Tony’s heart is in his throat as he makes his way into the hospital. It’s four in the morning and the call had woken him from his nap. He had been working on a car in the garage and had dozed off until the phone rang and pulled him out of a near dead sleep. It was rare for him to get that kind of sleep. Time usually meant nothing to him, passing by without his notice. He’d go into his garage at ten in the morning and come out at midnight and feel like only an hour had passed. Perhaps it was his innate ability to focus when he needed to. Or perhaps he was just that stubborn that he couldn’t even let the passage of time best him.
For a moment he had thought he was dreaming when he answered the phone, the doctor’s words not completely making it through the haze of sleep.
Those three words had registered however, and given the little information he had registered, it was enough to get him driving above the speed limit to Metro General Hospital in Manhattan. He gets directions to the proper floor from the front desk, making his way up to the Labor and Delivery Unit. He pinches himself as he walks to the nurse’s station, still feeling like this is all a dream. But it’s not.
He asks for her room and the nurse tells him the doctor wants to speak to him first. He gets a sick twisting feeling in his stomach as he waits, his fists clenched to hide his shaking hands. He doesn’t hear the doctor’s name when he introduces himself, the world seeming to float by him as he’s escorted into a private room for discussion.
He should remember that name, but he can’t. Perhaps it’s the shock of the bombs that keep getting dropped on him. Or maybe he was just that much of a self-centered narcissist.
She had given birth two hours ago. She had claimed him as the father and they had run a paternity test to prove it. Apparently it wasn’t uncommon for young women to claim famous people as their baby’s father. But this time it had been true. His daughter had been born March 18th at 2:15 AM. She was a healthy seven pounds, three ounces with a tuft of dark curls on her head, beautiful caramel skin. Tony can’t help himself as he stares at the paperwork naming him as her father, the paperwork to pass full custody to him.
“You may see them both, if you wish.” The doctor says, catching his attention.
All Tony can do is nod. He’s lead down a maze of hallways to a room. The lights are dimmed inside, monitors beeping keeping track of both mother and baby. He feels like someone is punching him repeatedly in the stomach as he numbly makes his way into the room. She’s there, laying in the bed. He remembers her now that he has a face to put to the name. They’d had a brief fling, no more than three months. But that had been a year ago. She’d up and left one day and never came back. Never said why she left, but she’d had the decency to leave a note. A “it’s not you, it’s me” note. Turns out it really had been him in the long run.
His eyes are drawn to the pink bundle in her arms. That’s his daughter. His little girl in the arms of her mother whom he’d had a short fling with during a point in his life when he was at his weakest. It had been less than a year since the accident. He had been broken to pieces and found solace in the arms of Melody Evans. Or at least he thought he had. But it turns out he’d done more than just take comfort in having someone close. His Aunt Peggy had warned him to be careful. He had been headed down a dangerous road, but it had taken a very different path than what he’d expected it would.
“Sit down, Anthony. We need to have a talk.”
Tony once again is at a loss for words, unable to do anything but numbly sit in the chair conveniently placed beside the bed. She stays silent, no doubt waiting for him to start talking. Or to clear the haze of shock that had taken over the haze of sleep. It takes him a moment, pulling his thoughts together, forcing himself over the shock of what had happened in the last hour and into reality. He does a quick calculation. Most pregnancies last around nine months give or take. It would put conception around the time she left as an estimate. “This is why you left?”
She nods, holding his gaze fearlessly like she always had. That’s partially what drew him to her. Most people couldn’t look him in the eye. Especially after the accident. But she had held his gaze, kept control over what was a swirling whirlpool of his life during that time. “I didn’t know how to tell you. And I didn’t want to add this to what you were already going through. I still wouldn’t if…You saw the custody paperwork?”
He nods. He was still holding the file in his hands. He hadn’t even realized it until now. “Yeah. Why...I’m not...Melody I don’t know how to...be a father.”
She smiles softly at him. “No one does at first. I wouldn’t have had them do the test, I wouldn’t have had them call you if I had any other choice. You can give her a better life than I ever could, Anthony.”
“I don’t...think that’s possible.”
Melody shakes her head, adjusting the baby in her arms. “Things weren’t great for me after I left, Tony. They won’t be when I get out of here. You’re her best option for a good life. I wouldn’t do this to you if I had any other choice, Tony. I want what’s best for my girl. And that means giving her up.”
Tony is quiet as he mulls over her words. Melody was the first person to make him feel something after the accident. It had been fast and intense, but she had helped bring him out of a dark pit. And now she was yanking him out even further. He knows she’s not wrong. He knew about her life, about her past. She’d shared some of it with him during their three month affair. But he had been forced back into action, back into the spotlight and she didn’t want that. She wanted stability, a quiet life. But even without him she wasn’t getting that. He didn’t have to pry to understand that. He knew the best chance for his daughter would be with him, no matter how badly it terrified him.
“Alright. I’ll take her.”
The relief on Melody’s face is worth the inner turmoil. The fear, the nerves, how utterly unprepared he is for this moment he wasn’t sure would ever come for him. It’s all worth the relief, the peace that was radiating from Melody in this moment. “Thank you, Tony. Will you take her? I haven’t gotten much sleep and I am exhausted.”
Tony doesn’t want to but he can see how exhausted she is. Her mocha skin, usually so vibrant is paler than normal and he can see her struggling to keep her eyes open. He nods slowly, letting Melody show him how to hold her, making sure she’s secure but he’d never drop her. He knows that, looking down at her tiny face. She’s warm in his arms, bundled up with a pink blanket, a little pink hat on her head. She’s fast asleep, little pink lips parted as she breathes. She’s utterly beautiful and Tony already feels himself melting, bending himself around her little finger.
“What’s her name?” He asks, unable to tear his gaze from his daughter for a moment.
“Amaya.” Melody says, her voice already thick with sleep.
“Amaya.” He says it quietly, a smile tugging at his lips. It’s a real smile, not a fake one he’d been offering the press recently. It’s the first smile he’d had in a long time. The first real smile to grace his lips in over nine months. This tiny little seven pound human being could bring such a reaction out of him. Could shed a little light in the dark void that had filled his chest after his parents had died. He hadn’t been particularly close to them, but it hadn’t made it hurt any less when he’d gotten the call. And now this little human, his little human was turning that all on its head.
He glances up at Melody but she’s already fast asleep. He gets up, holding his daughter safely in his arms as he moves over to the window, looking out at the sky as it turns from grey to purple as dawn breaks over Manhattan. He pulls the curtain for the bed, blocking out some of the light for Melody before he takes a seat in the chair next to the window. A new day was dawning on New York City and a new day was dawning for him.
“Amaya Maria Stark. It fits you, you know.” He starts, speaking quietly to his sleeping daughter. “You came in the middle of the night like an unexpected rainshower. A welcome, unexpected rainshower. I’m your dad, by the way. I’m...I’m not really prepared for this. I didn’t know you existed until a couple hours ago and I can’t hardly believe you’re actually real. That I’m sitting here at five in the morning holding my daughter. I would have either been sleeping or still tinkering in my garage had it been any normal day. But this certainly hasn’t been normal, has it?” He pauses for a moment, looking out the window as the sky turns from purple to orange as the sun starts to rise. “Most people would assume that I wouldn’t want to be a father. Given my actions since college and recently, the way I’ve chosen to live my life. The playboy heir to a fortune and now the billionaire CEO of a weapons company who has made a lot of poor choices over the past year. Your mother certainly wasn’t one. Your mother was one of the few good choices I made since your grandparents passed.
“They would have loved you. Well, my mother would have. It’s hard to say what my own father would have thought. Maybe he would have been happy for me. Proud that I managed to make something worthwhile. Or maybe he would have berated me for putting a poor young woman through this, even though I had no idea.” Tony shakes his head. “No use dwelling on the past. All we can do is learn from it and move on.” Tony traces her soft cheek with the tip of his finger. “I’ve thought about being a father before. Usually just fleeting thoughts, never a deep, philosophical consideration of the meaning behind behind a parent. It wasn’t that I never wanted children, I just never wanted to be like my own dad. History repeats itself. Only fools don’t learn from it. But I promise you I’m not going to be like him. I’m going to give you the best life you can have. I’m going to be there every step of the way. Screw the company. Screw the lights, the cameras, the press, the ‘playboy’ image everyone paints on me. Screw the parties, the trips to places I never knew existed. You’re my world now, baby girl. My little princess who I would blow up the world for, even though I’ve only known you for an hour, I swear I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
Tony leans back in the chair, holding his daughter. He’s not sure how long he sits there, watching the sun come up over the city, the nurses starting to get more active as patients wake up, more women getting brought into the recovery area after having their own children. For once he’s happy to sit in silence. He’s never been good at sitting in silence. He’s always had to do something, tinker with something, blast some music or tear something apart to put it back together to keep himself busy. Occupied so the thoughts in his head don’t take over. But now...now he can sit peacefully in silence. At least for a short while.
He finally moves as Amaya starts to wake up, pulling his phone from his pocket, flipping it open. He dials the number he knows by heart, listening to it ring. He’s not sure where in the world she could be at this moment, but he hopes she’s at home. He could use her at a time like this. He’d pushed her away after the death of his parents, but he had been hurting. She was a harsh reminder of the past and she had understood that. She’d respected him, giving him his distance when she deemed it safe enough for him to be alone. She still checked up on him every few weeks. She’d be surprised more than not to have him calling her, not the other way around.
“Hi Aunt Peggy.” He says when she answers. “It’s been a while. I, uh, I was wondering how quickly you could get to New York? And if you could possibly pick up some baby supplies on the way?”