"Um, hi? Is this—is this thing on? Oh, it is? Um, okay, uh yeah. Hi."
"It's, uh, it's Peter. Parker. Aw, who am I kidding? You know me, Tony. Or . . . did, I guess."
"I just wanted to say that I miss you."
"It has been . . . Hap, how long has it been? Um, Happy says it's been two months. Ugh, I feel like I should know this. I'm sorry."
"Pepper, uh, Pepper suggested I send you voice mails. Not too often, of course. Just when I've been feeling extra sad or something. Y'know, the good stuff. All a part of the 'healing process,' whatever that's supposed to mean . . ."
"Anyhoo, I just thought you'd like to hear a little bit about how I've, y'know, been doing ever since . . . ever since you left. Well, I'm fine! Totally not, like, crying every second of the day. Not anymore, at least."
"I'm sorry, I don't mean to make you feel guilty or anything, I just . . . it's hard. Hard to lose someone, hard to say goodbye. But I guess I should consider myself lucky that I at least got to say goodbye to you. I hope you're doing well."
" . . ."
"Um, I might have to go now. Yeah, May wants me back home soon. Uh, good talk. I miss you."
* * * * *
"Wow. Haha, I forgot that I used to call you 'Mr. Stark' all the time. Remember that? It drove you insane. I guess I'm just so used to referring to you as 'Tony' now."
"Well, I just wanted to tell you that I had a good day today. Aced my physics test, met up with Ned and MJ, yeah, the works. Oh! Morgan, that little rascal, just met her the other day. Officially, I mean. She was at your funeral, but I didn't really talk to anyone that day . . . for obvious reasons."
"But Morgan, gosh, she's just like you, Tony. Spitting image, complete with sarcasm and sass. Yup, she's a carbon copy of you."
"It's . . . it's almost too hard to be around her. Morgan reminds me of you, reminds me that you could have gone home to her instead of away forever. Pepper says that I was the reason you went back in time, why you snapped. I don't know how to feel about that. And then I see Morgan, and I think of you . . . and I just can't help but think that I'm the reason she's gonna grow up without a dad."
" . . . Like I did. Not that I'm trying to one-up her or gain attention or anything! I'm long over my parents' deaths, it's fine."
"Gosh, I'm rambling, aren't I? I think I'll talk to you later. Bye."
* * * * *
"It's been eight months. I've been keeping track now, don't worry! I'll never forget you, Tony."
"So, um, I'll be done with my junior year of high school in about a week. I guess that's cool. I've already sent all my college applications. Hopefully I get into MIT. Like you."
"One sec, Morgan's asking for me."
"Okay, I'm back! She just wanted to know what I was doing. I told her that 'I'm talking to Daddy up in heaven.' I think she was a little freaked out by that, oops."
"Morgan's kinda like a little sister to me. It's a little strange, she didn't grow up with me but seems to know everything about me. Like, she knows my interests, my superhero alias, all the things I did before big ugly grape-face came along."
"She told me you used to tell her stories. About a boy named Peter, also known as Spider-Man. That you guys were best friends, and that you hoped Morgan would some day meet him."
"You told her about me? Wow, um, I don’t know what to say"
"Ugh, these past few days, I haven't been able to stop crying. I feel like such a baby, sometimes. I'm seventeen and such an emotional wreck, God."
"May says it's normal to still be grieving. I didn't grieve too long with my parents—because I was young, so I didn't really understand what May and Ben meant when they said that 'Mom and Dad won't be home for awhile’—and of course I'm still sad about Ben, but why am I still crying when it's been more than half a year? It doesn't seem normal to me."
"But yeah, I'm happy that you'd think to tell Morgan about me while I was . . . away, I guess."
"I'm honestly a little jealous, y'know? She got to grow up and spend five years with you, and then me—I spend, what, two years with you, and then BOOM, I die and come back, she's here and you're gone . . . I'm sorry, that's really selfish of me. You're her dad, not mine."
"I'll, um, I'll call you back. Uh, bye. L-Love you, Tony."
"God, that was so stupid—oh shoot, is it still on? Oh my fudging—such an idiot—"
* * * * *
"Hi Tony. Um, it's been about a year and a half? Yeah."
"I'm sorry, I know it's been a long time since we talked. I just—life got really hard, okay? I went on a trip to Europe, and it just kinda blew up in my face. That was like, a month ago. I don't know."
"God, I just really miss you, Tony."
"Um, the reason I called you today was because it's, uh, it's my nineteenth birthday. And before you ask, yes. I did get my driver's license. I remember when you used to tease me about that. Those good old days in the lab, when we'd talk about that randomest things and just tinker like the weirdos we were."
"Morgan has a little toy robot. The one I had been working on. You finished it and gave it to her, which I'm glad you did. She takes very good care of it, and really seems to like it."
"So, I guess life's been fine. Oh, and tell Steve I say hi! We're having his funeral next week. He'll be buried next to Mrs. Peggy."
"I forgot to tell you, uh, I got accepted into MIT. Yay! I'll be packing for college in about four months, as soon as school's out. Wow, I feel old. It seems like just yesterday you were in my apartment asking me to go to Germany."
"Ah, the good old days."
"Speaking of which, I decided to hang up the suit for a bit. New York's gonna have to manage without Spider-Man while I'm at MIT. But I'll be back to visit of course, and I'll try to get around a bit."
"Morgan says hi, too."
"She's a good kid. Turned seven a little while back. Now she's anticipating the big day when she becomes a whopping seven and a half. A big difference in the mind of a child."
"I'm gonna go, but it's been a good talk. Uh, love you, bye."
* * * * *
"Um, May . . . she, a—she's gone now, too.”
“Ugh, I leave for college for two years, visit a couple times, and when I come back again—she’s just . . . it's not fair. Why does life have to take everyone from me? Can't it just cut me some slack? Please send me someone that'll stay."
“ . . .”
"Ned and MJ have been a blessing. They're both at different schools, but we're constantly meeting up. Pepper, Happy, Morgan, Rhodey, I still see them on the occasion, too. May as well, but not anymore."
"Is it sad that I've lost five parental figures before turning twenty-two? Saying that aloud . . . jeez, yeah that's—that's kinda sad."
"Ugh, quit the waterworks, Parker!"
"Man, I'm glad that I'm crying and yelling at myself in a closet instead of out in the open. That would be embarrassing."
"Unless the janitor happens to need a mop or something. Haha, I’m screwed."
"This is just . . . I don't even know anymore. Tell May I say hi and that I love her, please! I love you too, Tony. Always. Signing off."
* * * * *
"It's been about six years since you died. I still miss you."
"Morgan misses you, too. She just graduated fifth grade, by the way. I just graduated college at MIT. Pepper is having a press conference to name me as the CEO of Stark Industries tomorrow."
"I didn't even know you had me in the will. Way to keep me informed, Tony!"
" . . . It's a great honor, though. Thank you so much, Tony. Haha, I don't think I'd be anywhere in life without you . . ."
"Thanks. For everything. Love you and May. Bye for now."
* * * * *
"So . . . I pulled a you."
"Yesterday at the press conference, I, uh, may or may not have . . . told everyone that I'm Spider-Man? I'm still on the fence about whether or not that was the best idea. Oh well, nowhere to go but up."
"I miss you. So, so much. I wish you were here to . . . I don't know, yell at me or let me know if I'm doing anything wrong. You always knew what to do."
"I'm moving into the Tower officially tomorrow, and then Pepper's gonna help me through the whole . . . newbie-CEO-of-Stark-Industries-slash-superhero-and-apparently-celebrity thing. No offence to her, but I can't believe she's still up and kicking at this age. She says that she'll officially retire after I've gotten used to life as a media sensation. Too bad for her, I'm never gonna be used to it."
"Well, I guess that's all I have for today. Lot's of love."
* * * * *
"I married MJ today."
"Happiest day of my life. Ned, of course, was ecstatic to be my best man. Morgan was MJ's maid of honor."
"I should tell you, those two get along so well, it's scary."
"Anyway, I just wanted to let you know. I hope you're proud of me. I miss you."
* * * * *
"I visited the hospital today."
"And no, it was not because I was stupid and reckless. No, this was definitely one of the only things I've never doubted in my life."
"Some day, but not too soon, I'd like you to meet my son. Tony Benjamin Parker."
"I'm sure he'd love you just as much as I know you'd love him."
"I'm pretty sure he's the best thing that's ever happened to me."
* * * * *
"Morgan's staying with my family now. It's been about fifteen years since you started pushing up daisies, and now everyone else is kicking the bucket, too."
"Morg is still too young to be out and about as a young adult, in my opinion, so she's gonna live with me."
"We both had to say goodbye to Pepper last night. She went to join you and everyone else."
"Pepper was a fighter. Always the last one standing."
"It's just me, Morgan, MJ, and Tony, now. Spidey's gone, too. These old joints can't take the stress anymore."
"But my little sister, she's so smart. I wish you could see her, Tony. Her IQ is enough to rival both yours and mine combined!"
"Also, she hasn't confessed to me yet, but I think she might be that new superhero I've seen flying around the city."
"Goes by 'Iron Maiden.'"
"A little obvious, if you ask me. But I think it's a nice tribute."
"Also, I'm proud to inform you that I have not blown up the entirety of Stark Industries. Yet. Only a couple labs. We're fine, yeah."
"A little sad and worn out, but fine."
"Morgan says hi to all of you. We love you guys. Bye Tony."
* * * * *
"Ned got in a car accident today."
"I saw it on the news. It wasn't very good."
"His father called me a few minutes ago. I'm invited to his funeral."
* * * * *
"And yet another hospital trip. This time for two reasons."
"Good news or bad news first? Never mind, let's just start with the good news."
"MJ, Morg, Tony, and I got to meet little Virginia May Parker today. I feel kinda bad naming all of my kids after my side of the family, but MJ was never close to hers. Always said you guys were more like family than anyone else she'd ever met."
"Haha, Tony—my son, not you, sorry—was so excited to hold his little sister. For being three years old, he was very aware of what was going on. He held Virginia so carefully, like he was afraid she'd shatter in his arms. I think it was love at first sight, though."
"I can't wait for you to meet them, Tony. You'll love them."
"Now for the not-so-good-news."
"Um, we were also here at the hospital to run some diagnostics. Actually, we were here before MJ even went into labor. Virginia is two weeks early. The doctor said it was probably from the shock."
"Michelle was diagnosed with leukemia today."
"Apparently, she'd been showing symptoms for years, but no one ever thought much of it. She's really far along."
"We're gonna spend the last seven months of her life as best as we can."
"Then she can say hi to you guys for me."
"But for now, I'll just stick with hello."
* * * * *
"I gave the company to Morgan. I hope you don't mind."
"I'm thirty-nine now. Morg is twenty-four. I'm old, she's intelligent, so I thought I'd pass the legacy on to someone who actually bears the name. I think she's the perfect choice, and I know you’d agree."
"MJ is on her last week. I think we had a good year. Tony will hopefully remember his mother. Virginia, not as much. But it's gonna be okay. I'm not leaving them. Not anytime soon."
"I'm sorry. My emotions have been a little out of check, lately. But I'm trying to stay positive."
"Not for me. For my family."
"And for you."
* * * * *
"How did you do it?"
"After—after Pepper left you, after the Avengers broke up, after Thanos snapped. How did you survive?"
"I'm barely getting by. It's so hard, Tony."
"How am I supposed to continue living when the people who deserve to live the most aren't around? How do you expect me to carry on living like nothing happened, like I deserve to live more than them?"
"I left Tony and Virginia with Morgan today. I can't handle being around people today."
"Thanks for keeping me company."
"God, I miss you. I just know that you'd be willing to, to give me a hug or, or comfort me like I'm still that fifteen year old kid. Not some old man crying in his lab with the lights off and doors locked."
"I can see why people always said we were so alike."
"We both have a habit of shutting people out, but we have so much love to give. We love our family."
" . . ."
"That's how I'll move on."
"MJ might be gone now, too, but I still have my kids and my sister."
"And my dad."
"I still have you."
* * * * *
"Let's face it. I'm old."
"Super powers or not, I'm still gonna die someday. Probably soon."
"I just . . . wanted to call you one last time. In case I don't get to see you again."
"Finally, a real update. I don't know how many years it's been since you died. I know I said I wouldn't forget you, and I honestly didn't. I just forgot when you left."
"I am sixty-three. Morgan is forty-eight. Tony is twenty-seven. Virginia is twenty-four."
"Everyone else is gone. Been gone for years."
"Me too, pretty soon."
"It was kinda bad. There was . . . there was a bombing at one of Morgan's galas."
"Me, being the stupid idiot I am, thought I could get to the bomb fast enough. Try and disarm it."
"Haha. I forgot that I'm not young anymore."
"Long story short, I didn't make it in time. Everyone is fine, though. I have some shrapnel lodged in my chest. Similar to you, I guess. They gave me the option to do what you did, and get an arc reactor implanted in my chest. I told them that I didn't want it."
"I told them I wanted to see you again."
"It wouldn't have worked anyhow."
"I've had this phone . . . in my possession for forty-eight . . . forty-eight years, now. I'm gonna give it to my kids . . . and Morgan. Then they can call both of us."
"You'll get to hear their voices, Tony."
"I'll get to see you again."
"I know it's a little odd, but . . . I can't wait."
"See you soon, Mr. Stark."
* * * * *
Tony set down the old burner phone. It fell silent with a slight buzz. He stood up slowly from the couch he had been sitting on. He walked out of the giant lake house, down the front porch to where everyone was out by the water.
Natasha was in the water on Clint's shoulders, facing off against Sam on Bucky's shoulders. Clint's wife and oldest son watched from a safe distance away, laughing along. Bruce and Rhodey were sitting in the sand, chatting away as the water lapped at their toes. Scott and Hope raced into the water, Cassie keeping score of who ran the furthest. Ned and MJ sat on beach chairs, MJ listening with a slight smile as Ned rambled on about whatever popped into his mind. Maria Stark sat on the porch, a—for once—smiling Howard seated at her side. Peggy and Steve ran around the side of the house, the latter's face covered in mysterious red marks, and both of them with loving smiles plastered on their faces. May and Ben walked around the garden arm in arm, smiling and stealing kisses every so often. Mary and Richard sat on a bench nearby, whispering to each other excitedly.
Everyone was happy and youthful, just as everyone remembered when they were alive. It was like nothing had changed.
Pepper walked up to Tony, Happy following her loosely. She pecked his cheek, sending him a questioning glance.
"He sent his last call today," Tony whispered, unable to decide how he felt. Pepper smiled gently, taking his hand.
"Then we'll welcome him with open arms," she replied evenly. She yelled to get everyone's attention, telling them the news. They all stopped what they were doing, grabbing towels and shoes as they headed up to the lake house.
Gathering in the living room, they all sat to wait.
"Tony, are you sure? We all thought he had a few more years left, at the least," Rhodey asked, standing next to the genius. He preferred to stand, now that he no longer needed his leg braces.
The man nodded. "There was an accident. Shrapnel to the heart. He called to let me know."
Rhodey opened his mouth in a silent 'oh,' looking like he was about to reply when—
"There! Do you see him?" Cassie called, pointing from where she was situated on the couch between Hope and Scott. Everyone looked to where she was pointing.
A small sliver of gold light levitated in the center of the room. The soon-to-set sun bounced off of it, making it seem impossibly more beautiful.
Slowly, the light grew. Larger and larger, shaping into the form of a person. The light faded, and a boy fell to the ground. Tony rushed forward, kneeling down in front of him.
The boy was gasping and sobbing, on his hands and knees as he looked at the ground. But Tony would recognize him anywhere. Those long, curly brown locks, the thin, bony fingers, his small, petit frame.
"Morgan . . . please, take care of them . . . I-I love you guys . . ." Peter whispered, his arms buckling as he fell in a heap. Tony placed a tentative hand on his shoulder, and Peter gasped, looking up in fright.
Tony smiled warmly. The boy's soft doe-eyes grew wider. Without much warning, he leapt into the man's arms, nearly knocking them both over. Tony laughed, and Peter cried.
"Oh, Peter, I missed you so much!"
"Tony! Oh my gosh, I can't believe this!"
They sat together in the center of the room, everyone watching fondly as they hugged each other unconditionally. Soft murmurs were exchanged around the room. Peter looked up over Tony's shoulder.
"Oh my goodness," he whispered. Tony chuckled wetly, carding his hands through the boy's hair.
May was the first one to join them. Then Ben, his parents, MJ, Ned, and everyone else. Peter was all-out sobbing, caught in a giant hug that he never wanted to leave. All the people who had left him were back. He was finally home.
By the time everyone separated, the sun was low in the sky, casting a golden hue through the many windows. Peter was still crying, taking the time to hug every person in the room.
He hugged his parents, May, and Ben the hardest, then walked over to MJ and shared a long kiss with her. He and Ned performed their handshake, which Peter had practiced almost daily for when he'd get to see his friend again. Happy shocked everyone by picking Peter up in a bone-crushing hug, muttering in his ear how much he'd missed him. Pepper gave him a gentle but long hug, resting her chin on his head. The other members of their big family took turns saying their greetings, welcoming him home. Then Peter came back to Tony.
"I called you sometimes," Peter said hoarsely, voice dry with shed and unshed tears. Tony wrapped him in another hug, relishing the feeling of his kid back in his arms.
"I listened to every one of them. My favorites were the ones where you kept calling yourself old."
The boy chuckled, squeezing tighter and burying his face in the genius' neck.
"Speaking of which, why do I look like a fifteen year old kid again?" he mumbled, his warm breath tickling Tony's skin.
"That's easy. Because this is who you are at heart. A sweet, selfless boy with the biggest heart I've ever met," the man replied.
"And you're still a cranky old man, I see." Tony chuckled wholeheartedly.
"No, I'm the person I became after meeting you. The best person I ever been is who I was when you walked into my life. And I thank you for that."
Peter hummed. They stayed that way for a few more minutes, then the boy pulled away, grabbing Tony's hand and pulling him out the door.
"Come on, you gotta show me around before it gets too dark," he smiled, tugging at him again. Tony grinned. His boy was finally home.
Was the wait worth it?
Looking at the wide grin on Peter's face, the bounce in his step, the happiness in his voice . . . yeah.
It was worth it.
* * * * *
“Peter? It’s Morgan. I have Tony and Virgina with me. They want you to say hi to dad—er, Grandpa Tony, I guess. Tell him I said hi, too. We love you guys.”