Red Dragon Inn
Dreamweaver's Lair => From the Dragon's Mouth => Crash and Burn => Topic started by: Lucy Rogers on October 13, 2016, 12:45:03 PM
It hadn't been an easy decision for Steve to make, to leave his family behind while he went to help survivors of Hurricane Matthew. So far, Haiti had suffered the most damage and casualties, and though the hurricane had been downgraded to a storm, it was still packing a punch. Fury had not been terribly happy about Steve's decision to travel to Haiti to help the people there first, but Steve had insisted he had to go where he was needed most, no matter what that might be. He also insisted that he wasn't going as Captain Rogers of S.H.I.E.L.D., but as Steve Rogers, humanitarian.
Lucy hadn't been happy about his decision either, but at least, she'd understood it, knowing this was the man she had married. He'd promised her and their children that he wouldn't be gone long and had extracted a promise from Natasha, aka Black Widow, to keep an eye on them while he was gone. The last thing he'd expected while he was away was a call from S.H.I.E.L.D. summoning him home without explanation, except to say that someone had tried to attack his family while he'd been gone. Duty or not, Steve wasted little time packing his bags and coming home.
He was met at the airfield by Director Fury himself, a testament to how close to home this had hit for S.H.I.E.L.D. The director drove him to New York H.Q., trying to fill in what little detail they had.
"At around 07:00 this morning, we intercepted communications that suggested a member of our organization was being targeted," he told Steve, his eyes on the road ahead of him. "We broke the code in twenty minutes. It's HYDRA, and they were after your youngest son, Cap. Romanoff alerted your wife, and as far as we can tell, she held the agents off until our forces got there. Your family is currently being housed at S.H.I.E.L.D. H.Q. while we sweep the city."
"HYDRA?" Steve echoed, his expression darkening. He hadn't heard mention of that organization in a very long time. "I thought they were defeated in the war," he said, narrowing blond brows at S.H.I.E.L.D.'s director and hoping he wasn't keeping intel from him again.
"So did we." Judging by the anger in Fury's voice, this had been as much of a shock to him as it was to Steve. He glanced at the angry man beside him, and sighed. "There were ... indications that someone may have been using the name to set up and fund the Arctic research station we raided," he admitted. "But there was nothing concrete, nothing to say that it wasn't just a handy name to scare scientists into working for them. This morning, however ... those encryptions are specialized, and only HYDRA uses them. It can only be them."
"Are you saying HYDRA is still out there and active and targeting my family?" Steve asked, though that much seemed obvious. If he'd been the target, they wouldn't have waited for him to leave, and they wouldn't have aimed their attack against his family. The fact that S.H.I.E.L.D. suspected HYDRA had been involved with the research station they'd raided, to rescue the children who'd been victims of their experiments, only pissed him off more. "They're after the serum," Steve said, realizing it had been about the serum all along. It wasn't a question, and he wasn't really looking for Fury to confirm his suspicions.
"That is our belief." Fury knew he didn't need to confirm it, but he also knew that Steve right now was a lot more dangerous than he wanted him to be while they were sharing a car. "I have our best out there, scratching for intel. Romanoff took personal charge of your family, and is ignoring every other order I give her."
Steve shoved his rage aside for now. He'd deal with that later. What was important to him right now was his family. "Are they all right?" he asked, needing to know the answer to that question first and foremost. He assumed Fury would have already told him otherwise, but it wouldn't be the first time Fury had kept something from him. If something had happened to his family, he wanted to know now.
"The kids are fine," Fury told him, internally wincing at what was coming. "Turned my secret headquarters into a damned creche, but not one of them got hurt. Hell, even the cat and dog are at H.Q. Lucy ..." He sighed, shaking his head. "She took on a trained HYDRA agent at close quarters. Broke a couple of ribs, got thrown around a bit. Mostly superficial, but the infirmary was doing scans as I left, just to make sure no other damage was done."
Steve's expression darkened again, blue eyes flashing with anger, if only momentarily, fists clenching at his sides. "What about the baby?" he asked, his voice barely audible. No one knew about that yet, not even Lucy's sister. Steve didn't really want Fury to be the first one to find out, but he needed to be sure that not only was Lucy all right, but the child she was carrying inside her.
"The what-now?" Fury's fists tightened on the steering wheel as his jaw clenched. "I heard nothing about any baby - Steve, are you saying your wife took on a trained HYDRA agent knowing full well she couldn't win, and she's pregnant?" The sheer horror in his voice was enough to tell Steve that Nick Fury understood that concern.
"Yeah, I guess that's what I'm saying," Steve confirmed. He wasn't sure if he should feel proud of his wife for defending herself and their children, or annoyed that she'd taken such a risk with not only her life but that of their child's. Still, it would have been nice to have known the risk was out there, rather than leave thinking everything was just fine. At least, he'd had the good sense to make sure Nat was keeping an eye on her. "You should have told me about HYDRA, even if you weren't sure. And don't give me that crap about not wanting to make me worry unnecessarily."
"Harm's done, and I'm not arguing with a man who could rip out my other eye," was Fury's apologetic, pragmatic answer to that. He pulled the car around and into the underground car park. Agents were in evidence - highly unusual for a normal, run-of-the-mill sort of day, but then today was not normal. "Intel's sketchy at best right now. We're working on it, but HYDRA need to be removed. Might need you and your friends to handle this."
If Fury was right and it was HYDRA, and there was no reason to believe he was wrong, Steve might have had second thoughts about going to Haiti. At the very least, he would have ensured his family's safety before leaving. If HYDRA really was to blame for the attack on his family, not to mention the research facility, there was only one reason for it, and that was the serum. Steve said nothing in response to Fury's remark about his eye. No matter how much Fury pissed him off sometimes, they were still on the same side. The fact was that they needed each other, probably now more than ever. Fury needed Steve to help him get rid of HYDRA, and Steve needed Fury's intel for the very same reason.
"Which friends?" Steve asked. Was Fury referring to the Avengers or to the small team he'd assembled to take out the research facility or something else? Steve had made plenty of allies since he'd been woken from his deep sleep, but he'd made a few enemies, too.
"Your brother-in-law, for one," Fury pointed out, pulling the car in. "Get out. Your kids are in your quarters with Romanoff, your wife's in the infirmary, and I have some yelling to do."
"Should I warn her?" Steve asked, arching a curious brow at the man. It wouldn't have been the first time Fury and Lucy had had words, but somehow, Steve didn't think it was Lucy the Director was referring to.
"I'm starting with the Council," Fury told him. "I don't think I'm going to need to yell at Doctor Rogers this time. You're going to do that, I'm thinking." He pushed open the car door, dropping out onto the tarmac. "Out, Cap. You have people to see."
Steve pushed open the door and stepped out, noticing for the first time how the place was crawling with agents, even more so than usual. "I'll check back with you later," he promised the Director, before starting toward the entrance with intention of making the infirmary his first stop. He neither confirmed nor denied whether he intended to give Lucy a lecture. He had a feeling Lucy probably felt bad enough as it was. Besides, if it hadn't been for her, things might have been a lot worse.
"I'll try to keep the decibels off the intercom," was Fury's parting words as he headed for the over-ground floors and his office, where he was fully intending to express his deep displeasure to the assembled Council over their lack of interest in the intelligence he had been pushing for since Steve had first woken up.
The agent nearest the elevator caught Steve's eye. "This way, Captain," she said, gesturing to him. "Private room, next to her lab."
Steve nodded his thanks, allowing the agent to lead the way, though he could probably find it in his sleep. He wasn't sure what made him more angry - the fact that Fury had kept key information from him or that HYDRA had dared attack his family. No, he was sure. It was HYDRA that pissed him off more, and this time it was personal.
Thankfully, no one intercepted them on the way to the medical floor. Though Lucy should have been in the main infirmary, it seemed as though they were eager to give her the best treatment, which had resulted in her being put in a private room, far better equipped than the dormitory-like infirmary. When the agent left Steve at the door, Lucy was sitting up on the bed, fully dressed. She was obviously nursing a couple of broken ribs, and the bruises on her face were glorious, but apart from that, she was her usual self.
Steve knocked briefly on the door to give warn her that someone was there before peeking his head in. "Luce?" he asked, as if to make sure he had the right room or that she didn't mind if he came in.
She looked up, the expression of relief and guilt on her face almost painful to behold. "Steve." Pushing herself off the bed, she moved toward him. "Oh God, Steve ..."
He stepped into the room, quickly going to her, alarmed at her appearance and almost scolding her for getting out of bed when he could just as easily come to her, but he understood her need to meet him halfway. His arms went around her to wrap her in his embrace, touching a kiss to the top of her head, where hopefully there were no bruises. "Luce, you okay?" Of course, she wasn't okay, but he had to ask.
She burrowed into his arms, wincing at the pain in her ribs, but prepared to weather that pain just to feel safe again. "I'm all right," she promised him softly. "We're both fine. We did an ultrasound, he's fine in there. I know, I'm an idiot, but there wasn't any time to think, and if I'd been able to, I would have done things differently, but she had hold of Jamie, and I just reacted, I'm so sorry ..."
"Shh," he murmured reassuringly as he held her close, gently stroking her back. "It's okay. You're okay. Jamie's okay. The baby's okay. Martin and Lianne are okay. That's all that matters," he whispered back. "Come on, let's get you back to bed. You shouldn't be up," he told her, as he led her slowly and carefully back toward the bed. He would have picked her up, but he wasn't sure exactly what her injuries were yet, and he didn't want to cause her any pain.
"I really am fine," she protested, but she didn't resist as he drew her back to the bed. "I'm just battered and bruised, and worried. The last I saw of Nat, she was fighting the woman that beat me up, and I haven't seen the children since we got here hours ago." She drew in a slow, deep breath. "I feel as though this is my fault," she confessed quietly. "That I should have noticed something, I should have been better at protecting them."
"They're with Nat in our quarters," Steve informed her. Or at least, that's what Fury had told him. "I'll check on them in a while. I wanted to see you first," he told her as he helped her back into bed. Dressed or not, he tucked the blanket around her. "It's not your fault, Luce. Why would you think it's your fault? If there's anyone to blame, it's me. I should have been here, and I wasn't."
She smiled weakly as he tucked her in, stilling his hands with her own. "No one could have predicted this, Steve," she told him softly. "You and I both know that everyone in this building will be blaming themselves for this. Sue Storm will blame herself, because she chose not to come to the park with us this morning. It's no one's fault but HYDRA, and I know you're going to put it right."
She was right about that, anyway. There was enough blame to go around, but the real blame rested with HYDRA. Of course, if it wasn't for Steve, HYDRA wouldn't have attacked his family in the first place, but that kind of thinking would only drive him crazy. "I am, but you're not gonna be any part of that this time," he told her, not taking no for an answer. It wasn't just the fact that she was pregnant with his ... Wait, had she said he? They were having another boy?
"Of course I'm not," she agreed softly. "If necessary, I'll take the children to Rhy'Din until you tell me it's safe to come home." She could practically see the wheels in his head turning as he caught up with something she had said that neither one of them could have known yet, and a soft smile touched her face. "The ultrasound equipment here is far more sensitive than any you'll find in a hospital."
"But he's all right ... You're all right," Steve said, needing that little bit of assurance again. He didn't know what he'd do if anything ever happened to her or any of their children. Angry didn't even come close to how he'd feel if that happened. "I have to make a few calls. See who's on board," he told her. He also had to see who was available. Nat was a given. So was Johnny. He wasn't so sure about Tony or the rest of the Avengers.
"We're all right," she promised him softly, reaching for his hand to lay his palm over the little bump that had been their secret for the last three months. "Steve ... just tell them what's happened," she suggested. "Don't tell them there's plan, because there isn't one. There won't be a plan until there's more information, but if they know what's happened, they'll be more inclined toward helping find that information."
"Yeah," Steve agreed, clenching his jaw at the thought of anyone daring to attack his family, much less his old nemesis, but he'd worry about that later. Right now, all he wanted was to make sure his family was all right. He knew no matter how much Lucy assured him, she was far more upset about the attack than she was letting on, even to him. He touched his hand to the small bump that was proof they had another child on the way. "I'm sorry I wasn't here, Luce. I promise, no matter what happens, I will never leave you or the kids without some kind of protection again." Because he couldn't promise he'd never have to go off on some mission or other again; that sort of came with the territory.
"It's not your fault," she repeated firmly, holding his gaze in a manner that suggested if he tried to take the blame again, she was going to do more than just argue. "I just ... I want out of here, I want to see the kids. But they want to keep me on rest and under observation overnight, and that just pisses me off." She sighed heavily. "You were where you were supposed to be, helping people who need you. I'm just sorry this happened to pull you away."
"That's just a job, Lucy. I'm supposed to be here, with you and and kids," Steve insisted, about as vehemently as he dared get. That statement wasn't quite true. He'd known when he'd volunteered for the Super Soldier Serum that he'd never be able to lead a normal life again. He had a responsibility to a greater cause, but his loved ones would always come first. He smiled a little as he took her hand in his much bigger hand. "How about if I bring them here? They won't be able to stay long, but at least they could see for themselves that you're okay, and vice versa." He might have to over-rule Fury to do it, but this was his family, and his decision to make.
She leaned into him, braving the pain to wrap her arms about his shoulders and touch her cheek to his. "I love you," she murmured against his ear, knowing he was trying to help ease her past her own sense of guilt and discomfort more than anything. Still close, she lowered her voice until only he could hear her, wary of surveillance here in S.H.I.E.L.D. "Martin saved himself and Lianne. He got all the dogs in the park to take down the agent who was after them." That shared, she kissed his cheek. "I'd like to see them," she admitted, drawing back. "Even if it's only for a little while. Hopefully they haven't driven Nat insane by now."
Steve knew his wife well enough to know she wasn't only snuggling close because she needed his comfort. He arched a brow at the news about Martin, but he wasn't all that surprised. They'd known the children had been experimented on and were likely to possess some sort of unusual abilities; they just hadn't known for sure how those abilities were going to manifest yet. As the eldest of the children rescued from the research facility, it stood to reason Martin's abilities would start to make themselves known soon. Steve just hadn't expected it to happen this way, but then, necessity was the mother of invention, or something like that. He said nothing about it though, knowing as well as she did that the walls had ears here. Steve smiled as she drew back and mentioned Nat. "Don't worry about Nat. If she can handle full grown men with guns, I'm pretty sure she can handle three small children."
Lucy snorted with laughter, and winced, touching a hand to her side. "Just as well she's babysat for us, though," she pointed out with a smile. "Tell Martin it wasn't his fault I got hurt, okay? He's going to be worrying more than the others over what happened."
It was a given Jamie was too young to do much worrying, and with any luck, as he got older, he'd forget this had ever happened. Steve wasn't so sure about Lianne, but she was a happy child and seeing Lucy would go a long way in reassuring her that her mother was all right. Martin, on the other hand, being the eldest, just might blame himself for not doing more to protect his family, even if he was only eight years old. "You can tell him yourself, but I will." He leaned close to touch a kiss to her forehead. "Will you be okay for a few minutes while I go get them?"
"I'm not going anywhere," she promised him warmly. "Hopefully they're going to let me eat soon, though. I'm starving." As well she might be - the attack had happened fore 8am, and it was now closing on 4pm. She'd been in medical care all that time, and only allowed sips of water to tide her over.
"Any requests? I'll make sure they send something in for dinner," he said, pressing a soft kiss to her lips, fingers caressing her cheek. "I won't be long. Promise," he assured her, meaning it this time. He was only going to their quarters to fetch the kids, after all.
She smiled, kissing him back as she squeezed his hand. "I know," she assured him. "Just make sure it's edible, and I'll eat anything." She actually trusted S.H.I.E.L.D. to provide a decent meal, especially now they had their hands on her medical notes and knew she was gestating.
Almost anything, anyway. Thankfully, Steve knew what she liked and didn't like. He started toward the door, feeling a little better than he had when he'd first arrived, now that he'd seen Lucy with his own eyes and knew she and the baby were all right, relatively speaking anyway. "Be back in a jiffy," he promised, blowing her another kiss before stepping out the door. He had to pause a moment to get a grip on his emotions, which were a mix of anger, hatred, worry, guilt, and relief. He didn't want his children to sense those emotions in him. He only wanted them to know he loved and cared for them.
The agent who had escorted him down was standing guard outside the door. It was a little superfluous, given how secure this facility was, but perhaps it made the staff feel better to at least look as though they were on the ball. She swallowed at the sight of Steve's expression, and trained her eyes on the wall opposite her, careful not to say a word in the face of a very angry man.
"I'm sorry," Steve said, turning to the agent outside Lucy's door, as if just realizing he wasn't alone. "I didn't get your name."
The agent started in surprise. "Who, me?" She blushed, clearing her throat. "Laura Ryan, sir, agent second class." Her hand twitched, but at least she stopped herself from saluting. That would have been going a little far.
"Agent Ryan," he repeated. "Good to meet you. Can you do me a favor and get my wife something to eat? She hungry and she's eating for two." Oh, well, there was no point in keeping up the sham now that the pregnancy was part of Lucy's dossier. And it was getting harder to hide that baby bump, too.
"Oh! Oh, really? That's ... congratulations, sir." Ryan seemed to realized that wasn't the reason he'd told her as soon as the words were out of her mouth. "That is, yes, sir. I, um ... Yes, sir." This time, she did salute, out of sheer embarrassment, and raised her comm to pass the message on, trying to avoid Steve's gaze.
"Relax, Agent Ryan," Steve said, a faint smile on his face that hinted at his own embarrassment. This sort of thing happened often enough that he'd mostly gotten used to it. "It's a request, not an order. Just make sure they don't send up beets. She hates beets."
"I-I will, sir." She nodded, blushing crimson with embarrassment at her own nerdy disbelief at having been spoken to by the Captain America, relaying this information over her comm. And in a bid to seem at least vaguely competent, she then offered, "I can have them bring your childrens' meals here, too, if you would like."
"That would be great, thanks," he replied before heading off in the direction of his quarters - no, their quarters - to check on their children and bring them back to see their mother. It wasn't too far, but by the time he got here, he had to work to stifle his anger again. If he kept up stuffing his anger back down, he was going to have a date with a punching bag later that night.
There were two agents on guard outside his quarters, not to mention Natasha Romanoff inside, proving that S.H.I.E.L.D. were taking this responsibility very seriously indeed. The first one to greet Steve when he entered was Thor - the Husky licked Martin's cheek and lumbered off the camp-bed to go and greet the male adult in the family. Lianne and Jamie were on the main bed with Nat, apparently taking their time over having a story read to them, but as soon as Steve came into sight, Lianne wriggled down.
Steve exchanged nods with the agents before letting himself into the quarters that had been set aside for them for just such an emergency. "How's my girl?" Steve greeted his daughter as he swung her up into his arms and smooched her cheek. Whatever conflict he was going through emotionally, it didn't show in the way he greeted his children. He balanced her against a hip, a hand going to pat Thor's head to acknowledge his greeting, too. "I've come to take you to see your Mama, but you have to make me a promise first ... She's okay, but she's got some bruises, so no jumping on the bed, and you have to be careful when you hug her."
Delighted to see her father, Lianne would have agreed to anything Steve said in those moments, hugging her arms around his neck as she nodded. Nat closed the book, grunting as Jamie crawled over her to get to the end of the bed and closer to Steve.
"Hey, old man," the redhead greeted her friend. "Took you long enough." She stood up, studying Steve's face for a moment, and nodded to herself. "Lemme wait outside while you guys catch up."
Steve scooped Jamie up in his other arm as the toddler crawled closer, holding Lianne in one arm and Jamie in the other and not looking like it was taxing him even a little. Martin remained on the bed, hugging Thor close. He was too old to be swept up into his father's arms, but too young not to hope for some show of affection. "Nat ..." Steve said, before she could leave. The look he gave her said it all - they needed to talk later, but not here, not in front of the children. So he only said, "Thanks." That, too, said enough, he hoped.
Nat nodded once again. "Anytime."
Before the door even closed behind her, Lianne was speaking, hugging her father tight once again as Jamie cried into his chest. The youngest of the Rogers had no idea what was going on and just wanted to go home. "Mama got hurt," Lianne told Steve sagely. "And N'asha says that we must stay here, non? Are you staying now, Papa?"
"I am staying now, Li-li," he assured her, touching his nose to hers. "Oh, now, Jamie, what's the matter?" he asked, frowning down at their youngest. "Martin, can you take your sister for me? We're going to see your mama now, but I think your little brother is exhausted." He leaned close to carefully set Lianne on her feet, with a kiss to the top of her head.
"Oui, Papa," Martin answered, moving forward to take his sister's hand.
"Your mama told me what happened. I'm sorry I wasn't there to help, but I'm very proud of you for taking care of your sister the way you did, Martin. I'm proud of all of you," he said, not wanting to leave Lianne or Jamie out, even if the youngest didn't really understand what was going on.
"Merci, Papa," Martin replied, standing just a little bit taller at his father's praise.
"We are going to stay here for a few days, just to make sure everything is okay, and then we're going on a little trip. Would you like that?" Steve asked, careful how much he told them with S.H.I.E.L.D. ears listening.
"Oui, Papa." Lianne preened as Steve kissed her hair, inserting her hand into Martin's obediently. She, too, wasn't entirely sure what had happened, but she knew it was something bad. Sniffling against Steve's chest, Jamie held on tightly to his father. All he knew was that a horrible woman had hurt his arm, made his mother bleed, and then lots of men and women had taken Mama away, and no one had said why.
"Shh, Jamie. It's all right. Papa's here now, and we're going to see Mama," he assured the toddler, rubbing his back as he held him close and touching a kiss to the top of his head, too. "Okay, Martin. Do you remember the way?" Steve asked, putting his eldest in charge. This wasn't the first time Martin and Lianne had been to S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters, after all.
"Oui, Papa," Martin replied, stepping forward to lead the small group to where his mother was recuperating. Strangely, Steve had not told his eldest where she was, as if he was testing him to see if he could find her without being told.
As they stepped out into the corridor, the two children hand in hand leading the way, it was no surprise that both guards and Natasha Romanoff fell into step with them. Right now, Captain America's family was the single most precious thing in the world to S.H.I.E.L.D., whether the director actually realized that or not.
As they walked, Lianne's other hand wriggled into Nat's grasp, making the Black Widow glance down, and then back at Steve. "Your children are getting grabby, old man," she teased her friend, squeezing Lianne's hand gently. "Ten tons of cute, right there."
"Don't be so shocked, Nat. She likes you," Steve replied, glad she was there. He wasn't always sure who he could trust, but he'd always had a gut feeling about Natasha. "They remember what you did for them in the Arctic," he said, lowering his voice, not so much for the children's sake as for the guards that accompanied them. They didn't need to know everything.
"Yeah, stood back and let their uncle do the rescuing," she pointed out, but she was smiling. This was the most relaxed she had seen the young trio all day, even with the tears from Jamie, and she had a feeling it was going to get better once they'd seen Lucy, too. She still needed to talk to Steve about what had actually happened, though.
"Johnny likes to play the hero, but he's mostly harmless," Steve countered with the first real smile he'd flashed since arriving. He looked tired, but not nearly as tired as Lucy or his children. They rounded a corner and were soon approaching the infirmary where Agent Ryan was still standing guard. "Ryan," Steve greeted the agent. "Could you get the door?"
Agent Ryan, for all her faults, was expecting them this time, already moving to open the door for the approaching family.
Nat released Lianne's hand, patting the little girl. "Go on, kiddo," she told Martin, nodding for him to lead the way into the room, where Lucy was waiting for them. For her part, Nat took up station with the other two guards, prepared to wait for as long as it took to make sure that the Rogers had time together safely.
Steve was tempted to draw Nat aside right then and there to have words with her, but this wasn't the right time or the right place. It would just have to wait. Maybe when Lucy and the children were resting. He offered her a nod that said as much, and followed his children into the room, letting Nat close the door behind them. "Well, what do we have here, Jamie? I think it's your mama!" he said, handing off the teary-eyed toddler to his mother.
Lucy's smile said it all as she greeted her family, opening her arms to take Jamie into a gentle embrace. "Hello, my little loves," she declared, stroking the tear-stained face. "Have you been good for Natasha? Telling her the naughty jokes Peggy taught you?" Her smile was deliberately mischievous, playing down how sore she was for their sake. She couldn't hide her bruises, but she could pretend they were only superficial. She touched a kiss to Lianne's nose, taking her hug from the little girl warmly, and opened her arm to Martin, inviting him up onto the bed with her as Lianne scrambled up into Steve's arms again.
Steve pulled a chair up close to Lucy's bed and settled Lianne on his lap as Martin hugged his mother as carefully as he could and claimed a seat by her side, hugging himself close against her, despite his father's warning to be gentle. He wasn't so old that he didn't still crave his mother's love, especially one who had chosen him as her son.
"Aunt Tasha was telling us stories, Mama," Martin confessed, and thankfully they weren't stories of her adventures in spying.
"And Aunt Tasha's stories are very good," Lucy smiled, kissing her eldest's hair affectionately. The look of worry on all three little faces almost made her laugh. "I'm fine," she promised them. "Just a little bit sore, that's all. In two weeks, it'll be like it never happened."
Lianne cuddled into Steve's chest comfortably, her eyes on Lucy. "Papa, he say we go 'way," she offered. Lucy glanced up at Steve curiously.
"Just for a little while," Steve offered, not wanting to get too specific out loud, in case HYDRA had somehow infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., which seems possible at this point. He silently mouthed, "Rhy'Din," but didn't say the word out loud, followed by a finger to his lips to make sure the children didn't repeat what he'd just mouthed to Lucy. "We can talk about it later," he added, changing the subject until he was sure it was safe to talk without anyone eavesdropping.
The thought of a secret was enough to make Lianne giggle happily, slapping a hand over her mouth to make sure she didn't say anything her Papa didn't want her to.
Lucy smiled, nodding in agreement with Steve as she hiked Jamie a little more comfortably on her lap. "I'm so proud of all of you," she said then, speaking mostly to Martin. "You were so brave, and I hear you've been pretending to be angels for Nat. We know the truth, but we won't spread it around. Let them think you're always perfect little people."
Martin smiled at his mother's praise, though as eldest he'd known just how dangerous the situation had been and it would take him the longest to forget it. If he was asked his opinion, he'd have agreed that giving up the friends he'd made here in New York was a small price to pay for his family's safety. "I remembered what Papa told me," Martin told his mother. "That when he's not there, it's my job to look after my family."
"It's not just your job," Lucy told him gently. "We look after each other, always. Although I'm surprised Jamie here didn't just dribble on the woman. You could have drowned her in the stuff and still had some left over!" Yes, she was deliberately making light of the situation. She didn't think the children needed to know just how close they had come to utter disaster.
Martin smiled at his mother's attempt at humor, old enough to know she was trying to make light of the situation for her children's sake. He remembered the fear and the terror of the research facility. He'd always felt safe here in New York, until today, but he said nothing of it, so as not to frighten his siblings or worry his parents.
Steve had turned quiet, studying his family as they all tried to make light of the situation, regretting what he'd told Martin. He had never intended for an eight year old boy to have to protect his family against HYDRA. At least Lianne and Jamie were laughing now, but this wasn't over. Not by a long shot.
A knock sounded at the door, and Agent Ryan peeked inside nervously. "Uh, Captain Rogers?" she asked worriedly. "Your, uh, the food is here. Should we bring it in?"
On Steve's lap, Lianne perked up at the mention of food.
"Yes, please," Steve replied, moving to his feet before setting Lianne on the chair. "I need to talk to Nat. Be good for your mama while I'm gone," he told them, leaning close to wrap an arm around his small family. "I'll be right outside."
They all cuddled in, each of them taking something unique away from being in Steve's arms, before Lucy set her attention to arranging the children so they could eat. Agent Ryan entered, pulling a trolley behind her that enclosed hot and cold sections. A full meal and dessert, it seemed.
Steve frowned over at Agent Ryan, unsure if he could even trust her. He didn't want to get paranoid, but there was no way of knowing who he could and could not trust anymore. He glanced at the camera he knew was monitoring their activity, the watchful eyes of S.H.I.E.L.D., unsure even who might be watching on the other side of that camera. He knew one thing for sure - HYDRA was after the serum and that meant they wanted him or his family alive, not dead, though there was little comfort in that fact. He wished he had insisted on digging deeper after the mission to the Arctic. Better late than never.
"Agent Ryan," he said, lowering his voice as he stepped close. "I'm holding you personally responsible for their safety while I'm gone. I'll be right outside."
Agent Ryan's eyes widened in absolute understanding of the underlying threat. She swallowed and nodded hurriedly. "Yes, sir."
Lucy glanced up, taking in the look on the agent's face, and bit down a smile. It looked as though making the woman taste a bit of everyone's dinner had just gotten easier.
Agent Ryan seemed harmless enough, at least, for a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but Steve knew appearances could be deceiving, and he couldn't take any chances. "Right outside," he said again, pointing to the door, more for Lucy's sake than Ryan's.
"All right, love," Lucy nodded to him with a smile meant more for the children than for him. Paranoia only counted when they weren't out to get you, after all. "Hey, Agent ... what's for dinner? Hope you brought a fork."
All any one of them had to do was utter a single shriek, and he'd be there in an instant. There was no such thing as being too careful where his family was concerned. Satisfied they were in good hands for the time being, Steve made his way to the door to have a few words with the Black Widow.
Nat was expecting him, leaning comfortably against the wall opposite the door. As Steve came out, she glanced at the two guards on the doors. "Okay, fellas, take a break," she told them. "Grab a bite, back in an hour, no arguments."
The agents on guard glanced at one another, but didn't argue with her, falling out to head down the corridor under her eyes as the door closed behind Steve. It seemed as though Nat was harboring the same concerns.
Steve waited until the guards had departed before turning to Nat with an expression on his face that said he meant business. "You think it's safe to talk?" he asked, knowing she'd probably already checked the hall for bugs. There wasn't much he could do about the camera, but there were ways around it.
She held up a hand, in which she was holding a sonic device. It wouldn't affect them, but any and all listening and surveillance devices in the immediate area were going to get nothing but static so long as it was active. "I do now," she smirked faintly. "Barton's on his way in. He'll take the night shift with your family."
Steve nodded, not really surprised to find that Nat had things covered. Still, he moved closer and kept his voice down just in case anyone was lurking nearby. "Fury thinks it's HYDRA," he informed her, though she probably knew that already. "I need to get them out of New York."
"HYDRA's been recruiting outside its zone," Nat told him in a low tone. "The agent Lucy took on? Her name is Sonja Vashnakoff. We were trained together." She glanced up at Steve, anger and concern in her face. "What do you need?"
His expression darkened at Nat's news. It had been more than seventy years since HYDRA had first reared its ugly head, and even after all those years, it seemed he was still facing the same enemy. They were persistent; he'd give them that. He knew he didn't really have to tell Nat what he needed; she probably knew the answer to that question already, but wanted to hear it from him.
"We need to know what she knows. How deep this goes. If there are any moles inside S.H.I.E.L.D.," he told her, though he knew questioning the woman would likely prove fruitless. Not even torture would give them any information. "Someone knew I'd be away, Nat, and someone took advantage of that information. The question is who? I need to get them someplace safe, and then we need to plug the leak."
"I can break her." Nat's confidence was borne of a certain sense of recklessness when it came to her own life; she had been trained in the same place, in the same way, as their prisoner. She knew where the weak spots were, but to break them open, she might have to break open her own. "Oh, by the way ..." She handed him a USB stick, raising a brow above her sardonic smile. "There was a terrible accident in the basement at your house," she said with bland innocence. "Whatever Lucy was working on down there, it's all gone."
"Shame," Steve said, getting her drift and shoving the USB stick into a pocket for safekeeping. "She'll be pissed. Hell, she's already pissed," he told her, without a hint of humor in his voice. "They find anything else at the house?" he asked, referring to any bugs or other devices that might have been planted without their knowledge without actually saying as much.
"Your bedroom," she said, her expression darkening. "Not S.H.I.E.L.D. issue, but well placed to catch the kind of thing parents talk about in bed." She drew in a slow breath. "I'll pack your bags tonight while Clint's keeping watch, get in contact with the right people. Stark's circling, wants to know why no one told him his sister got beat down this morning." She flashed another smirk. "And you thought he'd never admit to having a sister."
The knowledge that a bug had been found in their bedroom did very little to brighten his mood, but the mention of Tony brought the tiniest of smirks to his face. "Maybe there's hope for him yet," he said. Though he and Iron-man rarely saw eye to eye, he knew deep down Tony was a good guy and would want to do what was right for his family and his friends. He'd take the heat with Tony later. He had more important things on his mind right now than smoothing Iron-man's ruffled feathers. "I'm gonna need all the help I can get on this one."
"Do me a favor," she suggested. "When you're building your team, check out Sam Wilson. Might be worth your time." She smiled at him sweetly. "I can tap a couple myself, if you need them."
"Sam Wilson," Steve repeated, committing the name to memory. "Will do. I need to speak with Fury," he added, though Nat would likely know that, too. Later, though. "And I need to move some beds in here. The kids should be with their mother."
"Be better in your quarters," Nat mused on the idea. "This is a little too exposed, and on a main corridor. Also lots of equipment in there that could have been rigged." It was sometimes worrying, the way her mind worked, but she had survived a long time. "I'll stay with them until you're back, then we'll move them."
"Sounds like a plan. Thanks, Nat," he told her, knowing he didn't need to do much more than that. Of all the Avengers, he trusted her the most and knew she had his back. In a lot of ways, he trusted her even more than he trusted Fury. "I won't be long," he assured her, wondering if he should go tell Lucy he was going to see Fury before they moved them for the night.
"Anytime, old man," she assured him, taking up position by the door once again. "Fury's still in his office. Sounds like the Council didn't play ball this time, either."
If Steve was the kind to use vulgarity, he might have said something impolite about the Council, but as angry as he was, he was too polite to give in to his anger by cussing. He thought a lack of manners was one of modern society's failings, but then he knew most people just thought him old fashioned. "I won't be long. Promise," he reiterated again. His family had been attacked because of him, and he was determined to do everything in his power to make sure that never happened again, even if it meant stepping down from S.H.I.E.L.D. once and for all.
And with that, Steve moved down the hall to search out Director Fury's office. He wasn't gone long, just long enough to repeat most of what he'd discussed with Nat. Thankfully, Fury was on board with most of it, but had very little to add in the way of information. The man didn't want to lose either Lucy or Steve, but he couldn't very well blame them, all things considered, and he shared Steve's concerns about a possible mole, which infuriated the man more than anything else.
By the time Steve returned to his family, they had finished eating, and were entertaining Agent Ryan by repeating some of Nat's stories. Thankfully, one tray remained, and though the food had grown cold, Steve had to admit he was starving.
"Everything okay?" he asked, as he poked his head in the door.
Nat had been replaced with Clint Barton, another S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who was more of a friend than a colleague, and had headed off to do what she had said she would and a little more besides. Clint was clearly on edge, keeping guard with the two agents who had been assigned that duty, but he was just as good as Nat in this situation.
Agent Ryan leaped up from her seat as Steve entered the room, looking guilty for having sat down at all. "Absolutely, Captain Rogers," she said, saluting yet again. "I'll wait outside." She was quick to escape, much to the amusement of the little family she'd been paying close attention to in his absence.
"Was it something I said?" he asked to no one in particular as the agent quickly retreated. "Anything left?" he continued. "I'm starving!" He forced a smile for his family's sake, relieved to find them as safe as he'd left them, and tossing a wink at Martin, as if admitting to his hunger was some personal joke between the two of them.
"There's sausages and mashed 'tatoes, and peas, and pudding!" Lianne told her father cheerfully from where she was sprawled on the bed, her head in Martin's lap.
Lucy chuckled painfully at their daughter's enthusiasm, Jamie held in her arms. The toddler had finally succumbed to his exhaustion and was fast asleep, his thumb stuck firmly in his mouth. "Everything said that needed to be said?" she asked, keeping it vague on purpose.
"And did you eat all your peas, little lady?" Steve asked, moving to tickle his daughter lightly in hopes of eliciting a little light-hearted laughter. "Yep," he told his wife. "Nat's on it." He really didn't need to say much more than that, until later, when the kids were asleep. "What do you say to staying overnight in your parents' old quarters? Maybe we'll even make a tent. It'll be an adventure!" he suggested, hoping it would make not going home a little less painful at least for one night.
"We stay here for sleeps?" Lianne asked, her sleepy face brightening. It had been a long day for all of them, and bedtime for the children wasn't far off anyway.
"I think that sounds wonderful," Lucy agreed, her own smile far more relaxed than it had been before. She hadn't liked being separated from her family, and this way, she wouldn't be.
"All of us, together," Steve told them, just to make that point clear. He and Lucy weren't being separated from their children tonight or ever. "As soon as we get the word, but until then ..." he said, lifting Jamie out of his mother's arms and tucking him in beside her instead. "... we are going to make do here. Lianne, can you tuck yourself in on the other side of your brother?" he asked, meaning Jamie. Steve looked to Martin, who was really too big to squeeze in with the others.
"C'est bon, Papa. I will sleep in the chair for now," the boy volunteered.
Lucy raised her brow as Steve settled the children to bed already. "I am capable of walking, you know," she pointed out. "We could just go back to our quarters. I know Clint's out there."
"We'll go in a bit," Steve explained, giving Nat or Clint time to go over the room again and make sure it was clean. "Besides," Steve said, snatching up an unopened tray of food. "I'm hungry!" he told them with a grin. The fact was that he hadn't eaten in hours, and while his enhanced metabolism could withstand hunger longer than most people, he also burned a lot more calories than the average human.
Perched on the edge of the bed, with Lianne drifting off and Jamie already asleep, Lucy smiled at her husband. She could tell he was still tense, still pissed off, but he seemed happier in himself, which suggested to her that some kind of plan was underway. "It's good food," she nodded. "Agent Ryan enjoyed it, too, didn't she, Martin?" Lucy hoped that the children didn't know why she had insisted Agent Ryan eat a little something off everyone's plate, including Steve's, but thankfully the agent had been more than happy to do so.
"Non, Mama," Martin interjected, disagreeing with his mother on just one small point. "She said she doesn't like peas," he told his parents with a small grin of his own. He was feeling better, too, now that his father had returned. It wasn't that he didn't trust Agent Ryan, but he just felt safer when his father was there, especially after what had happened today. "You're not going away again, are you, Papa?" Martin asked, uncertainly.
Steve frowned at his son's question and glanced to Lucy, as if for help.
"I stand corrected," Lucy laughed carefully, her fingers gently stroking through Lianne's hair. Martin's question, however, made her smile fade as she caught Steve's eye. "We're going to go somewhere safe," she told their son gently. "Papa needs to come back and make sure that the people who did this to us can't do it to anyone else. But he won't be alone. He'll have Uncle Tony, and Nat, and Clint, and Uncle Johnny, probably. And he will call us, every night, won't he?"
"Every night. Promise," Steve assured both his son and his wife, realizing Lucy needed to hear that promise just as much as Martin did. "You trust me, right?" Steve asked them both. "Everything's gonna be okay. I promise," he said, reaching over to ruffle his son's hair. "Why don't you try and get some rest? I'll wake you when it's time to move."
Martin frowned, but nodded his head. "Oui, Papa," he said, feeling as exhausted as his siblings, but more worried. He curled himself up on the chair and Steve set his dinner aside a moment to tuck an extra blanket around him.
Lucy watched quietly as Martin settled down in the chair, her eyes traveling to where Steve was polishing off his own dinner. "I wish none of them had had to see that, this morning," she said quietly. "They'll worry for you. I'll worry for you."
"I'll be fine, Luce. It's you and the kids I'm worried about," he replied as he finished off his dinner, which truth be told, only put a small dent in his hunger, but it would have to do for now. He set the empty tray aside and drew up a second chair on the other side of her, before reaching for her hand. He lowered his voice, unsure if anyone was listening. "There is nothing as important to me as you and our family. Nothing," he repeated, putting an emphasis on that word that should tell her that not even S.H.I.E.L.D. or the Avengers were as important to him as they were.
She sighed, curling her hand into his as she leaned closer, touching her forehead to his. "I wish you weren't in this position," she admitted in a low whisper. "I never intended for you to ever have to choose, Steve. I'm so sorry." But what was she sorry for? Without his love, she'd be nothing. She certainly wouldn't be a wife and a mother. All she was truly sorry for was the decision he was now facing.
On the contrary, it wasn't much of a decision at all - at least, not to him. Things had changed since he'd met Lucy Broderick; his whole life had changed, and if he had to choose between S.H.I.E.L.D. and his family, there was only one choice he could make. "This is my fault," Steve admitted. "If it wasn't for me, you and the kids would be safe," he said, knowing it wasn't entirely his fault, but if it really was the serum HYDRA was after, they'd never stop until they had it, one way or another, no matter who got in the way.
"If you say that one more time, I am going to slap you silly," she informed him pointedly. "This is not your fault. It's no one's fault. You don't know everything, and you can't be everywhere. It's under control, love. Even I know that."
He might have said more, but he didn't trust the room not to have any hidden listening devices, and he knew Lucy would only berate him further if he insisted on the attack being his fault, at least, in part. "I shouldn't have left, or at least, I should have insisted on a full security battalion while I was gone." All the what ifs and should haves weren't going to change what had happened, and like Lucy had said, he couldn't have known.
"Battalion?" she echoed, one brow rising above an amused smile. "If we're talking about shoulds and ifs, then I should have called Tony and told him you were out of town. He's a moron, but he would never put us in danger. And no, that doesn't mean I think you put us in danger by going."
"We could do this all night, you know," Steve said, offering his wife an ironic smile. He knew she was never going to let him take the blame, no matter what he said. "Just so you know, Tony's pissed no one saw fit to tell him what happened. In Nat's own words, he wants to know why no one told him what happened to his sister." He couldn't help but smile a little at the fact that Tony Stark seemed finally ready to admit to the fact that he had siblings.
Lucy blinked, genuinely shocked to hear that. Tony Stark had been denying for years that he had sisters at all. This was an impressive turnaround. "Wow," she murmured. "I hope someone called Liv before he did, then." They both knew Fury or Nat would have done that, otherwise Johnny would already be here, trying to usher them through a portal without any security checks in place.
"You should probably call her yourself, you know," Steve suggested, but not yet, not here. Not until they were back in their own quarters and assured of privacy. "She should know what's going on." If she didn't yet, she was bound to find out soon enough.
"I will," she promised him. "Once we're settled in for the night. Did they put any other beds in our quarters, or are we going to have to put the kids in the bed and make do with the couch for us?"
"No, we should be okay. There's a double bed and a cot. I can sleep on the couch. It's just for one night," he said, refusing to allow his family to have to spend any more time there than was necessary. He and Nat had already put things in motion to move them to Rhy'Din as soon as possible. Steve brought Lucy's hand to his lips for a kiss, knowing things could have been a lot worse. "I'm never gonna let anything happen to you or the baby or the kids again. Promise."
"Don't let anything happen to you, either," she told him softly, stroking her thumb over his lips. "That would devastate us. We'll be fine once we're out of sight; all you need to do is focus on making sure you come back to us. All right? No heroics for the sake of it."
"No heroics," he echoed that promise, pressing her hand to the side of his face with a soft smile. He wasn't going to make any false promises, but Lucy knew him well enough to know he'd be careful. There was more he wanted to say, but he didn't want to say it here, where someone might overhear.
Almost as if reading his mind, the door opened a crack and Hawkeye popped his head briefly inside. "Room's ready when you are, Cap," he told him, with a nod of his head to Lucy.
Looking up from Steve, Lucy smiled warmly at seeing another friend who had had dinner at their house more often than not. "Hi, Clint," she greeted him, rising from her seat to gently stroke Martin's cheek. "Martin, ma petit ... time to go."
Clint glanced from one of the Rogers children to another. "You need a hand?" he asked, seeing as how two of those children were deep asleep and Lucy was in no shape to be lifting anyone. Besides, he planned on being stuck to them like glue until further notice, anyway.
Martin was slow to wake, slowly opening his eyes to look up at his mother. "D'accord, Mama," he replied groggily.
Reluctantly, Lucy had to admit that the offer of help was necessary. She could lift Jamie while sitting down, but she didn't think she could take him while he was fast asleep right now, and not while she was standing up. "Could you take Lianne?" she asked Clint apologetically. "Jamie will scream the place down if it isn't Steve holding him." Her eyes turned back to Martin, helping him up onto his feet and tucking the warm blanket around his shoulders.
Sleepy as Martin was, he leaned against his mother, as if some sleepy part of him needed her closeness more than he was willing to admit when he was fully awake.
"No problem," the archer replied, moving to carefully uncover the little girl and scoop her up into his arms. "Come on, little lady. Time for bed," he whispered, surprisingly gentle, but then it was a little known fact that the archer had a family of his own hidden away in a secret place.
Steve scooped Jamie up and held him against one shoulder. The little boy whined a little, but recognizing his father's embrace, was quick to settle.
Lianne's eyes opened briefly as she was lifted up, taking in her parents and her brothers, and recognizing Nat's friend Clint as the one holding her. Then she sighed and settled down to sleep again, secure in the knowledge that she was perfectly safe. With one arm around Martin, Lucy led the way to the door, opening it a crack to make sure she knew who it was on the other side. One of the guards had been replaced with Agent Croft, an old friend.
"To your quarters, Doctor Rogers?" he asked, glancing almost imperceptibly toward the only unknown in the guard group.
Lucy nodded, accepting the warning as much as agreeing to the plan. "After you, Agent Croft."
Steve took up the rear, a nod in greeting to their old friend. "Croft. Good to see you," he told the other man, one of the first people who'd befriended them when they'd first returned to Earth and one of the few people Steve trusted implicitly.
"Always a pleasure, Captain," was Croft's response. He lead the way, and Lucy's evaluation of Agent Ryan improved when she dropped into place behind them, cutting the third guard out of proximity completely. Croft evidently trusted her; that was good enough for now. The third ... he could be given the slip easily enough, but it would be better for everyone if they could work out an evacuation for their family without S.H.I.E.L.D. knowing the details.
The Avengers were probably key to that, and Steve knew who he could trust with the information. For now, though, everything would be kept quiet until he could talk to Lucy and heard back from Nat. It was a short walk back to their old quarters. Steve just hoped Nat had been thorough in her search. There was always Stark Tower, if needs be. Tony trusted S.H.I.E.L.D. even less than Steve did these days.
"And here we are," Croft announced, turning to dismiss the third guard. "You can go now, agent. Ryan and I have it covered here, Barton's presence is by special request. Go and debrief."
There was a brief flicker of consternation in the third guard's face, but he did as he was told, marching off down the corridor. The moment he rounded the corner, Croft shut the door to the marital quarters and laid a finger against his lips.
"This way, quick and quiet," he told them, turning to lead the way through the corridors. "Romanoff has a car waiting for you." Behind them, Ryan activated another surveillance scrambler or two, leaving one there, and holding the other as she fell into step behind them.
Martin looked up at the adults around him with a confused look on his face, but knew better than to ask questions, trusting his parents to know what they were doing. Steve noticed the look from his son and offered a reassuring smile, before touching a finger to his own lips, silently promising to explain later. Even their pets were already gone, gathered up in advance, it seemed, to meet them wherever they were headed. Steve couldn't help but smile a little, despite everything. It was good to have friends such as these.
It was a little daunting, to be lead through little used hallways and down utility stairwells, but between them, Croft and Ryan had managed to arrange things so that no one saw the Rogers leave the building at all. As promised, Natasha Romanoff was waiting in the shadows, set behind the wheel of a seriously souped-up people carrier with space enough for all of them. After handing the family, and Clint, into the vehicle, Croft and Ryan nodded to them, heading back into the building.
"Won't they get into terrible trouble?" Lucy asked as Nat drove off.
"Not with the scene they're about to set up," was the calm reply.
Steve didn't ask what that scene was going to be; he didn't need to. There was a little smile on his face though, as he realized his friends had gone through all this trouble for him and his family. No, they were family, too, and family stuck together - even estranged family like Tony Stark, it seemed. And suddenly, Steve knew exactly where they were going.
"Stark Tower," he said aloud with sudden realization. The safest place in the city for people like them.
"Damn straight," Nat confirmed, glancing over her shoulder at the family with a grin. "Seems like the baby of the family goes straight for the throat when she wants something."
Lucy snorted with laughter, groaning a little at the lancing pain that came with the movement. "Wait ... Liv set this up?"
Steve's smiled widened as he, too, realized Liv must have had something to do with this. He wondered what she'd had to threaten Tony with to accomplish it or if he'd finally come to his senses. "Safest place in the city," Steve said. "You're gonna enjoy this," he added, with a wink to Martin, who was still looking confused.
"Tony's not so bad," Clint interjected. "Once you get past the rough exterior. Besides, he can't be all bad, or Pepper would have left a long time ago."
"We're going to stay with Uncle Tony for tonight," Lucy explained to Martin with a smile. "He has lots of gadgets." Clint's comment on Tony made her smile deepen. "Pepper deserves a medal for what she puts up with in exchange for what I can only assume is astronomical sex."
Steve snorted at Lucy's comment. "Little ears, Luce," he reminded her, knowing she'd only confuse Martin further.
"I'm Clint," the archer said, introducing himself to the boy with a warm smile. "I've got a boy about your age. Maybe you can meet him sometime."
Steve arched a brow, looking to Nat, as if for confirmation.
Lucy flashed a grin at Martin, hugging him against her side as Clint introduced himself to the young lad. She, too, glanced toward Nat at the revelation that Clint had a family of his own.
Nat smiled, nodding at the couple. "Got a daughter, too," she pointed out. "Probably why Lianne's betrayed me by being so comfortable on his lap."
"You're full of all kinds of surprises today," Steve said, not bothering to explain which of them he meant or maybe both. At least, they were pleasant surprises, for a change. Though the news that Hawkeye had children came as a surprise, Steve realized it was something the two of them had in common.
"Yep," Clint replied. "That's me. One big surprise after another." He looked over at Nat with a grin. "You, jealous, Nat? I think she likes me better."
"I'm more fun to play with," Nat countered Clint's tease with a grin, glancing up as a familiar shadow flew over them. "Oh come on ... does he really think I need directions? I worked there for, like, a year."
Lucy caught Steve's eye, hugging Martin fondly as Nat turned the car to follow the directions she was being given. Maybe Clint could give them a few pointers on how to keep work and home separate.
"Maybe he knows a better way," Steve suggested, always trying to think the best of people, even when they sometimes didn't deserve it.
"More likely, he's playing Mother Hen. Don't let him preen too much when you get there. And don't let him boss you around either," Clint warned.
"Tony Stark has never managed to boss me around," Lucy assured Clint with a grin. "Besides, if all else fails, we can sic Liv on him. Apparently she's our secret weapon, who knew?"
Nat chuckled, shaking her head in amusement. "Did your wife really knock him on his ass when she was hugely pregnant?" she asked Steve innocently, proving that she apparently still had friendly contacts at Stark Tower herself.
"Hugely pregnant?" Steve echoed, chuckling, but not loud enough to wake the kids. "You hear that, Luce? You were hugely pregnant," he teased, tossing a knowing and slightly mischievous look at his wife, which was rare.
"Oh, very good," Lucy teased him in return. "Yes, I did, Nat. One punch."
Nat laughed, pulling the car into the garage beneath the Stark Tower smoothly. "I would have paid to see that," she admitted. "Okay, folks, we're here. Sooner you guys are up on the private floors, the happier I will be."
"Too bad I didn't get it on film," Steve said, the smirk fading as they arrived at Stark Tower - or at least, in the garage.
"Mama, why did you punch Uncle Tony?" Martin spoke at last, unable to withhold his curiosity any longer.
"Oh ..." Lucy's smile turned a little guilty. "We didn't know each other very well at the time, ma petit, and he was being very rude about your papa and about Auntie Liv. I lost my temper, but I shouldn't have hit him. It was a very wrong thing for me to do."
"Why was he being rude about Papa and Aunt Liv?" Martin asked further, as most children did, one question only leading to another.
"It's okay, Martin. It was just a silly disagreement. Everything's okay now," he reassured his son, before darting a glance at Lucy.
"Okay, peeps," Clint broke in. "It's late and we don't want to keep Uncle Tony waiting," he said, reminding them without saying so out loud that the garage wasn't the safest place in the world to be.
"Come on, love," Lucy encouraged Martin. "Help me out of the car, I'm getting sore and stiff here." She smiled at her son, glancing briefly to Lianne and Jamie to make sure they were still asleep. Nat had already swung out of the car herself, standing guard between them and the entrance. Just in case.
"Oui, Mama," Martin replied obediently, hopping out of the car before turning to offer his mother a hand, that she probably didn't really need. Clint climbed out the other side, carrying Lianne, and Steve followed with Jamie, both children still sound asleep.
Groaning softly, in need of some painkillers, Lucy wrapped her arm about Martin's shoulders as he helped her out of the car, drawing him toward the express elevator that would take them up to Tony's private floors at the very top of the tower. "Everybody in," Nat announced, ushering the men in after the doctor.
Or maybe she did need the help. Steve frowned at the groan from Lucy, wondering if she was more hurt than she was letting on. He gave her a questioning glance once they were all safely in the elevator, but didn't ask out loud for fear of alarming Martin.
Lucy's answering wince was not exactly encouraging, but she didn't dare say anything. She just needed something to knock out the pain, and somewhere to rest, that was all. As Nat closed the elevator doors, a disembodied voice greeted them.
"Good evening, Captain and Doctor Rogers. Mr. Stark has delineated an entire floor for your comfort and privacy while you are staying with us. Rooms have been made up for your children, within sight of the master bedroom."
Nat smirked. "Steve, Lucy ... meet Jarvis."
"Uh, nice to meet you, Jarvis," Steve replied, as polite as ever, though he hadn't quite figured out just who this Jarvis was just yet.
Though Clint and Tony weren't the best of friends, Nat seemed to have briefed him on all things Iron-man. "Jarvis is Tony's ... er ... butler," the archer explained, though that wasn't quite true or helpful.
"Nice to hear another civilized voice," Lucy teased quietly, but she was genuinely grateful for the information they were being given. "Thank you, Jarvis."
"It is my pleasure, Doctor Rogers," was the polite response from the computer. "For your convenience, I have blacked out the windows to prevent symptoms of vertigo manifesting themselves."
Steve furrowed his brows as he looked to Lucy. He was well aware of the technological advances that had been made since he'd crashed in the Arctic, and he knew Tony, like his father before him, was an inventor of sorts, but it still felt a little strange to him to be having a conversation with what amounted to a computer. "Jarvis, can you scan my wife - Doctor Rogers - and determine her medical needs, please?" he asked, working off a hunch.
"In front of the children, darling?" Lucy asked in an almost acid tone, but she could already hear the computer scanning her. She squeezed Martin's shoulder reassuringly as Jarvis spoke.
"It would appear Doctor Rogers has sustained a number of minor hematomas across her face and shoulders, as well as two broken ribs. There is no damage to the foetus. Physical intervention is holding; I shall have analgesics prepared for your arrival."
Nat's head whipped around to stare at both the Rogers. "Foetus?" she echoed, for once in her life genuinely surprised.
"Thank you, Jarvis," Steve replied, looking almost smug to have known that his wife needed painkillers and had been holding out. With good reason, but still. "Yeah, you know ... as in baby?" he said, a hint of a smirk on his face.
"Bun in the oven, knocked up, bat in the cave ..." Clint added, helpfully, having a bit fun at Nat's expense.
"Up the duff," Lucy offered with a smile, only to laugh out loud as Jarvis picked up the theme and appeared to run with it.
"All euphemisms for the state of pregnancy, Agent Romanoff," the computer informed her. "Other phrases include stung by the serpent, harboring a fugitive, in the family way, bacon in the drawer -"
"I get it!" Nat protested, flicking Clint's ear for starting all this off. "I was referring to my surprise that the expectant mother held off an assassin single handed this morning."
"Bacon in the drawer?" Steve echoed. "Who comes up with this stuff?" he asked, quickly adding, before Jarvis could answer his question. "Never mind! I don't need to know."
Clint didn't even flinch at the ear flick, which was probably a good thing since he was still carrying the Rogers' sleeping daughter. "Maybe we should make her an honorary Avenger," he suggested with a wink at Lucy.
"A good cup of tea would make me happier," Lucy countered with a smile, glancing down at Martin, who had to be lost in the midst of all this bantering back and forth between the adults.
As the elevator came to a halt and the doors opened, Jarvis spoke up again. "A fully equipped kitchen is available for your use. Mr. Stark's personal living area is located a further two floors up, accessible by this elevator, and the balcony level stairwell. Do you require any further assistance?"
Actually, the little boy was leaning against the wall, looking as though he was about to fall asleep. "Nope," Clint replied, noticing the sleepy boy and handing Lianne off to Nat. "Not even a lullabye, Jarvis," he said, scooping Martin up in his arms, the boy too exhausted to protest. He was used to small boys this age, after all, and knew even they needed a little TLC once in a while. "Got him before he passed out," he informed the parents with a grin. "Lead on, MacDuff," he told Nat, who seemed to know her way around.
"Thanks," Steve said, frowning in concern as the archer exited the elevator with Martin in his arms. He didn't think it was necessary to explain that the boy had had a long day. They all had.
"Since when do you quote Shakespeare?" Nat asked in amusement, hiking Lianne more comfortably against her shoulder as she moved to lead the way toward the bedrooms.
Whatever Jarvis thought of the sight of three highly trained individuals carrying sleeping children while the injured non-combatant trailed along behind, the computer wisely kept to himself. The sleeping arrangements, however, had been carefully considered - all three children were in the same room, with a door in the wall that adjoined the room their parents would be in. Easily defensible, too, with two exits - one to the balcony, and one to the rest of the floor. And best of all, Thor and Cherie were waiting for them in the childrens' bedroom, eager to make sure their family were all in one piece.
"Since now?" Clint replied with a smirk. "I'm a man of many talents." And right now, one of those talents was lugging an eight-year old to bed. Somehow, it suited him and made him long for home and his own family, but first things first.
Nat went straight for the pink bed, gently laying Lianne down as Lucy dodged ahead of the men to turn down sheets for the other two. The Husky bounced up onto the nearest bed to lick her cheek, earning himself as good scratch.
"Hey, Thor," she greeted him with a weary smile. "We're all here, no need to be worried."
"Thor?" Clint echoed arching his brows. "You named your dog Thor? What did you name the cat? Loki?" he asked, stifling a chuckle as he laid the boy back against the pillows.
"He's a big dog," Steve replied by way of explanation as he did the same with Jamie, laying him down beside his brother, but against the wall so he wouldn't tumble out of bed accidentally.
"S'called Cherie," a sleepy little voice offered, even as the cat in question jumped up to cuddle into her little mistress' arms.
Lucy shared a smile with Nat, slipping Lianne's shoes off and drawing the cover over the little girl. "Go back to sleep, petite belle," she murmured, kissing her daughter's cheek softly. "Have sweet dreams."
No sound came from the boys, but steady, even breathing, both of them exhausted from the day's events. Clint got out of Steve and Lucy's way so they could go about tucking their children in and giving them good-night kisses, even if they were too sleepy to realize it. Watching them go about their nightly routine, even far from home, only made his miss his own kids that much more. "I still think it's funny you named the dog Thor," he remarked quietly. He wondered if Thor would find it funny, too.
Nat smirked, falling back to watch with him as the parents tucked their children in. "It gets better than that," she murmured back to him. "The dog was already called Thor. They could have changed it." She flashed her friend and colleague a grin. "You really should go dog walking with them. People get so excited when they see Captain America yelling for Thor."
"He doesn't wear his uniform when he's walking him, does he?" Clint whispered back, forgetting that Steve's hearing was as enhanced as everything else was about him.
"I can hear you, you know," Steve warned before leaning in to touch a kiss to Lianne's cheek.
"Yeah, I get the feeling this is where we came in," Clint said.
Lucy finished up with the boys, touching kisses to sleeping cheeks and making sure they were tucked in warmly with Thor watching over them, rising from her perch on the edge of the bed to move back toward the door. Her hand touched her side, testing the tenderness of those ribs as she winced yet again. "Everybody out," she murmured, gesturing for their friends to precede her through the door.
"Yes, ma'am," the archer replied, withholding the salute as he led the way out the door.
Steve waited, lingering a moment near the children before following them to the door. He noticed how Lucy was touching her side and frowned. "I'm tucking you in next," he warned, remembering what Jarvis had said about the analgesics.
"Do I get a bedtime story as well?" she asked impishly, but the mischief was definitely subdued. Hopefully those painkillers would knock her out completely.
"We'll just run the perimeter and check the floors above and below," Nat said, giving Clint a nudge. "We're on you until you move on, so get used to us."
"Only if you're a very good girl," Steve replied with a faint smile as he tapped Lucy's nose lightly.
Clint cleared his throat as if to remind the couple that they weren't alone ... yet. "Right. Run the perimeter," he replied, whispering, "Awkward."
"You're worse with Laura," Nat informed him with a grin. "C'mon." She nodded to Steve and Lucy, giving Clint a tug toward the exits.
Lucy's smile didn't even approach embarrassed, too tired and in too much pain to care much if someone else saw how much she loved her husband. "Jarvis? Could you wake us if any of the children wake up and don't come looking for us, please?" she asked the computer.
"Certainly, Doctor Rogers. There is a pot of tea in the kitchen, where you will also find the analgesics recommended."
Steve wasn't sure how he felt about having a computer watching over them and eavesdropping 24 to 7, but it was better than Tony or Nick Fury doing the same. "You should take something for the pain, Luce," Steve urged her gently, as he closed the door behind them, leaving it open a crack so they could hear the kids if they needed them.
"I'm going to," she promised him gently, leaning on him as they turned together toward the kitchen they had already walked through. "I'll need to make sure whatever it is, is suitable to take while pregnant, though. I think I've put our youngest through quite enough for one day."
"I could be wrong, but I'm pretty sure Jarvis would have taken that into consideration," Steve said, though he didn't go so far as to ask the voice of the computer that was watching over them. Or whatever he - it - was doing.
"Really?" she asked with a wry smile. "You're going to trust a computer over me?" Her brow rose - she knew he didn't really trust her to take the right amount of whatever medication was waiting for them, but she didn't think it was necessary to completely knock out the pain. Just take the edge off so she could sleep.
"You're the doctor, Doctor," Steve replied with a slightly amused smile, as he touched a gentle caress to her cheek. "You can relax now, Luce. We're safe here, or at least, as safe as we're going to be. I'll take watch and make sure everything's okay, but you need to get some rest ... both of you." He touched a kiss to her lips, hoping she'd listen to reason.
She leaned into him gratefully, finally letting herself relax ... and the tears started to flow. Tears of fear, of anger, of frustration, even tears of pain - she hadn't let herself react to anything that had happened all day, at first for the sake of the children, and then because she was simply too bloody stubborn to let anyone see that she was so very shaken by the whole experience. Only Steve got to see those tears, which unfortunately meant he got to experience them, too.
"Aw, Luce," he whispered, turning to wrap two strong arms around her. "Shh ... It's okay. We're gonna go someplace safe. Someplace where no one will try to hurt you or the kids ever again," he told her, though in truth he wasn't sure such a place existed, not even in Rhy'Din. Nothing in life was certain, but they could at least take action to eliminate most of the risks to them and their children. Things could have been a whole lot worse, but it only made Steve angry to think about it.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry," she sniffled, trying to get control of herself. "I really don't mean to cry all over you, it's just ... Oh God, Steve, I was so scared. Scared and useless. If Nat hadn't arrived when she did ..."
"Shh ..." he whispered again, rubbing her back as he held her close. It made his heart ache to see her cry, to know how frightened she must have been, but he was proud of her, too. "It's over, Luce. There's no point in thinking about what might have happened. You did good, and we're lucky Nat was there." It was more than lucky, really, since he'd asked Nat to keep an eye on them while he was gone. He exhaled a sigh, touching his forehead to hers. "I love you, baby, and I swear, I'm never gonna let anyone hurt you or our children ever again." If it meant going to Rhy'Din to ensure that, that's exactly what they'd do.
Lucy echoed his sigh, the sound more to calm herself than because of any lingering concern, closing her eyes as his brow touched hers. "We won't let anyone hurt our children again," she corrected him. "I know I'm a weed, but we're in this together, Steve. I just hope S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA haven't found my lab at home, or they'll have their hands on my samples and notes."
"A weed?" he echoed, a puzzled look on his face, unsure what she meant by that, but before he could really question that, she was worrying about her lab unnecessarily, as it seemed Nat had taken care of that already. "Um, yeah, about that ..." He reached into the pocket where he'd stashed the flash drive Nat had given him and held it out to her. He wasn't sure he wanted to say anything out loud with Tony's computer eavesdropping, but he had to trust someone, and Tony was family. "There's nothing left for them to find."
Blowing her nose, Lucy blinked in surprise as he held the flash drive up in front of her. "How did ..." she started, before the obvious answer came to mind. "Natasha," she said, smiling in relief as her hand closed about the drive. "I really need to do something extra nice for her one of these days." It was a relief to have her notes saved, at least. All her research on Steve and the children was there, and most of it could not be duplicated. The loss of the samples was a wrench, but rather that than leave anything that a scientist could extrapolate from. "Didn't Jarvis say something about tea?"
"Tea and analgesics," Steve reminded her, mirroring her smile. Even if she only took enough to take the edge off the pain, it was better than nothing. He touched a kiss full of affection to the top of her head. "Why don't you relax, and I'll make some tea?" he suggested, though he had a feeling he'd be tucking her into bed soon, too.
"That sounds like a lovely idea," she agreed, but she made no move to get comfortable anywhere, instead following him to the kitchen to perch on a stool and examine the pill bottle that had been left out for her. "Hmm ... I'm not even going to ask where Tony got his hands on this," she said eventually, shaking one pill from the bottle and swallowing it dry. "It's only supposed to be available to research hospitals."
"You could ask Jarvis," Steve suggested mildly, though he wasn't sure if he wanted to know either. He filled a kettle and put it on the stove before moving around the kitchen to find a couple of mugs and tea fixings. There were things he wanted to say, but he wasn't sure if this was where he wanted to say them.
Lucy smiled, forcing herself not to slouch. "I don't think I want to know, if I'm honest," she admitted. She watched him in silence for a few minutes, considering everything that had happened since he got back to them. "S.H.I.E.L.D. aren't supposed to know we're here, are they?" she asked in a quiet tone. "Which means that you think there's a mole. But if there is a mole, why didn't they take the children back as soon as we got them into the facility here? Why wait until now?"
"Jarvis," Steve said, before answering Lucy's questions. "Can you give us an hour or so of privacy, please? We'll call if we need you."
"Certainly, Captain Rogers," the computer replied. "I shall negate all monitoring equipment pertinent to your conversation, and delete all recordings as they are made."
"Thank you, Jarvis," Steve replied, just as politely in return. He wasn't sure why he was asking what amounted to a computer program to shut off its listening devices or why he trusted that program to do so, but for some reason it is. Gut instinct, maybe, but he'd learn that his gut instincts were usually right. "Is it just me or is it weird to be talking to a computer?
"He's politer than most people we talk to in a day," Lucy shrugged carefully. "But yes, it is a little strange. But reassuring. He's not monitoring us, but he's keeping an eye on the kids for us. I'm not going to say no to a watchful eye like that."
"I guess it all depends on how much you trust Tony. Trust Tony and you can trust Jarvis," he reasoned, and so far, he had no real reason not to trust Tony, other than the fact that he tended to be a pompous ass most of the time. "I'm getting paranoid," he said with a frown.
"Now, you see ... I don't like Tony, but I do trust him," she confessed. Her feelings about her half-brother were confused, at best, but Lucy was very much of the opinion that so long as Liv trusted him, he was trustworthy. He, like most people Liv knew, lived in terror of ever breaking that trust. "And Steve ... it's only paranoia if they're not out to get you. We know they are."
"Out to get the serum, anyway," he said, just as dropped a tea bag into each mug before adding steaming water. "Yes, I think there's a mole inside S.H.I.E.L.D. Nat agrees. I wouldn't be surprised if Nick has realized it, too, by now. Why didn't they make a move for the kids?" he repeated her question with a shrug of broad shoulders. "Hard to say. We don't know how many of them we're talking about or what their plans might be. We messed up their plan once already. I'm sure they'll be as surprised as Nick to find us gone." Though he wasn't too sure about Fury. Fury often seemed to be one step ahead of everyone around him.
"So getting us to Rhy'Din is going to be slightly complex, then," she considered thoughtfully. "I wonder what Liv and Tony have been cooking up between them? It's not like them to get conspiratorial together - usually they go through us."
"It just goes to show how much your brother really does care about you," Steve said, fixing her tea just the way she liked it before handing her a cup. "Or maybe he's just pissed because you're family. Either way, given a choice between family and HYDRA, he's always gonna pick family." He wasn't so sure how Tony felt about S.H.I.E.LD.
"Thank you." Her smile reappeared as he handed her the cup, her hands wrapping about the warm ceramic comfortably. She could feel the painkillers beginning to kick in, making her smile just a little weary as she leaned on the counter. "Try not to worry so much, Steve. We're in the safest place for us in New York, and we have two very good friends, who also happened to be highly trained, keeping watch over us tonight."
"Not to mention a sentient computer, and presumably Iron-man himself a couple of stories above us," Steve pointed out. While they should be perfectly safe at Stark Tower, Steve couldn't help but worry, and he'd probably keep worrying until he was sure his family was safe. "I'm kind of surprised Tony hasn't come down to say hello personally," he mused aloud, though if he really was in cahoots with Liv, he might still be busy concocting their escape to Rhy'Din. Steve lifted his mug for a sip, frowning as he looked over at Lucy, noting her weariness. "You should sit down before you fall down, Luce."
"He might actually be having some kind of tactful response to the day," Lucy suggested, though her tone implied she didn't believe herself even as she said it. Steve's comment on her state didn't go unnoticed, though. She smiled ruefully. "I think you're right. Somehow I don't think pitching backwards off a stool would be very good for me right now."
"It wouldn't be very good for you ever," Steve replied with a chuckle, as he set his mug down and pushed off the counter, so he could lead her to a chair. "I guess we'll have to wait until morning to find out what your siblings have cooked up."
"I suppose so." She kept her protest about being helped about to herself; those painkillers were very strong, and she knew he was probably going to have to carry her to bed just like the children if she let herself relax too much. "It's either going to be incredibly complicated, or blissfully simple."
"It all depends on opening a portal," Steve said, though he assumed Lucy knew that already. The easiest and safest thing to do would be to open a portal right here at Stark Tower, but Steve wasn't sure if that would be possible or if Tony would allow it, if it was. He was also worried what Fury might think when he found them gone, but he hoped he'd understand. Knowing Fury the way Steve did, the Director might have figured something like this would happen.
"And that depends on where in Rhy'Din they can get it set up, and where here it'll open," Lucy agreed mildly as she sank down onto a couch with a low groan of relief. "God, I'm going to be stiff as all hell in the morning," she complained with a pout. "Seemed like such a good idea at the time, but I'm regretting fighting back now."
"No, you're not," Steve disagreed, sitting down beside her and pulling her legs onto his lap, leaving his tea to get cold in the kitchen. "Luce, if it wasn't for you, there's no telling what might have happened. You did what you had to do, what your instincts told you to do. Nat was pretty impressed, especially when she found out you're pregnant," he added with a smile as he went about taking her shoes off and rubbing her feet.
"Well, I didn't die," she pointed out, shuddering as her muscles relaxed under his fingers. He knew exactly what she needed to just let go and relax, and he never failed to perform it without being asked. "I'd say that's a win, especially if Nat's impressed with me." Her toes twitched as he worked at the tight muscles in her sole. "I doubt Junior in here was too impressed, though."
"Junior?" Steve echoed with a chuckle. Now that they were safe, they were both starting to relax, and that was a good thing. "You aren't thinking of naming him after me, are you?"
She laughed, reaching out to tease his hair back from his brow. "Jamie's already named after you," she reminded him warmly. "Unless you want to have a Steven James as well as a James Steven."
"That would be a little conceited, don't you think?" he asked, smiling as she swept his hair back for him while he massaged her feet, one at a time. "I'm thinking this one deserves a name of his own," he said. Unless she had a better idea, anyway. He couldn't think of anyone he might want to name another son after, except maybe Howard, but that was a little too old fashioned these days.
"We should ask the kids," she murmured, already beginning to lose her concentration when it came to staying awake. "Of course, we should probably tell them there's a baby on the way as well." She flashed Steve a tired grin.
"That would probably be a good idea. We should also remind them that Thor is already taken," he said, with a teasing smile. "Okay, Mrs. Rogers. Time for bed," he told her abruptly, reaching to take the mug from her before she dropped it and set it on a table.
"Are you going to tuck me in, Mr. Rogers?" she asked, trying not to yawn until the words were out of her mouth. She waved her hands in his direction. "Help me up, I think I became one with the couch while you were fondling my feet."
"Would you mind if I did, Mrs. Rogers?" he countered, knowing she wouldn't, even if she wasn't exhausted and loopy on pain meds. "I can do better than that," he added, gently removing her feet from his lap before scooping her up in his arms, cradling her like a baby to carry her to the bedroom that was going to be theirs for the night, if not longer.
She cuddled into him, not even making a peep at the pressure of his hand against her broken ribs, too tired to make a fuss about an insistent ache. "You're far too good to me, you know," she murmured, brushing a kiss to his throat as he bore her to the bedroom. "Don't forget to sleep yourself, okay?"
Far too good to her, but not for her. Thankfully, she hadn't said or thought that. "You're the one who's the hero today, Luce. Not me. You deserve a little spoiling." Not that he'd ever needed an excuse to spoil her, but he'd been away for too long, and the truth was he'd missed her. There were still a lot of things they needed to sort out if this plan of theirs was going to work, but it could all wait until morning. He laid her gently against the bed and tucked the blankets around her. "Get some rest. You've earned it," he told her touching a kiss to her brow.
Her hand wriggled out of the blankets to stroke his cheek as he tucked her in, her smile sleepy as she finally gave into the urge to sleep. "When I'm feeling better," she promised, "I'll welcome you home properly." She blew him a kiss, brushing her thumb over his lips as her eyes closed. It was unlikely she was going to stir again until morning.
"You already have," he whispered as she surrendered to sleep and the pain meds Jarvis - or was it Tony? - had left for her. It would be hours yet before he joined her. He and Jarvis had a lot to talk about, but for now, he was content to watch his wife while she slept, knowing how close he'd come to losing her today, to losing their children, to losing those he loved more than any others. Never again. One way or another, he was going to make sure no one could hurt them ever again.