Natasha expects to find no one standing by the door waiting for her and Steve, assuming the others have already made their way back to the Tower to discuss different strategies, only she's mildly surprised when she turns the corner towards SHIELD's exit and finds Bruce casually leaning against the side of the door, waiting patiently. He's looking down at the phone in his hands, his eyebrow creased in concentration. His expression now is very different than his usual calm, shy personality and this takes Natasha back a bit. Of course it's expected from him after finding out what's happening to their small teammate. Someone whom, not only Natasha has grown attached to, but Bruce as well.
"The others left?" Natasha asks walking up to him with Steve on her hip. Looking up at the sound of her voice, he offers her a smile, putting his phone into his pocket.
"Yeah. Tony and Clint were the first to leave and get security ready at the Tower. Thor went to go get Jane."
"Dr. Foster. She's another astrophysicist that's going to help assist us during this. She will be in the research lab with me and, if needed, will watch Steve when there's no one else there to watch him. Fury doesn't want anyone near him except Dr. Foster, Pepper, Coulson, Maria, himself and the five of us." Bruce says indicating to the rest of the team. "Oh, and Thor warned us that Jane was most likely going to bring a friend. Darcy Lewis. She's Jane's assistant and not as smart as Dr. Foster, but still a reliable resource." Natasha makes a face at the idea of the newcomer accompanying Thor and Jane to New York. Steve will have to meet not only one new person, but two. It makes Natasha uncomfortable thinking that she'll have to leave Steve in their care once the team fight begins. She doesn't even know them, which adds to her anxiety. Bruce seems to sense her discomfort and is quick to reassure her. "We can trust them. Thor and Fury assured us. And Tony did a background check on both girls himself. They're clean and Steve will be safe with them."
Natasha takes this into consideration. 'Stark did a background check? And Thor and Fury have their approval. Okay, maybe I can trust them, but I'll have enough time to do my own evaluation before I have to go. I'm not leaving Steve will strangers that he and I don't know.' Natasha vows to herself, giving Bruce a quick nod of acceptance.
Bruce smiles and looks down at the quiet child in the redhead’s arms, his eyes softening and genuine. "Hey, Steve, are you ready to go home?" Bruce asks in a tone that he only reserves for the baby. Looking up at the sound of his name, Steve smiles brightly at him.
"Booce." Steve leans over Natasha's arm and grabs onto his arm prompting him to grab him. Natasha passes over Steve when Bruce opens his arms with an eyebrow raised in her direction. Having the child in arms, Bruce holds him tightly to his chest and rocks him slightly.
"You want to go home?" Bruce asks and Steve nods his head enthusiastically.
Looking over at
Natasha, she nods her head over to the doors before leading the way, Bruce
following closely behind.
"Is the target secure?"
"I've got visual right now." Peeks out of the bushes, and watches as Natasha, Bruce and Steve climb into the back of one of Tony's car. "Do I intercept?"
"No, wait. It's not
ready for him and he's heavily guarded at the moment. Lay low and wait for my
"Yes sir. But what happens if they're able to turn Rogers back into an adult? He's an extreme threat to us and an asset to SHIELD. It will interfere with what we've gained so far."
"I'm fairly certain that with what's going on around them that Dr. Banner and Mr. Stark will be out of the lab for quite some time. With what we've laid out for them, they'll be too busy trying to find us that turning Rogers back is the least of their problems."
"And Agent Romanoff and Dr. Banner?"
"Agent Romanoff and Dr. Banner are now good friends of ours. Their fierce attachment to the child is most likely going to possess them to keep their leader young and out of arms reach."
Watching as the car drives away from SHIELD headquarters. "Targets in pursuit. What do I do?"
"Follow them and keep me updated, I want to know every single little fact I can about Rogers and learn their schedules. All of their schedules. When it's time to put the plan into action, I want all form of security for the child gone. You get the computer system out of the way and we'll take care of their team of superheroes."
"And make sure you’re not caught. I want a report before the day is over."
Steve, grasping one of Natasha’s and Bruce’s hand, walks out of the elevator and tugs on their arms leading them to the common room, a large proud grin on his face. “Come! Come!” He urges them his small, wobbly legs shaking slightly from underneath him.
“We’re coming, we’re coming.” Bruce assures, letting Steve lead the way, the doctor assumed at the enthusiasm the toddler is expressing. It takes Steve a minute to remember which way is the common room, shooing Natasha and Bruce away when they try to help him, but he finally smiles and rushes into Clint’s arms after turning the correct corner.
“C’int!” Steve exclaims, jumping into the archer’s lap, startling him and efficiently interrupting his conversation with Tony, whom sat beside him, and Pepper, who sat across from the boys.
“Hey Steve, when did you get back?”
“Now.” Steve says, pointing to Bruce and Natasha who's barely entering the room. Jumping off Clint’s lap, Steve grabs his wrist and tugs on his arm trying to pull him off the couch. “Play wif me?” He asks, nodding towards his toys that are currently scattered across the common room floor.
“Actually, Steve, I can’t play right now. I got to talk to Tony, Thor, Natasha and Bruce.” Clint tells him and regrets it instantly when the child pouts, his bottom lip jutting out and arms crossing across his chest.
“But I wanna play wif you.” Steve winces, his bottom lip jutting out even more.
Seeing the torn expression on the archer’s face, Pepper intervenes before Clint can give in, “Hey Steve, why don’t you and I go to the park? Go play on the playground, just you and me than maybe, afterwards, we can get some ice cream. How does that sound?” Steve’s face lights up at the mention of ice cream and runs away from Clint to go tug on Pepper’s pant leg.
“Ice cream!” Steve squeals excitedly.
“Are you sure it’s safe to go out? You heard what Fury-” Bruce starts, but Pepper waves him off.
“We’ll be fine, if it makes you feel any better, we’ll take Happy with us. Besides, Steve hasn’t been out of this tower for weeks and going to SHIELD headquarters doesn’t count as getting out. It’s time he is meets kids his own age. Come on Steve, let’s go get ice cream.” Pepper says, standing from her spot.
“Aw, no fair.” Tony pouts. “I want ice cream.”
Steve giggles, sticking his tongue out at Tony playfully. “No! You gots to be here. Peggy and I gets to go to da park. Come on Peggy, let go.” Steve urges, pulling on her arm.
“I’m coming, I’m coming. We’ll be back soon.” Pepper tells them, mostly directing it towards Natasha, who looks extremely anxious. Hesitating for a minute, Natasha gives an unconvincing nod and watches as Pepper grabs Steve’s tiny hand in one of her own before heading back to the elevator.
She’s stares after them until the elevator has closed, putting a barrier between Steve, Pepper and herself. She can’t help the frown that crosses her face.
It stays silent for a while, an awkward silence filling over the room. Clint and Natasha seem just fine with the silence, but the others shift uncomfortable. Soon it becomes too much. After a few minutes Tony could no longer handle the quiet and decided to speak.
"So..." Tony sighs, running a hand over his face. "What are we going to do about him?" Tony asks, jerking his towards the elevator.
"There's nothing we can do except wait." Natasha says, biting her bottom lip hard, almost hard enough to draw blood. Her eyes are filled with the worry, the others mirroring her expression. She begins to pace, not being able to stay in one spot long enough.
Many situations and options are thrown back and forth by the Avengers, but she and Bruce shoot them down immediately when they involve using Steve as bait.
"We aren't putting him in danger." Bruce states glaring daggers at the two sitting in front of him."Steve is too vulnerable and if something goes wrong, we could lose him. One little glitch and he'll be gone. That's too big of a risk." Natasha nods, her mind whirling with options.
"What other options do you have?" Tony asks, exasperated.
"We could turn him back." Clint suggests, an eyebrow raised in hope. But it's knocked off his face by the slight shake of the head Bruce gives.
"We would if we had the antidote. We're not even remotely close to bringing Steve back and with all this happening right now, we won't have the time."
Natasha can't help, but let a smile cross her features at Bruce's words. And everyone can register the relief in Bruce's voice although they can tell the doctor is trying to repress his smile.
"What else can do?" Clint frowns, his frustration starting to show.
"What about Pepper Darcy and Jane?" Tony suggests.
"What about them?"
"We could ship Steve off somewhere with them. Some place where they won't expect him to be."
"No." Natasha instantly says. "We aren't leaving Steve with two strangers and Pepper has to stay here. She can't just drop everything and leave because she had a job to fulfill for this mission, if that's what your want to call it."
"Darcy and Jane won't be strangers for long." Tony points out. "They'll be living here during and maybe after, depends on if they'll accept. Steve will adapt to them and from what Thor has said about them, Steve will really like this Darcy chick."
"I'll sleep better if he stays here with me. With us. That way if something happens we'll be able to protect him." Natasha insists and the tone of her voice clearly means that the topic is not debatable.
“We could do a two person, round-the-clock guard on Steve. Every four hours or however long we choose, we switch off. That way there is always someone there to watch Steve.” Bruce says.
“We don’t need to do that. We have JARVIS. Unlike the rest of the quarters in the Tower, Steve's room has constant surveillance when a life sign is detected." Tony gestures towards Natasha, "Little Red has access to all the recordings and are able to get the surveillance anytime you want. All you have to do is ask JARVIS. If you have been to Steve’s bedroom during the past week, you’ll have noticed the palm sensor on the door. It’s set right now to only let the four of us, Thor and Pepper in the room in case of an emergency. Only you can modify that list.” Tony says, looking at Natasha. Natasha can’t help but feel relieved that Tony gave her authority to control Steve’s safety measures. It makes her feel a lot better than she did minutes before.
“Why her?” Clint asks.
“Because… I don’t know. I have no valid reason as to why I gave it to her, except that I know she’ll do anything she can to keep Steve safe. And she’ll be the only here, besides Bruce, Jane, Pepper and Darcy that will be able to care for him while we’re away.” He explains gesturing between him and the archer. “She’s sort of like Steve’s mother in a way. She takes care of him 24/ 7, always is with him and he trusts you a lot more than he does any of us… Besides Bruce.”
“So, just to confirm, you didn’t even have access or control?”
He shrugged. “I told JARVIS to lock me out.”
“Would you be able to outwit JARVIS to get access to the system if you really wanted to?”
“Since I’m the one who created him, it’s possible that I can, but there are security measures in place to draw such a challenge out for as long as possible. JARVIS will put the safety protocol into effect immediately if there's a threat, but also he will be scanning Steve’s vitals at all times. If something starts to go wrong, he’ll notify Bruce first before telling us and a medical team will be alerted immediately.” Tony informs.
“What exactly are the protocols, Stark?” Natasha questions.
Instead of Tony answering, it’s JARVIS. “If I feel or see that young Captain Rogers is in danger or at risk of getting harmed, I will lock down all entrances and exits to his room including windows and bulletproof everything in his room. The only way inside the room will be as, as sir as pointed out, the palm sensor. Unless you allow anyone in the room with you Miss. Romanoff, you and Dr. Banner will be the only ones that will be able to get Steve and if such an occasion were to arise that you’d need to get through the window in order to get Captain Rogers, the window pane near his crib can eject with a command from the suit or directly to me from any part of the Tower. It will also pop out of place if someone, say Mr. Odinson, projects a large electrical charge at the senor near, on or the around the joint in the window located near the far right corner. Although it will fit Thor perfectly, I must say that it’s not wide enough for the Hulk. My apologies, Dr. Banner.”
The scientist shrugs, “No need, if the Hulk needed to save the day, we're all screwed."
"I don’t really think the round the clock guard is necessary.” Tony says, grinning.
“Well, even if this may be a bit overprotective, I’m going to sleep in Steve’s room until this is done and over with.” Natasha insists and she puts a finger up to silence the protest the others are about to throw her way. “I’m staying with him, no matter what any of you say. I’m not letting him to stay alone at a time like this.”
Tony opens his mouth to say something, but is interrupted by the loud thunder roaring outside the Tower and the rain that accompanies the thunder.
Looking outside, Clint stands, the others soon following. "Something tells me Thor and company have just arrived." Without another word, the four of them walk outside the Tower balcony to meet up with their teammate and his guests.
The Avengers find Thor standing in the middle of the balcony- two young brunettes attached to his hip, his arms around both of their waist- the others offer him small smiles. "Hello, my SHIELD brothers and sister!" Thor exclaims loudly, his voice overpowering the harsh rainfall around them. Tony frowns, his arms crossing across his chest as he glares at the happy, DRY, Asguardian and the two brunettes standing next to him. The only place of the Tower's balcony that hasn't been soaked with the water is the exact spot Thor, Darcy and Jane stand. They stand there dry while the other four Avengers get soaked from the downpour. It's clear that none of the others are happy about this, but before they can ask Thor to stop, he continues as if he doesn't notice their facial expressions. "I have returned from my visit to New Mexico. My friends, I would like to introduce you to two good friends of mine. This is Darcy Lewis." Thor says putting a large hand on the shorter brunette's shoulder. "And Jane Foster." Instead of placing his other hand on the second girl's shoulder, he wraps an arm around her waist, pulling her closer to him. "Jane Foster, Darcy Lewis, this my team 'The Avengers'"
"Hi," the taller of the two says shyly, looking very small under Thor's large arm.
Darcy isn't as shy as Jane in her greeting, seeming to take a liking to how Clint looks in the rain. "Hey."
"Um... Hey." Clint says, distracted by the rain still hitting his body. "Thor buddy, do you mind?" Clint asks pointing to the rain.
"My apologies, my friends." Thor says and just as suddenly as the rain started, it stopped.
"Can we go inside?" Tony asks frowning, his body shivering from the chill. Without waiting for anyone to answer, Tony turns on his heels and rushes inside his footsteps leaving wet footprints on the tower floor. Thor chuckles and starts escorting the two girls beside him into the door leading to the common room. The last three left on the balcony glance at each other and follow Thor and his friends inside.
When walking inside Jane and Darcy can't help but notice the intense stare they're getting from the red headed Russian standing across from them. Jane can ignore it without a problem, it's Darcy that immediately starts getting annoyed under the piercing green eyes. She opens her mouth to say something, but Jane shakes her head urgently, scared of what will come out of her friend's mouth. Most likely something unpleasant. Darcy frowns and huffs in exasperation, turning her head to avoid Natasha’s eyes. Walking out in curiosity, Darcy starts touching and poking at random stuff, an awed expression on her face. An expression that one would see on a child when they’re been taken to a candy shop. No one can help the laugh at the escapes them, well except Natasha, at Darcy and she gives them a goofy grin winking at the archer in front of her.
“Nice place, dude,” she comments to Tony. “But I was expecting more of a holographic look. Designs littering the walls, and robots walking around, you know. That kind of stuff.”
“Well, then maybe a tour is in order.” Tony says, about to walk into the kitchen when Bruce puts a hand on his shoulder.
“Steve.” Bruce reminds him.
“Calm down, Brucie. I was getting there. Anyway, Darcy, Jane, welcome to Stark Tower. As Thor said earlier, we’re the Avengers. I’m Tony Stark, like you didn’t already know. This old man over here is our beloved teammate and doctor, Bruce Banner. Also known as the Hulk.”
Darcy’s eyes practically bug out of her head. She turns to look at the doctor, a smile on her face. “You’re the Hulk! You’re like my favorite Avenger, besides Captain America.” Darcy praises coming up to stand in front of Bruce. “Although Jane prefers Thor, I know she likes you as well. Especially because how you came to be fascinates her.”
“Darcy!” Jane scolds, a pink blush settling across her cheeks. Darcy rolls her eyes at the astrophysicist ignoring her and smiling at Bruce.
“Um… thanks.” Bruce says, slightly uncomfortable and relaxes when Darcy walks away from him, listening as Tony introduces the others.
“Anyway, this is Clint Barton, Hawkeye, or as I like to call Legolas. And lastly, Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow.” Tony says, introducing the last two of the Avengers, who nod their greeting. Natasha’s eyes stay planted on the two girls in the room and smiles slightly when she sees that she’s making them uncomfortable. Crossing her arms, she leans against the kitchen counter and Darcy can see the slight upturn of the corner of her lips.
Huffing in exasperation, Darcy looks around once before turning her attention to Tony. She’s practically bounces on the balls of her feet, a large grin on her face as she adjust the glasses that adorn her face. “So…” she starts, clearly waiting for the last Avenger to be introduced.
“So…” Tony asks, an eyebrow raised.
Putting her hands on her hips, Darcy raises her own eyebrows. “Where is he?”
“He who?” Clint interjects.
“Darcy, stop. Don’t-“ Jane starts, but Darcy cuts her off , smiling excitedly
“Captain America! I’ve been dying to meet him.”
Darcy frowns at the silence that follows her question. She looks around at the many different faces around her. Jane looks equally puzzled as to why no one has answered the question and why the man in question hasn’t made an appearance yet.
Looking over at the God of Thunder, Bruce gives him a questioning gaze. “You never told them?”
“It never occurred. Director Fury requested I bring them immediately, I assumed that he told them.”
“Tell us what?” Jane prompts.
“Dr. Foster,” Bruce addresses her. “What exactly did Fury tell you when he contacted you?”
“Nothing much. Just that SHIELD needed me for some research and that I was needed in New York in less than a day.”
“Did you even ask what you were needed for?” Tony asks, shocked.
“I tried.” Jane insists. “But he hung up before I could get a word in. I was really frustrated.”
“Eye patch does have that affected on people.” Tony agrees, the others nodding along.
“Hello.” Darcy says throwing her arms out, “We’re clueless over here. We’d like some answers. And where’s Steve?”
“Everything’s not all about boys, Darce.” Jane scolds, shaking her head. Darcy smirks at her and looks expectantly at the redheaded Russian who has yet to remove her eyes from the young brunette with glasses.
“I expect you to know considering you have spent the last 20 minutes quietly evaluating Jane and I to see if we smuggled some sort of illegal substance into the Tower. Or if we are a threat. One of the two, although my money is on the latter.”
Natasha smirks at her before nodding as if completing her assessment. “You’re smart. Okay, you’re good. Steve and Pepper left, they’ll be back in a little. But there are some things you need to know. Such as, why you’re here, what your helping us do, and… about Steve’s condition.”
“Condition?” Jane repeats, her eyes looking downward as she thinks. Looking up at Natasha, Jane looks genuinely concerned for Steve. “Is Captain Rogers alright?”
“Oh yes,” Natasha says, happy that Jane and Darcy have real concern for Steve’s well-being. “Have a seat, and we’ll explain everything.”