The two couldn’t be more obvious if they tried.
To be fair, they do a pretty good job of hiding it from each other. And Miles had gotten away with hiding Spider-man from her for much longer than she would have liked, but still. It's really something else.
A part of Rio would also like to grant it to a mother’s intuition.
It’s obvious from the moment she meets Spider-man for the first time.
Miles had saved her from the first attempt on her life. This incident is the second time in a month, and Miles had basically become her self-proclaimed bodyguard because he’s always hovering now. Every minute, everywhere she goes. She sometimes feels eyes on her back throughout the day, when she’s walking around the neighborhood—Miles isn’t subtle.
And neither is his namesake.
Miles told her that she had met Peter Parker before, and with Peter’s permission, also told her that he was the one under the mask too.
It was obvious the second she sees Spider-man (Peter, not Miles) shield her body from prying eyes, defensive and taut, ready to fight at the slightest inclination.
“You alright, Ms Morales?”
“It’s good to see you're well, Mr Parker,” she says quietly. The lenses of his mask, black and white instead of Miles' red, shutter, blinking. Then he dips his head. “Good to see you too. Are you hurt?”
She shakes her head, stares at the way he’s posed in front of her, reminds her of her own son—stubborn and unrelenting.
“Did Spider-man tell you to come?” The older Spider-man shakes his head but doesn’t take his eyes off from the buildings. “He’s busy. I’d thought I'd be the one to take over his bodyguarding shift.”
The shooter makes themselves known at the movement on one of the buildings off to the side, and Peter rolls his shoulders, stretches his neck. “Anything for a friend, right?”
She doesn’t get to respond because he’s zipped off after the assailant, furious and fierce.
It’s obvious when she stops by F.E.A.S.T. to drop off lunch for Miles.
Miles is laughing at something that Peter is saying, relaxed and lost in their own world. They’re nudging at each other, inside jokes and familiarity that only long-term friends can have. Miles doesn’t even notice she’s standing there until Peter actually turns to look at her.
“Ms Morales, hey! What are you doing here?” She grins, lets the fondness ebb deeper into her smile. She doesn’t know what to make of Peter. Not yet.
But he makes Miles smile. And that's already a point in her book.
It’s obvious when she asks Miles if he can invite Peter over for dinner. He nearly drops the mug in his hands, blinking, gaping at her.
“Uh—w-what for, ma?” She keeps her focus on folding the clothes, voice carefully neutral.
“To thank him for saving my life, mijo.”
Miles snorts. “Trying to get him to accept thanks is something I fail at every day, mom. Plus, he’s busy, like, all the time. I’d be surprised if he says yes.”
She keeps the smile to herself. “Maybe you will be surprised.”
It’s obvious over the dinner table when they’re throwing nicknames and complimenting each other endlessly, both of them beaming, warm and fond.
Peter brings out a light she rarely sees in Miles anymore, ever since Jeff.
And Miles brings out a playfulness, a youthfulness to Peter that Rio has never seen. It’s easy to forget how young Peter Parker actually is, especially after everything she’s been told he’s been through. He deserves to smile like Miles does.
The way they talk; it’s obvious they don’t see that the other is the only one who brings out that side of them.
She tries to seem oblivious as she eavesdrops, hearing them talk in the doorway afterwards.
Miles listens to her, not always, but most of the time, so it’s surprising to hear how stubborn he is around Peter. Peter, on the other hand, is soft, yielding where Miles doesn’t.
It’s obvious when Miles comes storming back into the house, flushed and fuming.
“Mijo, what’s wrong?”
“It’s Peter.” Miles shakes his head, paces around the living room like a caged animal. “He’s going to get himself killed.”
“Miles,” she calls, and he stops, looks at her. And for a brief moment, he looks lost—scared.
He explains to her, something about a dangerous mission that sounds like it really would get Peter killed if he goes in alone. And Rio is scared for her boy, her son, but she also understands that New York needs her son more.
She sees the shine of tears in his eyes and embraces him.
She also understands the pain of not being able to do the saving, understands the worry that comes when you wonder if your loved one is ever coming back home.
“He knows the risks. That’s why he doesn’t want you there.” Miles jerks away, and she shakes her head. “I’m not telling you to stay.
“Go to him, mijo.” She wipes away the tears, holds onto him for as long as he wants.
“He needs you more than he wants to admit.”
It’s obvious when Miles is brought into F.E.A.S.T., beaten and bloody.
Rio is the only one allowed in the room first. She’s told by the medical team he’ll be completely fine, after three hours of surgery. And, in her bones, she knows her son is okay. He’ll make it out. He always does.
She walks out of the room, stares at the figure of the other Spider-man, suit all torn up and blood oozing from his wounds, now sitting down instead of pacing as she’d left him.
He’s trembling, she realizes when she places a hand on his shoulder. He startles at her touch, and then jumps to his feet, looking over her shoulder at the door, as if he'll be able to see Miles right through it.
“Is he going to be okay?”
“I’ll tell you when you get yourself looked over.” She bites back the insulting, albeit fond nickname on her tongue. She can’t be a hypocrite. She’s spent sleepless nights outside hospital rooms as well, waiting for news on Jeff.
Spider-man cowers under her gaze, and it’s strange to see him like this. But also, not. Peter Parker does the same when he’s around Miles.
“It’s my fault—”
“Do not say that.” Her voice is sharper than it’s supposed to be, but it has its intended effect. He looks up, eyes wide under that high-tech mask. How it’s so expressive, she doesn’t know.
“I’ll say the same thing I told Miles. He knew the risks, and I knew better than to make him stay behind. Miles listens to me, but he wouldn’t have if I tried to stop him. You have to respect his decision.”
“But if I had been faster—”
“If you had been slower, Miles would not be here. Be grateful for that.” The words are like broken glass, the reminder that Miles, although powerful, is not invulnerable. Especially in ways that matter.
“Pull yourself together, Peter Parker. He’ll be upset to see a pity party when he wakes up.” She waits until he nods—obedient and silent. She hums, picks up her purse and walks past him, “Do you need me to get a change of clothes from your office?”
She only sees Peter Parker then; he blinks, shoulders low, slanted, and he nods again slowly. Like a deer in headlights.
“I'll be back soon. Look after him, Parker.”
“With my life,” he says quietly. Rio believes him.
It’s obvious when Miles is staring after Peter after the man had dropped off the pizza that her son had requested.
“Dile, mijo.” Miles whips around at that. A deer in headlights.
“Tell him. Before you regret it.”
Miles goes silent, averts his eyes. She watches as her son, her poor son, crumbles before her eyes, “He’s in love with MJ, ma. And it would just be… too weird. Peter will freak.”
Rio doesn’t want to tell her son, because there are certain things that one has to learn for themselves.
“What we have, ma. It means… it means a lot to me. And I’m not going to throw it all away just for—" Miles folds into himself. Her throat hurts, as does her heart. She walks around the desk and wraps her arms around him. He’s getting so tall.
“And Pete’s… he’s amazing. And I’m just…” He sighs, bone-tired and so, so grown-up it makes something in Rio ache, wondering where the time had gone.
“What did I tell you about heroes, Miles?”
She pulls away, stares into his eyes as she says, “Someone who's brave—for the people they love.”
She holds onto his cheek. “And you love Peter. Whether you like it or not. And that’s not going away just because you ignore it.”
Miles doesn’t say anything, only stares at the ground, afraid.
“Whatever you do, I know you’ll make the right choice.”
Rio doesn’t let go until Miles does.
It’s obvious when she looks at Peter when he’s watching Miles rush off the stage, grinning, waving the diploma in his hand.
It’s hard not to notice how they only have eyes for each other. It’s impossible when Miles throws himself in Peter’s arms first, and the man only catches him without missing a beat, laughing.
“I’m so proud of you, Miles!”
“Hey! I wouldn’t be here without you too, Pete. Who was the one who helped me figure out half of the answer in my AP Chemistry paper?”
“I just gave a couple hints, that’s nothing. Besides, I wasn’t the one who made the award-winning science project.”
The cycle continues for a full minute, both of them stubborn to take any credit.
Rio raises a brow when Miles finally turns to her after all that frustrating ping-pong game of compliments. He blushes but hugs her anyway.
Miles makes his way to his circle of friends after she voices her congratulations, and that’s when Rio turns to Peter—who’s still staring at Miles.
“He doesn’t see it, you know.” He startles at her voice, turning with that deer in headlights expression once again.
“How you look at him.”
Miles had once described Peter’s gaping expression to her, but it’s really something else when she sees it happen right before her very eyes.
“Life is short, Peter. Happiness is something we have to work for.” Peter follows her line of when Rio looks over at Miles, surrounded by people who love and care for him. It sends a pang in her chest, realizing just how much he’s grown. Despite that, she knows he’ll be okay. “And in the Morales family—”
She reaches out, squeezes his forearm, watching as his brows slowly raise up his forehead. “—you’ll find out that we don’t give up.”
Peter is silent for a moment, something warring in his eyes.
“Don’t keep him waiting, Peter,” she says, softly, wistful. “I can only tell you from experience, you never know how much time you have until the choice is taken from you. Take that chance.”
Peter’s eyes are shiny, his throat bobbing, lips parted.
“Don’t let Miles do all the saving,” she says, smile knowing. “Otherwise, who will save him?”
She can hear the click of his throat and knows she’s got him. “Take that chance, Peter,” she repeats, “And cherish every moment of it.”
She lets go of him, nodding towards Miles. “And stop calling me Ms Morales.”
Peter laughs, wet and strained. He nods, jerkily. “Thank you,” he says quietly, so earnestly. And Rio knows very well that this choice she made, right here, isn’t going to be a mistake.
She knows it well enough, proven right, three years later.
When Miles—with Peter attached to his hip, like always—is showing her his ring, the biggest and sweetest smile shining brighter than any diamond Peter could give him. She knows Peter thinks the same way, when not for one moment, does he look away from Miles’ face as her son announces the wedding date to her.
Rio wonders if Miles has figured out that Peter looks at him like Jeff has always looked at her.
With the way he says Peter’s name six months later, Peter Benjamin Morales, she reckons that he has.