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To Have and to Hold

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“No,” Peter said, slicing a hand through the air. “Absolutely not. Do you hear me, Aunt May? I am telling you no. Nyet, nada, never. I am – I am putting my foot down.” He did so, dramatically. The foundation of the house trembled ever so slightly. “Do you hear me?”

“Oh, I hear you,” May said, turning around to shake a warning finger at him. “I hear you telling the woman who raised, clothed, and fed you who she can and cannot wed in holy matrimony!”

“Yes!” Peter said, spreading his arms out wide. “That is exactly what I am doing! I’m glad we cleared this up!”

May’s stormy face, if possible, darkened.

“And then there’s Mary Jane,” narrated MJ, from the couch, where she was idly channel flipping. “Good ol’ Mary Jane, staying out of the situation. Good for you, Mary Jane.”

“No,” Peter yelled in her general direction. “No, bad Mary Jane! Very bad!”

“Staying out of it!” she sang.

“Peter,” May said, jabbing her index finger into the center of his chest. “Liv and I are in love. We are getting married. That is the end of the story.”

“She is my archnemesis!” Peter said, throwing his hands up in the air.

“Well,” May said, turning away from him. “That’s just something you’ll both have to work on. I’m going to go do the laundry now.”

ARCHNEMESIS,” Peter shouted at her retreating back.

There was no reply, save for the slam of washing machine door.

“MJ,” Peter said, slumping. “Come over here and feel me. Am I trembling with ineffective rage? Because I feel like I’m trembling with ineffective rage.”

“Sweetie,” Mary Jane said, twisting to look over the back of the couch. She held out a hand in a what can you do type of gesture. “Sometimes you just have to let people make their own choices.”

“No,” he said, turning on her. “No, I am Spider-Man, and I absolutely do not have to do that! If anyone needs me, I’ll be in my lab designing an anti-brainwashing ray.”

He slammed the kitchen door on his way out, just to make a point.

“Well,” Mary Jane said, after a beat. She turned back to the television. “That went as well as could be expected.”

 


 

It started, as so many things did with Spider-Man, with a fight.

“Don’t worry, May!” Spider-Man shouted, dodging a sharp jab from a tentacle. He flung himself back. “Just stay calm, I’m going to get you down!”

“Peter!” May called, reaching for him. One of Doc Ock’s tentacles held her around the middle, leaving her helplessly dangling sixty stories from the ground.

“Ooh, yes, Peter!” Doc Ock crowed, laughing to herself. “All those years, guarding your precious identity! Now one little slip –” May gasped as Doc Ock loosened her grip on her waist for a split second, then tightened it again “—and it’s your family who pays the price.” She paused, thoughtfully. “Your very attractive family. On whose finger I do not see a ring.”

“What?” Peter said. A tentacle slapped him across the face. With a frustrated growl, he grabbed at it, yanking Doc Ock off-center. It wasn’t a good move – he had to remember that as long as she held May in her sinister grip, anything that happened to her could have disastrous consequences. “You leave her out of this, Ock – this is between you and me, do you understand?”

“So, like, what do you do?” Doc Ock asked May, ignoring Peter.

“Oh, you know, this and that,” May said. “I managed the FEAST Center until one of your cohort blew it up, I don’t know if you’re familiar.” Doc Ock made an interested noise, though Peter couldn’t tell if it was over the charity work or the explosions. “Honestly, his being Spider-Man takes up a lot of my time.”

“I can imagine,” Doc Ock said.

They both turned to stare, quasi-accusatory, at Peter.

“Um, excuse me?” Peter said. “We were fighting, remember?”

“I also dabble in electronics,” May continued, heedless. “I did a little work on those webshooters of his.”

“Fascinating,” Doc Ock said.

“Not half as interesting as these arms,” May said, stroking the one that held her around the waist. “The way they undulate…”

“You don’t know the half of it,” said Doc Ock, and then flicked her tongue out against her top lip in a way that made Peter want to throw himself into heavy traffic.

“Oh, you,” May said, like they were old friends and not in the middle of a hostage situation. “You know, this is actually refreshing. I don’t meet as many people as you’d think, being Spider-Man’s aunt.”

“You can’t be his aunt,” Doc Ock said. She used a tentacle to twirl a lock of her curly hair around flirtatiously. “Tell me the truth – you must be his sister.”

Aunt May giggled like a schoolgirl.

“Oh, stop it,” she said, teasingly swatting a tentacle.

“What,” Peter said flatly, “is happening right now.”

Aunt May batted her eyelashes, one hand held demurely to her chest. Doc Ock gave her a sly smile.

Peter ripped a chunk out of the building’s wall and threw it at Doc Ock’s face.

“It was very nice to meet you, Olivia!” May said when everyone was safely back on the ground. Peter put his hands on her shoulders and pulled her back as the police surrounded Doc Ock, who was webbed up nice and tight.

“Do not wave at the supervillain,” he told May.

“Please,” Doc Ock shouted cheerfully as she was handcuffed. “All my friends call me Liv!”

“And do not call her Liv,” Peter added.

“We’ll have to get together for dinner sometime, Liv!” May said. “Maybe after your arraignment.”

“Call me!” Liv shouted. One clawed tentacle waving back and forth in a weird mimicry of a cell phone as the cops forced her into the back of a squad car.

“Do not call her,” Peter joked. “I’m pretty sure they make you pay for those prison chats.” He waited. There was silence. “Ahem, Aunt May. That was funny. Laugh now, please.”

“I don’t know,” May said, hand cupped to her chin. “She is pretty cute.”

“Oh,” Peter said, “what the actual f—"

 


 

The wedding was a lovely ceremony held in a quaint outdoor venue strewn with white roses. Peter grudgingly walked May down the aisle and then he sat in the front row, his arms crossed defiantly over his chest, and Mary Jane none too subtly elbowing him every other minute. He met each jab with a ‘harumph’ distinctly reminiscent of his boss.

“Behave,” she whispered.

“I’d rather be Sabretooth’s personal groomer,” he bit back.

“You look like you’re about to throw up a hairball either way,” Mary Jane noted.

The music swelled. Liv appeared. There were fresh daisies dotting her wild hair and she wore a white lace dress that fell in asymmetrical tiers to her ankles. Someone had decorated her birkenstocks with rhinestones around the buckles. Her own tentacles were held to one side, prepared, apparently, to walk her down the aisle.

Peter swore under his breath. J Jonah Jameson, seated in the opposite row, promptly burst into tears. He buried his face in a monogrammed handkerchief as his wife patted his shoulder.

“I just love weddings!” he sobbed gruffly. “Parker, why aren’t you up there, taking photos for the society page?”

“Maybe because it’s my aunt’s wedding that I am not working at and because I am filled with hatred,” Peter suggested.

“Pictures, Parker,” Jonah sobbed, ignoring him. “I want pictures of this wedding!”

“Oh for the love of...” Peter said, tipping his head back.

The wedding march started. Peter slumped deeper into his seat and attempted to glare a hole into the officiant’s head. She was a small woman wearing a tie-dye shawl covered in feathers, and she opened the ceremony by having May and Liv use their energies to charge what she called “the crystal of their love.” Before the ceremony, Peter had asked Liv where she’d found her and she’d said Craigslist. When the officiant asked if anyone had any objections, he sat up straight in his seat and opened his mouth; Mary Jane’s hand gripped his thigh hard enough her nails threatened to puncture something.

“Do not ruin this for May,” she hissed.

“She is marrying Doctor Octopus,” Peter hissed back, flinging a hand out to furiously gesture at them. “I – oh my God, oh my God. They’re kissing. Is that tongue.”

They were kissing. There was tongue. May dipped Olivia so low that that the ends of her curly hair brushed the ground and Peter automatically became concerned about everyone’s backs.

Applause broke out among the crowd as May and Liv straightened up, their hands clasped. Peter’s own clapping was decidedly grudging and motivated mostly by the fact that Mary Jane had moved her sharp nails up threateningly close to some more sensitive parts of his anatomy.

Later, at the reception, Peter clinked his fork against his glass.

“I’d like to make a toast,” he said, rising to his feet and clearing his throat obnoxiously, “to the happy couple. Now, some people,” here he briefly paused for dramatic effect. Mary Jane muttered something unkind as she pinched the bridge of her nose. “Some people might look at today’s union and think, what is that morally ambiguous middle-aged scientist with the criminal record resembling a phone book in thickness, who works for a company whose ethics I could, and have, best describe as ‘hot wet garbage’, doing marrying my beautiful, sweet, kind, loving, naïve 64-year-old aunt?”

He narrowed his eyes at Liv. She raised one hand and wiggled her fingers at him, beaming innocently.

“Some people,” he continued, “might say that. The optimistic among us, on the other hand, wish the happy couple nothing but a long, loving relationship, filled with sunshine and happiness and all that jazz. Mazel tov!”

He downed his champagne like a shot, tossed the glass over his shoulder with a crash, and then leaned forward, hissing “I’m watching you” at Liv before he collapsed moodily back into his seat.

“Nice speech, honey,” Mary Jane said, patting his knee. “Very subtle.”

There was a happy cry all around the guests as May pushed cake into Liv’s face, then leaned in and licked her frosting off her cheek. Peter’s face met his place setting with a dull thud.

 


 

“You were using me?!”

“Two months,” Peter said to the ceiling. “What did I give it again, Mary Jane? Two months.”

“It’s been five months, tiger,” Mary Jane said, flipping the page of her novel.

“Two months!” he repeated strongly, pointing upwards.

“Using you is such a harsh term,” Liv said. “Just because I discovered you were due to inherit a privately owned atomic processing plant upon the death of your second cousin twice removed and just because the wife comes before the nephew in the will doesn’t mean what we have isn’t real!”

“I don’t like this,” Peter said, his head lolling against the back of the couch. He looked over at Mary Jane plaintively. “I do not like that this is my life right now. Make it stop.”

“Just ride it out, sweetie,” Mary Jane said, patting his thigh. “Just ride it out.”

“You were going to steal my inheritance and frame poor Peter for my murder!” May said angrily, hitting Liv in the chest with her own diary.

“Alright, yes, that was my plan at one point,” Liv admitted. “But was what we shared in the meantime not beautiful? Was it not in its own way precious? Did we not make steamy, passionate love that night in the Mediterranean –”

“God, please,” Peter groaned, hands over his face. “Make it stop.”

“I can forgive a lot, Liv,” May said. “All those times you tried to kill my nephew, I could live with –”

“Wait,” Peter said, his hands sliding slowly down his face. “You could what.”

“—But for my own wife to lie to me for months!” May continued. “What happened to honesty in a relationship, Liv? What happened to us?”

“Can we go back to the part where she said she was okay with her trying to kill me all those times,” Peter said to Mary Jane, pointing at May and Liv.

“Ride it out,” Mary Jane repeated, patting at his knee.

“Yes, I plotted and schemed! I’m a supervillain! I can admit that! But then when I got close to you – when I really got to know you – it was you, May, that kept me coming back,” Liv said. “Your inner strength, your tenacity, that thing you do with your tongue –”

“Agh,” Peter said, attempting to smother himself with a throw pillow.

“May, when I saw you make that man cry at bingo night,” Liv said, her hand over her heart, “that was when I fell in love.”

“Oh, Liv,” May said, her face softening. “We have had some good times, haven’t we?”

“I love you, May,” Liv said, getting down on one knee. She stared imploringly up at her, her hands clasped together. “Come with me. With my scientific know how and your ingenuity and surprising knowledge of mechanics, we could take over the criminal underground. You could be a queen.” She paused, then added, “All you need to do is help me kill your meddling nephew and we’re golden.”

May picked up her baseball bat.

“Get the hell out of my house,” she said.

“Wait, ladies, ladies, time out,” Peter said, rising wearily from the couch. May and Liv both stopped. Peter walked to the alcove that housed the washing machine and dryer, bent down, and fished out his mask from the depths of the dryer. He tugged it on. “Okay, we’re good. You may continue.”

Liv’s tentacles unfurled from her back as May swung the baseball bat at her and Spider-Man leaped daringly into the fray. Mary Jane sighed as she slid a bookmark into her novel and set it on the coffee table.

“I’ll go find a lawyer who’ll still take our calls,” she said.

She got up, ducking as Peter went flying by, and wandered upstairs.

 


 

EPILOGUE: Several years later…

 

“You really did a number on these, Miles,” May said. She bent over her work bench, reading glasses perched on the end of her nose as she unscrewed the back of one Miles’ damaged webshooters.

“Sorry, May,” Miles said, rubbing at the back of his neck. “Kind of unavoidable with a literal rhino on your tail.”

“It’s alright,” she said. “Keeps these old fingers nimble, and I enjoy our visits. Take a cookie.”

Miles happily complied. He glanced down at the coffee table as he bit the cookie in half, spying the photo album lying on top of it. It was open to a picture of Peter – his world’s Peter, the blond one – and Mary Jane, sitting together in matching white chairs. Peter was wearing a navy blue suit and he was slumped in his seat with his arms crossed, staring into the distance with murderous defiance. On the opposite page, there was a picture of the Daily Bugle’s publisher weeping openly.

“Hey, May,” he said curiously. “When were these photos taken?”

“Oh,” May said, putting down her screwdriver to sip at her steaming mug of tea. “Those are from my second wedding. It was a very lovely ceremony.”

“I didn’t know you got married a second time. That’s cool,” Miles said, flipping to the next page. He squinted at it. “Wait. What the f –”