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The Telling of a Well Kept Secret

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i.

He isn’t breathing, he isn’t moving, he isn’t breathing. This is his fault, his fault, his fault.

The chain link gate behind him rattles and he can’t help the small gasp that escapes his lips. Someone knows.

“Hands up! Put your arms up now!”

Miles slowly stands, his legs threatening to collapse under him. He knows that voice. He’s heard it every day of his life. He knows what this looks like to his dad, Uncle Aaron on the ground not moving, and Miles doesn’t have a good enough explanation for why he's with his uncle.

So his legs tremble under him and he turns slowly towards his dad. I’m Spider-Man, Dad. It was Fisk that killed him. Fisk did this, not me. Uncle Aaron didn’t do anything wrong. It was Fisk. It was Fisk. It was Fisk.

He ducks his head and feels the panic of his invisibility but he rushes towards the protectiveness of disappearing from everyone’s eyes. He tugs on the mask, even though he knows it's pointless at this point. It’s just another layer between him and Uncle Aaron laying on the ground.

Miles sticks to the wall and bites his lip to stop the tears blurring his vision. He can make out his dad circling around with his gun, trying to find him. The gun clicks when his dad holsters it and he can hear his dad’s plead for Aaron. Super hearing isn’t all that it's cut out to be.

His dad stumbles to the ground and begins to cry, punching the stone beside his dead brother. Miles wants to crawl down from the wall and hug him and tell him he’s sorry. That it's all his fault that Uncle Aaron is dead. But he finds himself crawling away, towards the sky and most importantly, away from the scene below him.

On top of the roof, he turns back and peers over the side down at his family. His fingers stick to the edge, begging him to crawl over and go down to his dad. Miles could hug him and tell him he’s sorry, that everything that happened was his fault. He could rip off the mask and go back to be a normal kid like Peter told him to. He could drive home with his dad and his life would slowly go back to normal.

He starts to push himself over the edge when he hears his dad spit out a search for the new Spider-Man. Miles’ fingers unstick from the edge and he slowly backs away. His life would never go back to what it was before, not after what happened down there.

ii.

“Do you know who did it?” Miles almost whispers into the phone.

“I thought I did." His dad says back. “But I was wrong.”

He can see the lights flashing down below where the police are slowly cleaning up the mess Fisk had made, but as his dad rambles on about throwing up his art by the police station, the lights fade until he can only hear his dad’s voice. A warmth fills his chest and Miles throws his mask back down and ends the call.

Before he jumps down from the building, he can see his dad fumbling with his phone and as he gets closer, he can hear his dad swearing at it too, which he probably wouldn’t do if Miles wasn’t invisible. He knows his dad is too hard on himself, because to him, his dad is really the best dad even if he makes him take down his tags around town.

He appears beside his dad and lowers his voice to call him.

His dad jumps at the sudden appearance of Spider-Man and hides his phone before his body relaxes into his professional stance. “Listen, down there, that was . . . I-I mean I owe you-”

Miles slams into his dad and hugs probably too tightly with his newfound super strength. Even though his dad is rigid, his hands still fall onto Miles’ back and his cheeks grow wet.

He could tell him right now. Tell him he’s sorry for everything. Tell him that his son is safe and he won’t let anything like what happened to Uncle Aaron happen again. Miles could rip off the mask right now and make sure everything is fine with his dad and tell him how much he loves him.

But he breaks him embrace and steps back. He clears his throat and looks at the confused look on his dad’s face. One day he’d tell him, but after he clears everything up between himself and his dad first. Spider-Man can come later.

iii.

He’s been Spider-Man for five months now, and swinging through the streets of New York still feels as exhilarating as his first leap of faith. He always wonders if his Peter felt the same way as he swung from building to building, feeling on top of the world. Did he go to bed with pride swelling in his chest when he stopped a mugging or petty crime like Miles does?

Miles stares down at Peter Parker’s grave. At the five month anniversary of his death, there’s still flowers and spidey merchandise surrounding it. The tombstone itself has cracks and is slightly tilted, probably from the unfortunate run in the other Peter had with it when they had first met. Miles can’t help himself but laugh at the ridiculous memory of their meeting.

“Hey man.” He sits down on the slightly damp grass. “I’ve been doing pretty good as Spider-Man lately, I really think they’re starting to like me. I’ve gotten this swinging thing down and I’ve found some great places to put some of my tags where Dad will never look. ‘Cause you know, the law and all.”

The name on the grave seems to burn into his eyes, and Miles looks down to the grass that has ants crawling around in it. “I hope I’m making you proud.” He whispers. “I know I’m never going to live up to you, but I’m trying. I really want everyone to see me as someone who’s like you.”

Miles quiets and stares at the grave through watery eyes. He sniffles and thinks about his brief interaction with Peter. Despite being absolutely terrified at that moment, he was still so excited to be meeting Spider-Man of all people and to soon be mentored by him. At that moment, everything felt like it would work out and he could finally gain control of these weird powers.

But that had been rip from him so quickly.

In the end, he hadn’t been alone to come into his powers, but there was still a hole in his heart because that could’ve been his Peter teaching him and watching him grow. Sure the others had helped him and each had different experiences with being Spider-Man, but this Peter was so excited to teach him. Perhaps his last thoughts were thinking about how he would never be able to train Miles himself.

“Spider-Man?” Miles jumps to his feet as a voice cuts through his thoughts.

He spins around to look at who's coming up behind him. “Da-” Miles stops and clears his throat before deepening his voice. “Officer. How can I help you this evening?”

His dad waves off his concerns saying he’s just here to pay his respects but Miles watches his dad stare down at Peter’s grave before turning his gaze back to him. “You know.” His dad takes off his hat and stares back at the grave. “I never really liked the old Spider-Man.” He already knows that, but Miles doesn’t say anything. “He never worked with the law, and it always seemed like he left more of a mess afterwards.”

His dad had always complained about Spider-Man. He remembers some nights where he’d rant about whatever Spider-Man had gotten involved with during his shift at work. He’d talk about how he needed to clean up the legal mess the friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man left behind. Despite everything, Miles still sees how his dad’s body language changes each time Spider-Man's mentioned on the news.

“I think I was wrong though.” His dad finally looks back at him. “You’re not quite like Peter Parker, but you’ve definitely done a good job filling his shoes. I’m starting to see the good that you do, even if I’m stuck with all the paper work.” Miles laughs alongside his dad before they quiet and stand in silence, staring at the resting place of Peter Parker.

A hand finds its way onto Miles’ shoulder and he looks over to his dad who isn’t looking at him. “Even if I don’t agree with your methods,” his dad starts, “I’m sure he’s still proud of you, and I’m sure your parents are proud too.”

Are you proud of me, Dad? Even if I killed Uncle Aaron? Miles wants to say but he keeps quiet, leaning into his dad’s grip. “Thank you.” He whispers, his disguised voice forgotten.

iv.

Even though Aunt May had helped him with his leg, the bullet wound still hurt to walk on. Miles tries to square his back to stop limping as he walks up the stairs to his house. It would be really suspicious if he suddenly started limping on the same leg Spider-Man had hurt the night before, the night his dad had witnessed.

Inside, he's greeted by the smell of spices and he pauses for a moment after he closes the door. His parents are talking to each other in the kitchen, probably moving around each other in an almost dancing flow. Miles can’t help the smile that breaks out on his face as he walks closer to his parents.

“¡Mijo! ¿Cómo estás?” His mom crushes him in a hug and kisses his forehead. “How’s school?”

“It’s good I guess.” He answers, escaping his mom’s grasps and sitting down at the table.

“Learning lots?” His dad asks.

Miles shakes his head and laughs. “Of course Dad. We’re actually doing this cool research project in physics that I’m looking forward to.”

His dad nods his head. “No late nights, right?”

Miles laughs and rolls his eyes. His dad's been adamant about him getting enough sleep, texting him almost every night to make sure he was going to bed soon. This started after Miles had fallen asleep halfway through dinner one evening and almost spilt his entire dinner onto the floor. His parents had both asked why he was so tired and it wasn’t like he could tell them he was out late being Spider-Man. As far as they knew, he was up late studying.

“No late nights, Dad. I promise.”

His dad nods his head in approval as his mom asks if he could help her set the table. He practically jumps to help her, careful though of his leg. He grabs the plates and the forks and knives, placing them around the table.

He feels a shiver down his spine and turns around to see his parents watching him. “Can I help you?” He asks confused.

“You’re limping.” His dad says, concern lacing his voice.

“Oh!” Miles looks down at his injured leg, even though it’s impossible to tell it's hurt. He chuckles, “Yeah, I uh, hit it on the side of the desk in my room. It hurt a lot but Ganke found some ice for it so you know,” he shrugs his shoulders, “it’s getting better.” Was it this hard for the original Peter to lie? Or was he better at this than him?

His mom looks like she doesn’t believe him. “Well,” she says, “if you do something like that again let me know. Bruises can become quite serious.”

When the food eventually finds its way onto everyone plates, Miles falls into an easy flow of the conversations. His Dad turns to his latest run-in with Spider-Man though, and Miles stops halfway through raising his food to his mouth.

“He was injured pretty badly last night.” His dad says. “He’s just a kid, no kid should have to feel what it’s like to be shot.”

“Is he okay?” Miles asks.

His dad nods, “He said he had someone to go to. But his leg will probably hurt for at least a week.” His dad laughs to himself. “Guess you and Spidey have something in common.”

Miles’ heart drops for a second and his body screams at him to leave, that they know. “What do you mean?” He asks, lacking all emotion in my voice.

“You’ve both hurt your leg.”

Miles laughs. “Yeah.” You could tell him right now! You could say that everything is okay, that you have Aunt May there to help. Next time you could go to Mom for help. Tell him now! “Yeah, I guess we do.”

He doesn’t end up saying anything except to excuse himself from the meal.

v.

His hand hovers by his door and he listens to his parents talking quietly in the living room. They have the TV on but low enough that he can still hear their conversation. Miles takes a deep breath. I just have to walk out there and tell them I need to talk to them. Miles pushes on his door so it budges just a bit. Mom, Dad, I’m Spider-Man.

“I don’t know Rio.” Miles stops and looks through the crack of his door to where his parents are sitting. “I get that he’s new but sometimes he just doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

“Then teach him what he needs to know Jeff. From what you tell me, this new Spider-Man really wants to help the police.”

“Yeah I know,” his dad sighs and rubs his face, “sometimes I just feel like it’d be easier to do my job without Spider-Man running around and leaving his problems for the police.”

Miles’ shoulders drop and he casts his gaze to the floor. He grabs the door handle and pulls it closed, so there’s only a sliver of light that comes into his room.

“Do you want to fight the Green Goblin?” He hears his mom ask.

His dad laughs. “No, of course not. But maybe Spider-Man should stick to the big guys and leave the small crimes to the guys who are actually trained to deal with it.”

Miles grabs the headphones on his bedside table and puts them on to drown the world out with music. Laying in bed, he stares at the ceiling. Maybe he’d never tell his dad about being Spider-Man. Maybe he should listen to his dad and stop getting in the way of his and the police force’s work.

+ i.

He wasn’t necessarily avoiding his dad while behind the mask, but he also wasn’t sticking around to talk to him. Miles had overheard the other officers making fun of his dad for losing his “spider touch.” After stopping an attempted burglary at a jewelery store, his three week plan of avoiding his dad is ruined. Miles decides to stay behind to help the officers with the clean up and now, he watches as another police car pull up and he flickers in and out of sight as his dad steps out of the car.

Miles turns back to the officer he had been talking to and ignores his dad slowly coming up towards the scene. Why is he working today? He shouldn’t be working today.

“Spider-Man?” His dad asks him and Miles has no choice but to turn to look at him.

“Officer. What are you doing working today?”

His dad shifts and put his hands on his belt. “Someone was sick, I got called for overtime. Couldn’t say no, I’ve got a son to pay for after all.”

Miles only nods. If he’d been home today he would’ve known his dad was called in for overtime. He would’ve known not to stay at the crime scene. Stupid school getting in the way of everything.

“How about I get a statement from you somewhere less crowded.” His dad asks, pulling out his notepad.

“Uh, sure.” Miles follows him outside and into the cruiser his dad had arrived in.

He’s been inside this car many times before but for some reason, it feels weird right now sitting in the passenger seat of his dad’s car in his Spider-Man outfit. He looks over at his dad who’s fiddling with his notepad, trying to find an empty page.

His dad turns to him and hesitates for a second. “Have you been avoiding me?”

Miles’ eyes widen. “What?”

His dad shakes his head. “Sorry, that was probably too up front. It’s just, you seem to be avoiding me while I’m on duty. You still talk to the others officers, but not me. Did I do something?”

Miles stares down at his lap. Has he done something wrong? Maybe Miles was just trying to help make his dad’s work a little easier, one less thing to deal with while working. Did his dad really think he was avoiding him because he had done something wrong?

“No.” Miles finally decides. “I’ve just been distracted and I guess I didn’t realize I was avoiding you.”

“Of course.” His dad clears his throat. “Well, I’m always here to help you, you know that, right?”

“Yeah, I know.” Miles looks over at his dad. His eyebrows are slightly furrowed and his eyes are soft and concerned. It looks like his dad wants to reach over and pat Miles’ shoulder in reassurance, to let him know he’s there.

Miles closes his eyes and sighs. “Actually, there is something I’d like to talk to you about.” It’s now or never, Miles.

“Oh, of course.” His dad puts away his notepad and directs his full attention onto him.

He takes a deep breath. “What would you do if someone you really cared for kept a big secret from you and you found out that they were putting themselves in danger?”

His dad pauses and thinks, the question throwing him off. “Well, I think I’d want to know what their secret was. If they’re hurt, I’d like to help.”

“And what if you didn’t like their secret? What if they were doing something illegal?” Like Uncle Aaron.

Miles looks at his dad, who’s staring ahead. Maybe he's also thinking of Uncle Aaron who kept his identity a secret, who went out and committed crimes for Fisk. Was Uncle Aaron that different from Miles? They both kept secret identities only Spider-Man was a superhero and the Prowler was a villain.

“Even if they were doing something illegal.” His dad finally says. “I think I’d like to know. You lose so much when someone keeps a secret from you. You don’t really know them do you? And if I really care about them, I’d want to help them.”

Miles stares at his dad’s face and chews on the inside of his lip. Just tell him Miles! His mind screams at him. Tell him and you can deal with everything later!

He opens his mouth and time seems to slow for him. He could thank him for the advice and go back to having a secret identity or he could tell his dad right now and have someone else know who he is.

“I’m Spider-Man, Dad.”

He can see his dad turn to him. “What?”

“I’m Spider-Man, Dad. I’ve wanted to tell you for a while, I just couldn’t find the strength to do it. I always chickened out last second.”

“Miles?” His dad whispers.

He turns to his dad and lifts up his mask, just enough so only his dad could see his face. Someone might walk past the car.

“I’m sorry.” Miles looks away.

“Don’t be sorry.” His dad says which causes Miles to meet his dad’s eyes again.

“You’re not mad?”

“Well,” his dad whistles, “I’m definitely mad, but Miles, I’ve seen what you do. I’ve cleaned up what you do, and even though I may not agree with everything Spider-Man, what you do, I still see the good you do for this city. I’ve talked to people who you’ve saved from a mugging or a robbery and they’re so grateful for the help that the police might not have been able to supply.”

“Do you really think I help the city?”

“Without a doubt.”

“Does that mean you’re not upset that I fight people like Fisk.” Miles tentatively asks.

His dad looks at him, expression blank. “That’s a conversation we will being having when your mother is present.”

Miles laughs. “Thanks, Dad.”

His dad smiles back at him. “I’m still proud of you, you know that right?”

“Yeah, I know.”

“Now,” his dad picks up his notepad again. “I still need your statement.”

Miles pulls his mask back on. Maybe Peter was wrong about hiding his face. Maybe he needed to take it off more often and let people into this part of his life. He could get used to having more people know who he really is.