By Sunday, it had been a few days since anyone had seen Carter come out of her room. They assumed she was sneaking food in the middle of the night though.
"That's it! I'm breaking down the door!" Clint called from outside.
Carter quickly sat up in bed, wondering if she'd heard correctly. And she did, because the door hit the ground a second later.
"What was that about?" Carter screamed at him.
Clint ignored her and walked in. Grabbing the girl's arms, he pulled her up and over his shoulder. "We're going out and you can't stay here alone."
"Put me down!" Carter growled, kicking at his stomach.
He grunted harshly and pinned her legs to his chest. "Stop it."
Laynie followed him down the hallway, trying not to laugh as her friend struggled against Clint's grip.
"Clint! Nobody gave you permission to do that! That door is coming right out of your next paycheck," Tony grumbled.
"But the last time you blew one out with the armor it wasn't your fault," Pepper said as she breezed by her boyfriend. Pepper was looking especially casual that day, further proof to the girls that they were going out. She wore her long red hair in free curls down her back and a lace-trimmed sundress instead of a suit
Thor, Tony, Steve and Clint all wore shorts, which looked the weirdest on Thor. Bruce still wore khakis. Natasha didn't go so far as to wearing a dress, but she did wear a pair of shorts and a fluttery tank top.
A stream of profanities fell from Carter's mouth. "Put me down! This is not okay!"
Tony raised an eyebrow. "I like that one. Pepper, how long do we have these again?"
Pepper didn't grace the question with an answer.
"Carter! We're going to go to the zoo!" Laynie said happily. "It was Steve's idea. He thinks we need to do something outside the tower before we kill each other. Or something like that."
"Can't I stay here?" Carter pleaded.
"Why?" Bruce asked curiously.
"I hate the zoo."
"Well, that's a pretty good reason. But, no," Clint answered.
Carter angrily elbowed him in the back of the head and smirked when she heard the grunt of pain.
Natasha walked around to Clint's back, stooping down so that Carter could see her. "We could not legally leave you here. You must be with one of us at all times, and we're all going. Sorry kid."
"Fine. I'll go." Carter sighed. "Can you put me down now?" she asked Clint.
Clint looked at Natasha questioningly. She nodded once. "Okay," He gently set the girl down on her feet.
Laynie came up to her once she was on her feet again. "Carter, I don't want you to be mad at me."
Carter rolled her eyes. "I'm not mad at you anymore. You should know by now how antisocial I am."
She just stared at her friend. "And you never came to see me? What have you even been doing the past few days?"
"Reading, writing, playing on my phone, sneaking around when no one can see me. You know, the usual." Carter smiled at Laynie.
Laynie shook her head. "Are you ready to leave?"
"I don't think I have a choice, Layn."
Tony clapped his hands together loudly, "Well, that was a touching reunion, can we go now?"
Laynie flinched at the loud and sudden noise, and nodded. "Yes, we're ready when you are."
With that being said, the group piled into one of Tony's limoes, driven by one Happy Hogan of course. "Where to today, Mr. Stark?" the chauffeur asked.
"The zoo." Tony replied.
Happy started the car. "Of course, Mr. Stark. Can I ask why the sudden urge to go to the zoo?"
"The Star-Spangled Man with a plan here came up with it. I had other ideas, but none of them were suitable for our guests," Tony grumbled.
"Ah, of course." Happy looked back at the two girls through the rear view mirror and smiled. "It's nice to meet you."
Carter and Laynie nodded.
The drive to the zoo didn't take long, but when the ride is with a Norse god, two fifteen year olds, a ninety two year old war veteran with the appearance of a twenty-two year old, two SHIELD agents, Iron Man, his girlfriend, and the Hulk, it feels a lot longer than it is.
Once the ride was over, everyone filed out slowly. A crowd came seemingly out of nowhere, asking for autographs. Soon enough, Laynie and Carter couldn't see anything past the moving bodies.
Happy, along with some people from zoo security, started making a path for them. Both girls stuck close to the Avengers, neither quite enjoying the people crowding them.
"I knew this was a bad idea..." Carter whispered to Laynie.
"Come on, at least they're trying to do something nice for us. I'm sure people will back off eventually."
Laynie's words weren't too far from the truth. Most of the crowd vanished fairly quickly, but people still ran up to one of the superheroes every few minutes. Most people were polite enough to notice they were trying to enjoy a day off, though, and left them be.
"So, where to first?" Pepper asked curiously.
Steve looked at Carter and Laynie. "Why don't we let them choose?"
"I always love the reptile house. Carter, where do you want to go?"
"The reptile house is fine," Carter responded quietly.
The group shuffled through the reptile and amphibian house, and most of them found it more interesting than they thought they would. Pepper and Natasha had expected it to be all creepy-crawlies, but had found some cute dart frogs to look at. Tony and Thor were debating whether or not the latter would be able to beat the zoo's large anaconda snake in a fight. Steve fell in love with the tortoise.
Laynie tried to get Carter interested in the lizards of varying sizes, but had no such , Laynie just stopped and left her friend to her own devices.
Carter wandered the reptile house, taking a few seconds to look at each animal. She stopped at the large boa constrictor. She squirmed a little bit, she never really liked reptiles and the thought of a snake that could strangle you to death didn't exactly sit well with her. Especially when said snake is right in front of you, with the only thing separating them was a few inches of glass.
"Kinda creepy, isn't it?" Somebody asked.
Carter turned and found Bruce walked up to look at the snake as well. "Yeah..."
"You don't strike me as the type to be fond of snakes." He said.
"I'm not. But, Laynie likes them so I wanted her to be able to see them." Carter shrugged.
He scrunched his nose. "I never liked snakes either. Would you like to accompany me outside?"
Carter nodded quickly. "Please." They made their way outside the dark place and into the bright sunshine outside.
Everyone else remained indoors, still marveling over their own section of the house. Laynie made her way over to Thor, who remained in front of the anaconda's glass cage even after Tony had moved on.
"Child," he said thoughtfully, quieter than usual. "Tony Stark has put a dent in my pride. He has mocked my claim that I could easily beat this monster, even without my hammer."
Laynie gave him a concerned look. "You're not going to try... right?"
"No, certainly not here. The beast has an unfair advantage over me, as it is surrounded by its kind in this place."
Laynie tried not to giggle. He was just so serious about the entire situation. "Well, I mean, the snake is as big around as your arm. And instead of just having two arms, he has a really long body and fangs. I think he might win, at least if you didn't have your hammer."
Thor chuckled. "Silly mortals, I could most easily defeat this serpent."
Laynie did laugh this time. "How about you start by beating Clint in Wii bowling? Somehow I think that's put more dents in your pride than this snake."
"Correct! This statement of yours is most wise, Laynie. I will consult Tony on a form of cheating for this game."
As Thor lumbered away, Laynie muttered, "That's not exactly what I meant, but okay..."
Soon after that, they came out of the reptile house and found that Bruce and Carter were looking at the giraffes, whose exhibit was only a few feet away from the reptile house.
Carter turned around when she heard footsteps approaching, "How did you like the reptile house?" She asked Laynie.
"It was great," she said with a nod. "But Thor was freaking me out. I swear he was about to bust into one of those cages. Most terrifying," she said in her best imitation of the man's voice.
Carter bit her lip to keep from laughing. "I'm really glad I didn't stay in there."
"Thor can be... strange. But, he's a fun guy to have around." Bruce smiled at the two girls.
"He's definitely not of this realm," she said, imitating him again.
The three of them caught up to the rest of the group, who were already moving on from the giraffes. Next stop was the polar bears, which Thor thankfully did not threaten to wrestle.
"'Ey Cap," Tony said with a smirk already on his face for what he was about to say. "Did you ever meet any polar bears with all your years as a capsicle?"
"I don't find that funny, Tony."
Everybody else did, but kept to themselves.
By the time the group made it all the way through the zoo, it was past lunch time but before dinner. Pepper suggested they get a snack and wait to have dinner later, but Tony gently pushed the idea aside in exchange for the idea that they go and eat somewhere special.
"Any suggestions?" Tony asked.
After hesitating for a few moments, Carter spoke up. "I know a place not far from here. It's kinda small, but I've been going for a while. We could probably walk from here if you wanted to." She offered quietly.
Most everyone was surprised by her speaking up.
Tony shrugged and ushered her ahead of the group. "Sure. Lead the way."
Carter nodded slowly before leading them out of the zoo. Outside, she looked around, trying to remember which way to go. "It's this way."
"What exactly is this place we're going?" Pepper asked.
"Um, it's a restaurant owned by some family friends," Carter replied.
"What kind of food do they serve?"
"It's barbecue. I thought that would be pretty normal."
She nodded. "Okay, I'm good with that. Anybody have a problem with barbecue?"
No complaints were found and the group continued on their trek to the restaurant.
When Carter pushed open the front door of the small restaurant, tucked between a few taller buildings, a bell above the door rang and there was a clatter in the kitchen.
A large man came out of the kitchen, smiling. "Hey, it's been a while." He pulled the small girl into a hug. "I heard about your parents, I'm so sorry."
"Don't worry about it, Mark." Carter said, hugging the man back.
He nodded and pulled away. Mark looked up at the group standing behind her. "Um, Carter you do realize that you just brought the Avengers into my restaurant, right?" He asked curiously.
"Yes. Can we get a table?"
He nodded slowly. "Of course..." He quickly told two of the waiters to put some tables together, so the whole group could sit together.
"Thanks Mark." Carter smiled brightly.
"No problem, shortie." He winked and ruffled her hair. "Somebody will be over in a few minutes to get your order."
As Mark told them, a waiter came by after just a little waiting and took their order.
After the waiter had come and gone, Bruce asked, "How long have you known Mark?"
"Since I was born, he was a friend of my parents." Carter answered. "He owns the place, along with his wife."
"Hot stuff coming through!" A female voice shouted. A woman and a few other waiters were coming to their table with their food. Quickly, each plate was placed in front of someone.
"And for my favorite person," The woman said, placing a plate in front of Carter.
"Hey Jennifer." Carter smiled.
"Hey sweetie," The woman, Jennifer, bent down to hug the girl. "So sorry about your parents."
"It's like I told Mark, it's all good." She smiled a smile that didn't quite reach her eyes.
Jennifer nodded sympathetically. "Tell me if you need anything." She said to the rest of the group.
"Of course." Pepper answered. "Thank you so much."
"No problem." Jennifer gave her a pat on the shoulder and retreated to the kitchen.
Once everyone had downed their meals, it was back to Stark Tower. The first thing Tony did was walk into the living room and crash onto the couch, where he promptly began snoring. Pepper went to do the dishes and Bruce decided to help her, and everyone else seemed to disappear. Laynie and Carter both changed out of their clothes into pajamas and laid across the floor and bed of Laynie's room, since Carter's door was still out of commission.
"Today wasn't so bad, was it?" Laynie asked from the floor.
Carter shrugged. "I guess not, and it was nice seeing Mark and Jennifer."
"I think if you would just quit hiding in your room you would see that they're good people. I mean, how you didn't get that from the fact that they've saved the world on multiple occasions puzzles me, but they're good people even underneath their masks. I know you're still grieving, and I am too... but we can't just hide under our pillows forever and ignore the world around us."
The other girl looked away from her friend in guilt. "Well, it's not as if I can really hide in my room anymore. You know, because the door's gone and all."
Laynie sighed. "Carter, be serious for a second."
"Fine, I'll try to get along with them. Just stop lecturing me, you're my friend, not my mom."
"I'm not lecturing! I'm trying to help because I'm worried about you. Two weeks of this is enough, it can't go on like this... Besides," she continued quietly, "if I don't do it, nobody will."
Carter rolled her eyes. "I promise I'll try. Okay?"
"Yeah. I'll hold you to it."
Carter smirked and threw a pillow at Laynie's face. "I wouldn't expect any less from you."