It was a bitterly cold and miserable day, with clumpy wet snowflakes falling listlessly from an iron grey sky to the slushy ground and Peter was beyond done with the crappy weather. He loved snow – proper snow, with fat, fluffy flakes – but hated trudging through what was essentially mud stained Sno-Cones. He was sick of being cold all the time, of having damp socks and having to wear multiple layers of clothing, because that made it an arduous process getting into his suit. Part of him was tempted to wear it and run the heater on low all day, but it would be too easy to slip up and accidentally let the suit peek out, plus he had a very strict schedule of when he could patrol and May and Tony would kick his ass if they got an alert to say that Peter was wearing the suit on a non-Spider-Man day.
In a futile effort to warm his feet up, he jogged on the spot waiting for the light to change, listening to Ned rave about a TED talk on quantum computing that sounded great, but he was really too cold to think about anything other than turning himself into a blanket burrito and not moving from the sofa for the entirety of the midwinter break. A whole week off school stretched before him and he had zero plans, which suited him just fine. Tony and Pepper were heading out of town for the week, May had to work, and in a small miracle, he only had one piece of homework that he could practically do in his sleep. He’d probably end up seeing Ned, maybe MJ, but other than that, he had nine glorious days of nothing and he was practically gleeful at the thought. He even planned on taking the week off from Spider-Man – the weather had kept the crime rates low and most of his recent patrols had been spent crouched on rooftops and lampposts, posing for photos.
The light finally changed and as Peter stepped out into the road, he felt the now familiar shivery, prickly feeling of impending doom sweep across his body and he had just enough time to push Ned backwards into the people clustered behind them before a car hit a patch of slush and slammed into him. Spider-Man would have stopped it without breaking a sweat but at that moment he was just Peter, so he rolled up the hood and over the roof, letting the impetus of the car carry him, before he landed face down in the street, his head banging off the curb.
Time suddenly took on a staccato quality, fading in and out of his awareness. It was like he’d fallen into a time lapse movie, everything happening in jerky, disjointed motion, snatched moments of lucidity interspersed with complete absence. A high-pitched ringing filled his ears and his vision was vignetted, blocking off anything in his periphery. His stomach lurched and he began to vomit with almost no effort.
Paramedics appeared seemingly from nowhere, a gentle hand touching his shoulder. “What’s your name, kid?”
He couldn’t answer, his tongue laying hot and heavy against the roof of his mouth, but Ned answered for him. “He’s Peter. Peter Parker.” Ned sounded like he was crying and Peter wanted to reach out for him, but his brain and his hands were apparently no longer on speaking terms and refused to cooperate with one another.
The hand moved from his shoulder and was joined by another, thumbs resting along his jaw and fingers spreading around to the back of his neck. “OK Peter, I’m Andy, and my partner is Jasmin. We’re going to roll you on to your back, and we need you to let us do all the work, alright? On three, Jazz.”
They rolled him and agony shot up his spine, making him gasp, his fingers twitching against the ground before everything blacked out. He regained awareness in the back of an ambulance, a cervical collar in place and foam blocks either side of his head, straps across his forehead and chin.
A female paramedic smiled at him, placing her hand on top of his. “Hey Peter, I’m Jazz. Don’t worry about the collar and blocks, they’re just a precaution until we get you to hospital. Your friend Ned has phoned your aunt to tell her we’re taking you to Queens Children’s Trauma Center. We’ll be there in about ten minutes.”
He must have spaced out again, because he blinked and then he was being wheeled into the ER, the paramedics handing over to the staff as they walked.
“This is Peter Parker, aged 15, struck by a car approximately 25 minutes ago, sustained what appears to be a serious head injury. Open head laceration at right temple. Intermittent repeated loss of consciousness, he vomited at the scene and en route. Bloody discharge from nose and right ear. Right pupil fixed and dilated. Patient appears disoriented when conscious and responds to stimulus but is unable to communicate verbally. Avulsion wounds to legs and palms. GCS 11, E4V2M5. He lives with his aunt, May Parker, she’s a nurse up in NICU and has been notified by Peter’s friend.”
He was transferred from one trolley to another, multiple hands supporting his body and head as he was moved. Despite their gentle efficiency pain gripped him fiercely, nausea surging in his stomach. He was still strapped to a backboard and the medical team worked as one to angle him on to his side, allowing him to vomit without choking.
When he’d finished heaving, he was rolled onto his back and a nurse began cutting his clothing off as another placed an oxygen mask on his face. A blanket was draped across him and then he was moving again, a nurse holding his wrist as she walked alongside him and telling him that he was going to have a CT scan.
Once he was positioned on the scanning bed, he found himself drifting in and out of consciousness again, lulled into something like sleep by the soft, repetitive background noise of the CT scanner.
He regained full consciousness when he was back in the trauma room and it seemed like everyone wanted a piece of him, removing the collar and blocks, taking blood, shining a light in his eyes, asking him all sorts of questions that he answered with thumbs up or thumbs down.
The nurse who had held his wrist on the way to CT hadn’t left his side, a gentle, reassuring presence. She smiled at him. “I know your aunt, May and I trained together. We try to go for dinner every couple of months, she’s always talking about you and what a good kid you are.”
Peter tried to smile in return, though it felt more like a grimace. He wanted May, wanted her soft voice and comforting touch, and he suddenly found himself crying, tears rolling down his face. The nurse – Linda, he remembered May talking about her friend who worked in the ER – wiped the tears away and placed her hand on top of his head. “May will be here soon, sweetheart.”
The doctor working on him leaned into Peter’s field of vision. “Peter, I’m Doctor Ramirez. The CT of your neck and spine were all clear, but the head CT showed that you have a skull fracture at your temple, with a very small subdural hematoma – that’s a collection of blood on the surface of your brain - which we’re hopeful should fix itself without surgery. We’re going to take you to theater to clean up these injuries on your palms and knees and stitch up your head wound, OK? You’ll be asleep for all of it, so don’t worry, you won’t feel anything.”
“’llergic,” Peter mumbled from behind the mask. “’m ‘llergic.” The words felt thick and awkward in his mouth, rolling around like taffy. He couldn’t have an anesthetic, knew that the amount it would take to get him under would raise all sorts of questions he wasn’t willing to answer. “Stay ‘wake.”
May barreled into the room, dressed in her pale peach scrubs, just in time to hear him say he was allergic. She rushed up to him, eyes wide and frantic. “Oh Peter, look at you,” she whispered, touching his face, before looking at the doctor. “If you’re gonna do an irrigation and debridement, it’ll have to be under a local. Peter can’t have a general anesthetic, he’s allergic, he could have a respiratory arrest.” She slipped easy into their rehearsed lie, something they’d come up with for a situation such as this.
“’m tough,” Peter slurred. “Do’need to go sleep. Jus’ do it.”
The doctor didn’t look convinced, but he began requesting equipment and paged someone, before sitting next to Peter. “Peter, I’m going to clean and stitch up this wound on your head while we wait for plastics to arrive, OK? You’ll feel a series of short, sharp scratches as I inject the local, and it might sting for a moment, but that feeling will be over pretty quickly. If you’re in too much discomfort, let me know, and we can take a break.”
Peter gave him a thumbs up and closed his eyes as the doctor got to work. May placed her head close to his, whispering soothingly in his ear and sliding her fingers through his hair, keeping him centered and calm. The local anesthetic wore off in less than a minute, but he worked on keeping his breathing steady and relaxed and that helped. Stitches were nothing really, tiny little shocks of pain that faded into insignificance compared to the bursts of fire from his hands and legs.
The plastic surgeon arrived just as the doctor was tying off the last stitch and Peter knew that this was going to be 10 times harder than his head wound.
“Hi Peter, I’m Doctor Anderson, I’m the plastic surgery attending, and Doctor Williams is my resident. We’re both going to work at the same time to get this over and done with for you. We’re going to wash out your wounds, remove any tissue we can't repair and tidy things up a little. This will be uncomfortable, even with local, but we’ll get it done as quickly as we can.”
She wasn’t lying. It was incredibly painful, and Peter found himself breathing in harsh pants despite May’s efforts to keep him calm. His hands and knees felt raw and exposed and when he glanced down, he could see that the palms of his hands were missing skin in some places, fat glistening through the blood. It made him feel sick again, so he closed his eyes and concentrated on the feeling of May’s hand on his head, the familiar scent of her subtle perfume that smelled like toasted sugar.
Finally, his hands and knees were dressed and bandaged, the stinging, sparking agony of exposed nerve endings reduced to a dull, burning pain that was easier to ignore. May kissed his forehead and dashed away his tears with her thumb before cradling his face in her hands. “Ned sends his love, baby. He’s OK, just worried about you.”
“Home. Wanna go home,” Peter mumbled, trying to push himself up off the bed, but the movement made his head pound and he let May settle him back down.
“You’re going to have to stay at least tonight for observation,” she told him. “Once you’re settled on a ward, I’ll head upstairs and tell them that I can’t work this evening, go home and get us a few things, and then we’ll have a sleepover.”
Part of him wanted to protest and say that she didn’t have to stay overnight with him, that he was 15 and an actual real-life superhero, but another, more insistent part of him just wanted his aunt by his side, wanted to let her baby him a little, so he just gave her a small nod and let his eyes close.
He didn’t fall asleep, but he slipped into a weird kind of twilight state, vaguely aware of things happening around him but not processing them. Now that May was there, he felt relaxed enough to disassociate from his surroundings, trusting that she’d keep him safe.
When he was finally transferred to the pediatric ward he was hit with a wave of nostalgia. Before the spider bite, he’d spent so much time in the hospital that it had felt like a second home. His brittle asthma had required multiple admissions a year for treatment, and he’d ended up sedated and on a ventilator after one especially bad attack. His life then had revolved around clinics, peak flow, inhalers, nebulizers and physio, and he was forever grateful that the spider bite had cured his asthma in addition to giving him powers.
“Just like old times,” May said, as the ER nurse who’d escorted him to the ward stood outside his room to handover to the ward nurse. “I swear every chair on this ward has my ass imprint. We put some hours in here, didn’t we kiddo?”
“Don’t miss it,” Peter told her, shifting against the pillows to find a comfortable position. He hadn’t seen the number on the door when he was wheeled in, but he knew that this was room 8 just by looking at the ceiling. “Got my favorite room,“ he commented. Words were coming easier now and the pain in his head was receding, making him pretty sure that the hematoma was clearing up.
May laughed at him, moving to the chair bed in the corner and pulling it out flat. She made the bed up quickly and neatly, her nurse training clear in the hospital corners. “I like this room too, it definitely feels bigger than the others.” She finished making the bed and stood next to Peter, pushing his hair back from his face. “Are you going to be OK on your own for an hour or two? I’ll be as quick as I can, I promise.”
“I’ll be fine,“ Peter assured her through a yawn as she leaned over to kiss him. “Can I sleep? ‘m tired.”
May tucked the blankets snugly around him. “Sure you can, baby. A nurse will be in every 15 minutes to do neuro obs until your GCS improves, but with how well you’re doing I think that’ll only take a couple of hours.” She paused for a moment, looking at him like he was something precious and cupping his chin. “I never thought I’d be grateful for your spider thing, but without it, you’d be a lot worse off right now. I swear I can see you recovering right in front of me.”
Peter burrowed down into the blankets, his eyes already heavy with the promise of sleep, proper sleep, rather than unconsciousness. “I feel loads better already. Just tired.”
He was asleep before May even made it to the door.
Peter nibbled listlessly at a piece of pale, under-done toast, wishing he had something more substantial than two pieces of toast and a fruit cup for breakfast. His healing abilities had been working overtime, the itching of his wounds knitting back together driving him crazy through the night, and he was famished. He just hoped that the staff didn’t plan on looking at his injuries, because he knew they would look a couple weeks old rather than less than 24 hours. He could feel the skin of his forehead slowly rejecting the stiches as the skin healed preternaturally fast.
May looked at him unenthusiastically chewing the toast and took pity on him. “I’m going to go out and grab some breakfast, what do you want?”
He dropped his toast back on the plate and grinned. “Banana pancakes and a chocolate milk from Skyline, please? And a side of bacon, well done.”
May left him with a kiss and a promise that she wouldn’t be long, and Peter took the opportunity to sneak out to the restroom to avoid the awkwardness of using a urinal bottle again, like he’d had to during the night. He snagged a couple of medical gloves from a dispenser on the wall and used them as protection for his bandaged hands, in lieu of washing them once he’d finished.
Once he was settled back in bed, he turned on his phone and watched as the WhatsApp message notification ticked up over 100, and Snapchat showed 20 Snaps waiting. He rightly guessed that most of them were from Ned, who had started out on WhatsApp then switched to Snapchat as his worry ramped up into anxiety sometime around 3am. Peter scrolled through the WhatsApp messages, then switched to Snapchat, preferring to send a video rather than aggravate his hands by texting. Ned was offline, hopefully sleeping after his late night, so Peter locked his phone and set it aside.
He was just contemplating turning on the television when someone knocked on his door, opening it when he told them to come in.
“Peter! I wondered if it was you when I heard the name Peter Parker at handover. It’s been a while.” A woman Peter hadn’t officially seen for nearly 2 years smiled at him with genuine delight. “I missed you, nobody else is able to even come close to beating me at Mario Kart.”
Peter grinned back at her as she sat in the chair next to his bed. “I missed you too Tamara.” He held his bandaged hands up. “Don’t think I’d be much of a Mario Kart challenger right now.”
Tamara scoffed at him. “I’ve seen kids with both arms in plaster still manage to play, I think you’d manage it. But maybe it’s for the best, I have an unbroken record as the only child life specialist to never have lost a game, and I’d hate for you to mess that up for me.”
Peter suddenly felt very much like a child in front of Tamara, who had known him since he was practically a baby. One of his very first memories was of falling asleep in her arms, sobbing himself into exhaustion on the day after his parents died in the car accident that he’d survived, escaping with nothing but a broken arm and a stress induced asthma attack. Ben and May had to leave him to go to court for an emergency guardianship hearing and Tamara had stayed with him, comforting a traumatized four-year-old whose world had been shattered. She’d been a part of his life for as long as he could remember, supporting and distracting him during blood tests and cannulations, holding his hand to steady him as he walked around the ward, his limbs trembling after albuterol nebulizers. She’d spent countless hours with him in the activities room, playing video games on the Starlight center or thrashing him at UNO, occasionally roping him into helping create displays to brighten up the ward. He was pretty sure he’d been a little bit in love with her as a kid, besotted by her smile and the way she treated him as Peter first and a patient second.
There was nothing like being a patient on a pediatric ward to drive home the fact that a 15-year-old was a child in the eyes of absolutely everyone, even if that 15-year-old was a part-time superhero.
“Your title is safe, I promise,” Peter assured her. “Even if I could play, I’d never beat my favorite child life specialist, I don’t want to make you cry.”
They settled into an easy and familiar back and forth, Tamara catching him up on all the gossip about her colleagues, weddings and babies and promotions, and Peter telling her a heavily edited recounting of his life since he’d last seen her, glossing over the bad parts (talking about Ben still made his voice strain with the promise of tears) and playing up the good, especially his internship, which was now an actual thing rather than just a cover-up.
When he mentioned Tony, she gave him an assessing look, resembling MJ so strongly for a moment that Peter almost had to do a double take (and wow, didn’t that show him that he had a type when it came to girls, and double wow, where did that thought come from, because MJ was just MJ, nothing more). “Do you remember your last admission before this? You had cellulitis from a spider bite, a really nasty fever, and you kept getting these awful migraines.” At his hesitant nod, she continued. “Spider-Man showed up not long after that.”
His heart began to pound fiercely in his chest, and he fought to keep his expression open and relaxed. “Ha. Yeah, weird timing. It’s good that Queens has a superhero though, all the others stick to the city. Their loss, we know that Queens is the best.”
Tamara looked at him fondly. “Spider-Man saved me from a mugger a few weeks ago. I’m pretty sure he saved my life, actually. I was walking to the bus stop after finishing a late shift and this guy jumped me.”
Peter remembered that night very clearly and Tamara was downplaying it. It had been less a mugging and more a full-on assault, and when he’d swung down, Tamara had been on the floor of an alley, flailing and kicking at the man who had one hand over her mouth and the other at the button of her jeans. She’d gone limp with relief when she saw him, the fight leaving her as he tackled the man and webbed him up against the wall with more force than usual. He’d sat with her until the police arrived and had almost called her by her name a couple of times.
“That must have been scary,” Peter said as casually as possible. “Did they catch the guy?”
“Spider-Man webbed him and stayed with me until the police came, made sure I was safe. You know, it’s funny, but Spider-Man sounded really familiar. I felt like I knew him. I wish I did, because I’d love to thank him for what he did that night. If he hadn’t been there, I’m not sure I’d be here talking to you right now.”
It was blatantly obvious that Tamara knew that Peter Parker was Spider-Man and he had no idea how to handle it. His spider-sense was quiet and calm, and he felt safe with her, so he had no fears that Tamara would be at threat to his identity, but he didn’t know what to do.
He was saved from the awkward silence by the sound of a familiar voice outside at the nurses’ station. “I know it’s not visiting hours yet, but just let me see my kid for a minute and then I’ll go. Room 8, right? Great, thanks. I promise I won’t outstay my welcome.”
Peter had just a moment to think ‘My kid’? before the door was flung open and Tony walked in, an obnoxiously large balloon bouquet in one hand and a bag from Astoria Bagel Shop in the other. “Hey Petey-Pie, you’ve got a nice pair of shiners there.” He set down the balloons then ruffled Peter’s hair, hand pausing at the back of his head for a moment, fingers threaded in his curls. “How ya doin’, kid? They treating you well?”
Peter saw the exact moment that the man realized someone else was in the room, Tony being replaced by Tony Stark, his shoulders wide and his spine stiff as he seemed to magically gain about 6 inches in height. Even his ever-present glasses seemed to darken, hiding his eyes. “Hi. Tony Stark. You are …?”
Resisting the urge to roll his eyes at Tony and his over-protectiveness, Peter tugged the bag of bagels out of Tony’s hand and opened it up, looking for the everything bagel he knew would be in there, because Tony showed his affection through buying him food and was fully aware that he’d sell his soul for a good everything bagel. “Tony, this is Tamara. She’s a child life specialist, I’ve known her since I was a kid. She probably has embarrassing photos of me somewhere in her office.” He found the bagel – pre-sliced and still warm - with a little noise of satisfaction and set about slathering it thickly with cream cheese.
“Kid, you’re still a kid,” Tony told him, but he relaxed a little, offering his hand to Tamara, who shook it. She looked remarkably unaffected by one of the most famous men in the world standing in front of her.
“Nice to meet you, Mr. Stark. Peter has been telling me about his internship with you. He’s always been clever with technology, he’s fixed most of our games consoles over the years.” She grinned mischievously at Peter. “He’s right about the photos, I have a scrapbook from our superhero themed Halloween party a few years ago, he was Captain America.”
Tony clutched a hand to his chest in mock distress. “Pete, you wound me. How could you.”
“You weren’t a superhero then! Don’t worry, I was Iron Man the following year. Tamara gave me an eyeliner goatee.” Peter picked his phone up and opened his gallery, scrolling to the right album, before passing it to Tony. “See.”
Cackling with delight, Tony swiped through the pictures, before stopping. He turned the screen around for Tamara and Peter to see the photo of the two of them, Peter tiny in his plastic Iron Man armor, Tamara in an olive-green military uniform and wearing bright red lipstick, her curly hair tamed into victory rolls and finger waves. “Peggy Carter, huh?” He handed the phone back to Peter. “You two really do go way back when.”
“Tamara knows I’m Spider-Man,” Peter suddenly blurted out. “Shit. Um. I mean, she guessed. She knows. That I’m Spider-Man.”
Over-protective Tony made a sudden reappearance. “Excuse me?”
“Spider-Man saved me a few weeks back and I recognized Peter’s voice. I’m not going to tell anyone, I wouldn’t do that. I can sign an NDA.” For the first time, Tamara sounded a little intimidated by Tony, who at that moment was doing a great job of showing that Tony Stark was Iron Man, with or without the armor.
“How much money do you want? If you even so much as breathe in Peter’s direction after he checks out of this place, I’ll have my lawyers down on you so fast your head will spin.”
“Tony. Tony, stop,” Peter tried to intervene, but Tony was getting himself all worked up and wasn’t listening.
Tamara’s intimidation disappeared, replaced by a look of extreme distaste. “Mr. Stark, I can assure you I don’t want a single dime of your money. I’m a medical professional with a code of ethics and I won’t betray patient confidentiality.”
Tony opened his mouth again and Peter cut him off with a sharp “Mr Stark!”, finally getting his attention. Peter didn’t often refer to him that deferentially these days, so it shocked Tony into silence. “It’s OK. I trust her.”
Tony raised a skeptical eyebrow. “What does your Peter-Tingle have to say about it?”
“Oh God, you and May have got to stop calling it that, it’s not funny! And my spider-sense is fine. Well, it’s slightly freaked out about how many ways you can find to over-react, but yeah. Tamara is cool. She’s not going to tell anyone.”
“I just wanted to thank Peter, that’s all. Spider-Man gets all the recognition, I thought Peter deserved some too. If he hadn’t ended up in here, chances are I’d never have seen him again and I wouldn’t have been able to, so the both of you wouldn’t be any the wiser. I’ve known for over three months and haven’t told a soul, and that’s not going to change.” Tamara stood up. “I’ll leave you to it. Peter, as lovely as it was to see you, don’t do anything that lands you back in here, OK?”
Impulsively, Peter got out of bed and hugged her. “Thank you, Tamara,” he whispered, hoping she knew that he meant thanks for looking after a scared little boy, thanks for making his time in hospital easier, thanks for everything.
She stepped back after a moment and Peter could see that she was close to tears. “Take care of yourself,” she told him, before looking at Tony. “Mr. Stark, I’m serious about the NDA if it will give you some peace of mind. You know where to find me.”
Tony took the bag of bagels off Peter’s table and pushed it into Tamara’s hands. “Here. Put these in the break room or something.”
Tamara laughed, accepting it for the olive branch that it was, and left them to it.
As Peter got back into bed, Tony sank down into the recently vacated chair and placed his chin on his linked fingers. “Well, that was unexpected.”
“I know right, I can’t believe you gave away my bagels. My bagels Mr. Stark.”
“Knock it off with the Mr. Stark shit, kid, I waited too long for you to call me Tony to go back to that. Plus I know that May is on her way back with a double order of banana pancakes for you, so you’re not going to waste away.” Tony kicked his shoes off and swung his feet up on to the end of Peter’s bed. “You sure she’s gonna keep her mouth shut?”
Peter shifted against the mattress, trying to find a comfortable position for his aching everything. “I’m sure. Tamara is awesome.” He turned on to his side to face Tony. “Not that I mind, but why are you here? I thought you and Pepper were leaving for Malibu this morning.”
“Change of plans. My favorite spider got smushed by a mom-mobile so I told his super-hot aunt that I’d spider-sit at my place with its medical facility and fancy CT scanner so she can go to work to pay for all the food said spider eats.” Tony shrugged. “Soon as May is back, we’re going to spring you and take you back to the tower. The transfer paperwork is waiting for her with the nurses.”
Tony must have sensed that Peter was about to object, because he held his finger up. “Nuh uh. This is happening. You need to be monitored for a few days, and I volunteered because I want to. May is going to stay over after work too, it’s about time the two of you tried out your living quarters. I swear Pep is more excited at the idea of having May there every evening for wine and shitty Netflix movies than she was about going to Malibu.” He gave a dramatic little shudder. “I should have known that introducing them to one another was a bad idea.”
Peter felt a little thrill of excitement at the idea of staying at the tower for a few days. He was over there most afternoons and Saturdays, working with Tony in the lab on suit upgrades and various projects that Tony described as ‘internship stuff’, but he’d yet to spend the night. Tony had set aside a space with two en suite bedrooms, a kitchenette and a living room for Peter and May, should they ever need to stay over, and was constantly complaining that they hadn’t used it. “Can we work on the upgrades we talked about for Karen? I think having a quick access menu for frequently used web settings would improve my reaction times, I’m still a little slow switching between combinations.”
“Sure, but slow your roll, Spiderling. You’re going to spend at least 48 hours doing diddly-squat so that noggin of yours can recover. You’ve been bugging me to watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I figure we can burn through at least a couple seasons.”
It wasn’t what Peter had originally planned for his break from school, but hanging out with Tony was infinitely better than sitting in the apartment all day on his own. “Cool, cool, cool, cool, no doubt, no doubt,” he said, as May returned, bring along the smell of snow and pancakes.
“Hey boys, hope you’ve been behaving. Did you tell Peter about the plan?” May slid a box full of pancakes in front of Peter and handed him a little tub of maple syrup, and he dug into them like he hadn’t eaten in a week.
Tony picked up the coffee May had placed on the table for him. “I did. And we had a little identity situation while you were gone.”
“You’re not running around threatening to sue people, so I take it the crisis is over?” May began eating her own short stack, stealing the last dribble of maple syrup from Peter.
“Tamara figured out that I’m Spider-Man,” Peter told her as he munched on a piece of bacon. “S’ok though, I trust her not to tell anyone.”
“Child life Tamara? You helped her out a while back, right?” May looked at him for confirmation and he nodded. “That doesn’t surprise me, you were her work-kid for the last 13 years.” When she saw their confused expressions, she continued. “Most people in peds have work-kids. There’s always that one patient that just becomes yours, and you were Tamara’s. She’s known you since you were in diapers, she’s watched you grow up, if anyone here was going to figure it out, it was her. I have her number, I’ll check in with her later.”
May’s complete non-reaction seemed to confuse Tony. “Are you seriously not worried that this woman knows who Spider-Man is?”
“I’ve known Tamara for years, since she was a child life intern here. I used to work on this ward before Peter started getting so sick. She helped us so much when Mary and Richard died, did some work with Peter to help him understand what happened.” She reached out to tuck a curl of hair behind Peter’s ear, her hand lingering on his jaw for a moment. “You’re supposed to be objective working in healthcare, but most of us are pretty piss-poor at it. It’s impossible to look after kids and not fall at least a little bit in love with some of them, and I know Tamara adores you, baby. There’s no way she’d hurt you by telling your secret.”
That seemed to satisfy Tony and he pulled his feet off the bed and put his shoes back on. “OK, I’ll relax about it. Come on kid, let’s get you out of here. Happy’s been waiting in the car for an hour, he’s gonna be pissed.”
Peter hurriedly swallowed the last mouthful of pancake, and reluctantly allowed May to help him put his sneakers on, too stiff to reach down to tie the laces. He even more reluctantly took a seat in the wheelchair Tony pushed into the back of his legs, though secretly he was relieved that he didn’t have to walk all the way to the parking garage.
As they passed the playroom, Peter saw Tamara sitting with a little girl, both of them covered with paint up to their wrists as they pressed hand prints on to a sheet of paper. He waved and Tamara and the little girl waved back.
Peter was suddenly struck with an idea. “Hey Tony, can you help me with something?”
“Sure, kid, as long as it’s not illegal or immoral, and I could probably be swayed on the first if you give me a compelling enough argument.” Tony pushed Peter into the elevator, holding it open as they waited for May to finish saying bye to a nurse she’d worked with. “What do you need?”
Two days later, Tamara Wilson was interrupted in the middle of charting by a knock on the office door. “Hey Tam, there’s a guy from the post room who says he has a delivery for you?”
“Huh, that’s weird, I’m not expecting a delivery. Thanks Laura, I’ll be right out.” Tamara locked her computer then headed out to the front desk, stopping dead in her tracks when she saw half a dozen moving sized boxes stacked on a pallet truck.
“If you could sign here, I can move these for you and go get the rest,” the man said, handing her a clipboard.
“The rest?” she echoed weakly. “There’s more?” She scanned down the inventory list, seeing everything from multiple games consoles to StarkPads and craft supplies, thousands of dollars’ worth of resources that her department could never afford.
“Yup, there’s another dozen boxes waiting downstairs.” He followed her to the child life storage room and started off-loading the boxes. “Do you want the rest here too?”
She signed the inventory and tore off the top copy, leaving the carbon on the clipboard and handing it back. “That’d be great, thanks. Do you know who this is from?”
“Not sure, but it all checks out. I forgot, there was a letter for you with the inventory list.” He flipped the list up out of the way and pulled an envelope out from underneath. “I’m gonna go get the rest.”
Tamara watched him go, then opened the envelope, pulling out a single folded sheet of paper. When she unfolded it, all that was written on it was “Thanks – PP and TS”, along with a tiny doodle of a spider.