Living with the Avengers

Chapter Sixteen

Laynie smiled as she pulled a blanket over her friend. Carter had fallen asleep on the couch in the living room with old cartoons on the television. Though her leg was on the way to healing, she was still on heavy pain medication to keep it from bothering her too much. It often put her to sleep, though not normally in the living room.

She sat on the floor in front of the couch, watching the last bit of the cartoon Carter had left running, then turned off the television and went into the kitchen for a snack. She passed Thor on the way in, and shushed him violently. Once he saw the reason, he grinned widely.

In the kitchen, Clint was standing over the stove, staring into a pot of water.

Laynie cringed behind his back. She didn't feel so strongly against Clint as her friend, but she still could hardly stand him. Laynie was a good actress though, so put on a smile and asked him what in the world he was doing.

"I'm waiting for this water to boil."

"A watched pot will never boil," Laynie quipped as she opened the large pantry. She glanced over her shoulder and saw Clint frown deeply before stepping away from the pot.

"What are you making anyway?"

"Macaroni and cheese."

"Hm," Laynie hummed, pulling a bag of Doritos out of the pantry. She opened it and sat down at the island beside Clint.

"So, how is Carter?"

Laynie rolled her eyes. "She's fine. She may whine a lot, but she's just sick of the wheelchair. The doctor has her on so much pain meds she might not feel it if she got shot again," she answered with a little laugh.

Clint leaned forward, looking at Laynie's face. "But you're worried about her."

Laynie was quiet, munching on a chip. "I'm just worried she's going to do something stupid and hurt herself again." Underneath the island, she clenched her hand into a fist. Her next sentence was barely audible. "I'm worried they're going to come after us again. I've never been more scared than I was at Costco."

Clint banged a hand on the counter, causing Laynie to startle and drop a chip. "I swear to both of you, I won't let those guys touch you again. None of us will. You guys are one of us, at least for now, like it or not. And we don't let some stupid mercenaries take out any member of our family."

Laynie grinned, touched by Clint's words.

Clint smiled back slightly, his adamancy still clear on his face.

"Your water is boiling," Laynie said quietly.

He jumped up and eagerly poured his macaroni in the pot, setting a timer afterward.

Pepper entered the kitchen and glanced at its inhabitants, catching sight of Laynie. "Laynie, I have something to tell you. Fury just called Tony and told him that your dad is going to be able to take you. His house needs to be inspected, though, so it will be a few weeks before anything is set in stone."

Laynie's eyes went wide, and she felt like she couldn't breathe. I don't want to go with him. He hated my mom, he hates me. I want to stay here, she realized. "But..."

Pepper bit her lip and put her hand on the girl's shoulder. "This isn't what you want, is it?"

Laynie stood very suddenly and went to her room, feeling the eyes of Clint and Pepper on her back as she walked away.

Laynie had only been a few months old when her father left her and her mother. Her mom always told her that they'd gotten into a fight, and afterward he had just up and left them. She had to leave Laynie with her friend's parents and their daughter Carter almost every day until she finished her two-year SHIELD training program. Once that was finished, they had moved into a small apartment, the one that Laynie had just had to say goodbye to, and then spent most of their time on the Helicarrier. Laynie had grown up without a father, and gotten by just fine without him.

And even laying across her borrowed bed in the Stark Tower, her mother dead, her home gone, she still told herself she didn't need him. She would rather go to some completely random foster family than go to him. Not only did she have no interest in getting to know her father, she hated the idea of it.

After having a good long pity-party, Laynie had gotten out her mom's laptop, something she had been meaning to do, to begin clearing off the classified things so she could use it as her own laptop. She was going through her mom's usb drives to figure out which ones held pictures and which ones held mission files, when she came upon a particularly odd one. It looked like it had seen a battle, the metal part of it was all scraped up, and the plastic bit had a melted corner. Stupidly, she put it in the computer anyway. Without her consent, the computer began downloading the contents, and she couldn't find a way to stop it. Panicked, she turned the laptop off and pulled the usb out.

When she heard a knock on the door, she scrambled to get the laptop off the bed and put the usb in her jacket pocket. "Who is it?"

The door creaked open and Carter peeked her head in, "Hey, sorry I wasn't up when you got home." She wheeled herself in. "So, what's u-" Carter stopped herself when she noticed tear stains on her friend's face. "What's wrong?"

Laynie scrubbed at her face with the heel of her hand. "Nothing," she replied quickly.

Carter raised an eyebrow as she closed the door, "Really? I'm not stupid, Laynie. I can tell you've been crying. What's wrong?"

She attempted to keep her lip from quivering as she spoke to her friend. "Just... Pepper said Fury called and, and they're going to send me to my dad."

Carter sighed and rolled over to the bed, she slowly lifted herself out of the chair and sat down next to Laynie on the bed, "I'm sorry," She gave Laynie a smile, "But, you never know, it may not be as bad as you think it will be."

"It's horrible!" she shouted suddenly. "I'm going to New Mexico. I'm going away from you, I'm going away from my home! I-I just want to stay here. I don't want to leave." She buried her face in her hands and tried not to cry more.

Carter leaned over and hugged her friend. "It'll be okay, you'll see. And it's not like we'll never see each other again. Trust me, it'll all work out in the end."

Laynie hugged her friend and gave up on trying to stop the tears. "I just want mom back."

"I can honestly say, I know how you feel."

Laynie sat back, wiping at her face again. "I'm sorry, that's selfish of me." Laynie really did feel bad for what she'd said. She only had to mourn one parent; Carter was mourning two.

"Don't say that. You're not being selfish, you're just upset. I mean, at least you're handling it better than I did." Carter smiled gently.

Laynie laughed tearfully. "No I'm not, I just managed to put it off."

"Yeah, well, you're not using your misery as an excuse to push others away. So, as far as I'm concerned, you're doing pretty good."

Laynie smiled and dropped her hands in her lap, finally satisfied that her tears were gone. "Thanks Carter. I..." she trailed off. She was going to tell her friend "I don't know what I would do without you." Then she realized that soon, she would have to find out.

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