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i want to know (all of) you

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It's 9:13 PM when Tony Stark knocks on their door.

May is waiting for him. She sets her jaw and stubbornly keeps her hands steady as she unlocks their door and pulls it open.

"Ah," Stark says immediately, retracting a raised fist. "May Parker."

Stark's standing outside the door of her low-income apartment in a fucking three-piece suit. Somehow he still looks like shit, which fills May with an ugly sort of satisfaction. The light in their hallway is notoriously unforgiving; it makes his skin look washed out, brings out all the wrinkles around his mouth, highlights the gray at his temples. His suit's askew; his sunglasses sit too large on his face.

"Stark," May says coolly.

There’s a beat of awkward silence before May steps aside, her whole body feeling stiff.

Stark steps in gingerly. Only then does he notice Peter hovering behind May, shifting his weight around with nervous energy.

“Kid,” Stark says, gravitating toward her kid. He doesn’t sigh as he claps Peter on the shoulder, but something about his tone implies that maybe he wants to. There's a sudden spike of something hot in May's chest— and then the door's slamming shut in front of her. She fumbles with the lock and chain and then has the surreal realization that they're... irrelevant.

There are two superheroes in her home.

May's throat feels tight. She puts her forehead against the door and breathes for a minute.

Peter is all she has left in the world. He is her kid, no matter what names are on his birth certificate. She’s the adult here and it's her job to protect Peter. Ben is dead and that is her job now, and her job alone. Not Stark's job, who would have failed even if he'd cared enough about Peter to try—

Peter, who didn't trust her enough to tell her about his strange new abilities. Peter, who got away with it for close to a year because May isn't home enough to notice that he isn't, either. Peter, who swears he didn't tell her about Spiderman because he didn't want to break her heart.

Peter says he can't stop, can't remove the mutation from his blood, can't change who he is, and wouldn't even if he could. He says every day he goes out there, he's sparing someone else a broken heart.

May's so fucking proud.

And she's so fucking angry.

When May turns around, Stark has put a careful distance between him and Peter.

Peter shifts from one foot to the other and says, “May, let’s—”

“Go to your room,” May says. Peter stills. “Close the door. And when I come in to check on you later, you had better be fucking superglued to your bed, you understand me?”

Something she doesn’t recognize passes over Peter’s face, making her baby - the one with the messy hair and the easy smiles and the dimples in his cheeks - look like someone older. Someone she doesn't recognize.

Something that still feels a lot like anger, but might be guilt, stirs in her chest. If it bothers Peter that May has sent him to his room like an unruly child in front of his childhood hero, he doesn’t let it show. He just nods and turns on his heels, hardly even making eye contact with Stark.

And then May's alone with Tony Stark, not for the first time in her life.

Remembering this fact is her undoing.

She surges forward and says, "You lied to me for months, Stark. You— you found a kid who was out on the street risking his life fighting muggers and rapists and— and what? Enabled it?”

Stark is absolutely still. Even though she can't see behind those idiotic sunglasses, she gets the impression that he's bracing himself, laser-focused on her. And then Stark takes off the sunglasses and May sees that there is not an ounce of surprise on his face.

In that moment, May hates this man with all her strength.

And May Parker is a strong, strong woman.

Instead of answering, Stark says, “Hey, Pete? Would you do us a solid and let Karen keep you company a while? We gotta have this conversation, and when it’s over, we’ll both have said things we wish we could take back. Just… let us hash this out in private, alright?”

“What?" May says. She whirls around, eyes flitting about wildly, but she knows she and Peter were alone in this apartment before Stark arrived. "Who the hell is Karen?”

“Ah, the kid's got... superhearing," Stark says, like this answers her question. "We’d need another— uh, three or four walls between us and him to have any privacy.”

“I… he mentioned it, but I—” May clamps her mouth shut.

It doesn't make a difference anyway, May realizes, her throat constricting. She’s been speaking loudly enough that even a normal person might have heard through a wall. The neighbors might have heard, she thinks with a sinking feeling.

She kind of resents Stark for making the call she should have made; for keeping himself together when May feels like her world’s falling apart.

“He might not have had the time to go into detail, is all," Stark says quietly - no, May thinks. He says it gently, like he thinks he understands what she's going through.

May's hands tremble. It feels like rage. “Who the fuck is Karen?”

Stark blinks. “His suit’s AI. She, uh, helps him out. Keeps him safe, as much an AI can. She’s got a privacy mode that blocks out sound. It’s OK to speak, he’s activated the suit.”

May wants to ask what good a privacy mode is to a superhero, but doesn’t. What she asks is:

“How do you know that? You can tell when he’s—”

“I— Yeah. Yeah, I can.”

Goddamnit, Stark.”

“I know, May. I know you’re angry. I understand why. Let me try to explain why I made the decisions I made here. Please.”

May laughs. It sounds awful. “You think you have a good explanation for carting my kid off to Europe under false pretenses? To— what? To fight in your backyard brawl with lethal stakes? You know what that’s called out here in the real world? It's called kidnapping, Stark.”

“I didn’t kidnap anyone,” Stark says tightly. “It wasn’t right. But it wasn’t kidnapping, either.”

“What, struck a nerve?" May mocks. Her voice is too hoarse for a conversation that hasn't yet lasted five minutes. "What would you have done if he’d died out there, Stark? What would you have told me? That he’d gone down in an unfortunately timed plane crash just like his parents? How convenient that would have been for you.”

Stark stares at her, his fists clenched. May glares, and glares, and knows she’s crossing a line but Stark crossed one first. He crossed dozens of lines first.

Only a moment later, Stark says, “When Peter first came to my attention, he was catching a speeding bus with his bare hands on YouTube. Where any moderately powerful image analysis software might have been able to determine his height and weight and maybe even his ethnicity. He caught that bus wearing nothing but a vaguely humanoid cotton onesie, May.

"You know what that made him? Someone with supersoldier strength, hiding behind a mask, working outside the law, reaching increasingly widespread fame, just as the Accords hit mainstream. Do you understand?"

May doesn’t fucking want to understand.

And yet, she does.

Stark's words are filling in the background of the film that’s been playing behind her eyelids for weeks now. Peter, in a red and blue costume, against an armed gunman on an empty street. Sometimes he wins and comes home to her. Sometimes he… doesn’t. But behind him, behind her terror, the rest of the world spins.

And just because it’s farther away from her kid, doesn’t make it any less dangerous.

She shakes her head, desperate. “I could have stopped him. We would have kept our heads down, minded our own business. Spiderman would've just— disappeared. They’d lose interest eventually. I could've— I could have stopped him.

“No, they wouldn't have and no, you couldn’t have,” Stark says flatly. “I hear that's all you've been trying to do for weeks now, without much success. I'd rub your face in it, but I guess I tried and failed too, so it wouldn't be very sporting of me.”

“He's the only thing I have left,” May says, and realizes she’s crying. The world's gone blurry. It’s hard to breathe past the tightness in her throat. “And I'm the only thing he has left. I could have made him stop.

“May," Stark says. He steps forward, his hands reaching out like he wants to touch her, but she doesn't even have to bite before he stops. And then Tony Stark stands there in her living room, looking lost. "Making him stop would have to mean turning him into someone he's not. Because I've tried everything short of that. I've avoided and I've lectured and I've taken the suit and I've ordered him to stop*.* But what we're asking him to do is hear someone cry out for help and then sit and do nothing, even though he's got the power to help."

"Someone else can help," May says. Her voice cracks.

Stark closes his hands and retracts his arms. "Yes. But they hardly ever do."

May sobs, just once. There's too much inside of her to hold it in now. She swore to stand with her husband 'til death do us part and didn't expect that death would part them so soon.

Ben is dead and she knows exactly why Peter is doing this.

She breathes, nice and deep, over and over again, because that's all she can do. She breathes until her heartbeat isn't thumping in her ears anymore.

"Listen, I've been a poor friend," Stark says eventually. "And a poor mentor."

"A poor mentor?" May repeats. The bottomless well of red-hot anger that's fueled her for weeks has run suddenly dry; all she feels now is a cold, brittle sort of tired. "You dropped my child into an armed conflict **and then— threw him away."

"There wasn't supposed to be a fight," Stark says. His voice is hoarse, too. "I didn't take him there to fight, May. Spiderman is known for non-violence. He avoids blows like he's psychic and then restrains the perpetrators with almost no collateral damage. That's what I wanted. I wanted a non-violent end."

May shakes her head. "That's not what you got."

"No," Stark says. It's like the all air has rushed out out of him. He sounds defeated. "No, that's not what I got."

May's next words get stuck in her throat.

It's for the best. She's said enough.

"They were my family, May," Stark says quietly. If her lips were working, she'd tell him he doesn't have to explain. That she hadn't brought him here to explain anything anyway.

He folds his expensive suit down to sit down beside May - who is in a pool of anger and bitterness and tears on her stained carpet, even though she doesn't remember getting there. The air seems to have chilled. "I know that to you, we're all idiots in costume in a flashy boyband, but to me, they were just people. And for a short, shining moment, they were my family."

May rubs hers eyes. They're swollen and stinging. Stark's defeat has left her hollowed out. She's not sure what she wanted out of this conversation in the first place. She's not sure she's gotten it.

May thinks this is what Stark must have felt when his family fell apart.

The silence that's settled over them is oddly calm.

May remembers Stark telling Peter, when it’s over, we’ll both have said things we wish we could take back. She's glad for that, now. She can't imagine what it would feel like to look at Peter in the morning and know that he knows she'd used his parents' deaths in a cheap blow against Stark.

May's been— god, she's been so unkind to Peter lately, even as he tried desperately to find a balance between her panic and his own unshakable need to go out there every night.

The shame spreads through her slowly, inevitably, until the calm turns stifling.

She turns to Stark. He's on the floor, back against the couch, head tilted upwards against the cushions, staring at her popcorn ceiling as though it holds the key to universe. He looks like he fits right in with her coffee-stained carpet and her twenty-year-old couch, under the yellowish glow of the streetlight coming in through the window.

In fact, he's looked worn and tired every single time she's spoken to him so far. It makes May feel even more restless: this reminder that life is complicated for all of them.

She stands. Stark shifts and looks at her not exactly wearily— but close enough.

"Want some water?” May asks, because this man is a lying son of a bitch but he's not her enemy.

"Yeah,” he says, "Thank you.”

She nods. When she returns from the kitchen with two full glasses of tap water, Stark has shifted and pulled out a tablet. It must have been tucked into his jacket, because his hands were empty when he walked in.

As she folds herself back down and sets the glasses on the floor, he holds the tablet out to her.

"This is for you," Stark says quietly.

May stares at the it, befuddled. "You're— giving me a tablet? The fuck?”

"No. Well— yes. But it's not the tablet that matters," he says. He levels her with a stare so serious that she swallows a petty dig about rich people and expensive toys. “It's what's on the tablet that's important.”

"And what's on it?" she asks warily.

"Everything I've learned about Peter's mutation over the last few months," Stark says. “How far he can hear, how fast he can run, how high he can jump, how many calories he burns in a swing. There's a comparison report between his physiology and that of Steve Rogers and— other supersoldiers like him. There's about a thousand scans taken while he healed from minor and— ah, some not so minor injuries. And— fuck, I don't know. There's gotta be a few hundred hours of biometric readings and footage of his patrols, probably.”

"You get all that from— from his suit?”

Stark winces. "The Baby Monitor protocol's a little more— intense than Peter probably realizes.”

May's snorting before she can stop herself. "The Baby Monitor protocol?

Stark's lips twitch. "I had fun naming those.”

May shakes her head. "I'll bet. Listen, it's not that I don't agree that he needs some fucking supervision but—” May hesitates. She doesn't want to start another argument; she doesn't have the energy for it. But: "If Peter doesn't know, then... that sounds like a huge invasion of privacy.”

Something in Stark's face hardens instantly. "I've lied to you enough, I think, so here's the truth: I don't care. He's just a kid and this is a difficult life he's chosen for himself. One day, he'll get in over his head. And on that day, I intend to have three active trackers on his body, real-time proof of life, a hundred hours of camera footage to wade through, and a satellite trained on him at all times.”

May's blinks. "Then— why would you take the suit away from him?”

Stark groans. He rubs a hand over his face. He looks as exhausted as May feels.

"Listen, May... I regret few decisions in my life like I regret that one. I took the suit away because I thought it would deter him from going out there alone. I was hoping he'd just— back out of this, and it would turn out I'd wasted a few million on a suit no one was ever going to wear, because then he'd be safe and I wouldn't have to keep fucking worrying about it.”

A few more pieces of this shit show slide into place for May. She takes a slow, deep breath and reaches out for the tablet.

Starks pulls it away from her.

"What?” May hisses. "You just said—”

"Wait, hear me out. This thing— it doesn't connect to any network and can't be plugged into any device. It's got a biometric lock that I'll key you into in a minute. If someone else tries to unlock it, the hard drive gets wiped on the first attempt. If it goes without use for longer than three days, the hard drive gets wiped. If any attempt is made to remove the tablet from its case— it explodes.”

"What?” May says, suddenly wide awake.

Stark is undeterred. "The tablet itself can't connect to any network but this neat little tablet case can. It's got a tiny microchip that allows you and me to connect to it via an app. If you or I press the big red button, the case explodes — and takes the tablet with it.”

"Stark," May says, waving a hand. "What do you mean explodes?”

“I mean,” Stark says, on the edge of a deep breath, "that the information on this tablet is worth millions. Hundreds of millions, to a lot of unseemly people. And if you take it and read it— that information is in your head and you carry a target on your forehead for the rest of your life. Do you understand?”

May stares at the tablet silently. She misses Ben, in this moment, with a ferocity that makes her feel small.

But Ben's gone, and her grief has distanced her from Peter for too long.

"But this information will— help me help him?" May asks, “How best to patch up his wounds and— what sort of things he's vulnerable to now? It'll tell me— I don't know, if he's eating enough and sleeping enough?”

Stark's face softens. "Yeah, May. You're his guardian. You deserve this option. But I need to be very clear that you can say no to it, too. I've got a medical team assembling that will be on-call 24/7 specifically for Spiderman. They'll get everything on this tablet and then some. By Monday, there will be a team of biochemists working to verify if Peter can take the meds we developed for Steve. If not, they'll start developing something for Peter immediately. This part— managing his mutation, his suit, his choice to be a superhero? I can take care of that. And it's not because I don't think you can handle it, it's just—” Stark sighs. "Someone needs to help him with schoolwork and heartbreak and career choices and... all that shit. Someone needs to remember he's a kid, too.”

Seems like you remember just fine, May doesn't say.

"You can't— slice a person in half,” May says. Stark's whole face twists into a grimace and shit— "Metaphorically, I mean,” she adds hurriedly. "Peter's one whole human being, Stark, and I can't— turn a blind eye to his physiology and his... extracurriculars and— fuck, this will be, like, his job in the future, won't it? Spiderman.”

"Maybe? This life is hard to predict.”

May shakes her head. "This is my kid. I want to know all of him.”

Stark considers her silently. He nods. He hands over the tablet. He shows her how to register her fingerprints and her retinas. He transfers the terrifying remote-detonation app to her phone. He teaches her how to navigate the tablet's bare-bones, high-security operating system. He pulls up the supersoldier comparison report. It is 283 pages long.

They talk late into the night.