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The Reaper

Chapter Text

It was nearly a week post high school graduation when Morgan reached the trailhead. Mom had worried about the isolated nature of the camping trip, but solo backpacking trips were kind of Morgan’s bread and butter at this point. No one else in her extended family particularly enjoyed sleeping on the ground for weeks at a time, so she went alone for the most part. On all other previous trips she had brought FRIDAY, who was an excellent supervisor and better company, but Morgan had requested that she go it completely alone this time. She preferred it that way, and it would be nice to be completely by herself for once.

Denali National Park was just as spectacular as she had thought it would be this time of year. There was very little snow on the ground, but she could see the massive white-tipped mountains rising off in the distance. The fields of heather were Morgan’s favorite part thus far, the light purple flowers coloring the landscape brightly. It was a cheerful view, and she smiled as she walked.

She stayed close to the road, as was Pepper’s one main concession to Morgan forgoing her internet connection. Luckily, there were still very few people hiking this early in the summer, so her proximity to the road wasn’t particularly bothersome.

Morgan was making very good progress, despite the weight of the gear she was carrying. She did plan on spending a few weeks up here, after all, and she needed to pack in all the food she’d need. It was better than a few trips she’d been on, when Morgan had needed to carry the gallons of water one generally needed to live, but Denali had water spouts at each of the campsites. Still, she was carrying basically her body weight in equipment, which was no simple task.

She would track her progress at the next mile marker, mostly as a formality. She had spent so much time over the last few weeks planning her route that she hardly needed to track her progress. Morgan felt almost like she had walked this road before. It had been the best part about taking both dual enrollment finals in the same week, with so little time to study, she had just studied properly in advance, then planned her graduation trip in between each session. The schedule had been a killer, but the downtime had more than made up for it.

Well, no. The best part about taking her finals was that she didn’t need to worry about anything school-related until she had to go finish her college degree in the fall. Unlike years previous, when summer classes took up most of her potential hiking time, she didn’t need to do anything at all for the next few months. Those classes did provide a nice balance between having things to do and being alone with her thoughts, so she wasn’t going to complain, but Morgan did wish she got to be alone more often. Solo backpacking trips always reduced the risk of her running into reporters or overzealous Iron Man fans.

She was looking forward to school in the fall, because it would give her back the best of both worlds, especially given that her dual-enrolment during high school left less than a year of classes before Morgan got her degree. Pepper was still trying to convince her to take more time off, and take a gap year or something similar. Her mom had told her to think about it some more while she was on her trip, which she would, but Morgan wasn’t quite ready to think about life decisions yet. It was also nice to get away from her mom’s pestering on the subject, though she’d never say that to her mother’s face.

It was also nice to get away from people in general for a while, and tire herself out with strenuous physical activity, rather than by talking to people until her eyes fell out of her head and all she could do was smile and nod. Morgan stretched her arms out as she walked, basking in the sheer openness of the space around her. No cameras, no reporters, no one to bother her.

She walked for a few hours, mentally ticking off each mile marker as she passed them, absorbed in both counting each deer she saw, and by trying to calculate what time it was by watching the sun. She was pretty good at it, but the amount of time the sun was up in Alaska was a bit different than she was used to. The sun was fairly bright, and it highlighted every hill and gentle valley in sharp relief. It beat down on her, without any tree cover in the immediate area. She could see trees in the distance, and remembered from her route that she would reach them sometime before nightfall the next day.

Morgan had never been hiking in Alaska, mostly because her mother preferred it when she was closer to home. She was much more familiar with the Appalachian Mountains, having covered a thousand odd miles of the trail over the course of all three summers during high school in between her summer classes. Doing the full Appalachian Trail through was something she had on her bucket list, along with Denali. Alaska was a new experience, one she had been looking forward to doing as a legal adult, not bound by her mother’s rules. She could have come up to Denali during winter break, but she wasn’t stupid. Her only experience with 10 feet of snow had been that one winter when the Upstate New York snowfall had been much higher than usual, and when they arrived at the house in mid-January the shed had collapsed under the weight of the snowpack. So yeah, Morgan wasn’t going to go hiking in Denali in winter. It would have been foolish, and Morgan was no fool.

She reached the crest of the hill she was climbing and saw the first campground after the trail head. It was nearly empty, with the exception of a few other hikers already set up. She made for the campsite she had reserved for her first night out here. Morgan began to set up her one person tent. She had made very good time today, which pointed to her being able to make her reservations at the next two campgrounds for the first part of the trip. After that, she would need to start setting up her overnight spots on her own.

Everything was going to plan, she thought, as she started to cook a can of chili for dinner.

***

Everything was not going to plan. The chili had made Morgan sick, and she was up part of the night trying to get the food out of her system. As a result of that, she had slept late, hoping to feel a bit better. And she did feel better by the time she woke up, but the sun was high in the sky by that point.

Morgan knew she wasn’t going to make the next campground before dark at that point, but if she left now, and overnighted as far up the trail as she could, she might make it to the third campground on the third day. Ugh. She might as well. It wasn’t like she cared particularly much about sleeping in the campgrounds, but she had made a plan and had followed it so well the day before. The thought of missing the reservations she had planned so carefully made her a little upset.

She packed up her tent and everything else she used the night before in record time, glancing up at the sky every so often, keeping close tabs on how many hours of daylight she had left.

It was about noon when the campground disappeared behind her, easing her worries. She was finally back on track.

She kind of missed FRIDAY, honestly, but the AI could be rather overbearing about sticking to the prearranged schedule. Her habits had obviously rubbed off on Morgan, given how stressed she had been that morning. It was kind of weird to be completely alone. It was typical to only carry gear and food for herself, but to not have FRIDAY chime in when she was falling behind in her usual pace was strange.

The view over the lavender colored fields was magnificent, and she thought about setting up her camera to take some pictures. She really wanted some good shots, and the lighting was so perfect, so she did as quickly as she could. Even though it would lose some time.

As she set up her camera on its stand, a bus drove past her, kicking up a slight wind which threw up some dust. It made the light look even more spectacular, so she bent down to start shooting. Morgan faintly remembered Peter going out during a light snowfall one winter, insistent that the particles would make his photos look great. He had come back completely frozen of course, but with some really nice looking shots.

Morgan reviewed her pictures, and satisfied, started to pack away the light-weight equipment. Her whole body was covered in a light coat of dust, so she brushed herself off as best she could and kept walking.

She continued to count the deer she saw, bringing her total up to 10. This one had a baby deer near it, upping the total to 11. The baby was running around the area near its mother, but still not paying any attention to the elder. It kind of reminded her of when she was little, playing superheroes. The baby deer was really cute, and made her want to take some more pictures, but she had just put her camera away. It would take too long, and she really didn’t have the time.

By this point, Morgan had reached the trees she had spotted yesterday, which was a reassuring sign that she wasn’t too far off schedule.

The sun was beginning to set as she spotted the mile marker she had been shooting for, so she continued on for a little while longer, struggling through the darkness, looking for a place to sleep. Morgan spotted a flat spot of ground just out of sight of the road that looked ideal to set up her tent, so she veered off the road, picking her way around sharp branches to get there. Her flashlight was really coming in handy right now... She unpacked as quickly as she could in the dark, then pulled out her map to try and figure out where she was. Nearly at the second campsite. She sighed in relief. That put her within a reasonable distance of the third campsite for tomorrow, if she budgeted her time properly.

She pulled out a book to read while she waited for her can of soup to warm up (avoiding the chili for now) and was quickly absorbed in The Martian. She adored realistic space stuff like it, loving how scientifically accurate it was, while still being from before the time of contact with the rest of the universe. It gave a sense of fantasy to the sci-fi book, as if she didn’t call an actual alien her aunt.

Morgan heard the sounds of vehicles passing her camping spot, but couldn't see the road. Such a spot afforded her privacy from the tour busses passing through the park. It really was ideal, and it was lucky she had spotted it. She heard another truck round the bend in the road as a deer suddenly crashed through her little clearing, pulling her attention away from her book and the sounds around her. Deer number 12.

She suddenly noticed how dark it was outside the reach of her lights, as she stared at the place the deer had reentered the trees. It looked like the deer had vanished into an abyss of nothing. Morgan couldn’t hear anything for a short moment. She turned her gaze back in the direction of her book, only to find herself staring up the barrel of a gun. The silent moment stretched on. All Morgan could hear was her heart beat.

She looked up into the eyes of the man holding the gun. Red. Not natural. The man broke the silence first. “You’re coming with us, Miss Stark.”

Mogan bolted, dropping her book and flashlight, leaving all her gear behind. She darted into the forest, using the trees as cover. There was more than one set of pursuing footsteps pounding behind her. She ran blindly, unable to see anything without her flashlight, which was definitely resting right by her book back at camp right where she had dropped it in her panic. She hadn’t hit any trees yet, thankfully, but she was hitting lesser branches. Morgan knew that she was covered in scratches from the twigs at that point, and prayed that she wouldn't run into a low hanging branch or something. She was running so fast that an actual branch would give her a concussion, if it didn’t knock her out.

The sounds of the forest around her led her in an unknown direction that was probably away from the road, as the low hum of the bus that had stopped near the camp disappeared within the first few seconds of her flight. It was mostly her footsteps and harsh breathing, along with many other pairs of running feets following her. Morgan thought she had heard an owl at one point.

She kept thinking she had lost them, unable to hear her pursuers for a moment, before a branch snapped and they were right back on her again. She couldn’t tell if it was her or them that was snapping branches, but she did her best to stay silent in the complete darkness. Morgan hid behind a tree in one of these quiet moments, trying to hear over the sound of her heartbeat. She desperately tried to calm her breathing when she heard them once more. They were moving faster than a human should be able to. All of them.

All was silent for another beat as Morgan held her breath, clinging to the rough bark of her tree with all her might.

Fingers wrapped around her arm and yanked her away from the tree. She screamed and struggled against her captor as they dragged her over tree roots and dirt, trying to keep her feet under her so she could get away. Her efforts to hit back at whoever was holding her were thwarted by the speed at which they were moving. The darkness crowded in on her, obscuring where she was placing her feet, so Morgan tripped over a root and lost her footing in one sharp movement. Her arm felt like it was going to come off with the force acting on her shoulder. The feeling of a sharp pop ricocheted through her arm as her right shoulder dislocated and it felt like her flesh had burst into flames. They kept dragging her. She kept screaming.

A few moments later, something heavy hit her on the side of her head and the pain died away into darkness.

***

One of the men flipped the girl over their shoulder, now that she was no longer struggling with everything she had. Her arm dangled uselessly toward the ground, and small rips in her skin slowly leaked blood.

He looked over gratefully at one of his team mates, the one that had hit Stark over the head with their lantern. The long gouges she had carved in his arm with her fingernails were already healing over, the scars that came as they healed flattened out in seconds, the process highlighted by the flat light of the battery lantern, now held up so the whole group could see their catch.

The Strike Team made their way back in the direction they had come from, carefully retracing their steps back to the little campsite. It wasn’t difficult, with the long path of trampled roots and twigs. They needed to put out her campfire, and make her gear look like it had been torn apart by bears. Those were the instructions they had been given, anyways. Make it look like an accident.

They reached the clearing and began to rip things apart, while the one carrying the girl tied her up and made his way up to the vehicle they came in. A stolen park tour bus was not ideal for the situation, but they couldn’t get their own trucks up past the trail head.

He tossed the girl in the very back of the bus, securing her a little better, and went to go speak with the driver. The man did not want to keep looking at her. The girl’s shoulder looked incredibly painful, and made him feel a bit sick just looking at it. He didn’t really feel bad for her, especially when it was him that had caused the dislocation, but it was hard not to wince in sympathy. “We’re supposed to head up the road, right?” He asked the driver.

The other man looked at him funny. “Nah, we’re supposed to go back down to the trailhead, remember?”

The two looked at each other for a moment. Then they looked down the side of the road where they knew the rest of their teammates were. “Hey guys,” the first one called, “are we supposed to go up the road or down the road?” Neither could see anything for a moment, the darkness obscuring everything further than the edge of the pavement.

The others emerged from the tree line and climbed on to the bus one by one. “Up I think.” Someone suggested. She didn’t sound terribly sure of herself, but the driver seemed to take her word for it. As soon as everyone was back on the bus, he drove off in the direction the bus was already facing.

It was completely dark everywhere, and the bus's headlights seemed to be the only source of light for miles.

Morgan Stark was tied up, unconscious in the very back row of the bus. Her head hit the window each time they drove around a bend. Everything was very much not going to plan.

Chapter Text

Morgan awoke to an extremely inconvenient sunbeam directly in her eyes, and her head pounding like someone was banging on her skull with a sledgehammer. It took her a moment to realize where she was, and why exactly she was sitting in the backseat of a tour bus. From the time she opened her eyes to the second she realized she was tied up, she processed exactly how she felt. Her right arm was numb, and from what she could see, it was swelled up and fire engine red. Morgan closed her eyes, blocking out everything around her.

She had been kidnapped. From a trip that no one was supposed to know she had been taking. Damn. She could hear her captors arguing quite loudly from the front of the bus. They were arguing about how some of them didn’t think they were going the right way. From the sound of it no one was paying attention to her. Reasonably sure that no one was paying any attention to her, Morgan felt comfortable opening her eyes again.

She was sitting in the very back seat of a park tour bus, surrounded by haphazardly arranged gear and weapons. She was also right next to the back door of the bus. Every single other person on board was packed in the first ten rows.

Morgan tested her bonds gently. Paracord around her wrists and ankles, and her arms were bound behind her back. The lack of sensation in her right arm worried her slightly, and she vaguely remembered her shoulder dislocating right before she was knocked out. She didn’t have any gear, except a single hunting knife she could still feel stuffed down her hiking boot. She put it there for emergencies, like, bear related emergencies. This was certainly not a bear related emergency. Besides, it was unlikely she could reach it without jostling her arm, which she did not want to do.

This was unfortunately not the first time Morgan had been kidnapped, but the last time it had happened was years ago. FRIDAY had tracked her down quickly and Peter had come to save her. It would be fine, she thought, FRIDAY would… oh no. There’s no FRIDAY this time. With a jolt, she remembered that her phone, the only trackable object she had brought, was totally powered down in a pocket of her backpack. Which was probably back at her camp. She was very much alone.

The bus rattled as it went around a corner at top speed, and Morgan suppressed the urge to move to a more secure part of the seat. Instead, she fiddled her ankles around a bit in worry. Fiddled… oh! The ropes around her ankles were a bit loose, possibly loose enough that she could get out of them. That of course didn’t solve the problem of her being on a bus careening up the side of a mountain, but that was a problem for later.

Morgan fiddled a bit more with her feet, actually trying to loosen the ropes now. The loops loosened more as she played around with them, and the low level noise of the bus buzzed in symphony with the pounding in her head. She was also still wearing her boots, which was a good thing. Losing her shoes would absolutely prevent any escape attempt. She was slightly surprised they didn’t think of taking them, but thanked her stars that none of them had thought of it.

The bus screeched to a stop as she finally managed to pull her feet out of the ropes. She let her head hit the back of the seat in front of her, as if she was still out of it. Morgan regretted it immediately, but the ploy worked, and as the kidnappers all piled out of the bus to eat lunch, only one came to check on her for a short moment. They left quickly with the others after they checked her, not noticing her feet were no longer tied up.

The bus was empty. It was also not currently moving, which Morgan determined was probably the factor that should decide her escape. She’d rather actually have a chance to get away than to jump off of a moving vehicle and break every bone in her body. It was less important that the kidnappers would probably spot her. It was her upper body that was hurt, and she could still run. This was her chance.

Morgan carefully pulled herself up and turned around, cursing the lack of arm mobility and sensation, as she pushed down the door lever with her left hand and opened the emergency exit at the back of the bus. Alarms blared, surprising her so much that she lost her footing and fell out of the opening.

She landed on her right side, biting her tongue as she felt something snap under her, ridding that arm of its numbness in a single moment. She could feel her dislocated shoulder, and the new break in incredible detail. She hardly suppressed her scream, letting out a pitiful whine that fought through her efforts. Pain raced through her as she struggled to her feet and began to run. They were chasing her again. Morgan’s mouth was filled with blood from biting down on her tongue, and drops of blood trickled down her chin. Her thoughts were clouded by the shooting agony in her arm, and she ran near the edge of the road. Which was also the edge of a cliff.

Morgan heard calls to catch her from near the front of the bus, and she tried to run faster. A sharp sound echoed from somewhere, then she stumbled over what seemed to be nothing, but then she put down her left foot. Fire ran up her leg as she stumbled again, this time in the direction of the cliff face. They had shot her in the leg, and it felt like her shin bone had been replaced with acid. Her body felt like it was glitching, unable to process the areas of hurt she had gained. Everything just felt like one open wound.

Unable to control her body in any meaningful way, she wasn’t unable to right herself from her stumble, and slid off the road, down the side of the cliff.

Morgan could barely feel it as she fell head over heels down the mountainside, only the pain each tumble added to her body. One of her legs crunched under her, trapped in a rock as she rolled. Her right shoulder made a terrible cracking sound as she landed on it funny, adding to the numbness on that side of her body, and leaving her right arm totally limp. A sharp rock tore open a long gash in her side, pulling away a chunk of her shirt as she rolled away from it.

Her fall slowed as she reached the bottom of the ravine, but not before she hit a tree head on. Morgan’s head felt like it had been split open, and she felt things in her forehead move as she closed her eyes as tight as she could. Blood was the first thing that covered her sight when she opened them again, and she came to a rest in a snowy clearing, the harsh tumble ending in one final turn. The next thing she saw was black seeping into the outline of her scarlet-toned vision.

Morgan caught sight of a lone deer, springing away from where it had been foraging a moment before, surprised by the broken human.

Her last coherent thought was to count that deer as her 13th. Black overtook her vision, and for once, the mind of Morgan Stark was totally silent.

***

The members of the Elite Roxxon Strike team peered down the steep cliff face at the body of their target from the paved road.

“Who’s going to climb down there?” Asked the man who drove the bus. Everyone avoided everyone else’s eyes. “We were supposed to get her alive, you fools! No guns, remember?”

One of the women pinched her nose. “And somebody’s gotta tell the boss what we’ve done.”

They all looked at the man who held the gun in the girl’s face in the beginning. He sighed. “We’ve gotta get out of here at least. No one was supposed to know what was going on. We can’t be implicated in it.” The man rubbed his face with his hands. Everyone else looked away. “As leader, I will tell the boss what happened. But someone else needs to have shot her. I’m not going to die for this mission.”

The leader looks around at each of the people. No one meets his eyes, and one by one they all creep back onto the bus. He walked over to one of the spots of blood, and scuffed at it with his foot. This mess was going to get them all in a world of trouble. But there was no time to get the blood off the road. It was more important to get out of there.

The man looked down the cliff at the body, before he went to join them. It looked so small from up here. Hopefully, some carnivore would find her, and destroy the evidence for them before the body was found. No one would be noticing she was gone for a while anyway.

***

Blood seeped from the wounds in the girl’s body as the sky darkened. She was resting on her right side, her arm and shoulder completely collapsed under her. Her right hand had slipped out of the rope tying her up at some point while she fell, blood likely easing the way, with the fingers looking as crushed as the rest of the arm. One of her legs was splayed out at an angle typically impossible for the human body to achieve, collapsed slightly, and the other had a gaping hole in the calf.

The worst part still was the head wound, bleeding quite a bit, as head wounds tend to do. The gash wasn’t deep enough to show bone at a single glance, but little flecks of white bone poked out of it. The rest of her was in sorry condition, but it was obvious that it was the head wound that had killed her.

The snow around the body was no longer white, stained an ugly brown color. It looked even uglier in the dying light. The sky itself looked lovely, streaked with oranges and reds. There were even a few stars out.

When the thirteenth deer had run, it had driven away all the other animals in the area. The ravine was quiet and empty, the spectre of death covering it completely.

The sky turned black as the sun finally set. The only light left were the stars. There was no moon shining down tonight.

Chapter Text

Morgan-the-five-year-old was too young to understand when her father died. All she knew was that everyone was very sad. She had no idea that recordings were all she had left of the person she was closest to for the first five years of her life. She didn't understand that day why people she had never met were crowding on the dock out back, and why they were putting that funny metal thing that Mommy loved in the lake.

Morgan-the-eighteen-year-old understood very well that she would never see her father again after that day. She understood that the thing her mother had put in the lake was Dad’s first arc reactor, and it kept him alive for years. She knew that the people she didn’t know that day out back all knew her father, and also loved him very much.

Morgan-the-eighteen-year-old also understood where her father went. And why. And she understood that he loved her. Even though he didn’t come back. That didn’t mean she didn’t want to see him again. So she could really appreciate him, aware of what he sacrificed. She understood why he did it, she just missed him.

It wasn’t the only funeral she had ever been to, but it was the only one she really remembered. It had always felt a bit strange, remembering something that happened so long ago, but she had memories even before then.

It was always memories of her father, only her father--

Snap!

***

Morgan was falling. She was falling down a snow-covered cliff, bouncing against the irregularities in the rock, leaving behind bloodstains in the snow with every bump.

Morgan was falling. She was falling alongside a dark gray cliff, thankful that at least this time the way down wasn’t so unpleasant. She knew that it was the bottom that would hurt. She fell for a long time.

Morgan was falling. She wasn't expecting to fall, but she fell anyway. They had waited for her on the other side. And now she was falling. Again. Morgan wondered if there was a bottom to hit this time.

Morgan was pushed. She struggled. An orange-eyed Morgan pressed a metal bar into the neck of a brown-eyed Morgan.

Snap!

***

Snap!

Morgan’s father passed through the barrier between life and death, surrounded by people who had fought alongside him.

Dad! No, not there! She didn’t want to see him like that!

Morgan knew she had been home that day, watched over by Uncle Happy. She wished she had gotten to say goodbye to him then, but she was a little bit glad now that she hadn't. She had never wanted to remember her father like this, hurt and lifeless. He was always strong and healthy in her memories.

Snap!

***

Morgan stood in a landscape colored orange. It was mostly empty. Just a few rocks. The landscape itself was interesting, covered in mountains and ravines. Morgans took a step further away from the chasm closest to her. She shivered, but out of fear. Not cold. There was no temperature in this barren, extraterrestrial landscape.

A staircase appeared in front of her. Smooth and white, not orange; and perfectly proportioned, other than the fact that they were floating and had no supports. It vanished into the orange sky.

She felt an urge to climb them. Morgan took the first step up the stairs. Then another one. And another one. She could hear something calling her name behind her, but didn’t look back. She needed to climb those stairs. More than she had ever needed to do anything in her whole life.

She climbed, and she climbed, and she climbed; resolutely keeping her eyes straight ahead, to avoid looking over the sides. Morgan climbed into the sky, leaving behind whatever it was she was leaving behind. She could feel her chest begin to ache, right in the middle. The pain grew until it felt as though someone had taken a scoop of flesh out of her chest. Aside from that, she felt empty on the inside.

Morgan continued to climb, until she could no longer bear the pain. She stopped for a moment, pressing her hands to the epicenter of the hurt, trying to stop it from radiating out into the rest of her body. There was nothing missing. It was as solid and as generally chest-like as ever.

She grew lightheaded as the pain increased even more. Suddenly, with a loud snap, the stairs disappeared from under her.

Morgan was falling. And she fell, and fell, and fell.

***

A girl laid at the edge of a snowy clearing, the ground around her curiously stained brown. Her clothes were also stained brown, which was a fair indicator that all the brown was really just old, dried blood. It didn’t seem to have come from any place, because the girl didn’t have a single wound deep enough to bleed on her. The uninformed onlooker might even assume that she had traded clothes with a corpse and laid down in the spot someone else had bled out in.

There were no onlookers though. Not yet.

The moon had just begun to rise, and cast strange shadows over the small, empty piece of land. They stretched over the girl, making her face look almost monstrous. As the moon continued to rise, the girl’s face was cast in light, illuminating the last vestiges of a massive scar on her forehead, as it disappeared completely.

She almost looked like she was sleeping, if not for the slightly uncomfortable-looking sprawl her limbs were engaged in.

Suddenly a snap ran out in the darkness. It almost sounded like a branch breaking.

A second snap rang out. The girl opened her eyes. Glowing orange eyes. There seemed to be nothing behind them though, as her gaze didn’t move from the black nothingness of space above.

The world was silent for a long moment, seemingly waiting for the girl to do something. And something she did. Her eyes continued to stare blankly towards the sky, but she began to get up, all the while focused on above.

She stood, back straight and feet planted firmly on the ground. Her head was tilted up to the sky, as she continued to stare.

Her eyes finally moved, still staring blankly, but seemed to search for something in the dark expanse.

A star flared orange for a moment, the girl’s eyes locking on it. As it went out, her eyes faded from orange to brown slowly. When the orange was completely gone, for a moment, her entire body seemed luminous, before it too faded out.

She fell like a puppet with its strings cut, if a puppet falls delicately on its back.

This time, she laid on the snowy ground in a position that looked fully like she was sleeping. Her eyes were shut tight, and her limbs were arranged perfectly parallel to her body.

The ravine was silent, and the moon was full and high in the sky. There was not a single cloud blocking the stars, and there was no wind at all. Everything felt extremely still. It felt as though the world was holding its breath. Waiting for something.

Chapter Text

Morgan’s eyes opened. She blinked up at the dark sky, attention settling on the full moon. Something felt wrong about it, like her subconscious was poking at her. Trying to bring her attention to… something.

Why was she laying on the ground? Where was her bedroll and tent? Where... oh. She had fallen. She had been kidnapped.

Morgan pulled herself up onto her elbows and looked up towards the cliff she had fallen down. How did she survive that? She couldn’t have possibly survived that. It was so steep. It was dark too. It hadn’t been dark when she had fallen. She must’ve passed out. It would be entirely reasonable for her body to react like that after what she had just gone through. She shook with a faint tremor, reacting to her memory of the intense pain.

But that’s what it was. A memory. Like she hadn’t been shot in the leg, or dislocated her shoulder, or broken her arm, or fallen down an actual cliff. Morgan looked down at herself. She was covered in dried blood, but there were no wounds? Hurriedly, she bent down to inspect her leg. She knew she had gotten shot there, it was why she had lost her balance and fell.

Perfect, unblemished skin.

Morgan felt faint, confused out of her mind. She had to be dead. There was no other explanation for what was happening to her. The afterlife must be a cruel place, for her to wake up in the place she died, covered in what was probably her own blood.

It felt like the world was pressing in on her, and her chest felt empty.

The empty feeling suddenly flared into pain, and she fell to the ground, clutching at her heart. She stared up at the full moon. Why was the moon full? It shouldn’t be full yet. That’s what was wrong.

The world was quiet. Morgan had dreamed of something while she was out. Orange and staircases. Something calling out to her.

As she tried to remember the dream, details of the scene flooded back to her. The voice had kept screaming for her, even after she had ignored it. But the need to climb had been all-consuming. She had needed to reach the top of those steps more than anything she had ever needed to do in her life.

But she hadn't. She had fallen instead. That seemed like a bit of a theme to the dreams. Morgan remembered the sight of falling alongside a grey cliff. Of falling into nothingness, forever. Of being pushed? Perhaps it was her brain’s way of processing how she had died. By falling down a cliff. It was not of her own choice or her own mistake of course, but still! She had been hiking mountains for years and never once had she fallen down anything. It felt like the universe was laughing at her.

Morgan breathed for a moment. She was actually very angry at the way she had died. It seemed like a rather anticlimactic way to go out, and with something she was supposed to be so capable in? It felt like part of her soul had been sucked out. She had never fallen before. Never.

She felt so alone. Morgan wished someone else was there with her.

In her mind's eye, uncalled for, rose the images of her father's death. Morgan could hardly feel her body as she drifted on the sharp, vivid memory that definitely wasn’t hers. She hadn’t been there when her father had died. A battleground wasn’t a friendly place for anyone, let alone a five-year-old. Those couldn’t be her memories.

And yet she felt them with the lucid recall of someone who had actually been there. Of someone like Mom, or Peter, or Uncle Rhodey. Why did she need to watch her dad die? When she had just died herself? It was rather sadistic of the afterlife to do that to her. She didn’t want this. She didn’t want to be here. She wanted to be at home, with her mother, or if she needed to be trapped in a memory, then one of her and her dad, from when she was young. A happy one.

But still. She didn’t decide to see this, but she would soak up every second of seeing her dad.

Morgan watched the scene, enthralled by the realism of it, and the emotion that it carried. In her daze, she whispered “Dad”, as if to call out for him, for a man that had been dead 13 years. As if he could hear her from this little clearing at the base of a cliff in the middle of nowhere.

As if she wasn't dead, and this wasn't all just a dream.

As the false memory fades away, the pain in Morgan’s chest fades away, replaced by a feeling of emptiness again. Once more she calls out for her father, pleading for him not to go. He was the only person who could greet her in death after all. So why was he leaving? He couldn’t leave. He couldn’t leave her alone.

Morgan writhed on the ground, the feeling of emptiness was somehow worse than the pain from before, spreading out through her body like a dark cancer. It made her feel like she was falling, like she was the one to blame for her fall. Like she was the reason her father had left.

Her voice broke as she screamed, clawing at her chest, trying to dislodge the unnatural feeling from her flesh. It felt as though it was tainting her, corrupting her. She clawed all the way through her own skin, the blood she drew adding to the dried blood already staining her clothes, the bright scarlet looking even more vivid compared to the brown in the light of the full moon.

Morgan’s frenzied movements soon stopped, exhaustion weighing down on her, although the empty feeling didn’t ease even slightly.

She panted, drawing in lungfuls of cold, hard air, which burned her lungs and she began to cough. Hard. Morgan felt wetness trickle down her chin from the corner of her mouth. She was now laying on her front, propped up by her forearms, watching with a sense of detachment as yet more scarlet stained the already blood-stained snow.

Eventually, the coughing stopped, and Morgan was able to pull herself up further, sitting back onto her legs. She took a moment to breath again, with shallower breaths, not eager to repair the events of just a moment previous.

She could feel her heartbeat, and could hear it in her ears. A bit strange for a person that was dead, but who was she to judge the way the afterlife worked?

Morgan looked back up at the sky. The stars twinkled, and the sight of them claimed her full attention. They were still the same stars she had looked up at the night before, before all of this had started. They were still the same stars she could hardly see in New York City. They were still the same stars she had watched on the dock out back of the lake house, waiting for her father to come home, so he could watch the stars like they always did together. And she still knew all their names from those nights, when Tony would show her where each constellation was, and what their names were.

A star flashed orange, directly overhead. The ache in Morgan’s chest eased completely, returning to how it normally felt. She took another deep breath, finally able to without a struggle. She watched as the deep scratches she had carved into herself healed over faster than any wound should be able to. Once again she felt a strange distance from the events, simply staring as she healed before her eyes.

The afterlife was such an interesting place.

Morgan looked around the clearing for the first time. It was still snowy, just stained in some of the areas around her, which Morgan did not really want to think about. There was a tree right at the base of the cliff with a big brown smear on it that Morgan also didn’t want to think about. Other than that it was quite nice in her little clearing.

She surveyed it.

Snow, blood-stained snow, trees, one blood-stained tree, some little bushes, a glowing orange man, a rather nice view of the sky--

Morgan turned her whole body in the direction of the glowing orange man. What. She tilted her head at him, in much the same way one might squint to make sure they were seeing the right thing. She also pinched herself a second later. Nothing changed. There was still a glowing orange man standing in her clearing.

He was looking at her like eye contact wasn’t a thing, or at least not something he was capable of. It looked like he was examining her for wounds, with his brow creased in concern. Morgan couldn’t hear anything from his direction. No breathing sounds, no crunching snow beneath his feet. For that matter there didn’t seem to be any footsteps surrounding him, like he had been dropped from the sky. “I’m hallucinating,” she muttered under her breath.

The man’s eyes snapped up to meet her own as soon as she said that, making contact with hers. His were blown wider than looked comfortable, and his whole body wound up in surprise.

They blinked at each other for a long moment. Neither of them said anything.

“You can see me?” asked the man, sounding like that was the most preposterous thing he had ever heard.

Morgan could hardly breath. She examined him closely, breaking the eye contact to do so. She had seen him just a moment ago. Right? It was like her vision had gotten up and walked out of her mind instead of just disappearing.

It was indeed clear to the man that she could see him from the way her eyes jumped from one part of him to the next, focusing on him, not the background. But she had waited too long to respond. The man got down on his knees, so he was on the same level as Morgan.

He waved his hand in front of her and asked again, “You can see me?” He waited.

Morgan could hear the blood rushing in her ears and it drowned out everything she might have heard. She couldn’t tell if the man was saying something, or if she was saying anything. All of the shock of the night caught up to her in that moment, nearly incapacitating her. Little orange sparks burts at the edge of her vision.

She brought her eyes up from the ground where they had focused, making crazed eye contact. She was breathing heavily, and had to focus quite hard on evening it out.

The world once again stood still, waiting for her to make a move.

“Dad?” Morgan Stark whispered.

Chapter Text

Tony Stark and Morgan Stark stared at each other in shock. Neither of them said anything.

Morgan began to laugh, a funny crazed sound that started in her chest and stopped just behind her teeth. It was utterly hysterical, and she broke eye contact with her father so she could look up at the sky in disbelief. She rubbed her eyes with the base of her palm as her laughter shifted into heavy sobs.

“I’m dead,” she cried, “I’m actually dead. Mom isn’t going to know what happened to me. No one knows I’m dead. I’m just going to be missing.”

Tony was making shapes with his mouth as if he wanted to say something. “You aren’t dead, Morgan. I can tell.” She shook her head violently.

“I’m dead. There’s no other way you’d be here. There’s no way I survived that fall.” Morgan gestured to the cliff face. Tony looked up at it.

“You fell down that?” His eyes were wide and he took a step closer to her. Morgan could hardly see him through the haze of the tears in her eyes. She nodded. Tony looked horrified, and closed the distance between them to wrap her in a hug. He didn’t feel quite solid, but she could feel his body heat; and she hugged him back, settling into his embrace like it hadn’t been years.

“But you’re dead. I must be dead,” she argued, voice slightly muffled by her dad’s shoulder. He tightened his hold on her, shaking slightly.

“Mo, you can’t be dead. You still have a heartbeat, you’re still solid, and you can still interact with the physical world. There are pretty obvious differences between the living and the dead.” Tony stoked her hair, trying to calm her down.

Morgan took a few deep breaths. Tony did the same, and she noted how she could feel him taking in air, but couldn’t hear it. “Then why can I see you? Why are you here?”

He released her and took a step back, pausing, his brow wrinkling as he thought over the question. “I-- you know, I don't know."

***

The sun was barely visible over the crest of the mountains by the time they decided Morgan needed to get back up to the road somehow. The two of them had spent most of the few hours before sunrise staring at each other, and fussing over Morgan’s nonexistent injuries. They had avoided talking about the fact that Tony was dead. They also had avoided talking about why Morgan could see him. The whole issue had been quickly delegated to sensitive topics and they hadn’t touched on it since Morgan had accepted she was in fact, alive.

It was more important to find a way out of the clearing first, or at least that was their excuse.

They really just didn’t want to talk about it.

The cliff was less steep than it had felt while she was falling down it, and it was actually more gentle than some slopes she had climbed before. It was hard climbing, but not impossible. The trees made it easier to climb, providing places to hold on to, and roots as footholds. Morgan found a bloodstain on one of the very first trees. She didn’t mention it to Tony.

She made it to the top in what seemed like no time at all, and turned back to see if her father had followed. He was looking at her from the foot of the cliff, and seemed to clip out of existence for a moment before appearing next to her. She stared at him. He stared down the cliff to where he had been standing only a second before.

“You fell all that way?” He asked.

“Apparently,” Morgan blinked at him some more, waiting for him to look at her, and when he did, she asked, “How did you get to the top of the cliff?”

“I just appeared. It’s the cool part about being dead. You can be anywhere you want to be,” Tony looked up at her softly, “It’s how I found you last night actually.”

“Excuse me?”

“You called out for me. I could hear you, so I came.”

Morgan remembered pleading for her vision of her father to not leave her, while she was still dreaming. I guess I did ask him not to go, she thought, but only said, “Huh,” out loud.

She looked around them, scanning the visible road. “I think I may know where we are. I saw this bit of road on the maps.” Tony nodded for her to continue. “I’m pretty sure there’s a visitor’s center a few miles in that direction.”

“What’s the plan once we get there?” Tony asked.

Morgan blinked. She had not thought that far ahead. She was covered in dried blood and looked incredibly suspicious, aside from having no gear. On the matter of no gear, she also had no food. And also on that matter, she wasn’t hungry, which was very strange given that she hadn’t eaten since she ate dinner, two(?) nights ago. Weird.

"You alright?” Tony looked worried, and Morgan felt a bit bad for getting distracted. This was the first time she had seen her dad since she was 5, and she was getting wrapped up in the weird stuff that was going on.

“I’m fine. I was just thinking about my gear,” she answered, “The visitors center is this way.” She set off walking, and Tony’s ghostly form hurried behind her. “The plan for when we get there is to try and find a phone so I can call Doctor Strange.”

“You think this all,” he said, gesturing to the two of them, “Is magic?”

“I don’t see anything else it could be, except of course, if I’m hallucinating everything.” She shrugged, mostly to herself and carried on walking. “I do have a few questions about all of,” she gestured to Tony, “this.”

He pretended to be offended for a moment before he said, “Ask away.”

Morgan thought for a moment. Her father seemed to be a lot less surprised about what was going on than she was, and also seemed to have a bit more knowledge about the whole dead thing, him being dead and all. He also seemed to interact with her like he already knew her, countering whatever she said, like he had known her her whole life. In fact, the only time he had really interacted like she remembered him doing was when she had started hyperventilating when she thought she was dead.

“So,” she began, “why do you seem to know me as an adult?”

He rubbed the back of his neck with his hand, with some amount of awkwardness. “I keep an eye on you guys.” She gestured for him to elaborate, “I’m sometimes bound to live in the afterlife, but most of the time, I can keep tabs on what happens in the living world. I like seeing that all of you are safe.” He smiled sadly.

“So you did watch me grow up?”

“Pretty much.”

Tony looked sad. Morgan understood why, of course, but seeing him sad was mostly new to her. He always looked happy in pictures, but she could also remember him on late nights where she’d sneak out of bed, looking at the old pictures he had hanging up. She knew now that one had been of him and Peter. But he had mostly looked tired on those nights more than anything. She just couldn’t summon up a solid image of him totally sad. She watched his face carefully as he pushed away the emotion.

“Anything else?” It was clear he wanted to move on from the topic.

“Hmm,” she pondered, “why can I see you? Is there anything different about me than last time you saw me?” Tony considered this question for a long time, humming quietly to fill up the silence while he thought.

They rounded a bend in the road and could see out over the landscape, now that they were out of the mountainous area. She could see a tiny speck in the distance she knew was the visitor’s center. Morgan could feel her stomach finally begin to cramp from lack of food, but didn’t mention it. It was strange to be walking next to a person who didn’t make any noise; breathing or footsteps, and she kept startling slightly every time she caught sight of Tony out of the corner of her eye.

Tony finally answered. “I don’t know why you can see me. I’ve never seen anything like this,” Morgan opened her mouth to speak, but he continued, ”And actually, there is something a bit different about you.” Morgan stopped walking and turned fully towards him. “You don’t have the same full glow that dead people do, but you’re glowing around the edges.”

“What does that mean?” She asked, suitably distracted from his first comment, which didn’t in fact support his claim that she was still alive.

“You glow around the edges now,” he shrugged, “you never have before. I’ve never seen anyone glow like that before.”

With that to chew on, Morgan and Tony phased into comfortable silence, walking the even, paved road. Morgan kept a lookout for tour buses, both eager to avoid such a kidnapping experience again, and not wanting to explain her blood-covered state to anyone quite yet, before she had thought of a reasonable excuse.

They walked miles as the day wore on, getting closer and closer to the visitor’s center, it morphing slowly from a dot on the horizon to an actual building. Morgan estimating the time every so often, looking up at the sun. She could feel herself getting hungrier, and attempted to distract herself by counting deer again. However, this time there were none to be found.

She also thought a little bit about what she would tell the people at the visitor's center about why she was covered in blood. She could tell them that she had been attacked by a bear, but she didn’t have any actual woulds. She couldn’t explain away the blood as something else, because it was pretty clearly blood. Morgan eventually decided that she would only tell that she had been attacked and lost her gear, and she would only tell someone if they asked her directly. It didn’t actually explain the blood, but she figured that Doctor Strange would be there by the time the bloodstains would be a problem.

But Morgan mostly thought about Tony. Her dreams of him had dredged up feelings of loss she hadn’t felt so acutely in years, and with his sudden appearance she felt like she had whiplash from thinking about it. It felt so incredibly weird.

As the sun grew high in the sky and noon approached, and the visitor’s center grew closer, she decided she would just enjoy having him back for however long she had him. She wouldn’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth after all, and this all was just too weird to comprehend with a severe lack of food and what was possibly a concussion. She couldn’t have gotten off her fall down the cliff scot-free. There must be something wrong with her.

Chapter Text

By the time they reached the visitor’s center, Morgan was feeling very uncomfortable. The blood on her clothing was stiff and itchy, and she was absolutely starving.

She and Tony had been silent for most of the rest of the walk, simply watching each other out of the corner of their eyes. Morgan had caught his eye a few times, and they had laughed about being caught doing the exact same thing, before returning to doing it again.

She was so not ready to talk with anyone, but she didn’t have anything to get help with, so it needed must. Morgan hoped that she might be able to find a jacket or something to cover up with. It would be better than walking in fully a vision of gore.

The silence between the father and daughter was comfortable for the most part, both struggling to find anything to say in the face of the situation. Neither wanted to disturb the peaceful thing between them either, or at least as peaceful as two people with one of them covered in dried blood could be.

The blood really was uncomfortable. Now that she had the time to remark on it, Morgan found that it was almost all she could think about.

It was also really strange to be walking around without a massive backpack on.

But anyway. They had nearly reached the visitor’s center when Morgan had an idea. “Hold up for a sec,” she said. Tony stopped and turned towards her. “I’m going to turn my shirt inside out to see if that helps reduce the gore a bit.”

“Good thinking,” he said as he turned around. Morgan pulled off her shirt and quickly turned it out and put it back on. She looked down at herself.

“Wow. That did not help at all,” she remarked. Tony turned around to look.

“It’s not worse. It could be a lot worse,” he said. The inside was actually worse than the outside. At least there was dirt partially disguising the blood on the outside. There was no such disguise on the inside.

“I’m going to need to flip it back,” she sighed. Maybe she’d just say she took a bit of a fall. It was factually correct, after all.

***

Morgan walked into the concrete visitor’s center, trying to look as normal as possible as she scanned for the help desk. It took her less than a minute to spot it among the displays of the park’s geology and natural features. She beelined directly towards it.

It was manned by what looked like a college student, school pullover visible from under their park branded jacket. Morgan stopped in front of the desk and gave him a bright smile.

“Hi! Is there a phone I could use anywhere around here?” The man looked at her, his eyes wide. He looked totally out of his element, and a bit surprised at being addressed.

Morgan could tell the second he registered the blood. “Uh, yeah. Are you alright?” He licked his lips nervously.

“Yeah, just took a bit of a fall. I’m fine though, just need to make a few calls home.”

“Uh, right.” He got up and gestured for her to follow him. He led Morgan to a booth in the back of the building marked ‘Emergency’ in bold red letters. “This isn’t really an emergency phone, you can just call whoever you need to from here.”

“Thank you so much.” Morgan smiled once more at him as he returned to the front of the center. She turned to Tony. “He probably won’t say anything, right?”

“I’m sure he will, but you’ll be gone by the time it matters. You calling Pepper or the wizard first?”

“Mom. She probably won’t pick up, but I do want to leave a message for her.” She turned towards the booth, carefully recalling both her mother’s personal number, and the number she had been given for Stephen Strange, in case of emergencies. It made sense really, using the emergency phone to call in an emergency. She snickered under her breath. Tony raised his eyebrow at her.

“Want to share?” He said. She told him. “Nice.” He grinned a little.

Morgan turned back to the phone. The keypad was old, and worn. She could hardly make out the numbers on the old phone, but squinted at it a bit harder to make them out. She picked up the receiver and held it to her ear and quickly typed in one of the numbers she knew by heart. Morgan lost phones a lot. It wasn’t that she wasn't careful with them, but they always seemed to just wander off on their own and disappear forever. It was kind of necessary for her to know a range of phone numbers by heart. She’d be utterly lost otherwise. Luckily her mom’s number and Strange’s numbers were both ones she knew.

The dial tone sounded. There was a click, and Pepper’s answering message played. “This is Pepper Potts-Stark, and I can’t pick up your call right now. This is my personal number, so if that isn’t the number you thought you were calling, please try to call again. If this is the number you were trying to reach, please leave a message and I’ll call you back.” Another tone sounded.

“Hey Mom, it’s Morgan. My plans in Denali got derailed a little bit, and some weird stuff is going on. It’s nothing to worry about, I promise. I’m going to call Dr.Strange to come get me, so if you want to call me, I’ll be with him. Love you!” Morgan hung up.

“You don’t want to tell her that you got kidnapped? Or anything else?” Tony asked.

Morgan shook her head. “She’d just worry, and she doesn’t need to. I’m sure Strange will know what’s going on, and everything will be fine.” Tony muttered something under his breath which she couldn't hear, but Morgan decided to ignore that in favour of calling Doctor Strange.

She picked up the receiver again, and dialed the number. It rang for about a minute before someone picked up.

“Hello?” Said a very confused voice, which was definitely Stephen Strange.

“It’s Morgan Stark.” There was a pause.

“Why are you calling me?”

“There’s some weird magicy stuff going on, and I need you to come pick me up.”

“You do realize I’m not a taxi service,” he sighed, “Where are you?”

“I’m in the Eielson Visitor’s Center in Denali National Park.”

“Fine.” He hung up without saying goodbye. She looked down at the receiver in some amount of surprise before putting it down and looking at Tony.

“That went well, I think.”

“That man has not changed at all since I met him,” he said. Morgan snorted at that.

They stood around for a few minutes, waiting for Strange to appear. Morgan was very hungry by this point, and considered going to see if the visitor’s center had any food for sale, before remembering that she didn’t have any money on her, as all her emergency cash had been in her backpack. She sighed, resigned to be hungry for just a little while longer.

Morgan turned to ask her father how much longer he thought the Doctor would be, when a glowing circle appeared next to her. Standing inside the portal was Dr.Strange himself, blue robes and red cape.

“Hi!” Morgan said cheerfully.

“Hello,” said the man in return, obviously unsettled by the amount of dried blood on her clothes. Morgan smiled widely at him.

Chapter Text

The shock had set in. There was no other reason Morgan could possibly be this calm as she slurped her nice, warm bowl of soup in an office sitting across a table from Doctor Strange. Morgan of course was unaware of this, as she was indeed in shock. Tony and Strange were both looking at her like she was insane. Separately of course, as it was clear Tony could not be seen by Strange.

She looked a sight, covered in blood and drinking soup, all the while having a very stupid grin on her face and refusing to drop eye contact with the doctor as she slurped her soup increasingly loudly. Morgan was just happy she wasn't so hungry anymore. By all accounts her behavior was excusable, an empty stomach will do weird things to the brain. But it was all very awkward.

The only sounds in the room were Morgan’s slurping and Strange’s breathing. Tony just sat there, watching the staring contest. He would have broken the silence to express his approval of Morgan’s campaign to annoy the sorcerer, but the mood wasn’t right. Also, he didn’t want to disturb her, very much aware that she could snap out of her unnatural calm at any moment, and that wouldn’t be pretty.

They sat in silence for another few moments, and Morgan finished her soup, with a greatly over-exaggerated slurp. She places the bowl in her lap and wraps her hands around it to take advantage of the residual heat left behind. “Can I have more?” She asks.

Strange sighs and put his head in his hands. “I thought you called me for a reason.”

“I did. I’m just hungry.” She looked fairly pleased with winning the staring contest.

He rubbed his eyes and sat back up. “Tell me about why you called and answer my questions and we’ll get you some more food.”

“Hmm,” she grinned at him, “Deal.”

Strange looked like he already regretted opening his mouth.

“So,” she began, “I was on a hiking trip in Denali, and on the second night in I got kidnapped by some mostly incompetent idiots who didn’t tie me up properly, but they knocked me out and they had guns, so I guess they were a little effective. But I figured out how to escape and when I did, they saw and shot at me so I fell off a cliff.”

“You fell off a cliff.”

“Oh yeah. That’s not even the weird part though.”

Strange looked like he was struggling. “Let me go get Wong. If you falling off the cliff isn’t the weird part I need some backup.”

Strange got up and walked out of the office. Morgan looked over at Tony, grinning like a lunatic. Tony grinned back. “Harry Potter’s having a crisis”, he said, “And you are being far too cavalier about this.”

She shrugged. “I’ll just have a breakdown if I think too hard about it now,” she continued, “I hope he brings more food back with him.” Tony shook his head at her in fond exasperation.

“Just go easy on him, sweetheart, he can’t help us figure out what’s going on if he dies of frustration.” She stuck her tongue out at him, like an adult.

It was right then Strange walked back in, accompanied by Wong. They looked at her weirdly, because to them, she was sticking out her tongue at thin air. She turned back to the desk as Strange settled behind it. Wong sat in a second chair partially around the side of the desk, turning what was before a two (three) way conversation into a three (four) way conversation. (At least to one of them. Morgan was still the only one who knew about the last member of the conversation.)

“If you would start over again please?” Strange asked, looking over at Wong out of the corner of his eye.

“Sure,” Morgan said, “So I got kidnapped a few days into a camping trip up in Denali, and they did a mediocre job, because I escaped.”

“You didn’t actually escape,” Tony interjected.

“Fine, I didn't actually escape,” Strange and Wong gave each other a look picking up on her apparent response to nothing, “I got shot and fell down a cliff. I got pretty hurt as you could probably tell,” she gestured down to her blood-crusted clothes, “And I got knocked out.”

“You look fine other than the old blood,” said Wong.

“Oh yeah, I know, that’s part of the weird part,” Morgan said, “When I woke up I was completely healed. And… well, stuff happened.”

“What sort of stuff?” Strange asked this time.

“Well, I had some really peculiar dreams while I was knocked out, and when I woke up I could see him.” She pointed to Tony. Tony sat there, staring at Strange and Wong.

“And who’s him?” Strange asked.

“My dad.” The two sorcerers looked at each other, as if trying to decide if it was the shock talking. “Quick Dad, what’s something only you would know?”

“The first time we met, he brought Banner with him to prove he was the real deal. He interrupted me and your mother when we were having a conversation.”

She repeated what he said to the other two. “Anyway, I didn’t know what was going on and I thought you could probably help me.”

Strange put his head in his hands and groaned. He got up from his seat and pulled Wong outside the room. They started whispering rather loudly, seemingly convinced that she couldn’t hear them. She said as much to Tony, getting a sharp grin before they both listened in on the conversation.

“How do we tell if she’s telling the truth?” That was definitely Wong.

“Can we afford to ignore this if she is? This could be some sort of forewarning of an oncoming emergency.” That was Strange.

“It seems unlikely. She’s in shock.” Morgan snickered, looking at Tony. Unlikely indeed.

“Maybe so, but she could still be telling the truth.”

Wong sighed. “I guess this is you telling me to go off and look through the library for anything similar to this?”

“I’ll do some scans and see if I can find anything.” Morgan then heard one pair of footsteps leave off down the hallway, as Strange returned to the office. He sat down behind the desk and stared at her for a moment. The man sighed, seemingly reluctant to start the conversation again. He waved his hand in the direction of her bowl. She grinned in delight as it refilled with the soup, and she returned to slurping it again, only slightly quieter this time.

Strange looked utterly defeated. “I have some questions, if you don’t mind, then I’d like to run some tests.”

“Sure,” she nodded as well.

“Alright, do you know how long you were out for?”

“No idea. It was day when I fell and night when I woke up, and that’s all I know.”

He wrote something down on a piece of paper, probably recording her answers. “When did you notice… Tony was there?” He sounded slightly skeptical.

“A few minutes after I woke up probably. I thought I was dead for a bit, and everything hurt, so I don’t really know.”

“It took about fifteen minutes for you to notice me. I didn’t know you could see me yet so I didn't try to get your attention,” Tony said. Morgan reported the number to Strange. He looked over at the space she had turned to which was occupied by Tony, whom he couldn’t see.

“Right. You mentioned that everything hurt. What do you mean?”

Morgan could tell he thought it was her wounds. “My chest hurt a lot. It felt like someone had scooped out the middle and there was a giant hole. There wasn’t of course. It started feeling that way during my dreams.”

“Uh huh. How long into your trip were you kidnapped, and how long did they have you?” He jotted down a short note.

“I was kidnapped on the second night in, and they had me for about ten hours if I judged the time correctly.”

“When did you set out on your trip?”

“July 10th.” At that Strange stopped and looked up at her.

“July 10th? And you remember three days?”

“Four actually, it took awhile to get to the visitor’s center so I could call you. But yeah, that’s right. Why?”

He looked up at the ceiling, and closed his eyes. “It’s the 25th of July.”

She stared at him. Tony stared at him. Strange stared at the ceiling. “What?” Morgan said. “What does that mean?”

“I don’t know,’ he said, “I’m going to run some scans on you, to see if I can find anything else, then I’ll make sure you get to bed. I’m sure it’s been a long day.”

Morgan felt like she had whiplash from how fast he had seemed to change subjects, but he had a look of concern on his face so she nodded. She did feel really tired. The soup had made her kind of sleepy, and she had been awake for more than twenty hours by now, and her previous two rests had been her unconscious, not actually sleeping. It had almost caught up to her. She was still mostly awake. Mostly.

She sat there as Strange cast weird gold patterns in the air around her noting down things he observed from his spell. As he worked, Morgan was a little distracted by the pretty patterns. She could see Tony out of the corner of her eye as he watched Strange work. He was trying to get a feel for what the doctor was doing, and a look of concern was etched into his face as he watched both of them carefully.

Morgan was a little caught up in the fact she may have missed two whole weeks somehow, but pushed the thought off to the side. There must be a reasonable explanation, or at least a semi-reasonable explanation. She’d cut the explanation gods some slack. This was all a little unreasonable. They must be working overtime.

Chapter Text

Strange led Morgan up several flights of stairs and through countless hallways to a small bedroom. “There’s a computer on the desk, if you need to contact anyone,” he told her. She thanked him, and he left back the way they came, presumably off to tell Wong what his findings had shown.

Morgan pulled at her itchy clothing and went to sit at the desk. She didn’t want to get the bed bloody. She turned around to see that Tony’s ghost had settled on the bed, and yawned, her jaw popping. “Do you think I really missed two whole weeks somehow?” She asked him, settling into the chair.

“The facts don't lie, and unless you’re missing a lot of days somewhere else, I think that’s the only thing that could have happened.”

“But why?”

Tony leaned back against the wall, and she noticed that he didn’t make an indent in the quilt. He thought for a moment. “Maybe something happened and you were frozen for a bit, like the super popsicles?”

“It’s summer though. There’s no way it was cold enough to freeze me.”

He looked at her carefully, squinting as if he was looking at something that wasn’t quite there. “It’s a bit of a stretch, but what if you died?”

“Why would you think that?” She asked, confused. He had been the one who insisted she was alive back in the clearing, why did he think she was dead now? “Why did you say I was alive before, if you think that?”

“Because you are alive,” he said, leaning forward, looking as though he wanted to get up and pace, “You have some of the qualities of a soul that’s passed on, but you are also clearly alive, It’s like you’re both dead and alive at the same time.”

Morgan put her head in her hands. She really didn’t want to think about if she was dead or not right now. She was far too tired to process what exactly had happened to her. Morgan could feel a wave of panic start to wash over her. She took a few deep breaths to calm herself slightly.

Tony looked at her in concern and looked like he was about to say something when she said, “I-- maybe. Can we talk about something else right now please?”

“Yeah, sure. Are you ok telling me what happened when you were kidnapped?”

Morgan laughed internally. What a horrible turn of events where a kidnapping was the easier option to discuss. She nodded. “A bunch of people in tactical gear found me on my second night in, after I had deviated from my planned course. They were driving one of the tour busses from the park. There were maybe about fifteen of them?”

“You left your planned course?”

“I had reservations at campgrounds for the first three nights, and they were all about a day apart from each other. I got sick on the first night, and slept late the next day. It was too late to make it to the second campsite by the time I left, but I thought I could make it to the third one in time for the reservation there. I slept past the treeline off the road on the second night-- or I tried. They grabbed me a few hours after sunset.”

“So they knew where you were, and were presumably following you.”

“Something like that. Nobody but family knew I was taking this trip though. I don’t know how they could have followed me. They tried very hard not to kill me though, I think me getting shot wasn’t in their plan.”

“Motivated by ransom then, most likely. Was there anything notable about any of them?”

“All of them had red eyes. And they ran too fast to be normal humans, and found me far quicker than I expected when I tried to run.”

“Enhanced, then?” Tony asked.

She looked at him sarcastically, “You think?” They sat in silence for a few minutes. “I should probably contact FRIDAY.”

“That is a wonderful idea. We should have done that first. She’ll be able to figure out what’s going on better than we can.” Tony mused.

That wasn’t why Morgan wanted to contact FRIDAY, by the way. She just really missed the AI and regretted not bringing her with on her trip. But Tony’s idea held merit and was probably the most productive use of their time, so the first thing she did when she booted up the old laptop was connect to FRIDAY. Which was no easy task, needing passwords and identity verifications, and a secure wifi connection (Which Tony needed to coach her through. A software engineer she was not).

Eventually she got the computer hooked up to FRIDAY’s servers. Hardly a moment had passed before the AI’s voice echoed out of the speakers. “Morgan? Why are you in Kathmandu, Nepal? Aren’t you supposed to be in Alaska?”

“I am indeed supposed to be in Alaska right now.”

The AI sighed, sound crackling in the speakers in a way quite different than her usual soft tones. “What happened?”

“I may have gotten kidnapped while I was on my trip and I might have somehow obtained the ability to see my dad.”

“Boss is dead, Mini Boss.”

“Yeah, I know,” Morgan said, trying to come up with a way to convince FRIDAY she was telling the truth.

It was unnecessary. “That’s very interesting. I’ve never heard of anything like that before.”

“You believe me?”

“You have no reason to lie to me.” Morgan looked at Tony, who was grinning fondly at the computer. Morgan also began to grin, overjoyed that someone believed her, without needing proof.

She turned back to the computer and began searching for red-eyed people, with FRIDAY pulling up relevant results. She spoke to the AI while they worked, catching her up on everything that had happened, including the fact she had missed two weeks. She could see Tony watching her work out of the corner of her eye, a proud smile on his face.

After about ten minutes she started to yawn widely, her exhaustion finally catching up to her. “Why don’t you go to sleep Morgan, and I can continue searching?” FRIDAY suggested. Morgan nodded in agreement, then realized that FRIDAY couldn't see her, because the computer had no camera.

“Yeah, I will. Thanks Fri,” she said, and turned away from the computer. Morgan turned to Tony. She started thinking about how she had possibly died again, and could feel the ocean of panic waiting for her. She took a moment to clear her head, and in the process had an idea. “What if I can see you because I’ve died?” She addressed Tony.

He considered the idea for a moment. “That’s fair, I suppose. But what brought you back to life?”

She huffed in frustration, not at Tony, but at the idea that she didn’t know what was happening. It didn’t feel very good, to not know. She was so used to being on top of everything; school, family, friends, work. Morgan hated when situations were out of her control. She always felt like she needed to pretend to know what was going on, and that was so exhausting.

It was simpler to just ignore the problem. So Morgan decided right then and there, to ignore the issue until it went away. It would drive her crazy to linger on what had happened. It was better to move on, right?