Peter is sneaking back into his room when it happens.
He’s ducking under the window and hears a loud thud. Peter jerks in surprise, hits his head against the window frame, and subsequently flops onto his carpet with a thud of his own. “Oh, ow,” he hisses, rubbing his head. “Ouchie, ow—hey May, you alright?”
It’s two in the morning, so odds are she’s just gotten off work. He stumbles into the living area and then freezes.
She’s on the floor, up against their old stained corduroy couch, clutching at her chest and wincing.
“May,” he says again, serious now, and flicks on the light so he can really see her. She’s totally drained. “Hey, May, look at me.”
“Peter,” she clutches at his forearm. “I’m fine. I’m—” she winces again and kind of curls into herself. “I just need an aspirin or something.”
“Um? No?” Peter grabs her wrist to check her pulse and finds it thready and weak. “May, I think you’re having a heart attack.”
“What? Don’t be ridiculous, I—” she cuts herself off with another wince and completely bends over, clutching her left arm now, and yeah, Peter’s seen enough medical dramas to know about the whole left arm thing.
“Okay, yeah, I’m calling an ambulance.”
“What? Don’t do that, we can’t pay for that—”
“You think I care about the cost?”
“Peter,” she snaps, looking something God awful now, “just call Tony. He’ll be just as fast.”
“Wow, great idea,” Peter says, lunging for her discarded phone, “even in the face of mortal peril you’re a fucking genius.”
And it’s not until he says the words out loud, mortal peril, that it actually clicks: she’s having a heart attack. May, his aunt, could literally very possibly die if he doesn’t help her right now. And okay, he saves cats from trees and sometimes stops muggings and has learned a few tricks from The Natasha Romanoff herself, but this is different. This is May.
She’s all he has left.
“May? It’s two-thirty in the morning, don’t tell me you’re drunk or something—”
“Tony, it’s me,” Peter says, which shuts the older man right up. “May is having a heart attack and I—shit, I don’t know what to do—”
“Alright,” Tony says, “okay, fuck, alright. Just stay where you are. Do not move her or try to swing her there or—I’ve got Happy with me right now, we were already in the car, we’ll be there in like ten minutes tops.”
“How could you possibly get here that quickly? Shouldn’t I call 911?”
“An ambulance is gonna take at least fifteen minutes and this is Happy fucking Hogan we’re talking about here. Just—call them, tell them what’s up, give her an aspirin—step on it, Hogan—we’ll be right there, alright? I promise.”
“Don’t hang up on me, Tony,” Peter says, running over to the cabinet where they keep their meds. He shuffles through half full bottles of various pain relievers and expired foil packets of fish oil choking devices until he finds aspirin.
“I’m not, I won’t. Is she conscious?”
Peter looks over his shoulder. “Yeah, yeah,” he shakes out a tablet, “one or two?”
“One or two what?”
“What’s the dosage?”
Peter fills a glass of water and hurries back over to May. He sits in front of her and drops the phone because he is utterly incapable of focusing on more than one thing at one time. “Can you sit up?”
“Yeah,” she gasps. “Just… hold the glass for me.”
He does. They get the pill down. Peter scoops the phone back up and puts it on speaker. “Tony?”
“Oh, hey, so: FRI called 911 for us. They’re on their way but if we get there first I’m just gonna take her straight to Queens Memorial. How is she doing?”
“I’m fine,” May rasps.
“How’s the pain?” Peter and Tony ask at the same time.
May takes a few shallow breaths. Her lips purse. “Seven.”
“Bull, it’s a nine,” Peter says to Tony. Then to May, “Your chest?”
“It’s kinda lightened up but—oh, fuck, ow—”
Peter grabs her so she doesn’t keel over. May grabs him right back and they stay like that. “You gotta breathe,” he tells her. “Just breathe as deeply as you can, okay? Everything’s gonna be fine.”
May nods. She’s not talking anymore. That’s not good and Peter doesn’t have to be a doctor to know it, and he can tell Tony knows it too. Peter forgets to even blink: he just focuses on May’s short breaths. She leans her forehead on his shoulder and he holds her.
He’s got her.
He’s not letting go.
Tony and Happy get there first. Peter literally hears the tires screech as the car pulls to a stop. Tony runs the rest of the way. He’s panting when Peter jerks the door open but still manages to be the most put together person in the room—seeing as Peter is still in his glorified leotard and May’s in scrubs.
“Okay,” Tony nods. “You’ll carry her. Elevator, so she’s not jostled too much. Then car. Then hospital. Capisci?”
Twenty minutes later, Peter and Tony are sitting in what have to be the world’s most uncomfortable chairs. With the exception of an old Irish lady knitting a few feet away, they’re alone.
Peter’s knee won’t stop bouncing.
Tony stares at it until Peter notices. He blushes and tries to stay still, but the older man just sighs. “It’s fine,” he says, leaning his head back. “I mean, you’re tinnitus personified, but it’s fine.”
Peter would laugh if his body were allowing that sort of thing right now. Instead he mutters, “Sorry,” and watches the old lady finish the next row of the ugly vomit coloured scarf she’s making.
Is that what you’re supposed to do in waiting rooms? Should he be making May a sweater?
Peter jumps when Tony pokes his side, right in the funny spot that always makes him yelp. “I can hear you thinking, kiddo.”
“It’s fine. We’re in the waiting room. We’re waiting. We have to concentrate our efforts on vicariously healing May.”
Tony snorts. “We’re gonna be sitting here for who knows how long. It’s just you and me and Mrs. O’Malley over there, so out with it.”
“I just… I hate being helpless, you know? I hate sitting there not knowing what to do and feeling like it’s out of my hands, like I could just lose her at any given moment. It sucks ass. Like, big ass. I can’t stand it.”
Tony stares at him for a long minute and then says, “One thing I’ve learned in all of my years of fucking up and burning bridges is that control? It’s not the answer and it’s not always there. Sometimes things just happen and all you can do is your best. And you did your best. You kept her calm, you called me, you were great.”
“No I wasn’t.”
“God, fine! You suck! Happy?”
“Thank you! Was that so hard?!”
They’re silent for a second. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I can physically allow myself to just let that stand,” Tony blurts. “You really don’t suck, you’re fantastic. And sometimes being a hero isn’t about grand gestures and CPR and punching bad guys in the face, it’s just… helping people however they need help.”
Peter’s shoulder’s sag. He leans forward and puts his head in his hands and then, just because he can’t help it, he asks, “What if she doesn’t make it?”
Tony leans forward with him and their eyes meet. “She’s gonna be fine. She’s May Parker. Nothing can touch her, you know that.”
“Yeah,” Peter whispers, throat burning. “That’s what I used to think about Ben.”
Pepper arrives in a rush of Chanel perfume and hugs. She goes for Peter first, to his surprise, and then leans back. “Are you okay? Has anyone come to talk to you yet?”
Peter shakes his head. “We were—they were examining her and then she just passed out. They told us to come wait here.”
Pepper takes a deep breath. “God. Okay. Have you called Sam?”
At that, Peter’s eyes widen and his stomach sinks. “Oh my god, I’ve committed a crime against the nation. I’ll be right back.”
He literally runs to the nearest pay phone. This hospital has shit funding and hasn’t been updated since like, 1979 or something, so there are still little booths by the bathrooms. Peter fishes a quarter out of his pocket and dials the number he still can’t believe he has the displeasure of knowing.
Wanda picks up. “Who is this?”
“Is Sam there?”
“No, it’s the hash-slinging slasher,” he rolls his eyes. “Please put Sam on the phone. It’s urgent.”
She grumbles something about having to wake him up and Peter waits, gnawing on the edge of the sweatshirt he’d thrown over his suit during the car ride over. He’d also wormed into a pair of jeans just as they were pulling up to the hospital. He is literally Hannah Montana.
“Hey, it’s me,” Peter says. “Um, I uh—May is in the hospital right now—”
“What? What happened?!”
“Just—” Peter is really struggling to not lose it here, “she had a heart attack and we’re still waiting on news. I don’t have—I don’t have any answers here. You don’t have to come but I just thought—”
“I’m on my way,” Sam says firmly. “It’s the one she works at?”
There’s a pause. “Are you okay, Pete?”
Oh great, they’ve progressed to Pete now. That’s really cute. He sighs. “I’m fine. I just want her to be okay.”
“Yeah. Yeah, me too. I’ll be right over.”
He hangs up. Peter stands there for a minute staring at the wall and then, on a whim, fishes out another quarter.
This number he’s lucky to know. He practically had to commit espionage to get it.
MJ picks up on the second ring. “Hello?”
“Hi, it’s your resident idiot.”
“Peter? Why are you calling me from an unknown number? What happened to your cell?”
“The better question is: why did you answer an unknown number?”
“My boyfriend jumps off of roofs for a living,” MJ retorts dryly. “A vocation which doesn’t even earn him a living, actually.”
“That is an—actually very valid answer,” Peter says.
“So where are you right now?”
“Uh, the hospital.”
“What? Peter, what happened? Are you okay?!”
“No, I’m fine, I’m totally fine. It’s May.” He tells her what happened and answers all of her questions—or, at least, the ones that he can answer—and deposits another quarter before they can disconnect.
“Do you want me to come? Because I can come. My parents are out of town so I have nothing to do anyway—”
“Nothing to do except, I don’t know, get some sleep so you can actually function like a normal human being unlike myself?”
“Peter, you don’t function normally on any amount of sleep.”
He blinks. “Okay valid, but really, you don’t have to come.”
“No, don’t even. This is serious and you’re—just, like, eat something so you don’t pass out please? That’s the last thing anyone needs right now.”
He grins and looks down at his scuffed up sneakers. “Will do, drill sergeant.”
MJ snorts, says goodbye, and hangs up.
Peter doesn’t mean to start talking. Not really. But his mouth is a full fucking freight engine rolling full tilt down a track that twists further than his eye can follow and the breaks are broken.
He isn’t talking for Tony and Pepper, or for Mrs. O’Malley across the way, whose scarf could provide shelter for a medium-sized village at this point. He isn’t even talking for himself. And yet, he sure does talk.
“It wasn’t her fault, you know?” He knits his fingers, twists his arms. “I was—stupid, I was so dumb, I don’t know why I thought a literal wooden clothing hamper would make a good sled, but I climbed into it and I rode it down the stairs while she was distracted making dinner. I probably got a quarter of the way down before the front of it caught on a step and I just—I slingshotted, I flew through the air.” He shakes his head. “Landed right on my arm and popped it out of its socket. I screamed like a cat that’d gotten stomped on.”
Pepper’s voice comes softly, “What did she do?”
Peter looks up. Pepper and Tony have their eyes locked on him as if some great fate rests upon the outcome of this stupid story. His brain hurts. “She ran downstairs to get me, popped it back into place like some kind of steel-stomached badass, and forgot dinner in the oven.” Peter feels a smile curl onto his lips, strangely enough, and a matching pair appear on both Pepper and Tony’s faces before Peter manages to finish.
“We had very crispy chicken tenders on salad that night. Tasted like ash, but y’know.” Now Peter’s eyes sting, and really? Fuck that. “She had to cut them for me, ’cuz she was making me wear a sling and all. She—ah, she kept airplane-ing them into my mouth.”
Peter looks down. The expression on Tony and Pepper’s faces—he can’t keep staring. It’s not for him.
“Mister Parker?” comes a voice.
Peter’s head pops back up and he watches a nurse approach with clipboard in hand.
“I don’t think we got any forms from you, did we?” she asks. The stack she holds is thick and Peter can smell the fresh ink clinging to the papers. “Would you mind just filling these out? The quicker the better, in case she has any allergies or chronic conditions she forgot to mention to the doctor in the moment.”
Peter stares for a second too long.
Pepper grabs the forms from the nurse, thanks her, and hands them to Tony. He can’t stop looking at the nurse’s little clogs. They’re purple and shiny.
May doesn’t wear clogs to work. She wears Crocs and they’re terrible. Peter doesn’t know what he’ll do if he doesn’t see them sitting by their front door next to his sneakers anymore.
“Full name…” Tony is murmuring, and Peter looks over at him to see Tony’s reading glasses hanging off the tip of his nose. He squints down at the page, pen perched against the paper.
Peter has an absurd urge to laugh. “Do you even know all of these things about her?”
“Birthday? Height? Insurance company? Sure,” Tony nods self-assuredly. “I know everything about Miss May… Reilly… Parker.”
“Her full name is Maybelle,” Peter deadpans.
Tony looks up so quickly his glasses skew on his nose. “Excuse me? I need you to repeat that because I absolutely am hearing things, apparently. I could not have heard what I think it is you just said to me, so I must have a screw loose or something—”
“Her full name is Maybelle,” Peter repeats, and then spells it. “May for short.”
Tony blinks, and then seems to lose himself inside his own head. “Did I even know her at all?” he demands. “Was I just another soul to pass in this life of souls passing? To me, she was a friend, a good friend, perhaps even a best friend, but to her was I nothing but a nuisance? Someone with which to get wine drunk on Wednesday afternoons but no more than that?”
Pepper and Peter meet each other’s gaze and roll their eyes in perfect harmony.
Tony sniffles. “Alright, whatever. Don’t think I won’t bring this up with her. As soon as her eyes are open, I’m—starting the biography. The Life and Times of Maybelle “May” Parker: Just How Many Secrets Did She Keep?” Tony scribbles something on the paperwork. “God, next thing you’ll tell me is that she isn’t really half Italian.”
Peter leans forward over his knees and then changes his mind, perching his chin on Tony’s shoulder because he needs the warmth right now. “Would you disown her if she wasn’t?”
Tony leans his cheek on top of Peter’s head as he hums thoughtfully. “Nah,” he says. “That would be prejudiced and we don’t do that here.”
Peter pokes at the spot Tony wrote May’s birthday. “You’re two years off.”
“You’re kidding. She’s older than me?”
“By a year.”
Tony is silent for a moment. “Pretend I did that on purpose to make her seem super young and eligible to the male nurses.”
As if on cue, the thud of rushing footfalls comes from the doorway, and then there’s a sharp thunk.
“Ah, fuck,” says Sam Wilson, bug-eyed behind his red goggles. His wings are spread to their full idiotic capacity and keep him from fitting through the door.
“Who let the pigeons out,” Peter mumbles as the nurses behind the desk leap to their feet and begin to protest. Mrs. O’Malley stares unabashedly, knitting needles still clicking furiously because she’s just that talented.
Sam presses a button on his jetpack and the wings retract to let him fit through the door. Peter wants to scream a little bit. A lotta bit. So much screaming. It’s like his chest has a little goblin sitting inside of it that absolutely must be heard.
“Calm down, calm down, my girlfriend is back there,” Sam is saying to the desk nurses.
“You’re literally a criminal,” says one of them.
“I think we can all let that slide just this once,” says Sam. He winks. He literally winks with his actual human eye, and Peter feels such an onslaught of emotions that he has to stand up and start pacing, yanking on his hair.
He watches Sam sidestep the nurses, yank off his goggles and jetpack, and drop the load into an empty chair. Without them he looks smaller, but Peter still wants to punch him in the face.
“Hi,” Sam says to Tony and Pepper.
“Hi, Sam,” Pepper says, grasping one of his hands.
Tony gives him a royal stink eye.
“Yeah, hi Sam, I’m your girlfriend’s nephew, I’m also here,” says Peter, still pacing but now with vigour. “I still exist and I am here too, if you can believe that, while your girlfriend is—” Peter freezes mid-step and his stomach sinks.
He had been about to say while your girlfriend is dying in there. Those words had almost come out of his actual mouth hole.
Peter sits down right where he had been standing.
“Hey Peter,” Sam says quietly.
“Hi,” he returns, not proud of the fragility in his voice. It wavers like bad radio connection. “Hi Sam.”
“Get off the floor, that’s fucking disgusting,” Sam says just as gently, jerking his chin a little.
“Okay.” Peter stands. He thinks he leaves his stomach on the dusty linoleum tile, but he still manages to cross over to where Tony is sitting.
Tony offers a hand and Peter takes it, lets Tony hold some of his weight as he crumples into his sucky plastic seat and really, why don’t they get better chairs for hospital waiting rooms? It’s already depressing enough, but now they have to be depressed and uncomfortable. Maybe someone who needs one of these chairs has scoliosis. Maybe Tony’s spine is all out of whack from flying around and getting the snot beaten out of him every other day, and now his legs are falling asleep. For some reason the thought brings a hysterical laugh bubbling up Peter’s throat. He has to swallow doubly hard to keep it down.
“Do you,” Peter starts. He clears his throat. “Do you think they’ll tell us anything soon?”
Tony blows out a breath. “I dunno, kid.”
“I think no news is good news, as far as this is concerned,” Pepper says, leaning forward to drop a hand on Peter’s knee.
Peter nods. He tries to remember to breathe but his brain feels like vegetable soup—fucking broth and gross, unidentifiable mushy vegetables. No noodles. Not even the little star-shaped pastina. Just salty vegetable water.
Peter looks up at Tony and makes sure to meet his eyes before saying, “Do you think she’ll—”
“Her primary care physician is named Ruiz,” Sam interrupts, leaning over Tony’s shoulder. “Something Ruiz.”
Tony clumsily pats Peter’s cheek as he turns towards Sam, scowling before he gets a word out. “Hey, fuck you,” he says. “What the fuck. I do not know less about my May than birdbrain over here.”
“I’m her boyfriend man, what is wrong with you?”
“Well, I’m her platonic soulmate, what is wrong with you?” Tony sits up just to stare Sam down. “Do you watch The Bachelor with her every Monday night and eat your weight in those little watermelon sour candies? Do you make lasagne and carbonara and bring it to her house because she can’t cook for shit even if her heart is in it?” Tony’s mouth twists and he almost spits his next words: “Do you have custody of her kid if she dies on that table? No, I don’t think so!”
“Tony,” Pepper reprimands.
Sam takes a step back and raises his hands placatingly, brows furrowed. “That was too far, man.”
As Tony opens his mouth to respond, there’s another encroaching rustle from the door. Peter finds himself desperate for whatever distraction it will bring.
Ned barrels through the doorway, MJ hot on his heels dragging Wanda by the hand.
“Oh my god,” Peter mutters weakly, heaving himself to his feet. “My idiots. Why can’t you all sleep for once.”
“We couldn’t just sit at home and wait for the news,” Ned says, gathering all of Peter up into a choking hug that immediately lessens some of the crushing weight on Peter’s chest. He wraps his arms as tightly around Ned as he can manage, pressing his face into his shoulder. He smells like sleep and the same detergent his mom has been using since they were kids, and Peter takes a deep breath of it. Tries to clear his head.
Ned waits for Peter to pull back first and squeezes his wrist before he lets go.
Not even a minute passes before MJ scoops him up in a wave of messy curls. Then it’s an urgent flurry of quick kisses to his temple and he says, “Hey, hi, hi,” under his breath.
MJ pushes his bangs back. “You’re okay.”
“I’m right here,” he answers.
“Have you heard anything?” she asks, squeezing tighter because she’d heard loud and clear what Peter hadn’t said.
“No, not yet. But uh, Pepper thinks it’s better that way.”
“Well, I trust Pepper more than any of the doctors here, to be honest,” MJ pulls away and cups Peter’s cheek, leaning forward to kiss the tip of his nose. It makes him feel young and small and delicate like a little porcelain figurine, but he knows MJ’s grip is good; that she’s got him.
Wanda, unlike the other two, just waits. Her arms are loose at her sides and she’s got a heavy tote bag thrown over her shoulder.
Peter makes grabby hands until she comes and hugs him too. It’s shorter than the others and still unfamiliar to him, but it’s good in the way that exploring new and possibly dangerous places is, or really spicy Indian food even when you know how bad your asshole is gonna sting later.
“Did you bring gifts like the Holiday Armadillo?” Peter asks.
Wanda squints. “I don’t know that reference.”
“Oh,” says Peter, “oh, put it on the list. Put all of Friends on the list.”
“The show Wanda these American things list! Jewish representation, dude, it’s like—” Peter suddenly remembers Ben’s enormous round laugh; he sees the two of them sitting on the couch, picking out his favorite episodes from the VCR box set of all ten seasons of the show. His stomach twists. “Never mind, that’s not—not hospital talk.”
MJ’s hand finds his like she just knows he needs her.
He clings and he’s pretty sure she’s the only thing keeping him here.
Wanda’s bag is not full of Hanukkah presents, it turns out. Nor is it full of ancient scrolls with healing spells (which was Peter’s second guess).
It’s full of bananas, an Ouija board, and a deck of Tarot cards.
The bananas are for Peter because MJ told Wanda he hadn’t eaten, and Wanda still stares at him funny sometimes like she thinks he’s gonna have a repeat of the Barney hair nosedive event (he won’t, he’s grown and learned from his mistakes, he swears. Well, he doesn’t swear, but he sort of means it).
Peter chews at his banana through his cotton-mouth, sitting stiffly in the terrible-fucking-plastic-broken-ass-squiggly-spine chair with his back pressed to Tony’s arm and his feet tucked under MJ’s thigh. She has a hand looped around his ankle and keeps shooting him these quick little glances from the corner of her eye. She thinks he can’t tell.
Wanda is pulling cards for them. She’s really come to embrace that whole Witch part of her alternate identity. According to Bucky—who is actually the literal biggest gossip Peter has ever met—she collects crystals and burns sage and hangs eucalyptus leaves from their shower head.
Peter watches her shuffle the deck on top of the end table she claimed for them. She separates the cards into three stacks and then combines them again. Wanda taps them with her knuckles, fans them out, and then sits back.
“This is a lot of pressure,” says Ned. “I only have one question? One question and the cards are going to control exactly how that plays out for me?”
Wanda shrugs a shoulder.
“Wow wow wow, this is make or break,” says Ned. “Should I just like, ask about Lego sales?”
Peter leans his head back onto Tony’s shoulder. Tony’s been dead silent since his spat with Sam, but Peter can hear his heart thudding all uneven: beat, beat, trip, clumsy as always. For the first time it stresses Peter out more than it calms him.
He presses more firmly into his side.
Tony raises his far hand and rakes his fingers against the base of Peter’s neck.
“Does my love life seem promising to you guys?” Ned asks of the cards.
Wanda asks, “Which card speaks to you?”
Wanda pulls. “The Empress,” she says. “Beauty, nurturing, and abundance.”
“Oh wow, sounds dope,” Ned exclaims gleefully.
“It also implies a dependency upon others,” Wanda deadpans.
Ned doesn’t seem to hear the second half. “Aw, sweet! Maybe I should call Betty right now and be like, super nurturing and abundant.”
MJ nudges Peter and rolls her eyes.
He summons a smile for her, but he can feel how weak it is and he knows she doesn’t buy it.
“MJ?” Wanda flicks her. “You now.”
MJ hums. “Is our next president gonna care about minority rights, or is everything gonna keep sucking for the immigrant, non-white, non-English-speaking minority?”
Wanda blinks. “That was raw.” She pulls a card and grins. “The sun. Warmth, success, and vitality.”
“That’s pretty sexy of the cards,” says MJ.
“It also could be overly optimistic,” Wanda retorts, and tilts her head to the side. “Let’s pretend that isn’t the case. Peter?”
They all turn to him. Peter kind of feels like time freezes.
“Uh…” he tries his best to think of something unrelated, something stupid like, Will Spider-Man get a float in the Thanksgiving parade this year?
He fails miserably.
“Is May going to be okay?”
He can almost feel everyone wince. Tony’s hand stills in his hair and MJ clenches his ankle in a death grip.
Wanda stares. “Usually, we don’t… um, ask such specific questions of the cards.”
He feels a pull in his stomach. “Wanda.”
She clears her throat and pulls a card.
Wanda barely looks at it before she drops it. The color drains right from her cheeks.
“What?” Peter demands, jackknifing his legs out of MJ’s lap and standing sharply. “What is it?”
Tony curses under his breath. Pepper and Sam have frozen in their seats, quiet conversation abruptly dropped.
“They’re just cards,” Wanda says, helpless and swallowing roughly.
“Wanda.” He sounds wretched.
“It was death,” she breathes.
Peter stops. Nods and nods again, just keeps on fucking nodding like it’s the only thing he knows how to do anymore.
Then he turns on his heel and all but runs.
“Tony, I don’t need—”
“It’s not Tony.”
Peter’s head jerks around so fast he gets whiplash. Sam is standing a few feet away with his arms crossed over his big bulky chest. Honestly, of all the guys May could have gone for, she had to choose a himbo.
“Skittle?” Peter holds out the bag he’d snatched from the vending machine and gives it a little shake.
Sam comes over and takes a green one. His nose wrinkles. “So,” he says, “you came to look at the babies.”
Peter nods. They both turn back to stare through the glass panels, behind which lie rows of squirming pink and blue wrapped infants. They’ve all got flushed faces and wide eyes. The world is a new place for them, exciting and interesting and fresh. Nothing bad has happened to them yet. They haven’t been hurt or left behind or damaged.
“That one looks like you,” he says to Sam, jerking his chin toward the baby in question. It’s kicking its feet, round-faced and chubby-cheeked, and it smiles widely when it catches sight of them.
Sam snorts. Then he leans against the wall to look at Peter. “They’re just cards, man.”
“Don’t dismiss the power of divination.”
“I’m not—” Sam rolls his eyes. “I just think we have a little more control than that over what happens in our lives. There are doctors helping her right now, you know? There’s a whole team of people whose job it is to save her. They have a lot more to do with it than Wanda’s witchy voodoo crap.”
Peter gives him a look. Then he sighs. “What Tony said... he’s just wigged out. He didn’t mean it.”
“Hmm. You know what I think?”
“What do you think?”
“That you shouldn’t have to excuse the behaviour of a grown ass adult.”
Peter shakes his head. “May is one of his best friends. If it were Steve, do you think you’d be acting rationally?” Sam starts to speak, no doubt about to launch into a long-winded lecture about morals and maturity, but Peter holds up a hand. “Don’t answer that.”
Sam’s shoulder’s sag. “Man’s got a mouth on him, that’s all I know.”
“He’s just being protective. MJ and Nat have this stupid inside joke that I remind them of a dog, but Tony’s literally so much worse. He would definitely mark me as his territory by peeing on me if he could, I just know it.”
At that, Sam busts out a laugh. Peter doesn’t even realise he’s smiling until it falls.
“There’s this thing we do in Judaism when someone dies—shiva. It um, it goes on for seven days, not including Sabbath. You basically just mourn for a week straight: can’t wear fresh clothes, you can’t shave, you can’t listen to music or sit on regular chairs, just stools or boxes. It’s supposed to signify how low you feel.” He looks at Sam. “Would you do it with me? If she…?”
He can’t even say it.
Sam stares for a long second, lips parted a bit, and then nods. “Yeah. Of course.”
“Cool,” Peter says, voice thick. “Thanks.”
They stare at the babies for a little while longer.
MJ comes to get them not long after that. No one says anything about Peter pulling a Barry Goldberg and running off like a little kid. Wanda’s put the tarot cards away and she’s sitting cross-legged on the floor, utterly miserable as Pepper strokes her hair.
Then she sees him and just starts apologising. “I’m so sorry, I shouldn’t have even brought them—”
“It’s okay,” Peter says, because it really is. “You were just trying to help.”
Wanda bites her lip and glares dejectedly into her lap. “If it’s any consolation, I got them used at a joke shop.”
Peter laughs. “I appreciate your candor.”
He then plops down in the seat beside Tony. He leans over to look at his phone screen and reads the title of the webpage right before Tony switches tabs.
“Oh, don’t do that.”
“Do what? It’s just porn, I promise.”
“You were looking at stuff about heart disease, I saw it.”
“I was not—”
“Pepper, take his phone.”
“What? No! Pep, do not take my phone. There’s no need for that—”
“You’re gonna drive yourself crazy.”
Pepper sighs and holds out her hand, into which Tony petulantly drops his phone. She stows it in her purse. “I’ll give it back for emergencies, okay?”
Tony scoots down in his chair and pouts. “Well now what do we do?”
Peter shrugs and rests his head on Tony’s shoulder. “Regale us with a secret Iron Man story.”
“A secret Iron Man story, you say? Well, there was that one time I found this picture of Norman Osborn in an Iron Man t-shirt and bought out all the billboards in Times Square for a whole week so everyone would see. That counts, right?”
Peter is already asleep. He doesn’t register Tony sighing fondly at him or MJ eventually resting against his shoulder, thereby creating a Chain of Resting when Ned leans on her and Wanda curls up with her head on his thigh.
He wakes up maybe two hours later when Pepper shakes his shoulder and tells him, grinning, that May is awake.
And Peter just hauls ass. The way from the waiting room to Cardio is a complete blur. For all he knows he literally parkours over counters and very possibly runs through walls. There could very well be a series of Peter-shaped cut outs in his wake and he wouldn’t know or care, because May is awake.
Tony catches Peter before he can fall onto his face. “ Cucciolo,” he says softly. “Hey, slow down.”
“Do you think she’s okay? Where’s Ruiz?”
“Deep breaths,” Tony reminds him. The whole group is congregating outside of her room, now. She has a room, which means she’s alive. That has to be a good thing, right?
“Can we see her?” Peter blurts in the general direction of the nurse’s station.
One of them raises an eyebrow. “Only family.”
“He’s family,” Peter says of Tony, and practically drags him inside May’s room.
The only light comes from a lamp in the corner, which gives the whole room an oddly homely feel—as if the sharp, clinically pristine edges are all softened. Peter warily approaches her bed. The monitors beep steadily but he doesn’t need them; he can hear her heartbeat, and it sounds different.
“May,” Peter says softly, grabbing onto the rail of her bed so he doesn’t keel over right then and there.
Her eyelids flutter and crack. She blinks a few times and then focuses on him. “Dio mio,” she rasps. “Sono così dispiaciuta.”
And Peter—well, he and May have been through a lot together. He can remember a long time ago, when he was little and crying about his parents and she’d crawled into his bed and held him the whole night through. He can remember after Skip, when she’d kissed his palms and apologised over and over and over, like it was at all her fault. And later, after Ben, he remembers when he’d completely shut down but she’d kept on; kept working, kept trying to scrape together meals and keep him happy and help him with his English homework. She’s the strongest person he knows, the least deserving of anything like this, so naturally it takes everything to keep himself from sobbing over her frail body.
“You’re apologising to me for having a heart attack? Are you serious, May?”
She shakes her head and grabs his hands and kisses them just like she had all those years ago. “I scared you.”
“No,” he shakes his head. “No way, I was fine. I knew the whole time that this was all just some big premeditated ploy so you could finally take a nap.”
May cracks the faintest smile, and then she’s turning her head to look at Tony, who’s gone kind of weepy and hastily wipes his cheeks dry. “You look like shit, Stark,” she says.
Tony laughs. “Me? I look like shit? Well—you know what? You’re right. Absolutely. I am the only one in this room who does, I should really start having a full makeup team follow me around for moments like this. Where I—snivel in public.”
To Peter’s surprise, her smile widens further and then she grabs Tony’s hand too. She holds onto them both and says, “My stupid boys,” and Peter doesn’t think he’s felt this strange mix of pride and despair at the same time since the Mets lost their last game.
They try, those guys, they really do. One day they’re gonna blow everyone else out of the water, Peter can feel it.
But May’s already done that. May is a fucking force of nature.
“So, Miss Maybelle,” Tony says, “is there a reason you lied to me about what your real first name is?”
May rolls her eyes. “Shut the fuck up, Antonio.”
He scoffs and puts a hand over his heart, right where the housing unit is—and underneath that, a pacemaker, just like May has now. Peter realises abruptly that he is the only person in the room with a healthy, normal heart.
How shitty is that?
“Hey, why the long face?” May asks him, squeezing his hand.
“Hmm? Who, me? Oh, we don’t have to talk about my emotions right now and—would you look at that! It’s Dr. Ruiz and your cardiologist!”
May rolls her eyes and turns to the two men in lab coats. “Everyone, this is Dr. Fieldstone. He’s gonna talk about your heart for a minute and then we’ll go over some other bits and bobs. After that, you can rest.”
Peter resists the urge to vomit. Dr. Ruiz and his fucking ‘bits and bobs’.
Dr. Fieldstone just says what they all know anyway: May’s heart crapped out on her and they had to install a pacemaker when she had a second heart attack during her exam. The pacemaker will help ease the stress of her heart and she’ll need to stay in the hospital for a couple of days so they can keep an eye on her.
Dr. Ruiz claps his hands. “Fantastic!” he says, and then starts on the Bits. “So May, you and I both know that having a heart attack is a very serious issue. You’re gonna need to change your lifestyle if you want to avoid having another one. That means quit smoking if you do—”
“She sneaks one on the fire escape every once in a while,” Peter blurts. “She thinks I don’t know.”
May whacks his stomach. “Peter!”
“What? It’s important to be honest!”
“Right you are, kiddo,” Dr. Ruiz says, shooting Peter a finger gun. “So no more smoking. It sounds like it’s only an occasional thing, so it shouldn’t be too hard to kick. Also: better eating—”
“They only eat takeout,” Tony says. “Like, I’m pretty sure they’re under the impression that the five food groups actually consist of pizza, Thai, curry, Chinese, and copious amounts of pasta. It’s terrible. I have no idea how she still walks around looking like a Greek goddess, but I have a few theories. Number one, she made a sacrifice to the Devil. Two: she has a secret lab where she makes some kind of elixir with the blood of a thousand virgins—”
“Oh my god,” May cuts in, “shut up before you give me a stroke on top of everything else.”
Dr. Ruiz snaps his fingers. “That’s another thing! No stress! Avoid anything that stresses you out—”
Peter claps his hands together. “Guess that means I’m going up for adoption! May, listen, it’s been real, I love you—”
She starts to laugh and grabs his wrist before he can walk away. “You’re not going anywhere, idiot. You don’t stress me out.”
“Peter,” she says, serious now, “this was not your fault, okay? It had nothing to do with you.”
Peter narrows his eyes at her. “Fine,” he says after a second. “I’ll hesitantly believe you. Hesitantly. Dr. Ruiz, your Bobs?”
The doctor blinks. “Uh, right! Mild exercise! Most people are under the false impression that you shouldn’t exercise after a heart attack because it’ll strain your heart too much. Wrong! You don’t want to go too hard, but you don’t want to be completely sedentary either.”
“I suppose I’ll have to finally take up Pepper’s yoga offer.”
“Yoga!” Dr. Ruiz exclaims excitedly. “Absolutely perfect.”
He sticks around for a few more minutes to go over a few other things and then departs. Tony leaves to go update everyone else on May, and Peter feels a sudden rush of distress because God, they’re all just sitting out there waiting. He can’t imagine still being on the other side of that door.
Peter drags a chair over to the bed and sits down, squirming a little. “This is literally more uncomfortable than the ones in the waiting room. How do they even do that? Do they make them out of cursed wood? Are the caterpillars all pissed off when they spin the silk? How can a piece of furniture actually manage to feel spiteful?”
May grins at him. She reaches for his hand again, so he lets her hold it.
“Sam was gonna do Shiva with me,” he says after a small pause.
May’s eyes widen. “Oh, Peter ...”
“I kind of like him,” Peter tells her, pointedly not acknowledging how heavy and horrible what he just said was. “He’s a good guy. Big muscles. Not as big as Captain America, but still. He pulls through respectably enough.”
May’s lip twitches. “I figured you’d come around after a little while.”
“Well, I wouldn’t say I’m around. I’m at a halfway point. I’m on my way.”
“You’re gonna drive me up the wall.”
Peter grins. Then, on a whim, he leans forward and kisses her cheek. “I’m glad you’re okay, May.”
“Yeah,” she smiles. “Me too.”