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Defying Definitions

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Tony found a page that fell out of Peter’s binder, which turned out to be an essay for English class:

 

My Personal Heroes
by Peter Parker

History exalts people, touts them as heroes because of the things they have done, the courage they have shown, the good they have upheld. I could pick up a history book and choose from any number of men and women who are considered heroes, but I’ve always been a realist—I’d much rather talk about the heroes I know than the heroes I’ve only read about.

I was raised by people who don’t necessarily fit the ideal definition of a hero, but it’s from them that I learned what a hero truly is like; most of the time heroes don’t see themselves as heroes. They just do what they do because they should.

Uncle Bruce is a man of science, and while there’s not much action in the lab, it’s there that he taught me that knowledge is a mighty thing. It was in a laboratory that he showed me the joy of discovery, the accomplishment in finding answers. Uncle Thor is the exact opposite—he believes in magic and the influence of a higher power. He taught me to enjoy the little things, to believe. He showed me loyalty and honor and how to have faith in people.

Uncle Clint is a solitary man. Some people would think that he’s distrustful and a loner, but if there’s anything I learned from him, it’s that I have to learn to be okay with who I am. Sometimes my best companion is myself, and being alone doesn’t have to mean I’m going to be lonely. Aunt Tasha is a woman of few words, and she taught me to make what I say count. She also taught me that being an observer can work to my advantage. Sometimes people focus so much on little things that they fail to see the big picture. Being able to strategize is not only smart, but also sensible. They both showed me that no one can tell me I can’t do something. Because I can, if I work hard enough.

Uncle Phil is the perfect example of that old adage, ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’. He seriously looks like a paper pusher, probably an accountant, but he’s the kind of man who doesn’t have to act like he’s something else, because he knows he already is. He may look ordinary, but he’s a man who holds his ground and stares the unknown in the face. I once asked him if he ever gets scared, and he told me that courage isn’t the absence of fear, it is knowing how to face that fear. Uncle Nick, on the other hand, looks everything a badass should be. Being a badass is cool, but holding your cool while the world is exploding is even better. He taught me to be levelheaded, to think fast, and to always do what my gut tells me. They both taught me that strong people aren’t born, they’re made. Choosing to be strong doesn’t make you better than anyone else. It just makes you who you are.

(Dean Winchester is also a personal hero, because of, well, reasons. But seriously, watching Supernatural with Captain America was a huge part of my formative years, and helped keep me a little more open minded about a lot of things.)

When I was growing up, people thought it was so cool that my dads were Captain America and Iron Man. I was told I was living a dream. But between being pestered to do my homework and being grounded for sparring with a mechanical arm in my dad Tony’s workshop, I really didn’t see it that way. I’ve always been snarky and headstrong, and I always did what I wanted, so I didn’t really see what the fuss was all about. All I knew was that Cap and Tony were just like other parents, and sometimes a pain in the neck. But I guess that was fortunate, being unable to understand the hype then. Because when I did finally discover what it meant to be the son of two of the world’s greatest superheroes, I was floored.

I was bitten by a mutant spider that gave me superpowers. But I didn’t tell my dads because I knew they would never let me be a superhero, never approve of my fighting bad guys and my swinging around New York with webs. The day they found out, we fought so much. We never really did fight, ever, so it was all the more confusing. I understood what they wanted, but I wanted to be understood.

So that night I holed up in my room and stared at the ceiling, angry at everything. But then Cap knocked on my door and I opened it, although reluctantly. We stood there, staring at each other for a long moment. Cap asked me why I did what I did, why I put myself in such dangerous situations. He said, ‘Didn’t you think how worried we would be?’ and I replied, ‘That’s just the thing, pop. I did think about you guys. I thought about you all those times.’ I told him I didn’t do this because I wanted to be a hero, but because this was what they would have done—this was what they did, after all. Steve Rogers taught me the value of standing up for what was good and right. Tony Stark taught me to use what I have to be somebody worth knowing. So I took both and did something.

Heroes are people who try to do what’s right. Seventeen years ago, these people took in an orphan boy and made him their own. They are heroes not because of their superpowers, but for the hearts that made them who they are—and in turn, made me into who I am.

 

***

 

Peter received an A for this. Steve now keeps the essay in a folder, hidden in a secret compartment in one of the drawers in the study, along with the rest of the little things he treasured.

“We did good, huh?” Tony commented after they first read the piece.

“Yeah, Tony. We did real good.”