Shortly before the pizzas (and Logan) were due to arrive, various family members began setting out places at the table and pouring out jugs of juice and water. Even though he wasn't feeling himself, Steve had stopped hiding away (particularly considering he thought Jessica was likely to take off as soon as he turned his back) and had gently 'encouraged' her to join the family for the meal... helped by the fact that both Hope and Patsy were also joining, in what seemed to be becoming their family units.
Jessica had reluctantly followed Steve to the family dining area. She'd wanted to sneak out by now, but every time she thought she had a chance to do so, Steve found some reason that she needed to 'join him' for something and the moment was lost. She was beginning to despair ever being able to take care of Kilgrave the way she needed to, but she couldn't bring herself to disappoint America's hero; especially not when Patsy and Hope were going to be there. She'd have to find a way to sneak out after the meal; maybe if Steve was distracted by something else, she'd get her chance.
Tony had reluctantly left the safety of the guest apartment to go to the meal. He wanted to refuse, but Veronica had made it clear that everyone was expected, no matter what; and Hank had backed the AI up. While his guilt had been taken care of sufficiently for him to not be hurting so much inside, he still felt a bit like he owed Hank, at least enough to listen to the older man when he said they were going to the family meal. Tony stuck close to Hank's side as they exited the elevator and went to the dining area. He glanced around to see if there was anything he could do to keep busy.
It was hard not to flinch when he saw his son. Steve wanted, more than anything else, to go over to Tony... hug him... make things right between them. But he didn't know how to. Or even if he could... or should... Of course, that didn't stop him sneaking glances at Tony every time he thought his son couldn't see... assuring himself that the dark circles had gone and his son actually looked a bit more healthy.
Bobbi watched as her cousin and uncle simultaneously avoided each other, while sneaking looks at each other when the other wasn't looking. Her stomach twinged at the signs that neither of them were going to budge in their avoidance of each other; Steve looked too nervous to make the first move and Tony looked like he wasn't sure if he wanted to run to his father to be held, or start fighting again- he was obviously confused. She sighed softly and took a sip of the milk she'd decided to drink in an effort to coat her stomach so it wouldn't hurt. She had a feeling she was getting another ulcer, but with the way everyone was so upset and on edge, she didn't want to add to the worry. She'd just have to force herself to eat bland foods and self-treat and hopefully, it would clear up without her needing to go to Bruce for medicine, or needing to inform her father.
It was nearly a relief when Veronica announced that Logan had arrived and Steve quickly offered to go and meet the man... and warn him about the big group of people who he was about to meet. Checking that Jessica was settled with Hope and Patsy and reassured Tony was taken care of by Hank, he quickly headed to the elevator.
Bucky glanced at Steve; but, deciding that this Logan guy didn't need an army greeting him, he just waved at his brother to acknowledge him going then turned toward his son. "You give thought to what you want to do once you and Bobbi have that certificate back?"
"I'm not sure..." Lance admitted. "I think we need to sit down and talk about what we both want."
Steve stood quietly in the elevator, second nature to keep his posture straight and his face composed... even if he was anything but. When the elevator stopped and the doors opened, he took a deep breath and stepped out.
Logan had gone into the front lobby of the tower, standing by the visitor's section. Security was tight on the building; which, given the fact that Tony Stark's entire family was living on the top half of the building while (what he could only assume was very sensitive) work was done on the lower half, it made sense that security was tight. He hadn't objected to having to show his ID, as well as answering several questions and then getting a visitor's pass. He figured if he visited more than a few times, Stark would likely arrange for some way for him to bypass the public areas entirely and go straight to the family areas. Until or if that happened, he understood the need to be escorted. He glanced toward the elevator, wondering who would be coming down to retrieve him. He'd figured it would be Mack or Lance, since Mack was who he'd spent the most time talking to four years before and Lance was the one who had contacted him. His eyes widened when he recognized the tall blond exiting the elevator. So the good Captain himself was coming to get him? Maybe now he could find out exactly why he'd felt like he knew the man from somewhere, every time he'd seen him on the news. It hadn't made sense to him, since he was fairly certain he'd never met Captain America in person before, but he'd had that feeling nearly every time. It would be nice to figure out why. Smiling cockily, he strode over toward Steve. "Captain Rogers? You're here to take me upstairs, I assume?"
Steve froze. That was the only description for it. It was like Bucky all over again... but he didn't even have the excuse of being involved in battle to distract him until he could actually deal with someone straight out of his past... someone who'd been a father, up until his disappearance, that was. "You..." He shook his head numbly. "It's not possible..." A HYDRA trick? But the only ones living now who knew about his and Bucky's surrogate father were upstairs. Maybe, just maybe, there was a genetic resemblance... but Steve's own personal experience was that nothing was that simple.
Logan frowned at the odd response. "Me...?" he asked cautiously, glancing around to make certain there wasn't someone else in the near vicinity that Steve could be talking to.
"I apologize..." Steve did his best to recover, but it was still something of a shock. "You just... look very much like someone I used to know." He couldn't quite bring himself to smile, but he nodded to the elevator. "If you'd like to come on up... I have to warn you, our family's very large and it can be a bit overwhelming if you're not used to it."
"Huh. That's funny, kid...I got the same vibe off of you and just can't figure out why," Logan admitted, wishing for what had to be the hundredth time that he wasn't missing a large piece of his memory about his past. Luckily, the feeling that he knew Steve Rogers from before wasn't giving him any anxiety, so he doubted if the feeling of recognition was due to him recognizing a potential enemy. It felt more like recognizing distant family. Which was odd. As far as he knew, he didn't have any family beyond Sabretooth....
It had been a long time since anyone had called him kid... and the nickname was disconcerting, to say the least. Steve figured he should warn Bucky what was about to come... but how did he tell his brother that the Logan Lance, Mack, and Bobbi had met was the same one who had more or less adopted them... and he didn't remember either of them? "Are you... missing pieces from your past?" he asked, trying to figure out what they might be dealing with.
Logan's eyes narrowed briefly in suspicion before he shook his head and grinned again. He wasn't getting a vibe of danger from Steve; only genuine curiosity and maybe a small hint of worry. If you couldn't trust Captain America with your secrets, who could you trust? "Yeah. Hopefully not that obvious, but I am missing a rather large amount of memories from my past. I tried to remember at first, but the memories just seem to be gone. Do you remember me? Maybe you can fill in some blanks...." His voice trailed off with a hint of his own curiosity and a little tiny bit of hope.
Steve nodded. "I'm not sure how much I can fill in... my brother Bucky and me; we met you before the war. On perhaps the only occasion I gave him the go-ahead to try and sneak in somewhere... but that was more because it was a promise that had been made." Despite the situation, he couldn't help a faint smile at the memory. "You kind of became a surrogate father to me... a second one to Bucky..."
Logan blinked, not having expected to find out he'd actually had a close relationship with the man. "You're certain I'm the guy?" he finally asked, as he trailed Steve into the elevator. He knew because of his healing factor and other events that he was most likely very long lived. So what Steve was saying was possible. But how could they prove it was him? Not that he wouldn't be happy to find out what Steve was saying was true. It would help fill in more of his missing memory and the thought of having family that wasn't on the wrong side of the law and doing things that...well the less thought about his brother's actions the better.
"Before I found Bucky... I would have assumed it was a coincidence. But both of us have been alive since the war," Steve said. "It's not a stretch to consider another person might be as well."
"Given what I know about my own physiology...you could very well be right..." Logan didn't actually agree, but it was obvious he was leaning toward believing Steve. "I guess if there is a way to prove it...it would be good to know at least some of my past." He smiled again, standing quietly until the elevator stopped. When the doors opened, he waited for Steve to lead him out.
During the elevator ride, Steve had tapped out a quick message to warn Bucky about who he was bringing up. Stepping out onto the common floor, he paused to wait for Logan before heading to join the others... unable to help darting a quick glance at Tony to check on him.
Bucky had just finished reading the message when Steve and Logan stepped off the elevator. His eyes were wide and his mouth dropped open. "Pop?" he said incredulously.
Tony wrinkled his nose at Bucky's reaction before glancing toward Logan and Steve, doing his best not to look at his father too long, because he wasn't sure he was ready to talk yet and didn't want to encourage the older man to come and try.
Bobbi blinked at Bucky's words, looking at Logan curiously. "Pop?!" she questioned Bucky's question.
Steve glanced at his brother and then at Logan, not wanting to state the other man's secrets... but, at the same time, knowing they needed to sit down and talk. "I think we should have a conversation after the meal," he said quietly to the other two men.
"No kidding..." Bucky sounded in shock.
Tony frowned slightly, a hint of worry on his face. This time, he didn't attempt not to look at his father, his worry for the other man temporarily overcoming his desire not to talk to him.
Steve avoided looking at any of them, not sure how he felt or how he should even react. He thought maybe he was in shock like his brother... but he tried to act in a semblance of normal and glanced at Logan. "Feel free to sit wherever you like," he said quietly.
Tony's frown grew at Steve's uncharacteristically evasive actions. He found himself shifting closer to Hank in response, surprised at the hurt he felt at Steve refusing to look at him, considering he'd been avoiding his father for the better part of a week.
Bobbi cleared her throat at the awkwardness and asked hesitantly, "Lance said you had our wedding certificate?"
Steve saw Tony's movement out of the corner of his eye and winced, unhappy that his son was turning to someone else for comfort... even though he couldn't really blame Tony. He'd done his best to hide his bad dreams... but they still plagued him; and if it wasn't for the fact he'd know it would be a bad example, he would have left... or at least avoided eating the food, since he had no appetite.
"Uh... yeah..." Lance nodded, eagerly seizing on the potential change in subject.
Logan couldn't help but pick up on the tension in the room, glancing at Steve and then in the direction he'd caught the younger man looking, taking note of Tony's demeanor. He'd heard rumors about a fight between Captain America and Iron Man. He also knew of the relationship the two men had, if only because he'd heard some of the kids talking about it in the hallways at the school; until Storm had told them to stop gossiping. Clearing his throat, he turned toward Bobbi and Lance, giving the two youngsters an amused smile. "Yes. Yes I do. Took you long enough to ask for it back..." he grumbled good-naturedly, before pulling a legal envelope out of his jacket and handing it over to Lance.
"Thanks." Lance took the envelope with a sheepish smile. "It took us a while to realize we hadn't used fake names," he admitted.
Logan shook his head at that. "Too sloshed to remember much of anything, if I recall correctly..." His smile was kind, if stern. He didn't say anything else, though. He'd not felt it his place to step in when the event had actually occurred, since he hadn't known the two of them at all before that moment; and now, entirely too much time had passed for him to chide them for their actions. He looked back at Steve. "So how about you two rug-rats catch me up on your lives...or, better yet, help me remember my part in them...." He winced slightly, but smiled. It was too easy to use childish nicknames for Steve and Bucky; while bolstering their claims that he had been a father to them, it was a little disconcerting to be reacting that way to two grown men who, until he'd got to the tower, he'd thought were total strangers.
"You don't remember anything at all?" Bucky asked hesitantly.
"Sorry, kid...I don't remember much of anything beyond maybe twenty years ago...." Logan sighed.
At that moment, Veronica announced, "The pizza delivery person is downstairs. Shall I send her up, or will one of you go down to pick the pizzas up?"
Jessica, feeling very out of place among the very large family with their very confusing issues, jumped out of her seat. "I'll go get them!"
"I'll go with you to pay..." Tony quickly inserted, moving toward the elevator without bothering to wait for anyone else to say anything. He was still hurting from Steve's refusal to look at him; and angry at himself for feeling hurt. He felt like he needed a little bit of space...especially if the man who apparently would be his grandfather was now here.
Jessica quickly trailed after him.
Bobbi blinked at the rapid escape of her cousin and possibly new cousin, and then gave Logan a sheepish and slightly guilty look. "So you remember me making a fool out of myself..." She sighed, blushing darkly.
"Oh...I think there were enough people acting foolish that you don't have to feel singled out..." Logan chuckled.
Wanda sidled a bit nearer to her father, so she could whisper in his ear, "I could help. If you say it's okay. I've been training more... practicing... maybe I could unlock those memories? Or some of them?" She had too much respect for Clint (and her own limits) to try without first confirming with him.
"Well, we learned not to trust beer that seems weak, at least," Lance commented, before adding to Bobbi, "And at least we weren't alone in it..."
Logan laughed outright at Lance's comment. "Good thing to learn!"
Clint wrapped an arm around his daughter. "Maybe you could guide his thoughts in the right direction to uncover the hidden memories...but you'd need to ask him if he's willing to allow you to try. He might not be comfortable having you in his head, since he doesn't know you."
Wanda nodded. "I was going to ask..." As soon as she'd checked it was okay with her father. She cuddled into Clint, putting her head on his shoulder.
Clint kissed the top of her head. "I know. Why don't we wait for everyone to eat and then you can bring it up? I'll stay with you."
"Okay," Wanda replied softly, staying cuddled close to him.
It didn't take nearly long enough to pick up and pay for the pizza, in Tony's opinion. And yet it took entirely too long, since Jessica kept shooting curious glances at him. "What?" he finally asked in exasperation, as he caught her looking over the pizza boxes again.
"Just...wondering what's up with you and Cap. I mean...you look like you want to talk to him and I know he wants to talk to you...but both of you are doing the avoiding thing like you don't want to have anything to do with each other. It's confusing...." Jessica was blunt.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Tony huffed, deliberately looking at the elevator door so he wouldn't have to answer.
Jessica snorted. "Sure...whatever...." As soon as the elevator door opened, she walked off, carrying her armful of pizza boxes to the counter. "Chow's on!" she called out.
There were a few quiet conversations around the table as Tony and Jessica returned with the food. Natasha and her father stood to help distribute the pizzas around the table.
Bruce watched his father and brother quietly, noting that Tony went to sit by Harry and pulled Hank to sit on his other side.
Pepper sat next to Harry as well and glanced at Steve to see if he'd sit beside her, or sit near Jessica. She gave Bruce a worried look, obviously unsettled by the fact things were still strained between the two men.
Steve looked a little torn, but sat next to Jessica... not just because of trying to give Tony space, but also because he thought maybe Jessica needed to know she was being accepted into the family as well.
Blake cleared his throat, trying to diffuse at least some of the tension. "I think I found a couple more officers who are dirty, but weren't taken down before." He'd been doing investigating, but had kept his father in the loop. At least for the most part. When he had something to mention.
Ben nodded. "I've done a bit of research on what you found and put all the information on all those officers into files so that a plan to take them down can be formed..." he said, to back up his son. "...If everyone agrees that it is a good idea to take them down, that is...."
Jessica fidgeted, not sure if she was happy that Steve seemed to want to include her as part of the family, or if she was irritated and unsettled about his relentless pursuit and her inability to escape him. She focused on what Blake said. "Crooked cops are never good. Maybe I can help with...."
Steve nodded, focusing first on Jessica and Blake before he then addressed Ben. "If you can pass me the information... we can all take a look; figure out the best course of action... and whoever wants to be involved can be."
Ben nodded. "I'll do that."
Jemma, uncertain what to say or do, turned toward Skye and Hope, who were sitting on either side of May. "How would the two of you like to go shopping later? If we're allowed to, that is...." She glanced toward her father and Melinda, not sure if they'd be allowed out with Kilgrave still on the loose.
"I'm not sure that's a good idea..." Bruce hedged.
May slanted her head. "If I accompany them...along with perhaps Thor and Loki, who hopefully aren't as susceptible to being controlled...maybe? What do you think, Phil?"
Coulson considered, knowing just how bad being cooped up in the tower could get. "I'd prefer it if you didn't go shopping," he said. "Not with the risk of being controlled and still not sure who exactly is susceptible and who might be less. However, it might be possible to look at a spa or something else taking place in just one building that we can easily check out."
Jemma eagerly nodded her head. "Oh yes, please!? Can we go to a spa, Daddy?" She turned to Bruce with her eyes wide and hopeful. She didn't even wait to see if Skye, Hope, or anyone else was interested before begging.
Bruce blinked owlishly, not used to his normally serious, mature daughter acting like a teenager. He glanced around the table at all the other kids and realized being tower-bound with all the stress that was occurring due to Steve and Tony's fall-out was causing all of them to be on edge. "Maybe a spa day isn't such a bad idea..." he finally said softly.”...If there are more than a few of you going and all the parents agree, I see no reason why you can't go." Seconds later, Jemma was in his arms, squeezing him so tightly, he wished he'd thought of getting her out of the tower before. She obviously needed it.
Logan cleared his throat. "You know...if you all need another spot to 'get away' to where you don't need to worry about whatever is causing these control issues...I'm sure Xavier wouldn't mind having visitors for a few days...."
"That's the headmaster of the school you work at, isn't it?" Fury asked. "I suspect getting out of the tower for a bit might be beneficial." As much as they were all a family... sometimes it was hard to constantly be getting under each other's feet, with no source of escape.
"Yes." Logan nodded. "Charles Xavier. I'm actually a teacher there...."
Clint slanted his head. "You know...it might not be a bad idea to go there for a little while, at least..." He glanced at Wanda. "...As much as I've been able to help Wanda with her powers, there is only so much I'm able to do, since I don't have any. I'd imagine Charles Xavier might have some ideas on how to further her training...."
Coulson smiled. "I think that might be a good idea."
Wanda looked at Logan and then at her father. "Can I ask now, Papa?"
Clint noted that almost everyone had slowed down with eating and that Logan was sitting back from the table, obviously finished. He nodded at his daughter. "Yeah. Now is probably a good time as any...."
Logan slanted his head and smiled curiously, having noted the glances in his direction. "You have something to ask me, kid?"
Wanda smiled at her father, but addressed Logan. "You mentioned you don't remember much past twenty years ago... a lot of my power comes from manipulation through my mind. I can try and help you with those memories. If you want."
Logan looked skeptical, glancing at Clint to see his reaction to her offer, then around the table. No one seemed overly worried or upset at her offer and if everyone else trusted her, he didn't see any reason not to. Still. "Xavier has tried to help me with his abilities before with his telepathy. I'm not so good with the having people messing around in my head, though; part of the reason he wasn't able to do much, I suspect...but if you think you'll have more success and want to try...I suppose it would be foolish to turn down your offer." He smiled so that she knew he wasn't trying to be distrustful or critical of her.
"Papa will be there... so if anything happens, he can snap me out of it," Wanda declared confidently.
Pietro cleared his throat. "And your amazing, awesome brother will be there, too," he said... teasing, but still serious.
Logan chuckled. "In that case, what could go wrong?"
Clint grinned. "Nothing, of course."
Wanda's smile grew wider... as she was eager to do something to help (and also, she hoped to help her uncle Steve feel better). "Just tell me when you're ready," she said, moving to help with the clean-up, having noticed the rest of the family had more or less finished.
"I'm good to start as soon as we're done cleanup." Logan smiled and began to help with cleanup.
With everyone helping, it didn't take long for cleanup to be finished with. Steve stepped over to Bucky, talking quietly to his brother. "I trust Wanda knows what she's doing... but I'm going to still sit in with them. Are you?"
"If it might help, of course," Bucky agreed.
Steve nodded and returned to the group. "I don't know if you need a particular place to work," he addressed Wanda, "but the other guest apartment is free."
Wanda nodded and linked arms with her father, so Clint could walk next to her to the elevator, Pietro sticking close to his sister, as always.
Once they were settled in the apartment, Wanda looked at Logan. "Please just try and make yourself comfortable," she suggested.
Logan shrugged and leaned back into the couch. "What now?" he asked curiously.
Wanda took a seat on the armchair opposite, her fingers and eyes beginning to glow with red light as she carefully slipped inside Logan's mind. Per her father's suggestion, she didn't try to force anything... instead attempting to act as a guide for his conscious mind.
Logan closed his eyes, focusing on what he knew was her presence, going back through twenty some odd years of memories till he reached the last memory he remembered on his own: waking up in the laboratory where he'd been given his adamantium skeleton. His breathing increased rapidly as he remembered the pain and fear as he woke up, unknowing of who he was or what had happened to him.
Bucky frowned in concern, noticing Logan's breathing change.
Wanda nudged gently, pushing Logan past the memory of that time... encouraging him to go back further. As much of her power went towards soothing and calming his mind as to guiding him.
Bucky visibly relaxed as Logan seemed to relax. It appeared the older man was in a form of REM, despite not truly being asleep. Watching Wanda work, he began to wonder if she'd be able to help the other members of the family- including himself- that had memory issues. He kept quiet, though, watching silently.
No one knew how long they actually sat there. They were too focused on the pair sitting on the couch. Eventually, however, Logan's stance seemed to change, as if she'd found some thread in his mind and, like an eager kitten, he was following and pulling at it.
It was harder work than Wanda had anticipated, but she wasn't in any real danger as she guided Logan without words... encouraging him to latch onto the memory trail that had sparked and caught her attention.
Once Logan had been pointed in a direction, he was like a dog with a bone...ferreting out memories of his two 'sons' and what they'd meant to each other. Nothing was in any set order; he remembered the most poignant memories first, as they had the most impact. Memories such as when he'd first met the two.
The very last memory was of the last time he'd seen them. They were in their late teens and rumors of war in Europe were brewing. And he wasn't aging. He knew he'd either have to expose them to his secret, putting them at risk, or he'd have to leave them. So...he'd told them he was joining the army- just in case the US became embroiled in the problems from overseas- he'd given them each a small memento and he'd left.
Opening his eyes, Logan glanced at the two younger men. "My sons..." he whispered quietly, before standing and opening his arms wide.
Bucky had quickly moved into his grasp and hugged him tightly before backing away for Steve. Steve was the one who really needed their dad right now.
It wasn't even really a conscious thing. It had been a long time... but Logan still felt like home; and Steve couldn't be strong anymore. Not for himself. Not for anyone else right now. Moving forward, he hugged his father tightly, trying not to cry, as it seemed this, more than anything else, might open the floodgates.
"Shhh...It’s alright. I've got ya, kiddo..." Logan whispered into Steve's ear, holding even more tightly.
Bucky, realizing Steve was finally going to let himself accept the help and comfort he needed, slowly backed away, motioning Clint and the others to come with him.
Clint wrapped an arm around each of his children and drew them away, following Bucky.
Soon, Steve and Logan were alone in the room.
Steve's whole body trembled with the force of his emotions. He was only barely aware that the other family members had left... but the guilt and hurt he was feeling were crashing down on him and he couldn't be Captain America, the superhero anymore. Suddenly, he was that little boy with a father figure finally in his life... and he couldn't hold it together any longer. He couldn't hold himself together any longer.
"I've got ya, Stevie...just let it out...that's a boy..." Logan continued soothing, holding his son tight and gently rubbing his back.
Steve couldn't think of a time he'd felt worse emotionally. He couldn't think at all, really, as his father's gentle encouragement... and just Logan being here... was enough to push him over the edge. The tears ran down his cheeks as he pressed closer to his father. He was crying hard enough that very little sound was actually coming out.
Logan didn't say anything or ask questions, though he was very worried about Steve. He knew what the rumors were, but he needed Steve to tell him the truth of what really happened. Instead, he continued to hold Steve tightly and rub his back, kissing the top of his head every so often and making soothing noises.
It took a while for the tears to slow and then stop. When they finally did, Steve didn't really feel better... but holding onto his father helped him feel grounded and safe. It was frightening how off-kilter and out of control everything felt.
Logan squeezed Steve close, asking quietly, "You gonna be ok?"
"I... I'm not sure... I don't think so..." Steve admitted quietly, his voice sounding hoarse. "Everything's so messed up... I don't know how to make it right..."
"Talk to me, kiddo. Get it off your chest. I'll do whatever I can to help," Logan said simply.
Steve couldn't quite shake the feeling his father would be disappointed in him, at the very least, but he spoke in a quiet voice still heavy with emotion, unable to look Logan in the eye. "Bucky was under the control of HYDRA... they brainwashed him; kept him frozen when they didn't need him and had him kill p...people they deemed threats. Including Tony's parents." His voice dropped lower. "I knew HYDRA was responsible... I didn't realize it was Bucky, but I didn't tell Tony, either, and he found out in the worse possible way." It was hard to continue, especially with his voice catching, but Steve forced himself to. "He attacked Bucky... I had to... fight him... to get him to stop. But I couldn't... without breaking the arc reactor in his chest." His voice faltered. "I knew it wouldn't kill him... wouldn't hurt him... but he'd had to have it to keep him alive for so long..."
Logan took in a deep breath at the explanation. So much made sense now. All he could feel was sympathy for his child, what little disappointment he might have felt about Steve keeping such a secret overpowered by the worry and concern he felt for him. "Aw, Stevie..." He cuddled his son close. "You already know where you went wrong. Fighting to get Tony under control wasn't wrong, even if the way you stopped him was painful. You need to talk to him and help him understand, or you'll never feel better." He hugged him tight again.
"I don't know how to," Steve whispered hopelessly. "I want to... but most of the time, he won't even look at me. And I just feel so guilty... I knew keeping it from him was wrong. If I'd told him... maybe it wouldn't have hurt so much."
"Well, until you deal with your own guilt, you really won't be able to focus completely on him and his guilt like he needs...and he feels guilty. Anyone with two eyes can see that." Logan's voice was matter of fact. "So...you and I...we'll deal with what you did wrong. And then you'll be able to focus on your son and you'll know when the time is right to step in and talk."
Steve's nod of acceptance was so small, it could probably only be felt by the movement against his father's shirt. "Yes sir." His voice was soft... but also relieved, as he knew his father would help him.
Logan closed his eyes and held his son closely for another few moments. He hated that the first thing he had to do after regaining memories of his family was punish one of them, but it was what Steve needed...he was obviously sinking under the weight of guilt and worry...so that's what he was going to do. His son's wellbeing came first. After one more second of holding and a kiss to the side of Steve's head, Logan gently pulled him back to the couch and sat town, tugging his son over his lap in one move. Adjusting the younger, taller man so he wouldn't fall and was supported by the couch, Logan tightened his grip around Steve's waist and rubbed his back gently. "I'm going to spank you for hiding important information from Tony that he needed to know. The rest of it was unfortunate, but you had no choice and I will not punish you for that. I've already forgiven you," he said quietly, before quickly baring Steve, raising his hand up and letting it fall in a firm smack. He raised his hand and repeated the motion on the other cheek.
Steve had thought he'd cried all of his tears out already, but the tears were already moistening them again almost before his father had started. The sound he made with the first swat was somewhere between a gasp and a whimper, but he tried to keep still and not resist the punishment.
Logan kept one hand securely around Steve's waist; more to remind him that he was loved and cared about and to keep him safe on Logan's lap than to try and keep him from getting away. Steve never had been one to try and get away from a punishment he knew or felt he deserved, even when he was a scrawny teen. Not that Logan had needed to do much more than give a stern look, usually. He could count on one hand and have fingers left over the amount of times Steve had done something to warrant an actual spanking. Logan thought of all this while continuously smacking the bottom across his lap, watching as the skin turned from pale white to a light shade of pink, covering every inch from top to mid-thigh. He didn't feel the need to be overly harsh; the position and the repetition would do more than hitting overly hard would, he felt. When he began the second circuit, he spoke softly. "You know you should have told Tony; keeping the information about his family secret from him was tantamount to a lie...and your reason for doing it- to keep him safe- was doomed to fail...you had to know that he'd find out somehow eventually. It would have been better coming from you where you could comfort him after he found out and helped him deal with the information. You know this, though, and that's why you've felt so guilty...." His words weren't said in an accusing manner and they didn't sound disappointed. Any disappointment Logan might have felt with his son's actions had disappeared when he saw how broken up Steve was about the situation. There was only love and concern in his tone and while he spoke, he kept up with the firm, repetitive smacks.
It was the words, more than the spanking that tore the first sob from Steve's throat. The swats were painful, but not unduly harsh... it was the mountain of guilt that weighed him down so heavily. Guilt and a terrible fear that he couldn't put this right... that Tony would hate him for the rest of his natural life. "I know..." he sobbed out. “I told myself I was protecting him... but I know... I wasn't."
"I know you didn't mean to hurt him. You need to apologize. I know he's made that difficult, too...hiding from you. You weren't in the right mindset to go after him. I plan to help you, though, so that you'll feel able to do what you need..." Logan said quietly, increasing the speed of the swats slightly, but not the strength, hoping to get Steve where he needed to be.
Steve broke down, slumping over his father's lap as he went limp, accepting the punishment (not that he'd been fighting it)... but also Logan's words; his promise to help. And his emotions were all over the place still, but there was still the very faint glimmer of hope.
Applying two more swats, Logan ended the spanking and pulled Steve up into his arms, holding him tightly. "I've got you and now that I have my memories...I won't lose you again..." he promised.
There was no hesitation as Steve wrapped his arms around Logan tightly in return, pressing as close to his father as he possibly could as he tried to calm his breathing and slow his tears... trying to believe and trust that his father was there to stay. The loss had still cut deep, even surrounded by a whole family.
Logan continued to hold Steve, rubbing his back gently. "How do you feel inside, now?" he asked quietly.
"It..." Steve paused to think about it. "It doesn't hurt as much," he admitted quietly. "I think... when Tony's ready... I am as well..."
"Good...good. I'm very glad to hear that," Logan smiled then kissed the side of Steve's head.
Steve sighed and nestled in closer, allowing himself to seek out the comfort he'd been denying he needed since the whole mess started. "I missed you..." He'd known he had when they'd been sharing stories on the island. He just hadn't realized how much until faced with a father who didn't recognize him.
Logan just continued to hold him tight. "I know. I'm sorry. I...I had thought you were old enough to get along without me, as long as you had Bucky, and my not aging...I couldn't stay where I was any longer, or people would notice. And I didn't want to drag you from the only home you'd ever known. It was a mistake on my part...a really huge one. The only consolation I have is that the ones who grabbed me didn't hurt you and Bucky." Logan's voice was full of regret. "Forgive me?" His voice this time was regret and a slight trepidation.
Steve nodded quickly, hugging his father tight as he burrowed in as close as he could possibly get. "Of course... I understand why you left. At least you're here now..." he said softly.
"Now that I have my memory back, you can count on frequent visits..." Logan promised. "So...why don't you tell me about this family you and Bucky have built up? I've heard rumors, but I'd like it straight from the horse's mouth, I think." He grinned.
Steve smiled. "It pretty much built from another close friend... another brother... having legally adopted an agent he later found out was his real son. After that, I think everyone started coming together... I saw Tony as my son for a long time before realizing it was best for both of us to make it legal."
Logan nodded. "Same as I saw you as mine; even if I couldn't make it legal, since I didn't want to step on your mom's or Bucky's parents' rights. Sometimes you just know deep inside," he agreed. "So am I gonna get to meet my grandkids?" His smile was impish.
Steve gave a small laugh, even as he (a bit reluctantly) disentangled himself from his father, replacing his clothing. "I can't promise Tony will have stuck around, but you're more than welcome to come to my apartment and meet the others... Bucky can bring his over, too. We've made family night pretty much a tradition."
Logan nodded. "I'll meet Tony when you finally get things back on track with him," he agreed, confidence that Steve and Tony would work things out clear in his voice.
"Do you want me to ask Bucky to meet us on my floor?" Steve asked.
"Yeah. I'd like to spend time with the kid..." Logan chuckled. "We all have a lot to catch up on...."
"I'd like to hear about what you're doing now... with the school and everything." Steve tapped out a quick message to Bucky, asking his brother to come to Steve's apartment.
"I teach...can you believe it?" Logan chuckled and began to explain in detail what courses he taught and what the students were like.
It hadn't taken Bucky long to show up, so he hadn't missed any important details and soon, the three were telling stories and catching up on 80 some years of missed memories.
Jessica had been happy for Steve when Logan had shown up and he'd realized that 'his dad' was still around. She was even happier when Logan had taken Steve to another apartment to talk. She was less happy when Bucky didn't go with them; the ex-soldier was keeping an eye on her just as much as Steve had been and she was beginning to despair ever being able to sneak out- until Logan and Steve requested his presence to catch up. She figured that was the perfect opportunity to try and get out. Waiting until Patsy was busy talking with Lance and Bakshi... and fairly certain Tony wasn't going to say anything to her, the only ones Jessica had to worry about stopping her was Bruce and his kids; maybe Pepper and Harry, although they were focusing on Tony right now, so she felt fairly certain they wouldn't notice. But she had a plan. "Are all the bathrooms in the same location in every apartment or floor?" she asked Jemma.
"Um...yes. Pretty much so. If you just go down the hallway, you'll find it..." The bio-scientist smiled.
"Thanks..." Jessica gave a crooked grin and headed that direction, certain that they'd at least give her some privacy if they thought she was in the restroom. She went in and closed the door loudly...then, waiting a minute, carefully and quietly reopened the door, peeking out. She didn't see anyone watching or waiting in the hall. Perfect! She began to slink toward the stairwell, afraid calling the elevator would draw attention since it always made a dinging/whooshing sound when opening.
Steve was listening to his father talk about some of the antics his students got up to, when Veronica gently interrupted. "Captain Rogers, Miss. Jones is in the process of walking towards the stairwell with what appears to be the intention of sneaking out."
"I'm sure it's not just appearing to be," Steve muttered, standing up and looking apologetically at his father and brother. "Please excuse me... I was waiting for something like this to happen."
Jessica was hurriedly running down the stairs as fast as she could. She knew she only had so much time before someone would go looking for her to make certain she was alright...and she knew when they discovered her missing, they'd likely tell Steve. If it had been a shorter distance than 70 floors, she might have attempted to jump down...she'd made distances of four or five floors with no difficulty before, but she'd never tested her ability from that height and wasn't keen on discovering that her ability stopped at floor sixty or something like that. As soon as she was within a decent distance of the ground, though? All bets were off!
Steve wasted no time in checking with Veronica exactly where Jessica was, heading to the elevator immediately. He didn't bother trying to head her off on any other floor but the ground floor, knowing she'd have to reach there... so as soon as the elevator came to a stop, he was heading off.
Jessica had finally reached the seventh floor- it was slightly higher than she normally jumped- but she was fairly confident she could make the distance. She only glanced down long enough to be certain she wasn't jumping into a laundry cart, or onto some pointy or breakable object, before she was leaping over the railing and plummeting down toward ground floor.
Steve had exited the elevator in time to spot Jessica... he knew she wasn't falling. Her body was braced as if she'd jumped. Adding that to the catalogue of information he was gaining about the woman he knew he wanted in his family, he quickly moved to block her exit.
Jessica had made the landing, although she'd had to do a slight forward roll because the height was just a bit too much to nail the landing without hurting herself if she didn't. Not that she wouldn't heal- she almost always did- but it usually took a day or two; and even if that was quicker than a lot of 'normal' people, it was still a day or two longer than she wanted to be injured. As soon as her forward momentum was stopped, she was up and getting ready to run again when she noted Steve blocking her exit. Coming up short, she threw her hands up in the air. "Really?!" The language she let out to express her frustration was definitely not lady-like.
Steve raised his eyebrows at the language she was using, but didn't comment on it. "I'm fairly certain you weren't just leaving the tower to go for a walk." He slipped easily back into the 'dad' role... now that the shadows of guilt and pain were gone, he could focus on what was important right now. Or, rather, on who was important right now.
"What if that's exactly what I was doing?" Jessica asked huffily, not quite willing to lie yet (especially when it was fairly obvious he'd made up his mind that he already knew what she was doing), but frustrated enough that she wanted to frustrate him as well. Having noted his raised eyebrows, she let loose another barrage of swearing, a childishly petulant look on her face as she all but dared him to do something...then sat on the ground and crossed her arms over her chest, refusing to move from the garage level stairwell.
Steve walked over and sat down directly opposite Jessica, facing her. "If all you were doing was going for a walk, you would have said that. But I know you want to do something about Kilgrave. It doesn't surprise me that you want to go after him alone." Keeping eye contact with her, he continued, "It shouldn't surprise you that I'm not going to let you do that."
Jessica stared at him, her eyes narrowing slightly as she thought about what he was saying. She couldn't help but ask, "Why? Why won't you let me do what I need to do?" She hated that her voice had taken on a begging tone, but it couldn't be helped. She was desperate to stop Kilgrave before he hurt any more innocents.
"Because going alone could get you hurt... maybe even killed," Steve said frankly. "Perhaps, to you, it would be worth it if you can take him out... but it isn't acceptable. You aren't alone. You don't have to face him alone. It's a lesson every member of the family has had to learn."
"I'm not family..." Jessica pointed out in what she felt was a reasonable tone of voice; although the way Cap was acting, she wasn't entirely certain he didn't view her as such. It was fairly obvious Patsy and Hope had formed connections with the family already and were pretty much adopted, if informally, into the brood. Was Steve assuming she would just join up too? Was he planning on being her father? She wasn't sure what she felt about that, to be honest. She was too used to being a loner....even if, as he said, she wasn't alone.
"I'd like you to be." Steve's response was frank and honest. "It's not good to stay alone for your whole life... and I have the same feeling about you I've had about my other children."
"You don't even really know me...how can you have a feeling like that?!" Jessica blurted in disbelief.
Steve's smile was gentle. "If someone has a child biologically, do you think they know everything about him or her straight away? I've spent enough time with you now to know this is real."
Jessica blinked, not really having a response to that. It was too logical. "I still want to go..." she muttered, deciding maybe the best course of action would be to not talk about him wanting her in his family. She was pretty sure- paternal feelings right now or not- that he'd decide she was too much of a handful and want her to go within a week or so. Possibly sooner.
"I'm sorry, but I'm not going to let you." Steve's voice remained gentle, but there was still a firm undercurrent to it.
Jessica frowned. He wouldn't literally try to stop her. He was just pushing her to see how adamant she was about leaving. If she just got up and left, he wouldn't do anything. Why had she even bothered stopping? Of course, there was a slight underlying feeling nagging at her that he would stop her. But she didn't believe that he cared so much he'd actually prevent her from going; was afraid to believe it, though she wouldn't admit that to herself. Sighing, she stood up. "Yeah. Good luck with that..." She gave a saucy smile as she ran toward the door again, hoping that she had enough of a head start that she'd have it open before he was on his feet again.
Steve might not be fast in the same way as Pietro, but being prepared for running (and how many times had that been the case with Tony?) meant his reactions were quick enough that he was on his feet and in front of her once more before she could get close to the door. "I'm not going to give up. I'm not going to change my mind and let you leave, because I honestly feel you are safest here. You can push as much as you like or need to. I'm not going anywhere."
Letting out a frustrated huff, Jessica dared him further than she might have otherwise done if she wasn't so anxious to leave the building and take care of Kilgrave. "Well, I'm not going back upstairs and I'm leaving as soon as I find my opening...so I guess you're just going to have to drag me back with you unless you plan on camping out down her!" Crossing her arms over her chest again, she flopped back against the wall in a negligent pose, perfectly able and willing to stay there for days if needed. She'd outwaited numerous marks when doing P.I. work. She'd learned how to go without food, water, or even the bathroom when necessary.
Steve watched her calmly. "I think you'll find I'm more than capable of being more stubborn. There might be problems between us now... but I'm sure you, along with the rest of the world, didn't miss that I adopted Tony." He didn't go into any personal details... but he didn't think he had to. Most of the general public knew Tony Stark's reputation. Eyeing her, he continued, "Then again, while we're both here, we might as well talk about what will happen if you do somehow manage to get past me." His voice was mild and, although serious, there was sympathy and care in his tone.
Jessica snorted in an attempt to sound like she didn't care or thought him foolish; but the truth of the matter was, she was more than a little bit curious. She knew Tony Stark's reputation. That reputation had calmed quite a bit since Captain America came into the picture. It made her wonder just how the Captain had managed to tame the out-of-control billionaire. "So just what will happen when I get past you?" she asked cockily.
"I'll come after you." That was a given, but Steve still stated the fact anyway. "I'll bring you back home and make sure you're unhurt. And then I'll spank you." It was stated as simply as anything else, but he wanted to make sure she was forewarned. Even if he suspected she wouldn't react well.
Jessica blinked. Ok. That wasn't what she was expecting. At all. She couldn't help it. She began to giggle and then her giggles turned into full-blown guffaws. She couldn't believe he actually meant what he'd just said. That was... "You can't be serious!" she finally gasped out, wiping tears of amusement from her eyes.
"I am," Steve replied calmly, holding eye contact with her. "Because this is a family. And even if you aren't convinced yet, I already consider you a part of mine."
"You....you'd...how the hell does that work exactly?!" she blustered, trying to ignore the funny feeling in the pit of her stomach that was forming at his words. It was a bit distressing to find that the idea didn't upset her so much as make her feel like she belonged; and she couldn't afford to feel that way. At least not until Kilgrave was gone and maybe not even after.
"In a literal sense?" Steve asked. "I'd put you over my knee, bare you and spank you. If you mean in a general family sense... many of the family members have been like you, used to having no one able or willing to step in with them when they did something dangerous. Spanking is over fast and doesn't do any lasting damage."
"I...I don't believe you!" Jessica blurted, before running for the door one last time...this time prepared to fight her way through if Steve stood in her way.
It didn't really matter that Steve wasn't sure whether she was referring to the idea of family, or to the spanking itself. He moved the moment she did... but this time, instead of just blocking her exit, he grabbed her and all but tossed her over his shoulder, moving back to the elevator fast enough that he hoped it wouldn't draw too much attention.
Jessica shrieked and began to squirm wildly, kicking and clawing, not caring in the least what kind of attention she drew. Maybe if she embarrassed the man enough, he'd put her down and she'd be able to just leave without any further hassle.
Steve had never been in the position of having to calm one of his children down with a swat (or a few), but that didn't mean he wasn't prepared for the possibility. The swat he landed wasn't a full-force one, although he made it hard enough to get her attention, hopefully.
Jessica stilled immediately as the sharp sting in her hindquarters broke through her fighting. She blinked in confusion before the synapses in her brain finally made the connection between the slight pain and what had occurred. "You...you spanked me!" Her voice wasn't very high, was barely above a whisper. How she was behaving after the swat, still and quiet and almost pliable, was a marked contrast to the out of control behavior she'd been exhibiting before the swat.
"Exactly as I warned you I would." Steve took advantage of her stilled struggles to step into the elevator. "Every promise I make to you, I will keep."
Jessica blushed darkly and slumped, letting her hair fall over her face in an attempt to hide her embarrassment, even if Steve couldn't see her face, the way she was draped over his shoulder currently. She was quiet as he pushed the button to head back up to the living areas, but once the elevator was moving and they were a few floors above garage level, she asked hesitantly, "Every promise?"
"Every promise," Steve confirmed, adding, "Including the one that I want you in my family... that I already consider you part of my family."
"I...I..." Jessica went boneless and just let him cart her around like so much luggage. "I don't know how to deal with that..." she finally admitted, a hint of fear in her voice, but not fighting him; for the moment, at least.
"I know," Steve replied. "But nothing's going to change. And I'll prove you can believe me and trust me. No matter how long it takes."
Jessica sighed softly, opened her mouth to argue again, then closed her mouth without saying anything. She stayed quiet until the elevator opened again. She couldn't tell which floor they were on, but she wasn't too keen on running into anyone after her attempt to escape. "Can't I just go to my room?" she asked, as softly as she could manage. She wasn't certain he'd hear her, or allow her to, since the chances of her running got higher whenever she wasn't in his presence. She knew if she got another chance to take off and he wasn't around, she'd take it. And yeah, maybe he had smacked her...once...but she still had a hard time believing he'd actually spank her like he'd said he would. But if he did, it would be worth it if she could get to Kilgrave.
"I'd prefer it if you stayed with me," Steve replied, having set the elevator to his floor, so he could join his father and brother once more. "I'd like to spend the time with you." And he hoped it would help if she got to know his brother and father... hoped she would see what the family was like then.
"Yeah...ok." Jessica saw no reason to argue. Other than embarrassment at having been smacked like a naughty child, there was no reason not to give him what he wanted. It wasn't like she'd be able to sneak off to get Kilgrave again if she didn't go with him. He'd be keeping too close an eye on her for that.
Steve gently set her down, so as not to embarrass her by carrying her through to Bucky and Logan. He did, however, wrap his arm around her shoulders to guide her off the elevator.
Jessica, by this point, was feeling very sheepish at having lost control of herself like she had. She would never admit it, but she was grateful that Steve had stopped her when she was so wound up. She could have made mistakes, possibly deadly, if she'd gone in the frame of mind she had been in. When Steve wrapped an arm around her, she didn't try and pull away. Part of her wanted to move closer, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. Not pulling away was the most she'd allow herself.
Steve kept his arm around Jessica as he guided her through to join his father and brother. He smiled when he noticed that some of the other family members had filtered in... though he was a bit sad (if not surprised) to note there was no sign of Tony.
Jessica glanced around and noted that Patsy was there. She gave her oldest friend a crooked grin. "So we're having a party?" she asked the room at large.
"I think we were talking about watching a movie." Peter gave Jessica a grin. "Anything you want to veto? Or put your vote in for?"
Patsy smiled at Jessica, though there was a bit of concern on her face... as she was fairly certain Steve wasn't just escorting Jessica there for no reason.
"No favorites...but I'd prefer not to watch anything where people are controlled by others..." she said hesitantly. She gave Patsy what she hoped was a reassuring smile back. Her friend knew her well, though, and probably figured out that she'd attempted an 'escape'.
"I'm sure all of us can agree on that." Steve gently led Jessica over to Patsy, noticing the worry on the other woman's face... though he still stayed close to her.
"Maybe we could watch one of the wildlife documentaries, rather than a film?" Leo suggested, remembering how taken he'd been with the monkeys on Tony's island.
"I do recall there being a National Geographic special on tonight...about the Mandrill....is that what caught your eye?" Jemma asked her brother knowingly.
At that moment, Pepper walked in. "Hey, daddy...." She gave Steve a strong hug. "Tony is with Hank again...they're waiting for Hope and Scott to arrive...."
"Yeah..." Leo admitted, a bit sheepishly.
Steve hugged Pepper and nodded, giving a quiet sigh. "I'm glad Hank is with him," he said. "Are you going to stay here? I think we're going to be watching a wildlife documentary..." He smiled at Leo.
"Well, I for one think that sounds like a wonderful idea..." Jessica said, with a smile at Leo.
Pepper nodded at her father. "Yeah, I am. I...I've missed you," she admitted.
Leo smiled, noticing that everyone else seemed open to the idea as well. "There's about thirty minutes until it starts... if anyone wants to grab snacks or drinks."
Steve kissed her forehead. "I'm sorry this has all affected you so much... but when Tony's ready to talk to me, I'm ready to talk to him," he said, his voice pitched too low for anyone's ears but hers... well, his brother and father notwithstanding.
"Show me where they are and I'll help carry..." Jessica offered, moving to follow Leo.
Pepper slumped in relief, just the tone of her father's voice, let alone the words themselves, letting her know that Steve was in a better place emotionally and that maybe things would get back to an even keel and normal soon. "Hopefully, that will be soon..." she said quietly, though she didn't hold out much hope of it being as soon as she'd like. Tony was stubborn.
Bucky smiled at Pepper and Steve. He didn't say anything, but he was obviously relieved that Logan had helped his brother.
Logan glanced at Pepper. "So I didn't get all that much of a chance to get to know everyone when I first showed up. Want to do the honors, son?" He looked at Steve.
Smiling, Steve gently guided Pepper over to his father, so she could meet him properly. "If you're able to stay for a while, you can meet everyone else properly during the next family meal," he added.
"I can stay for another few weeks before school is back in session..." Logan smiled. "And it isn't like I'm so far away, I can't come down for weekend visits occasionally."
Pepper smiled at the shorter man in front of her. He was smaller in stature than a lot of the men in the family, but he was obviously muscular and he had a presence about him that made him tower over everyone else despite his height. She found herself suddenly bashful; not a situation she was used to, but given how much everything and everyone had been in upheaval lately, she figured she was entitled.
Steve nodded. "You'll be welcome any time, I'm sure." He smiled at Pepper, noticing his daughter's reaction, and squeezed her gently to reassure her.
It didn't take long before Leo and Jessica were returning with snacks and drinks that they handed out to everyone.
Harry, sitting next to Peter, was fiddling with what looked like a hand-held scanner... until his cousin nudged him gently.
Pepper finally found her voice, "So uh...I guess you know I'm Pepper...I dunno if you saw or met Tony yet. He's...he'll...uh...be around...uh...eventually. Are...are you daddy's dad?" She blinked at her own question and blushed.
Jessica was listening in to the conversation between Steve, Pepper and Logan, though she tried to act as if she wasn't paying attention.
Bucky slouched on a nearby couch, motioning Lance and Bakshi to sit next to him. He'd introduce them as soon as Steve and Pepper were finished talking and had gone to sit. Bruce appeared like he was planning to do the same with his kids.
Steve gently squeezed Pepper's shoulder, saving her from floundering and the fact he could tell she was embarrassed by indicating his two remaining children... even if Jessica wasn't officially his yet. "My other son, Bruce, is over there with his children... and that's Jessica there. Pepper and Tony's son, Harry, is just over here." He smiled and then gently led his daughter over to sit with her son, allowing Bucky and Bruce to introduce their children.
Bruce smiled at Logan. "This is Jemma." He pointed to his daughter. "And Peter and Leo are the ones currently fighting over a bowl of popcorn..." He frowned slightly, but his eyes were amused. "Just go get another bowl, fellas...."
Jemma waved at Logan.
Bucky chuckled and shook his head. "These are my sons, Lance and Bakshi..." He slanted his head toward each one as he introduced them. "And this one here..." he gently tugged Patsy to him and sat her on his lap. "...Is Patsy. We're in the process of making her mine legally...." He winked at his soon to be daughter as he let the cat out of the bag.
Jessica's eyes widened at the news and she turned to look at her friend questioningly.
"I've got a larger family than I realized..." Logan muttered in amusement, as he went to sit next to Steve.
Patsy looked at Jessica and shrugged. "He wants me." She didn't have to say anything else. Jessica knew what her mother was like. And she'd had plenty of opportunities to see how physically affectionate the family was, so she had no problem snuggling into her soon-to-be-father.
Steve smiled. "We managed to pick up a few more siblings along the way, too," he commented to his father.
Logan's eyebrows rose. "Really? So how many more children do I have, that I haven't met yet?" he asked teasingly, having no doubt that if any of his sons' new siblings needed a father figure, he'd be willing to step in. He might not need to in most cases, especially if they had their own family still, but that didn't make them any less his.
Jessica didn't say anything to Patsy's comment. She was happy for her friend. She was. She was just a bit unsettled, because she suspected (or knew when she was being honest with herself) that Steve wanted to make her legally his as well. And the thought scared her more than she wanted to admit to anyone. Being connected to someone like that was just opening yourself up for pain. Patsy had wormed her way in before Jessica had learned to build up her walls...but if she stayed with this family very long, she had a feeling her walls would be crumbled dust and she'd be vulnerable.
Although answering his father, Steve was also keeping an eye on Jessica out of the corner of his eye... guessing she might be feeling unsettled at best. He wasn't assuming the battle was over; wouldn't be surprised if she tried to run again. But all that would mean was she still needed to be taught how to let him in. "There's Phil and Melinda... Nick, Ben and Sam, too. You may have noticed Thor and Loki are a part of the family, with their brother Mack and their father, but Odin's time tends to be divided between here and his home on Asgard."
"Uncle Hank might stick around for a bit; dunno for how long, but if Scott and Hope are coming here...Tony told me Scott's daughter Cassie and his ex-wife Maggie just moved to New York and Scott at least might be moving here permanently. I think Tony plans to ask him...Given that Tony knows how much he'd miss Harry if Harry moved across country and he couldn't see him every day, he sympathizes with Scott...." Pepper added, not wanting to hurt her father with bringing his attention to the fact that Hank was being there for Tony when Tony wouldn't even talk to Steve, but wanting to make sure he knew there was a possibility of at least one more family member moving into the tower.
Steve nodded in understanding, though he couldn't quite hide the flash of pain that crossed his face at that. "I thought that might be likely..." he said softly.
Pepper wrapped her arms more tightly around Steve and cuddled, hating that she'd caused him pain, but knowing he needed to know what was going on, since Tony wasn't talking to anyone other than her, Harry and Hank.
Jessica frowned at the sign of hurt on Steve's face. Whatever had happened between him and the iron man, she hoped for the captain's sake it was cleared up soon. Despite her reluctance to give in and become his...she did like Steve and wanted him to be happy...or at least happier than he seemed to be at the moment.
"Hank Pym?" Logan asked, for clarification, even though he was fairly certain he was right. "Some of your siblings I'm thinking might end up being more like brothers to me as well...I somehow don't see Ben Urich or Hank Pym needing me to be their dad....Never mind Odin...." He chuckled.
Steve responded by wrapping his arms around Pepper, drawing her close and taking a deep breath... even as he nodded to his father. "Either way, you'll have the chance to meet everyone properly..."
"I'm looking forward to it." Logan nodded, reaching over and clasping Steve's knee and giving a gentle squeeze. "Now...isn't it about time for that documentary to start?" he asked the room at large.
There was a bit of movement, as everyone figured out exactly where they wanted to sit and that they had enough food and drink, and then they all settled in to watch the documentary.
Tony stood next to Hank on the tarmac of the private airfield as they waited for the jet to land. Hope and Scott would be here in a little less than ten minutes and he was looking forward to seeing his cousin again for the first time in years (he didn't know if Hope had told Hank, but he'd actually seen her a couple of times at some science conventions that she'd attended instead of Hank, meaning that Tony hadn't felt the need to skip out on the convention to hide).
Hank stood with his nephew, keeping quite close to Tony even as the jet came into view and began to come in to land. He was fairly certain Tony wasn't feeling good about everything... even though he had made the effort to join the others for the meal.
"So...didn't talk to him much, but looks like d...dad found his own dad. He'll probably be busy with him for a couple of weeks, at least..." Tony tried to sound nonchalant and not out-of-sorts. He knew he should be happy for Steve and Bucky- and he was, really- but as much as he wanted to avoid his father, he was also starting to miss him and the idea of someone else spending so much time with his dad when he wasn't spending time with him was a bit disconcerting. Even if the reason he wasn't spending time with him was of his own doing.
Hank rested his hand on Tony's shoulder, squeezing gently. "I doubt he will have stopped thinking about you," he commented mildly, all too aware of Steve having been watching Tony as much as Tony had been watching Steve.
Tony blushed faintly, moving closer to his uncle and leaning slightly into him. "Am I that obvious?" he said, a bit sadly.
Hank wrapped his arm around his nephew, drawing Tony in closer. "It's understandable you miss him. Even though you're still not sure how you feel."
"I want to be angry at him..." Tony admitted with a sigh.
"You can't control how you feel," Hank said, gently and without censure.
"No...if I could, I would be angry with him...I'm not, though," Tony said quietly, looking at his feet. "Some might say that's a good thing. Thing is, I'm not mad at him, but I'm still really angry and upset...."
Hank nodded and spoke gently. "Emotions aren't easy or simple to deal with. But you do have help and support."
Tony looked up and gave his uncle a crooked smile. "I know. Thanks for, you know...being my help and support...I know I'm not easy to deal with on my best days. Forget about when I'm confused and upset...." He swallowed hard, giving his uncle a quick hug, before looking back into the sky. "They're here...."
"I wouldn't have it any other way." Hank's voice was soft, but no less sincere for it. He kept his arm around Tony as the jet came in to land.
Tony couldn't help but begin to fidget as the jet taxied to a stop and then, several minutes later, the stairs were being driven up to the entry-hatch. Once everything was in place, the hatch slowly opened. A few moments after that, Hope was stepping out of the jet and onto the stairs, carry-on slung over her shoulder. Scott exited a couple of feet behind her, his own carry-on in hand. The ground crew was unloading the luggage from the hold and bringing it over to the waiting car. "And they're here..." Tony finally said, as Hope and Scott began walking toward them.
Hope's smile was warmer than it had been even a few months ago as she stopped in front of Tony and Hank, reaching out to give her cousin a quick hug. "The jet's definitely handy," she commented. "I'm glad we didn't have to go through security with everything we were bringing." There was a trace of amusement on her face as she looked at her father.
Tony hugged back tightly, chuckling at his cousin's words. "Don't I know it. There was only one time when I had to take a regular plane because I was traveling with Pepper and the jet was undergoing maintenance.... the suit set off the detectors... and despite pretty much everyone knowing who I am, security tried to act like I was a threat." Tony made a disgruntled face, but his eyes were laughing. He held out a hand to Scott. "Glad you could make it!"
Scott shook Tony's hand briskly. "Thanks so much for letting me come. Cassie's already sent me a list of all the places she wants to show me...." He grinned, before turning to look at Hank uncertainly. He was never sure how the older man felt about him; even though Hank had warmed up to him after the whole 'yellow-jacket' fiasco and had been working with him, Scott still wasn't sure if the man was going to welcome him into the family, or meet him at the door with a shot-gun for trying to date his 'little girl'. Never mind the fact that Hope was way scarier than Scott could ever even attempt to be.
Hank looked steadily at Scott, after giving his daughter a hug as well. "I'm glad you've come," he said, simply and mildly, before adding, "But I think we need to talk once you and Hope have unpacked."
Scott smiled crookedly at Hank's first words, but the grin faltered slightly as Hank added in the last part. He darted a nervous look toward Hope, wondering if she had any idea why her father would want to talk to him. "Uh...yeah. Sure..." He bit his lip, his shoulders slumping slightly. It hadn't escaped his notice that Hank had had his arm around Tony as they disembarked. He forced himself to keep smiling. Yeah. Maybe Hank still thought he was a hot-shot trouble-maker, but he had thawed a little bit. Even if he didn't seem to like Scott on most days. Give the man a few more years and he might actually be glad to see him.
Hank had actually wanted to put his arm around Scott, but while it was easy to judge Tony's needs and adjust accordingly... he wasn't sure what the man he felt something more than fondness for would be comfortable with. Maybe there was more than one thing they needed to talk about. "If you're both ready, I'm sure we can go to the tower," he said.
Hope gave a shrug. "I'm ready," she replied, not commenting on her father's words to Scott or her boyfriend glancing at her.
Tony stepped back from his uncle and clapped his hands together. "Yes! Let's go... Things are a bit hectic. Apparently, we are about to get three new female members in the family and I just met my seemingly immortal grandfather. So...yeah. Let's go add to the chaos!" Tony's grin was manic as he stood back to let the others precede him into the limo. Happy was standing there, holding the door open for them all.
Scott blinked and gave Hope and Hank a nervous look at Tony's words.
"It's a long story." That Hank wouldn't go into without Tony's say-so. He waited for his daughter and the closest person he had to a son to get in the limo, then got in himself.
If Tony seemed oblivious to the questioning looks of Hope and Scott, it wasn't because he didn't want to explain what he'd been talking about. He was just more anxious than he wanted to admit at the fact he apparently was gaining two new members in his family because of Steve; and he and Steve still weren't speaking. While Tony knew it was his own fault that they weren't speaking, he couldn't bring himself to do what he needed to do to fix the situation. He wasn't even sure he knew what he needed to do. As soon as the other three were in the limo, he got in as well and immediately leaned forward to open the mini-bar that was inside the vehicle. "Anyone want a drink?" he asked casually.
"I'd like a beer..." Scott muttered under his breath, as he looked out the window, Tony's nerves beginning to make him nervous.
"No alcohol." Hank's response was mild, but still serious.
Tony looked like he wanted to argue, but then had second thoughts and shut his mouth, giving a tiny sigh instead. "Yessir..." he mumbled, before looking at Scott. "Coke ok?"
"Er...yeah. That'd be great. Thanks..." Scott couldn't help but answer hesitantly, as it was becoming increasingly clear that Hank had some type of authority over Tony Stark and Scott just wasn't expecting that. If Hank had Iron Man in his realm of influence, what in the world could he possibly need Scott for?
"I'll have a water, please," Hope said.
Hank held back a sigh, as he considered talking to Scott in private. Hopefully, his daughter would take advantage of the time to catch up with her cousin. He turned to Scott. "I know you said Cassie has a list of places she wants to visit with you... is there anywhere in particular you'd like to go?"
Tony quickly handed Scott a Coke and Hope a water, before glancing toward Hank with a question on his face. Given that the older man hadn't said he wanted anything, he wordlessly offered Hank a water, if he wanted it, while listening to his question and waiting for Scott's answer.
"She wants to go see the Statue of Liberty with me..." Scott said, with an almost bashful grin. "And the Empire State Building. Because apparently, she saw King Kong and thinks super huge monkeys are neat and she wants to see where he climbed...."
Tony sniggered at the answer, grinning brightly.
"Did you figure out what days you can take her for?" Hank asked, planning to work around that time to spend the time with Scott.
"Well...I talked to Maggie and she's going to begin school again in a few weeks. Plus, she's already involved in several different extra-curricular classes. But she has Saturday and Sunday free and she also has Tuesday and Thursday free, at least until school starts. So I arranged to have her those four days this week and next...after that, I guess it depends on how long Tony wants to put up with my ugly mug around his tower..." Scott glanced at Tony.
Tony blinked. "You can move in to the tower, as far as I'm concerned. If you don't need to return to San Francisco...Hell...all three of you are welcome to stay in the tower for however long you want."
"It'll be better for you both to stay," Hank said. "Not just for Cassie's sake." Though he didn't elaborate.
Scott blinked, looking excited about the prospect of not having to leave his daughter once she went back to school, but then gave Hope a nervous look. Hope actually had an important job in San Francisco. If she didn't want to stay and he did, he wasn't certain how their relationship would fare. "I...I'll think about it..." he finally said wistfully.
Tony hadn't missed the look Scott had given his cousin and he raised his eyebrows at Hope.
Hope glanced at her father, cousin and boyfriend, but didn't comment other than to say, "I'll have to think about it, too."
"Well, the offer is always open, so no hurry..." Tony finally said, trying for nonchalant. If he were honest with himself, he'd like if his uncle stuck around a bit. And he really was sympathetic to Scott's plight. Although if he had a chance to talk to Hope, he might point out that Pepper ran a world-wide business from the tower and managed everything by traveling when she needed. So if Hope's only reason for not moving in was because of her job, something could be worked out, he was certain.
"So..." Scott started, giving Hank a nervous look. "...Since today is Friday, I have the rest of today unplanned... and I'll pick Cassie up tomorrow after breakfast and we'll start our sight-seeing. I have a feeling the things she's mentioned won't take all day, though, so if any of you have any ideas?"
"I've had a look at some areas you might be interested in... both of you," Hank said, including his daughter in his response to Scott. "Later, we can sit down and go through them."
Scott grinned. "Great! So...uh...what's the plan for the rest of today?" He glanced around at the others.
Tony was looking out the window and, without thinking, muttered, "Avoid my dad..." under his breath, before blushing and turning to face everyone else again with a smile. "Maybe we can order in something for dinner. I can introduce you to the rest of the tower residents. Then after that...?" He shrugged with a smile.
Hank nodded. "We can certainly do that," he commented, not saying anything to Tony's first response. He didn't say that he and Scott were going to need to talk. He'd already mentioned that.
"Yeah...that sounds good..." Scott said hesitantly, also not commenting on Tony's first response, but obviously having heard it. He wasn't sure how to react and glanced at Hank nervously. "So uh...what did you want to talk to me about?" he threw out, in an effort to change the conversation without thinking about the fact that maybe he wouldn't want to talk about whatever it was in front of anyone else. Although if the look in Hope's eyes was anything to go by, she already knew what the conversation was going to be about, so what the what?
"I think we might be better off having that discussion in private," Hank said. While the punishments weren't a private affair... and probably weren't generally in the tower... he wasn't going to spring it on Scott with his daughter and nephew listening in.
Tony's eyes widened fractionally at his uncle's words, but he didn't comment, instead turning toward his cousin. "Have you met Pepper yet, Hopesie? I don't remember ever introducing you, but if you haven't, I'll take you to meet her as soon as we drop your bags off in the apartment. Pepper and my son Harry. He's really smart..." Tony began to ramble.
Scott turned a confused look onto Tony, but didn't say anything. Shortly, they were pulling into the tower's garage.
Hank got out of the limo once it came to a stop, pausing to wait for the other family members to join him before he stepped over to the elevator, addressing Tony. "If you want to take Hope to meet Harry and Pepper... I'm sure Scott and I can take the bags up."
Scott blinked, suddenly getting the idea that maybe he was in trouble for something. Shifting from foot to foot, he looked toward Hope and Tony, hoping that one of them might be able to clue him in to what was going on, then looked back at Hank. "Uh...yeah. I can carry your bags, Hope. Why don't you go meet everyone with Tony...." He couldn't help that his voice sounded hesitant or nervous. It didn't matter how brave he was (some would say over-confident); when it came to Hank Pym, he always felt like some clueless teenager.
Tony nodded. "Yeah. When you both are ready, just meet us on the common floor..." he said to Hank, with a crooked smile. "I'll do my best not to disappear...." Even if Steve was there, Tony didn't have to sit next to him or talk to him...and there were plenty of other family members that could be a buffer. It was time to stop avoiding joining in family stuff just because his father was going to be there.
Hank nodded. "If you're not there, I'll check your whereabouts with Veronica." He figured it didn't hurt to remind his nephew there was an AI who could inform Hank of where Tony was at most given times.
"Oh...yeah. Right..." Tony blushed at having forgotten how easily he could be found because everyone knew the AI would tell on him if she thought it necessary. "This is our floor, then..." He took Hope's arm and led her off the elevator, before turning to the two men still on the elevator. "We'll see you later." He gave a jaunty salute as the elevator doors closed and then, taking a deep breath, turned to lead Hope into the common family room. He could hear a television program going; it sounded like something on monkeys. That meant that Leo, at least, was there. He took another steadying breath.
Hank stepped closer to Scott as the elevator doors closed, though he didn't touch the other man, not sure that it would be welcomed. He stayed quiet until they reached the guest floor... and then, without thinking, placed his hand on Scott's shoulder to guide him from the elevator.
Scott was tense as they rode the rest of the way to the floor where the apartment was. He didn't realize how tense he was until Hank put a hand on his shoulder and the action brought him such relief (Hank wasn't angry at him if he was willing to touch him) that he stumbled forward off the elevator.
Hank stepped off the elevator, taking both bags from Scott and placing them out of the way before he guided the younger man to the couch and sat down, encouraging Scott to take a seat next to him. "Do you remember the conversation we had about working in the lab?" he asked outright.
Scott had a confused look on his face for a moment before his eyes widened and he began to shift uncomfortably. "We agreed that I should get some practice in the suit at the lab..." he hedged.
"We agreed that the practice would be supervised and not done without permission," Hank corrected. "Not that you would take the opportunity of me not being there to try out the growth technology on your own."
Scott just stared at Hank, swallowed twice, then blinked and forced himself to keep looking Hank in the eye, when all he wanted to do was look at his feet like a naughty toddler. How had Hank found out? Hope was nowhere around when Scott had tried out the growth technology! Scott opened his mouth to try and say something that wouldn't give him completely away, in case Hank didn't really know what he'd done and was attempting to get him to admit it with no proof, but after he opened his mouth, he couldn't think of a single thing to say. His ability to bullshit the man who he'd rapidly come to look on as a mentor was gone! His eyes widened in panic as he felt the urge to actually tell Hank the truth. "...Uh...."
"Do you understand why that rule was in place?" Hank asked directly, making eye contact with Scott.
"...." Scott stared at Hank, his face paling slightly as he tried to think of something to say that wouldn't be too damning. He swallowed again and clenched his hands, his fingernails digging into his palms. If he told the truth, Hank would take the suit away...forbid him from using it anymore. Worse, he might tell Scott not to come around anymore; if Scott wasn't using the suit, what use was he to Hank?
Hank waited a beat and then spoke in a voice that, though soft, was still serious. "You'll be in more trouble if you don't come clean."
Scott closed his eyes and took another deep breath. And then he began speaking so fast, his words all bled together like spilled paint. "I know you said someone had to be there, but Hope was busy and you weren't there and I thought I could do it; I didn't break anything and since that was why you were worried, you didn't really need to worry; the suit works fine and please don't send me away- I like working with you all and I think I love Hope, but don't kill me; I really didn't break anything and it was only three times!" He gasped at the end and gulped in another breath, opening his eyes to stare at Hank like a deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming truck.
Hank took a deep breath and let it out in a slow sigh. Reaching out, he clasped Scott's shoulder briefly... and then drew the younger man into a hug. "I didn't care about anything in the lab getting broken. I care about you not getting hurt trying out something that could have been unstable."
"Oh..." Scott said, in a tiny voice that was filled with more surprise than he would have liked to admit. "...So that blowing up thing Hope was yelling at me about was really possible?" This time, there was a hint of panic in his tone.
"Yes. It was." Hank pulled back enough so he could look into Scott's eyes, without actually loosening his hold. "That was a dangerous stunt you pulled. I had a good reason for insisting you needed someone there."
"I'm sorry I almost blew myself up..." Scott squeaked, the fact that he actually had been in danger having shocked him. He found himself scooting closer to Hank, as if seeking reassurance that the man really had been worried about him and didn't want him to leave.
Hank immediately tightened his arms around Scott. "You were lucky you didn't." He paused briefly, before saying, "But we're going to deal with it."
Scott hesitantly wrapped his arms around Hank and held on. He was always so nervous that he'd do something wrong and Hank would tell him to get lost. But that didn't seem to be the case now...and he'd certainly messed up badly, if doing something so dangerous counted. It wasn't for several seconds that Hank's words registered. "We're going to deal with it? How?" he asked nervously.
"I'm going to spank you," Hank replied, his tone serious... though he wasn't sure Scott would take him seriously straight away.
Scott blinked, then got a funny look on his face and giggled. "No...seriously. Am I not allowed to use the suit again until you make sure I didn't mess it up? Do I have to...I dunno...do various chores to prove I'm not completely irresponsible, even though I really didn't act responsibly when I didn't listen? How are we going to deal with it?" He couldn't wrap his head around the fact that Hank was actually suggesting that he allow the older man to spank him. That was a kid's punishment...or, at least, that's what everyone said. He'd never spanked Cassie. Then again, Cassie was a little angel compared to her screw up dad...but still.
"I am being serious." Hank pulled back enough to make eye contact with Scott. "Spanking is an effective punishment. It's over fast and doesn't do any lasting damage. And it will encourage you to think next time."
Scott blinked owlishly then blushed darkly. "Oh...huh. Maybe...maybe I should just start believing what you tell me immediately, instead of thinking you aren't serious...since I keep being wrong." He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. "I...does this mean you don't want me to leave? That...that I can keep working with you and Hope?" He winced at the pathetically hopeful tone in his voice.
"I don't want you to leave. At all," Hank promised. "You're the closest thing I have to a son." He wanted to tell Scott that he considered the younger man his son... but wasn't sure it would be accepted.
Scott inhaled sharply at that, wrapping his arms more tightly around Hank and hiding his face against Hank's shoulder. "You want me around...Dad...?" He tested the word out cautiously, afraid of maybe taking things one step further than Hank would want.
"Yes, son." Hank's voice was firm, with an undercurrent of relief to it that Scott was accepting this... his place in Hank's life.
"That makes what I did even worse..." Scott realized mournfully. "...I'm sorry." His voice was contrite and full of remorse. He reluctantly pulled away from Hank's hug and forced himself to look the other man in the eye. "What do you need me to do?" he finally asked quietly, but in a certain voice. He knew how he would have felt if Cassie had done something she'd been told not to do and it was extremely dangerous and could take her away from him. And he'd gone and done that to Hank and Hope. He deserved to be spanked and he wouldn't fight it, even if it was terribly embarrassing.
"You don't need to do anything other than not fight," Hank said, his voice serious but reassuring. "I'm going to take you over my lap, bare you and then spank you." He waited just long enough to be sure Scott understood before he gently moved his son over his lap.
Scott nodded and took a deep breath; and then he was over Hank's lap. He tensed up briefly, but he wasn't going to fight this, no matter how difficult it became. He took another breath to try and calm himself; though it was obvious, by the way he was breathing, that the unfamiliar position and vulnerability scared him. As much as he trusted Hank, this wasn't easy in the least. And he didn't know where to put his hands. Grasping Hank's leg felt odd to him, bracing himself on the floor wasn't comfortable; he vacillated between the two uncertainly.
Hank rubbed Scott's back gently and then bared his son, before wrapping his arm around Scott's waist, drawing him in tight against his stomach. He lifted his hand and brought it down in a firm swat that he then repeated.
And the first swat was when Scott realized that, despite his intentions not to fight it was going to be very difficult not to do so. "Ow!" he yelped; suddenly, he knew exactly where to put his hands. Or, at least, his hands knew where to go, even if he hadn't actively planned to put them there, because a few seconds after vocalizing his pain, his hands had flown back- almost of their own accord- and covered his backside. Scott whimpered. This may not be the worse pain he'd ever felt...but for some reason, it was a pain that he was incapable of dealing with in a mature manner. Probably because he didn't feel very mature at the moment, but still.
Hank paused, taking hold of Scott's hands and moving them out of the way, holding them against his son's back. He then resumed swatting, working his way from the crest of Scott's backside down to his thighs.
As embarrassed as he was that he'd already attempted to block the punishment like a crybaby wimp- he could feel his face heating up and knew the rest of him was likely just as red- Scott had to admit that having his hands immobilized in Hank's own hands was actually calming. He took a shivery breath and squirmed at the continuing smacks, but he was noticeably less tense and fearful. Still...it hurt. "I'm sorry...." he whimpered sadly.
"I know." Hank didn't pause or lessen the swats in any way as he responded. "You didn't understand the danger to yourself. But you need to be aware that, if I tell you not to do something, I have a good reason. I don't care about things getting broken. I can replace those. I can't replace you."
"I...I get it now. I do. If you tell me, then I listen! Cuz..." He paused and his voice took on more of a wondering tone than frantic. He sounded like he was having difficulty believing it still, but the idea of it made him happy. "...Cuz you care about me and want me safe..." he finished, in a soft whisper.
"I do," Hank confirmed. "Which means that anything else dangerous will land you right back in this position, because I will not allow you to endanger yourself. Or to do anything that might take you from me." He increased the force and speed behind the swats a fraction.
"Oh! Noooo!" Scott wailed, his squirming increasing to match the increase of force and speed. "Noooo! Pleeeease! I'll be good! I'll b....b...be gooood!" he choked out, biting his tongue in an attempt not to cry.
Scott knew if he cried, he'd begin sobbing. If he began sobbing, he knew there was no chance that he wouldn't submit. If he submitted...his days of being a carefree, footloose, thrill-seeking adult were over. There's no way he would be able to defy Hank and not let the other man be in charge once he'd given in. Which, given the fact that so many of his adult decisions hadn't been terribly good for him (he always had good intentions, but intentions didn't always make a difference when the decision was bad), maybe letting Hank be in charge wouldn't be a terrible thing. Still, he thought, as a card carrying adult male, he should at least attempt to fight giving up freedom to the older man.
Hank tightened his hold on Scott, though it was as much for comfort as to restrain him, and began focusing more swats to his son's sit spots and thighs. "Putting yourself in that kind of danger is not acceptable. Your safety is important... and losing you would be devastating." His voice carried nothing but sincerity.
And that's all it took. Hearing Hank say how affected he would be if something happened to Scott, because Scott knew Hank wouldn't be the only one affected. Tears started pouring down Scott's face and once that happened, it was only a matter of seconds. "I'm sorry...." He sobbed, going limp over his father's (that was the only way he could think of him now) lap. "I'm sorry and I'll be good." His words were soft and barely audible, he was crying so hard.
Hank brought the spanking to a stop and quickly and immediately gathered his son into his arms, hugging Scott tight to himself. Even if he'd been able to be aloof before... he couldn't now; and he needed to comfort Scott just as much as his son needed to be comforted.
Had the last thirty minutes not occurred, Scott might have felt odd being cuddled on Hank's lap; the older man had never shown any type of physical affection before. The last thirty minutes had occurred, though and Scott had learned that not only did Hank care...he cared a whole damn lot and was willing to back up that caring with action. Scott needed to be held; not only to feel forgiven, but to solidify his realization about Hank and his place in the older man's life. He snuggled, putting his head on Hank's shoulder and thought about what he'd done to get in the position he now found himself. "I'm gonna mess up again. I always do. Just ask Maggie; I'm a complete idiot when it comes to keeping myself out of trouble...even when I try."
"And that's why I suspect this isn't going to be a one-time thing," Hank said seriously, though he continued to hold Scott tight. "But even if it happens frequently... it's not going to change anything. I'm not going to stop stepping in."
"You won't get tired of pulling me back...?" Scott asked hesitantly. He was self-aware enough to know that most people could handle his antics and seeming irresponsibility only so long before they had to leave. (Seeming because he tried to be responsible! He did! Things just had a way of going wrong for him....)
"No. Not ever," Hank replied. "You're part of my family now. And nothing's going to ever change that," he promised.
"Ok, then..." Scott sniffled, hugging closer. "I'll have to behave then. Cuz you spank really hard..." He sniffled again, but his tone was teasing. Holding close a few seconds more, he reluctantly stood and fixed his clothing. "Hope's gonna know what you did..." His face turned pink.
"You don't have to tell her about it. And I'm not going to tell her either," Hank promised. "Punishments are usually private..." Even if they were the worst-kept secret in the tower.
Scott looked up at that and swallowed, before impulsively wrapping his arms around Hank again and holding on. "Thanks, d..dad."
Scott hadn't thought himself so needy- had actually thought himself well adjusted- but what Hank had just done...had just offered...Scott realized that an emptiness he hadn't even known was there was filled and that slight uneasy tug he'd always felt around the older man was soothed. He'd needed Hank in his life. Needed him to take a more permanent part. Scott didn't say anything, though; Scott might wear his heart on his sleeve, but Hank was more reserved. Hank would likely figure it out without words anyway.
Hank hugged Scott tightly to himself. It was as easy and natural to stroke his hair and back as it had been while comforting Tony... which made sense, considering Scott was more or less officially his son.
"Does this mean that everyone else are my cousins?" Scott asked, in a hesitant yet hopeful tone. To go from just Cassie to having a tower full of family was a bit overwhelming, if exciting.
"Yes. Well... cousins and uncles," Hank said. "Everyone in the tower is family... although it seems three members are yet to officially join." He might not have seen everything, but he'd definitely noticed enough when he and Tony had joined the others for the family meal.
Scott slanted his head. "I don't think I've met anyone yet, so don't know who you're talking about." He chuckled slightly.
"You haven't met them, but you've probably heard about a lot of them," Hank commented. "But you'll be able to meet them properly during your time here."
Scott nodded. "I hope so...that's another thing on Cassie's list. Meeting the Avengers." He chuckled sheepishly.
"That might not be feasible for her to meet them straight away," Hank said gently. "Tensions are running quite high here right now."
"Yeah...kinda picked that up." Scott rubbed the back of his head nervously. "I'm glad we're ok..." He gave Hank a bashful yet questioning look, childishly needing confirmation that he wasn't misreading body language and that Hank wasn't mad at him.
"We are," Hank promised. "And I'm very glad you're here."
Scott grinned, shuffling his feet slightly. "I am too..." he admitted softly. "I guess we can go meet everyone now?"
Hank nodded. "As long as you're ready." He didn't want Scott to feel like he had to go straight away.
"I'm ready." Scott smiled again; he was excited to meet people who he could claim as family. Besides, he knew Hope was anxious to see her dad.
Standing, Hank wrapped his arm around Scott's shoulders to guide him towards the elevator. "The three of us can sit down later and have a conversation about whether moving here is the right thing to do," he commented.
Scott nodded. He didn't say that he would be eternally grateful if they did; Cassie was here and he felt torn in two with his desire to be close to his daughter and still be able to work with his mentor (now father) and be in a relationship with Hope. If they moved too...everyone he loved and needed most would be in one place.
They got onto the elevator and Scott was so distracted by his thoughts that he didn't notice until they were in a room full of people that they'd arrived and Tony was greeting them.
"Hey, uncle Hank, Scott...do you want to do the honors, uncle Hank?" Tony asked curiously, waving around the room where everyone was currently. The fact Steve was also there and Tony hadn't run off yet hadn't escaped anyone's notice, even if Tony was situated as far from the other man as possible. He was obviously doing better.
Hank led Scott over to his nephew and daughter, glancing around at the others. Even though his priority was Tony, he was pleased to see that Steve was looking better emotionally... even if he hadn't made any attempt to approach his son.
There was a break in the program, so Hank was able to run through quick introductions with his son and daughter.
Tony didn't know whether to be relieved or annoyed that Steve was avoiding him. He'd avoided Steve for nearly the last week because he didn't want to talk to his father and Steve had appeared to want to talk to him. Now he was finally emotionally at a place where he didn't blame his father for what happened (was still angry, but not at Steve) and his father had decided he didn't want to talk? It didn't occur to him that Steve might be waiting for him to make the first move; that his father was afraid if he tried to talk to Tony, Tony would run off again. It just annoyed him, so he made a point to avoid Steve as well...in a fairly obvious way. Yes, it was childish, but no one had ever accused Tony of reacting in an adult manner when he felt hurt. He'd tried and behaved more responsibly because of Harry, but he still tended to react immaturely if nothing bad could happen from it. They were safe in the tower and he didn't feel a threat, so...childishly ignoring Steve it was.
Jessica watched the proceedings with raised eyebrows. If Steve was to be believed, Tony was going to be her brother. She didn't think she had the right yet to go and literally knock some sense into him, though, so she forced herself to go against her usual aloofness and stepped into Steve's space, giving him a tiny, hesitant hug. She was obviously unused to giving affection of that sort (the only one she allowed to hug her, or who she hugged normally, was Patsy.)
The hug from Jessica was unexpected... but definitely welcome and Steve reciprocated, wrapping his arms around his (he hoped) soon to be daughter. Even if he was in a better place emotionally, it was still hard to try and give Tony space, not knowing if his son would ever be ready and willing to talk. So the comfort was definitely welcome... and even more so because he guessed taking that initiative was so difficult for her. He squeezed Jessica gently, whispering softly in her ear, "Thank you."
Harry had been trying to pay attention to what everyone was watching... and tried to pretend it didn't bother him to see that his father and grandfather were still on the outs. But it did. It bothered him a lot. And seeing them so obviously ignoring each other... it reminded him of his relationship with his biological father. And he was uncertain enough that it caused old insecurities to come back.
Peter, nestled close to Harry, could feel the tension in his cousin's body. Harry practically vibrated with it. Peter stood and grabbed his cousin's arm, tugging him to his feet. "I just remembered I can check on some test results. Let's go see." He tossed a wave at his father, siblings and the rest of the family and then tugged Harry out of the room.
Jessica just smiled up at Steve, not answering but not moving, either. She was surprised at how nice it felt to hug the older man; how safe she felt. She hadn't been expecting that.
Tony felt a slight twinge of something- he wasn't sure what- but pushed it down as he saw Peter dragging Harry out. He frowned in worry, glancing around to see if anyone else had noticed his son leaving, before deciding it didn't matter and slipping out to go see if Harry was alright.
Harry pulled back slightly when Peter would have dragged him into the elevator. "You go on ahead. I need to get something from my room..."
Peter frowned, but didn't give voice to his suspicions. "I'll go with you."
"I just want to take the stairs..." Harry quickly ducked into the nearest stairwell. He had every intention of going to his floor. He really did. And then he glanced at the scanner in his hand... and instead of going up, he began heading down.
Tony, meanwhile, had managed to just miss both young men. "Veronica? Do you know where Harry was going?"
"Your son started to go up to your floor, but then changed his mind and is now going down the stairs," the AI reported.
"Ok, well...take me down, then...to whatever floor he ends up on..." Tony said with a sigh.
"Of course, sir." The elevator began moving... as Harry didn't seem inclined to stop before he reached the ground floor.
Jessica frowned as she noted Tony's abrupt departure and glanced around to see who else had noticed.
Fury had noticed his nephew leaving and after a quiet word to his children, he headed out of the common area... not sure exactly where Tony was going, but having noticed Harry and Peter's disappearance as well.
Harry was brought up short when he exited the stairwell and found Peter in front of him. "Please don't do that."
"I knew you weren't going upstairs."
"I need to go for a walk," Harry replied, moving from one foot to the other as he thought about running past his cousin. He suspected Veronica would have noticed where he was... which meant he didn't have long before someone appeared.
"Is Harry still in the building, Veronica?" Tony asked in worry. Had he waited too long to try and catch his son? Yes, the elevator was moving fast, but unless Harry stalled at the bottom and didn't keep going, he'd already be out of the garage by the time Tony reached it.
"Harry has just left the tower, with Peter going after him," Veronica said. "I have activated the tracers on both of their phones and am keeping track of them through the traffic cams."
Tony slumped and ran a hand through his hair. "Thanks, Veronica..." Tony clenched his hands, thankful he'd upgraded the bracelets that allowed him to call his armor to him so that the sensors were actually embedded in his arms. He had it with him at all times, so didn't need to worry about his armor being inaccessible. His biggest worry at the moment was going to be getting out of the building without worrying Pepper about the fact Harry had taken off.
Veronica continued to update him on the position and whereabouts of his son and nephew, indicating that Harry seemed to be accessing a piece of technology he'd been working on... and also informing Tony when Peter was able to pause enough to call his father.
"Wait...Peter called Bruce?" Tony asked in surprise. He was standing in front of the elevator in the garage, trying to make a decision on what to do. Did he go after his son? Did he wait till he had a more concrete idea of where Harry and Peter were going and what they were doing? Should he call more members of the family and let them know the two younger men had left? The two weren't supposed to leave at all- Kilgrave was still a big threat, especially if he realized Jessica was in the tower now- which made Tony's decision. He needed to catch up to his son so he could keep him safe. "Is Bruce coming?" he asked, figuring it wouldn't hurt to find out before he took off.
"He is, sir..." Veronica answered. "He is with your Uncle Nick..."
By the time Fury had reached the elevator, Bruce had joined him and Fury glanced at his nephew. "Did Peter call you?" he asked, as he waited for the elevator to reach the parking garage. He'd noticed the teenagers leaving... but if Bruce was here, that meant they hadn't just wandered to another area in the tower.
"Yeah. Harry was determined to leave and he didn't want him to take off alone; he called me as he rushed to keep up with his cousin. Not entirely sure what they're planning to do, though...." Bruce was suspiciously calm; only the green tinge in his eyes belied the appearance.
Tony was about to take off after his son when he noticed the elevator heading his way and decided to wait and see who showed up.
"They're probably not planning anything..." Fury stepped off the elevator as soon as the doors opened. "Tony. Veronica's keeping track of their whereabouts? We might be better off taking one of the vehicles."
"Veronica's tracking them...I'm thinking if I take one of my suits and fly above, then I can pretty much keep up wherever they are and I won't be limited to where there is a road..." Tony replied, giving his uncle a thankful look. Things had been so unsettled recently, it felt good to know the family was still paying attention to small things and not letting stuff slip by; Nick had known they needed help and come. It meant a lot.
Fury nodded. "But I want you to stay in contact through the comms," he said seriously. "Don't do anything unless we're there to give you backup."
"Of course..." Tony quickly agreed, calling his suit to him. Of course, he wasn't really concentrating on Nick's warning, too focused on catching up to his son and nephew to make certain they were alright.
Bruce watched his brother take off then shook his head as he and Fury headed for a car. "He's not going to call us. Think we need a few more people?"
"Veronica, can you contact the family members and ask them to be on standby in case we need them?" Fury requested, even as he headed to the closest and fastest vehicle.
"Of course, Director..." Veronica answered, quickly doing so.
Bruce followed his uncle to the car and quickly got in. "Peter's still sending me text updates every so often. I think he's really worried about Harry."
By this time, Tony was up in the air, following the tracking signal Veronica had on Harry and Peter.
Directing Veronica to keep him updated on the teenagers' whereabouts, Fury began driving as fast as possible, while still keeping to safe limits. "I suppose Harry's still quite affected by the tension between your dad and brother..."
"I know he is...Pepper has tried to help him...but it's hard on her, too; I've tried to step in. But given Harry's background...I think the whole thing has brought up bad memories." Bruce sighed.
Fury nodded, even as he kept most of his attention on the road. "Even the most well-adjusted family members have been having problems..."
"I've noticed Bucky has been doing much better and dad actually seemed in a better place this afternoon. Now if only Tony will admit he needs to talk to dad...maybe things could get back to normal." Bruce sighed in frustration. While he understood Tony's position, he could tell the other man needed their father. But until he realized it himself there was nothing to be done.
"I'd imagine that it helps your grandfather has appeared and has his memories..." Fury commented, before addressing his other nephew through the comms. "Tony? Do you have eyes on them?"
"I think you are right," Bruce agreed.
Tony answered his uncle immediately. "I do..." His voice was worried. "They're heading into Central Park...and there is someone fitting the description Jessica gave everyone; they are headed right toward him."
"Bruce, send a message to Peter. Get him to try and head Harry off," Fury directed. "Tony, I need you to hold back... until I can get hold of one of the others who might be immune to him." He accessed the comms to call back to the tower.
Bruce immediately started trying to call Peter.
Tony, not wanting his son to face a potential sociopath, was reluctant to listen to his uncle. Not wanting to agree when he had no intention of stopping and not wanting to listen to his uncle yelling in his ear, he turned his comm off and started flying to intercept his son and nephew.
Busy using his webbing to keep up with his cousin, Peter's voice was out of breath when he answered. "Not exactly... hands free right now, Dad."
Fury didn't waste any time in asking Loki to teleport to meet them, along with Thor, their father and Clint. Worry and fear drove him to go much faster than he would have normally.
"See if you can slow Harry down. Tony spotted Kilgrave ahead of you. A group of us is coming for backup," Bruce said quickly, so Peter could hang up.
Tony, by this time, had swooped down right in front of Harry. Flipping his faceplate up, he gave his son a worried and stern look. "What are you doing, son?"
Harry was brought up short by his father landing in front of him. "I..." His voice trailed off. He didn't know... wasn't sure how to put it into words...
Peter managed to catch up to his cousin. "Unless you want to get controlled, we need to go back." He nudged Harry's shoulder. Like his father and uncle, he knew Harry had taken off because too many bad memories had been triggered. Even if his cousin was unable or unwilling to admit to that.
"He's behind me by about a block...in front of you...Let's put some distance between us, yeah?" Tony smiled at his son, still obviously worried.
Harry nodded slowly, though he looked very hesitant and unsure of himself. He didn't try to argue, though, not wanting his actions to cause Kilgrave to target any of his family.
Tony noticed the scanner in Harry's hand. "You were going after him, weren't you?" He carefully began to herd his son and nephew back the way they'd come. "Veronica...is the big bad still where we saw him or has he moved?"
"I... didn't really have a clear idea..." Harry admitted, his voice low.
"The person matching the description given has been looking in your direction, sir, but merely seems curious and not hostile right now," the AI reported.
"Yeah...that don't mean he won't brain-jimmy some poor innocent sap and send them after us." Tony frowned. "You don't even have earplugs, kid..." he chided gently. He understood the need to act ...especially when everything else in your life was in upheaval. Still, if Harry had reached his target....
"I... didn't really intend to leave the tower," Harry admitted quietly.
Peter snorted softly. "Yeah, I think you just acted. Without thinking. And I'm being the responsible one. There's something wrong with this picture..." He resisted the urge to check on Kilgrave's location, not wanting to alert the man to the fact they knew of him if Kilgrave wasn't already aware.
"Yeah...we're entirely too much alike for my comfort..." Tony teased gently. "Veronica is keeping an eye on him. Let's move further away..." He glanced toward where he saw Bruce and Fury finally pulling up in the car.
Bruce saw his brother, son and nephew heading his way. Looking at his uncle, he asked, "We gonna go after Kilgrave, or wait till we have a more concrete plan?"
"I think we need to wait until we have a more concrete plan," Fury answered. "There are too many people who could get hurt if we tried to take him now." He stopped the car close to his nephews and opened the door so the three of them could get in. The look he gave Tony suggested he'd better join them.
Tony ushered his son and nephew into the car, not saying anything in response to Fury's look, although his stomach flipped and he couldn't help giving his uncle a nervous look.
"The others are turning around and will meet us back at the tower," Bruce said casually, as he hung up his phone.
Fury nodded and then glanced at the others. "Do you remember anyone else approaching you? At all? Or acting strangely?" He figured Veronica would have picked up on anything out of the ordinary... but he needed to know for sure.
"Only ones I've talked to are Peter and Harry." Tony tried to sound cocky and brave. It didn't work. Unlike before his father adopted him, Nick actually knew him quite well now and would likely see the guilt under the bravado. It was obvious Bruce did, if the look his brother gave him was any indication.
"No one approached me that I know of," Harry said quietly.
"I didn't see anyone... and I kept out of people's sight as much as I could," Peter added.
"So what next?" Bruce glanced at Nick questioningly.
"I think a couple of conversations need to be had back home," Fury replied... though he didn't mention who, despite knowing it would be obvious.
If Tony hadn't been wanting to set a good example for Harry about accepting consequences of your actions, he would have cussed out loud and tried to get out of the car. He knew he deserved a discussion with his uncle; he'd disobeyed a direct order and turned off comms so he wouldn't have to listen to any other orders. He was thankful Nick didn't make a list of his misdeeds in front of his son and nephew. Still...knowing he deserved it and being able to accept it without complaint was difficult. Especially when he was still sore from uncle Hank addressing his prior misbehavior. "Yes, since I need to speak with your great uncle Nick, your mom will need to talk with you, Harry. You ok with that?" He spoke softly and tried to pretend, if only to himself, that that's really all that was going to happen. Talking.
Harry nodded... then, after a brief pause, asked softly, "Does she know?" He didn't know who else had been informed of what had happened.
"I think it's safe to say everyone in the tower knows, since they were on standby to back us up if something went wrong," Bruce interjected calmly.
"Okay..." Harry said, his voice very quiet, as he hunched in on himself.
Fury didn't say anything else, concentrating on getting them back to the tower. And on not showing just how frustrated he was to his nephews.
For his part, Tony didn't say anything. He knew he'd been wrong and if Harry had done what he did, he would have been very frustrated and upset; he had no doubt his uncle Nick was as well.
It didn't take long to get back to the garage. Pepper was waiting by the elevator and as soon as the car had stopped and everyone started getting out, she had her arms open toward Harry, a hesitant, worried look on her face; as if she was afraid he wouldn't come to her.
Even though he was still unsure of his place in the family... was struggling to watch the cold shoulders between his father and grandfather... Harry couldn't do anything but step towards his mother... responding to the open arms... but as he wrapped his own around her and pressed in close, the shuddering in his body indicated just how much emotional turmoil he was in.
Pepper just pulled Harry tight to her and held on, kissing the side of his head. "I'm so relieved you're safe," she whispered, before pulling him toward the elevator with her, not letting go of him in the least.
Tony took a shaky breath as he watched his fiancé and son heading back into the tower before letting his gaze fall to the concrete, focusing on an oil patch that one of the vehicles had left behind. He could hear Bruce shuffling beside him before his brother said quietly, "Come with me, Peter; we can let everyone else know that everyone is safe."
The sounds of Peter and Bruce heading to the elevator and leaving the garage echoed around. Soon, it was just Tony and Nick. Tony finally looked up. "I..." His shoulders slumped. "...I know it's too little too late, but I'm sorry." He sighed.
"I know you were worried about Harry and Peter," Fury said seriously. "But I didn't give you an order for the sake of it. I was trying to keep all of you safe. What if Kilgrave had become supicious of you? Peter and Harry might not have drawn his attention the same way as seeing Iron Man would have."
Tony winced, not even trying to hide the shame as he realized he could have done more damage in his effort to protect his family. "I...I didn't think of that..." he admitted quietly.
"I don't think you've been thinking very clearly at all recently." Fury rested his hand gently on Tony's shoulder. "Let's go to my floor."
"Yes, Uncle Nick..." Tony said in a whisper, not fighting, in fact pressing into his uncle's hand and following him to the elevator.
Fury squeezed his shoulder gently as he guided his nephew into the elevator. He didn't release Tony as the elevator reached his floor... and kept in contact with his nephew to guide him out.
"Um...I know what I have coming and all...just...a warning...I had a 'talk' yesterday...and the day before that...and the day before that...so...don't take this the wrong way...but I think maybe I want to get out of here before I have to have a fourth talk in as many days...." Tony swallowed hard and was fidgeting from foot to foot, obviously barely refraining from taking off in one of his well-known 'sprints'.
"Good to know," Fury replied, his voice dry. More to provide comfort than to restrain his nephew, he wrapped his arm around Tony's shoulders as he guided him through to the living room. "Then we can deal with the punishment first... and discuss afterwards."
Tony whimpered, then blushed and closed his eyes tightly. "Sorry..." he said, in a very quiet voice. "...I know I should be more adult about this, but...I..." He wiped furiously at his eyes, embarrassed that he was already crying and angry at himself that he'd done something to warrant getting into trouble again. He should have listened, though. He knew it. Not only were his actions unnecessarily dangerous, but they were disrespectful too and Nick didn't deserve that. "Sorry I wasn't respectful..." he managed to say, in a clear, if quiet voice. He at least wanted his uncle to know that he hadn't meant to treat him badly. He swallowed and blinked as he realized that, while he'd been trying to explain or at least apologize, Nick had led him into the living room and was now sat on the couch, Tony standing next to his knee. Without another word or prompting, Tony immediately undid his jeans and pushed them down. The only reason he didn't immediately place himself over Nick's knee was because he figured part of the punishment was giving control up... so, he'd wait for Nick to direct him.
Nick gently guided his nephew across his lap, securing Tony with an arm wrapped around his waist. Once the younger man was settled, he divested him of his underwear. He rubbed his nephew's back gently and then lifted his hand, bringing it down in a swat that was tempered... able to see the effects from the previous spankings on his nephew's backside.
Tony didn't even try to stop his immediate reaction; he choked on a tiny sob and gripped his uncle's leg tightly, not attempting to get away, but not attempting to be brave, either. Instead, he lay limply over Fury's lap and allowed himself to cry; the worry and fear he'd felt for Harry finally getting voiced, as well as his fear that the rest of the family might be mad at him for the whole mess with Steve. Hank might have made it clear he cared about him and always would, but Tony hadn't really spoken to anyone else since hiding out for a week.
Fury didn't swat overly hard, though it was far from a token punishment. He kept his arm around Tony's waist as he completed the first circuit and began the second, which was when he began speaking. "I know how worried you were about your son, but that doesn't excuse you endangering yourself. I care about your safety. Everyone here does."
"N...no, sir." Tony barely managed to avoid blubbering, his grip on his uncle's leg tightening a slight bit more. As sore as he had been and as much as Nick reigniting the sting in his backside hurt, what really hurt was feeling like such a screw-up and failure as a father, son, nephew; while Tony was not so good at keeping himself out of trouble, he was very, very good at being self-critical.
Fury didn't increase the force of the swats, though he began going a bit faster, not wanting his nephew to get caught in his own head. "You're smart enough to know you should have waited for backup. I know you've been upset and angry. I know those emotions are still too close to the surface. You've been doing much better, but there are times you need to be pulled back. But I am proud of you for accepting the consequences and not trying to run away from them, even though you wanted to."
Tony blinked, listening to his uncle's words. "I..I know shoulda waited...shoulda listened...so sorry...." He inhaled shakily. "...You really proud?" He winced at how childishly needy he sounded, but didn't worry about it too much- Nick had seen him at his absolute worst; childish and needy was a step up.
"I'm more proud of you than I am disappointed. Much more," Fury promised. "You made a mistake, but once that's dealt with, it's over."
And that's when Tony broke. Hearing his uncle talk of how proud he was, despite Tony's actions, he was so relieved that he couldn't keep himself under control any longer (not that he'd had much to begin with). Where he had been limp over his uncle's knee, he was suddenly boneless. Where he had been crying, hard, he suddenly was sobbing silently, the force of his tears taking his voice away. Where he had been gripping Nick's leg, he was suddenly reaching back, grasping for his uncle's hand.
Fury immediately took hold of Tony's hand, squeezing gently, before he gathered his nephew into a close, tight embrace.
Tony curled into Nick, holding on tightly, just crying, with the occasional apology for what he'd done. "So sorry, Uncle Nick..." he said for the twentieth time, his voice hoarse. "I knew better...."
"You know better... and I believe you'll do better next time," Fury said, holding his nephew close. "I don't want to lose you." His voice was gruff, but nevertheless sincere.
"Don't know why I disobeyed..." Tony sniffled. "...Just so angry all the time...." He snuggled closer, slowly calming down.
"You don't seem as angry with your dad as you were." Fury was as observant as his siblings... and he'd seen the difference between Tony not talking to his dad because he was angry and Tony ignoring his dad because he was upset.
Tony sniffed again before hesitantly admitting, "...Angry at myself."
"Can you tell me why?" Fury probed gently.
"B...because I blamed him...for so long I blamed him and it wasn't his fault...and so much of what I did was to get even with him and...and I was wrong...I hated him because I thought...I thought he killed mommy, but it wasn't his fault...." Tony closed his eyes tightly. He'd been speaking in a whisper, but by the end, he almost wasn't speaking at all, his voice was so soft. What he said carried clearly, though; as did the self-loathing.
"You didn't know." Fury didn't need to ask who his nephew was talking about. Tightening his embrace, he continued, "You based what you knew on the facts available to you at the time. You can't blame yourself for not knowing."
"I blamed him, though...and I shouldn't have. I mean, yeah, I didn't think he loved me or cared about me, but he was still my father and he did good in the world too... and I know now he loved me in his own way...but I blamed him and it kept me from seeing so much I should have seen and maybe if I'd not blamed him, some of the really stupid stuff I did that hurt people, I wouldn't a done...." Tony wasn't sure where he was going with his thoughts. Being angry at himself for thinking badly of a man dead for almost thirty years was rather pointless, he supposed. But he couldn't seem to help himself. The anger he'd always felt towards Howard- and that he'd briefly felt toward Bucky and Steve- had firmly been redirected onto himself. Tony snuggled closer to his uncle, needing to feel secure.
Fury didn't so much as loosen his embrace around his nephew. "Being angry is natural, even though you shouldn't be angry at yourself. And you've done a lot that's good in the world... not to mention you have a whole family who cares about you. And who you care about. You aren't on your own. And you aren't ever going to be abandoned... or left alone... or not cared about. No matter what."
"Thanks, Uncle Nick..." Tony whispered, not ashamed to cuddle closer. Biting his lip, he hesitantly asked, "You knew Howard...did...do you think...?" He paused uncertainly, not sure if he wanted to ask or not.
"Did I think what?" Fury prompted gently, when it didn't seem Tony was inclined to finish his question.
"Just wondered if Howard had ever said anything to you about me...to you know...give you the idea that he actually cared about me..." Tony whispered. He wasn't entirely certain why it was important to know this; and hadn't Howard already indicated he'd cared when he left that home video that led to Tony inventing a new element? For some reason, he needed to know.
"He talked about you a lot," Fury said frankly. "I always had the impression he cared... but didn't know what to do about the distance between the two of you."
"I don't know if that makes me feel better or worse," Tony admitted brokenly. "I was a horrible brat to him.... You know how I can be. I was that way to you often enough...." Tony blinked back more tears and cuddled some more.
"You needed attention. You needed a family who cared about you and who weren't afraid to show it," Fury said. "If you need proof of that... look at how far you've come since Steve came into the picture."
Tony sniffed again. "I've been happier..." he admitted softly, clearing his throat and finally calming enough that he wasn't crying or shaking. "...I've been a horrible brat to him too..." he whispered.
"Your father knows you haven't been in a good place emotionally," Fury said. "But I guarantee he doesn't love you any less."
Tony wanted to believe that, though it was still difficult to think he hadn't pushed Steve away completely. "I guess if you can still care about me and be willing to take care of me after all the grief I've given you, Steve won't be ready to wash his hands of me completely now..." he said hesitantly.
"He's been as miserable as you, Tony. Today was the first time I saw any evidence that he wasn't lost inside his own feelings of guilt," Fury said. "Even if it's hard to believe at times... nothing is wrong between the two of you that can't be fixed."
Tony didn't realize how scared he'd been that he might have lost his father until his uncle was telling him he hadn't. He slumped in Nick's arms, relief flowing through him. "Thanks, uncle Nick..." he said softly. "You're the best..." he added, with a tiny smile.
Fury smiled and hugged his nephew close. "When Pepper and Harry are finished, why don't you invite them to my floor?" he suggested. "You could all spend a bit of time with me and your cousins."
Tony's smile turned into a big grin. "I'll do that..." He hugged back tightly.
"Good." Fury smiled, but didn't let go of his nephew... content to let Tony move as and when he felt able to.
Tony had thought he'd got his clinginess out of his system when he'd spent three days with Hank, latching onto the older man like a limpet. Evidently, he'd been wrong, though; he didn't want to let go of his uncle Nick for anything and just sat on his lap, holding onto him for at least another twenty minutes. Finally, however, he couldn't justify his neediness monopolizing the other man's time any longer and, with a tiny sigh, stood up and fixed his clothes. He couldn't help the hiss of pain as he adjusted his jeans, but he didn't say anything. "I love you, Uncle Nick..." he finally said, biting his lip bashfully.
Fury stood and wrapped an arm around Tony's shoulders, squeezing him gently. "I love you too. If you're ready, would you like me to ask your cousins to come? We can perhaps play a game."
"Yes, sir..." Tony couldn't help but snuggle closer to his uncle again as soon as Fury put an arm around him. He did remember one important thing, though. "Veronica, as soon as Pepper and Harry are available, would you ask them to join me in Uncle Nick's apartment for games?"
The AI immediately responded, "Of course, sir. I'll do so now."
"Ms. Pepper, Mr. Anthony has asked that I request you and Mr. Harry to join him in Director Fury's apartment as soon as you are able; they will be playing games..." Veronica said into the apartment.
Pepper looked up from where she sat next to her son, just holding onto him tightly. "Thank you, Veronica. We'll be there as soon as we are done here...." She glanced at Harry. For the last close to an hour, she'd been sitting next to her son, just hugging him and talking with him about general stuff. She wasn't entirely certain how to bring up what needed bringing up; but Harry was as calm as he was likely to get now, not to mention she'd assured herself several times that he wasn't injured. It was time to discuss his actions of the afternoon. "Can you tell me why you did what you did, Harry?" she finally asked softly, her eyes full of love and concern.
Harry hadn't protested his mother checking him over. Although he hadn't been in any real danger, the fact he'd come so close had been unsettling, to say the least. And the comfort was welcome, even though he didn't really feel like he deserved it. "I wasn't... intending to leave," he whispered. "But it was hard... seeing Dad and Granddad... it made me remember... bad things," he admitted, looking down.
Pepper closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around her son again. "I know it's been hard watching your dad and granddad. It's been hard for me as well and I don't have the bad memories you have..." she said softly. "But instead of just leaving, you could have come to me...you should have come to me. You were so close to Kilgrave possibly seeing you and if he'd seen you and somehow managed to..." She shuddered, thinking of what could have happened.
"I still... it's still hard," Harry admitted, his voice barely audible. "I don't really know... I think..." He paused, knowing he didn't make much sense. "Dad was ignoring Granddad... obviously ignoring him... and... that's what my biological father did. To me. All the time."
"I...I'm not going to make excuses for your dad, sweetie. He's an adult and he actually knows better, even if he's forgotten what he knows currently. I will tell you that it isn't the same; your dad was ignoring your granddad because he was hurt and didn't know how to handle that hurt. When he finally calms down and deals with what is hurting him, he'll feel bad about how he treated your granddad. I can almost guarantee it. And then...well...when you see what he does, I want you to remember that he isn't thinking clearly, because it isn't likely going to be the best way to handle things." She blinked and frowned slightly, turning concerned eyes to Harry. "What I mean to say is, please don't look at how your dad is acting right now as an indication that he is going to do the same thing to you and that he doesn't love you, because that is not the case at all. He loves his dad, your granddad, and when he's not confused and hurting, he'll get back to normal. This isn't a typical situation and everyone's responses aren't typical responses, I guess is what I mean...." She let out a tiny huff, uncertain if she was making herself clear, or just confusing things further.
"I..." Harry took a deep breath. "I'm sorry I ran and put myself in danger... I know what I did wrong..." His voice was very quiet, but also very certain along with it. He hadn't been thinking clearly then, but he was now.
Pepper nodded, giving Harry a proud look. "You're a very intelligent young man. I'm not surprised you know without my telling you...." Her proud smile faltered somewhat, as she turned more stern. "I can't let it go, though. Even if you understand what you did wrong, I can't just let it go unanswered...."
"I know." Harry hadn't really expected anything else... apart from his first fear, which he had to keep convincing himself wouldn't be the case. "What do you want me to do?" he asked softly.
"I'm going to put you over my lap and then bare you. All you have to do is cooperate..." Pepper said softly, before beginning to put actions to words. Gently, she took Harry's wrist in her hand and drew him over her lap, pulling him in snug against her torso before quickly tugging his pants and underwear down. Tightening her grip around his middle, she raised her hand and let it fall with a decisively firm smack.
Harry winced, but did his best to stay still and not fight the punishment. While he hadn't been in this position too many times... he was all too aware of the emotional drain it would have.
Pepper began consistently swatting Harry's backside from the top crest of his bottom to mid-thigh, covering every inch and as soon as she'd finished the first circuit, she began a second, slowly turning his backside a dusky pink. She began to speak halfway through the second circuit. "You know the reason everyone was to stay in the tower unless there was a group going and that no one was to leave unless everyone was informed. But you left anyway, putting yourself at great risk. That's not acceptable, Harry. If Kilgrave had got you and done to you what he's done to so many other people...if I had lost you to him? I would be crushed. It would permanently break me. I love you, Harry and I can't..." Her voice broke.
Harry had already known he'd been wrong... already felt guilty... but hearing his mother's voice break and knowing he'd hurt her... it was enough to start the first tears, bringing the first sob from his throat. "I'm sorry, Mommy..." He was so lost, he didn't even realize he'd used the more juvenile name.
"I know you are..." Pepper managed to keep control of her voice this time, barely, but it was still a bit wobbly as she answered. "...But I need you to think about this next time you consider just taking off without word. Think about how much I love you...how much your dad and granddad and Peter and all the rest of the family love you. And think about how horrible it would make us feel, how broken we'd be, if something happened to you because you just...just left without word. Please think of that and then don't do it. Talk to me or your dad or granddad...make sure we can help you if something happens...please take care of yourself, Harry. Please?" Her voice broke again and while she'd been spanking him, even after he started crying...she couldn't spank him anymore. All she wanted was to hold him in her arms as tightly as possible. Choking back the tears of worry and fear she'd kept in when the whole event occurred, she quickly and carefully fixed his clothing and then pulled him back up into her arms, latching onto him like she'd never let go.
Harry clutched at his mother, almost blindly, as everything was blurred through his tears. He pressed in as close as he could get, trying to stutter out apologies through the tears he was struggling to control.
"It's ok, I've got you now, sweetie, everything will be ok...I love you so much..." Pepper continued to hold tightly as she kissed the top of his head, gently rocking him.
Harry clung to his mother, slowly beginning to calm down... though he didn't loosen his hold on her even a little bit. "I'm sorry... I love you," he whispered.
"I know you are. I know you do...I forgive you. I just love you so much." Pepper continued to rock gently, content to continue holding him until he was ready to pull back himself.
It took a while for Harry to get back to an even keel, but he slowly began to loosen his tight hold on his mother. "I should apologize to Dad... Peter and Uncle Nick and Uncle Bruce too..." He paused then added, in a more chagrined voice, "Maybe I should just make a group apology..."
Pepper pressed a kiss to the side of Harry's face, smiling against his cheek. "I think they'd appreciate it..." she said softly. "Your dad asked us to meet him in Uncle Nick's apartment. Do you want to go see Peter and Bruce first?"
Harry nodded slowly. "I think that would be best..." Then he didn't have to worry about apologizing to them later on.
"C'mon, kiddo. Let's go find your cousin and Uncle Bruce..." Pepper carefully helped Harry up, then stood and wrapped an arm around his shoulders, leading him to the elevator. "Veronica? Are Bruce and Peter in the lab?" she asked, assuming that they had stayed away from the apartment so that she could talk with Harry privately.
"They are..." the AI answered.
Stepping onto the elevator and pulling Harry in close again, she continued, "Please take us to the floor they're on..." She smiled as the elevator began moving immediately.
Harry stayed leaning against his mother, still needing the reassurance he hadn't messed things up completely.
When the elevator stopped and the doors opened, Pepper led Harry out and glanced around the lab, looking for her brother and nephew.
Harry was a bit awkward about apologizing to his cousin and uncle; not because he wasn't sorry, but because he wasn't sure it would be accepted. He needn't have worried. Peter and his uncle both understood and accepted his apology... though Peter made a teasing comment that Harry should perhaps take up track when they attended college. Much happier now, it didn't take long before they were back in the elevator, heading to Fury's apartment.
Tony was in his uncle's kitchen, helping to get snacks together, when he heard the elevator ding. "Sounds like Pep and Har are here now..." he said, with a smile to his uncle, as he picked up the two big bowls of chips and popcorn and began to carry it out to the table where they'd be playing the games. He blinked owlishly as he saw Kara come into the room from the other door, carrying two huge fluffy pillows.
Kara gave Tony a cheeky grin and plopped the two pillows down onto two chairs that were next to each other. "...Assuming you want to sit next to Harry..." was all she said, as she sashayed into the kitchen to help carry out the rest of the snacks and drinks.
By this point, Pepper had led Harry into the room and, noting the chairs with the pillows, led her son to the one that was also next to a chair without a pillow. "Sit down, sweetie..." She smiled crookedly and leaned over to kiss Harry on the side of the head, before walking over and taking the two bowls from Tony. "You too, Hotshot..." She leaned forward and kissed Tony on the mouth, before turning and putting the two bowls on the table.
Harry sat obediently, casting an uncertain look at his father. "I'm sorry I ran away..." he said quietly, the hesitant note in his voice suggesting just how worried he was that he wouldn't be believed.
Tony sat down on the other chair holding a pillow and put an arm around Harry's shoulder. Giving a sideways hug, he kissed Harry on the side of the head. "I forgive you. I didn't give you a very good example of what not to do, so I'm sorry about that..." He sounded sheepish.
Harry leaned into his father, relaxing further as he believed he wouldn't be sent away or given the cold shoulder. He glanced up as Fury appeared, voicing an apology to his uncle as well.
Fury gently patted Harry on the shoulder. "I'm just relieved nothing did happen."
Kara sat down across from Harry and grinned. "Do you like Cards Against Humanity?" She appeared eager.
"I don't think I've ever played it... but I'm happy to learn," Harry said honestly.
It didn't take long before the group was settled, playing games and eating and talking.
Blake sighed, feeling his eyes beginning to blur from how long he'd been looking at the files for. Even though he'd been a dirty cop, it hadn't been by choice... and he was determined to bring the others to justice. It just wasn't as easy as it should be.
Ben wandered into the room where his son was reading. "Your mom was lucid tonight. We had a really nice talk..." he said, as he sat across from his son. "She asked about you. What are you looking at?" he asked curiously.
Blake looked up as soon as his father came in, giving Ben his full attention. He smiled at the mention of his mother... but then sighed. "I don't like not being able to act on this information, even though I know why I can't yet."
"What is it?" Ben asked again, trusting that his son wasn't going to get into something he shouldn't.
"I have accounts of one of the other officers in the precinct meeting with and intimidating potential witnesses," Blake answered. "The trouble is, the eyewitness is scared to testify... and my word doesn't really count for much."
Ben nodded sympathetically. "You're a smart man...you'll figure it out...." He paused. "Of course, you'll probably figure it out better if you aren't exhausted. Time for bed, I think."
Blake nodded. "Are you going to stay with Mom?" There was a big part of him troubled enough by everything to want to ask to stay with his father... but despite knowing it was normal for the family, he didn't really know how to.
"Not tonight...as comfortable as they made her room with a bed for me and all...it's still a hospital room. Gonna sleep where I won't have nurses waking me up at odd hours while they check on her." Ben's voice was amused. He didn't even pause, though his voice turned serious, when he asked, "You want to stay with me tonight? I could use the company."
Looking a bit sheepish, Blake nodded. "Yeah... I think I could use the company, too."
"Great!" Ben didn't act like it was an imposition or odd at all that his son wanted to stay in his room at night; he didn't feel it was and the more he treated it as normal and acceptable, the more likely it was that Blake would begin to feel comfortable accepting his care and affection.
"I'll get changed and meet you in your room?" Blake said, a bit cautious but hopeful.
"Yes..." Ben paused. "I love you, son."
Blake smiled. "I love you too," he said, softly but sincerely.
It didn't take long before Ben was ready for bed and waiting for his son to join him.
Blake got undressed fairly quickly and then moved into his father's room... waiting for his father to settle where he wanted to before joining him.
Ben just patted the spot on the bed next to him. "There's been a lot of upheaval lately..." he said quietly. "...I want you to stay here as many nights as you feel comfortable." He didn't say any more, leaving it to Blake to decide what he needed.
Blake quickly moved to settle next to his father, relaxing where he hadn't even realized he'd been tense. "It's been difficult to see..." he said quietly. It was hard to see how difficult things were between Steve and Tony... harder still to wonder if his relationship with his own father could become that conflicted.
"I know...but they'll work it out. They mean too much to each other not to." Ben wrapped an arm around his son, pulling him in for a hug, but then not releasing him. Blake was where he needed to be and Ben was determined he stay there.
Blake immediately nestled in close, sighing quietly as he hugged his father. Despite his worry, he felt safest with Ben and he was able to close his eyes.
Jessica sighed softly to herself. The evening wasn't as horrible as she'd feared it might be, considering the group had broken up so abruptly and at least six of the people hadn't returned. She watched Steve out of the side of her eye. She'd ended up staying with the captain after everyone else had broken into their family groups...especially when it became clear that Tony and his little family weren't returning.
Bruce and his brood had stayed for a bit longer, but it was late and they had all obviously been tired, so they had gone up to bed thirty minutes before. Jessica bit her lip. She'd been attempting to escape for the better part of her residence at the tower. For the first time since arriving, she wasn't anxious to leave. She was anxious for another reason that she couldn't put her finger on, but not anxious to leave. "I guess I should go to bed too..." she finally said.
"It is late... but you don't have to go to sleep straight away if you'd like to stay up for a bit," Steve said, moving a bit closer to her. While he didn't think she was going to try to escape again, he did want to spend some time with her.
"Yeah...ok..." Jessica smiled crookedly. "You staying up?"
"I was planning to stay up with you, so we could spend a bit more time together," Steve said honestly.
"You're really serious about getting to know me and make me family..." She sounded more surprised than she wanted, but she was finding it hard to be dishonest or hide things from him.
"I'm completely serious," Steve replied. "Do you want to sit on the couch?" He wrapped an arm around her shoulders, squeezing gently.
"Yeah...ok..." Jessica moved to the couch and sat, not surprised when Steve sat next to her and kept his arm around her. She did her best to hold up her end of the conversation...and was surprised how easy it was to talk to the super soldier. Even so, by the end of an hour, her energy was flagging and she was fighting to keep her eyes open as her body listed sideways. And then she wasn't fighting it any longer, fast asleep with her head on Steve's shoulder.
Steve wasn't too surprised to find Jessica fall asleep. He held her close for a few seconds, making sure he wouldn't disturb her by moving, and then carefully lifted her into his arms, carrying her through to his bedroom, where he figured she'd be more comfortable... even if she might be less so upon waking up in his room rather than hers.
If she'd been awake, Jessica might have protested. She was asleep, however and as soon as Steve had placed her in the bed and lay down next to her, she was rolling over to cuddle close to him, recognizing in sleep what she wouldn't acknowledge while awake; she needed Steve and wanted to be his.