Barbara (htbthomas) wrote,

Birthday fic: Next in Line, 1/1 (Spider-Man comicverse)

Title: Next in Line
Author: htbthomas
Fandom: Spider-Man comicverse, post-unmasking, pre-Civil War
Characters: Peter Parker, Anna Watson
Rating: PG
Word Count: 1,612 words
Betas: van_el, mark_clark
Summary: When Peter Parker unmasked in front of national television, he sort of forgot to warn everyone…

Author’s Note: A birthday fic for liliaeth, who asked for one of the reactions that “Marvel didn't think was important enough to show.”

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Package in hand, Peter landed lightly in an alley near one of the post offices several blocks from Stark Tower. He walked to the place where the entrance to the alley met the sidewalk, and peered around the corner…

…and sighed in relief. Hardly anyone around. He shifted the Iron Spider costume into civilian clothing and stepped out onto the sidewalk.

It had only been a week since his press conference, where he had revealed to the world that he, Peter Parker, was Spider-Man. And that he had been since he was sixteen years old.

Needless to say, press interest in him was still quite high, and the only way to get in and out of the Tower without being barraged with questions was through the roof access.

The stealth setting on the new costume didn’t hurt, either.

Peter walked with a bit of a spring in his step toward the post office at the end of the block, shifting his package to the other arm.

He could still hear Jarvis’ voice in his ears, stopping him as he headed for the roof. “Sir, you needn’t bother. I or my staff would be happy to perform this service for you.”

“That’s okay, Jarvis,”
he answered. “There are some things a man has to do for himself.”

To tell the truth, it was nice to get out of that place. He was tired of being cooped up inside – going out on missions didn’t count. He wanted to breathe the peculiar New York air, walk among his fellow man….

He actually began to whistle lightly, attracting a couple of eyes from less cheerful fellow citizens. One of them screwed up his face as he looked, eyes widening in recognition…

Peter yanked his Mets cap from his pocket and pulled it over his head. Way to keep a low profile, Parker, he chided himself. Geez. Then he waved jauntily and pretended like he had every right to be there, which he did. The man shrugged and kept on his way after a half-hearted return wave.

Well, maybe this won’t be so—

His good humor suddenly disappeared as he got to the doorway. The line was long, doubling back a couple of times before ending very close to the entrance.

Maybe he should just go back to the Tower and get the staff to mail it anyway… But there was one tiny problem with that.

He’d have to go back to the Tower.

Sighing, he pushed through the doorway and took his place in the long line. It was a good measure of how stir-crazy he was that he was willing to stand here.

Still, he wouldn’t complain if he got called on by the team, or his spider-sense warned him of an emergency.

Peter inched his way forward in line, feeling sufficiently anonymous. Really, a post office line was one of the best places to stay inconspicuous. No one would make eye contact with you, let alone start up a conversation.

After about ten minutes, he had moved a grand total of ten feet. Amusement park rides went faster than this. At least, what he remembered from his youth. Nothing was quite as much a thrill as web-swinging through the canyons of skyscrapers here in the Big Apple.

He felt his cell phone vibrate, and he lifted it to check the display: MJ. “Hey, hon,” he said after flipping it open. “What’s up?”

“What are you doing? I called the Tower after my rehearsal to see if you wanted to brave the paparazzi to get a coffee… but you’re already out?”

“Yeah, got stir crazy. Decided to return those CDs.” Up ahead, an older woman turned her head toward him, frowning. But then she turned back toward the counter as the line moved forward. Peter hadn’t gotten a close look at her face, but her portly shape seemed familiar somehow…

He took a step forward, too. “You couldn’t have asked… never mind.” He could almost hear her shake her head. “How far are you from the theater? Close enough to meet?”

“I’m not far from Penn Station. You wanna meet at the Coffee Bean across the street?”

The white-haired woman turned again just as MJ was responding. “Sounds good. Think you can get there in a half an hour?” She looked straight at him, and he froze.

MJ’s Aunt Anna!

“Oh, crap! Anna!” he muttered into the receiver. “Gotta go – meet you there.” He closed the phone and shifted quickly to hide behind the man in front of him, while he decided what to do.

The day after the press conference, the Tower switchboard had been overwhelmed with calls, and poor May and MJ had both taken turns calming down Anna later. Why hadn’t they told her? Wasn’t she like a mother to Mary Jane? Wasn’t she May’s oldest friend? Hadn’t she witnessed Mary Jane and Peter’s wedding?

But he’d been out of the building when she called. And with this and that, he’d totally forgotten to call her back. He drew a hand over his face.

Stepping out a little, he saw that she was still trying to get a good look at him. He waved sheepishly.

“Peter? Is that you?” she stage whispered, and the whole line turned in his direction.

He simply nodded, ducking his head a bit more under his ball cap.

“Well, why don’t you come up and join me in line?” she called cheerfully, a touch too cheerfully. “I’m sure that these people won’t mind….” She trailed off at several pointedly annoyed looks.

Peter tried to gesture that she should move ahead – the line was moving on without her – and that they could talk later.

Anna’s lips compressed in frustration. She knew he was right, but she didn’t like it. And she was too close to the counter to give up her spot now. So she gestured back her consent with a pointed look of her own, one that clearly said, You owe me an explanation, young man. He felt about twelve years old.

She turned away from him and suddenly smiled at the business woman in line directly behind her. “It’s funny who you end up running into when you’re in town, isn’t it?”

The woman did nothing more than grunt, but it was enough for Anna.

“Take my nephew-in-law back there… I haven’t seen him for months, not since the holidays, and I just happen to see him here?”

The woman smiled tightly. Anna was holding up the line again. She let out a little “oh” and moved forward. “Anyway, it would be nice if he called every once in a while. He has this really dangerous job. I mean, I get all my news from his aunt…” She looked back at Peter, who shied away. “…or from television, for goodness sakes.”

Peter knew she was mad… but wow.

“Oh?” the woman asked, suddenly more interested.

Peter tensed. If Anna spilled his identity in this crowded post office, he’d have to get out of there in a hurry, CDs – and explanations – be damned.

“Yes, he’s…” She paused. “A firefighter. I saw him on the news the other day giving a statement.”

“You must be proud,” the woman said politely, not quite as interested.

“Oh, I am. I just wish—”

She was interrupted by a shout. “Next!” She startled and hurried up to the open attendant with a friendly farewell to the business woman.

When she was finished, she gestured that she would wait for him by the exit. The time seemed to drag by excruciatingly slowly…

His package paid for and sent, Peter walked slowly to where Anna waited. She opened her mouth to speak, but he held up a hand.

“Not here, okay? Too many people.”

She closed her mouth, and nodded. With a hand to the small of her back, he guided her out to the street, gesturing for her to walk alongside him.

“You know, Peter…” she began as they walked. “I can understand why May didn’t tell me, even Mary Jane. It wasn’t their secret to tell.” She placed a hand on his arm, and stopped. He halted to look down at her. “I thought we were closer than that.”

Her hurt eyes pierced him. But the answer was easy to give. “Aunt Anna, you don’t know how many people I’ve wanted to tell over the years… the truth is, knowing made most people’s lives more complicated. I didn’t want that for you.”

He started walking again, and she trailed him. “But we’re family…”

“Aunt May is like my mother and she only found out a little while ago. And I still worried constantly about her the whole time – that something from this other life of mine would spill over and harm her…” He shuddered. “But we’re in a better place now. Tony really made that all possible for us.”

“I still don’t understand how you could have been Sp – lived this life – without any of us even guessing…”

They had reached the corner. On the other side of the crosswalk was the Coffee Bean… and MJ, waiting by the door. When she saw who was walking with him she started to cross, but he held a hand up for her to wait.

“You want the whole story?”

She looked over and waved at her niece, but spoke to Peter. “From you.”

“It’s going to take a while…”

She smiled. “Where else does an old lady have to go on a Thursday afternoon?”

The light turned green, and he put an arm around her shoulder. “Then come on. Do you like this place? They have a great bottomless cup of coffee.”

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

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Tags: birthday fic, fanfiction, spider-man

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