“Ready for bed, Little Miss?”
The question wasn’t out of the ordinary for Tony. What was out of the ordinary was how excited Morgan was to get to bed. She was a great kid – a fantastic kid – but putting her to sleep had always been an issue.
‘She’s too much like her father,’ Pepper would usually say, her voice filled with affection. ‘She doesn’t know when to rest.’
Tonight was different though. He hadn’t finished cooking supper when she was already asking him how much longer until bedtime. To be honest, he was worried about her. Did she catch a bug somewhere?
It was in his blood to worry. She was the light of his life, and, even though he knew she wasn’t as delicate as fog, he cared so much about her.
He wasn’t too sure what she was up to. When they tried to offer her a nap earlier, she didn’t want it. She was persistent over her bedtime.
Tony crouched at Morgan’s bedside, his chin resting on the edge of her mattress. He watched with amusement as she fluffed her pillows.
“Everything okay, squirt?”
“I’m perfect, daddy,” she said. Tony was glad she wasn’t picking up on his worry. When she was settled, she pulled the covers to her middle and turned to him. “Bedtime story? Please?”
“You’re tired, munchkin,” he told her, his voice soft. He reached forward and pressed the back of his hand against her forehead. He couldn’t feel a fever and she claimed she didn’t feel sick, but he was worried. This wasn’t like her. “I can tell you two bedtime stories tomorrow, okay?”
“No,” she said, pouting. She caught his hand as he was pulling it away, her tiny hands wrapping around his fingers. “Please, daddy? Bedtime story?”
“How about your favourite one?” he offered. “Where everyone-”
“No,” she pouted again. “I don’t like that one even.”
“Oh, really?” he said, a smile growing on his lips. Every day, he was impressed with how brilliant she was. He barely got two words out before she realized what he was planning. God, when did he get so lucky to have such a brilliant kid? “I thought it was your favourite.”
“That’s your favourite,” she said, poking the back of his hand with her tiny finger.
“You got me there.”
“I don’t have a favourite.” She glanced up at him through her lashes, clearly unsure and hesitant about something.
Tony had a feeling that they were coming close to what had been on her mind all day. He could sense it coming. “No?”
“No.” She pulled on his hand, urging him closer. He complied and inched his way towards his daughter. Her eyes never left his, even though he could sense her nervousness. Brave girl. “Can I ask you something, daddy?”
“Anything,” he said without hesitation.
She tilted her head slightly and took a moment to think. Her internal debate was making him nervous. Finally, she looked at him. “I wanna know more about Peter.”
Just hearing the name felt like cold hands were wrapping around his heart. It felt like his world was tipping on its axis.
It was years ago. He lost Peter years ago, yet he still felt his loss to this day. He missed the kid – so much. He was like a son to him, and he failed him. He lost him.
That was on him.
Tony swallowed thickly. Morgan was watching him with rapt attention and he forced a smile onto his face.
She knew about Peter – how could she not? How could he never tell his daughter about the kid he lost? With Peter, it felt like he took half of his heart when he died. He was supposed to protect him.
And Peter – Peter was just a kid. He was still in high school; he had his whole life to go. He was such a good kid – such a good person.
It felt like it would be a dishonour to Peter’s memory by not telling Morgan about him. Peter lived his life as a hero, and that’s the same way he died.
“There’s so much to say,” Tony admitted after a moment. With his answer, Morgan looked excited.
“I want to know all of it, daddy.” She sat up from her bed and patted the spot on the mattress beside her. “Please?”
He couldn’t deny her, so he moved from the floor to the bed beside her. She snuggled into his side, her tiny fingers wrapping around the cloth of his shirt.
As he got settled, he put the pieces together. “Is this why you wanted to go to bed so badly?”
Her expression was priceless, and it sent his heart soaring. Her slightly guilty face with those determined eyes reminded him of himself in certain ways. Father like daughter.
“Why’re you asking about him, kiddo?”
“I seen his stuff in the garage,” she responded, picking at a loose thread on his shirt. “You made tons of stuff for him.”
He closed his eyes and rested his head against the wall. “I did.”
The Iron Spider was just a sample of the stuff he built for Peter. That set of armour was built for when he offered him a place as an Avenger; god, that seemed like it was just like yesterday, but it was, in reality, years ago.
It didn’t stop there though; most of what remained was in the garage. It had been close to five years after losing him, but he couldn’t bring himself to say goodbye. Throwing out that armour was like throwing out a part of him. Getting rid of anything that belonged to Peter was almost like he was saying goodbye.
He’d mourned, and he’d come to accept his fate, but that didn’t mean he had forgotten or moved on from him. Peter might not have been his kid – biologically – but he was his kid on a deeper level.
He refused to say goodbye to him completely, which meant his stuff still sat in the garage and was scattered throughout the house. He knew he was never coming back – that ship sailed and sunk when Steve came back without the stones – but there was something telling him to hang onto whatever he had.
“Not just Spider Man,” Morgan pointed out, glancing up at him through her lashes. “His stuff.”
He knew what she meant. He didn’t just keep what he invented for Spider Man; he kept some of Peter’s stuff.
God, when he came back from Titan, May was one of the first people he tried to call. He had to tell her what happened. He had to tell her where her nephew was. He had to tell her about how amazing he was – that he died a hero.
Only, she died too.
There were a few things of the Parkers that he couldn’t throw out, even after their apartment got repossessed. Most of it sat in the garage. Apparently, he felt that keeping his demons beside his power tools was a good habit.
“I know, squirt,” Tony said, pulling her tighter to his side. “You seen his stuff in there?” She nodded and nuzzled her head under his arm. Tony couldn’t help but smirk at her, even though his heart was tugging painfully at this conversation. Losing Peter was hard to talk about. “What’d you find?”
“Stuff.” He laughed. “He’s the one in the picture right? Next to grandpa?”
Above the sink. He knew which one she was talking about. It was a photo of him and Peter holding a Stark Internship certificate, both of them laughing and posing wildly. They were both so oblivious about what was to come.
“That’s him,” Tony affirmed. “When’d you get so smart?”
“A long time ago,” she promised. He had to bite his cheek not to laugh at her innocence. “He’s Spider Man?”
“It’s a secret,” he told her. “You know how strangers recognize me on the street? When we’re going to the park?” She nodded. “That’s because I told people who I was.”
“That you’re Iron Man,” she guessed.
“Right.” He brushed some of her hair off her face again. “Peter… He didn’t. He went to school, just like you did. He was a kid, just like you.”
“Really?” she asked, sitting up a little straighter. She seemed enthusiastic. It warmed Tony’s heart. “What else did he do? Anything like me?”
“He did a lot,” Tony said. “I already mentioned – he went to school, just like you. He went to an academy for really smart kids downtown.”
“I know,” he echoed. “He used to play an instrument in band.” For the life of him, he couldn’t remember what he played, and it broke his heart. Time had washed away a lot of memories of him. “Peter was really smart, just like you are. He used to build parts of his suit.”
“Just like you,” she pointed out. Tony didn’t want to break her fantasy by telling her that Peter’s suit that he built himself was a disaster and a half. At least the kid tried.
Shit, Tony almost forgot. “And Peter loved LEGO.”
If possible, Morgan’s eyes got even brighter. “He did?” she asked, her voice tiny. It was safe to say she was a little bit of a fan of building LEGO. She owned majority of the sets sold. Period.
“He told me how he built the Death Star once,” he recalled. The memory was fuzzy, but it was there. He could still remember how happy he was when he heard the pride and excitement in Peter’s voice. He couldn’t remember his words – not anymore – but he remembered those emotions.
“I did that,” Morgan beamed. “You helped.”
She tilted her head. “What else?”
“And he had friends, like you do.” All of those people vanished, just like him. It was a cruel fate, but maybe it was better than them learning to live without him. Gods only know that he had to experience life without people he cared about, and it was a fate he wouldn’t wish on anybody. “And a family that loved him.”
They were silent for a moment. Finally, after a longer beat, she tugged on his shirt. “We’re his family, right?” she asked, her voice curious.
Her words stole the breath from Tony’s lungs. He whipped his head down to glance at her, his eyes widened slightly.
Morgan thought they were Peter’s family.
“Mommy told me that before me, you had him,” she said, clearly oblivious to Tony’s shock.
His mouth was dry and his throat tight. It felt impossible to speak. “She did?”
“Mhmmm.” She shifted in his arms, settling further into bed. “She told me that you helped him. And that, even though he wasn’t small, we were the same.” Tony didn’t know what to say. His daughter had managed to silence every one of his thoughts.
When she looked up at him, his heart froze in his chest. “I always wanted a brother.”
His heart was stinging. If only they could’ve met. There were a lot of things Tony wished were different – this being one of them. He wished he could introduce them to each other, and to see them meet, and watch them grow up together.
Maybe in a different world. Maybe in a different lifetime.
“A brother, hey?” Tony asked, speaking evenly through the pain. “Peter would have liked that.”
There wasn’t a doubt in his mind about that. Peter had so much love in his heart; love for May, love for his friends, love for the people in the city and across the world. He was sure he would’ve loved Morgan if he got the chance to.
Too bad he never would. Tony tried to ignore the sharp jolt of pain across his chest.
“I miss him,” she admitted.
Her words spoke volumes to how impactful Peter was. She never met him, but she still missed him. In a way, maybe her words spoke volumes to how impacted Tony was by the kid; how he refused to allow his memory to fade.
Tony didn’t know how, but he managed to speak. “Me too, kiddo.”
Gods, did he ever miss him. He missed his phone messages about churros, and him going into detail about how he helped elderly people cross streets, or how have saved cats from trees. He missed that normalcy they settled into after the fiasco with the Vulture. He missed working with him in the lab, and teasing him, and going on missions with him, and being his family.
He missed that family, the family he had before the snap and before Thanos. Don’t get him wrong, he wouldn’t trade his currently family for anything, but it didn’t stop him from missing what he had before.
Him, Pepper, Peter, May. He missed that.
Him, Pepper, Morgan. He loved that.
Not for the first time in his life, Tony wished that Thanos never would’ve found those damn stones. He wished that he could have both of those lives – both of those families – at once. He wished Peter could meet Morgan, and be the brother to her that she dreamed of. He wished Peter would have been able to graduate, and to be happy, and to find this peace that he found over the last few years.
When his daughter let out a stifled yarn, he shoved his thoughts away. He focused on how happy and safe his daughter was; that never failed to make him feel good. “I think it’s time for bed.”
“No, I wanna hear more,” she mumbled. She was too tired to keep fighting sleep though. Her eyes were already drooping shut.
“Tomorrow,” he promised. “You can ask me as much as you want.” He climbed off the bed. “Deal?”
She was barely keeping her eyes open. “Mhmm.”
“Good.” He pulled the blanket around her shoulders, affection flooding his heart. “Goodnight, squirt.”
As Tony left the room, all he could think about the what if. All he could think of was what if they never lost. All he could think of was Morgan and Peter, and how perfect the world would have been with them both in it.