Chapter Thirteen: Dawn Comes
Tony flew as fast as he could with Happy in his arms towards Mount Senai. The flight was short, less than 2 minutes, but Tony could see Happy's face growing pale even in that period. "Stay with me, Happy!" Tony gave him a slight shake as he landed just outside the emergency room doors.
The emergency room was flooded with patients, doctors, and nurses. All of the medical staff were rushing back and forth, trying their best to save the lives of more than 300 new patients. Finally, the iron man suit drew enough attention that a nurse ran over and wordlessly brought the men to a gurney. "You're gonna be okay," Tony told his friend as he put him onto the bed and stepped back. He watched as Happy surrounded people, all frantically trying to save him. For the first time in years, Tony felt completely and utterly helpless. "Please be okay..."
The Quinjet was silent, even as it hovered above a skyscraper's roof and picked up Clint. The archer boarded without a word, bow in hand, and went straight for the co-pilot seat. Peter didn't pay him any mind; he was hyper-focused on the wet blood that had drenched his left hand. A wave of nausea washed over him boy began looking around for something, ANYTHING to clean the blood off with.
"Here," Peter's eyes snapped up to see Bucky standing in front of him. In his outstretched metal hand was a blue medical towel. The teen took the towel and began furiously wiping the blood away. But no matter how hard he scrubbed, the red tint stayed.
Natasha watched them out of the corner of her green eyes, even as Clint took the seat beside her. She barely resisted her urge to scream at Bucky to 'Get the fuck away from him!'
The older man beside her gave her a once over, not that she noticed. The outline of a bruise was forming on her cheek and neck, stretching down her shoulder and beneath her black dress.
"I should have been down there with you," Clint spoke suddenly, briefly drawing Natasha's attention away from Peter. "I'm sorry," Clint had stayed high to deal with possible snipers, but there'd only been 2.
Bucky retook his seat, and Natasha finally turned to the night sky. "Does Laura know we're coming? I don't want to surprise her." Natasha changed the subject.
Clint sighed and nodded. "I'll call her." The man said, pulling his phone from his pocket. Barton's farm was one of the few places Natasha was confident no one knew about, and it put her mind at ease to some extent. More so if she knew they weren't dropping in on the family unexpectedly.
Clint clicked send, and the phone rang only once before Laura answered.
"Honey!" There was noticeable relief in Laura's voice. "Is everyone okay?" She kept the slight amount of franticness out of her voice as best she could.
Clint glanced over his shoulder at the boy behind him, still wiping at his blood-stained hand. "Yeah, everyone's alright," Natasha winced internally, her mind immediately going to Happy. "We're on our way home, and uh-" Again, he glanced back at Peter. "We're gonna have a little extra company." Clint was purposely vague, knowing he was within earshot of Bucky.
Laura perked up at that. "Natasha's son?" Laura had been looking forward to meeting her nephew since the moment she found out he existed.
"Yeah, we'll be there soon. Love you."
It took them just over an hour to get to the farm, touching down on the thin layer of snow that covered the ground. The sudden descent had brought Peter's attention to everyone else on the aircraft. None of them seemed fazed by the sudden landing in seemingly the middle of nowhere. "Where are we?" He asked.
Natasha stood up and immediately winced, a hand resting on her ribs. "Somewhere safe," Natasha said, taking the teen by the wrist, then the hand, and leading him off the Quinjet. It made Peter feel childish, but there was a small sense of comfort, so he didn't pull away. A house stood in front of them, red and green lights strung along its roof and a Christmas in the window. It felt like a beacon, standing out against the cold gray sky.
Steve and Bucky started towards the barn converted into their living quarters. Bucky stopped and watched Natasha leading the boy by the hand towards the house until they reached the porch. "You coming, Buck? We need to get that arm stitched up," The Winter soldier looked at the graze wound on his right arm. A mess of torn fabric and dried blood. In all the excitement, he'd completely forgotten about it. He finally turned and followed Steve into the barn.
"Where are we?" Peter asked again in a hushed voice.
"Home, kid, we're home," Clint responded, opening the front door. Natasha had called the farm home, and Clint wanted that for Peter, too. He wanted the kid to see them as a family.
The home's inside was dark and quiet, and they all did their best to move quietly. The teen stood motionless in the entryway, taking in everything around him. There was a table with eight seats, a living room with three large sofas, and dozens of photos lining the walls. "A family? Is this Clint's family?" Peter wondered silently until a voice interrupted it.
"Peter?" Natasha gave him a slight shake by the arm. "Did you hear me?" She asked, looking concerned.
She sighed slightly; he hadn't heard her talking. "I said you have the shower first, c'mon." Natasha gave his hand a slight tug, leading the teen up the stairs to the bathroom. It was then that he noticed the slight hitch in her step but decided not to bring it up. Peter froze when he saw his reflection in the mirror. His suit was wrinkled and torn in several spots, and half a boot print marked his white shirt. And the blood, so much blood. It had soaked into the white sleeves of his dress shirt, and he was sure it was just as soaked into his jacket. Peter was suddenly very desperate to be out of those clothes. Natasha watched him yank off his tie and then his coat, growing more frantic with each piece of clothing. Then the buttons of his shirt, his fingers trembled and refused to work, which only made him shake more. "Here, let me-"
"FUCKING THINGS!" Peter yanked and sent buttons scattering in every direction. "S-sorry, I-I-I didn't-" Peter began apologizing, his hands running through his brown hair.
"It's alright, it's fine," Natasha kept her voice even and calm. "It's all going in the trash anyway, baby," She said, picking the jacket up off the tile floor. "I'll be down the hall if you need me," The widow closed the door and let out a long shaky breath. She waited to hear the shower turn on before making her way to Clint and Laura's bedroom. One hand never lost contact with the wall as she hobbled down the hall, no longer trying to hide her limp.
Laura was waiting for the spy, a first aid kit on the nightstand. "Hey, you," The older woman's voice wasn't as cheerful as usual, and she winced herself once she got a good look at the spy.
"Hey," Natasha closed the door and rested against it for a moment, her forehead resting against the cool wood. "Where's Clint?" She asked before finally making her way to the edge of the bed.
"Downstairs, getting the couch set up for your boy," Natasha smiled, despite the pain. "You wanna shower before I take a look at those?" Laura asked.
Natasha shook her head and unzipped the back of her dress with great pain. "I'm gonna wait for Peter to fall asleep, then I'm gonna take a LONG hot bath," Laura almost chuckled but couldn't, not with Natasha looking the way she did. Dark bruises, shades of black and blue, stretched across her shoulders, down her back to her hip, which had a deep cut and the worst of the bruising.
Laura wiped away the dried blood as gently as possible with the damp towel she had ready. This was familiar for both of them. Laura had more often than not patched up Natasha and Clint's wounds over the years. The older woman dabbed a gauze pad with alcohol. "Deep breath," Laura told her gently before running it across the gash on her hip. Natasha inhaled sharply but stayed still, making no audible complaints. The routine was repeated on each dozen or so cuts that marked Natasha's back. "You haven't told me what he's like yet," Laura said suddenly, circling to stand in front of Natasha. She made the younger woman look up with a gentle finger to Natasha's chin. Laura couldn't help but feel a rush of anger at the sight of a boot-shaped bruise on her friend's throat.
Natasha smiled again. "He's-" She stopped, trying to find the words to describe her boy. "Amazing!" It was the word that came out first. "He's a genius, and he's caring, strong, and-OW!" Natasha hissed and pulled back when Laura ran a gauze pad through a cut on her chin.
"Almost done, stay still," Laura's hands didn't falter. "Go on," Natasha made a grunt of discomfort but continued.
"I underestimated him, Peter, I mean." A pang of guilt ran through her when she recalled how she'd zapped him. Natasha wondered silently if he'd hold that against her. Would he understand that she only wanted to protect him? "I didn't think he was ready to take on someone like Batroc. I was-" Natasha paused and tried to find another word than 'Afraid.'
"A Mom?" Laura interjected. "Nat, you were trying to protect him. It's what we do," Laura shrugged, and Natasha looked away, her eyes settling on the bedroom door.
"You didn't see what I did," Natasha pointed out.
"I didn't say we were always right."
Peter stood in the shower for a long time, far longer than he intended. Images or sounds from the night would flash through his head every few seconds. Despite how hard he tried to fight them off. The way the mercenary had gone limp when he'd smashed his head into the ground. That sickening, hollow thud in his ears replaying over and over. Or Happy's blood soaking his hand and the way he'd pulled back when it had. "Don't think about it," Peter pressed his eyes closed, and another thought ran through his mind. It was a fight to breathe without crying.
"If you had killed him the first time you met, none of this would have happened." The words ran through his head over and over.
He jumped when the door opened. "Hey, kid?" Clint's voice came over the sound of the shower. "Got some clothes and a towel whenever you're done." The door closed again.
Desperate to keep the thoughts at bay, Peter busied himself with cleaning out the cuts on his hand. However, it did little to stop his racing mind.
The shower's water began to turn cold, so he turned it off and stepped out into the steam-filled bathroom. Peter thought at first the clothes might have been Clint's, but they were small, even on his slight frame. Peter stepped out of the warmth of the bathroom and into the cold, quiet house. He resisted the urge to call out for Natasha as he made his way back downstairs. Peter found Natasha and Clint in the kitchen, whispering, which stopped as soon as they noticed him. "Hey," Natasha greeted him warmly. "Clint set the couch up for you if you wanted to lie down," She continued when the boy didn't respond.
"Yeah, that's all you, kid," Peter found the couch converted into a makeshift bed, covered in quilts and blankets.
"Thanks," Peter replied quietly, though he wasn't sure if they heard him. He sat down and looked at the clock below the television as it turned to 1:04 a.m. It dawned on Peter that he'd been awake for nearly 20 hours, and despite how heavy his body felt, he wasn't tired. His mind still raced, and he felt his heart rate pick up. "Don't think about it," Peter tried, and failed, to keep the thoughts at bay. "Don't," His fists balled into the soft fabric, some of which tore under the strain of his grip.
The alarm in his head went off, and his hand reacted before his mind did, snatching whatever it was before it could reach him. His brown eyes snapped open, meeting Natasha's green. There was a stunned silence between them before Peter realized he was holding her wrist in his powerful grasp. "Shit, sorry," Peter released her, and his eyes settled on the bruises on her face and neck. "This is my fault..." The words left his mouth without his permission, causing Natasha to pause as she sat down on the coffee table in front of him.
"What? No, baby, this-"
"No, it is!" There was the slightest hitch in his elevated voice. "If I'd done what I should have in our first fight, NONE of this would have happened!" In the glow of the Christmas tree, Natasha could see the first of the tears spill out onto his reddened cheeks. "If I'd-" Peter's head started to drop, and a choked sob escaped his throat. Natasha moved forward, catching his face in her shoulder and wrapping her arms around his shoulders.
Natasha felt the tears soaking into her shirt and felt him desperately trying to hold it all back. "It's okay," She said softly, one hand rubbing soothing circles on his back, the other running through his hair. It wasn't okay, Natasha knew that, of course, but she didn't know what else to say. The teen's arms finally wrapped around her, and she pulled him in tighter, another hard sob exiting into the cotton of her shirt. "I gotcha," A memory from her, albeit brief, childhood flashed into her mind. "Mama's gotcha,"
Tony stayed at the hospital until Happy was taken back to the operating room. "You have another incoming call from the Secretary, Boss," Friday alerted him. Tony sighed but answered the call regardless. He couldn't ignore the Secretary of Defense phone calls forever.
"Mr. Secretary," Tony cleared his throat.
"Stark, where are you?" Ross' voice didn't carry its usual tone; it was gravely and tired.
"Mount Senai, Happy, my friend, was wounded in the fighting," Tony glanced back into the packed emergency room. At this point, it was just family and friends waiting for news about their loved ones. Tony turned himself away from them.
"I'm out front of the Tavern's main building; get here when you can," Unlike most of the other times they'd spoken, this didn't come off as an order.
He gave the hospital one last glance before lifting off and flying back towards the event.
He landed just behind Secretary Ross and exited his suit. Ross stood alone, a few hundred yards from the venue. Hundreds of police, ambulances, and firetrucks surrounded it. Neither of them spoke at first, only watching somberly.
"Georges Batroc did this," Tony broke the silence, though he figured Ross knew that much already.
"I know," Ross said with the slightest of sighs. "Captain Rogers was here tonight, " Ross said. It wasn't a question, so Tony just nodded his head. "As was James Barnes," Again, Tony just nodded his head. "At your request?" He asked.
"I asked them to come just in case Batroc attacked the event, but I never imagined-" Tony paused, swallowing the lump in his throat.
"Why didn't you share those same concerns with me?" Ross turned to look at the shorter man beside him.
"I didn't think you'd take some escaped pirate seriously," He stopped, eyes fixating on the first Coroner truck as it arrived. "And in hindsight, I guess I didn't either." Tony couldn't help but think of what else he could have done to prevent this, and he was sure Ross was doing the same.
Tony was right; he wouldn't have taken the threat seriously. "Your people have any leads on where he may have gotten too?" He asked, changing the subject.
"No, but I doubt he's gotten far. Not after the beating I heard he took." That drew Tony's attention.
"I knew that boy wasn't just an intern." Under different circumstances, Ross would have smiled; he loved to be right. But right then, he couldn't even muster a smirk.
Tony suppressed the rush of pain that came over him. "He's remarkable," He sighed, breaking eye contact with Ross. "And he's GOOD," Tony added before they both fell silent again. The silence hung there for a while. Neither men were sure what to say or where to go from there. "Am I under arrest?" To Tony's surprise, the answer wasn't an immediate and emphatic 'YES' like he expected.
The Secretary felt the first few snowflakes fall on them, drawing his attention to the overcast sky above them. "Merry Christmas, Tony," Ross began walking back to the venue. Tony exhaled, but he couldn't call it a relief. He turned towards his Iron Man suit when the phone in his pocket rang.
He didn't recognize the number but answered it regardless. "Hello?" A few shaky breaths were on the other end before they finally responded.
"Tony? It's Justin Hammer,"
Tony met the man he thought he'd never see again on the roof of a high-rise condo, not far from the Tavern on the Green. He was sitting on the edge of the building, legs dangling over the 700-foot drop to the street below. "He's holding a weapon, Boss," Friday advised before Tony could step out of his suit.
"Hammer?" Tony called out to the man in front of him.
"I-" Justin started but stopped, trying to swallow the lump in his throat. "I did this..." All the carnage, and death, was on him. Once again, he'd let his wrath punish the innocent. "I hired Batroc to kill you, Tony," He paused, his eyes falling on the pistol in his shaky hands.
"Why?" It was the only question Tony could think to ask as he slowly approached Justin.
"Because..." Justin took his glasses off and dropped them off the ledge to the ground far below. "Because you're better than me, and I've always hated you for it." It sounded as pathetic as it felt, but it was the truth. "I didn't learn my lesson with Vanko, and I found someone worse," Tony came to a stop a few steps behind Justin. "I know it doesn't mean anything, but I'm sorry, Tony." The hammer clicked as it was pulled back.
"Justin, wait," Justin pressed the gun to his temple. "NO! WAIT!" Bang!
Natasha couldn't recall how they'd ended up in their current position; Peter stretched out on the couch with his head in her lap, fast asleep. Natasha herself was only half awake, still unconsciously running her hand through Peter's brown hair.
She shifted her legs slightly as her freezing cold feet began to fall asleep. "No..." Peter protested in his sleep at the feeling of her moving away.
"Ssssh..." Natasha soothed. "It's okay, I'm not moving," She whispered, settling back down into the couch. "I'm not going anywhere..." After a few seconds, Peter was back to being sound asleep. So they stayed like that, Natasha not daring or wanting to move.
Just before 4 a.m., Natasha heard two sets of footsteps coming quietly down the stairs. Clint and Laura crept into the room to collect the presents under the tree. "Figured you'd both be asleep by now," Clint commented, a smile appearing on both his and Laura's faces. "I can get a pillow under his head, so you can get some sleep." The archer offered.
Natasha shook her head. "Just let him sleep," She knew Peter would wake up if she moved. "I imagine it'll be the last goodnight's sleep he gets for a while," The words were heavy. They all knew what likely awaited Peter over the next few months.
Laura took the opportunity to give the spiderling a look before she and Clint went back upstairs. "He looks like you," The older woman noted, brushing the boy's wavy bangs away from his face.
Natasha laughed a little. "He looks like his Dad," The words weren't meant to leave her mind. "Shit." Natasha thought when she felt Clint and Laura's curious gaze fall on her. "And, no, I don't want to talk about it," Natasha said quickly.
Laura nodded. She'd never pushed Natasha to talk about things she didn't want to, and she wouldn't start now. "We'll make sure the kids don't wake you up in the morning," Laura assured her friend before returning to their bedroom. "Try to get some sleep, please," Sleep did eventually find Natasha light and restless.
Christmas day dawned, cold and grey, the light coming in through the windows roused Natasha from her sleep. The sound of talking and laughter echoing softly through the quiet house woke Natasha. A bittersweet feeling washed over Natasha. This was what she'd always wanted, to spend Christmas here, with her son, niece, and nephews. But she knew no matter how well today went, it would always be a painful memory for Peter. "We'll get through it," The words were as much for him as for her. "Together,"
Peter slept hard, deep, and dreamless for the first time in months. It wasn't until well into the morning that Peter began to wake up. The smell of breakfast and quiet talking greeted him as his eyes slowly opened. Or mostly quiet talking as a raised voice brought him fully awake. "You better stop interrupting me, Bucky. I'm gonna punch you right in your face one of these days," Peter's eyes opened briefly before he forced them closed again; a small groan of frustration escaped his throat. The spiderling wasn't ready to be awake.
"Nice job, Sam," The voice was practically in Peter's ear. Now his eyes were wide open. He turned over and met Natasha's green eyes. "Good morning," She smiled, despite how exhausted she looked.
Peter sat upright, drawing in a panicked breath. "Sorry, I'm sorry," He rubbed at his eyes, trying to remember how he'd ended up asleep in Natasha's lap. Last night's events were fuzzy from sleep, but slowly, he pieced it all back together. The fundraiser, the attack, breaking down in Natasha's arms.
"No need to be sorry," Natasha restrained herself from running her hand through the boy's hair again.
"You two hungry?" A woman's voice, one Peter didn't recognize, came from behind him. He turned and was suddenly very aware of a kitchen full of people, all watching them.
"All of them saw me sleeping in my Mom's lap." The name went through his head without his permission. "How embarrassing..." Peter's cheeks flushed bright red, and he averted his eyes to the wood floor beneath his feet. Natasha stood from the couch first, and he waited for her to stretch before following her to the kitchen. The slight hitch in her step he'd noticed last night was a pronounced limp. Peter's eyes met Steve's as he glanced up from the phone. The soldier gave him a small smile and nod, something Peter couldn't bring himself to return.
"Finally!" A little boy exclaimed, sprinting towards them with his arms outstretched.
Natasha met the toddler with her own outstretched arms, scooping him up and peppering his cheeks with kisses. Picking up the boy was painful, but Natasha wasn't about to admit that. "Thank you for letting Peter sleep, sweetheart," She said in between kisses. "Wish everyone was as considerate as you," Natasha glared at Sam as they entered the kitchen.
Peter watched Natasha and the toddler in her arms. "Were we like that?" He couldn't help but wonder.
"I'm Laura, Peter; it's good to meet you finally!" Peter jumped slightly at the voice, turning and finding Laura walking towards him. To the teen's surprise, she hugged him. Peter returned the embrace, but he could again feel his cheeks heat up. "This is Lila, Cooper," She gestured to the teen's across the table, not much younger than himself. Peter waved awkwardly, still having trouble with all the eyes he could feel on him. "And that ball of energy is Nathaniel," The little boy paid him no attention, not that Peter minded. "Sit! Please, I'll fix you a plate." Peter did as he was told, still keeping his eyes down. "Here," She set the plate down in front of him.
"Thank you, Mrs. Barton," The name caused her to stop briefly, but she said nothing, only humming a small Mh-hm in response before sitting next to Clint. The plate was filled with French toast, eggs, sausage, and toast. But after two bites, Peter found that he wasn't very hungry. Natasha watched her son put the fork down and had to resist telling him to eat. She understood.
"So," Sam drew Peter's attention. "You're the boy-spider that Stark brought to Germany," Sam took a long drink from his coffee. "I knew you were young, but damn," The Falcon laughed. "What are you? Like 12?" Peter sighed, and Natasha's leg began to bounce.
"Spider-Man," Peter corrected, even though he realized Sam was making fun of him. "And I'm 16," Lila and Cooper perked up, suddenly very interested in the conversation.
"Not that it's any of your business," Natasha added, eyes still on Nathaniel, who was happily chatting away about the toys Santa had brought him.
"You never told me if those webs were coming out of you; if they are, gotta say that's pretty gross." Sam continued, drawing a glare from Natasha, though he didn't notice.
"What difference does that make?"
"Natasha," He sighed, their eyes meeting briefly, before returning his attention to the plate of food he wasn't eating. "They don't,"
"Sam-" Steve started but was cut off by Natasha.
"You don't have to answer his questions, Peter," Now her eyes were set firmly on Sam, her lip twitched ever so slightly. "You're none of his God-damned business," The toddler stared wide-eyed at Natasha. He'd never seen his Auntie Natasha angry before.
"Natasha, it's fine," Peter said quietly. Arguments gave Peter anxiety, and his was already growing by the minute.
"Nat, c'mon, you can't expect me not to ask a few questions," Sam reasoned, not that the Black Widow cared to hear it.
"I'm telling you to back off,"
"Natasha...!" Again, Peter tried to defuse the situation, his voice rising slightly.
"And you can take all your smart ass comments and shove them-"
"MOM!" The fork in Bucky's hand dropped to the floor. It stopped Natasha from snapping at Sam but brought more attention to himself. "Excuse me," Peter said, standing from the table and heading outside into the frigid morning air. Peter raked his hands down his face and exhaled the breath he'd been unconsciously holding in.
The eyes that had fixated on Peter were now on her. Her eyes met briefly with each of the people around her until they reached Bucky when she forced them down. There was a stunned silence before Sam finally spoke again. "Your kid is Spider-Man?" Sam asked.
"You have a kid?" Lila asked, exchanging looks with her brother. How had they never heard about him?
The kids deserved an explanation, at the very least, and Natasha would give them one. But not right at that moment. "Here," Natasha lifted Nathaniel out of her lap and passed him off to his Father. "I need a shower,"
Author's Note: I'll leave this chapter off here. I intended this one to be longer but hit a bit of writer's block, and I don't want you guys to get stuck waiting a year again, so this one will essentially act as part one of two dealing with the fallout of chapter 12. I've always liked the idea of Barton's family, and I want to expand on Natasha and Laura's relationship. So the Barton's will be featured more moving forward. Also, in case I haven't been clear, this will not be compliant with any of the new MCU shows (Hawkeye and TFATWS)
Also, I may go back and edit some of the previous chapters if I have time while I'm working on this next chapter, but it sort of depends on how busy I am.
Please Read and Review, and I'll have the next chapter up soon!
And Rest in Peace to William Hurt, the actor who played Thaddeus Ross in the MCU.