Jarvis, turn it off…
I open my mouth to call for Jarvis again, and I realize I can’t.
My tongue is dry and puffy and my jaws are pried open. There is something stuck down my throat making it hard to breathe, and I want to breathe and I can’t.
My panicked eyes soon find my dad’s, the owner of said eyes is leaning cautiously over me and his mouth is moving.
“-down, Taylor, don’t panic. We’re in the hospital. You have a breathing tube stuck down your throat.” He pauses to look at something past my other shoulder. “Clint, go get a nurse, tell them she’s awake.”
Clint? Clint’s here?
I try and turn my head to look behind me, but my dad puts a hand on my cheek in impede my efforts.
“Hey, hey, keep your head still. Focus on me, there, just like that. Keep still…”
My dad trails off as Clint comes jogging back in, followed by a boisterous nurse with clicking heels.
“Hold still, sweetie, tilt you head back….there, now say ‘ah’ (that’s somewhat impossible, lady), good…there!”
The tube slides out of my throat with a gross squelching sound as I gasp and heave for air.
I nod at the nurse and she takes that as her dismissal, promptly click-clacking out of the room.
“So,” I glance at my dad, still panting the slightest bit, “what’d I miss?”
My dad takes a deep breath, look uncharacteristically weary and old, before hesitantly replying.
“A lot. God, Taylor, I was so scared…”
I my lips quirk up slightly as I reach out the hand closest to him – the right one – to place a comforting hand on his shoulder.
And, again, nothing happens.
I shoot a panicked glance at my right side, where a mound of pillows and blankets is shoved tightly against my side but I can’t actually see my right arm.
I tear my glance back up to really look at my dad. He not only looks really weary and old, his hair lacks its usual gelled style and lies limp on his forehead. He has bags the size of small countries under his eyes, and his eyes themselves are puffy and red, as if he’d been crying.
I quickly turn my gaze over my shoulder to see my dad’s condition mirrored on Clint’s face.
“Guys, what is going on? How long was I out? And what’s up with my arm?” I can feel my voice rising in both volume and pitch and my breaths getting shorter and shallower with each word.
“Hey, Taylor, shhh.” Clint quietly pipes up from behind me. “Calm down or nurses will come and evict us. You don’t want that, right?”
No, I don’t. So I take a deep breath, count to ten, and try again in a lower, more clipped tone.
“How long was I out?”
Two weeks…what happened?
I silence my thoughts and exhale shakily before asking my next question.
“And…and my arm?”
My dad stares mournfully down at my right side before looking at me again, and I can see tears welling in his eyes.
“It was too badly burnt, and you got stabbed almost clean through in the shoulder. They couldn’t save it, Taylor.”
My world just stops.
And then it sinks in.
I only have one arm.
I have LOST AN ARM.
I choke out a wail as I bury my face in my dad’s chest, his arms wrapping around me like I’m five again and I’ve scraped my knee.
Except this time, I lost a limb.
I can feel Clint’s hands hesitantly stroking my hair and rubbing my back, like he feels like he really shouldn’t be here anymore, but nobody’s told him to leave, so…
I’m eventually all out of tears and pick my head up from my dad’s now soaked sweater and rub my eyes.
“Sorry.” I sniffle.
“That was fully expected. In fact, I think you held up pretty good.”
“Stark is a German word meaning strong.”
My dad nods. “Do you want a doctor in here, to explain what exactly is happening?”
I eagerly agree. Finally, some clarity.
“Going to get a doctor.” Clint’s already halfway out the door as he cuts my dad off.
Once he leaves, I turn back towards my dad. “You know the stuff I said when I thought I was dead meat?”
“Did you relay any of it?”
“Nope. Knew you weren’t going to die. You can declare your love for birdbrain yourself.”
I land a sloppy, left handed slug to his shoulder just as Clint returns with a doctor in tow.
“Ms. Stark, hi, I am Dr. Simmons, I assisted in your care and surgery.”
“Nice to meet you, doc. I’d shake your hand, but…” I shrug.
Dr. Simmons puts the x-rays on the light boards and steps back.
“The explosion left your right arm severely burned and your entire body bruised. The piece of rebar you were pierced with sliced through your shoulder almost completely and nicked your heart. That may be cause for concern, but it does not seem to be troubling as of yet. We had to replace over half your blood and amputate your arm. Questions?”
I shake my head no, so the doctor continues.
“It’s time to change your bandages. Do you want everybody in the room present?”
I nod without hesitation.
Dr. Simmons snaps on a pair on rubber gloves and gently starts unwrapping my right arm – or what’s left of it, anyways.
Once the final bandage is removed, I finally get a good look at my damaged right limb.
And almost immediately look away.
Because the few inches that are left of my right shoulder are covered in angry, red, puffy scars, dotted with blisters and bruises.
The doctor quickly notices my revulsion and bandages the stump again.
My dad quickly distracts me by pulling out his phone. “Want to see the prosthetics I’ve been working on?”
I nod gratefully as he pulls up several holograms showing a sleek, banded metal arm, black, like my suit.
I can almost feel myself drooling.
“How early can I get my hands – er, hand – on this?”
“Later today? That’s pretty much the last version, just needs a few tweaks.”
“What about my heart?”
“That’s a bit trickier. We don’t know what, exactly, the metal did or is going to do, but I can design you a reactor if you want.”
I give a small nod. “Better safe than sorry. Like father, like daughter, I suppose.”
My dad is nodding with a smirk. “Till then, you up for some visitors? Lover hawk would enjoy your company.”
I snarl at him, infinitely glad said hawk evacuated the room when the prototypes came up.
Steve, ever the attentive captain, was first to peer through my doorway.
“Hey Steve. You can come in if you like.”
Steve steps over the threshold and gently closes the door behind him as he comes to stand my bedside.
“You look worse that some of the guys I served with.”
I wince slightly. “Why thanks Cap, real morale booster you got going there!”
He flinches. “Right, right, sorry. First thing that came to mind.”
I smile in forgiveness then frown slightly as a thought occurs to me.
Steve looks at me, startled by my quiet tone. “Yes?”
“Do I…will I…still be an avenger, after all of whatever this is?”
Steve studies me for a moment before snorting.
I brace myself for the rejection, the hate, the disappointment-
“Of course you will. Your dad is designing a replacement arm and I have complete faith in both his skills and your ability to overcome. And besides, I can’t kick you off without losing your dad, and we need some geniuses on the team, so…”
I laugh as he shrugs before standing and ruffling my hair.
“Get some rest, Taylor. See you soon.”
Bruce is next, cautiously cracking the door open and entering once he sees I’m awake.
“Hi big guy.”
“Hey Taylor. How are you feeling?”
“How should I be feeling under these circumstances?”
“Quit doing that!”
“Answering my questions with more questions! I swear that is a genetic thing…”
I laugh and awkwardly cover my mouth with my left hand.
Bruce watches my hand movement quizzically. “You want some help retraining your prosthetic?”
“Handwriting, fine motor skills, to be specific.”
“Oh! Yes, of course. Either that or learning to be left handed.”
“Gonna need a whole lot of help.”
“I knew they kept me around for something.”
I giggle as Bruce gets up and rests a gentle hand on my uninjured shoulder. “Get some rest, I think Thor’s up next on the visiting list.”
I try and not let my horror show as he walks out.
Thor is, in fact, next, loudly announcing his presence.
I wince as I reply. “Yeah, Thor, over here, but inside voice, please.”
“My apologies, Lady Iron.” he says, this time his voice level that of a normal human. “You have much valor to sustain a wound such as this, especially this young.”
I a one-sided shrug and a matching smile. “Part of the job, isn’t it?”
“Indeed. On Asgard, children of your age would still be watching battles. Many of the most skilled on my home realm would value your skill.”
My half-smile fills out as I reply. “Thank you, Thor. Maybe you could show me your home one day?”
“I would be delighted, Lady Iron! I will regale you of tales of past battles as we feast and share mead.”
“Right, Thor, but just remember Midgardian children don’t consume alcohol until twenty-one.”
He frowns slightly as he ponders this, but shrugs. “No matter, grand times shall still be had. At the moment, however, you require rest. I will leave you to your task.”
He lays a heavy yet gentle hand on my head as he stands and exits.
Clint is next, the only sound made as he enters is the squeak on behalf of the door.
“Hey hawk. Glad you could make it.” I drawl, trying to lighten obviously heavy environment.
“It was a struggle, but I did it.” Clint instantly plays along.
Then a thought invades my peaceful mind that instantaneously crushes the light mood and bring tears to my eyes.
“Hey, what’s wrong? Does something hurt?” Clint has seated himself by my bed and is resting a hand on my back.
“N-no, it’s just…archery, Clint, what am I gonna do?”
“You’re getting prosthetics fitted, right?”
“Then no biggie. I simply reteach you how to shoot. It might feel weird at first, but you’ll get used to it, just like your dad did with his arc reactor.”
“Are you sure you wanna teach me?”
“Why would I not be sure? Remember what I said to Loki about the whole ‘my sparrow’ spiel?”
“Yeah, well, now you’re just a cyborg sparrow. Still mine to teach and protect, though. And speaking of cyborgs, can you try not to take over the world with Terminator?”
“I make no promises.” I chuckle, “But if I do, you’ll be spared.”
He laughs and advises me to rest before standing and exiting.
But not before poking his head back in for an “I’ll be back.” in a horrible Schwarzenegger impression.
The last teammate to visit is Natasha, who pokes her head in with a quiet “Vorobey?”
“Privet, tetya Natasha.”
“I’m good, now can we switch to English please?”
“Sorry. You don’t know how much I enjoy conversing in Russian with someone who knows more than innuendos.”
“No duh. Everyone been to visit?”
“You’re the last.”
“Yeah, sorry, I got tied up at the office.”
“Not this time, no. And, FYI, you still owe me a girl’s night.”
“Once I’m piece together I’ll take you up on that.”
“Alright, Frankenstein, deal.”
“Hey! I-“ my indignant reply is cut off by a slight heartburn-feeling sensation in my chest.
“Taylor? You okay?”
I open my mouth to reply, but no sound comes out because now I feel like I’ve been punched in the chest and my vision is reduced to a swirling mix of black and grey.
Vorobey = sparrow
Privet, tetya Natasha = Hello, aunt Natasha
Vy tozhe? = Are you well?