In Stark Tower, the ring of a doorbell after five in the afternoon often meant dinner. It was often a more effective call for the Avengers to assemble than even the call of SHIELD. So, by the time Pepper and Bruce made their way into the dining room, carrying five pizza boxes each, all of the Avengers were ready and waiting for their greasy feast.
Pepper sat down her share of the boxes and cried, "Wait!" before they could get the boxes open. "Let me go call Laynie and Carter in first." She shook her head. "Have some manners, boys."
She returned shortly with only one teen in tow. "Carter refuses to join us," she announced.
"We could always break down the door." Clint suggested, a mischievous look in his eyes.
Natasha shook her head. "Give her time, she'll come around."
"Carter never refuses food," Laynie said quietly.
Pepper pulled out a chair for the fellow redhead. "I'm sure she'll get some later. For now, let's eat." The second the words left her mouth, the boys jumped up from their seats and began filling their plates.
"What kind do you like?" Pepper asked Laynie with a warm smile.
"Anything's good." Laynie answered.
Pepper nodded and opened one of the boxes, cautiously avoiding the ravenous hands of the boys, and grabbed a piece out. She set it on a plate and gave it to the girl.
Pepper smiled. "Of course."
After dinner they all parted ways one by one, Tony going off to the lab, Pepper to finish her work day, Steve to the gym, and the others to their own places. Laynie, after searching the kitchen quietly, took out a clean plate and laid out a piece of pizza on it, walking it back to Carters room. She knocked with her elbow. "Carter, open the door, I bring pizza!"
Quickly, the door was thrown open and Laynie was dragged inside.
"Thank god!" Carter grinned at the other girl. "You're the greatest friend ever!" She took the plate from Laynie's hands before sitting on the bed.
"As if I didn't know that," she replied with a wave of the hand, sprawling out across her friend's borrowed floor. "Let me tell you something that you probably know too- you're being a terrible guest."
"I never wanted to be here in the first place," Carter mumbled.
Laynie propped herself up on her elbow, trying to hide her half frustrated and half incredulous look to her friend. Every since they were children, when Laynie's mom first joined SHIELD, they'd been friends, and she had never known her to be so careless. "C'mon, you think I want to be here? I'd rather be home. But that's just not an option."
Carter sighed. "I'm just tired of all the people pretending to care. That's all it's been since our parents died. Empty apologies and condolences from people who didn't even know them."
"I get sick of hearing it too, but nobody knows what else to tell us. You should just be grateful that SHIELD stepped in and we won't be put in the foster system yet. I don't know about you, but I'd rather hang out with a bunch of pizza-loving superheroes than some stuffy foster parents."
"Yeah, yeah. I guess it's better than that. But don't expect me to like being here. And if you're going to continue lecturing me, you can leave. If not, you can stay. I want someone to talk to." Carter smiled lightly.
Laynie was up and for the door in a split second. "I'm just trying to help, Carter. I'm worried about you. Of all the people you think are pretending to care, I'm not one of them. You should be happy to be here."
Carter rolled her eyes. "Just leave."
The other girl quickly left the room, closing the door behind her.
Carter gently set her plate on the side table and curled up in a ball underneath her blankets. She cried herself to sleep that night with her pizza cooling on the nightstand.