Why? Cause I'm grieving and you're grieving, so here's some lemon juice and salt for those wounds. Enjoy!
It didn't take long for Tony to notice that his daughter had a mechanical mind. From the first time he had held her and looked in to her perfect little face, he could see in her eyes a curious spark. It was as if he could see in her minutes-old eyes an entire future. One of creation and wonder. One of potential. For the first time in his life, Tony had been speechless. A life time of back-stabbing and betrayal had caused words to be his greatest shield against the world. Sometime, even more so than his suits. But now, there was nothing. No quips, no jokes, not even words of praise or gratitude for Pepper, who had created something so miraculous and pure despite Tony's contribution.
If anyone could strip Tony of his shield, it was Morgan Stark.
The first time he had seen Morgan's inner mechanic at work, she had been just shy of her second birthday. It had started small. One afternoon, as Tony was serving lunch, he saw Morgan staring at her sandwich intently. Then she took the sandwich apart, placed each part of it carefully on her plate, and ate each part separately. From then on, that was the only way she would eat her sandwiches. Or really, any kind of food that could be disassembled. To some, that wouldn't seem strange or uncommon at all. Tony knew that picky eating was a common trait in small children. He had read all the books, starting the day that Pepper had told him that she was pregnant. He knew exactly what to expect from Morgan, and when to expect it. However, Tony also recognized the spark. The need to know how something worked. He had decided to put it to the test one afternoon by not putting together the sandwich before serving it to her. She had stared down, crestfallen, at her plate of unassembled sandwich and Tony had tried his best not to laugh.
"Noooo…" She had whined. "S'not da saaaame."
Honestly, some days it was like looking in a mirror. Well, assuming the mirror was enchanted or something and reflected himself as a toddler. And a girl. God, he really sucked at analogies.
'You can't be a friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man if there's no neighbourhood.'
Tony's heart gave a painful lurch as he recalled the kid's words. Everyday, something would remind Tony of Peter Parker. The boy he had been responsible for, and over the course of two years, had come to care for. He tried not to think about the kid too often. That was selfish of him, but remembering those two years they spent together only served to remind Tony of all of his missed opportunities. All the times that words had failed him when he needed them most.
That day, Peter's misguided sense of loyalty had made him follow after Tony to the hostile void of space and then to his death. The kid had mistaken Tony's stunned silence for confusion, and had had gone on to stammer out how his words hadn't made sense. It really had made sense though, and Tony had been stunned in to silence by how eloquently the kid had expressed himself. Seriously, this was the same kid who had once talked his ear off about how he envisioned Kylo Ren's three pronged lightsaber would work.
Yeah, the kid had been better with words than Tony.
The kid had been better than Tony in a lot of ways.
The second time that Tony had seen Morgan's mechanical mind at work, she had been two and a half. The house had been quiet. Morgan was down for her nap and Pepper was gardening outside. Tony had been in the kitchen, washing up last night's dishes when he heard the tune of 'pop goes the weasel' echoing down the stairs from Morgan's room.
Morgan was awake and playing with that jack-in-the-box toy that Pepper had given her. Without consciously deciding to do so, Tony started to hum the music box tune under his breath. That toy was one of Morgan's favorites and she would play with it at least five times a day. Tony was getting pretty tired of hearing 'pop goes the weasel', but Morgan would always yelp a surprised scream when the monkey popped out of it, and then laugh brightly. Honestly, each time she played with the toy, it was like her first time seeing it in action. The toy was annoying, but Morgan's laugh did things to Tony's heart, so he allowed the annoying little box to exist in his house.
Today was different though. Tony was drying the plates as he heard the song play then stop abruptly when the monkey popped up. No laughter followed it. Tony threw a confused glance at the staircase leading upstairs. Was Morgan finally bored with the toy? Was Tony finally free of 'pop goes the weasel'?
A loud banging noise broke the silence and Tony's heart fluttered nervously in his chest. He placed the plate and towel on the counter and hurried towards the stairs.
"Morgan? What are you doing?" Tony called as he climbed the steps two at a time.
Morgan didn't answer, but the banging continued. Tony hoped that she was just ignoring him. A horrible part of his brain, the part that was forever changed by the past thirteen years, whispered that she was hurt and couldn't answer. Tony's heart was in his throat as he reached the top of the stairs and fumbled frantically with the baby gate. He raced in to Morgan's room to find her sitting on the floor, bashing a plastic toy screwdriver in to the metal edge of the jack-in-the-box . She looked up as he arrived, confusion painted over her adorable little face, and Tony sighed in relief.
She was fine.
"Daddy, why you scawed?"
He wasn't scared, he was terrified. But try explaining that to a two-year-old. Morgan only knew about happy, sad, mad, and scared. Everything fell in to one of those four categories. Tony breathed deeply before sitting next to his daughter on the floor and scooped her up in to his lap.
"Don't worry about it, Squirt." He murmured in to her hair and pressed a kiss to her temple. Morgan giggled in response and Tony's heart felt a little lighter. "New rule; when I call you, you have to say something. I don't care if it's just 'yes, daddy'. Say something, okay?"
"kay" Morgan agreed. She looked nervously up at him and Tony could tell that she was getting worried as a result of his own nerves. He had to pull it together.
"What were you doing?" He asked while picking up the dented jack-in-the-box. The toy came in to Morgan's field of vision and a bright smile lit up her face. Tony could tell that she was already past her nervousness. Truly, that was the great thing about toddlers. They could go from worried to happy at the drop of a hat.
"I wanna see da inside." She explained, gripping the toy in her pudgy little hands. There it was. That curious spark was lighting up her eyes again. Tony was reminded of a film strip he had seen years ago, of a boy playing with his father's Expo model.
'Tony what are you doin' back there? What is that? Put that back. Put it back where you got it from!'
Howard had never had much tolerance for Tony's curiosity. He had always been too busy and never made time for his son. But Tony was trying to be better. He wanted to do right by Morgan. He was living out his days in retirement and he would give his daughter all the time she wanted. All the time she deserved. With that thought, Tony made up his mind.
"You wanna know how it works?"
Morgan's eyes widened excitedly and she nodded her head.
"Well, let's find out." He said. He stood up, scooping up Morgan in one arm and holding the jack-in-the-box in his other hand. "C'mon. We're going to the garage."
For the next hour, Tony had slowly taken apart the toy and shown Morgan how all of the parts inside of it moved. She had stared at his work, completely engrossed in the new knowledge presented to her. She was an endless stream of questions, clumsily asked in her limited vocabulary. Sometimes her questions would overlap one another in her haste to get answers.
All at once, Tony was reminded of another kid, wide eyed, curious, and teeming with questions. The kid's questions had been better articulated than Morgan's, but they shared the same genuine thirst for knowledge. Tony would invite Peter down to his lab for the sake of getting his input about how to improve his suit. Tony was used to working alone, with only Led Zeppelin to keep him company. The endless questions would grate on Tony's nerves and cause him to be short with the boy. That in turn, would cause Peter to be more withdrawn around Tony.
Tony regretted many things in his life, but none more so than taking the concept of tomorrow for granted. Anytime he found himself snapping at the kid, he would reassure himself that he would make it up to him tomorrow. Peter would always come back to the compound, as happy and chipper as ever. Giving him all the second chances that he knew that he didn't deserve. Then, he was gone. Leaving Tony with nothing but pictures and binarily augmented retro-framed memories to agonize over.
Peter had deserved better than Tony. Now, with Morgan perched on his knee, Tony knew that this was his last second chance. The realization caused his throat to tighten, but he tried to not let it show. He rubbed a hand over Morgan's back, listened intently to her babbling. Her weight on his knee grounded him in the moment, but a small part of his brain was 30 years in the past.
'No amount of money ever bought a second of time.'
How many times had his dad told him that? Tony couldn't appreciate that little pearl of wisdom back when he was young. But now, he finally understood. Back when his dad was alive, time had been something he rarely ever thought about. He had his whole life in front of him and he could, in fact, buy everything that he found valuable. Now, the years felt shorter, but at the same time he was painfully aware of each one that passed. The most precious thing in his life was on his knee. She looked at him like he hung the moon and she took his words as gospel. How long would it last? How long before she didn't want him around anymore? How long before she's too embarrassed to be seen with her old man?
"Daddy, why dey sound diffewent?" Morgan pointed her finger at the little tines of the music box.
"Each one shakes at a different speed when the little bump hits it. The shaking makes the sound. When it shakes very fast the sound goes really high!" He raised his voice a couple octaves on the last two words and Morgan giggled. "And when they shake slow they go super low." He added, dropping his voice in to a baritone. Morgan's peals of laughter echoed in the garage and Tony felt at peace.
God, he would miss this.
Morgan reached out a hand to hold the sharp edge of the freshly cut metal box, but Tony grasped her little hand in his.
"Sorry, no can do little Miss. That's sharp and you'll hurt yourself."
A stubborn pout worked its way on to Morgan's face and Tony braced himself for a toddler melt down.
"But I wanna do it!"
"Yeah, that's not gonna happen." He countered and Morgan's frown deepened. "I'll show you what ever you want, but you gotta leave the hard work to daddy." Tony could see a tantrum bubbling under the surface. He needed to sweeten the deal. "When you're older, I'll show you how to do this yourself. Alright?"
That promise seemed to placate Morgan a bit and Tony could see her considering his words carefully. Finally, her face smoothed and Tony released her hand. Crisis averted.
"Alwight." She agreed. Her lisp tugged at Tony's heart strings and he moved to tuck a lock of her unruly hair behind her ear.
"What are you two doing in here?"
Tony turned in his seat to see Pepper walking in to the garage. Her clothes were smudged with dirt and in her hand, she held her box of gardening tools. She placed them on a work bench before walking over to where they sat.
"Mommy, look! Look!" Morgan shouted while pointing enthusiastically at the disassemble toy on the table.
"Oh, wow!" Pepper exclaimed. Her enthusiasm was enough to launch Morgan in to a long-winded explanation of how the toy worked. Pepper smiled and nodded her head while lifting Morgan off of Tony's lap and into her arms. As they started to walk away, Tony could hear Pepper interrupt her daughter to ask her if she was hungry.
Within minutes, the garage was silent once again. Tony sat alone, surrounded by his tools and projects in varying stages of completion. Tony knew that the solitude should feel comfortable. He had spent the majority of his life this way. But with the absence of his kids, it just felt lonely. In front of Tony lay the inner workings of the toy and the ruined box. He set to work reassembling it, eager to get back to his family. What remained of it.
After another hour, it was done. Tony was satisfied with his work and strode back towards the house. Pepper was in the kitchen, watering the plants in the window sill. The sunlight streamed through the window, setting her red hair alight like warm fire. From the living room, Tony could hear Morgan giggling while she watched cartoons. Tony had never thought that he would ever want something so domestic, but this new life was a balm on his battle scared heart.
"Tell me you didn't break her favorite toy just cause it's annoying?" Pepper asked while setting the watering can down on the counter. She turned around to face him, and Tony threw a hand dramatically over his chest.
"You wound me, Pep." With his other hand, Tony lifted the repaired toy for Pepper to see. He had refashioned it into a clear plastic box so that Morgan could see the inner workings moving while she turned the crank. Pepper's eyes twinkled with amusement as she walked over to where he stood. "I could never take away something she loves, even if 'pop goes the weasel' is starting to haunt my dreams."
Pepper laughed and pressed a kiss to his cheek.
"You're a good dad."
It was a simple compliment, but to have one of Tony's greatest fears refuted so casually really did make him feel as light as air.
"Could I get the 'Pepper Potts seal of approval' in writing?"
Pepper swatted his arm lightly and Tony sent her a look of mock surprise.
"What? I wanna frame it and put it next to my PhD!"
The third time Tony saw Morgan's mechanical mind at work, it was working along side her Stark-like ambition, and that had spelt out trouble for all.
In the months that had followed the day that Tony had disassembled the jack-in the-box, he had witnessed before his eyes his daughter's inquisitive nature flourish. It would seem that their first project was enough to encourage Morgan to ask questions about anything and everything. In the same way that other small children were always asking 'why?', Morgan was forever asking 'how?'. Constantly, she would point at household gadgets and her toys and ask her dad 'how?'. Tony knew that she meant 'how does it work?'. Disassembling and reassembling hair dryers and dishwashers had been incredibly mundane, but Morgan's intense focus and imaginative wonder made it a pleasurable way to spend an afternoon. Or twenty.
For Tony, retirement had meant living in the moment. It had also meant dedicating his time to nurturing someone who would be better than him.
'I just wanted to be like you.'
'And I wanted you to be better.'
Tony had wanted the kid to be better than him. And he was, for the short time that he had been alive. At one time, Tony had thought that being a better person had meant being nothing like himself. He had held the kid at arms length for exactly that reason. It was undeniable that Morgan took after her dad, and yet Tony knew that she would grow to be the best of them.
Morgan's third birthday had come and gone. With each passing day, Tony could see his daughter slowly growing in to more of a child and less of a toddler. It was a phenomenon subtly present in the little things. Her words were becoming more coherent. She could now safely climb the stairs and the baby gate was no longer needed. Tony knew that it was irrational to be proud of such small achievements, but he was. His younger self would probably puke over how overly sentimental he was now. All the same, he felt a certain satisfaction in watching his daughter learn how to do something new. It was a daily occurrence now to see her tackle a problem wholeheartedly. She would throw herself into situations without hesitation or fear. Tony supposed it was his job now to shoulder the worry, just as his parents had done for him. He too had been reckless once. Morgan's courage fed in to her ambition, and that caused her to excel faster than most children her age.
But then one day, Morgan had decided to pull an Icarus, and Tony was just as unprepared to catch his child as he imagined Daedalus had been.
Tony had been watching tv while Morgan coloured in a colouring book on the coffee table. It was a Friday afternoon and it was just the two of them spending a lazy afternoon at home. Since the snap, and Tony's subsequent retirement, Pepper had remained the CEO of Stark Industries. In order to spend more time with her family, her responsibilities had been largely delegated to her staff. She still did have to go in to the office at least three days a week because, well, she was still the boss after all.
Tony was flipping through channels when he noticed a news bulletin playing about a recent development at Oscorp. Intrigued, he paused long enough to get the gist of the story. Apparently, Oscorp was taking a sudden change of direction. Abandoning their bio-engineering work in order to try their hand in the field of mechanical weaponry. Tony laughed, and he laughed hard. The same company that had unintentionally mutated a boy and given him extraordinary powers was throwing up their hands and was like 'Ahhh, screw it. Let's make weapons'. Granted, he had done a similar thing back in 2008, but he had at least known what he was doing. The camera crew was panning over some of the work in the new Oscorp lab and honestly, it was archaic. Tony was getting second-hand embarrassment from this. He would even go so far to say that Hammer Industries had done a better job than this train-wreck.
"Hey, Daddy, look!" Morgan cried while pointing at the tv. "It's Dummy!"
Tony squinted at the tv and, sure enough, there was a mechanical arm in the background that bore an eerily similar resemblance to his Dum-E. Jeez, he built Dum-E way back in '86. These guys at Oscorp were practically banging rocks together to make fire.
"Huh. How about that?" He laughed a bit. He couldn't help it. This was all so ridiculous. "That's infringement on my copyright patent. If I were a pettier man, I'd sue."
Morgan turned her head to look at him, her head cocked to the side and confusion scrunching up her features. It sometimes still baffled Tony how he had any part in creating something so adorable.
Tony knew a big goofy smile was spread over his stupid face. His heart almost ached with how precious her little questions were.
"Suing is something that grown-ups do to make things complicated. Don't worry about it."
Less than a second later, Morgan attention was back to her colouring book. Tony chuckled at how quickly she lost interest. Or maybe she was just insanely good at obeying orders. Idly, Tony hoped it was the former rather than the latter.
Minutes ticked by, and Tony was debating the idea of putting on a movie that they both could enjoy. It was a short list of possibilities, but Tony was sure he could find something. Suddenly, Morgan looked up from her colouring book. A wild twinkle lit up her eyes, and Tony could practically see the lightning strike her brain.
'I've just had an apostrophe!'
'I think you mean an epiphany.'
'Lightning has just struck my brain!'
'Well, that must've hurt.'
Hmmm, yeah. They could watch 'Hook'. That was a classic G-rated movie that he actually enjoyed as well. Tony tucked that thought away as he watched Morgan quickly get to her feet.
"Where you going, Sweetheart?"
Morgan jumped a little, as if surprised that he was there. Well, kids her age did have the attention span of a gnat. It was possible that she really had forgotten that he was there.
A blip appeared on Tony's bullshit radar. That was almost certainly a lie, but he decided to let it slide. He was right there. What kind of shenanigans could she get into while he was only a few feet away? Tony turned his head and watched his daughter disappear down the hall towards the bathroom. He decided to cue up the movie while he waited for her.
A few more minutes passed and Morgan still hadn't returned. Kids sometimes take a long time in the bathroom, but a nagging suspicion told Tony that this wasn't the case. He walked down the hall and stopped outside of the bathroom door.
"Morgoona?" He asked while he rapped his knuckled on the door. Silence greeted him and dread was starting to rise in his chest. "Hey, did you fall in?" He asked, desperate to hide his worry under his playful tone. No response came, and Tony's heart was starting to hammer painfully against his ribs. "I'm coming in." He added and turned the doorknob in his hand.
The light was off and the room was empty. For a moment, Tony just stared in to the room. He closed the door and stood in the hall, wondering where Morgan had wandered off to. Or rather, where she had purposely gone to and had lied about with her paper-thin deception. At the end of the hall was his office. The door was slightly ajar. He kept Dum-E in there rather than in the garage for sentimental reasons.
It all clicked.
"Morgan?" Tony called down the hall as he walked towards his office. A small gasp echoed from his office and into the silent hallway, which confirmed his suspicions as to where his daughter had sneaked off to.
A second later a shrill scream pierced the air and Tony's blood ran cold. He ran the last few steps to the office and threw the door open so hard it hit the wall. In the corner of the room, Morgan stood clutching her hand to her chest. Blood seeped from between her fingers and dripped to the floor. With quick strides, Tony crossed the distance and kneeled in front of Morgan. He pulled her hand towards him to inspect the damage, but the motion jostled her wound. A broken sob escaped Morgan's lips and Tony flinched from the sound. As gently as possible, Tony unfurled Morgan's bloody fingers to see a deep gash across her palm. With the pressure of her fist lifted from the cut, the blood came more freely. It pooled rapidly in her palm and spilled over on to Tony's hands.
Tony's hands were stained with blood.
God, he was going to be sick. Morgan's pained whimpers grounded him in the present and cleared his head. With one arm, Tony lifted his daughter and held her against his chest. As he turned to leave, he saw Dum-E standing motionless. A section of its paneling had been removed, exposing it's wiring and some sharp edges. One of those edges was gleaming crimson.
Tony hurried to the kitchen and sat Morgan down on the counter. He ripped open the cupboard over the fridge where they kept the first-aid kit and hastily pulled out some gauze and bandages. It was just a quick fix to patch Morgan up long enough for them to get to the hospital. Tony tried his best to wrap up Morgan's hand. But his hands were shaking, and his baby was crying. And Tony was failing in the worst way possible.
"Sorry, baby. I gotta wrap it up." He muttered, fastening the little hooks to keep the gauze from unraveling. He was gentle, but despite his efforts, Morgan screamed and wailed.
"Daddy it hurts!"
'I don't wanna go, Sir. Please.'
Tony realized that he was crying too. His chest felt full enough to burst. He allowed a single sob to escape his throat before strengthening his resolve. His kid needed him. Panicking would have to come later. He scooped up Morgan again and headed out the front door.
"FRIDAY, call Pepper! Have her meet us at the hospital!" Tony called over his shoulder.
"On it, boss." The AI said before the door closed behind him.
Tony ran to the car and pulled open the back-seat door. He quickly placed Morgan in her booster seat and buckled her in. He tried in vain to focus on the task at hand rather than her tear stained face.
"Daddy, make it stop!"
'I don't wanna go.'
He couldn't breathe. They had both deserved so much better than Tony could give.
"I'm sorry." Tony whispered and pressed a kiss to Morgan's hair. His kids deserved more from him. For Peter, remorseful apologies were all he had left. But for Morgan, there was still tomorrow. There was still a chance to be better.
Getting in to the driver seat, Tony raced off of his property and down the highway like a demon. From the back-seat, Morgan sniffles and sobs pierced through Tony's heart like shrapnel. He knew that Morgan's sobs would linger in his heart much longer than the real shrapnel ever did. He tried his best to keep his eyes focused solely on the road and not on his hands, which were in his line of sight on the steering wheel. Morgan's blood had settled in to his wrinkles and dried like a grotesque road map.
Tony knew that he should say something to comfort his girl. She was scared, in pain and so young. But he had no words. He had no words for Peter, and now he had no words for Morgan. He shouldn't be a father. He wasn't cut out for it. He hadn't had any right to want Morgan, just as he hadn't had any right getting involved in Peter's life.
Soon enough, Tony was pulling in to the parking lot of the hospital. He unbuckled Morgan from her booster seat and hurried towards the ER. He signed in at the front desk and Morgan was taken to be examined and patched up almost immediately. The doctor told Tony things that he had already deduced for himself; Morgan would need stitches and would likely be staying over night in the hospital. It was strange to logically understand the repercussions of Morgan's injury, to have figured out for himself what would happen, and yet to feel like he had been punched in the stomach when he had heard it from a doctor.
His little girl needed stitches. Tony felt like a monster for allowing this to happen to her. He paced the waiting room, running a hand through his hair and toiling on that thought. It was stuck in his brain like a loop. He was a monster. He was distracted momentarily by the sound of high-heeled shoes click clacking quickly on the linoleum floor. Tony had spent about 20 years listening to Pepper's heels approaching him. He knew it was her without even looking up.
"Tony! What happened?"
Tony couldn't look at her. Couldn't stand to see the accusation in her eyes when he explained what had happened. His eyes remained fixed on the linoleum and Pepper's shoes as he told her what happened.
"She was trying to take Dum-E apart and she cut her hand open. It was pretty deep. The doctor is stitching her hand up now."
"Oh my God."
A warm hand tugged on his elbow and lead him over to a couple of chairs. He sat down heavily in one while Pepper perched on hers. Tony slumped back in his chair and covered his eyes with one of his hands.
"I'm so sorry, Pep." His voiced broke. He realized that his voice sounded pleading. Begging for her to accept his apology. What if she decided that he was an incompetent father and decided that her daughter was better off without him? "I shouldn't have let her out of my sight and-"
"Stop." The familiar authority in Pepper's voice was somewhat comforting, even though she was probably pissed at him. Tony lowered his hand and look at his wife for the first time. She looked more determined than angry, and he took that as a good sign. "This wasn't you're fault. I've been waiting for this day to come. You Starks are the very definition of the phrase 'curiosity killed the cat'."
It was inappropriate to laugh right now, but Tony couldn't help it. As always, Pepper had hit the nail on the head, and Tony laughed at how accurate her words were.
"So, you saw it too? The spark?" He asked. He didn't even need to clarify what he meant. He could see the tired recognition in Pepper's eyes. She knew him so well.
"Of course. I'm her mother." She stated simply. "And I got 20 some-odd years of dealing with your nonsense to know what to expect from her. I knew exactly what I was signing up for."
Tony knew that Pepper had meant that as a joke, but it hit a little to close to home. He wanted the best things for his girl. He knew that few of his traits could be categorized as such.
"I hoped she would be more like you and less like me."
Pepper's face fell in to an expression that Tony had seen all too often; pity. He couldn't deal with it right now.
"I know what you're gonna say, Pep. Just don't."
At that moment, A doctor entered the waiting room and called for the family of Morgan Stark. Tony was almost certain that was just professional courtesy. His face and his name was one of the most recognized in the world. They jumped to their feet and hurried over to the doctor.
"How is she?" Pepper asked.
"We had to put five stitches in Morgan's palm, but it went well and she's doing good."
Those reassurances tacked on to the end meant nothing to Tony. His negligence had hurt Morgan. Pepper and the doctor talked around him about more technical and health related questions, while Tony wallowed in his rising guilt.
"She's awake and has been asking for you."
"Where is she?" Tony interrupted, ignoring Pepper's pointed look. He needed to see his girl. Only that would take the pressure off of his chest.
"She's been moved from the ER ward to the third floor in the pediatrics wing. Room 304."
Tony turned on his heel as walked quickly towards the elevator.
"But I must warn you she is still a bit loopy from the anesthesia-." The doctor called after him. He could hear Pepper mutter an apology for him and then quickly hurry after him. She caught up to him just as the elevator doors were opening.
"That was rude."
Tony didn't know why Pepper bothered to chastise him anymore. After 20 years, you'd think that she would have given up on trying to make him polite. He needed to get to his injured daughter. He didn't give a shit if the doctor's feelings were hurt.
The elevator opened on to the third floor and Tony and Pepper followed the room numbers until they reached 304. It was a private room with yellow walls and stick on animals decorating them. From the bed, Morgan lay slumped against the pillows. An IV trailed from her arm and her hand was wrapped up in a thick layer of clean white bandages. Her glazed eyes trailed over to her parents as they approached her bed. A smile lit up her face despite her apparent weariness.
"Hi Daddy! Hi Mommy!"
"Hey, baby. How do you feel?" Pepper asked as she sat on the side of Morgan's bed. Tony moved to sit on the other side of it.
"Yeah, I bet." Pepper replied, huffing a laugh through her nose. After a moment she schooled her expression in to a more serious one and Morgan squirmed in her bed. "You gave us quite a scare today. What do you have to say for yourself?"
Morgan dropped her eyes to her hands, curling the fingers of her good hand nervously in to her sheet.
"Why didn't you call me?" Tony asked in an uncharacteristically serious tone. Morgan glanced up at him with surprised eyes. He could understand why she looked at him like that. Normally Pepper was the stricter parent and he was the fun one. A sliver of guilt twisted in his stomach. That wasn't fair to Pep, and look where being the fun parent had gotten him. "I told you before, you're not allowed to take machines apart by yourself."
Morgan's eyes lit up in a way that Tony didn't like. Like she was about to yell out 'check mate'.
"No, you said 'when I'm older'. And I'm older now."
Well, wasn't that just a load of steaming bullshit. That was right up there with the kid telling him that it was his fault that he was in space. 'Cause his suit was too intuitive. A scowl slid over his features and Morgan recoiled from the look, just like Peter had all those years ago.
"What did you say?"
"I'm sowwy." She added quickly. "I tought I could do it all by mysewf."
Morgan look up at him with big contrite doe eyes. How could Tony stay mad when his little girl was looking at him like that?
"Well, now you know better, right? You won't do that again?"
Morgan nodded her head vigorously like a bobble head, and Tony had to suppress a laugh.
"I'm going to ask the nurses station if it's alright for her to eat anything other than hospital food. Maybe we can bring back some decent food and have dinner together." Pepper said to Tony while Morgan looked between them with a confused frown.
"Cheeseburgers would be great right about now." Tony said. "Fingers crossed that the nurses will green-light that." He added to Morgan, who smile at being included in a grown-up decision.
"Cheesebuwgers!" She crowed excitedly and Tony smiled at her enthusiasm.
"Maybe cheeseburgers." He countered. "If the nurses say 'no', we'll have them for breakfast when we take you home tomorrow. That's not strictly a breakfast food, but these are extenuating circumstances."
Morgan's elated expression dropped and Tony felt worry creep up inside him. Pepper pressed a kiss to her daughter's cheek before getting to her feet. Her click clacking heels grew fainter as she walked farther down the hall. It was silent in the room for a few seconds.
"I gotta stay hewe?"
Tony heart clenched at how her little voice quavered. He should have known that she would be worried about staying here. In her short life, Morgan had never slept anywhere else but in her own bed or sometimes her parent's bed. Her little shoulders tensed up and she suddenly looked so small in her hospital bed.
"It's just for tonight." Tony said reassuringly, though his words seemed to do little to ease her fear. "It's so that the doctors can keep an eye on your hand."
Silence rang in the room. It was clear that Morgan was working herself up to say something, so Tony waited.
"You stay wif me?"
Tony didn't relish the idea of spending a sleepless night in hard hospital chairs, while creepy looking animal stickers stared at him from the walls. But for Morgan, he would do just about anything.