but I have to be in control..." Jessica said in a tiny voice. "...I have to be responsible for everything bad that's happened...if I'm not in control..." She swallowed hard. "I'm afraid to not be in control...."
"You don't have to be afraid," Steve promised. "I'm here with you. You aren't alone to deal with it."
"I can't help it..." Jessica mumbled, even as she snuggled close again.
"I know. It takes time," Steve replied gently, stroking her hair.
"Yeah....I just hope you don't get tired waiting for me," she whispered. Snuggling closer yet, Jessica closed her eyes and allowed herself to relax against her father.
"Never," Steve promised, continuing the gentle, comforting touch.
Jessica wouldn't have believed it possible, since she hadn't had any alcohol to drink, but she soon fell asleep in her father's arms.
Steve waited long enough to be sure she wouldn't wake and then lifted her into his arms, carrying her back through to his bedroom and settling them both comfortably on the bed.
Loki wandered into the common room and glanced around. They'd been in the compound for almost two weeks by this point and everyone had decorated their rooms and settled in. Sometimes, one of them would mention something about the convenience of the tower being in the city and missing that aspect, but nearly everyone agreed that the compound was not only safer, but had elements that they hadn't even realized they wanted or needed...such as spacious grounds to enjoy the outdoors. Loki could only guess that's where everyone not currently working was at...since no one was in the family room.
"Friday?" Tony had introduced the new AI their second day in the compound. "Is anyone inside on the family floor?"
"Your brothers and some of your cousins are currently sparring," the AI replied. "Your sisters are watching a movie in Miss Lorelei's room."
"Thank you, Friday," Loki murmured and went in search of his sisters. It didn't take long to find them.
Darcy noticed immediately something was wrong. "What's the matter, big brother?" she asked curiously.
"Nothing truly bad," Loki began. "Just feel the need to do something. How would the two of you feel about a short visit to Asgard? I made a promise a while back to get some Asgardian artifacts for our cousin Tony to examine and think now would be a perfect time to retrieve them."
"A trip to Asgard? Count me in!" Darcy enthused.
Lorelei looked less enthused, but she nodded anyway. "Will you call Heimdall for transport, or use one of the back ways?" The back ways were more dangerous, but would enable Darcy to see places she would never be able to otherwise. With both Loki and Lorelei for protection, it wouldn't be as hazardous.
"I think back ways..." Loki said, quietly but decisively.
Having made the decision, the three each quickly packed a small bag of provisions- just in case- and, leaving a message for their family for Friday to deliver, took off.
Wanda couldn't deny that she was a little nervous about meeting Professor Xavier. While she didn't think the man would distrust her like so many others had, she couldn't quite shake the fear of being forced to leave her family. Which was probably why Pietro was moving at a blur, trying to distract her by acting a bit more immaturely.
Clint walked over and put a hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently. "Hey...you know I would never have brought you here if I didn't think it was a good idea. And your great grandpapa Logan wouldn't have set up the meeting. Try and relax, sweetie...." He glanced around the office, noting the pictures and various knickknacks adorning the area. He heard voices approaching, one of them sounding familiar.
"I tell ya, Dad...she helped me remember...all the times you and Jean tried to help and ran against my block and she got in and unraveled it! She's powerful and needs help. I'm sure when you meet her, you'll agree it's worth the time and effort...even if it stretches your already stretched schedule..." Logan opened the office door, allowing Charles Xavier to precede him before walking in himself. "Clint...Pietro...Wanda." He smiled at the three visitors.
Wanda nodded, though she remained tense even as she stood next to her father. Pietro was quick to move to her other side, letting his shoulder rest against hers, but almost taking a protective stance in front of her.
Charles smiled warmly at the three of them as he wheeled into the office. "I've heard a lot about all of you. It's good to meet you," he said.
"It's good to meet you, sir. I appreciate you seeing us...I hope you will be able to help continue my daughter's training..." Clint smiled.
"Of course," Charles agreed, his eyes on Wanda, who blinked suddenly and then looked down.
Logan looked between Charles and Wanda, his eyebrow going up when he noticed how shy the girl was suddenly being. He wasn't certain, but if Charles was asking permission to enter her mind the way he normally did, she might be feeling unsettled. "Wanda...do you want your papa and brother to stay in here with you or would you like to speak to the Professor alone?" he asked solicitously.
Wanda glanced gratefully at Logan and then at her father and brother. "Will you...stay?" she asked softly.
Pietro grinned. "Nothing could drag me away."
"Whatever you need, sweetie..." Clint reassured his daughter. He smiled at the professor. "I hope you don't mind, sir."
"Of course not," Charles replied. "It will be a help to have you here too, as I suspect we will need to discuss how often I should meet with your daughter and where it would be best for these meetings to take place."
"Of course," Clint agreed. "If it is easier for you, we can come here for the meetings...although I know for a fact there is a room for Logan when he comes to visit; and several empty guestrooms that I'm sure we can make one of them yours....If you think keeping the meetings back at our compound is best."
Logan blinked. "You all made me my own room?" He couldn't help but sound pleased by the fact, even if he was a little bit surprised. The new dwelling of the Avengers and SHIELD agents was only a little over an hour away, after all, so he could always come home again after visiting.
"Did you honestly think Steve and Bucky wouldn't give their father his own room in their home? I'm fairly certain they'll be just as eager to give their grandfather a room as well...." His grin as he looked between Logan and Charles was impish as he made it clear he'd overheard Logan's words to the other man before they'd come in.
Logan's grin back was sheepish. "Eavesdropping, kid?" he teased good-naturedly.
"Wasn't like you were trying to be quiet..." Clint retorted with a chuckle.
Charles smiled. "I've yet to meet my grandsons, though I have wanted to ever since Logan told me he remembered them." His smile at his son was fond. "If there is enough space, I would of course be happy to conduct our meetings there. And I suspect you might be more comfortable in your home, too," he added to Wanda.
Wanda nodded, looking relieved.
Logan slanted his head. "Do you think it would be better to have set days when we go to your compound and dad has lessons with you; on a weekly basis maybe? We teach here during the week, but we could always arrange schedules in such a way that one or two days we aren't teaching here and we could be there...." He looked toward Wanda and his father to see what both of them felt. He got the idea Clint would go along with whatever Wanda felt most comfortable with.
Charles didn't immediately answer, instead glancing at Wanda to see what her response would be.
Wanda thought about that and then nodded. "Yes. I...would like that," she said, quietly but with certainty.
Clint nodded, before asking, "What days do you think would be best for you?"
Logan looked at his father. "I don't arrange the schedules....and currently, I only teach Monday through Wednesday. Dad?"
"I can arrange my schedule to teach those same days and leave Thursday and Friday free for the meetings," Charles replied.
"Except when emergencies occur, I'm sure we can schedule missions around those days..." Clint nodded.
"Excellent." Charles smiled. "You are, of course, all welcome to come here whenever you'd like to, especially if either of you feel it would be helpful to sit in with some of the other students," he added to Wanda and Pietro.
"We might take you up on that..." Clint smiled. "I think it would be good for both my kids to be around other powered people."
"Yeah, it's not like there's not enough at home, Pop," Pietro teased.
Clint huffed. "You know what I meant, Junior..." he said with amusement.
Pietro grinned at his brother and then nudged his sister's shoulder. "Just imagine what else you might be able to do," he joked.
"One thing about Dad and I coming to your compound...anyone else with abilities that might need training can be helped too..." Logan shrugged. "But unless you want to start training right this instant, why don't we show you around and then go to lunch? If that's agreeable to everyone?"
Wanda nodded, but glanced at her father in case he had a different idea.
"Works for me." Clint shrugged. "Lead on...."
Charles nodded, smiled and began moving out of the office so he could show them around.
Matt wrinkled his nose and scratched his head. While he and Foggy had decided to keep their city office open long enough to finish the cases they'd had before the move and open their new office in the town nearby the compound to generate some new cases...the logistics of doing so had turned out much different than they'd planned. The fact Karen had decided she wanted to he a reporter and had taken a job with the nearby city paper was only part of it, since Darcy had agreed to help them set up and get started, along with her unofficial title of 'scientist wrangler'.
No, the problem was that, in a small town, it was taking them a while for people to get over their initial distrust and go to them with cases. Which meant he wasn't as busy as he'd expected. He was bored.
Blake had ended up walking to the new offices Matt and Foggy had, after checking in with his dad. He knocked on Matt's door to announce his presence, not sure if his cousin would be busy or not.
Foggy answered the door and led him into the greeting area. "Hey, Blake. Cone to see our new gigs?" He grinned.
Blake smiled, following the other man. "Partly, but I'm also compiling evidence in a case." Many of his colleagues on the police force understood why Blake had turned dirty... but he was still driven to make up for everything.
Matt had walked over by this point. "Evidence?" he asked curiously.
"Yeah," Blake answered. "I thought it might be a long shot, but I've been looking into other people who attended the same academy as me and Bakshi. I've uncovered a couple of other suspicious disappearances."
"That's big," Foggy said, with a hint of concern. "Have you told your family?"
"Not yet," Blake admitted. "I wanted to compile all the evidence I can before I talk to the others. I could still be wrong about where the connection is."
"So what do you need us to do?" Matt asked pointedly. He knew Blake wouldn't have made Foggy and him the only family told if they weren't needed to help with something.
"I have witnesses I need to talk to and some leads I can't get to. I was hoping you might be able to help," Blake said, aware Foggy and Matt could get places he couldn't.
"Got names of locations so we know where to check?" Foggy asked. It was clear by the look on Matt's face he was going to help.
"Yeah." Blake handed over the files. "Some of the people still missing... I want to see if looking at photos of them might jog Bakshi's memories."
"You haven't shown them to him yet?" Matt asked, leaving the photographs for Foggy to peruse.
"Not yet," Blake admitted. "I think I might need to do that in a more controlled environment, considering I can't anticipate how he might react."
Foggy nodded. "Would probably be a good idea to have his dad there...." He noticed the odd look on Matt's face and couldn't help but ask, "You are planning to tell your parents that you're working on this, right?" He couldn't keep the 'big brother' 'worried' tone out of his voice.
"As soon as I have something to actually tell him," Blake replied. "All I've got right now are tangled threads."
Foggy didn't look too convinced that was the best course of action, but didn't say anything.
Matt nodded. "I'll wait till you're ready to say anything myself."
"Thanks," Blake replied. "I just don't want to bring anything to the others when I don't have anything."
"Cuz that's never gone wrong before..." Foggy muttered to himself. He didn't say anything else, however...Matt's sharp look of irritation stilling his tongue.
"Well... thanks anyway for agreeing to help," Blake said, trying not to think about the fact Foggy probably had a point.
"No problem. That's what family is for, right?" Matt said quickly, not certain Foggy wouldn't have more to say on the subject, even if the other man seemed to be going along with the plan, albeit reluctantly.
Foggy smiled crookedly, his dissatisfaction at the fact that the two men were keeping secrets from everyone else clear. But he didn't say anything else against it. "We'll try and help as much as possible. Finding out this information is important."
Blake nodded. "I've looked into the background of the people I've given you the information on. While I know you can take care of yourselves, you shouldn't need any backup."
"Ok, then. Hopefully, you're right..." Foggy chuckled, taking a closer look at the names. "Think the first order of business is to contact the admissions office of the academy. See if anyone there knows anything...."
"Unfortunately, that's one of the places I can't reach," Blake admitted. "Word got around there that I was a dirty cop. And the reasons why don't tend to be important." He shrugged, unable to help his own feelings of guilt.
"Well, I'll take care of that part. Hopefully, my name isn't too well known, so if any of Fisk's cronies are still in positions of power there, they won't get suspicious..." Foggy nodded. "...Actually, I'll begin on that right now. If you'll excuse me."
"Is there anything I can do to help you?" Blake asked Matt. "I notice you aren't very busy here yet."
"We're waiting for the people in town to realize there is a new law office that is willing to help low-income families..." Matt smiled. "...Maybe you can help me come up with some ideas for advertising that will actually reach that group of people...."
Blake grinned. "I'm sure I could help you come up with something. I'll also let people know down at the precinct, when I see anyone who would be able to make use of your services." Pausing, he added, "It might help if a connection to the Avengers is made known. People might be more likely to trust a law office that has a connection to the superheroes."
"You could be right about that..." Matt mused. "So...how would you go about advertising that fact?" Matt motioned Blake over to the desk, where they could collaborate together.
May took a look around her completed room and wrinkled her nose. It was fully decorated now, with a mix of things to her taste and a few things that her daughters had liked...since she wanted them to feel comfortable in it as well. She couldn't believe all the stuff she had, though; she hadn't realized how many knick-knacks and mementos she'd accumulated over the years. "I'm a pack-rat..." she muttered to herself in some vaguely shocked tone.
Skye spotted her sister lingering outside their mother's door and was quick to go over and join Hope. "Why don't we go and see if Mom wants to do something with us?" she suggested, reaching out and knocking on their mother's door.
Hope looked a bit anxious, but nevertheless relieved Skye had taken charge.
"Come in!" May quickly called, turning toward the door and trying to ignore the knowledge that she had a collection of items she didn't even remember buying. She thought at some point she should look at everything and try and remember why she'd bought it. If there were good memories attached, she could share them with the girls.
Skye pulled open the door and stepped into the room, waving Hope in to join her. "Hey, Mom. What'cha doing?" she asked.
"Wondering how in the world I ended up with so many.... things..." Melinda's voice was befuddled. "I don't remember buying half of this stuff, but I do recognize it, so I must have done...."
"Are any of them from missions?" Hope asked curiously.
"A few. Several are from trips I took with your grandparents when I was a child..."May admitted.
"Oh, which ones?" Skye asked, interested.
"Well, this one here for example..." May picked up a tiny figurine, motioning her daughters closer, then began to explain its origins. After that, she pointed out another and another.
Soon, they had lost track of time as May shared more of her history than she had in a very long time, growing closer to her children as she did so.
Hope finished up the conference call and then put her laptop away, going to seek out Scott now that she'd finished her work for the day.
Scott was in what had been deemed 'Cassie's room', as that was where his daughter would stay when she visited him. He had a slightly mopey look on his face. Cassie had returned home the evening before because she had school and he was obviously missing her, especially since Hope had been busy with work and Hank was helping organize the SHIELD labs and the office he'd been given on that floor. He was staring at a blank wall, eyes narrowed in thought.
After asking Friday, Hope tracked Scott down to Cassie's room. She knocked lightly on the door and waited for a response, guessing Scott might be feeling a bit down and wanting to help him feel better.
"C'min," Scott called out quietly, his shoulders slumping a slight bit more.
Hope entered the room and closed the door before moving over to Scott's side. She wrapped her arms around him and just hugged.
Scott turned and wrapped his own arms around his girlfriend, holding on tight. "It's silly. I miss her so much but it isn't like I won't get to see her again next week...she has permission to spend Saturday with me..." he mumbled with a sigh.
"How you feel isn't silly," Hope said. "And it's understandable you miss her. She's still your daughter."
"She overheard one of the younger boys talking about the 'big changing picture' on their wall and now she wants one too. I was looking at the wall just now to see if it could be added and it looks like it already has been." Scott wrinkled his nose. "Do we have a big changing picture on our wall too? I hadn't paid attention, but if we do, that's really cool...." He changed the subject, still embarrassed at how mopey he was being, despite Hope's assurance that it was understandable.
Hope nodded. "We do. We can always see about adding more images to it, though, if you'd like."
Scott blinked. "What image is there now?" he asked in confusion. "I don't remember seeing any images...."
"I only just activated it," Hope replied. "I thought it might be nice to see when we go back to the room later."
"Oh!" Scott grinned crookedly. "What picture did you choose? You're right...it will be nice to have in the room since there aren't any windows...."
"There's a forest landscape at the moment," Hope answered. "But I was hoping to get some personal photos added into the mix."
"Photos of San Francisco?" Scott asked curiously. "Because I love dad...but I don't think I'd want a huge blow-up of his face across from our bed...." His eyes were glittering in amusement, even if his tone was completely serious.
Hope smiled. "Those were the kind of photos I was thinking of. The ones of family members could be very awkward."
"Phew! I am so glad to hear you say that!" Scott said exaggeratedly, still teasing slightly. "...I don't want any pictures of Luis or the guys up there either!"
"Are you sure?" Hope teased gently. "Those pictures could add something extra..."
The horrified look on Scott's face made it quite clear what he thought of that idea...even if the slight choking sounds hadn't. "Yeah...no. Let's not ever go there...." he finally said, clearing his throat. "But pictures of San Francisco would be nice. And I think we could get live stream pictures of the grounds outside if we wanted. If we found a particular spot on the grounds we like. It would be like looking out a window, especially if birds and deer and such strolled by."
Hope nodded. "We could look at that while Dad's finishing up on his lab work," she suggested. "And then join him for lunch."
"Great!" Scott looked happier at the thought of having something to keep him occupied, especially if it included his girlfriend.
"Let's go." Hope kissed him and then stood up to lead him from the room.
Raina glanced around the tiny lab she'd been designated and smiled. While she also worked in the larger lab with all the other SHIELD scientists, it was nice to have her own space where she could run her own experiments and research. And she knew just where to begin.... Soon, she was lost in her work, time slipping by unnoticed.
Bobbi wrinkled her nose and sighed. She'd spent pretty much every night in her father's room...even though her own room was fully decorated now, the calming colors of a tropical Moroccan theme easing stress and the wall encompassing screen transmitting a picture of a secluded tropical beach that she and Lance had visited once when their friendship was new and they hadn't yet become romantic for the first time. Actually, this particular beach was the first time she'd even considered Lance Hunter as a potential paramour. She grinned crookedly. Despite the calming influence of the room, she'd still spent every night with her father, some anxiety she couldn't find the cause of making her clingy and needy. And agitated.
So far, she hadn't done anything to get into trouble because of the unease she was feeling. But a lack of missions wasn't making it easy. BC (before Coulson), she would have taken care of the unease by throwing herself into work - and usually in an unhealthy way. Her father wouldn't allow that now, so she really needed to find a way to ease anxiety that wouldn't upset him. The urge to get his attention by doing something he wouldn't like was a new aspect to the anxiety that she'd never felt before joining the family, but she was self-aware enough to realize that that was more to test her boundaries and to make sure she was still important, not because it actually would help with her nerves.
Grant popped his head through the open door of her room and glanced around. "It looks really great, sis. Mine still looks very institutional...maybe you can help me decorate?"
"Yeah...sure." Bobbi's smile grew warmer as she looked at her 'older' brother. "I'm sure we can figure out a 'theme' that we can decorate around that will make it more comfortable for you."
Grant narrowed his eyes, then nodded. "Great. Thanks. Until then, though, why don't we go on a walk? You look like you could do with getting out of the building for a bit."
"Can't say you're wrong." Bobbi sighed, moving to Grant's side. "Let's go, then...." Soon, the two had left the building and were exploring the grounds around the compound. They didn't bother telling anyone what they were doing, because they figured they were on the grounds and Friday or Veronica were keeping watch, so they could be easily located if needed.
Natasha returned home, having got her son and some of the younger members of the family (Peter and Harry, to be more exact) to help her out with picking up groceries for dinner. It wasn't long after she headed into the kitchen that her father joined her and she grinned at him. "Where are the kids?"
"Your brother's still not back from the school and I believe Grant and Bobbi are exploring outside," Coulson replied. "Raina's in her lab. I was about to go and bring her out. Do you need a hand with dinner?"
"Nah, I think I'm good." Natasha grinned at her father and indicated her son and younger cousins. "I have help."
"Yeah, remind me never to grumble that I'm bored around you again," Peter joked, in the process of chopping vegetables.
Lincoln grinned at Peter. "Grumbling about that around anyone is always bad news..." he teased. He was in the process of making homemade dough for flatbread.
"You know how to get hold of me if you need me." Smiling, Coulson gave his daughter and grandson a hug and kiss on the forehead, then an affectionate hug each to the teenage boys, before heading in search of Raina.
"Sure thing, Gramps!" Lincoln called after Coulson, an impish tone in his voice.
Coulson chuckled and waved back over his shoulder before heading to Raina's lab, asking Friday to announce his presence to his daughter.
"Thanks, Friday!" Raina responded to the AI when she was informed of her father's impending arrival. She quickly cleaned up her experiment so that anyone looking at the area wouldn't be able to figure out what she was doing, an old habit from when she worked with HYDRA and needed to worry about someone stealing her work or sabotaging her. A small part of her had to admit she was also hiding things so that her father wouldn't be able to figure out what she was doing- if he recognized anything- because she was fairly certain he would put the kibosh on her experimental plans if he knew. Soon, she had a simple beaker that she was heating so that she could look at the contents under a microscope...nothing to do with what she'd been working on before she was told her father was coming to see her.
Coulson knocked lightly on the door, so as not to startle her, and then entered the lab. "Hey, sweetie. Your sister's preparing dinner. I figured maybe it's time you take a break." His voice was gentle, but still very firm.
"Ok, Baba..." Raina answered agreeably, removing the beaker from the flame and putting it safely in refrigerated storage, then making a note of the temperature she'd heated it to and for how long before she cooled it again. "I'm ready to go now." She smiled, after cleaning up the minimal mess left after she'd stored the vial.
Coulson wrapped his arms around his daughter in a tight hug, guiding her from the lab while still keeping her in his arms.
Raina snuggled closely, giggling slightly. "Would it be easier for you to walk if I just let you carry me?" she gently teased her father. "Or if you gave me piggy-back?" Walking while he had both arms around her wasn't easy, although she liked the feeling too much to pull away.
Coulson kissed the top of her head. "I can walk just fine holding you like this," he replied.
Raina gave a skeptical look but didn't say anything else, instead shifting so that she could follow his lead- much like dancing- and snuggled closer. "What do you wish to do?" she asked, with a smile.
"I thought perhaps we could go for a walk on the grounds," Coulson suggested.
"I'd like that..." Raina's smiled grew. "I should probably change my shoes..."
Coulson nodded. "Would you like me to wait outside your room while you change your shoes?" he asked, unwilling to invade her privacy if she wasn't comfortable.
"You can come in, daddy...I have a little nook with comfy chairs." Raina grinned.
Coulson smiled and kissed her cheek. "I'd like that," he said, though he allowed her to enter her room first.
Raina walked into her room, leading her father to the little nook she'd set up. "I won't be long..."
Coulson sat down, looking curiously around his daughter's room.
Raina had gone for a more subdued look than her sister Bobbi; it almost looked like a farmhouse room with 'wooden' floor, rag rug and colorful quilt on the bed. Overall, it was a comfortable and inviting room. The wall screen that they'd all ended up getting was displaying a flower garden in full bloom from some part of the world, though it wasn't clear where. She ducked into her closet long enough to grab her walking shoes, then sat on the chair across from her father to put them on. "I guess it is a bit plain compared to some of the other rooms. I didn't have many personal things to add...."
Coulson smiled warmly. "That doesn't matter, sweetie," he said. "It's still a really lovely room. And you might find yourself getting more personal things in the future."
"Maybe..." Raina gave her father a bashful look. "I never really had a place to keep many possessions...I'm used to not keeping things...."
Coulson leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "You have time to get used to it now," he said gently.
"Thanks to you..." Raina said softly. "...Are you ready to walk?"
Nodding, Coulson stood and offered his hand to his daughter to help her up.
Raina took her father's hand and stood, not letting go once they were both up. She continued to hold his hand and let him lead her outside for their walk.
Coulson walked alongside his daughter, holding onto her hand and talking quietly to her, clearly enjoying their time together.
Raina opened up more than she'd expected, the quiet of the grounds and one on one attention helping her relax her natural guard.
Coulson gave her his full and complete attention, keeping in constant contact with her.
Raina was unused to spending one on one time with anyone where she wasn't working and bit her lip as she tried to think of a topic of conversation. "I'm thinking of starting an experiment to see if I can make a solution that will increase the effect of another action. Like if cold medicine clears up symptoms in four hours, it would speed the time up to two hours or less....". Of course, she'd already started the experiment- on her own- but it was just semantics.
Coulson smiled gently at her and squeezed her shoulders. "Where are you planning to start with that?" he asked.
Raina blinked owlishly, not certain she understood the question right. "They gave me my own private lab area in the science section of the SHIELD building...I guess there..." she said cautiously.
"The experiment," Coulson clarified. "Do you have a specific starting point in mind?"
"Oh!" Raina blushed, but her smile grew. "Well, I've decided to work with an enzyme that encourages bacterial growth to form yogurt...see if it is applied in different ways if it will encourage growth or any other change in formation speed..." She slanted her head, watching for his reaction.
Coulson smiled encouragingly. "I think that's a very good place to start. You don't have to work alone... you know that, right?" he asked gently.
Raina blinked, feeling slightly guilty that she'd hidden the fact she'd already started working alone. She hadn't been entirely sure she was allowed to, even if she had been given a private lab. "I know, daddy...sometimes it's easier to think if I'm alone though...." she hedged, still not certain if she was required to get a partner.
"I know," Coulson replied gently. "But I'm just telling you that you don't need to work alone. I know things might have been more cutthroat before, but you're part of the family... part of my family. I'm not going to tell you not to work on your own anymore, but I've seen how easy it is for members of the family to get caught up in their work. Having an extra pair of eyes not only allows another person to see what you might have missed, it also allows two of you to remind each other to take a break."
"I...I will try to remember that. I would never have trusted anyone before to care about or help me that way..." she admitted.
Coulson kissed her head. "It takes time to get used to those kinds of changes. You aren't the only one who's had to make that kind of adjustment."
"It doesn't bother you?" she asked hesitantly.
"Not at all," Coulson replied reassuringly.
Biting her lip and leaning toward her father hesitantly, Raina asked in a whisper, "Would you be upset if I told you I already started working on the project?" She swallowed hard, realizing that she'd basically just admitted to almost hiding things from him.
Coulson tightened his arms around her. "I would have preferred it if you'd told me," he said mildly.
"Uh...huh..." Raina mumbled softly, an almost embarrassed tone in her voice. Swallowing, she snuggled closer. "Am I in trouble for not telling you?" She wasn't certain what she hoped the answer would be. Part of her wanted to hear him say yes, because he cared enough about her to not want her to hide things...even if the things she was hiding wasn't something he'd specifically told her he wanted her to tell him. The other part hoped not, because he hadn't actually told her she had to tell him about every experiment she ever did...not directly anyway. Although she wasn't entirely sure she shouldn't have taken a request like that as a given, even if he never actually voice it. It was a bit confusing to her, really...as independent and self-reliant as she had always been, there was still a tiny part of her that wanted someone able and willing to step in; the young girl who wanted a family 'tiny' part of her. She nestled close as she waited to hear his answer.
"A little bit," Coulson replied, after a moment's thought. "I did, after all, tell you not to do any experiments on your own before." He had been considering changing that rule, but the fact was, he hadn't told her he was going to.
Raina blinked, glancing up at him with a wince. He had told her that. She'd just assumed that he meant until things settled and she'd been in the family long enough to adjust. But he hadn't actually rescinded that rule, so to assume he had was poor form on her part. Even if she ignored the fact that she was still adjusting, so her assumption was faulty in the first place. Swallowing yet again, she asked, in a tiny voice, "A little bit, as in I'm grounded and can't do experiments again? Or a little bit as in you'll spank me but I can still do experiments if I tell you about them? Or..." Her voice trailed off as she realized she might be giving him ideas he hadn't thought of (as unlikely as that was) and she didn't want to accidently hand him a form of punishment that she thoroughly disliked (not that she liked the two she mentioned, but there were worse things that could be done, even in a 'mild' punishment).
"A little bit in that I'm going to give you a spanking... though it'll just be a reminder... and we'll discuss any experiments you want to do alone," Coulson replied, his voice mild and calm.
Raina slumped and let out a tiny sigh, but she didn't argue. "Yessir...I...I deserve it," she admitted quietly, before snuggling closer to her father again. She glanced around the wooded area they had walked to. She knew that the cameras didn't see this far and it was doubtful they'd be disturbed, but they were still outside. "Are you going to spank me now? Or later?" she asked, in an even quieter voice.
"We'll take care of it after we've eaten... unless you'd rather get it out of the way now," Coulson replied gently.
Raina looked down before glancing back up at her father with a regretful look. "I don't want it between us, Baba..." she said softly.
In answer, Coulson kissed her forehead. Still holding her hand, he began leading her back home.
Raina was disappointed in herself; if she hadn't made assumptions about what she was and wasn't allowed to do, she wouldn't have done something that disappointed her father. And their walk would have continued to be peaceful and fun. But instead, she had assumed her prior requirements of working alone and letting her father know at all times what she was doing had ended, even though he hadn't said she could work alone or work without telling him her plans. She sighed softly and pressed close to Coulson. "I should have told you what I wanted to do before doing it...and asked if I could work alone..." she admitted forlornly. "...I'm sorry I assumed I could do whatever I wanted without any input from you...I have no good reason for doing so. Just that I never had to tell anyone or get permission from anyone before you saved me.... It's hard to remember I'm accountable to others now...."
"I know." Coulson hugged her tight against his side. "It isn't the end of the world if you forget. We deal with it and then move on," he promised.
"I love you, Baba..." Raina said softly. "I don't like disappointing you...."
"I love you too," Coulson replied. "And I'm very rarely disappointed. Things have been moving quickly recently and I suspect everyone's still a bit shaken up."
"Things have been moving rapidly..." Raina agreed softly. "...That doesn't mean I should make assumptions and act on them without talking to you first." Her voice was regretful and had a hint of the frustration she felt at herself.
"We'll deal with it and then move on," Coulson promised, leading her inside with an arm wrapped around her waist.
"Yes, Baba..." Raina agreed, following meekly. It didn't take long for them to reach the elevator down to the family floor and soon, they were heading down the hallway that their rooms were on. Raina didn't know if her father would take her to his room or her own to deal with her conduct and looked up at him, a question in her eyes.
"We'll go to my room," Coulson decided, guiding his daughter in that direction, his arm still around her waist.
Raina continued to follow Coulson. She was relieved that they didn't run into any of the rest of the family on the way to her father's room. "I'm going to have the dubious honor of being the first to be spanked in our new home...." She sighed.
"I'm sure it won't be long before someone else follows," Coulson replied, guiding her into his bedroom. He took a seat and gently tugged his daughter over his lap.
Raina gave her father a wry if slightly amused glance. "This wasn't a contest I ever planned on entering..." she huffed, with a tiny laugh. The laughter stopped when he closed the door, though and by the time she found herself over his lap, she was completely quiet, almost somber. She reached down and gripped her father's ankle hesitantly.
Coulson adjusted her gently, rubbing her back a moment or two before he bared her and wrapped an arm around her waist, drawing her in close.
Raina's breath hitched slightly, the only indication that she was already being affected by what was about to occur. She didn't fight, or whine, or even squirm, however. She knew she'd done something she shouldn't have and deserved what was coming.
Coulson brought his hand down in the first fairly mild swat, more like a pat, and then repeated it.
Raina sniffled, the position and knowledge that she'd disappointed her father affecting her more than the swats. "I'm sorry, Baba..." she whispered.
"I know, sweetie," Coulson replied, his voice gentle, as he completed one circuit and began a second, not going any harder or faster.
Raina shivered and sniffled again, a tiny choking cry gurgling from her throat. "I shouldn't have assumed..." Her whisper was contrite and strained this time, as she attempted not to cry. Her father wasn't smacking hard enough to warrant crying and she felt ashamed that she was already doing so.
"I'm not trying to control you, sweetie," Coulson said, his hand not stopping. "But there were good reasons for putting that rule in place."
"I know...because of what I did before...that was d..dangerous for me and others...be...because I don't always know the difference between what is right or wrong to do..." Raina couldn't stop the tears this time and they were clear in her voice.
"I'll help you." Coulson's voice was gentle, though his hand didn't let up. "I will always help you. But you have to be honest with me."
"I...I want to, Baba....I don't thi...think I kn...know how!" Raina let out a tiny sob, before going boneless and just feeling what was occurring; not trying to stop it at all (though she hadn't really been fighting it before).
Coulson brought the spanking to a stop and wasted no time in gathering his daughter into his arms, settling her on his lap and hugging her tight to himself.
Raina snuggled closer to her father, sniffling forlornly. "What if I never learn?" she asked, in a whisper.
"You will," Coulson promised. "You aren't the only one to struggle with having to change how you've grown up."
"Thank you, Baba..." Raina whispered, leaning up to kiss him on the cheek. Giving a tiny sigh, she reluctantly stood and adjusted her clothing.
Standing as well, Coulson reached out to wrap his arm around her shoulders once she was done. "Shall we go and see how dinner's going?" he suggested.
"Yes, sir..." Raina answered with a tiny smile, letting her father lead her back out of his room and toward the kitchen area.
Coulson kissed her cheek as they headed into the kitchen and he smiled at the family members who had gathered there.
"Hello, Uncle Agent..." Tony grinned impishly at Phil before nodding at Raina. "Hey, cuz...did you find the lab that was made for you, to your liking? If there is anything in particular you need, just let Friday or Veronica know to put it on the supply list...."
"I will do so, Tony. Thank you..." Raina smiled.
Coulson walked over to begin carrying food into the dining room, as other family members began to filter in and out to help.
Mack walked in and glanced around, looking for his family. He'd not seen Loki, Lorelei or Darcy all day and was curious as to what everyone had been up to. He'd spent the morning fixing his motorcycle in the huge garage that had been built for SHIELD, Avenger and personal vehicles.
Thor had spent a lot of the day with Jane, who was going to be away at a conference for the next few days. He walked into the kitchen and grinned when he saw his youngest brother. "Mack! Have you seen our brother or sisters?" he asked.
"No...I haven't. Maybe they were with dad." Mack smiled. "Is Jane joining us for lunch? And how did she feel about you and Darcie moving her in with the rest of the family while she was away?" He grinned.
Thor laughed. "She does not seem to find it such a hardship," he replied. "She's just gone to wash for lunch." A perplexed look came over his face.
"What's wrong, bro?" Mack asked curiously, noting the perplexed look.
"I still do not really understand why it is necessary to wash up when you have not been doing anything to make you dirty," Thor admitted.
"Uh..." Mack began ineloquently. "...There are hidden germs and bacteria that can be transferred that, even if we aren't 'dirty' exactly, can make normal Midgardians sick..." he finally said. "As a scientist, she is likely aware of a lot of them and doesn't want to take any chances...." He wrinkled his nose. "...Now that I'm thinking about them, I think I'm going to go wash up really quick myself...." He turned to head toward the washroom that was just off the family room, as that was closer than his own.
Thor nodded, accepting that explanation, and turned to help carry some more plates and bowls to the table.
Soon, all the food was on the table and almost all the family was gathered to eat. Those who weren't there were noticeable in their absence. Mack sat between Thor and Odin, smiling at Jane, who sat on Thor's other side.
Odin's expression was concerned, seeing that three of his children were absent, but not quite into worry yet. He ate sparingly, not quite able to relax until he could see them.
Darcy looked at her watch again nervously before glancing at her brother and sister. Lorelei and Loki didn't seem any calmer than she felt. She had to press closer to hear Loki's words.
"We stayed longer than I intended. We will miss lunch entirely and it will be dinner before we get back home. Father will be suspicious...." He sounded resigned.
Lorelei winced. "He can't know we took...."
"We weren't supposed to take them?" Darcy interrupted in a high-pitched voice.
"You said you knew what they were!" Loki retorted back defensively. "If you knew what they were, you had to be aware they aren't meant to ever leave Asgard!"
"I thought that was just another myth! Like you and the horse!" Her eyes widened at his wince. "The horse is true?!"
"What?! No!" Loki spluttered. "I just am really disturbed by some of those myths that have developed about me! But to answer your non-question...." he held up a golden apple, "...the story about these is actually correct...."
Darcy sighed. "Great. So we have to hide what we did from dad...."
"Unfortunately...." Lorelei was the one to answer this time, her voice reluctant.
Loki just sighed and nodded, before continuing to lead them through the darkened tunnel toward Midgard and home.
By the time lunch had finished, Odin's concern was rapidly becoming worry. Thor quietly took his father's plate and cutlery to wash, freeing Odin to go and watch for the return of his other children.
Mack gave his father a concerned look and quickly helped his brother. "Do you think we need to form a search party?" he whispered to Thor uncertainly.
Ben had noticed Odin's missing children (pretty much everyone had) and he walked over to stand next to the worried Asgardian. "I'm pretty confident they will show up with an interesting- if not accurate- explanation of why they'd miss a standing family appointment without calling to let anyone know..." he said gently. "If they were in trouble, Loki at the least would have sent one of his clones to you to let you know...wouldn't he?" This time, his voice wasn't as certain, since he wasn't entirely sure how Loki's abilities worked and it was possible the young Asgardian wouldn't have been able to send a message that way.
Thor's frown was worried. "If we knew where they were roughly, we could look. But we know very little. I do not like not knowing. I wish to find them...."
"In normal circumstances, he would be able to," Odin replied. "But not if he's prevented from using his abilities."
Ben nodded. "If they took their phones with them, Veronica or Friday might be able to determine their location...."
"I will ask them." Odin addressed his question to the AIs.
Veronica was the one to answer the All-father. "I am sorry, sir...but I am not able to locate a signal on any of the phones in question. They have either been turned off or are malfunctioning in some other manner...." the AI responded. It did not occur to the AI that the reason she could not locate the signal on the phones was because they were not on Earth.
Odin took a deep breath, trying to calm his sense of panic. "I'll return to Asgard and ask Heimdall if he can see them," he decided quickly.
Ben nodded, reaching up and squeezing Odin on the shoulder. It was troubling that three family members were unaccounted for and the usual means of finding them weren't available. "Can I do anything to help?" he asked. He carefully glanced around the room, catching the eye of some of the other parents so that they could come help too if needed.
Coulson, Fury and Steve were quick to head over, having noticed the disappearance of the family members as well.
"Perhaps some of us should go with you to Asgard, while the rest of us direct the search from here," Steve suggested.
Mack looked at his father. "Just tell us what to do, dad..." he said, the worry clear in his voice.
Kara bit her lip and moved closer to her uncle. "We all want to help..." she added. She'd become quite close to Loki since he'd kept her from drowning in the island cave. She couldn't help but worry.
"Maybe some of us should go into town...in case they went there for some reason and turned their phones off?" Jessica added.
Coulson and Steve were quick to start organising where everyone was going to go. Odin was growing rapidly more worried and as soon as the parents who were going with him had been decided, he was taking them to Asgard with him.
Loki glanced at his sisters. "Are we all clear on what our story is when we finally get back home?" he asked seriously, a hint of nervousness in his tone. "We can't have any details different, or they will know immediately it is a story and push for the truth...." He didn't really like the idea of lying to his family- to his father- but taking the apples was forbidden and he needed to be certain they were eaten by his Midgardian relatives, not sent back to Asgard, or it would have been a fruitless trip.
Darcy wrinkled her nose. "Relax, Loke's. Lori and I were the ones who came up with the story. We won't forget." Darcy wasn't all that keen on lying either, but she was pragmatic. She knew that giving the family the apples that would lengthen their lives was important to Loki and Lorelei... she would have felt the same way if she were in their shoes... so she would do everything in her power to make certain their 'mission' was a success.
Lorelei smiled. "She is correct, Loki. We know what the story we are to tell is. We won't forget." She paused. "I understand what the apples are for, but why did you bring those two old dusty rocks?" she asked curiously.
"These?" Loki held up the rocks in question. "These are artefacts that the scholars won't miss. I promised our cousin Tony to bring him more Asgardian artefacts to study. These are tame and should prove harmless enough for him to do research on without causing a calamity." He chuckled ruefully, remembering the artefact that hadn't been so harmless and that had de-aged them. Putting the two rocks into one of his deeper pockets, he straightened. "We are almost through the pathway and will reach the exit into Midgard...just outside the tiny town. When we step out, we need to hurry to the theatre and make certain we are seen, so that if anyone asks, we'll have strangers that can corroborate our story...."
"Of course...Sure..." Lorelei and Darcy both quickly answered.
Odin didn't waste any time in transporting himself to Asgard, only pausing long enough to make sure his siblings were prepared for the trip. As soon as they were on the rainbow bridge, he approached Heimdall and quickly started questioning the huge guardian.
Ben had come with Odin as support; and also because, with his reporter's instinct, he felt he might be able to tell if someone was hiding something, either intentionally or unintentionally, that might help lead to Odin's children. Heimdall hadn't been able to shed any light on the location of the three missing family members. That didn't mean his answers weren't informative.
"So...no one has come through the gate recently except the All-father?" He slanted his head. "Does that mean that the children can't be here in Asgard?" He looked between Heimdall and Odin uncertainly, not knowing if there were other means of traveling between the worlds.
"There are other ways in and out of Asgard and the rest of the nine realms," Heimdall replied. "Loki has made use of those before."
Odin nodded slowly. "Having used them once, he could well use them again. And take Lorelei with him. But Darcy is Midgardian. And those other ways are dangerous."
"Has Loki been told not to use those ways?" Ben asked, with a hint of curiosity. "If not, we can't discount the possibility they used them. If past experience has taught me one thing, it's that children will attempt to get away with whatever you haven't expressly forbidden, if they think they won't get caught. Sometimes they'll try and get away with it, if it has been forbidden!" His tone was dry and, as he suspected Odin had experienced the exact same thing, sounded more commiserating than 'informing'.
"I never expressly forbade it," Odin admitted. "I thought there was no longer a need for him to use the dangerous ways." His voice was self-deprecating, as he realised he shouldn't have discounted it as a possibility.
Ben frowned slightly, then tried to make Odin feel better. "Maybe they didn't use them; you did say they were dangerous. None of those children are stupid, so maybe...."
"I can't assume that," Odin replied. "There are very few reasons why Heimdall would not be able to see someone."
Steve, who had accompanied them, moved a bit closer. "Perhaps we should return home and check if any other members of the family have heard anything back from them?" he suggested.
Ben nodded. "Yes...I'm sure you will be informed if they are seen here after we leave..." He glanced at Heimdall for confirmation.
Heimdall nodded. "Of course," he agreed without hesitation.
Ben prepared himself for the trip back to Midgard, standing between Odin and Steve so that, if he stumbled, he could grab one of them for balance.
Odin returned them to Midgard quickly and then went to meet up with the others to ask if they'd heard anything from his wayward children.
Mack was officially worried. They'd looked through the entire town without finding sign of his siblings. Veronica had searched the entire grounds around the compound and hadn't found any heat signatures beyond the squirrel, deer and other wildlife that lived in the area. Either his family was nowhere near home, or Loki was masking their presence for some reason. Either way, it wasn't good. He quickly went to meet up with his father when he was contacted about Odin's return. "Did you find them, dad?" he asked, his anxiousness clear.
Odin shook his head, clearly anxious and worried. "There's nothing from them here?" He already guessed the answer, but needed to voice the question.
"Nothing..." Mack said softly, moving closer and wrapping his arms around his father. "...We'll find them, though. I'm sure...." His voice wasn't as confident as he wanted, but he was trying his hardest to bolster his father.
Loki and his sisters had reached the exit of the pathway and were about to set foot onto Midgard again. Before they could, he looked at the two women. "Alright. As much as I hate to do it, we need to turn our phones off. That way, if someone says they've been trying to reach us and asks why we didn't answer, we can act like our phones being off is the reason we didn't know about it...instead of the fact we were nowhere with a phone signal..." He proceeded to follow his own directions, wrinkling his nose, not really liking that they might have to lie, but not wanting their actions to be discovered either. "...Hopefully, no one has been trying to reach us and it won't even come up...."
Darcy snorted. "We missed lunch. You know it will come up. I don't like lying either, big brother...but if you want your plan to work, we can't let them find out about the apples and the only way to do that is to hide what we were really doing. So..." She sighed. "...Really a shame that law is in place, though. It'd be a heck of a sight easier if you were allowed to share the apples with whoever you wanted and could just tell everyone what we were doing." She pouted, pulling her phone out and turning it off.
"I wish it was allowed. I don't understand why it isn't," Lorelei added her own two-cents into the conversation, even as she pulled out her phone and turned it off. "If I didn't know it would draw suspicion, I'd ask daddy why sharing isn't allowed."
Nodding as his sisters did as he'd directed, Loki finally stepped onto Midgardian soil, quickly leading his sisters around to the back of the movie theatre so they could 'exit' the building from the front and claim they'd been inside watching movies all afternoon. He cloaked his siblings and himself long enough to get into the building and into a darkened corner, then let the cloaking go. "Alright. Time to head home..." he whispered, before straightening up and walking back to the lobby again, making certain enough people saw him that, if anyone asked, they'd believe he'd been inside the theatre. Lorelei and Darcy followed closely behind. Soon, they were stepping back out of the theatre again, and walking back toward home.
Darcy glanced around as they walked. "Loke's? Is it just me or are we being stared at?" she whispered nervously, having noticed several people looking at them and then pulling out phones.
Odin couldn't settle down. As soon as he'd returned from Asgard, he was out with the search parties, periodically asking one or the other of the AIs if his children had come into range. It was a struggle not to keep transporting himself to Asgard to keep asking Heimdall the same.
Mack was staying as close to his father as possible, so he was there when Thor's phone rang. He glanced toward his older brother hopefully.
Thor was quick to answer his phone. "This is Thor speaking."
Loki, Lorelei and Darcy had made fairly quick time from the movie theatre to the edge of town, walking up the road that would eventually lead to the compound where they now lived. "What's with all these people looking at us strange?" Darcy muttered to her siblings, noting yet a third person who took a second glance as they walked by and then pulled their phone out. "I'm about ready to go grab some phones outta people's hands...."
Loki frowned. "I am not certain.... Let us walk faster." Taking both sisters' arms, he quickened his own pace as they walked home.
Thor listened and responded, then looked at the other family members. "They have been seen leaving the movie theatre," he reported.
"They were at the movies for five hours? Was there a double feature or something?" Mack's voice was incredulous, although what he really wanted to know was why they hadn't called between movies to inform the family what they were doing.
Odin frowned. "Heimdall would have seen them." He still wasn't relaxed... and wouldn't be until he could see his children were safe with his own eye.
"Maybe Loki cloaked them for some reason?" Mack asked hesitantly. Before Odin could answer, however, he looked down the road and saw his siblings approaching. "There they are!" He sounded relieved.
Odin extricated himself from the sons he knew were safe and quickly walked over to meet his other children. "Are you all safe?" he demanded, as soon as he was close enough.
Loki blinked, consternation filling his face as he saw nearly the entire family- all looking very worried- in the midst of what was obviously a search. "Y...yes, sir..." He swallowed and asked, even though he was fairly certain he knew the answer, "Wh..what happened?"
Darcy and Lorelei shifted closer, their eyes wide and nervous. He knew Darcy had to have been nervous...usually, she'd be jabbering away by now.
Odin took a deep breath and looked at each of them in turn. "Where were you?" he asked outright.
"At the movies!" Darcy squeaked out, then blushed at the high-pitched tone of her voice. She swallowed and cleared her throat and didn't say anything else, afraid her voice wouldn't work.
Lorelei licked her lips, then nodded at her sister’s words. "We have just left the theatre..." she added to the comment.
Loki glanced around at everyone and took a deep breath. "You were looking for us...?" he asked, although it wasn't really a question, as it was obvious that everyone had been searching.
"Heimdall couldn't see you." Odin paused and waited, knowing Loki, at least, would understand the implications of that sentence.
Lorelei and Darcy blinked uncertainly while Loki's eyes widened. "I....I might have hidden our presence from him without thinking about it.... I was cloaking us so that no one in the theater would pay heed to us...." Loki said uncertainly. Odin likely thought that Loki was worried about having cloaked himself and being in trouble for that, but in reality, the young Asgardian Prince was beginning to feel the first twinges of guilt about lying to his father. Even if his reasons were good- or at least he and Darcy and Lorelei had all three agreed it was necessary- it didn't sit well with him being dishonest with his father. He might have got the title of Lie Smith in the various Midgardian myths, but in actuality, he normally attempted to tell the truth.
Odin frowned, torn between relief that his children were safe and worry that his son felt the need to hide. "Why didn't you want them to see you?" he asked, his voice softened slightly.
In the meantime, Thor was sending messages to those of the family members who weren't with them, letting them know his missing siblings were back and safe.
"I...we are not yet familiar with the town...I know the agents that work in the compound have been vetted and can be trusted, but until we have been here long enough to recognize the town residents....After what happened at the tower....I just felt it prudent to take precaution. I did not mean to cause worry...especially when there was nothing truly wrong...." Loki's voice was hesitant and he spoke very softly.
Odin was still obviously very worried, but he sighed and nodded. "As long as none of you are hurt. Next time, I would prefer it if you let me know you were going to be longer than expected."
"Yes, daddy..." Lorelei quickly answered, her voice contrite.
Darcy nodded. "We should have let you know we'd be late...."
"Yes. sir," Loki answered readily, if a bit more subdued than he normally would be.
Odin wasn't sure he was getting the full story, but he was too relieved they were safe to continue questioning them. He moved forward to hug each of them in turn.
Loki watched as first Darcy, then Lorelei was hugged by their father, noting that both girls seemed reluctant to let go of the embrace. He couldn't blame them. As soon as he was in Odin's arms, he held on as tightly as possible, reluctant to let go of the older man himself. He hoped this wasn't a sign that the three of them were making a mistake...this clinginess bordering on fear to let go. And if it wasn't a mistake, he hoped the unusually affectionate behavior didn't give their secret away, since it made them seem guilty.
Odin couldn't complain at the overabundance of affection, though he couldn't help feeling somewhat suspicious. Still, he didn't want to accuse them of lying. Especially when there was no evidence of that but a gut feeling.
"The others will meet us back at the compound, if we're ready..." Mack interrupted the reunion gently. "Pepper is ordering pizza for dinner." He waited till everyone acknowledged his words before turning and leading the way back up the road toward the building.
Everyone else began following Mack. Odin moved so he could see all of his children and further satisfy himself they were safe.
Once back in the compound and on the private level, Loki turned toward his father. "I am going to clean up and change, if I may be excused?"
"Me too, daddy!" Darcy piped in.
Lorelei nodded in agreement with her siblings, though she didn't say anything.
"I think that sounds like a good idea..." Mack mumbled, but waited for Odin's dismissal.
Odin nodded. "I want the three of you to stay close for the next several days." Not exactly grounding them... but close to it.
Darcy opened her mouth as if to protest, but glancing at her brother and sister, she swallowed and instead agreed. "Yes, daddy...."
Loki swallowed a sigh and nodded in acceptance. It meant he'd have to wait for a few days before he could implement his plan, but the apples wouldn't spoil, so that wasn't a problem. "Yes, sir," he said quickly, before heading into his room to store the apples and the artifacts.
"Ok, daddy..." Lorelei smiled. She actually liked when Odin got over protective of her and wouldn't let her out of his sight. She'd always longed for someone to care that deeply for her, so she wasn't about to complain now that she had it.
Odin paused to wait for Loki, looking at his daughters. "Do either of you need to do anything before dinner?" he asked.
"Just change clothes and wash my hands..." Darcy smiled. "I'll be really quick!" Hugging him again, she ran into her room, leaving Lorelei standing next to her father.
Lorelei bit her lip. "I should clean up as well," she said reluctantly, not wanting to leave her father's side.
"Would you like me to accompany you?" Odin asked gently.
Lorelei's face lit up like she'd discovered Christmas. "Yes, daddy..." she said, almost shyly.
Odin wrapped an arm around his daughter's shoulders and gently guided her into her bedroom.
Mack glanced at Thor once the rest of their family had disappeared. "Is it just me, or does it seem like they're hiding something?" he asked quietly.
Thor nodded. "It seems that way to me, too," he admitted. "Despite what he is painted as in myths, Loki does not normally lie without a very good reason."
"Which is...worrying. What could have happened that they feel the need to hide it?" Mack wondered softly.
"I am not certain," Thor admitted. "But at least none of them appear to have been harmed."
"Thankfully. I don't know what dad would have done if they had been." Mack sighed.
"We will have to watch them closely to find out if they have done anything that may come to affect us," Thor said.
Mack blinked in surprise. "Do you think they have?" he asked sceptically.
"I do not know," Thor admitted. "But I believe we should be prepared for any possibility."
"And if we learn they've done something?" Mack asked.
"We will have to consider our actions based on what it is," Thor answered.
"If they did something and we aren't just being paranoid..." Mack muttered, although it was clear he didn't think they were being paranoid.
"We can hope," Thor replied dryly.
Mack just chuckled. "Let's go help get things set up for when dinner arrives," he sighed. "Dad's got them now. He'll handle it." Giving his brother a wry smile, he turned and headed toward the dining area, nodding at other family members that were doing the same.
It didn't take long before everyone was settled in the dining room. No one was absent, but Odin was still keeping an obvious eye on his wayward children.
Ben glanced at Blake. "Have you found out any more information on what you were looking for?" he asked his son.
Blake shook his head. "Not yet," he admitted. "I'm still working on it."
"Well, if you find out anything, let me know. I'd like to help you..." Ben said assuredly.
Kara was pressed up against Fury, but she kept glancing at Loki as if to reassure herself that he was back.
Loki smiled at his cousin. "I am alright, Kar-bear. I am sorry I frightened you..." he whispered to her during one of the moments she'd moved close enough that he could apologize without drawing attention to her, since she seemed reluctant to let anyone see her upset.
Fury had his arm wrapped around his daughter's shoulders, knowing she was upset even though he wouldn't draw attention to it. He did give her a gentle, reassuring squeeze to hopefully make it clear he was there for her.
At Loki's apology and her father's affectionate support, Kara relaxed- finally- and smiled at her cousin before wrapping her arms around her father in a snuggly hug.
Loki sighed softly and moved closer to his own father, though both Darcy and Lorelei were hanging off the older man like limpets, and gave a crooked smile to Odin. "I did not realize how badly we would frighten everyone. I am sorry, father. We should have left our phones on...." He winced. He hadn't intended to offer that excuse unless someone brought up the fact that they hadn't answered their phones. No one had asked that question though and the answers they had given had put them in the clear of any other questions.
He found that unsettling. They'd lied and had got away with the lie and while he didn't want the truth to be found out, he also felt very guilty and didn't like that he hadn't even got a chiding for not checking his phone in between the non-existent double feature. He could tell Lorelei and Darcy felt the same way. It was why he'd mentioned the phones being turned off. Even though that wasn't what had happened, it would at least open up an opportunity for Odin to correct them for being out of contact with no way to reach them, while still keeping the true circumstances hidden. He wanted to be scolded. He wanted to have some type of repercussion, even if it was just to be told that 'staying close' to father for a few days had turned into a full-fledged grounding.
Lorelei nodded in agreement to his confession, while Darcy said, "We really should have left our phones on..." in a subdued voice, confirming the fact they were feeling just as guilty as Loki.
Thor heard Loki's comment and noticed the reactions of his sisters, too. He didn't say anything, but he glanced at Mack.
Odin hadn't failed to notice his daughters and Loki's clingy behaviour. It was one of the reasons for keeping them close, along with being a response to what had happened. "You should have left your phones on," he replied. "We were all very worried about you. I thought something might have happened."
Mack looked back at Thor, his eyebrow going up faintly. This behavior was just more evidence that his siblings were hiding something. He just hoped that whatever it was wouldn't hurt them later.
"I did not mean to cause worry or concern..." Loki's voice was soft and subdued.
"I know," Odin replied. "But perhaps this conversation would be better continued after we've eaten." While how things were handled in the family was far from a secret, he didn't think having an audience would help any of them.
"Yes, sir...Of course..." Loki sighed softly, his eyes falling toward the ground. It was telling that he didn't argue or try to defend himself.
It was even more telling that neither of the girls argued or tried to defend themselves either. They obviously all felt guilty.
Once dinner was over, Thor stood and cleared his father's and younger siblings' plates and cutlery, freeing up Odin to take Loki, Lorelei and Darcy privately to his room.
Mack helped his brother, noting that the rest of the family was cleaning up and then heading to their own rooms or into the entertainment area to watch a movie.
Odin gestured for Loki, Lorelei and Darcy to accompany him to his room, then headed in that direction.
Giving his sisters a resigned and almost apologetic look, since it was his words that started them down this particular road, Loki followed Odin.
Sighing, Darcy followed close on Loki's heels. It wasn't as if she wasn't about to say something equally incriminating herself, so she wasn't upset at her brother.
Lorelei didn't even sigh. She straightened her shoulders and regally followed; every bit an Asgardian princess, even if she hadn't been raised one.
Odin opened the door to his room and stepped inside, waving his children in behind him. Once they were all standing inside, he closed the door and then turned to face them, a serious look on his face.
Loki blushed at the urge he had to confess everything, barely managing to hold his tongue.
Darcy was unsurprisingly not able to do so. "I'm sorry, daddy! I didn't think about how everyone would worry!" she fretted.
"It wouldn't have taken much to let us know where you'd gone." Odin looked at each of them in turn. "We've faced a lot of dangers. I didn't know if something had happened to any of you...."
"You're right, daddy..." Lorelei looked down, unable to face her father. "We didn't think of that...." While all three of them had decided taking the apples was a good idea and that the fact they had taken them needed to be kept hidden, the fact was they could have found some way to keep their family from worrying about them. They could have told them they were taking a quick trip to Asgard to pick up the artifacts that Loki ended up bringing back- and to show Darcy around (which they had done). They could have called before leaving and then again once they returned. And telling their family would have enabled them to use the bifrost instead of the dangerous paths that she knew Odin would not have approved of. Somehow, lying about their true intentions for going to Asgard had translated into hiding the fact that they had gone to Asgard in the first place; and it really hadn't needed to be that way.
Loki nodded at his sister's words. "She is right. We did not think. It was never our intention to worry you or anyone else. I am sorry..." He barely refrained from calling Odin 'daddy' himself, though he was close to doing so. He was feeling guiltier about his actions than he'd expected to feel.
Darcy just slumped and stared at the ground.
"While I know you didn't intend to cause any worry, the fact remains you did," Odin said. "And those actions cannot go unanswered, which means that, in addition to this grounding, each of you will be spanked."
Loki winced, but didn't argue. He knew what was expected and had actually felt unsettled when he thought he was going to get away with what he'd done; having his father confirm the family rules and respond consistently helped ease that unease.
"Where do you want us to go or what should we do, daddy?" Lorelei whispered.
Darcy bit her lip.
Odin looked around his room and came to a quick decision. Without saying a word, he took a gentle hold of Loki's arm and guided his son to one of the corners of the room. Then he did the same to Lorelei.
Loki obediently went where his father led him, facing the corner and not leaving as soon as he was placed.
Lorelei did the same, although she couldn't stop herself from throwing her arms around her father in a quick hug before she turned back to face her own corner.
Darcy stood in the center of the room where Odin had left her, shifting from foot to foot and biting her lip nervously. She didn't attempt to leave the room, though, running not even entering her mind.
Odin reciprocated Lorelei's hug and then gently squeezed Loki's shoulder before he moved over to Darcy. Giving her a reassuring smile, he took her hand and led her over to the bed, sitting down and gently guiding her over his lap.
Darcy wasn't sure how she felt about the fact she was about to be punished with her siblings in the room where they could hear. The only consolation was that they would be going through the same thing and since she was first, they'd soon forget her reactions as they dealt with their own. Still, she didn't fight or argue. Once in position, she reached down and held onto Odin's leg, saying in a quivery voice, "I'm sorry I scared you, daddy..."
"I know." Odin rubbed her back gently and then bared her. Wrapping an arm around her waist to draw her in close against his stomach, he lifted his hand and brought it down in the first stinging rather than hard swat.
Darcy whimpered softly, then sniffled. She was embarrassed at how quickly she began to cry, but between feeling so badly at having scared her family and the position she now found herself in, it was impossible to remain calm and collected. She held as still as she was able, but still couldn't help but shift slightly at the swat.
Odin kept his strength carefully controlled as he completed one circuit of swats, going down to Darcy's thighs, then started again from the top.
Darcy began to squirm more frantically the longer the spanking continued; her sniffs turned into sniffles and then tiny whimpers and whines; the slight amount of tears she'd had before the spanking even began turned into a stream of tears trailing down her cheeks; and soon, even that small amount of control was beyond her and she began to choke back tiny sobs. "I'm sorry, daddy! I'm sorry!"
"I know," Odin replied gently, even as he continued the spanking, only using a tiny bit of his strength. Apart from the spanking serving more as a reminder, he was aware Darcy was human and didn't want to use too much force. "You are too important to risk," he continued. "Not telling us where you were meant we didn't have any kind of idea of where to start looking if you had been in any kind of danger."
Darcy couldn't rightly say the spanking was unbearable; even if it stung, it was a manageable pain. It was her father's words that did her in. She already felt guilty for lying...as much as they had agreed it was necessary. Adding worrying her father onto her list of crimes and knowing how much her actions had hurt him? She slumped bonelessly over Odin's knee and sobbed.
Odin brought the spanking to a stop and then gathered his daughter into his arms, hugging her tight.
Darcy snuggled as close as she was physically able to. She still felt guilty, the lies she and her siblings had told still standing between her and her father. She couldn't confess, though. Not until she'd spoken with the others and they'd all agreed to come clean. Not when it would ruin Loki's plans. She hated having the lies between her and Odin, though. It physically hurt. Her sobs slowly calmed until she was sniffling, but her grip on Odin didn't ease at all.
Odin tightened his own embrace and stroked her hair gently, murmuring soft, soothing words of comfort and forgiveness.
Darcy didn't want to let go, but eventually, she forced herself to release her father and fix her clothing, giving him a woebegone look. "Where do you want me, daddy?" she finally whispered, knowing that he still had her siblings to take care of.
Odin leaned forward and kissed her forehead, then stood and took her hand to lead her over to the same corner Lorelei stood in. He drew Lorelei out and then gently guided Darcy into the corner.
Darcy sniffled as she was put into the corner, immediately facing the wall. "I love you, daddy..." she said quietly, even as she attempted to get her emotions fully under control. It wasn't easy, not knowing that she was about to hear her sister receive what she'd just got.
Lorelei was already crying when Odin pulled her from the corner. Hearing Darcy punished had been difficult. Knowing that the reason for the punishment was because they'd worried and hurt their family- scared their father- had made it unbearable. So she was already crying, though she managed, barely, to keep the tears silent. The look she gave Odin as he led her out of the corner was sorrowful and contrite- and full of guilt. It was very difficult not to confess everything. But she wouldn't say anything unless her brother and sister agreed to confessing as well. She wouldn't force them into a confession. Not when they'd all agreed to keep their secret together.
"I love you too...all of you," Odin added, including Lorelei and Loki in his response to Darcy. Gently squeezing his other daughter, he led her to the bed and, within seconds, had her in the same position over his knee as he'd had Darcy.
Lorelei let out a choked sob as she was upended over her father's knee. She didn't fight the position, though and instead went limp so that he could thoroughly punish her as quickly as possible.
Odin wrapped his arm around Lorelei's waist, drawing her close against his stomach, and then proceeded to bare her. Lifting his hand, he brought it down in a swat the same force he'd used on Darcy and then repeated it.
Lorelei was already crying hard, so the swat didn't alter her response at all other than to cause her to squirm minutely. She was ashamed at how quickly she'd lost control over herself and could only hope Odin understood why she'd started crying immediately. If he thought she was attempting to receive an easier punishment by using her tears, she would feel even worse about herself.
Odin completed one circuit of swats and then began a second, tightening his hold on his daughter.
Lorelei continued to cry steadily, not begging for the punishment to stop. Instead, she sobbed out, "I'm sorry, daddy...I'm sorry..." the words becoming a mantra.
"I know," Odin replied gently. "I love you. You and your siblings. I was scared I'd lost you...and I can't lose any of you."
Lorelei heard the words and it hurt, knowing how she'd scared her father. Unable to say anything that would justify or defend herself, she slumped, going boneless over her father's knee. She hadn't been fighting before, but now she wasn't even moving, just accepting the stinging swats with tiny whimpering cries.
Odin brought the spanking to a stop and was quick to gather his daughter into his arms and on his lap, hugging her close and tight.
As soon as she was right-side up and in Odin's arms, Lorelei wrapped her own arms around the older man, clinging to him tightly and hiding her face against his chest. "I'm sorry, daddy...I didn't mean to scare you. I didn't want to worry you..." she whispered forlornly.
Odin kissed the top of her head and hugged her tighter. "I know," he said gently. "I forgive you. I love you."
Lorelei snuggled close and tight. The love, affection and forgiveness enabled her to calm down quickly, though and soon she was gently pulling back and wiping her eyes. Glancing toward her brother, she could tell the wait and hearing both her and Darcy had already broken the young prince. His body was stiff and ramrod straight from his effort to hold himself together, but his form was quaking from the effort. She would not be surprised if his face was bathed in tears already. Sniffling, she hugged Odin again before standing and fixing her clothing. "Where do you want me, daddy?" Her voice was rough from crying.
Odin kissed her forehead and then stood up. Taking her by the hand, he led her over to Loki's corner, gently drawing his son out before placing his daughter back in.
Lorelei quickly gave her father one more fierce hug before giving her brother a teary smile and turning to face the corner she'd been placed into.
Loki swallowed in an attempt to stop his tears. He hadn't been crying out loud- no noise had escaped him at all- but his face was wet, his eyes were red and his nose was runny. He didn't feel much like an adult at the moment, but was trying very hard to behave in a mature way. When Odin had drawn him out of the corner, he'd caught his breath- the guilt at the secret they were keeping weighing him down more than he had expected. Part of him wondered if they shouldn't just confess all, but if they did, he was afraid his father would take the apples and then he couldn't do what he had planned. He wouldn't be able to give all his mortal family the extra time he wanted to give them. His fear at losing them too soon overrode his guilt and he kept quiet and waited for his father to take him.
Odin gently squeezed Loki's shoulder and then guided his son towards the bed. Taking a seat, he gently guided Loki across his lap, securing him with an arm wrapped around his waist before baring him.
Loki's deeper inhalation of breath was the only outward sign he gave that the position was affecting him. He hadn't stopped crying, but he was doing his best not to react, because he knew any reactions he had would be very childish.
Odin gently rubbed his back, then lifted his hand and brought it down in the first stinging swat that he then repeated.
Another sharp inhalation of breath at the first swat and then Loki couldn't stifle the tiny whimper he exhaled with the second swat. Closing his eyes tightly, he tried to regain control over his heightened emotion.
Odin swatted down to Loki's thighs and then started a new circuit, keeping the swats at the same force and speed.
Loki was only able to hold out for the first circuit. When his father began a second round of the stinging admonishment, he couldn't prevent himself from beginning to squirm. About halfway through the second circuit, he also began to whimper and whine despite his best efforts. He hadn't stopped crying from the moment he'd been in the corner, so by this point, he had to breathe out of his mouth- his nose was too clogged- and his eyes burned from all the tears. Choking back a sob, Loki threw his hand back to cover his bottom.
Odin paused to take hold of his son's hand, moving it to the small of Loki's back and holding it there before he resumed the stinging swats. "I was scared I might have lost you...lost all of you," he said, pitching his voice to be heard by his son.
"I....I know, daddy..." Loki said in the tiniest voice he'd ever used. He hadn't meant to worry or frighten his father. While his end goal was admirable, the questionable way he'd gone about reaching that goal was proving to have side consequences he hadn't counted on- his father being scared one of them. "I'm so sorry..." he whispered, in between quivery breaths.
"I know. And I forgive you. I still love you," Odin promised, gently squeezing his son's hand with the one he wasn't using to spank Loki.
The words of forgiveness and love broke what little resistance Loki had left. He'd been trying to keep his reactions to a minimum, not wanting to be a baby and over-react to what wasn't really that harsh a punishment. Listening to his sisters being punished had been hard, though. Knowing they were all being punished because of how badly they'd frightened and worried their father had been harder. Hearing that none of that mattered and he was still loved and he was forgiven? When he knew that there was a more serious offense that he hadn't confessed and it was one that would be disapproved of heavily by his father? He couldn't not react any longer. Stiffening up slightly in one last bid to retain control over himself, at the squeezing of his hand Loki went limp and began to sob. It was still silent; but mostly because he'd been crying so long, his voice wasn't able to reach above a whisper, not because he was trying to stay in control. He had no control and his father would be able to feel it in the way he lay limply accepting punishment, no longer squirming, whimpers of pain and remorse that, while not loud, could still be heard by the one disciplining Loki.
Odin immediately brought the spanking to a stop, his heart aching, and wasted no time in gathering his son into his arms and on his lap, hugging Loki tight and stroking his hair and back gently.
"I'm sorry, daddy...so sorry...didn't mean to hurt you...didn't mean to scare and worry..." Loki whispered against Odin's neck, before taking in a shuddering breath and continuing to cry. He grasped onto his father tightly, as if afraid Odin would change his mind and let him go.
Odin kissed his head and tightened his embrace. "I know," he murmured. "I forgive you. I love you," he reiterated, not so much as loosening his hold on his son.
"Love you, daddy..." Loki's voice was hoarse, faint and sounded very, very, young. Taking another shivery breath, he reluctantly stood and fixed his clothing with a tiny hiss before giving his father a needy look. If it weren't for the fact his sisters needed their father as well, he'd have been content to crawl onto Odin's lap and snuggle for as long as the older man would allow.
Odin stood up and wrapped his arm around Loki's shoulders, taking his son with him to lead his daughters out of their corners, doing his level best to keep physical contact with all three of them.
"Can we stay with you tonight, daddy?" Lorelei asked quietly. While she knew they were grounded, she wasn't certain if sharing a bed would be allowed. Not when they'd so seriously messed up.
"Of course," Odin replied, without any hesitation.
"May...may we stay here now? I do not believe I feel up to facing everyone after my actions..." Loki whispered still, his throat rough and achy from crying so long.
Odin nodded. "We can stay here," he agreed.
"Thank you, daddy..." Darcy answered for her brother. "May I go see Bruce and get Loki something for his throat?"
Odin nodded again. "If you'd like, you can get drinks and something to eat, too," he suggested.
"I can help her..." Lorelei offered hesitantly.
"If you'd like to," Odin replied, smiling at them both. While he felt the need to keep all three of them close, he was content to let his daughters leave for a few minutes.
Lorelei smiled at the show of trust and quickly took Darcy's arm so they could go get the items. "Come, sister...let us hurry..." she said softly.
"Yeah...ok. We'll be back soon with something for your throat, bro..." Darcy smiled at Loki before being pulled out of the room by Lorelei.
Loki swallowed and, as soon as the door had closed behind his siblings, he'd moved back to his father and wrapped his arms around him in a desperately tight hug.
Odin wrapped his own arms tight around his son, holding Loki close and kissing his head. "I love you," he reiterated, knowing how emotional Loki was right now and only wanting to help him.
Loki shivered and just held onto his father. Normally, a spanking would help him feel better after having done something wrong. This time, because he knew he was hiding something and told lies to do it, he didn't feel like he'd been punished enough. He couldn't say anything, though. All he could for was hold his father and trust that Odin would be able to forgive him if he found out the truth.
It didn't take his sisters long to return with various items to snack on and to help his throat. Mack and Thor were helping to carry the items.
"Can two more join this party?" Mack asked, with a crooked grin.
Odin smiled at his other two sons. "Of course."
Thor placed his items down and smiled at his siblings and father. "Do we have any plans?" he asked.
"Just be together..." Lorelei said shyly. "We had not really planned far beyond that...."
Darcy grinned impishly. "I'm sure we could find a movie that everyone likes, though...."
"Perhaps we could each make a suggestion and then vote?" Thor suggested.
"That works. Or we could let daddy make the decision...since he's arguably watched less movies than us...." Darcy grinned impishly.
Odin smiled. "I would be happy watching whatever you picked out," he said to all of them.
A little over a week had passed since Loki and his sisters had been grounded. Odin, assured that they had not been physically hurt in any way and that they would remember (at least for a while) that they were never to go anywhere without leaving a way for their family to reach them, had finally begun to allow them freedom of movement outside of his view. Loki had seen this as the moment to make his apple pies.
Meanwhile, during the week of grounding, the other family members had been adapting to the changes in living situation. Raina, despite her father's warning that she was not allowed to experiment without having another person present and without his prior approval, had gone back to her private lab as soon as she was able to do so unnoticed and begun working on her experiment of finding a 'natural' element that would help speed up processes.
Three of the 'kids' had come down with bad colds. Harry, Peter and Kara had decided to go on a walk earlier in the week and got caught out in a bad thunder storm. They'd returned back to their quarters soaked to the skin and shivering from cold. Despite their parents' quick intervention to warm them up, they'd all got chilled badly enough that they'd got sick and now were all taking cold medicine.
The remaining kids? May didn't know what the problem was, to be honest. All she knew was that pretty much every 'child' in the compound was in an irritable mood and testing the patience of their respective parents. Considering the fact that some of the parents were also testing the patience of their parent...or sibling, if a parent wasn't nearby...she shouldn't have been surprised. She'd blame it on the weather, but suspected it was likely a delayed reaction to having their home invaded and then having to move so quickly. To that end, she'd gone to Phil, Steve and Fury. "I'm thinking of inviting mom down to meet everyone finally. She has a room ready for her, she's been asking nearly every day for the last month, and maybe if we have some company that isn't someone everyone sees every day, it will cheer everyone up...." She looked at the men. "Maybe you'd like to invite Logan? And I know I'd like to see your family again, Phil...Nick...It's been too long...."
Coulson smiled at the idea and nodded, glancing towards his brothers, in particular Fury, to see what they thought. "My dad hasn't had a chance to meet Raina in person yet... I think I'd like to arrange a visit," he agreed with May.
Fury nodded. "It's about time they came for a visit, especially since they never had a chance to see the tower before."
"I'll give Dad a call. See if he can get some time off teaching to come," Steve said, also smiling at the thought of being able to see his dad.
"Good! I'm glad you all agree. I'll go call my mom now. Invite her for the weekend. That will give her tomorrow to pack and drive down...and your family time to pack and catch one of Tony's planes..." She smiled at Phil. Turning toward Steve, she grinned "Make sure your dad knows he can bring your grandad and this 'uncle' he's been mentioning...."
Steve's smile was amused and fond. "I'll make sure to tell him," he promised.
Tony returned from a board meeting at that point and caught the tail end of the conversation. "Tell who, what?" he asked curiously.
Steve smiled affectionately at his son. "Your grandfather, that he's welcome to bring his dad and uncle," he replied.
"We've been discussing inviting some of the other family members to visit," Fury added.
"That's great!" Tony was enthusiastic. "Who is coming? Do you need the jet?"
Coulson nodded. "My dad... brother and sister... they'll probably need the jet." He glanced at Steve. "The school's close enough for your dad to drive here, isn't it?" he asked, remembering that Clint had taken Wanda and Pietro there.
Steve nodded in confirmation. "I'm sure they'll be all right driving."
"My mom will need to catch a flight as well. Turns out she was visiting my father's grave in Hawaii." May gave a sheepish smile.
Steve smiled at her. "I'm sure we can work something out."
"Easy peasy, lemon squeeze..." Tony teased impishly. "The jet has to fly west to get Grandpa Coulson and Aunt Cath and Uncle Paul anyway. I'll just ask them to leave earlier so they can go to Hawaii first for Grandma May, then pick up the Coulson's on their way back."
May blinked then shook her head. "That's a lotta grandparents gonna be here..." She sounded slightly worried, even if she was still happy.
Coulson smiled. "I think we'll manage, given how many of us there are here anyway."
"Your dad isn't like my mom, is he?" May asked hesitantly. "I have to warn you...she's still trying to play matchmaker..." Her tone was sheepish.
"He isn't right now." Coulson's voice was faintly amused, as he considered it was possible May's mother might get his father on her side.
"Right now?" May's voice went up an octave as she thought about the fact that her mother could very well try to recruit Phil's family into playing matchmaker with her.
"I'm sure it'll be fine," Coulson replied with a reassuring smile.
"It'll be amusing to watch, at least," Steve murmured to his son.
"I'm getting really naughty ideas..." Tony admitted with a smirk, thinking about all the ways he could 'encourage' Mrs. May's matchmaking tendencies.
"Be good." Steve placed a gentle hand on Tony's shoulder, squeezing lightly.
"Oh...I could be really good at it, trust me..." Tony mumbled, knowing full well what his father meant, but having too much fun to stop teasing. He gave Coulson and May an innocent smile when they looked in his direction suspiciously.
"And also good at getting yourself into trouble." There was the faintest hint of a warning in Steve's tone.
Tony gave his father an abashed look, but didn't press the matter, instead looking at his feet sheepishly. "So...If you want to tell everyone to be ready to go by tomorrow, I'll have my jet begin the flight out tonight. They can all be here by tomorrow night...if that's alright with everyone."
"I'm sure it will be. Thank you, Tony." Coulson smiled at his nephew.
"Anytime, Uncle Agent..." Tony's grin was impish and infectious. "...If you all will excuse me, I'm going to go tell Pepper what's happening. She might want to see if her parents can come and meet everyone too, so that they won't feel like everyone is a stranger when it is time for the wedding."
"And I'd better call my dad and finalise the arrangements," Steve added.
Coulson nodded. "I'll call mine too..."
Soon, they had all disappeared to make their respective calls. That was why, when Raina walked in a few moments later, holding an unmarked container of powder (her experimental enhancer), she thought nothing about the risk of someone finding the bottle. All she was thinking about was that she wanted to test how extreme cold would affect it and she didn't have a freezer in her lab. So she put the bottle in the corner of one of the side shelves in the door of the family freezer. Surely no one would eat an unlabelled powder. After situating her experiment, she went back to her room to read.
Loki, Darcy and Lorelei were in the kitchen thirty minutes later, making pies from Idunn's apples. "Could you get me the cinnamon, please?" Loki asked.
Unable to find cinnamon in the spice rack (Trip had used the last of it on his toast that morning and put it on the shopping list, but no one else bothered to look at the list), Darcy opened the freezer, just in case. "Huh...that's weird. Wonder why they put it in here..." she said, as she pulled out an unlabelled bottle that looked like cinnamon.
"I don't know, but I need a tablespoon of it..." Loki nodded and smiled as Lorelei measured the powder onto the pie filling.
By the time all the pies were in the oven, half the bottle of powder had been used. The jar had been pushed to the back of the counter as the three siblings cleaned their mess and began to make dinner.
It didn't take long for the respective family members to be contacted and arrangements to have been made for those members to either be picked up or drive to the base. By the time dinner came around, Coulson had let his children know their grandfather was going to visit with their aunt and uncle and Steve had done the same with Bucky and his children, grandchildren and nieces and nephews.
Loki looked around the table and smiled. It appeared everyone was enjoying their dinner and dessert. Even the three members of the family who were sick seemed to be enjoying them, if the way Harry and Peter went back for seconds before starting on their pie and Kara was quickly eating hers instead of refusing the sugar like she normally would have done when not feeling well was any indication. Of course, the medicine their fathers had insisted they take before the meal might have helped immensely in aiding their appetite as well.
Raina was the first to finish her pie and went to take a drink of water, only to realize her glass was empty. "Please excuse me for a minute while I retrieve the water pitcher from the kitchen?" She looked toward her father.
Coulson nodded and smiled at his daughter. "Of course," he replied.
Raina had quickly gone in and opened the refrigerator to pull the pitcher out. While getting some ice from the freezer, she glanced casually toward where her experiment should have been sitting. She stopped short when she didn't see the bottle where she'd left it. "Wha...?" Swallowing hard, she frantically looked through the freezer and around it on the floor (in case the bottle had somehow fallen out and rolled away unnoticed). It wasn't anywhere to be seen. Quickly closing the appliance door, she glanced around the entire kitchen, her eyes raking over every available surface. Her relief at seeing the bottle on the back of the counter near where Loki and his sisters had been working was short-lived as she noticed that the bottle was missing half its previous contents. "Shit!" She turned and ran back into the dining room. "Stop eating the pie!" she yelled out in a panic.
Loki blinked at the command and looked down at his empty desert plate, then glanced around the table to see if there had been anyone left who hadn't finished eating it yet.
Grant gave his sister a puzzled look and looked like he wanted to ask why, but wasn't sure he wanted to know.
A few of the family members still had some pie remaining, but everyone wore identical looks of confusion, looking towards Raina and then at the remnants of the pie.
Coulson was the first to break the silence. "What's wrong with the pie, sweetie?" he asked, looking straight at his daughter.
"The bottle on the counter..." Raina turned toward Loki. "Did you put it in the pie?!"
Darcy answered for her brother. "Well, yeah...we needed cinnamon...."
Raina winced. "That bottle... wasn't... cinnamon." Reaching up, she rubbed between her eyes before looking at her father, face filled with guilt. "It was my experiment. I needed to cool it down to freezing and the fridge in my lab wasn’t cold enough..." she said, in a whisper that everyone heard because the room was silent.
"Well...crap." Darcy's response was tame compared to what Loki wanted to say.
"There weren't any chemicals or anything toxic in the experiment..." Raina tried to reason and calm. "There were only natural non-toxic ingredients...just certain elements were boosted...."
"What kind of elements?" Leo was quick to ask, even as he began to gather the remnants of the pie so he and the other scientists could run any tests they needed. "Is there anything it might be likely to react to?"
Peter moved to help his brother, the curious look on his face indicating he too wanted to know the answers.
"The enzymes that normally help regulate the speed of growth..." Raina looked at her cousin. "I was using the elements found in yeast, since that encourages growth.... There really shouldn't be anything in it that would do more than cause an upset stomach. It really was all natural and non-toxic, so it shouldn't react badly to anything...."
"Except the apples..." Loki said with a sigh.
"Was there anything in particular about the apples?" Odin asked.
"Nothing, except they were Asgardian apples," Lorelei spoke up hesitantly.
"Iduun's apples, to be precise..." Loki swallowed.
Darcy piped in, "Yeah...we kinda went apple picking the other day when we said we were at the movie..." she admitted reluctantly.
Thor frowned and then focused a little more closely on his brother. He knew what effect the apples had, but was unsure if he should put voice to that.
Coulson looked at his daughter and at the Asgardians. "What might we expect to happen?" he asked, not addressing anyone in particular.
Raina swallowed, giving her cousin a nervous look. "I....I don't know," she reluctantly admitted. "The experiment was to see if I could make a natural substance that would help speed up certain processes...I hadn't even had a chance to test this version yet. The other versions did nothing and I was trying to see if a colder temperature would affect it...."
Loki winced. "I do not know either. Iduun's apples are meant to...prolong lifespan. They would have done nothing to you except add years to your life...at least that was my intent..." He looked down, not wanting them to see the fear in his eyes whenever he thought about any of them dying, if only from old age. Swallowing, he continued, "I do not know what might happen if mixed with Raina's work, but as she has stated it is all natural and not chemical...hopefully nothing."
Darcy grimaced. "Unless this was the version of the experiment that actually works and mixing it with the apples then baking it does something...."
"There....is that." Loki sighed.
Raina sighed too and tugged at her hair. "Fuck me..." she muttered under her breath, not intending anyone to hear, but feeling like she'd royally screwed up this time and unable to voice that feeling any other way.
"...All four of us..." Lorelei agreed with her cousin, morosely.
Steve was quick to take charge, looking at Bruce and the rest of the scientists. "I think maybe the first order of business is to run some tests." He paused, though, willing to defer to his son's expertise as a scientist.
Thor moved nearer to Loki, his eyes filled with concern and compassion as he placed a hand on his brother's shoulder and squeezed in understanding.
"We'll also need any of the notes you already have..." Leo addressed his comment to Raina, but glanced at his father to check.
"We will need all of your notes, Raina... as well as a list of the exact ingredients you put into the pie, what amount, what order and finally the temperature baked and for how long. Any number of things could affect what occurs. We already have blood samples from everyone- I'm very glad that Helen Cho recommended it and that Dad insisted we follow her recommendation- because I'm going to need to get a sample of blood from everyone that ate any of the pie at all so that we can compare before and after. Also, I want everyone who ate even a little of the pie to write down how much of the pie they ate. If you have to guess at amount, that's fine- most of you should be able to guess mostly accurately...." Bruce's directions were brief and to the point and soon everyone was writing down the information so it could be studied.
May watched as everyone scrambled to take care of things- just in case- and slanted her head. "Perhaps calling Helen Cho back to help us out wouldn't be a bad idea. And if Bryce is available?" She glanced toward Odin. "And your nurse friend...Claire?" This time, she looked toward Matt.
"I would suggest cancelling having our families come visit, in case we all end up sick, but it's really too late for those flying by jet. They picked up the Coulsons an hour ago and they'll be arriving in a few hours. And we can't easily cancel on just one or two families when the rest are coming. We'll never hear the end of 'I could have helped too' if we did that." Tony tried to add some levity into his message.
Odin nodded. "I'll travel to Asgard and retrieve Bryce, if the rest of you would like to contact the others." While he planned to deal with his children's actions, it was important to get all the help they could first...before responding to those actions.
"Well, I hope it won't be contagious but I expect that's easy to test out, too," Coulson said.
Raina's eyes widened at Coulson's words. "I wasn't making a virus this time, daddy...I swear!" The look she gave him was equal parts hurt that he might think that and horrified realization that she hadn't given him any reason to trust her.
"I'll call Helen," Pepper said quietly and walked to a quiet corner to do so.
"I'll call Claire...we wanted to see about hiring her to help with Mrs. Urich anyway..." Karen commented, before heading to a different corner.
Loki swallowed and opened his mouth as if to say something, but not able to voice it. He looked at the ground again.
"Should I list the medicine I took before dinner? Or just dinner?" Kara asked innocently.
Bruce's eyes widened fractionally. "New request!" he said loudly to the room at large. "If you are on any type of medication or have taken anything prescription or over the counter in the last 72 hours, write it down as well as dosage and how often you took it...."
"I know, I believe you," Coulson was quick to reassure his daughter. "But it's impossible to predict how anything might react with an unknown element. Even something harmless could turn another person into a carrier of its effects."
"We just took the cold medicine..." Peter glanced at Harry for confirmation; not that he needed to. "Dad, you have the medication there I took. If you pass it over, I can make a note of the exact properties."
Raina nodded, slightly mollified at her father's reassurance that he believed her but still upset at the fact she really hadn't given him reason to. She couldn't understand how he could believe her, given how she'd broken his rules again... and the result was a potential calamity.
"I took the same medicine..." Kara nodded at Peter and Harry.
Soon, Bruce had several pages for every family member listing exactly what they had ingested in the previous 72 hours, as well as medications and how much of the pie they had eaten. He had Veronica scan it into the system so the AI could add it to the information already known about each individual (such as age, weight, height, medical conditions) and have it at hand to compare if anything negative began to occur. He hoped all the preparation wasn't necessary, but if it was one thing he'd learned in the years since becoming Hulk- you didn't take chances with unknown elements, no matter how innocent they might seem.
While everyone was concerned, no one was really worried at the moment, as it didn't seem like there were any immediate adverse effects. Coulson, satisfied his family wasn't in any immediate danger, moved to approach Raina, knowing they had to discuss this and that neither of them would rest easy if they postponed it.
Raina's shoulders slumped as she saw Coulson approaching. She knew she'd messed up...badly. She knew she deserved whatever he decided to punish her with. She felt horrible that something like this had happened. All the times she'd snuck into her lab to work alone, knowing her father wouldn't approve, she'd assumed that the greater danger was to herself. She'd never expected to put the rest of the family in potential harm’s way.
Coulson's eyes were soft and gentle as he reached out to gently wrap his arm around Raina's shoulders. "Come on, sweetie. Let's go and talk," he said softly.
"Ok, daddy..." Raina whispered. She didn't argue at all, evidence that she knew she'd done the wrong thing and felt guilty about it.
Coulson kissed her cheek and began leading her to his bedroom, keeping his arm wrapped around her shoulders.
"I know what I did wrong, Baba..." Raina admitted once in his room. "I knew when I decided to do it. I just...I thought it was a silly rule. I promised myself not to experiment on other people anymore, so didn't see why it would matter if I worked alone. I never thought an accident like this would happen..." Her voice caught and she swallowed hard.
"I know, but that's one of the reasons why that rule was in place," Coulson pointed out gently. "And we did have a discussion about these experiments before."
"I know we did..." Raina whispered. "I was bad...ignoring your wishes...deliberately disobeying...."
"No, not bad," Coulson corrected, his voice still gentle. "But you shouldn't have disobeyed." Taking her hand, he began leading her to the bed.
"I feel like I was bad..." Raina admitted, even as she let her father lead her where he wanted her.
"You made a mistake. You weren't bad," Coulson replied, taking a seat on the bed and gently guiding his daughter across his lap.
"I don't know how I can claim it was a mistake when I deliberately did it even though I knew better. You're very patient and forgiving, Baba..." Raina whispered, as she reached down and grasped her father's ankle with one hand, reaching back with the other, as if needing reassurance that she actually was forgiven.
She didn't just feel as if she was bad...she felt like she deserved to not be forgiven and she wouldn't have blamed her father in the least if he sent her away. She could have seriously hurt her family because she was too proud to accept that she shouldn't work alone. If she hadn't been trying to hide the fact she was disobeying, she would have been able to let everyone know she'd put an experiment in the freezer, or -better yet- used the very large one in the compound lab that no one would have confused with food. And the fact she even thought that putting her experiment in an appliance meant to hold food was a good idea- what about cross contamination?- only proved she wasn't thinking clearly and her father had been right to tell her not to work alone.
Coulson gently stroked her back a few moments before he bared her. "I love you," he said, as it was that simple to him. Lifting his hand, he brought it down in the first firm swat that he then repeated.
"Oh..." Raina couldn't help the tiny yelp as the first swat landed. The repeat wasn't any easier to take quietly and she whimpered. The truth was, she wasn't going to be able to stay quiet, no matter how much she wanted to take what she had coming like an adult. She felt too guilty about what she'd done that could have had tragic consequences. And while she didn't want to make things difficult for her father, he deserved to hear and see her response to his correction. He deserved to know she was listening to him. His words of love only served to encourage her to more honesty. Sniffling, she whimpered, "I'm a complete screw-up...how can you love me?"
"You aren't a screw-up," Coulson replied. "You made a mistake. You aren't the only one to do that. I'm not going to stop loving you or wanting you just because you make a mistake," he promised.
"Even deliberate ones?" Raina asked pathetically, her voice tiny and uncertain. She could understand forgiveness if she hadn't meant to do what she did. But she'd deliberately done it, knowing her father wouldn't approve. She didn't understand how he could forgive that or still want her.
"It doesn't matter," Coulson promised, the gentleness of his tone in stark contrast to the firm swats he was landing in a repetitive manner.
A tiny sob escaped at his answer and Raina quivered slightly before slumping over his knee and accepting her punishment, crying softly and holding onto his leg tightly. "...Sorry, Baba....I didn't mean...I didn't think...I...I was so wrong and I knew that, but I didn't mean..." She gulped and didn't try to make any other excuses, just crying and focusing on the repetitive swats.
"I know," Coulson replied soothingly, even as he began another circuit of swats, going a bit harder and faster.
Raina didn't say anything more...what could she say? She knew she'd been wrong. Had known it while she was doing it. The swats were painful and she responded as such, allowing herself to cry, but she didn't beg for her father to stop. She didn't want him to stop. Her imagination was throwing all types of images at her in recrimination of her actions: images of ways her family could be hurt or worse because of her actions. As much as the spanking hurt, she was afraid if she wasn't thoroughly punished, she'd do the same ill-conceived thing again. Even so, the faster speed and harder strength soon had her squirming uncontrollably, despite her desire to pay for her misdeed.
Completing a third circuit, Coulson delivered a final few to his daughter's sit spots and thighs and then stopped, gathering her into his arms so he could hug her tight to himself.
By the end of the spanking, Raina's squirming was little more than spasmatic wiggles. She'd finally reached a point where all she could do was lie there and accept, so when her father finally stopped and pulled her up into his arms, it took her a few seconds to realize she was being held and comforted instead of restrained and punished. As soon as she realized, she quickly wrapped her arms around Coulson and hid her face against his chest, snuggling like a baby animal trying to hide. She didn't stop crying, but her tears weren't loud and there was an element of relief and peace in them that hadn't been there in the beginning. The soreness of her bottom helped her feel like she'd paid for her actions. Now she could only hope that nothing bad happened because of them. "...What...what if something happens, Baba?" she asked in a whisper, pressing closer still.
Coulson kissed the top of her head. "We'll deal with it if it does happen," he replied. "Bruce has started working on it already...if something does happen, we'll have a head start in figuring it out."
Raina sniffled. "... How long am I grounded for, Baba?" she asked hesitantly, there being no doubt in her mind that she deserved to be grounded and if she was lucky, her ban from working on any projects or experiments wouldn't be longer than a month.
"Two weeks," Coulson answered. "If you want to do any experiments, you'll need to do that with supervision."
"Yes sir..." she whispered and snuggled close again. Her desire to do experiments had waned at the knowledge that she'd been so careless, she could have endangered her family.
Coulson tightened his embrace and kissed her forehead. "I love you," he reiterated.
"I love you too, Baba..." Raina's voice caught and she sniffed back more tears, snuggling as close as humanly possible.
Odin, after returning to Asgard to retrieve Bryce, checked with the AIs and then went to track down his three wayward children.
Lorelei and Darcy were in Darcy's room, sitting on the bed and leaning against each other forlornly and offering each other what comfort they could. They knew they'd made several mistakes, not the least of which was lying to their father. In fact, they suspected lying to Odin would be more damning than the fact they'd taken the apples; even if taking the apples was against Asgardian law. They'd attempted to get Loki to join in their 'comfort' huddle, but their brother didn't believe he deserved comfort and had retreated to his own room to lick his emotional wounds and mentally beat himself for his actions. At least that's what Darcy assumed he was doing. He hadn't really said anything to them, but the look on his face was one of guilt, regret and resignation.
"We're going to be in big trouble, aren't we?" she whispered to Lorelei.
Odin headed to Darcy's room first. Standing outside, he knocked lightly on the door.
"Come in..." Darcy called out softly, not entirely sure if it was her daddy or one of the other family members...but hoping it was her father.
Odin opened the door and stepped into the room, closing the door behind him and looking over his daughters. "I'd like you both to tell me what really happened. One at a time," he clarified.
Darcy bit her lip and gave Lorelei a look that only a 'baby sister' could manage.
Swallowing hard, Lorelei grimaced, then faced her father. "What really happened is that we did not go to the movies like we told you. We snuck up to Asgard, where we picked a bushel of Iduun's apples. Loki cloaked us so that Heimdall would not see...we did not want to be stopped and knew if we were seen, we would be in very big trouble from the guards. Because we were on Asgard, our phones did not work. They did not work in the pathways either; we did not have reception until we had stepped out of the pathways back onto Midgard. We turned our phones off at that point because all three of us agreed that we could not let you know what we'd really been doing- and we made up the story about being at the movies and cloaking ourselves because we did not know the area well...." By the end of her explanation, Lorelei's voice was high pitched and tight from holding back unshed tears. Their decision to lie sounded horrible now that she'd voiced it out loud.
Darcy swallowed hard this time. "We all three agreed to go after the apples, daddy... Loki and Lorelei were so worried about all their Midgardian family dying too quickly...and I didn't like them worrying so much. We also all three agreed to keep it hidden because of...because of it being against the rules to take Iduun's apples and give them to non-Asgardians.... It..it was actually my idea to go the pathways..." she said quietly.
Odin moved closer to his daughters, reaching out to place a hand on each of their shoulders. "I believe you don't need me to voice exactly what you have done wrong," he said quietly. "I will not say you were wrong to worry about your family here dying quickly, but you should not have kept your actions a secret and lied. Not just to me, but to the whole family."
"No, daddy..." Lorelei looked down in shame.
Darcy also looked ashamed of herself, but forced herself to look her father in the eye, even if it let him see how ashamed she was and let him see her cry. "No, daddy...we shouldn't have done any of that..." she whispered in a tiny voice.
Odin gently squeezed their shoulders. "You both will answer for your actions, but then that will be an end to it," he promised. "You'll be forgiven. I understand, and so does everyone else, that this was an accident and that you had good intentions."
"We did!" Lorelei quickly agreed, grateful he understood. "...We should have talked to you about it, though..." She sighed softly. "...Maybe the accident wouldn't have happened then...."
"...Or if it did, at least you wouldn't have had to find out what sneaks and liars we were..." Darcy added sadly. "...I'm sorry, daddy..." she whispered.
"Me too..." Lorelei swallowed.
"I know," Odin replied. "We'll deal with it and then we'll put it behind us," he promised.
Both girls looked down, ashamed that they had lied and snuck around; even if their intentions had been good, they knew it was not the right thing to do. "What do you want us to do?" Lorelei finally asked in a whisper.
"I'll take care of you both the same way I did last time," Odin replied. "But I'll let you decide who goes first." He knew that, either way, it would be hard on them.
"I'll let Darcy go first..." Lorelei said softly, knowing how hard it was to have to wait when you knew you'd done wrong and were going to be punished.
Swallowing hard, Darcy shifted closer to her father, even as Lorelei stood up and moved to the nearest available empty corner.
Odin sat down on the bed next to Darcy and reached out to gently draw his daughter across his lap, securing her with an arm wrapped around her waist.
Darcy swallowed back a whimper, reaching down and holding onto her father's leg. She wiggled slightly until Odin's arm held her in place and then she relaxed. As long as her father had her, she felt safe; even if she knew the next few minutes weren't going to be pleasant.
Odin rubbed her back gently a moment or two and then bared her, before bringing his hand down in the first hard swat, careful once again to only use a fraction of his strength.
Darcy let out a tiny yelp. Odin may not have been using full strength- always careful of her and the fact he didn't want to injure- but the swat was still hard. And painful. Given the fact that they'd not only snuck to someplace they shouldn't have, via a way they shouldn't have, but they'd also lied about it...she knew she deserved it to be as hard as Odin allowed himself to make it. Still....
Odin settled quickly into a pattern of swats, going down to Darcy's thighs before beginning a second circuit, keeping a tight hold on his daughter.
It didn't take long for Darcy to begin squirming helplessly over Odin's knee. She didn't even attempt not to whimper or whine when the urge hit. Only Odin's grip kept her safely in place.
Odin completed the second circuit and began a third, swatting a bit harder and faster, still keeping a tight hold of his daughter.
By the middle of the third circuit, Darcy's whimpers had become full-fledged crying. Squirming and wriggling in a futile effort to ease the sting, she finally gave up, realizing that her father was completely in control. She wouldn't be getting up till he had determined she'd learned her lesson. The realization gave her a sense of peace and security she hadn't expected and it allowed her to let go. She went limp over her father's lap and just cried. "Sorry, daddy...sorry..."
Odin brought the spanking to a stop and moved Darcy into his arms, on his lap instead of over it, and hugged her tight.
Darcy immediately wrapped her arms around her father, hiding her face against his chest and snuggling while she continued to cry. She was too relieved and at peace to sound heartbroken, but she was still crying hard. Even so, Odin would be able to tell that the punishment hadn't just imparted a lesson and that the unease that had been emanating from his youngest daughter was gone. "I love you, daddy..." Darcy finally calmed enough to say, her tone grateful.
Lorelei remained quiet, but she could tell her sister was less distraught and more at ease. She could only hope she was affected the same way. She'd felt nothing but fear of discovery and failure since they'd embarked on the ill-advised venture. Tears streamed down her face, but she kept quiet and waited her turn.
Odin kissed the top of her head. "I love you too," he replied honestly, tightening his embrace around her.
Darcy sniffled and let out an embarrassed chuff. "I shoulda known better than to try and hide things and lie to you..." she admitted quietly. "I've not felt right ever since we returned...feel much better now that you know...."
Lorelei winced. "We all should have known..." she whispered, still facing the corner and hunching in on herself.
Darcy glanced at her sister sympathetically, before giving her father another tight squeeze. "Do you want me to stand where Lori is, daddy?" she asked quietly, somehow managing to fix her clothing without disrupting the hug at all.
Odin nodded, kissing Darcy's forehead before carefully standing her up and then standing himself. Wrapping his arm around her shoulders, he led her over to Lorelei's corner, reaching out to draw his other daughter out.
Lorelei stepped out of the corner and into Odin's arms at the same time Darcy stepped into the corner. The look she gave him was filled with guilt and tears were streaming down her face, even if she wasn't crying loudly. "I'm sorry..." she whispered to her father as she gave him a tight hug.
Odin kissed her forehead. "I know," he said gently, before guiding her towards the bed and taking a seat, gently tugging her across his lap.
Lorelei let out a tiny sob, but it wasn't distressed. She relaxed over her father's lap and reached down to grasp hold of his leg, closing her eyes and waiting for him to address her behavior...needing him to address it with word and action. She'd lived most her life without boundaries or consequences and she was more scared that he wouldn't make it clear that she had them now than she was scared about how he would make it clear.
Odin rubbed her back gently for a few moments and then bared her, before securing her more fully and delivering a hard swat that he then repeated, adjusting the force enough that, to an Asgardian, it would be at the same level he used on his human children.
Lorelei whimpered softly, but didn't try and get away. The swats stung and she didn't try and hide the fact that they did, wriggling almost immediately. But she wasn't attempting to get away; the fact that she'd slumped over her father's lap and shifted her grip so that she could squeeze his ankle made it clear that, as much as it hurt, she accepted what was happening.
As he had with Darcy, Odin completed two circuits before beginning a third, going a fraction harder and faster.
The harder, faster swats were impossible for Lorelei to handle without losing her tenuous control. As much as she believed she deserved what she was receiving, she couldn't stop herself from throwing her hand back to cover her bottom at the same time she kicked her legs out and began to cry more brokenly...not sobbing exactly, but obviously upset.
Odin paused to move her hand out of the way, holding it against her back, before resuming the swats.
Lorelei twisted her hand around, blindly grasping at her father's hand, some part of her afraid that if she didn't hold on, he'd lose her...she'd be lost and alone and... "I'm sorry, daddy..." she choked out. "I'm sorry was bad...sorry was liar....sorry was a sneak...."
"I know," Odin replied gently, squeezing her hand. "I forgive you. I love you. You had good intentions...all of you did."
"I...we did..." Lorelei was able to calm enough to speak once her father had her hand. "...Should have been honest, though..." Her voice quivered and then she just slumped over her father's knee, dejected. She wasn't afraid anymore...just filled with remorse and guilt. She submitted completely, focusing on the punishment and feeling like she'd never pay enough.
Odin brought the spanking to a stop, wasting no time in gathering his daughter into his arms and hugging her tight.
Lorelei cuddled as close as possible, her crying soft but steady. She put her head on her father's shoulder. "Am I forgiven, daddy?" she asked quietly.
"Of course," Odin answered, with no hesitation, kissing her forehead.
"How long am I grounded for?" Her voice was small and contrite by this point.
"The three of you are going to be grounded for three weeks," Odin answered. "Once I've spoken to your brother, I want to keep the three of you close to me."
"Ok, daddy..." Lorelei quickly agreed, needing to stay close to her father, her childhood fear of abandonment plaguing her still. Reluctantly she stood and fixed her clothing. "Do we need to stay in the corner while you speak with Loki?" she asked.
Odin stood as well. "That won't be necessary," he replied. "I will bring Loki here once we have talked."
"Ok, daddy..." both girls answered in tandem.
Odin gave them both a tight hug and then left the room, heading to Loki's and knocking lightly on the door.
Loki had withdrawn into himself, realizing a bit more clearly what danger the family had been put into and blaming himself entirely. When his father knocked, he waved his hand to open the door, but did not move from his position sitting in the dark, nor did he answer verbally.
Odin wasted no time stepping into the room and closing the door behind him. He quickly moved to his son's side and wrapped his arms tight around Loki.
Loki barely swallowed and held himself stiff; not because he was refusing his father, but because he was too far into his own mind- and the self-blame and hate- to do more to acknowledge Odin. He was positive he had gone too far. He did not deserve love, acceptance, or forgiveness, even if his father did not see it and would continue to bestow all three upon him.
Loki had to hold himself stiff because if he did not, he would break immediately. He tried to tell himself that nothing untoward had occurred due to the 'mistake', but he knew it could have just as easily been an experiment that was dangerous to mortals on its own, let alone mixed with Asgardian 'magic'. His actions had the chance of doing the exact opposite of his intentions and having realized the close call they had just had, Loki knew that the chances of failure and disaster had always been higher than the chance of success. Had he not snuck and hid and lied...had he just spoken with his father...Odin would have been able to point that out to him and he would not have possibly murdered his entire family.
So he held himself stiff and unresponsive, save for opening his door and swallowing, and attempted not to wail, sob and beg for his father to hurt him like he deserved to be hurt. He knew begging for such would grieve the older man.
Odin could feel the stiffness in his son and sat down on the bed next to Loki, pulling him into his lap so he could cuddle him more extensively, stroking his hair and pressing a kiss to the top of his head.
Loki shivered slightly at the affection and gave his father a bleak look. "I do not deserve your affection or love...I could have killed everyone..." His whisper was hoarse.
"You made a mistake. An error in judgement." Odin gently stroked his hair. "I know you had good intentions."
"I could have killed them!" Loki choked out, tears beginning to run down his cheeks.
"You didn't," Odin replied. "I know you feel guilty, but the worst didn't happen. And if something does go wrong, we can help to figure it out."
"Promise?" Loki winced at the needy, childish request. "I feel so guilty..." he admitted, giving his father a hesitant look, not certain if he should admit how much he wanted to hurt to make up for his mistake.
"I know." Odin gently stroked his hair. "But you aren't the only one to make a mistake. You had good intentions and I know something's been troubling you for a while. You've been worrying about the Midgardian members of the family, haven't you?"
"Yes, daddy..." Loki swallowed hard. "I can't imagine life without them, but their time goes by so quickly...." He looked down. "I was afraid for them, but I handled it wrong...."
"And you will be punished for it...but you do not need to hold onto the guilt," Odin said firmly. "You made a mistake, but nothing bad has come from it. Even if something does happen, we will handle it as a family."
Loki finally loosened his stiff control over himself with a tiny sob. "I do not think I can let go..." he admitted, the same self-loathing he had carried when first reuniting with his father back in his tone. He could have hurt his family just like he had hurt his mother!
Odin kissed his forehead. "You won't be alone, son," he murmured.
Loki turned toward his father, pressing closer into his embrace. "I'm so sorry..." he whispered, unable to mask the worry he still felt, even though nothing had happened. He couldn't shake the feeling that something had happened and they just didn't know what yet; and he was positive it would be horrible and that it was entirely his fault.
Odin tightened his embrace. "I know. I love you. And I forgive you. I know the rest of the family does as well."
"I do not deserve it..." Loki cringed and closed his eyes tightly, even as he slumped in his father's arms. "I should have known better...I should not have done any of what I did...."
"You were worried and scared," Odin said. "You shouldn't have hidden your actions and you shouldn't have lied, but I understand your fear."
Loki relaxed further at his father's words of understanding. "If...if something happens...I do not know what I will do..." he admitted softly.
"If something happens, we will handle it together as a family," Odin replied. "All of the information that is needed has been collected and there are many people here who will be able to work on anything that does occur."
Loki nodded, letting his head fall onto Odin's shoulder. He wanted...needed...to feel like he would pay for his reckless actions; because good intentions aside, he had behaved recklessly and knew it. He just couldn't bring himself to voice that he wanted to pay. Not when he knew it would upset his father to hear that he thought he deserved to be hurt. He couldn't get over feeling like he might have lost members of his family- just like he'd lost his mother- due to actions he'd taken without thinking things through completely.
Odin held his son close for a few more moments and then spoke gently. "As soon as you're ready, we will take care of your actions...and then we will be able to spend the rest of the evening together as a family."
"Okay, daddy..." Loki swallowed, reaching up and wiping tears from his eyes. "I'm ready...."
Odin pressed a kiss to his forehead and then gently moved his son over his lap, securing Loki with an arm wrapped around his waist before he then bared his son.
Loki didn't even whimper as he was positioned, reaching down and grasping onto his father's ankle; he just lay quiet and limp. He felt he deserved so much worse than what he was about to get, he couldn't fight in the least.
Odin rubbed his back gently for a few moments before lifting his hand, bringing it down in the first firm swat that he then repeated.
Loki closed his eyes at the first swat and tried to focus on what was happening. Unfortunately, all he could continually think on was the fact that he'd nearly poisoned his family- unintentionally, yes...but intentions would not have mattered if they had been harmed or, worse, killed.
Odin completed one full circuit of swats and then began a second, speaking as he did. "I know how guilty you feel, son. I know you think you deserve to suffer worse than a spanking."
Loki inhaled quickly, shivering as he heard his father's words. Odin knew how he felt without him saying anything. "I do!" he admitted, his voice catching. "I deserve so much worse...." He shivered again and swallowed in an attempt not to begin sobbing.
Odin gently stroked his back, even while his other hand continued swatting. "What about your sisters?" he gently pushed.
"Wh...what?" Loki stuttered, uncertain what his father was asking, confusion over-powering his guilt for a moment. The confusion broke him out of his head long enough for his body to register the swats and he began squirming despite his belief he deserved them.
"Do you think they deserve the same?" Odin pressed, tightening his hold on his son.
"N...no! They wouldn't have done any of this if it weren't for me! It wasn't their fault!" Loki protested indignantly on his sisters' behalf.
"They both felt the same as you," Odin pointed out. "Especially Lorelei."
"B...but they only joined because of me...they couldn't control what happened...why...?" Loki was squirming more vigorously, blinking rapidly to clear his eyes of tears.
"All of you were worried and scared about the same thing," Odin replied. "If they don't deserve a worse punishment, why do you?"
"Because I should have known better! I should have known anything that...that I needed to hide from you and lie about...was not a good idea. It was my honeyed words that convinced them...." Loki argued, not wanting to give up his belief that he deserved worse, but not wanting to say his sisters did. He stubbornly refused to admit what he was beginning to understand.
Odin was still swatting as he spoke, but he lessened the force a little to make sure he was heard. "I doubt you needed to do much talking to convince them."
"I..." Loki stopped, not willing to lie anymore, even if the truth went against what he thought was correct. "...No, sir..." he finally admitted in a tight voice before quivering. His father may have lessened the force behind the swats, but by this time, his bottom just hurt, no matter the force used and Loki was beyond being able to control his physical response, his legs kicking in tiny jerking motions and wriggling as he tried to move his bottom to 'safety', despite his claims of wanting to hurt worse. If he couldn't control his body, he'd control his vocal response. Or try to. What his father was saying was starting to break through and he wasn't sure if he'd be able to stay quiet much longer if Odin kept talking in such a calm, forgiving and caring manner.
"Then if you accept the three of you made the decision and are equally as responsible, you must also accept that you do not deserve a worse punishment than your sisters," Odin said. "What you did was not evil and was not done with malicious intent. You were trying to do something good because you were scared of losing your family members too soon."
"I did not mean for anything bad to happen! I was...am...afraid of losing them!" Loki said fervently, grateful Odin understood. "I...I messed up, daddy...I am sorry...I should not have lied or hid...I should have been honest and come to you to help me. Nothing bad would have happened then..." His voice trailed off helplessly and a tiny sob escaped. He tensed in an effort not to lose control.
"You shouldn't have lied. You should have come to me in the first place," Odin agreed. "But it's been troubling you for a long time."
"...Too long..." Loki bit his lip as another sob escaped. "...I am sorry, daddy...I should have come to you...it hurt...it hurt and I hid it instea...instead of letting you help...and I messed up. I am sorry...." The third choked back sob was too much and he couldn't fight it any longer, going limp over his father's knee and crying hard, the hurt and fear draining out of him with the tears.
Odin wasted no time in gathering his son into his arms, hugging him close and tight and pressing a kiss to the top of his head. "I love you," he murmured.
Loki just turned into his father and held tightly, unable to voice anything through his tears, but needing Odin to know he'd heard him and felt the same.
Odin just hugged his son tight, kissing the top of his head and gently stroking his hair and back.
It took several minutes of being held and comforted, but Loki was finally able to calm himself enough to speak. "I love you, daddy...and I do not wish to hide things from you ever again...it...does not help. And I felt wretched the whole time I was doing it..." he admitted in a whisper, nuzzling closer to his father.
Odin tightened his embrace. "I'm certain you will think next time," he replied gently.
"If I do not, I hope someone tells on me..." Loki muttered, still nuzzling against his father and tightening his own grip.
Odin gently stroked the back of his head. "The important thing is if you're starting to feel better," he said softly.
Loki stopped to think about it, then leaned back to smile at his father. "I do feel better..." he admitted softly, before fixing his clothing with a hiss and then snuggling close again. "Thank you, daddy. I love you...."
Odin kissed his head. "I love you. With all my heart," he promised, hugging his son tight once more.
Loki snuggled a few more moments before sighing. "What now, sir?"
"When you feel up to it, we'll go and join your sisters," Odin replied.
Loki just nodded and snuggled closer. Still, ten minutes later he was carefully standing up. "I am ready now, daddy...."
Odin stood up and wrapped his arm around Loki's shoulders, guiding him from the room to Darcy's room.
It was several hours later and the family was gathering in the family room, waiting for their visitors to arrive so they could show them the guest rooms made specially for them.
Despite his eagerness to see his father, brother and sister, Coulson couldn't help but look with concern over his children and grandchildren. He could see many of the other parents doing the same, even though so far, there had been no sign of negative effects from the apples. He still couldn't quite shake the feeling that there might be a delayed reaction.
Raina was subdued, knowing that her own part in the worry wasn't negligible by any means. She kept glancing at Loki, Lorelei and Darcy apologetically. Their plan had been due to worry about family, so no one could fault that. She hated that her own secrecy had ruined their plan.
Kara sniffled and snuggled closer to her father, not feeling up to doing much; the cold she had taking its toll more than she would have expected. She wasn't worried about the effect the apples or the experiment might have on her, though. As long as Fury had her, she didn't tend to worry or be afraid about anything.
Fury wrapped his arm around his daughter's waist, glancing at Steve as his brother took out his cell phone and checked the display. "Dad's just arriving now," he announced to the family at large. He didn't need to add that Logan was bringing others with him; they'd already been informed about Logan's new daughter.
"And...this is a hella site bigger'n I thought it'd be..." Logan chuckled as he pulled the station wagon into the garage. It didn't take long before they were all unloaded and Logan had grabbed his and his daughter's bags, leaving the other two to decide who'd be carrying what. "Follow me, Munchkin..." he said to the young girl hovering at his side. "Your big brothers are anxious to meet you."
Laura had been quiet for most of the journey. Even now she was 'safe', she'd spoken very rarely outside of when she needed to. Uncertain, she pressed a little bit closer to her father, though only barely touching...still not sure she wouldn't be cast away.
"You'll like it here, Laura," Charles said, moving his chair closer to her with what he could carry settled on his lap. "And everyone is looking forward to meeting you."
Just then, Veronica spoke up. "Welcome, Sirs and Miss. If you will please follow the red and gold lights along this path to the elevators, I will deliver you to the family floor."
Remy gestured in front of them and looked at Logan. "Lead the way. It's your other kids we're here to see."
"Well, alright then..." Logan smirked, then wrapped an arm around Laura and began leading them through the maze. Every so often, they'd have to stop in a tiny room, one door closing behind them, and a scan was run before another would open in front of them. As paranoid as it seemed, Logan was proud of the way security was bring taken so seriously. Finally, they reached the elevator that would take them down.
When they stepped off the elevator, Bucky was waiting for them. "Leave your bags here...we can put them in your rooms later. We just received word that Aunt May will arrive soon with Happy and the jet with everyone else has landed and the Quinjet sent to bring them the rest of the way here will arrive in about thirty minutes. Everyone has gathered in the entertainment area...." He grinned, quickly hugging Logan and Charles, ruffling Laura's hair and nodding at Remy. Not losing the grin, he quickly led them down the hall and into the large area set up with seating.
Pepper stood as the smaller group arrived. She watched as Steve and the rest of the family converged on their visiting relatives and hoped that no one had noticed the shock on her face when she first laid eyes on the newcomers. She supposed it really shouldn't have been a surprise, given her family now...but she'd never thought she'd see him again.
Laura very quickly seemed like she was getting overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people there were.
Steve was quick to notice his little sister's discomfort and turned to address his father. "Dad, why don't I help you carry the bags to your room and then maybe we can sort out some snacks and drinks?" He smiled at the small girl.
Kara's sickness had led her to become clingy again and more childlike in her dealings with the family, so she didn't move very far from her position of being plastered to Fury's side. She'd noticed the younger girl when Laura entered, however, and could tell all the people were becoming a bit much to handle. Gently and slowly extricating herself from her father's arms, she carefully stepped over to stand in front of Laura and slanted her head. "Do you like kittens?" she asked softly, a tiny smile on her face. "My kitten Whisper is hiding in my room- he doesn't like being around so many people- but maybe he wouldn't mind meeting you if it is just you and me...."
A hesitant smile came across Laura's face, but she glanced uncertainly at her father, not sure if he would tell her she couldn't. She hadn't been able to see any animals while cooped up in the lab...and since escaping, she'd had very little opportunity to see anything like that.
Logan smiled at his daughter, nodding at Kara. "That sounds like a fun idea. If you want to go, I'll take your bag to the room and you can settle in later..." he said to Laura gently.
Kara's own smile grew as she noted that the child seemed happy with her suggestion and she held out her hand so she could lead Laura to her own room where the kitten was playing.
Watching the two head off, Logan turned toward his sons. "Okay. What's up? There's an undercurrent of nervousness that I'm not used to feeling here."
"It might not be anything to worry about, but there was a little mishap at dinner," Steve admitted. "One family member was conducting an experiment and the ingredient of that was mixed in with...well, with apples from Asgard."
"The apples that give long life?" Logan asked, curious if the myth was true. "Everyone seems okay at the moment...."
Steve nodded. "Still, Bruce and the others have taken blood samples, so if anything does happen, we're as prepared as we can be."
"Well, hopefully nothing happens, but we're here for you all of it does..." Logan asserted.
Just then, Veronica interrupted. "Excuse me, but Mister Hogan has arrived with Aunt May. And the Quinjet carrying Mrs. May, the Coulsons, and the Potts has landed on the landing pad. I am directing all the parties to you now."
"Thank you, Veronica," Coulson responded to the AI.
Fifteen minutes later, Melinda could hear her mother leading the brigade. "So I said to her...Melinda. You are living with these people like they're your long- lost relatives. Should I not have a chance to meet them? She finally agreed....". Closing her eyes and pinching the bridge of her nose, Melinda fervently hoped she made it through the visit without throttling her older counterpart.
Coulson moved a bit closer to her. "It'll be fine," he murmured, smiling, before turning his attention to the new group and stepping forward to greet the rest of his family, gently drawing Raina with him so she could meet her grandfather, aunt and uncle.
May gave Coulson a grateful smile, noting Pepper moving toward an older couple before she turned toward her own mother and moved forward to hug the older woman, only to receive a very quick side hug as Lian moved past her toward Skye and Hope. "Is this my new granddaughter? Come here, girl, so I can get a better look at you!" May's mother gushed. May took a slow deep breath and forced herself to smile as she turned and followed the older woman like a well-trained puppy.
"Mother, I'd like to introduce you to your granddaughter Hope. Hope, this is your grandmother Lian." May introduced her family.
Hope gave a hesitant smile. "I'm glad to meet you." She couldn't help but feel somewhat nervous...but that was more because of worry something would go wrong with this family. Not so much the apples, but that she'd mess up and things would go wrong because of her.
"You are? Then your mother must have been quiet about me...I can't imagine she had too much good to say..." Lian said. May would have retorted, but it was obvious the older woman was teasing...something May hadn't seen in years and so she was too surprised to react beyond blinking with her mouth hanging open. "And what about my other granddaughter?" Lian asked, turning toward Skye. "Have you run off anymore to try and gather information and giving your mother a heart attack?" She smirked.
Skye twitched, glancing sheepishly at her mother. "Not so much...." The last time had, after all, been when Kilgrave had been on the scene and Steve and Tony had been on the outs.
"That's good!" Lian nodded emphatically. "You should be safe and not take unnecessary risk."
"She knows that, mom," May said patiently.
Skye gave a slightly self-deprecating smile. "Probably can't hurt to be reminded...." She gave her sister a grin.
Hope hesitantly smiled back. "At least this place is safe."
Raina pressed closer to her father as he pulled her forward to meet the rest of the family. She gave a tentative smile toward her aunt and uncle, but her focus was on her grandfather. Would the older man be upset his son had adopted her, after everything she'd done to hurt him? She'd accepted her father had forgiven her, but sometimes when she thought of all she'd done, she couldn't help but wonder how he could. Would her grandfather wonder the same?
Ben smiled warmly at Raina and didn't waste any time in stepping forward to give her a hug in greeting. "Your father's told me a lot about you," he said. "I'm glad we can meet."
Raina smiled back. "I'm happy too..." she finally said, as she began to relax at the warm welcome.
Natasha wrapped an arm around Lincoln's shoulders, bringing him over to meet the rest of the family as well.
Lincoln swallowed, suddenly nervous. "Hello, sir...." He smiled hesitantly at Ben.
Ben let go of Raina, letting his son and daughter greet her, and moved over to hug Lincoln as well. "I'm glad to finally meet you too," he said warmly.
After all the newest members of the family had been introduced, everyone moved to sit on the various couches so they could carry on conversations, minus Pepper and her parents. The trip had tired the older couple out considerably and they had gone on to the room they'd been given. Pepper had gone with them to make sure they settled in comfortably.
Even though there was quite a bit of worry affecting everyone, they were all happy to have their extended family members and there was a lot of talking and laughing going on, as well as snacks and drinks brought through; though most made sure to note what they were eating and drinking. Just in case.
Pepper returned with a funny look on her face, but it wasn't clear what she was thinking. She immediately moved to stand next to her family, though. "Your Grandma and Grandpa want to meet you first thing in the morning; they're sorry they couldn't stay up long enough to meet you tonight, but they're both on medicine that makes them unable to stay up." She sounded sad.
Steve gave his daughter a sympathetic smile and reached out to wrap his arm around her waist. "I know we're all looking forward to meeting them."
Harry shuffled a bit closer to his mother, able to hear the sadness and worrying.
Pepper snuggled closer to Steve but put her own arm around Harry and drew him close. "I love you so much. All of you..." She smiled at Tony, who had moved to Harry's other side.
Harry leaned against his mother, but still looked worried, even as he glanced towards his father. "I love you...." he replied quietly.
"I love all of you." Steve kissed her cheek and smiled round at the rest of his children and grandchildren.
Logan grinned at his sons, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. "I'll need to come more frequently. Your sister would benefit from more family contact...and I think I would too. What do you think, Dad?" He glanced at Charles, letting anyone-who hadn't already realized- know of the relationship he held with the older mutant.
Charles smiled. "I'm certain that would be beneficial for all involved, son," he replied, making it just as clear with his own words and the affectionate smile he directed at Logan.
Tony's eyes widened. "Great-grandpa?" he asked hesitantly, but with a big grin.
Pepper blinked and turned curious eyes onto the visiting family members, then gave Charles a curious look, obviously wondering what his position in the family was.
Steve smiled at them both, though even though he was trying to lighten the mood a little, he was still clearly concerned about Pepper and how she was feeling. "It certainly seems that way," he replied to Tony, having already noticed the relationship between his father and the older man.
"That's great..." Bruce smiled, happy for his father and uncle; that they had more family to rely on other than children.
Charles smiled. "I have my kids in the school, but it's good to have a whole other family here as well," he commented. Glancing at his son, he added, "You're right. It's good for Laura, too. She needs to be around family. She needs a chance to be a child."
"You're right as always, dad..." was Logan's semi-sheepish reply, as he clearly remembered arguing with his father about the young girl and what place he should have in her life.
Charles smiled fondly at Logan. "I think it is a much better situation now," he commented.
Logan's smile was wry. "It is. Thanks to you and your persistence." He glanced at his family, before glancing at the other visitors. "So...how long are all of you staying for?" he asked curiously.
Pepper gave an impishly hopeful look toward Coulson's family and Lian. "Hopefully until after the wedding..." she said, breaking the news that she and Tony had set a date and that it would be soon... since she was hoping everyone would stay long enough to attend.
Tony chuckled at his fiancé's antics, since they hadn't actually told anyone they'd set a date yet and he expected to see a few shocked faces.
Coulson immediately looked over, surprised but pleased at the news. "What's the date?" he asked, smiling at his niece and nephew.
Skye, overhearing, was quick to ask, "Does anyone else need to be invited?"
"We want to have the wedding on the grounds two weeks from now. Pretty much everyone we want at our wedding lives here or is currently visiting us... and I called the few who aren't here right now and asked them to leave that week free because we wanted them to join us for a special occasion." Pepper's impish grin grew. "We want it to be family and close family friends only."
"Pepper has a book where she's keeping all information and plans, though; and now that she's let the cat out of the bag, I'm sure she wouldn't be against any help offered..." Tony put in, not wanting to step on Pepper's toes, but also not wanting his fiancé overworking herself planning and coordinating the wedding while also trying to run the multi-billion dollar company. And as much as he was willing to help, there were some things he knew were beyond his skill-set.
Hope, sitting next to her sister, was quick to light up at the idea. "I like organising things." Her voice was soft, but still certain and sure. "I'd like to help...so you're not stressed and can enjoy the better part of a wedding."
Skye smiled. "I can create databases...spreadsheets...so we know what's been done and what hasn't."
Pepper's grin became more personal as she nodded at her cousins. "I'd appreciate that so much! I'll get my book so we can go over things tomorrow morning?"
"I hope you are planning on delegating to a lot of people, because I for one don't want to be left out of the fun; and I'm pretty sure none of the other ladies do either!" Darcy chimed in, grinning when every one of Pepper's female cousins nodded in agreement.
"Great! See! I told you, Hot-pepper! You'll have so much help, the only thing you'll need to do is decide what you want." Tony pulled Pepper in for a tight hug and a quick- if chaste because of all the witnesses- kiss.
May chuckled. "That's great news, both of you. And since the big planning blitz is beginning in the morning, might I suggest we all retire for the night and get some rest?"
Logan snorted faintly. "I think retiring for the night sounds like a good idea. I just need to go collect my youngest so I can show her where we are staying. If you wouldn't mind leading me to where your daughter absconded with her, Nick?" He smirked good-naturedly at Fury.
Fury nodded and smiled. "Of course." He stood up, pausing to wait until Logan was ready before he led the way out of the main room and headed towards his daughter's room.
In the meantime, everyone else began to filter out of the family room and retire to their individual rooms.
Kara had enjoyed entertaining the younger girl and playing with Whisper...even with her cold making her head hurt. It had been nice having someone who was younger who was relying on her to look out for them. In her family, she was younger than most of the family members and of those she wasn't younger than, she was emotionally more fragile, so even the younger members tended to look out for her instead of the other way around. "Maybe we can do something tomorrow..." she said to Laura with a fond smile, before turning hopeful eyes onto Logan and Nick.
Logan glanced at his daughter to see what she thought of the idea. "If Laura wants to, I don't have a problem with it..." he said gruffly.
Laura's answering smile was faint and hesitant, but still hopeful.
Nick nodded. "That won't be a problem," he said, deciding it might be good to talk to Logan about possibly bringing his daughter more often. Kara was emotionally younger and fragile than most of the family members and he thought perhaps it would help her to continue having someone to look out for.
"Yay!" Kara couldn't help herself and bounced in place, her grin covering her entire face. "I will see you in the morning then, Laura!" She beamed at the younger girl.
Logan smiled at the young woman's enthusiasm, wrapping an arm around his daughter's shoulders. "And on that note, I believe it is time for bed, young lady. You were given your own room if you want, but my room is large enough if you'd rather stay with me..." he could be heard saying to Laura, as he led her down the hallway and toward where his own room was at.
Kara turned to Nick and threw her arms around him in a tight hug. "I love you, daddy. Goodnight!" She was in a good place- and had been for several days despite her cold- so she didn't feel like she needed to stay in her father's room with him. She actually thought she should stay in her own room so she could avoid spreading her germs any more than she likely already had. Leaning up and kissing Nick on the cheek, she gave him another quick hug before picking up Whisper- who had followed them out of her room and was winding his way around her ankles- and preparing to head back into her room to change and go to sleep, waiting long enough for her father to respond before disappearing completely.
Nick reciprocated the hug and smiled, not asking his daughter if she was sure she wanted to be in her own room. Instead, he merely said, "I love you too. You know where I am if you need me. Goodnight," and kissed her forehead.
Kara smiled again before disappearing into her room.
Pretty soon, the entire family was ensconced in their rooms, everyone so excited and happy that no one needed to be with their parent, despite the slight scare they'd received that day. As a result, the only ones staying in their parents' room were the four children who had gotten into trouble.
Coulson said good night to his children, grandchildren and the rest of his family, apart from Raina. He waited for her to retrieve anything she needed from her room before he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and guided her to his room.
Raina gave her father a chagrined look, but easily went along with what he'd decreed, gathering the clothes she'd need for the next day as well as pajamas and then moving into his embrace so he could lead her to his room. "Grandpa knows I was bad?" she whispered, so her voice wouldn't carry to the other rooms but her father would still hear her.
"I haven't gone into any details," Coulson replied, guiding his daughter into his bedroom. "Our visitors know what it was - an accident. An experiment that went wrong. But we dealt with what happened and I don't discuss punishment or behaviour unless it's necessary."
"I love you, Baba..." Raina whispered, before throwing her arms around Coulson's waist and holding on tightly. "I don't deserve you at all...."
Coulson kissed her head. "Yes, you do," he murmured. "I love you too. And you definitely deserve me."
It didn't take long for Raina to change for bed and soon she was snuggled under the covers waiting for her father, shifting immediately into his arms as soon as he was in the bed. "Good night, Baba..." she whispered, before quickly falling asleep.
Coulson didn't waste any time in wrapping his arms tight around his daughter, drawing her in close and kissing her head before his eyes closed and he slipped into sleep.
Odin gently led his three wayward children to his room, pausing long enough for each of them to collect anything they needed.
Loki had changed in his room, but hadn't taken long to gather his items. He noted that Darcy and Lorelei had done the same and soon all three were following their father to his room like baby ducks. "Where do you want me, sir?" he asked quietly, assuming Odin would want Darcy and Lorelei on either side of him, but wanting to be told in case he was wrong.
"Wherever the three of you feel you'd rather be," Odin answered. He just wanted all of them to be where he could touch them, reassure them, hug them...comfort them if they suffered through any bad dreams.
"I will sleep on an edge, then." Loki smiled. As long as he was within touching distance of his father, he would be happy.
Lorelei bit her lip. "Can I be between you and Loki, daddy?" she asked hesitantly.
"That's fine with me!" Darcy quickly injected. "I can sleep on the other side, next to you, Pop."
Odin nodded and smiled. "Of course," he replied. He settled onto the bed and waited for his children to arrange themselves around him.
Loki lay still and listened to his siblings' even breathing. The feeling of safety and love enabled him to quickly fall asleep soon after his sisters and just before Odin allowed himself to rest.