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Dream In Colors Borrowed From The Sea

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“You waited until after I’ve almost packed everything into the car to tell me you forgot something upstairs?”

Morgan, for her part, just nods frantically, ignoring the exasperated sigh her father lets out. Peter shifts from his place next to her, watching as both May and Pepper settle into the far back of the van, Happy seating himself along the right window seat in-front of them with a scowl. 

Blinking when Tony turns toward him, the teenager grimaces at the apologetic frown already spreading across the older hero’s face. 

“Bud, do you think you could maybe do your old man a favor and run to get your turd of a sister’s stuffed--what was it again, Morgan?”

“My stuffed elephant!” The little girl says, bouncing on the balls of her feet. “Ellie.”

Tony snorts, grabbing onto his daughter’s arm so she doesn’t slip off the curb. “Yeah, that . I’ve got to get Morgan settled in and Lord knows how much she hates sitting in her booster seat--”

“I’m a big girl, Daddy, those are for babies--”

Peter cuts his sister off, scooting around her toward the Tower’s doors. The early morning sun glistens off the glass and the boy squints against the glare. “Of course, do you need anything else while I’m up there?”

Rhodey sticks his head out the passenger’s side window, grinning at his nephew. “If you could grab me an extra diet coke, Pete, that would be awesome.” 

“Can do.” Turning back toward his father, the spiderling winces as Morgan gives a particularly hard kick against the genius’s ribs as Tony picks her up. “I’ll be right back, Dad.”

Tony just nods, grimacing. Peter waits for a few more seconds, watching as the billionaire starts to walk both him and Morgan around the other side of the van, the little girl still wiggling in his arms. Pepper, face set in a firm frown of maternal displeasure, leans up above the line of the seats in-front of her to say something to the pair, but Peter tunes himself out, instead quickly making his way into the Tower and up the elevator.

Once it stops, Peter quickly zips around the couch and toward Morgan’s room, taking a second to poke into his own room just in case. Seeing nothing else he would like to grab, the teen walks across the hall, opening Morgan’s bedroom door with a whoosh.

“Now, where the hell is it--?”

Spotting the stuffed elephant, Peter sticks it under his arm with a huff. He makes his way back toward the elevator, making a brief pit stop to grab Rhodey’s soda from the fridge, holding it in his other hand.

By the time Peter gets back down to the van, Morgan has been settled into her seat, a Disney movie of some kind playing on the tablet in her lap, Happy on the girl’s right side.

“Here you go, Uncle Rhodey.” Peter says as he passes around the man’s side of the car, handing the can to him through the still open window. 

“Thanks, kid.” Rhodey smiles, giving Peter a quick fist bump before ducking back into the car. 

“And here you go, Morg.” Peter hands his sister the stuffed animal, grinning at the way her eyes light up. “Saved him from being left behind.”

“What do we say, Morgan?” Pepper pipes up from behind her daughter, raising her eyebrows at the 6-year-old when she turns to look. “To Peter?”

“Um,” Morgan looks from her mother to Peter, who tries his hardest not to snort. “Hurry up?”

This time, it’s Tony who snorts from his place at the wheel, twisting around to glance back at the passengers behind him. His dark eyes are lit in amusement behind his sunglasses.”Not quite, hon. Try ‘Thank you” remember?”

“Oh yeah!” Turning back toward her brother, Morgan grins. “Thank you, Petey.”

Peter smiles back at her, reaching out to gently ruffle her hair. “You’re welcome, squirt. Now move your stinky feet, I gotta scooch in here.”

She takes the elephant just as Peter finally ducks into the car, settling himself along the far window seat, across from the drivers side. Happy is beside him, on the other window side with Morgan acting as a buffer between them, grumbling all the while. 

“Don’t worry, Hap,” Rhodey speaks up, turning around to flash his friend a cheeky grin. “I’m sure Morgan will play Cinderella for you if you ask her nicely.”

Happy sputters. “Shut up, Rhodes--”

“Okay!” Tony interrupts, clapping his hands. “Does everyone have everything? Bathing suits in your bags? Snacks for the road? Buckled all nice and tight?”

“We’re all good back here.” May says, straining to be seen above the middle issle’s seats. Pepper giggles beside her, pushing a stray bag that has fallen out of place from the pile beside them. “Everyone’s suitcases are accounted for.”

“I sure hope so considering Rhodey’s is crushing my arm as we speak.” Pepper deadpans.

Rhodey laughs from his seat. “That’s just me giving you a bag side-hug, Pep. It comes from a place of love.”

“How kind.”

“I’m fine.” Peter pipes up, Morgan echoing the statement and Tony grins at both of them through the rearview mirror. Peter turns toward Happy, reaching over his sister to poke at his uncle’s side. “What about you, Uncle Happy?”

Happy waves him off, sinking down as far into the seat as possible. “Fine, fine, can we get a move on, please? My butt is already going numb--” 

“And that’s my cue!” Tony says, the van quickly reversing before jerking forward, all of them bobbing with the movement. “Say bye-bye to the Tower, guys.”

“Bye Tower!” Morgan chirps, waving behind her as they continue to cruise down the side street toward the highway. “Bye my room, bye Peter’s room, bye Mom and Daddy’s room, bye cars, bye--”

“Oh good lord, give me strength.” Happy groans. “How long’s this drive again, boss?”

Tony clears his throat, raising his voice slightly to be heard over Morgan’s high-pitched babbling. “Around 6 hours, 6 ½ if we catch some traffic.”

Peter frowns in confusion. “Why didn’t we just take the private jet--?”

“And miss this wonderful family bonding time?” Tony asks, slapping the wheel. “I don’t think so, buddy.”

“More like a family nightmare.” Pepper mutters and Happy snorts, grabbing a pair of humorously large headphones from his bag and putting them on, leaning against the window and closing his eyes. 

Tony scrowls, merging onto the highway once the coast is clear. Peter shifts in his seat, suddenly grateful for the extra bags of chips he stuffed into his snack bag. Morgan, her goodbye’s having finally come to a close, is quiet beside him, watching as Buzz and Woody argue on her tablet and Peter settles in, leaning slightly so he can see the screen better.

“Can I have a juice pouch?” Morgan asks after a few seconds, looking toward Peter with her wide, doe eyes. 

“Um,” Peter glances around the car. Finally, he tilts his head back, maneuvering until he can see Pepper in the corner of his eye. “Hey, Pepper, can me and Morg have juice please?”

“Of course.” The woman says, reaching around May into the small ziplock bag at her feet. She pulls out two capri-suns, handing them both to Peter. “Make sure not to spill any.”

Peter just nods, opening up his sister’s first before his own. He hands Morgan hers, slurping down the juice from his own pouch and stuffing the trash back into the bag. Him and Morgan both go back to the movie once settled again, Peter calling dibs on the next pick. 

It’s around 2 hours later that Morgan speaks up again, shattering the relative peace and silence of the car.

“Daddy, I gotta pee.” 

Tony glances back at both of his kids, eyebrows raised. Peter just shrugs, fiddling with the strap of his seatbelt. He can hear, vaguely, the sounds of his Aunt May’s soft snores behind him and the spiderling is not surprised in the slightest to find her fast asleep, propped up against Pepper’s shoulder as the other woman scrolls through her phone. 

Tony sighs. “Okay, hold on, I’m gonna find a gas station. We can get some sandwiches while we’re stopped.”

“There looks to be one 2 miles up the road or so.” Rhodey says, pointing to the green directional sign as they pass, the metal reflecting the sun above. “Can you wait 2 miles, Morgan?”

The little girl in question nods, kicking her legs against the seat and Happy, who was dozing against the window, jerks up, nearly knocking his headphones clean off. 

“What? Are we there yet?” He grunts, eyes wide as he straightens up. 

Tony holds up a finger, waddling it in the general direction of the driver. “I swear, Hap, if you start the kids with that already I will throw you out of this car.”

“Geez, don’t have to tell me twice--”

Morgan wiggles, little hand reaching out to grab at Peter’s shirt sleeve, pulling her brother down so that he’s practically crooked in his seat. Peter, careful to avoid the towels and extra bags layered at his feet, twists until he’s fully facing the girl, biting his cheek to keep from laughing. 

“Anyone who has to pee, do it now.” Tony says as he finally pulls into the gas station, parking at a spot right along the edge of the store’s entrance. “I’m gonna get some gas for this rust bucket while we’re here, make sure to get me a sandwich while you're in line please.” 

Both Morgan and Peter, with Pepper and Rhodey right behind them, scurry out of the car and into the market. Ignoring the slightly rude look the cashier shoots them, Peter shivers as the store’s AC blasts from above, the little bell chimes ringing in his ears as they all crowd around the back restroom doors, forming a small line with Morgan and Pepper up front. 

Finally, after what feels like an hour of waiting and squeezing past each other, they all finish getting lunch and clamber back into the car, Peter opening his fresh bag of chips once he sits down. 

Holding the bag out to Morgan when she reaches out, the teen braces his leg against the side of a nearby suitcase as they turn back onto the entrance ramp. Peter shifts, leaning back against his seat when his father accelerates, his metal hand against the wheel while he holds his turkey sandwich with his other.

“Can we listen to Frozen songs now? Please?” Morgan asks around a mouthful of chips, wiping her hand down Peter’s shirt. The teen grimaces, handing her a napkin. “I wanna sing!”

Ignoring Happy’s resulting groan, Tony chuckles, his eyes warm as he shoots both his kids a smile over his shoulder. Peter, grinning back, pokes his sister in the side just as the first song starts to play through the speaker, causing her to giggle around the words.

“The snow glows white on the mountain tonight, not a footprint to be seen. . .”

May, finally awake after Pepper had slipped back into her original spot, starts to sing along behind them, both her and Morgan’s voices intermixing and Peter winces, laughing along with them all as Happy covers his face, looking to be in physical pain. 

“I wish they’d let this song go.” The burly man mumbles, barely audible above the combined singing. “My poor ears--”

“Oh hush, you big baby.” Tony says, turning the dial up a bit just as the chorus starts. “We already know you know all the words, Hap, don’t even try.”

“Not by choice!”

“Yeah, yeah.” Rhodey waves a hand back, his fingers dusted in red dorito coating. “Show us what you got, Hogan!”

“Come on, Uncle Happy.” Peter chimes in, Morgan still busting a lung beside him. He strains to be seen around his little sister’s bobbing head. “Bust a move, get a boogie on, I know you understand what I’m saying since you’re old--”

This time, Happy actually does glare at him and Peter giggles, swiping away his uncle’s hand when the man reaches out to flick his ear. Giving up on getting the grumpy driver to play along, Peter turns back toward his window, watching as the fields and trees zip along in a blur of greens and browns. 

The sun, now slightly higher in the sky, casts long shadows along the road and Peter tries to follow as many as possible, blinking away spots after a few seconds. 

Humming the tune of the final stretch of “Let It Go” under his breath, the teenager looks back toward the windshield just in time to meet Tony’s gaze. His dad’s eyes are crinkled in a smile, a laugh building in his chest and the spiderling can’t help but grin back, feeling his heart warm with love and affection. 

The next song starts, “Hakuna Matata” and Peter joins in without hesitation this time. Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Happy mouth the words too and the boy just sings louder, both him and Morgan doing jazz hands in time with the lyrics.

“Happy, are you actually singing now?!”

“. . .No!”

By the time Tony carefully pulls them into the beach house’s driveway, Peter’s nearly asleep against the window. 

He grumbles, shifting against the now fogged glass and pulls his face away just as Tony reaches a hand out to shake his shoulder, the billionaire’s palm warm and his grip soft.

“Hi, bubba,” His dad whispers, scooting to the side to allow Happy to get out, the driver taking a few seconds to stretch his legs before he’s turning around, helping both May and Pepper from the far back seats. “Grab your bag for me, okay? I’m gonna help get you and Morgan settled while May and Pep make a quick pizza for dinner.”

Nodding with a yawn, Peter unbuckles himself and slips from the car. Immediately, the scent of the ocean and sand overwhelms him in the best way and he gathers a deep lungful, listening to the crash of the waves in the distance. 

The sky above is dotted with thin, puffy clouds and Peter watches as the wind carries them further away, dragging them against the air currents.

Waiting until Pepper has carefully lifted a dosing Morgan from her booster seat, Peter grabs his own bag from the floor, swinging it over his shoulder as he follows his family up the steps toward the front door. 

“Kitchen’s upstairs.” Tony says as they all pile in, pointing with his free hand toward a large staircase to their right. “Down here is where the first sets of bedrooms are. Pete, Morg, follow me.”

“I'm going to check out the bedrooms too, for me and May.” Happy says, Rhodey just behind him. “Have to make sure we get the good bed before Rhodey does.”

Rhodey rolls his eyes. “Just as long as I don’t have to hear your snoring, Hap, I think we’ll be okay.”

“Says the guy who’s sneezes rival Tony’s.”

Morgan, now more awake, grabs onto Peter’s hand as they descend the stairs, her little suitcase clutched in their father’s hands. As they walk, Peter looks along the light blue walls, reaching out to gently poke at a few fake starfish hanging just a few inches above his head.

Finally, they all make it down and Morgan immediately makes a beeline to the sliding door on the far wall, both her and her stuffed elephant pressing up against the glass. Rhodey and Happy, still bickering, turn toward the right, disappearing down a hallway.

“Is that the beach?” Morgan asks, voice muffled. “It’s kinda small--”

Tony laughs, coming up to stand beside her, Peter next to him. “No, pumpkin, that’s the pool. The beach--” He points out the door, to the left side where what looks like a small gate is built into the fence. “--is right over that dune, outside the fence. We’ll go walk down there tomorrow after breakfast, if you’re good.”

“I’ll be good, Daddy, promise.” Morgan vows, twisting her little feet against the soft, white carpet underneath. “Peter too!”

Laughing when his dad looks toward him, Peter holds up his free hand, making an X across his chest. “Scouts honor.”

Ruffling his son’s hair, Tony leads both of them over to the right side, down a small hallway that overlooks the staircase. Opening the door, Tony leans to the side to allow Peter ahead of him, Morgan not far behind, her excited squeal nearly busting the spiderling’s eardrums.

“Bunk beds?” She gasps, practically throwing herself up the nearest ladder. “I call the top one!”

Settling himself with much less enthusiasm along the bed underneath, Peter sighs, already knowing that the squeaking is going to drive him at least mildly insane. Glaring at the snort his dad lets out, the teenager kicks off his shoes, stretching his legs out in front of him with a sigh. 

Tony settles alongside him, the mattress dipping under their combined weight and the teenager finds himself squished against the man’s side, but also finds that he doesn’t care. 

“Are you excited for this week, buddy?” Tony asks, smoothing back Peter’s ruffled curls with a soft swipe of his hand. 

The spiderling nods. “Super excited! But, uh, what caused you to do this, by the way? This trip?”

Tony shrugs. “Just wanted to get away for a little bit, I guess. Morgan hasn’t really ever been to the beach, not like this. Now that you’re--you’re back and everything’s sort of calmed down, I wanted it to be a family vacation, with my whole family.”

Peter blushes, ducking down to rest his cheek against the billionaire’s chest. He speaks against the fabric of Tony’s shirt, gripping the hem with his fingers. “Thank you, for inviting us.”

Tony’s voice is low, smooth in his chest and Peter closes his eyes at the sound, pushing aside the relentless chatter of his little sister in the background, at least for a few moments. “You don’t have to thank me, bambino , you’re family.”

They stay like that for a few more minutes, Morgan apparently getting tired of seeing how much she can make the entire bed frame rattle, and joins them, cuddling against Tony’s otherside. Finally, Rhodey stops in the doorway, knocking against the wood.

“Pepper says dinner’s ready.” The soldier says, grinning when Morgan immediately shoots up, nearly slapping Tony across the face, and stumbling around him, her little feet stomping up the stairs. “I’d hurry up if you want to get some before the little terror does.”

“We’re coming, honeybear. I’d be more worried about Pepper honestly, she can eat at least 10 slices by herself.” Tony grunts, and Peter snickers, stumbling off the bed and watching as his father straightens up, his knees popping. 

“You got hawaiian, right?” Peter asks, leaning into his dad’s hold when the man gently wraps an arm around his shoulders. 

Tony nods. “ ‘course, kiddo. Cheese, sausage and hawaiian, the works. I was serious about Pepper, though, let's hurry it up.”

Peter laughs, following the two older superheroes back up the stairs, mouth watering as the smell of the pizza wafts around them. The sky, when the spiderling finally manages to get a good look outside, is darker, more of a navy blue and Peter squints past the orange-yellow reflection of the lamps against the glass, into the darkness beyond. 

If he looks hard enough, he imagines he can barely see the ocean, the white tips of the crashing waves glistening in the silver light of the rising moon. The air, Peter imagines, would smell fresh and crisp.

“Ready for an awesome beach week, Pete?” May asks as he sits down beside her, pulling a slice of pizza from the rack in the center table. “It’s going to be a lot of fun, sweetheart.”

His aunt, when Peter finally glances over at her, is relaxed. 

Her eyes, glowing in the dim yellow light overhead, are soft behind her glasses and Peter nods. He leans back, watching out of the corner of his eye as Tony, Pepper beside him, helps Morgan to her seat, the little girl eagerly pointing to the exact piece she wants. Rhodey and Happy are on the other side of the table, both eating pizza and laughing about something on the driver’s phone.

“Yeah,” The spiderling says, taking a bite of pizza, feeling his chest swell with love. “I’m ready.”