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The Truth
by Peter Parker

My uncle Ben, who helped to raise me, taught me a lot as I was growing up. One of the most important things he taught me was that it was honorable to tell the truth. Not exactly an unusual sentiment, but he wasn't talking about personal honesty, about answering questions truthfully. What Ben was talking about when he told me to tell the truth was a greater responsibility which would, eventually, bring me into journalism one day: to tell a truth, an important truth, and to tell it large, to speak up for people who don't have a voice and reveal what shouldn't be hidden.

As I grew up, part of me was dedicated to that truth, to the telling of stories that needed to be told. But part of me drifted from the important truth, too. Deception is tempting, and sometimes it's necessary to protect the people you love. Or you tell yourself it is.

***

Steve could tell Peter was nervous, though he didn't know why. He had no reason to be; it was just a neighborhood backyard barbecue, with his aunt grilling ribs and the neighbors bringing over potato salad. It was nice, really; normal. More normal than Steve usually got, for sure.

"It was kind of May to invite me," Steve said, as Peter brought beers over to the picnic table. "Kind of you to let her," he added. "I don't want to incriminate you by association."

"If nobody's worked it out by now..." Peter flapped a hand, but he looked...stiff.

"You okay, kid?" Steve asked, thumbing the cap off his beer.

"Just been thinking about some things," Peter said.

"Anything I can help with?"

"Maybe. Dunno." Peter rubbed the back of his head. "If I wanted to join the Avengers, I know I'd have to go public, but like. How public?"

Steve leaned forward, intrigued. "What do you mean?"

"Well, could I tell the Avengers and not tell everyone else? What if only the Avengers knew?"

Steve took a drink of his beer, considering. "I don't know. I'm not a lawyer, Peter, and it's a legal thing. Tony's people would know."

"Oh, ugh, trying to ask Stark stupid stuff like this -- "

"Hey, no, it's not stupid," Steve said, as Peter rubbed his face. "I get it. Tony would too."

"But what do you think?"

"First thoughts? Probably not," Steve said. "It's all or nothing with the Avengers. It's an issue of responsibility."

"Yeah," Peter said, looking disappointed. "Great power, great responsibility."

"Afraid so." Steve shrugged. "Sorry. Are you? Thinking about it?"

"Freelance doesn't pay that well. I do okay, especially since the book came out, and I've got an advance, but..."

Steve looked across the yard, to where May Parker was standing at the grill. "Your aunt's not getting any younger."

Peter glanced over his shoulder, giving her a wave. "No. And we own the house, but taxes, insurance..."

"Look, here's what I can promise you," Steve said. "If you did join up, we'd make it as easy as we could. Clint really likes Spider-man. Tony likes both of you. Natasha thinks you're adorable, even if she wouldn't admit it. Bruce still feels like he owes you for what you did for the Hulk. We could protect May," he added. "Besides, you're bright. If you wanted a job in Stark Industries, I'm sure Tony could find you one."

"Well, I do type pretty fast," Peter said with a small grin.

"I'm not going to oversell it, my bond-sales days are over," Steve said.

"Bet you still fit in your old tights, though."

"Punk!" Steve laughed. "I mean it. If you want that, talk to Thor, he likes convincing people. But if you want to look at options, then yeah, I'm here to help. I think you'd be a good Avenger. Speaking of which," Steve added, as a boom of noise in the distance heralded the arrival of dessert. "Thor's about to land. He's bringing -- "

"PIES!" Thor's voice roared, and a cloud of dust rose in the middle of the yard as he touched down, half a dozen bakery boxes tied with twine under each arm.

"Pies," Steve finished, lips twitching.

"May Parker," Thor called, bounding across the yard to set the pies on the table and sweep her into a hug. "You grow younger by the day! I've brought many pies. Greetings, Peter!" he called, setting May down and thumping Peter on the shoulder. Peter stumbled. "A fine day for a feast!"

"You seriously want me to tell him my deepest darkest secret?" Peter asked Steve in an undertone.

"He only shouts about things that don't matter," Steve said.

"I'll think about it," Peter said.

"You could always put the cowl on," Steve said with a grin. "What ho, Spider-man! Well met!" he added, in a dead-on impression of Thor. Peter shoved him, and he staggered for a second before catching his arm around Peter's neck and ducking his head against his chest, giving him a noogie.

***

As a journalist, lying is the worst thing you can do. The point of the job is that people trust you to be honest. And while I never lied about the facts of a story, the last time I wrote about the Avengers, I did misreport the truth. It's time I came clean about that, especially since this is likely to be the end of a career.

The thing is, I'm a good journalist, but I've always had one job that I've been better at. I've come as far as any journalist can, strictly speaking; had some great adventures, told some good truths, made some change in the world. But my two vocations had to meet sometime, and one of them had to give.

This is going up on my blog -- where I took a lot of contacts after the Avengers pieces, where I occasionally give progress reports on James Barnes (he's doing well, by the way) -- at the same time as the press conference is being held outside Stark Tower. Not all of you can be there, and almost nobody follows the news as obsessively as I tend to. So I wanted to announce it here as well. And anyway, I'm not going to stop blogging here, so there should be at least one entry about it. For the sake of completeness if nothing else.

Because my name is Peter Parker, and I've been Spider-man since I was fifteen years old.

***

The uproar at the press conference was intense, and Steve eventually had to gently herd Peter off the stage before he tried to answer every single question (journalists know what journalists like). But it was nothing compared to the internet. For days, JARVIS had to triage Peter's inbox to filter out the hate mail from strangers. He forwarded a few of them to the FBI, quietly, without letting Peter know.

"Do you regret it?" Steve asked, over dinner on Friday night. At the other end of the table, Pepper and Tony were entertaining May. "Lots of trouble for you this week."

"Ask me in a few months," Peter said ruefully. "But...it's nice to see Aunt May happy. And fun to talk to people about it. Heroing. It's another kind of truth, but it's okay, I guess."

Steve ruffled Peter's hair, grinning. "Lots of different kinds of truth, Peter. Glad to see you enjoying ours."